One of the most interesting things about Maryanne Oketch winning Survivor Season 42 is that she triumphed after spending the first half of the game getting sideways glances from her fellow tribe-members for being, to put it simply, annoying. People weren't actively angry at Maryanne, and they clearly didn't hold grudges, since they all voted for her to win the million. But every time she went on a motormouthed tangent around the campfire, her overtired, underfed, mentally exhausted competitors couldn't keep their eyes from rolling a little bit.
Again, it was ultimately no biggie — Maryanne won the million anyway. But her victory brings to mind the handful of players throughout Survivor's 42 seasons who managed to win this game that's half test of physical endurance, half popularity contest, despite being not that popular with their fellow players. With Maryanne as both their patron saint and their cherished daughter, here are the five other Survivor players who won despite being annoying their compatriots back at camp.
How Annoying Was He? The term that's usually associated with Brian Heidik's run to the title in Thailand is "used car salesman," partly because that's the actual job that Brian listed on his Survivor bio , and partly because that's the style of game he played. Brian was an exceedingly and obviously slick player who was never very successful at seeming genuine. His perceived lack of sincerity pervaded the jury questions at the final tribal council, one of the more unpleasant iterations of that ritual that the show had ever seen.
How'd He End Up Winning? Despite the fact that every objective observer clocked Brian for being too slick, he managed to command a sizable alliance through the end of the game; mostly people whose naked self-interest made them willing to hitch their wagon to his. Brian's winning strategy was to surround himself with even less likable people at the end. In this case, that turned out to be Clay Jordan, who had actively rubbed people the wrong way with his irascible ways since the beginning of the season. It worked, but barely.
How Annoying Was She? Jenna never seemed to care what anybody thought of her, which was an odd strategy to take into a game of social alliances. In a season that started out with gender-exclusive tribes, Jenna first started a social alliance of only the young, pretty girls — which was bad enough, except they then spent weeks explicitly saying that they were the young, pretty girls, and all the other women were just jealous.
How'd She End Up Winning? Once the merge hit, Jenna won four individual immunity contests, and was able to surf the season's constantly shifting alliances all the way to the end, where she chose to go up against Matthew, whose general aloofness and odd demeanor made him beatable. (It helped that the lion's share of the women Jenna spent the first half of the game calling old and ugly weren't on the jury).
How Annoying Was He? As his island-bestowed nickname indicated, Fabio presented like an emptyheaded pretty boy, and he spent much of his time on Survivor without any close allies because his competitors mostly thought he was an easily-led dummy. And he kind of was! The thing about Fabio is that he was — in kind of a Maryanne-ish way, actually — annoying while not exactly being unlikable. Despite getting into a few arguments (with NaOnka in particular) Fabio just kind of bounced along.
How'd He End Up Winning? The Nicaragua season existed under a dark cloud throughout its run, with players who were just hateful to each other for seemingly no reason. Hell, the cast's nicest person, Holly, buried Dan's shoes in the ocean because she didn't like him. So by the time the final three ended up in front of the jury, there was animus to spare for Chase and Sash, making Fabio, with his doofy smile, an easy vote.
How Annoying Was He? Mike ate a live scorpion on the first day just because nobody thought he would, and his personality just took off from there. As one of the alpha-male types on the "Blue Collar" tribe, Mike was a default early leader, but he managed to rub everybody the wrong way with his overbearing personality, to the point where hardly anybody could stand him.
How'd He End Up Winning? Mike really ran the gamut of ways in which annoying players can win Survivor. For one, he won multiple immunity challenges and found hidden immunity idols. For another, he benefitted from being in one of the most unpleasant Survivor casts of all time, full of jerks and bullies. Mike managed to be halfway decent to the people who were being bullied, a lesson in the benefits of being a good person.
How Annoying Was He? Adam suffered the fate of many small, twerpy Survivor strategy monsters in that he aggravated everybody around him. The cool kids, like Taylor and Figgy and Jay, saw him as a weasel (although Jay ultimately came around after bonding with Adam over their sick moms). Meanwhile, the other outcast strategy monsters like Zeke and Hannah and David also bristled at how obviously sneaky Adam could be.
How'd He End Up Winning? Adam probably would have won anyway, since by the time he made it to the end, his annoyingly sneaky game had been established as a smart strategy. But he also revealed his mother's illness at the final tribal, showing the rest of the tribe his vulnerable human side at just the right time.
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Survivor, CBS, Reality TV