Every B-List Celebrity Who Has Ever Played "Survivor", Ranked

A collage of Survivor contestants


If you watched last week's Emmy Awards, then you are very familiar with Mike White, who won three Emmys for The White Lotus. Before he was spending his days filming at a beautiful island resort, however, he spent 39 days on a different island living in a shack. While at least one of his companions was the same, and both versions had an affinity for wine, the version of Mike that played Survivor headed home without the grand prize (let alone three of them).

On a separate note, a new season of Survivor, its 43rd to be exact, is arriving on CBS/Paramount+ on September 21 with 18 new castaways fighting for the million-dollar prize. Among them is track and field Paralympian Noelle Lambert, who competed at the 2020 games after losing her leg in a moped accident in 2018.

While White and Lambert are certainly not household names, they are two of a very unique class of people: minor celebrities who have competed on Survivor. These two events coinciding got me thinking about the television show (as I often do) and more particularly the 36 (soon to be 37) B-list castaways who have played against their normie counterparts.

Therefore, I give to you a ranking of these basketball players, poker stars, and astronauts. I've ranked them primarily based on their skill in the game and ultimate placement, but how iconic they are as characters factored in as well. It should also be noted, that I'm only ranking castaways who were famous BEFORE they played, and not the ones who managed to spiral their time on the island off into a second career. (Sorry, Elisabeth Hasselbeck!)

Without further ado, my ranking:

All from CBS / Getty Images; designed by Hartley Mellick

36.Katrina Radke

Katrina Radke smiles on the beach

Season(s) played: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers (Season 35)

Placement: 18th of 18

Claim to fame: She's a former Olympic swimmer. Although she never won a medal, she did mount a comeback in 2004 after retiring in 1993 due to health problems.

How they did: Katrina never had much of a shot on Survivor. She was put on a six-person tribe with some of the biggest personalities of the season. She was the odd one out because of her age and didn't have time to recover when her tribe lost the first immunity challenge. Of the celebrity-first boots, she left the smallest impression, due mostly to having to fight for air time with the likes of Chrissy and Ben.

TImothy Kuratek / CBS via Getty Images

35.Ronnie Bardah

Ronnie Bardah stands in the jungle

Season(s) played: Island of the Idols (Season 39)

Placement: 20th of 20

Claim to fame: He's a World Series of Poker player who won a bracelet in 2012.

How they did: Ronnie edges out Katrina here not because of his gameplay (which was awful), but because he's at least a smidge memorable. His abrasive, gung-ho targeting of Elaine shifted the target to his own back, and he was blindsided by his lack of self-awareness.

Robert Voets / CBS via Getty Images

34.David Samson

David Samson tries to chop a coconut

Season(s) played: Cagayan (Season 28)

Placement: 18th of 18

Claim to fame: He was the former president of the Miami Marlins MLB team, where he has been involved in several lawsuits before he was fired by Derek Jeter, who bought the team.

How they did: A third first boot. David, who was cast on the brains tribe, clearly thought he was running the game. Like Ronnie, he obviously wasn't. They faced similar downfalls, with the rest of the tribe rallying to vote them out, but David is a smidge more memorable by virtue of the Luzon six being one of the most famous tribes in the history of the show.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

33.Mari Takahashi

Mari Takahashi smiles while building a shelter

Season(s) played: Millennials vs. Gen X (Season 33)

Placement: 19th of 20

Claim to fame: Mari is a pro-gamer and created Smosh Games, a spinoff of the YouTube comedy channel Smosh, where she played video games like Minecraft.

How they did: While Mari may have survived into the second episode, she too was whacked at her first tribal. While clearly more of a strategic force than Katrina and capable of a better social game than Ronnie or David, she and her nerd alliance were outmaneuvered and she was the casualty. For someone involved in strategic gaming, this is a smidge embarrassing.

Robert Voets / CBS via Getty Images

32.Nadiya Anderson

Jeff Probst snuffing Nadiya's torch

Season(s) played: San Juan del Sur (Season 29)

Placement: 18th of 18

Claim to fame: She competed on both The Amazing Race 21 and The Amazing Race: All-Stars along with her sister Natalie before the pair competed together on the second iteration of Survivor's "blood vs. water" seasons.

