11. Survivor: China (Season 15) Rating: 6.25/10
Season 10: Exile Island, but no idols played
Season 11: No Exile Island, but an idol is played
Season 12: Exile Island, idol influences the outcome
Season 13: Exile Island, idol influences the outcome
Season 14: Exile Island, idols influence the outcome
Season 16: Exile Island, idols influence the outcome
Season 17: Exile Island, idol is played
Season 18: Exile Island
Season 15 is the only exception because neither is present in the game. Yes, James had two idols, but it didn’t really affect the game at all. It only affected James’ image as being a loveable strategic fool. I think the absence of idols and Exile Island is why many people on Sucks say it’s the last great season of Survivor. For myself, I was a bit surprised because I didn’t really feel amazed by China after everything was done. Obviously I didn’t think it sucked because I have it ranked eleventh, but I feel it being placed into a top five or a top three would make it overrated.
Issues I had with this season:
1) Producers tricked us into making us think it was a Final Two. “Don’t miss the Survivor finale, as there will be THREE Tribal Councils.” … Three Tribal Councils?! We finally have a Final Two! Because there’s the Final Four TC, the Final Three TC, then the FTC. That’s three. But people still insisted that it was a final three at the end and that suddenly the reunion show counts as a Tribal Council. Despite going against all logic, those individuals would end up being right. Silly me for thinking it would be a Final Two when they said there would be three Tribal Councils.
2) A Final Three with only sixteen players to begin with. In Cook Islands and Fiji, the producers thought it was a good idea to try and squeeze in seventeen eliminations in the first thirty-eight days of the game. We get to China and suddenly it plummets down to thirteen? The producers do everything in their power to cater to the more old school audiences then they slap us in the face during the finale by having a final three? Three slots for so few players is a bigger slap in the face than having a Final Three with twenty players because the one minuscule positive note is that it wasn’t a high percentage. But a Final Three in China? Only Redemption Island would slant the table towards a more likeable player winning at the end.
3) James left us with a major ‘what if’ in terms of inevitable fireworks and an exciting end to the season if he had played one of his idols on day 30. As great of an episode as James’ elimination was, it is also the direct cause of why the remainder of the season declines in quality. You would have to be blind to not see Erik, P.G., and Denise all being sent home in a row.
4) A round at Final Three would have been the most exciting of the game. After three rounds of boring eliminations, wouldn’t it have been great to see Todd, Courtney, and Amanda all plot against each other? I think the finish would have been unpredictable that way.
5) Fei Long Domination is obvious from the start. Amanda wasn’t fooling anyone when she hinted at flipping once more after James was voted out. From about episode three, Fei Long was in a very good position to make up the Final Four. What happens? The only four pure-blooded Fei Long members ALL make the Final Four. What. A. Shocker. So if you’re looking at gameplay that twists and turns, this isn’t your first choice for a season to watch.
6) The cast isn’t the most likeable of the series. All of them have slight personality flaws that irk me at times. Even my beloved Todd with trashing an amazing reward on the Great Wall of China. Well, one person irked me in particular, and that was. . .
7) Sherea. I don’t know if the editing wanted to go out of their way to be mean to her publicly, but those last three or four episodes wanted me to go into Jeff Varner mode where all I wanted to do is just shake her, y’know?
8) P.G. has splashes of genius but doesn’t follow through. She came up with a brilliant idea to throw back-to-back immunities to kick out former Fei Long. Yes, the Aaron boot episode was extremely painful and annoying to watch at the time but after the season ended, I realize just how close P.G. was to completing a brilliant strategic move, and even put herself in Survivor infamy.
Zhan Hu doesn’t throw immunity episodes 5 or 6: Sherea and Frosti will get picked off, and the pure-blooded Fei Longs (Denise, Todd, Amanda, and Courtney) will go to the end.
Zhan Hu throws one of the episode 5 and 6 immunities: A former Fei Long goes home, but they alienate their other Fei Long switched member, giving the pure-blooded Fei Longs control anyway.
Zhan Hu throws both immunities: Both former Fei Longs go home, and suddenly it’s a 5-5 tie. Amazing turnaround.
Unfortunately, P.G. chickens out after the first throwing and questions her own decision. There would have been so much more to China post-merge if this occurred. You would have had your heroes and villains battling it out. P.G. would’ve been a lock for an all-star.
