With production trying to figure out who to show when and who to focus on, it's only logical that a select few characters become more popular than you'd expect with their edit, particularly with so many.
Spoilers are unmarked!
One of the most ridiculous examples that was certainly not intended was Purple Kelley Shirin. She received the most minimalistic screentime of any castaway, but became one of the most well known, thanks to just how ridiculously out of focus she was. She even had a survivor phrase named after her! (Purple Edit) Her quit became more sympathetic in hindsight when it was revealed production was abusing her by forcing her to wear nothing but a bikini even when it was freezing due to the frequent rain.
Sonja, the first person ever voted out of Survivor, for being a sweetheart and coming out as a lesbian years later (one wonders what Rudy must have thought)
Africa gives us Kelley Goldsmith, who became beloved for having a personality not unlike Colleen Haskell, flipping on the unpopular/unstable Lex at the sight of danger, and wearing a "I <3 Mom and Dad" shirt. Being harshly victimized by the aforementioned Lex for something she never did didn't hurt her popularity in the slightest.
Robb Znack and the She-Devil, Shii-Ann Huang from Thailand. The former is considered one of the most entertaining characters of the franchise, let alone the season, and the latter received a huge popularity boost upon returning as one of the most ironic underdogs in All-Stars.
Ethan and Jerri's appearances in All-Stars have become this retroactively if you can believe it, as most people recognize them (as well as the aforementioned Shii-Ann) as the only characters to become more interesting this game whilst not trying to become a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. Jerri became this even more in Heroes vs. Villains as her appearance on that season caused people to take a second look at her previous showings. It's fairly easy to forget that she doesn't receive a whole lot of focus on her third time around given how popular she is with the fandom nowadays.
Angie Jacusz was probably considered the least deserving of her fate by virtue of being on Ulong. Her upbeat, kind personality alongside singlehandedly winning one of the only challenges Ulong won made her a very popular early out in Palau. A lot of fans would like to see how she'd fair on a season with a less disastrous tribe.
Wanda Shirk is an even bigger example of this as while she voted out quickly in the first episode, she has become one of the most iconic castaways of Palau due to her constant singing that verges on Chewing the Scenery. In fact, Rob Has a Podcast has a podcast segment named after her called the "Wand-off" where fans submitted Survivor parodies.
Gary Hogebloom from Guatemala for trying to spend the game pretending to be someone else for no reason, as well as finding the very first Hidden Immunity idol... without any clues no less.
Bobby "Bob Dawg" Mason from Panama has a sizable online fandom thanks to his performances in challenges, his unique personality, and his razor-sharp quips and put-downs.
Erik Cardona from Samoa is pretty well loved for being simultaneously a mean trickster, someone that claims to be a womanizer, and yet somehow the deliverer of one of the most heartwarming speeches seen on the show to one of the sweetest underdogs (while DRUNK) despite being someone who would seemingly want to vote for Russell on paper.
Erik: Natalie. People will call you weak. People will say that you are undeserving. But you know what? Why are those characteristic any less admirable as lying, cheating, and stealing? Why does he get a free pass, but your "wrong way of playing" gets admonished? If there is one thing that I've learned in this game, it's that perception is not reality. Reality is reality. And that you are sitting there and that makes you just as dangerous as any of those guys there. You would probably say you are the least deserving of the title of Sole Survivor. But maybe, just maybe, in an environment filled with arrogance... delusional entitlement... maybe the person who thinks she's the least deserving, is probably the most. You got my vote. I hope you get four more. Congratulations.
Redemption Island has the general consensus that the Zapatera that made it to the merge, only to be Pagonged consists of the best, as well as some of the only majorly good characters from that season.
Steve Wright is by far the most universally liked/popular for the mature wise way he handles being (COMPLETELY BASELESSLY) called a racist by Phillip Sheppard, as well as his dry sense of humor that pokes up here and there throughout the season.
Mike Chiesl is mostly invisible for his first few episodes, but in the We Hate Our Tribe episode, he gives an excellent"The Reason You Suck" Speech to Krista Klumpp (who received not very warm reception due to her aligning with Russell Hantz). Come The Buddy System, he's convincing Phillip and Rob to needlessly dig a hole in the middle of the beach for no actual purpose, all whilst snarking at them. Many people wish he was given more of a chance to shine, or at least put on a different season.
Ralph Kiser is a complete goof that's played up as Russell's archrival in the previews, and manages to find an idol while... looking for rocks of all things. He's also well liked for managing to completely shut Phillip down on multiple occasions, in a humorous manner.
Despite winning, Probst considered Denise from Philippines to be one since he didn't expect her to be popular. Nonetheless, fans were won over by her underdog story and no-nonsense attitude.
Allie Pohevitz has a pretty large fan base despite being voted out second in Caramoan, due to being a super fan of the game (and one of the few who actually applied) as well as not being afraid to speak her mind.
After being forgotten by many fans in Samoa, Laura Morett left a huge impression on the fanbase in Blood vs. Water for her domination on Redemption Island, motherly nature, endearing underdog story, and absolutely heartbreaking elimination in the final challenge. Many fans consider her as the best part of Redemption Island's inclusion in the show.
From the same season, Hayden Moss. While it was initially feared he was Stunt Cast, he proved to be one of the most likable contestants on Blood vs Water, and managed to play a very strong game, getting a player on the bottom of an alliance to go to drawing rocks.
Kimmi, best known for having a finger wagged in her face by Alicia Calaway in Australian Outback, became one in Cambodia. Despite being an Old-School player, she was surprisingly perceptive and cunning in Cambodia, being the first person to see that Jeremy was a legitimate threat to win, and her final tribal council is considered one of the most iconic.