How they did: For whatever reason, celebrity players do not fare well at their first Tribal Council trip. In this case, Nadiya was targeted by the men of her tribe based on their perception of her as a backstabber from her time on The Amazing Race. Unlike Ronnie, Katrina, and David, she had managed to create a strong alliance, but her poor handling of Josh and Baylor ultimately sealed her fate.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

31.Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson gives a pep talk to his tribe

Season(s) played: Nicaragua (Season 21)

Placement: 18th of 20

Claim to fame: An extremely successful football coach, Johnson led teams to both college and professional championships (the first coach to do so), before becoming a popular commentator and host.

How they did: I smell a quit. There was really no reason for Johnson to go so early, especially when most of his tribe seemed enamored by him. However, eight days into the game, he seemed to have little fight and was unanimously and magnanimously sent packing. My theory is that he wanted to go, and for putting in so little effort, he crawls just above the first boots.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

30.Ashley Massaro

Ashley stands in the woods

Season(s) played: China (Season 15)

Placement: 15th of 16

Claim to fame: Known primarily as a wrestler in the WWE, she also modeled for Playboy and served as a radio DJ before her passing in 2019.

How they did: RIP to Ashley, who even in just two episodes of Survivor, managed to leave an impression. Sick with diarrhea from the jump, she did evade elimination at one tribal before her inability to work and confrontational demeanor caught up with her. By no means a great player, being sick was a hell of a setback, and it was better to go out swinging than chilling like Jimmy J.


29.Garrett Adelstein

Garrett stands in the jungle

Season(s) played: Cagayan (Season 28)

Placement: 17th of 18

Claim to fame: He's a professional poker player, although he's won no bracelets.

How they did: In Garrett's defense, he did manage to execute one blindside (David's) before being voted out himself, and in this crew, that is worth a few slots on the list. He was also on the famed Luzon tribe and was against all odds voted out instead of J'Tia, who had burned her tribe's rice, so there are some iconic points thrown in. Not being able to get J'Tia voted out, however, speaks to his ineffectuality as a player.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

28.Alan Ball

Alan Ball smiles at camp

Season(s) played: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers (Season 35)

Placement: 15th of 18

Claim to fame: He played football in the NFL as a cornerback for various teams between 2007 and 2015.

How they did: While Alan lasted a few more episodes than Garrett, he also had his torch snuffed on his second trip to Tribal Council. After much erratic behavior, including forcing one of his tribe mates to comply with a strip search, he was sent packing post-swap. Like Garrett, he is certainly memorable, even if he went home early.

Timothy Kuratek / CBS via Getty Images

27.John Rocker

John Rocker leans against a rock

Season(s) played: San Juan del Sur (Season 29)

Placement: 16th of 18

Claim to fame: He was a foul-mouthed MLB relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves among others, known primarily for using slurs frequently and hating New York City.

How they did: John's complete inability to play nice was his ultimate downfall, and why he ranks a bit lower here even though he lead his tribe through two successful Tribals. He managed to get the entirety of two whole tribes to hate his guts in under one week, and then wasn't self-aware enough to play the hidden immunity idol he had in his pocket. NOT GREAT.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

26.Julia Landauer

Julia Landauer stands in the woods

Season(s) played: Caramoan (Season 26)

Placement: 13th of 20

Claim to fame: She is a professional NASCAR driver, known as one of the few women competing at her level in the field.

How they did: For barely missing the merge, Julia ranks extremely low on this list. Mainly because she was a nonentity. Even having gone to five Tribal Councils before her elimination AND participating in two tied votes, she managed to bring NOTHING to Survivor. Her sole claim to fame is being on the receiving end of Cochran's skewering vanilla monologue. Honestly, it's sort of impressive how she managed to blaze through casting only to stonewall everyone on the island. Obviously a badass in real life, but I defy anyone to remember one thing she did or said on this season.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

25.Tom Laidlaw

Tom Laidlaw sits on some rocks

Season(s) played: Island of the Idols (Season 39)

Placement: 16th of 20

Claim to fame: He's a Canadian hockey star who played mostly for the New York Rangers in the 1980s before becoming a motivational speaker.

