The Resume Era in Survivor is Over

...and may have never existed

Unless you are one of the 18 people currently playing Survivor 47, you already know that on Wednesday night, Kenzie Petty was revealed to have beaten Charlie Davis by a vote of 5-3 at Survivor 46’s final tribal council. It was a hard-fought battle that proved to be controversial, not by the player that won, but because of one specific vote that was cast for Kenzie by Charlie’s former closest ally, Maria.

As we look back at Survivor 46, it was a season with a consistent drumbeat from the players to blindside their number one because they needed it for their RESUME. In the end, our winner never ended up blindsiding her number one (though she may have wanted to) and beat a player who had a more well-rounded resume (though not a flashy one).

Maria and Kenzie on the beach

Maria’s choosing Kenzie was the most talked about jury vote (CBS)

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the finalists’ resume was first discussed on Survivor. The most commonly held opinion is that it began during Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. Specifically, it was then high-school student, Will Wahl, who talked about needing to build his RESUME to get the approval of the jury. It certainly makes sense that a student working on college applications would look at the game this way. He may have thought, “Sure, I have good grades in strategy, but how do I show admissions my extra-curricular social game?”

Putting things on your RESUME is a likely result of the timeframe following Ciera voting out her mom and Tony’s run in Cagayan - dubbed “The Big Moves Era”. This period was marked by a vicious cycle existing between production, the players and the audience where the “Big Moves” were celebrated disproportionately to their impact in helping you win the game. 

The idea of the Survivor resume and “Big Moves” would then intersect in Survivor: Game Changers when the new final tribal council jury questioning format was introduced. For 33 seasons, players asked the jury personal questions one-by-one but now the jury would work (and often think) as a group during Final Tribal Council. The questions were also framed in three sections where the jurors were tasked with breaking down the individual parts of each finalist's game. 


It’s unclear if the final tribal council format update actually changed a winner between Survivor 34 and Survivor 45… but it definitely made it easier for jurors to explain why they did NOT vote for a certain finalist. Jurors could say, “If they only had more ownership on a specific move,” “if they had won more challenges,” and everybody’s favorite, “if they had put themselves into fire making, that would have been a big move.”

I believe there is a harsh truth to the Survivor jury system. I believe that every juror in the history of Survivor has voted for the player that they personally like better to win the game. If I’m missing somebody, please let me know in the comments below - I promise, I’ll read them. This is not to say that Survivor players are not fair, they are just flawed. Our favorite Reality TV contestants are usually not grizzled court justices - they’re human beings who want their friends to succeed and their enemies to lose.

Charlie, Kenzie, Ben at Final Tribal Council

The Final 3 (CBS)

I’m sure there have been cases when a juror might like TWO players, might hate TWO players or might be completely indifferent to the finalists. In the case of a tie, perhaps a player’s resume CAN factor into the equation. This may have been the case in the Survivor 46 final tribal council for the earliest jury members from Nami, specifically Soda, Tevin and Hunter. They didn’t have close relationships with Charlie or Kenzie and seemed to all waver on making a decision. I also believe that early jurors tend to be the most impartial and look more solely at a player’s resume because they are more disconnected from the game. 

So if most jurors don’t vote on resume and vote for who they like, why are Survivor players twisting themselves into knots to try to make big resume-building moves and voting out their allies? There seems to be a disconnect between what helps you win Survivor and what you’re SUPPOSED to do on Survivor. I think that the answer for why this is happening has less to do with the structure of the game and more to do with the game being a TV show. 

I’m not on the beach so I can’t tell you if there’s any prodding from production to go for the BIGGEST MOVES possible. Selfishly, as a viewer (and person who podcasts about the show), I know it’s a much more exciting night when we get a big-time blindside instead of the safer, more subtle moves. In the new era, our players are all very familiar with the show. The players themselves know what is going to get them airtime on the show and it’s not hiding under-the-radar to avoid making a big splash. Nobody wants to spend 26 days on Survivor to rarely be seen on TV, even if they win. 


Kenzie was a rare Survivor player that was able to avoid the spotlight of the other players while remaining visible to us. Some kudos are in order for the Survivor producers who were able to consistently show her journey, even if she wasn’t directly involved with many of the resume-building moves that played out.   

Bhanu pegged Kenzie as the “Mermaid Dragon” in the early days of Yanu. Bhanu was one of the few that saw Kenzie’s potential early on and tried to warn the others to no avail. However, to me, Kenzie’s super-ability had much more to do with being the MERMAID and little to do with being the DRAGON. 

Mermaid Kenzie was armed to the gills with the game’s most deadly super-power, CHARM. That is the ability of the mermaid who disarms all they encounter with their enchanting personality. On the contrary, the new era has had more than several (7+) imposing, fire-breathing monsters. The Dragons haven’t fared especially well in Survivor’s modern era and potentially never did in any of Survivor’s previous eras… with the exception of the band formed by Coach, Courtney and JT. 

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When you’re as likable and charming as Kenzie you don’t need the biggest resume to get the win. Your big move is getting to the end of a game when the biggest jury threats are always juicy targets. Survivor players should focus less on resume-building and more on eliminating extremely likable players who are actually the ultimate threats - no matter how many BIG moves they can claim.

Congratulations once again to Kenzie on a remarkable win that may have just SHREDDED the illusion of needing a sterling resume to win. Kenzie’s victory should be a reminder to all that a Survivor player needs to be less focused on their resume and more focused on their rizz.

-Rob Cesternino

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