Stapley adding to strong Iowa heritage on "Survivor"

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This season on "Survivor: Philippines," Denise Stapley, the sex therapist from Cedar Rapids, has continued a little known but proven trend: Iowans do well on the long-running CBS reality game show. Granted, their numbers are small in the ranks of "Survivor" veterans, but when they do get the chance to play, they either do very well or, at the very least, make an impact on the game.


Of the four known players with Iowa connections, two have reached the finals, another's ouster helped set up the season's most compelling storyline and the fourth - Denise - is still alive after Wednesday's episode, reaching the final four (and counting) of the show's 25th season. As Denise heads into the final episode, airing Sunday night at 7:30 on CBS, let's take a look back at her Iowan predecessors:






An S8 housing case worker from Des Moines, Rory was gruff, surly and opinionated. But he was also a hard worker and strong in challenges – traits that helped him survive a tribal swap where he was trapped against a powerful all-female alliance during the show’s  “Battle of the Sexes” ninth season. Telling the ladies that if he didn’t have a shot at tribal council, they would have to build their own shelter and fires and find their own food, the ladies instead ate one of their own and allowed him to make it to the merge – where Rory immediately jumped back to his original alliance of men. However, the men were betrayed by their own female defectors from the swap, surprising Rory as the final player voted out before the jury phase.

Twila Tanner, “Survivor: Vanuatu – Islands of Fire” (Fall 2004)

A native of Osceola, the hard-edged, tomboyish highway repair worker from Marshall, Mo., was one of the betrayers who rejoined the women at the merge and ousted Rory. The ladies systematically took out the men one by one until only one remained – Ohio highway construction worker Chris Daugherty. However, Twila and her closest ally – Oklahoma rancher Scout Cloud Lee – realized they were at the bottom of the ladies’ pecking order; they then grabbed Chris and a fellow outsider – Syracuse pre-law student Eliza Orlins – and turned the tables on the female alliance’s three kingpins. Twila rode into the finals with Chris, but the women never forgave her for betraying them (she notoriously promised her loyalty to the women’s alliance by swearing on her son’s life, only to later break that promise). Alas, Chris was able to close out his remarkable comeback by defeating the final six women, winning the title of Sole Survivor in a 5-2 vote.

Susie Smith, “Survivor: Gabon – Earth’s Last Eden” (Fall 2008)

The hairdresser from Charles City (she studied at North Iowa Area Community College and the Marshalltown Cosmetology School), considered annoying for her constant chattering, took advantage of a twist – a rare second pre-merge tribal swap – and wisely flipped on the arrogant tribemates that had counted her out all game long right before the merge, creating a power shift that put her near the top of the pecking order for the remainder of the game. In post-game interviews, Smith herself has admitted that she rode the coattails of stronger players all the way to the final tribal council. However, her tribe-mates noticed … and she lost to lovable Maine physics teacher Bob Crowley by a narrow 4-3 vote.


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