How they did: Tom is a fairly standard, inoffensive Survivor player. He seemed to be doing okay on his original tribe, where he survived three votes, only to be ousted when he was on the wrong end of the numbers post-swap. Is he super memorable? No. Was he a great player? No. But he was fine and that's okay.

Robert Voets / CBS via Getty Images

24.Caleb Reynolds

Caleb Reynolds sits shirtless

Season(s) played: Kaoh Rong (Season 32) and Game Changers (Season 34)

Placement: 15th of 18 and then 18th of 20

Claim to fame: He came in fourth place on Big Brother 16.

How they did: On the flip side, the anti-Julia Landauer if you will, we have Beastmode Cowboy, who was medically evacuated nine days into his first season only to be brought back. Having never visited Tribal Council in Kaoh Rong, it was difficult to gauge his skill as a player, but he showed at least some prowess on his second try, surviving two tribals before an unfortunate dynamic on a six-person swapped tribe spelled his doom. His fate is similar to Tom's, but he's more dynamic.

Timonthy Kuratek / CBS via Getty Images

23.Anna Khait

Anna Khait tries to start a fire with a machete

Season(s) played: Kaoh Rong (Season 32)

Placement: 13th of 18

Claim to fame: She was a professional poker player, but judging by what I could find online (and based on my EXTREMELY LIMITED knowledge of poker), she was a very minor figure in the community.

How they did: Of the B (C? D? N?)-list celebrities on this list, Anna is definitely on the bottom wrung of fame, but I'll include her. Why not? Like Caleb in his first season, it's hard to tell how good of a player Anna was. While she seemed to have set herself up nicely on her original tribe, she was outnumbered post-swap and ultimately hung out to dry by Tai Trang. Would her poker skills have helped her if she'd got her footing? Unclear, and so I can't rank her much higher.

Robert Voets / CBS via Getty Images

22.Cliff Robinson

Cliff Robinson wrestles in the sand

Season(s) played: Cagayan (Season 28)

Placement: 14th of 18

Claim to fame: An NBA All-Star, he played 18 years of professional basketball, predominantly for the Portland Trailblazers.

How they did: Like Anna, Cliff also lasted quite some time before being picked off at his first Tribal Council pre-merge. In this case, however, he was blindsided by members of his own original tribe who decided to cut him as too big of a threat. While yes, this doesn't speak well of Cliff's game, it should be noted that 1) he was blindsided by Tony, one of the game's only two-time winners, so he was a bit out of his depth, and 2) he was so well-liked that Lindsey quit out of protest immediately after. That is some charisma right there folks! Someone gives up a million dollars because they want to spend more time with you? No one's ever done that for me.

CBS via Getty Images

21.Dan Barry

Dan Barry points next to Sally Schumann

Season(s) played: Panama (Season 12)

Placement: 11th of 16

Claim to fame: He's an actual NASA astronaut who has been in outer space multiple times.

How they did: Dan is such a sweetheart. He was an astronaut. He was friendly. He was only 51 (despite being close to 700 in my recollection. Unfortunately, his tribe just kept losing and losing and so (after a twist spared Sally), he was voted out right before the merge. A little too kindly to be a strategic force, he did make great social bonds, and should his tribe have won AT ALL, he could have made it to the end game, but challenge prowess is key sometimes.

Jeffrey R. Staab / CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

20.John Hennigan

John Hennigan talks in camp

Season(s) played: David vs. Goliath (Season 37)

Placement: 12th of 20

Claim to fame: He's a pro wrestler who has spent time in the WWE. You may know him as John Morrison, Johnny Blackcraft, Johnny Blaze, Johnny Caballero, Johnny Downunder, Johnny Elite, Johnny Foxwoods, Johnny Game Changer, Johnny Hardy, Johnny Impact, Johnny Mundo, Johnny Nitro, Johnny Onyx, Johnny Progress, Johnny Spade, Johnny Superstar, Johnny Ultra, or Johnny Showcase. Or you may not know him at all.

How they did: WE'VE MADE THE MERGE! Congrats to these celebs for managing to weasel their way (secret identity or not) to the game's halfway point. John, our lowest-ranked juror, really had a lot of potential to be a great player. Unfortunately, he fell prey to a situation similar to Anna Khait. Dominant in the challenges pre-merge, he only went to Tribal Council once, where he voted correctly. At his third tribal, however, he was clipped with a split-vote/Hidden Immunity Idol combo that sent him packing. Would have enjoyed getting to see him flex his (rather large) muscles a bit more.

