It’s been six years since Natalie White won Survivor Samoa beating out Russell Hantz, and she is still unjustifiably considered to be one of the worst winners in the history of the show.
Natalie White is a perfect winner of Survivor. In any given season you have to play the best possible game for you and what you are capable of and the best possible game for the way that season is being played. Natalie did that perfectly and just because she wasn’t as strategic as Russell, does not make her an undeserving winner of Survivor: Samoa.
Natalie in my mind is one of the best social game players in the history of the show. Social game is something that often goes unnoticed in the game of Survivor, which is one reason that I think she is such an under-appreciated winner. It’s no accident that Russell was threatened by virtually every woman on his tribe and voted them all off, except for Natalie, and it speaks volumes to Natalie’s social game that she was able to tame the beast and remain on his good side for the entire game. She understood that all the aggressive women of the tribe were being voted off, so she knew she had to appear unassuming to Russell and tend to his every need, playing to his ego masterfully. Natalie let Russell get all of the blood on his hands with all of his incredibly flashy, big, bold strategic moves, while she worked on making bonds with the people that would come back to vote for her to win the game. She also constantly played to his ego and responded to him like he was the greatest person in the world, so he always wanted to keep her around. She also told Mick and Jaison to stick with Russell as well, saying that they could both beat him in the end while still making herself look unassuming and beatable as well.
Natalie also needs to be praised for the work she did to get rid of Erik Cardona at the merge. Not only is this one of my “Top 10 Moves in Survivor History”, it also cleared the path for her and her allies to get to the end of the game, where she was able to win. In this move she used her great social abilities to sweetly and softly talk to the Galu members about how Erik was trying to get one of their own, Monica, out of the game and politely said that they should all go after Erik instead, making sure to illustrate that it was a “nothing to lose” move for Galu because they would still have a seven to four advantage in the numbers. In actuality, Galu turned out to have a lot to lose with this move as Natalie and her allies were able to take control of the rest of the game.
At final tribal council, Russell was poor beyond belief and Natalie was superb. She connected with each jury member on a personal level, she highlighted Russell’s arrogance and Mick’s lack of leadership and she made sure to let everyone know why her game was the best for her and not for anyone else.
There’s no question that Russell Hantz controlled Survivor Samoa from a strategic standpoint and was the figure head of his alliance, but in the end if you can’t get the people on the jury to like you, they’ll never vote for you in the end. Natalie’s ability to connect with people and her underrated strategic game is what won her a million dollars over Russell, and she is a very deserving winner of Survivor: Samoa.