The game of Survivor has changed a lot over the years with the addition of immunity idols, re-entry into the game after elimination, and even tied final tribal councils. However, so much of it has remained the same, including that the third-place finisher is almost always a robbed contender or a finalist dragged to the end with zero chance of winning.
The first 12 seasons had final tribal councils in which two finalists faced the jury. In season 13, the final three was introduced and has been used pretty regularly since. Third-place castaways from almost every season deserve another shot at the game because they made it so far, only to be cut short at the end.
10 Natalie Tenerelli (Redemption Island)
Natalie Tenerelli was only 19 years old when she competed on the 22nd season of Survivor and made it all the way to the final tribal council. The professional dancer aligned with Survivor legend ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano early on in the game to secure her own safety, and her tribe’s domination of the other made it easy for her to succeed.
When it came down to the end, nobody voted for Natalie or respected her gameplay over the course of 39 days on an island. The jury blasted her for being naive, even calling her a “child” for following Rob around like a lost puppy. Natalie still accomplished an impressive feat, making it to the end over her competitors, and at 29 would surely add new perspective and knowledge to the game.
9 Keith Famie (The Australian Outback)
Keith Famie was just a chef from Michigan when he competed on the second season of Survivor. He was placed on a tribe with Colby Donaldson and Tina Wesson, two castaways who would eventually make up the final two and earn second and first place respectively.
Keith created tension with many of his tribemates, namely Jerri, who would question his food-related decisions and improper meal planning on the beach. When Colby Donaldson won the Final Immunity Challenge, he was faced with the difficult choice to take Keith or Tina with him to the end. He found Keith undeserving, and ultimately voted him out, securing Tina with victory. Had Keith made it to the end, there’s no telling what would’ve happened, and it would be fascinating to see how his strategy may have evolved 20 years later.
8 Jenna Lewis (All-Stars)
Jenna Lewis has already competed twice on the hit reality show, but she came in third place the second time she played in Survivor: All-Stars. After aligning with Rob and Amber early on, she found comfort in her alliance and was able to go from being on the bottom of a losing tribe to playing a nearly winning game.
Jenna proved that she understood strategy and the evolving game during her stint in All-Stars, but was ultimately robbed due to the showmance turned genuine romance between Rob and Amber. If she played again today at 44 years old, she would have an entirely different worldview and be able to apply her skills learned from both Borneo and All-Stars.
7 Rafe Judkins (Guatemala)
The cast of Survivor: Guatemala has barely been asked back since the season aired in 2005. With the exception of Stephenie LaGrossa appearing on Heroes vs Villains, it took until Season 40 for winner Danni Boatwright to play on Winners at War. The lack of Guatemala representation is a shame due to its great cast, including third-place finisher Rafe Judkins.
Rafe was an underdog for most of his season, but really made Survivor history when he struck a deal with Danni that really only benefited her. He said that if she won the final immunity challenge she could vote him out, despite their alliance, and she did just that. He came so close but made that fatal ending mistake, and it’d be interesting to see if he’d repeat that same error 16 years later.
6 Becky Lee (Cook Islands)
Becky Lee is perhaps best known for winning the fire-making challenge of Cook Islands out of pure luck. Her opponent, Sundra, ran out of matches and was thus eliminated, allowing Becky to make her own flame and end up in the final three.
Becky didn’t stand much of a chance against her other two competitors, Yul Kwon and Ozzy Lusth. She was more of a behind-the-scenes strategist, and despite making most decisions with Yul, he was the one who took credit for all of it and was able to articulate his accomplishments. Becky hid in his shadow but could do just as well if she was given another chance to play on her own terms.
5 Angelina Keeley (David vs Goliath)
Angelina Keeley begged for a jacket, gave up immunity to feed her tribe, and climbed a ladder to reach a hidden immunity idol. All of these impressive feats made her a fan-favorite on her season of Survivor but did not make her popular among jury members when it came to voting for a winner.
Instead, Angelina earned third place after being dragged to the end by eventual winner Nick Wilson because he knew he would win at ease with her by his side. Though Angelina made a couple of mistakes while playing, she still made it to Day 39 over 17 others. She could definitely win if she played again.
4 Terry Dietz (Panama)
Terry Dietz got third place on Survivor: Panama and was such a fan-favorite that he was voted back by fans to compete on Survivor: Second Chance almost 15 years later. However, due to family circumstances, he had to be removed from the game pretty early on and his shot at redemption was ruined.
Terry’s third-place finisher in Panama is rumored to be the reason that the final three was implemented the following season. Fans were disappointed that Terry, who had dominated so much of the game, was ousted at the last second, leaving Danielle and Aras as the final two castaways. Terry nearly had another chance to prove why he is worthy of the title of Sole Survivor, so it’s only fair to give him one more.
3 Jessica ‘Sugar’ Kiper (Gabon)
Jessica ‘Sugar’ Kiper was sent to Exile Island for most of her time on Survivor: Gabon. The opposing tribe thought she would struggle there and had no chance at finding idols or doing anything sneaky, but they were wrong. Instead, she used her strengths and wits to make it to Day 39, losing out to Bob Crowley and Susie Smith at the final tribal council.
Sugar played again in Heroes vs. Villains but was voted off first after not meshing well with the rest of the Heroes tribe. Now, years later, Sugar deserves a chance to prove herself once again. She already showed she has what it takes to make it to the end, she just needs to align with contestants with reputations worse than her own.
2 Ian Rosenberger (Palau)
Ian Rosenberger could’ve won Survivor: Palau, had he not given up the final immunity challenge to appease Tom Westman, his closest ally and the eventual winner of the season.
A lot of Ian’s gameplay mistakes came at the hand of his youth and immaturity. Instead of realizing that he was playing a game for $1 million, he mixed strategy with friendships and hurt a lot of feelings. Given the chance to play again, Ian could learn from those mistakes and come out victorious instead of handing the big prize to his best friend.
1 Erinn Lobdell (Tocantins)
Hairdresser Erinn Lobdell was a hilarious contribution to an already hilarious cast of characters on Survivor: Tocantins. Her commentary on Coach, aka The Dragon Slayer, was one of the highlights of the season, as was her frenemy status with the final two contestants, Stephen and J.T.
Because of the close friendship between J.T. and Stephen, Erinn was destined to be voted out at the final three. However, her sneaky gameplay all season allowed her to rise from the bottom of her original tribe to the last one standing, proving that she was smarter than she let on. Erinn was one of the best players to never play again, and she deserves another chance at becoming Sole Survivor.