David M. Russell / CBS via Getty Images

19.Jean-Robert Ballande

Jean-Robert swims in the water

Season(s) played: China (Season 15)

Placement: 9th of 16

Claim to fame: He is a professional poker player who has won a bracelet in the World Series of Poker

How they did: Jean-Robert may have lasted 24 days on Survivor but that was more in spite of himself than because of it. His abrasive (and at times problematic) behavior left him with tribe mates who desperately wanted to vote him out, but couldn't due to the numbers. As soon as his tribe had a chance, they turned on him, so good on Jean-Robert for managing to get into such a cushy spot, but had he been less deplorable, he could have cracked the finale.


18.Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent sits in the shelter

Season(s) played: Philippines (Season 25)

Placement: 10th of 18

Claim to fame: A professional baseball player, he served as a second basement for various teams during his 17 seasons. He won the National League Most Valuable Player in 2000, is a five-time All-Star, and is the all-time leader in home runs among second basemen.

How they did: Jeff Kent (who did a lot of hand-wringing about whether or not his tribe mates would uncover his celebrity) got to play a bit more before he was ousted. After avoiding the first four Tribal Councils, he found himself in a power position post-swap, but then got screwed over by a messy alliance post-merge. Jeff is the epitome of an average player, so it's fitting he's here in the middle of this ranking.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

17.Whitney Duncan

Whitney looks up in the jungle

Season(s) played: South Pacific (Season 23)

Placement: 9th of 18 (but seasons with Redemption Island are kind of confusing)

Claim to fame: A country music singer, prior to Survivor she competed on the fifth season of Nashville Star, where she finished fifth. She went on to a modest music career including a track of hers appearing on the Footloose soundtrack.

How they did: Whitney, like Jeff, is another solidly average player. She managed to navigate the pre-merge without much trouble only to have her tribe picked off one by one post-merge. There wasn't much for her to do against the vice-grip control that Coach's alliance had on the game, but she was by no means an exciting player to watch.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

16.Steve Wright

Steve Wright holds a pole

Season(s) played: Redemption Island (Season 22)

Placement: 10th of 18 (but, again, this is confusing because of Redemption Island)

Claim to fame: He was an offensive tackle for ten years in the NFL, primarily on the Los Angeles Raiders.

How they did: While Steve may have come in 10th after all the Redemption Island duels, he actually made the final seven in a journey that mirrored Whitney's. After leading his alliance pre-merge (and voting out Russell Hantz), his tribe lost challenge after challenge until they arrived at the merge, making it easy for Boston Rob Mariano's alliance to pick them off. Steve did pull out a few duck-and-weave maneuvers to outlast his original tribe mates (and that bumped him ahead of Whitney), but ultimately he couldn't scramble into the higher tier of player.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

15.Elizabeth Beisel

Elizabeth Beisel stands in the jungle

Season(s) played: Island of the Idols (Season 39)

Placement: 9th of 20

Claim to fame: She is an Olympic swimmer, competing in three separate games and taking home both a silver and bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics.

How they did: With all the grossness of Island of the Idols, it can be hard to remember what happened with the season's gameplay, especially since Elizabeth was caught up in the controversy. Outside of the Dan Spilo of it all, however, perky Elizabeth managed to stay within the majority alliance for much of the game, steering through multiple pre-merge tribals before her two biggest allies were clipped in a single evening post-merge. Even still, had it not been for Karishma's Hidden Immunity Idol play that canceled seven votes, Elizabeth might have been able to worm her way back in with the majority.

CBS via Getty Images

14.Grant Mattos

Grant Mattos crouches on the beach

Season(s) played: Redemption Island (Season 22)

Placement: 8th of 18 (another Redemption Island wonky situation)

Claim to fame: He competed as a wide receiver in the NFL for four years before retiring.

