Survivor 43: Owen Knight and The Statistical History of The First Tribal Council

The first week of Survivor 43 is in the books. We saw the Vesi & Coco Tribes win immunity, sending Baka to the first Tribal Council of the season. There we saw Morriah get voted out 5–1, ending her time on Survivor. The one vote not going in Morriah’s direction got cast by her towards Owen. First impressions are important, and while Owen was able to survive, his name has already got written down once. The general fan consensus regarding his gameplay and edit is already shaky.

Now, the game moves rapidly, so Owen isn’t anywhere close to done yet. Little butterfly moments can completely alter someone’s path in the game. If Pat Cusack doesn’t get medically evacuated Day 3 on David vs. Goliath, there’s a decent chance Nick Wilson would have gotten voted out first. Instead, he went on to win the game.

Still, I was curious to find out what happens to players who get votes during the first Tribal Council and live to see another day. I went through every US Survivor season and tracked the performance of all 60 players to garner votes during their season’s opening Tribal Council. Before we jump in, here are some fun facts/tidbits:

  • On Survivor 42, no players returning from the first Tribal had any votes on them because Zach Wurtenberger used his Shot in the Dark advantage leading to him having no vote and thus getting taken out 5–0 unanimously.
  • Kelley & Dale Wentworth are the only father/daughter duo to have received votes during a season’s opening Tribal Council.
  • Some seasons have more than one returning player receiving votes from the First Tribal. On Survivor 41, it was because two Tribes had to go to Tribal after the opening immunity challenge. Then you have chaotic seasons like Fiji, Millenials vs. Gen X, and Blood vs. Water, where three returning players walked away with votes.
  • Of the 42 winning seasons, 17 (40.4%) had players go to the first Tribal of the season. In the last 16 seasons, only 3 times (18.7%) has the winner gone to their season’s first Tribal: Ben (HvHvH), Nick (DvG), and Chris (EoE). Chris being one of the few to win is hilarious, considering he got voted out early into the game.

Let’s get into the breakdown:

(Here is the basic spreadsheet/results).

29 out of 60 Leave Pre-Jury & 31 out of 60 Make It To Jury

You lose that opening immunity challenge, and your Tribe is often at a disadvantage from the jump. 8 out of the 60 players would get taken out by their season’s 2nd or 3rd Tribal Council, which is not shocking. The moment your name gets said, it’s easy for other players to piggyback.

Considering the paranoia players must feel once they see their name pop up during the first Tribal, the concept of a 50% chance of making it to the jury doesn’t sound like too bad of a deal.

16 out of 60 Make It To Final 5
11 out of 60 Make It To Final 4
10 out of 60 Make It To The Last Tribal Before FTC

I was stunned to learn that over 25% of players who get their name written at that first Tribal make it to Final 5. Then again, if your name gets written early, it’s either because you’re an acknowledged threat to someone or because you didn’t have a great social game, and now you’re around as a pawn/goat. Ricard Foye (41), Cirie Fields (Panama), and Peih-Gee Law (China) stand out to me as strong players who got to the second-to-last vote of their seasons and were legitimate threats to win it all.

What’s not as surprising is watching how steeply the numbers drop off from Final 5–Final 4-to the Final Tribal Council. It makes perfect sense; in the end-game, going against someone at the FTC who can pitch the narrative that they started the game from the bottom and worked their way to the top at the end is scary. Thus, it’s no shock that the number goes from 10 out of 60 to 4 out of 60. David Wright (Millenials vs. Gen X), Yau-Man Chau (Fiji), and Rudy Boesch (Borneo) are players who got cut at the end whom I believe could have won their seasons. Accounting for the jury on All-Stars, I think Jenna Lewis could have won as well.

4 out of 60 Made It To The Final Tribal Council

Four players have had their names written down at the first Tribal and made it to the Final Tribal. Three of them come from absolute stinker seasons. Phillip Sheppard took 2nd as a goat next to Boston Rob on the repugnant Redemption Island. Carolyn Rivera tied for 2nd, losing to Mike Holloway on the woeful Worlds Apart. And Clay Jordan (RIP) came up short against known awful human-being Brian Heidik on the classic terrible Thailand season. You can clearly see why some of these players got taken to the end.

Thailand, Redemption, Worlds Apart. What a murderer’s row.

1 Sole Survivor out of 60

Chris Daugherty is the only person to become Sole Survivor after getting his name written at the first Tribal Council. What makes him different from everyone else? Well, it comes down to talent, hard work, and luck. Chris had both a lot of good and bad luck on Survivor Vanuata. Chris had to deal with a target on his back from Day 1 due to poor performance in the season’s first immunity challenge. He then adapted by forming a majority alliance that controlled his Tribe’s votes. Then at the merge, he saw his Tribe members get plucked off one by one until it was him and the six remaining women in the game. From there, Chris went all out where he won 3 out of the last 4 immunity challenges and lucked out big time when he got spared during the Final 6 vote after Twila & Scout colluded with him & Eliza to pull off a blindside on Ami.

To pull off what Chris did, you need talent and luck. Does Owen Knight have that? Probably not. Will someone do it again at some point? I say yes.



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Allan Aguirre

Allan Aguirre


26 years old. I blog about MTV's the Challenge and will dabble into other subjects occasionally. Follow me on Twitter for the occasional bad joke.