10. Heroes vs. Villains (season 20) Rating: 6.5/10
As with the original All Stars, any season that involves a cast that is made up of only returning players has monumental expectations. All Stars had it easier because it was celebrating only the first seven seasons of the Survivor franchise, and was the first attempt at a reality show all-star, so you have to applaud them for a valiant effort. However, when you’re celebrating the twentieth season AND the tenth year anniversary of reality television’s pioneer, it better be freaking epic. For just another season, Heroes vs. Villains would be considered a near-perfect season. For a battle of ten years of Survivor history…it left something to be desired. That’s why you’re seeing this in spot number ten on the countdown.
Issues I had with this season:
1) It’s supposed to be the ultimate showdown…but it has a Final Three at the end. A true all-star should always play to a Final Two and really challenge the players. A huge strike against the season.
2) All of the seasons aren’t represented. Twenty people – twentieth season, with nine of the players having already played twice. Should be easy enough to get every aspect of Survivor have a representative. Africa, Thailand, Amazon, Vanuatu, and Fiji’s absence is a bit of a hit to the game’s potential.
3) There’s more than enough players who could play for a second time before third-time players who aren’t particularly bright in Survivor. I’m looking at you Rupert “Hide Your Kids Hide Your Wife” Boneham and semi-All Star quitter Colby. Sure, Jerri’s redemption was nice, but it turns out she may have not won even if she survived day 38. (according to Rob’s Parvcast. She said she tried to get Sandra out on day 38 but Russell insisted Jerri must go.)
4) The only twists that are kept are the hidden immunity idols and Final Three, but no real mid or late game twist that every All Stars needs. Where’s a merge followed by an unmerge? Why isn’t a past twist used once every three days to keep the players on their toes? No mutinies? No switches? Past seasons being over-saturated twists are a bad idea, but yet when twists belong in an All Stars, there’s very little to be found. One of the few areas that the original All Stars did alright with.
5) “We’re bringing you over twenty of the greatest challenges of the series…Shuffleboard!…Bowling!…The Gabon endurance challenge that is completely ridiculous…and the keep your arm up endurance challenge, but instead you have to balance on a board to ensure the challenge is done in an hour. Our final immunity will not only be endurance, but it will be a smaller and easier version of the Amazon day 37 immunity challenge. Remember the Vanuatu swimming challenge where everyone was dead by the end? We’re shrinking that, too.
In other words, crappy challenges mixed with less epic versions of previous epic challenges make for, well, a not-so-epic challenge roster.
6) My family was excited about Courtney and Tyson coming back, but were disappointed to see them be two of the least shown players in the whole season. Booooo.
7) No switch and a day 25 merge = a lack of interactions Survivor fans only dream of between players.
8) A lot of the strategy for the season ends when J.T. hands over the idol. Everyone in my house knew Villains were going to be at the end as soon as the handoff was complete.
9) The fights about Russell and Sandra’s gameplay, along with Russell’s claim of the game being flawed, result in some of the ugliest debates and public trashing between Survivor fans. It leaves the season ending on a sour note. These fights continue to this day.
10) The overdose of camera time for Rob and Russell have anti-Russell and anti-Rob fans get quickly turned off by Heroes vs. Villains after just a few episodes, and members of Hantz Nation don’t come back for Nicaragua because of the legacy the editors built. The fan base is just as divided from this all-star as they were from the original all-star. I know people who stopped watching Survivor because of the camera whoring and instead turned to American Idol. The Wednesday move isn’t all to blame for your loss of viewership, producers.
11) Rupert appeared on All Stars after a portion of PI aired on TV, Bobby Jon and Steph appeared on Guatemala after all of Palau had aired, Amanda and James appeared on Fans vs. Favs after a portion of China aired on TV…but Russell appearing on HvV months before Samoa starts airing is an issue the producers shouldn’t have even let factor into the game. We can only wonder how HvV would’ve gone if the players were able to see just a couple episodes of Samoa. Ugh, why’d you do this producers?
12) The round of seven is squeezed into a single day, and takes up about twenty minutes on TV. What’s worse is that it’s the biggest round of the whole post-merge phase. All other post-merge eliminations fell in line and with very little unpredictability. That whole episode should’ve easily been extended into two hours.
13) The rules were ridiculous in the challenge where James got injured. Why do Tom and Candice have to play short-handed? Couldn’t they just let Colby get in or force one of the Villains to sit out? It should have been an easy issue to resolve.