How they did: Like Elizabeth, Grant made it to the back half of the game by being part of a tight, majority alliance. Unlike Elizabeth's, however, his only self-destructed once they'd run out of non-alliance members to vote out. Grant should have been a bit more wary of Boston Rob and angled to eliminate the obvious mastermind before he'd run out of potential numbers, but he made it to the season's final five (one of them at least) which is more than most of the B-listers can say.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

13.Ron Clark

Ron Clark sits in a shelter

Season(s) played: Edge of Extinction (Season 38)

Placement: 8th of 18

Claim to fame: He's a teacher, author, and motivational speaker who has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and had a Matthew Perry-starring made-for-TV film based on his life.

How they did: If Grant underplayed, Ron overplayed (but we'd always prefer that). Having survived the entire pre-merge without attending Tribal Council, he was chomping at the bit to play and put a large target on his back as a threat, being a part of a number of large blindsides. This came back to bite him, however, when he remained one of the best strategists remaining, and so was clipped when Rick played a Hidden Immunity Idol. Ron is the type of gutsy player we love to see even if he came up a bit short.

CBS via Getty Images

12.Danny McCray

Danny McCray sits in a shelter

Season(s) played: Survivor 41 (Season 41)

Placement: 6th of 18

Claim to fame: He was a free safety in the NFL for several years, mostly for the Dallas Cowboys.

How they did: Danny lasted a long time in the post-COVID iteration of the game, but he didn't do a whole lot, and what he did do was not incredibly well thought out. His tribe didn't attend Tribal Council once before the merge, which left Danny a bit out of his depth when he actually started to play. He was on the wrong side of the numbers at his first two tribals and then abruptly decided to vote out one of his only allies in Shan. Ultimately he was seen as expendable and booted at the final six when juicier targets were immune. His under-the-radar game and challenge prowess are worth a lot, but not enough to get him into my top ten.

Robert Voets/VBS via Getty Images

11.Scot Pollard

Scot Pollard gets out of a boat

Season(s) played: Kaoh Rong (Season 32)

Placement: 8th of 18

Claim to fame: He was in the NBA for 11 years and played for teams like Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers, before winning a championship with the Boston Celtics.

How they did: Scot is certainly a messier player than the likes of Danny and Grant but not as stealthy as Ron, and what he lacks in finesse, he makes up for in force. Sometimes bulldozing through the competition is the most effective, unexpected tactic, and it is the one that Scot used. He created strong alliances and then just forged ahead. Ultimately, this lack of a social game caused Tai to refuse to play an idol for him, cutting him at the final eight, but not before Scot had sent home four adversaries pre-merge. Also, it should be noted that if Tai had remained loyal to Scot and sent Aubry home, his chances of winning would have skyrocketed.

Robert Voets / CBS via Getty Images

10.Gary Hogeboom

Garry Sits with his canteen

Season(s) played: Guatemala (Season 11)

Placement: 7th of 18

Claim to fame: An NFL quarterback, he spent a decade playing football professionally, mainly for the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts.

How they did: As the first celebrity to play Survivor (it's kind of shocking that it took them 11 seasons to establish this new trope), Gary decided to play as "Gary Hawkins" and lied about his celebrity status. Based on the full set of data we have now, I don't think it really matters if your fellow castaways know you're famous or not, but Gary didn't know that and made the strategic move he felt necessary. Gary's gameplay was strong if a bit old school. A strong physical threat, he was beset by the majority alliance post-merge but managed to outlast most of his alliance before he was unanimously ousted at the final seven. Hogeboom/"Hawkins" also made history as the first person to ever play a Hidden Immunity Idol, so a history maker all around.

Monty Brinton / CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images

9.Crystal Cox

Crystal Cox votes for Randy

Season(s) played: Gabon (Season 17)

Placement: 6th of 18

Claim to fame: At the time of filming, she was a Gold Medal Olympic track athlete, but that medal was later stripped from her after she admitted to taking steroids.

How they did: Gabon is a messy, messy season. In an "inmates running the asylum" kind of way, the expected, more boring strategic players were all booted early, leaving an erratic hodge-podge of wonderful characters to duke it out through a barrage of ill-advised self-sabotaging. Crystal, who performed horrifically in challenges despite being an Olympian, however, was leading her tribe (along with Ken). The pair formed a strong alliance pre-swap, executed a beautiful blindside on Marcus post-swap, and lead the underdog alliance post-merge before eventually being sniped at the final six (and five). Crystal was combative, emotional, and loud, becoming one of Survivor's most iconic one-time players, and while you may remember her for shouting at Randy, she was also pretty good at strategy.