9) Erik Huffman = not meant to be a Survivor player. He doesn’t strategize for himself, and does very little in persuading others to flip (on camera). When he’s left out of the plan to throw a challenge, he doesn’t flip the game at all. When James is going to be blindsided with both idols, not only do him and PG not approach James, but Erik votes against James instead of voting with PG to get Todd out in the very likely scenario that James plays an idol! If James played an idol, and P.G. goes home in a re-vote because Erik didn’t have any Survivor guts, we’re looking at the biggest blunder in Survivor history. Yes, Erik Huffman would have made a bigger blunder than Ice Cream Scooper Erik in Micronesia.
10) The finale is freakin’ boring. At least Exile Island had a fire tiebreaker in the beginning. Outback had the survival aspect and the fact it was season 2 on its side to only have one elimination. China doesn’t have anything on its side at the end. Denise is going to go home. Denise is going to go home. Over an hour later: Denise goes home. Meh.
11) Amanda gets to wear a hat in the final immunity? That’s a huuuuuge advanatage in an extremely hot challenge. A big flaw in the setup of the challenge, and a very underwhelming final endurance challenge in Survivor’s history. It would’ve been much better if they stopped after a set number of plates and cups where the challenge has the potential to go for hours or be a true test of endurance rather than balance (see Exile Island final immunity).
12) Too many Chinese trivia challenges. Other than P.G., the only other people to benefit more from being Chinese on a reality show is Victor and Tammy Jih from TAR14. Just one trivia challenge would’ve been fine, producers.
Things I enjoyed about this season:
1) You feel like you get to know the entire cast for the first time in a while. After Exile Island, Cook Islands, and Fiji made some of their players virtually invisible, China did an excellent job of making well-rounded characters and not leaving anyone to fall between the cracks.
2) The Final Tribal Council. When you think Amanda has it in the bag. . .Todd comes up with a million dollar steal. Trump wrote The Art of the Deal, but Todd wrote The Art of the Steal. (**crickets**)
For all of you applying to be on Survivor, watching Todd’s performance is a MUST. Don’t be like Phillip and watch Russell’s FTC as a source for notes. Watch Todd’s. If it isn’t for Todd, the whole finale of China would have been a complete dud.
3) The banner for China is written in Chinese characters. I like the minor touches of inspiration that comes through during the game. One of the better Survivor flags ever made because of how unique it is. Something Survivor has lost after Heroes vs. Villains.
4) Very inspiring environment trickles into the game. The players are given the Art of War, a Buddhist ceremony before the start of the game, a memory challenge is based on the Chinese zodiac, puzzle challenge uses a Confuscius quote, incorporating the flying dragon and yellow tiger in the first challenge, and some of the most amazing rewards in the show’s history contribute to a very distinguishing feel for the season. Did the Tocantins culture make it into season 18? Samoa has the chief twist in the first two minutes then completely left alone, and then the culture disappears for HvV, Nicaragua, and RI. Just another annoying little detail that Survivor has ignored. Kudos to China for being the last season to excel at this.
5) The idols being well-hidden. When Todd needs four clues to finally figure it out and the game being down to only eleven people, you know the producers put in great effort into being tricky. Note how you didn’t know you were holding the idol until you pulled a piece of wood from the entranceway and turning it over. Very well conceived.
6) Kidnapping twist is neat. It made for some interesting interaction and affected how the game would go for the pre-merge stage. If only production would have figured out there was a way to do this post-merge (which I played in an ORG that accomplished this task very well).
7) Hilarious season. This fact alone is what shoots it up to eleventh. The gameplay isn’t that interesting for a newer season, the cast isn’t the most likeable, but every episode has me laughing. It’s the perfect old school counter for a season that doesn’t do too well in what is considered important aspects for the new school genre. Every character has their moments and have the ability to give funny confessionals, whether it be intentional or unintentional, and some of the most ridiculous conflicts in Survivor history. Sometimes that’s all you need to have a good season of Survivor.
8) “Alright, let’s get ready for our next match-up. Dave…still naked.”
9) “This ain’t no love connection!” “Whatcha mean? What about theeeese!” “One of those dumbies think they have a blank board…hey Amanda, one of those dumbies think they have a blank board…hey Courtney, one of those dumbies think they have a blank board…hey camera, one of those dumbies think they have a blank board.”
10) James’ boot episode is a great episode, even if it’s the reason why the rest of the season fizzles.
11) Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband: Jean-Robert is coming into the shelter or a Chinese bath tub near you!
So, did you think China and Vanuatu would be the two middle seasons in this ranking? Odd seasons to combine, I know.