Back when the American version of Survivor made its TV debut in the year 2000, there was no way to know how popular the series would be or how long it would stay on the air. After all, at the time of this writing, the show is set to return for its 39th season and its loyal fanbase can’t wait for the competition to begin again.
According to Wikipedia, 570 people have competed to be named the sole survivor as of this popular reality show’s 38th season. While all of those people were able to have their moment in the spotlight, some of them are far more beloved by the show’s audience than their peers. With that in mind, it is time to take a look at this list of 10 Survivor contestants fans want to see more of and 5 they never want to return.
It should be noted, previous winners were not considered for this list.
15 Never Return: Lillian Morris
Easily one of the most annoying contestants in Survivor history, Lillian Morris was the beneficiary of a massive twist but she never seemed to appreciate the huge advantage she’d received. Adorned in a Scouts uniform during her time on the island, she consistently turned on people while whining about how bad she felt all the time. Who would want to see more of that?
14 More of: Kelly Goldsmith
Clearly not afraid to buck trends, during her time competing in Survivor's third season Kelly Goldsmith was the first competitor to turn on her own alliance. As a result, we believe her strategy side could entertain the masses once again. On top of that, she also had possessed a biting sense of humor during confessionals and could narrate a new season.
13 More of: Ian Rosenberger
Truly a sweetheart of a human being, when Ian Rosenberger competed the first time he came to believe he’d betrayed his own morals so he gave up a place in the final tribal council to regain his honor. While his decision was laughable from a strategy perspective, it would be really interesting to see such a stand-up person play again now that the game is more cutthroat than ever.
12 Never Return: NaOnka Mixon and Kelly Shinn
Not only did NaOnka Mixon and Kelly Shinn quit during the game during their season of Survivor, but they also laughed off any contention that they should take the game seriously. Worse yet, even though NaOnka knew she was going to eat after she quit, she still went on a reward just before departing instead of giving it up to someone who could have benefited from it much more.
11 More of: Greg Buis
Over the years, many Survivor competitors have made the show’s audience laugh but there is no doubt that Greg Buis was the first person to pull off that feat. Chosen to compete during the first season, he also was one-half of the series’ first showmance and his chemistry with another competitor was captivating. Simply delightful throughout his time on the show, it is astonishing he hasn’t returned already.
10 More of: Ali Elliott
Only able to last 16 days during her first time on Survivor, the betrayal of her biggest ally led to Ali Elliott’s time on the island coming to a very premature end. However, during her tenure, it was very obvious that she is a very intelligent and easy to like person. With traits like those, she clearly has a lot of potential that fans want to see realized during a return to the show.
9 Never Return: Colton Cumbie
During Colton Cumbie’s first time on Survivor, he mercilessly bullied people and then refused to give an ally his immunity idol even as he was evacuated from the island after he “collapsed”. Clearly a selfish person, he still was brought back and that time he outright quit after seven days because people didn’t want to work with him. He shouldn’t be able to give up a third time.
8 More of: Colleen Haskell
Earlier in this list, we touched on the fact that Greg Buis was a part of Survivor’s first "showmance" and now it is time to look at the other person in that relationship, Colleen Haskell. Arguably America’s sweetheart during her time in the spotlight, she was popular enough to be cast in a major movie which is an obvious indicator of the fact that her return would be celebrated by many.
7 More of: Devon Pinto
From the moment Devon Pinto stepped on the island, many people wrote him off from a strategic perspective. As the show’s viewers clearly could see, that is exactly what he wanted them to think and his ability to lay low was only one example of Devon showing flashes of brilliance. Also able to come off as a really good guy, he won the hearts of many Survivor devotees.
6 Never Return: Brandon Hantz
To say that Bradon Hantz is a loose cannon is nothing short of a giant understatement. Outright strange during his first season, he pushed to vote out someone because his attraction to her made him feel uncomfortable. If that behavior wasn’t bad enough, he came back for another season and this time he poured out his tribe’s food in a temper tantrum.
5 More of: Chrissy Hofbeck
Even though we appreciate the effort the winner of her season put in, Chrissy Hofbeck truly was robbed and she almost certainly would’ve won if Ben didn’t make it to the finals. After all, she was amazing in the challenges and the strong relationships she built allowed her to control much of the game.
4 More of: Cirie Fields
Already someone who has played Survivor 4 times, Cirie Fields is one of the best competitors to never win a season of this series and many fans can’t get enough of her. Only eliminated during her last season because she was the only person who wasn’t immune, she deserves another chance to win it all. Plus we’d love to see her try to do things like use Sarah Lucina’s own advantage against her again.
3 Never Return: Jeff Varner
At one time a treasured member of the Survivor community, Jeff Varner was so entertaining during the show’s 31st season that he was brought back for the 34th. Unfortunately, in a truly reprehensible moment, during that season Varner tried to paint a fellow competitor as deceptive by outing him as a transgendered man. Varner had no right to do that and many Survivor fans will never forgive that act for good reason.
2 More of: Zeke Smith
Clearly a student of the game, Zeke Smith is the kind of Survivor contestant who learns from the mistakes and successes of everyone who has competed on the show. As such, he not only was able to have a huge impact on both seasons he was a part of but during confessionals, he is self-aware enough to describe the game in a really entertaining way.
1 More of: Rob Cesternino
Truly a groundbreaker, Rob Cesternino was the first person to successfully flip back and forth between alliances at a moment's notice. On top of that, he could be relied upon to say something hilarious during every episode he appeared in. If that weren’t reason enough for his return, he has gone on to host a Survivor podcast that has earned him the adoration of the show’s most devoted followers.
Sources: cnn.com, complex.com, survivor.fandom.com