Alecia Holden, from Kaoh Rong. Despite being the fifth person out, people were really rooting for her. Her underdog story is not unlike Eliza Orlins, and she was especially sympathetic due to Jason and Scot's bullying and being on the bottom constantly.
On Survivor 33: Millennials vs Gen X, Mari Takahashi from Smosh Games was already the most anticipated and popular contestant of the season yet. It isn't uncommon to find #teammari in the comment sections of Survivor 33 promo videos. Many thought she was robbed when she was evicted in the second episode.
Also, popular from the Millennials side is Will Wahl as he's well-liked for being the first ever high school student to compete on the show as well as making some good moves such as helping Jay blindside Michaela and then blindsiding Zeke. Some fans were upset that Will got voted off shortly after he tried to get his spot in the limelight with some of them believing that Will should have gotten a spot on Game Changers instead of Zeke.
On the Gen-X side, Ken McNickle from Millennials vs Gen X has become an early favorite due to his genuine sweet personality and his friendship with David (though over time, he became a Base-Breaking Character). On the Millennial side, Michaela Bradshaw is also becoming a favorite for being a strong, smart and fierce woman, as well as for breaking the negative stereotypes of millennials (hardworking, scrimps for everything in life, gets pissed at people who lump her in with the spoiled). Like with Mari, many people were upset by Michaela's elimination. Many were pleased to find out that Michaela will be returning for Season 34.
From Heroes Vs. Healers Vs. Hustlers, Lauren Rimmer has emerged as an early favorite for subverting the older woman stereotype and saving herself from an early boot and making it to the merge. Not to mention that Lauren actually seems to embody her tribe's spirit with the amount of hustling she did in order to save herself, plus her deadpan humor is seen as funny and reminiscent to that of Courtney Yates. After getting an advantage in episode eight, her fan base only grew - especially after Chrissy and Ben's popularity took hits that same episode - with many proclaiming her a great under-the-radar player and hoping she'll win. Her elimination sparked an outcry among some of the community, though many concede she could have saved herself had she kept the idol together and on hand.
Also from Heroes Vs. Healers Vs. Hustlers, JP Hilsabeck has become an ironic fan favorite for being absolutely hilarious and memetic due to how oblivious and out of focus he is. It's not uncommon to see people claiming he's secretly a mastermind hiding behind a simple persona, or quoting his various verbal tics. Unfortunately, he turned into a blindside target, but when he went out, fans were pleased to see how he really was more talkative than he let on in that he said something hysterical- "They blindsided the shit outta me!" They also learned from a secret scene on one of the official YouTube channels for the show that JP was really playing for his little sister.
Devon Pinto has emerged as another favorite from that season due to his excellent use of playing the fool and suddenly exploding out as one of the most crafty players all season who got JP and even Joe removed from the game without becoming a target by using Ben as his Double Agent, which then got Ben taking the heat instead of him as an unintended side effect. People also root for his closest ally Ashley, who is striving to do something awesome in the game for no personal grudge but simply for the sake of proving herself, has managed to pull through in spite of being an on-and-off target, and is a huge Determinator seeking to be badass and is endearing for it. Getting Screwed by the Final 4 twist only helped his popularity.
Stephanie Johnson from Ghost Island has emerged as a favorite despite her short stay in the game for being strategically adept, especially in the premiere, as well as having an inspirational story. However, a bad luck of the draw in the swap put her on the bottom with nowhere to go. Many were saddened by her elimination and people are already clamoring for her return.
From Ghost Island, Chris Noble has gotten a lot of love from the fans thanks to his hilarious Refuge in Audacity tactics as well as his feud with Domenick being viewed as a highlight of his season.
A third from Ghost Island Chelsea Townsend is this, not despite of her minimal edit, but because of it. Ghost Island is a season with terrible editing as over half the cast is ignored in favor of repetitive camera hogs. Poor Chelsea gets the brunt of it, having only four confessionals the entire season despite lasting until F8. From what little we get and her confessionals released as secret scenes, she was great at the social, strategic, and physical aspects of the game. Compare this to Dominick who received a staggering 67.
Christian from David vs. Goliath has a decent fan following. This is somewhat impressive given how previous Survivor nerds as Cochran and Ryan received some backlash while Christian manages to avoid such backlash with many fans listing him as casting gold.
John Hennigan is also a huge fan favorite since he ended up being a genuine Nice Guy unlike many other professional athletes who tend to have some sort of villainous edit within the show.
Alec Merlino from David vs. Goliath has also started to become an ironic, almost certainly unintentional favorite. Before the season began, he made waves for breaking his NDA agreement and getting himself banned from the reunion. This led many to assume he was a forgettable pre-merge contestant, with some even speculating he might get an edit comparable to the infamous Purple Kelly. Instead, he's shown to be a surprisingly entertaining (albeit flawed) player, orchestrating Natalia's blindside in the middle of tribal council, managing to make it to the merge and forming a secret alliance with fellow Ensemble Darkhorse Christian along with a few others. It has even led to some fans saying he should be unbanned from the reunion.
Lauren O'Connell from Edge of Extinction is a fairly popular player, due to the combination of strategic smarts, challenge prowess, a sympathetic edit, and being much nicer in comparison to her allies Wentworth and Wardog. Many fans had rooted for her after the loss of her allies, and were upset by her elimination in fifth place.
Jack Nichting from Island of the Idols became one for being a Nice Guy in a season full of jerkasses and Dan.