8.Ken Hoang

Ken stands outside his shelter

Season(s) played: Gabon (Season 17)

Placement: 5th of 18

Claim to fame: A professional video game player who goes by the names "SephirothKen" and "LiquidKen," he is one of the world's best Super Smash Bros. Melee players, having won many tournaments in the game.

How they did: Ken and Crystal were inseparable and basically played the same exact game. They were eliminated back-to-back, and it seems only right that they stay together on this ranking as well. Ken was a little quieter and more strategic than Crystal, and he lasted one episode longer so that's why he takes the higher slot.


7.Brad Culpepper

Brad Culpepper sits between some rocks

Season(s) played: Blood vs. Water (Season 27) and Game Changers (Season 34)

Placement: 15th of 20 and then 2nd of 20

Claim to fame: He played nine seasons as a defensive tackle in the NFL before pivoting to be a trial attorney in the Tampa, Florida region with plenty of billboards advertising his firm.

How they did: It's hard to rank Brad, because, like Caleb, he played twice, but unlike Caleb, his two placements are vastly different. In Blood vs. Water, he ruled his tribe with an iron fist, but his poor leadership skills lead to four straight immunity losses, several blowups with tribe mates, and an eventual early blindside by his own alliance due to him rubbing so many people the wrong way. When he returned, he played a much more low-key game, getting in an alliance early and staying with it until its disintegration post-merge. While he was a target during the back half of the game, winning five of the final six Immunity Challenges got him to the finale. He eventually lost to Sarah Lacina because he was seen as distant and/or rude, but he showed a lot of improvement. Making the final Tribal Council is not an easy task.

Timothy Kuratek / CBS via Getty Images

6.Jonathan Penner

Jonathan Penner swims

Season(s) played: Cook Islands (Season 13), Micronesia (Season 16), and Philippines (25)

Placement: 7th of 20, 15th of 20, and then 7th of 18

Claim to fame: An actor, screenwriter, and producer, he's appeared in films like The Last Supper as well as TV series like The Nanny, The Naked Truth, and Rude Awakening.

How they did: It's even harder to rank Jonathan Penner, who had two solid endgame finishes and one pre-merge medical evacuation. While he never lasted as long as Crystal, Ken, or Brad, his consistently solid gameplay over three seasons elevates him above their one positive season (and one disastrous one in the case of Brad). He zig-zagged as needed in Cook Islands, was well set up pre-injury in Micronesia, and managed to outlast much of his alliance post-merge in Philippines. Plus, he's a three-time player, so no one on this list is trafficking in more iconic points.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

5.Hayden Moss

Hayden Moss wearing a buff

Season(s) played: Blood vs. Water (Season 27)

Placement: 7th of 20 (misleading because of Redemption Island)

Claim to fame: The winner of Big Brother 12, he dated Survivor: One World contestant, Kat Edorsson, and was brought on Survivor to compete alongside her.

How they did: After creating one of the most dominant alliances in Big Brother history, it was no surprise that Hayden was also an exceptionally gifted Survivor strategist. Pre-merge he was part of a dominant alliance (with Brad Culpepper) before eventually blindsiding Brad. Post-merge he joined the majority alliance early, eliminating big threats like Aras, Vytas, and Tina before he was eventually betrayed by Ciera at the Caleb elimination. In a brilliant stroke of social and strategic prowess, he then convinced Ciera to swing back to his alliance and go to a rock draw (one that he'd be immune from and she would not be!) at the final six. While the rocks ultimately sent home his alliance mate, Katie, and sentence him to a final five finish, if Tyson would have picked the unlucky rock instead, we'd probably be looking at Hayden Moss, Big Brother AND Survivor winner.

CBS via Getty Images

4.Lisa Whelchel

A headshot of Lia Whelchel

Season(s) played: Philippines (Season 25)

Placement: 2nd of 18

Claim to fame: An actress and a singer, she was primarily known for playing Blair Warner on The Facts of Life. She also appeared on The New Mickey Mouse Club, The Love Boat, and A Madea Christma, and was Grammy-nominated for her Christian album.

