19. All Stars (season 8)
Now that 2, 12, and 22 (odd 5-year spread between each one) are out of the way, it’s time to take a step up in the rankings. All Stars is a tricky one to rank because it’s most of the biggest names from the first seven seasons accompanied by Jenna Lewis and Ambuh. It seems with this season you either hate it or love it, and I will proudly claim to hate it, for the most part.
Issues I had with this season:
1) The polarizing nature of the characters. This season was considered a must-watch, and with this cast exhibiting the strongest personalities of any cast in the history of Survivor, watching this with family was a pain. Any time Boston Rob appeared on-screen was met with boos and claims of him being an idiot. Rupert was still the greatest thing since Dr. Dre’s Nuthin but a G Thang. My sister groaned about Richard Hatch after hearing about how great he apparently was in Borneo. This season would be one of those that re-watching it alone would make it a bit more enjoyable and appreciate the characters without being forced to hate them or love them.
2) When we continue along in the countdown, I will typically describe an episode or two in that season as having an “It” factor that takes the season to a new level of appreciation or to a level of sourness in the mouth. In the seasons I have already talked about on this countdown, these seasons are stagnant, linear, and don’t really have a peak moment to make it a bit better. EI had Terry’s elimination in the final immunity challenge. In this season, the moment comes when Lex and Boston Rob talk after the trivia challenge. You know, the one Probst mentions every single chance he gets. In fact, I’d argue as this moment being the biggest switch in terms of how I feel about a particular season. The momentum of the season comes to a screeching halt and from this point forward it will never recover. And we’re not even in the jury phase of the game yet when it occurs.
3) The boot order. You expect me to believe that the Final Four of the greatest Survivor showdown is supposed to include Jenna Lewis, Amber, Rupert, and Boston Rob? I would much rather have Jenna M, Tina, Rudy, and Rob Cesternino as the Final Four. Doesn’t that sound about a gazillion times better?
4a) A delayed merge. I think All Stars waited far too long to merge in an 18-person format. A merge with 10 or 11 lets you have more of the greatest characters to talk and strategize with each other. Believe it or not, an eighteen person cast is my ideal for a Survivor season. Start with 18, eliminate 7 people over the first 18 days, merge at 11 on day 20, eliminate 7 more people over the next 18 days, then you head into the finale with your Final Four. Work your way down to a Final Two with a jury of nine players, and voila, you have a perfectly symmetrical season. No longer does the 10th place person at the merge in the early seasons get epically screwed.
4b) An extremely predictable post-merge boot order. In fact, what’s going on here is very similar to RI. Sure, we’re getting a lot of blindsides when it’s down to Rob’s core group, but is the audience really surprised by who’s going home? Exactly. Combine this with it being All Stars, a straightforward series of eliminations by irritating characters is a major letdown for the audience’s expectations.
5) Two quitters and Rudy injuring himself out. Again, this enters the ‘what ifs’ in the Survivor vault. My standard of the ‘what if’ is when the extremely improbable happens during a game and derails a season while wondering what if the extremely probable scenario happened. Two quitters in four rounds is a prime example of that. In my opinion, Jenna M was the only one with a shot of getting to the jury phase of the game and Susan Hawk could’ve been the original Phillip for Boston Rob. I think Sue being stuck in the Chapera alliance at the end-game would’ve made things much more entertaining. Or the idea of Kathy and Susan interacting.
6) Shoulda-woulda-coulda interactions. The negative of any all-star season. It’s the only time where ridiculous characters can interact with each other, but when one goes home early and wasn’t on the same tribe you get a sad face and a case of crybabyitis that your wish will never come true (unless Survivor sticks around for another seven years to do another all-star in season 20, but c’mon man, the series is so done for.)
7) Shii-Ann’s boot episode is a candidate for one of my least favourite episodes of all time.
8) Our expectations for an All Star concept to live up to.
However, there are things to enjoy about All Stars.
1) The first five episodes are probably the most entertaining beginning for any Survivor season. This is what tricked me both times to re-watch All Stars. None of the big characters who go home early are ignored, and next thing you know I find myself violated, humiliated, dehumanized, and totally spent with the 2nd half of the season.
2) The awards show/excuse to give Rupert a million is by far the best reunion show to date. I really wish Heroes vs. Villains would’ve done this. Instead we got stuck with a 15-week online poll of Best Moments Ever and a presentation to J.T. of being stupid at the finale. All Stars did a much better job at celebrating the show’s accomplishments and paying homage to random moments over the first four years.
3) Classic challenges for the most part, and none of them were crap. Especially when they included two of the best endurance challenges post-merge. If seasons were ranked solely based on challenges picked, All Stars would be very close to the top.
4) The confessionals. Almost all eighteen know how to work the camera, and very few times are you rolling your eyes in the first several episodes.
5) The twists used in this season. There isn’t a single forced double boot episode. The only way you went to TC is if you lost the immunity challenge. They used three tribes of six and waited four rounds before they disintegrated them so that each tribe could be held accountable for their actions. There was also only the second delayed and fake-out merge in Survivor history before production wanted to do this almost every season. Even doing minor things like the keys to the box of rice (a.k.a. the original hidden immunity idol) was a very welcome addition to Survivor. Doesn’t affect gameplay, but just improves camp life and your ability to succeed in challenges.
6) Harsh environment but balancing it with everything else going on in the game.
7) The overall nastiness of Tom and Lex along with certain things at FTC that Survivor very rarely crosses into is something of intrigue when it happens once in a blue moon. For most this was uncomfortable, but I found the “don’t be stupid, stupid” fakeout handshake as entertaining. I’m sure I’ll agree it’s uncomfortable if several seasons reached this level, but I think it revealed what would happen nine out of ten times in all star seasons with a very close-knit community all playing together. Nowadays, I doubt half of the Survivor community even knows each other. It’ll be an environment very difficult to replicate ever again.
8) A season that as Survivor continues into the future, it seems funnier and funnier to think that All Stars was supposed to be the culmination of everything in the Survivor universe. Now it’s just a minor era within an extensive history.
9) I’ve been bamboozled!!