14) An over saturation of hidden immunity idols. Four idols in five rounds????????? C’mon. I think Parvati’s “I literally found this in three seconds” pretty much explains how easy idols were to find in this season. Only the original Villains’ idol wasn’t recovered within the first day of that idol’s knowledge.
15) Too much Probst. Some of the TC were too long.
16) Randy went home early. Waaah.
17) Pre-merge gets ten hours of footage for nine eliminations, but post-merge gets six hours of footage for seven eliminations and a Final 3 Final Tribal.
Things I enjoyed about the season:
1) Coach redeems himself as being annoying from his original Survivor stint. Suddenly makes Tocantins more enjoyable.
2) Tyson, Courtney, Tom, J.T., Randy and Sandra all returned for the second time.
3) When my mother and sister were out on vacation, it was the episode when Steph was voted out. They heard what happened, and couldn’t wait to get home to watch her get pwnd. James’ “Keep Your Mouth Shut” line is an instant classic. I even claimed that name on Sucks as soon as I saw it.
4) The dysfunction of both tribes, whether at camp, in challenges, or Tribal Council, made for some particularly entertaining pre-merge moments unlike what we’ve seen in other seasons. Big reason why this season is ranked in the top ten.
5) Coach was freakin’ hilarious every single episode.
6) Coach’s DRAGONSLAYER vote numbering ended on DRAG. Such poetry.
7) The Steph, Cirie, and Tom boot Tribal Councils were great. Everything was very much up in the air and seeing people try to claw their way to stay in the game was excellent.
8) Tyson blindsiding himself was INSANE. Too bad they didn’t just let the Heroes vote first like any team who loses a double TC challenge should be forced to do. Tyson’s boot is one of the craziest in recent memory.
9) Episode seven is a perfect example of why you don’t need idols to hold up a season of Survivor. One of the very few episodes of Survivor in the past four seasons that feel like it was following a classic formula. Players being ousted with four of eight votes is all you needed back in the old days, man.
10) The Tom vs. Cirie storyline is one of my favourites in Survivor history. Two titans going against each other is what all star seasons should be made of.
11) The first all stars in twelve seasons.
12) Season premiere was two hours. It may have dragged a little when it aired, but in retrospect makes for a greater episode down the road on a second viewing.
13) The producers were creative with how to give out hidden immunity idol clues. Sticking it in the rewards is brand new in Heroes vs. Villains. For whatever reason, the producers haven’t thought of a new way and have stuck with this version ever since. When a first-time player is digging through the supplies for a clue, you know you have to come up with something new. Wait, shouldn’t have this been in the Redemption Island entry?
14) We now realize Exile Island has been removed from Survivor for good. Although keeping Exile Island is a much more welcoming idea than introducing a new type of Island in Survivor two seasons after Heroes vs. Villains. Come back Exile Island, just get rid of RI for us O Great One!
15) Rupert lasting so long resulting in him looking extremely famished and his physical appearance becoming gold for me and my brother to make Rupert Serial Killer jokes.
VILLAINS: Chocolate before a challenge? YUMMY!
COLBY: I refuse to eat this chocolate, Probst. It will deduct points from my energy tank, PROBST!
RUPERT: WE’RE NOT EATING THIS CHOCOLATE. GRRRROARRR.
VILLAINS: Yummy yummy, chocolate in my tummy!
COLBY: STFU! LET’S DO THIS CHALLENGE!
JP: Heroes, who’s sitting out?
COLBY: Me….BUT I’M GOING TO STARE WITH MY TEXAN INTENSITY FROM THE BENCH! YAH! THAT’LL SHOW YOU VILLAINS.
17) Amanda, Danielle, and Colby at the movies. One of the few post-merge highlights.
18) One of few seasons recently where there wasn’t a single medevac, a quit, or a “please-vote-me-out” elimination.
***Note of a memorable strategic move***
My mother is a huge fan of Russell. I remember how pissed she was when Russell decided to vote out Courtney instead of Sandra because my mom viewed Sandra as a much bigger threat. It’s likely the only mistake my mom will admit that Russell has made in either of his first two seasons. After the fact it’s easy to say ‘oh, Russell should’ve voted Sandra out on day 24,’ but this wasn’t said after-the-fact at all. My parents both thought Russell made a huge blunder when the episode aired. Whenever Survivor came up for the next couple weeks, they always went back to this move. So for my mom to say Russell screwed up is a pretty big statement and should serve as a testament that Russell doesn’t have a grasp on who can and can’t be beaten at a Final Tribal.
In conclusion, an extremely good game and entertaining cast for the first half that quickly spiralled downward for the second half of the season. Not as bad of a second half compared to the original All Stars, though. That was just unbearable.