How they did: The tale of Lisa Whelchel on Survivor is one of many high highs and low lows. Early on, she was a mess of emotions and could have easily been sent home. However, her tribe being the first ever to reach the merge unscathed allowed her the time to gain her sea legs and become a power player. She and Michael Skupin dominated the post-merge orchestrating nearly every elimination and successfully executing several vote splits. She was also able to convince Denise to flip against Malcolm at the final four to guarantee her a spot in the finals. Despite her strong game, however, her wishy-washy social game kept her from the million-dollar prize and is also keeping her from the top three of this list.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

3.Mike White

Mike White sits on the beach

Season(s) played: David vs. Goliath (Season 37)

Placement: 2nd of 20

Claim to fame: He wrote School of Rock and Nacho Libre, competed on two seasons of The Amazing Race with his dad, and directed Brad's Status. (He's also the creator of multi-Emmy-winning The White Lotus but that was post-Survivor.)

How they did: Like Lisa, our recent Emmy winner made it to the final Tribal Council only to lose, but unlike Lisa, he did so without nearly as much waffling. Starting on the Goliath tribe, Mike played a low-key game through the merge, in an attempt to downplay his strategic mind as well as his celebrity standing. While he didn't do much pre-merge, he was involved in Jacketgate which gets him some icon points. Post-merge, the Goliath tribe struggled initially, but Mike separated himself from their pack, successfully orchestrating the eliminations of Carl, Gabby, and Christian. While he eventually lost to Nick by three votes, getting to the end (via fire making no less) was a massive feat, and honestly, I didn't think someone of Mike's wealth and fame was ever going to win this season.

CBS via Getty Images

2.Taj Johnson-George

Taj sits in her shelter

Season(s) played: Tocantins (Season 18)

Placement: 4th of 16

Claim to fame: A singer and rapper, she's most well known for being one-third of the girl's R&B group, SWV (Sisters With Voices).

How they did: Taj was a brilliant strategist in Tocantins, and one of the best one-season players we've ever seen. Early on, she and Brendan expertly navigate the Exile Island twist, not only keeping Hidden Immunity Idol clues (and later Idols) for themselves, but also creating a cross-tribe alliance with Sierra and Stephen. Meanwhile, she, Stephen, and J.T. created their own tribal alliance. These two alliances kept Taj in power for the entire game, allowing her to be in control of the votes for every single Tribal Council she went to (even though she merged down in the numbers). Only when Stephen backstabbed her at the Final Four, worried she'd take J.T. over him to the finals, was she unseated. Perhaps she should have made a move on Stephen/J.T. earlier, but otherwise a nearly flawless, ridiculously impressive feat. While Mike and Lisa may have lasted a smidge longer, Taj was more dominant, and her pre-merge work was more inventive.

Monty Brinton / CBS via Getty Images

1.Natalie Anderson

Jeff Probst gives Natalie Anderson the immunity necklace

Season(s) played: San Juan del Sur (Season 29) and Winners at War (Season 40)

Placement: 1st of 18 and then 2nd of 20

Claim to fame: She competed on both The Amazing Race 21 and The Amazing Race: All-Stars along with her sister Nadiya before the pair competed together on the second iteration of Survivor: Blood vs. Water season.

How they did: OBVIOUSLY Natalie was always going to get this top slot. Not only is she the only celebrity player to win the show, but her win on San Juan del Sur is one of the most deserved that Survivor has ever seen. She dominated in challenges pre-merge to avoid Tribal Council, and post-merge singlehandedly eliminated both Alec and Baylor in masterful blindsides while leading the strategy behind many others. When she returned for Winners at War, she was clipped early but put in endless amounts of work on the Edge of Extinction in order to ensure her return to the game. Once back, she again executed a nearly flawless endgame leading to a well-deserved second-place finish (the best she was going to get having been voted out once already). Natalie is one of the best castaways to ever play Survivor and is running laps around most of her other celebrity counterparts.

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Watch Survivor 43 (with its new celebrity castaway, Paralympian Noelle Lambert) weekly starting on September 21.

All 43 seasons are available to stream on Paramount+.

Jeff Probst smiles at Tribal Council
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