9. Samoa (season 19) Rating: 6.75/10
Perhaps the most requested out of all the seasons to not be ranked this high out of all the seasons. I always dub the Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains year as the “Hollywood Era” of Survivor because both seasons revolved around very few central characters, then have the other contestants be supporting characters or extras/Brett/Tyson/Courtney/John/Kelly Purple; it also focused very little on camp life, culture, most of the characters, and in its place devoted a huge chunk of time to strategy and Tribal Councils, ridiculous fights, and crazy events. It was an editing style never really seen before in Survivor. After a season that production hated but the audience loved like Gabon, and a season that production loved but the audience (sadly) didn’t like Tocantins, Survivor seeks to completely shake the game for Samoa and create a new buzz for Survivor in the community. We get our first non-all star twenty-person season since Cook Islands, and quite frankly the format worked out so much better. It is also one of the few seasons that completely revolve around one player from start to finish, which I haven’t really seen since an ORG I read during the early days of Survivor. In fact, at times I felt like that same ORG was replaying on TV nearly eight years later. It was a bit freaky knowing how the game was going to go based on my knowledge of how the events played out in the ORG. I even foresaw a Natalie victory heading into the finale. Anyways, let’s get to it.
Issues I had with the season:
1) Editing crew results in Russell getting an obsessive fan base. It’s tough to talk about Survivor when some of the casuals or newer fans have an inability to see things past “Russell is the greatest, juries are bitter. No debates. Won’t even listen to what you have to say. I’m not watching Nicaragua because Russell’s not in it.” Sadly, this isn’t an exaggeration. In television where ratings are everything, allowing a portion of Russell’s fan base to be this obsessive due to the editing would make for any non-Russell season of Survivor to have some of these over-the-top people refusing to come back and watch. So we’re stuck with somebody appearing three times in four seasons. A bit much if you ask me.
2) A re-watch of Samoa only occurs when I haven’t read any “Russell vs. Natalie” or “Russell vs. Sandra” fights online. They drag down the appeal of re-watching it.
3) Russell appearing for a third time in four seasons doesn’t really make you desire to re-watch Samoa or Heroes vs. Villains because of the constant airtime — unless you’re like me, who didn’t watch half of Redemption Island, so I’m not really in that boat anymore since I haven‘t seen Russell for over a year. But after Heroes vs. Villains, a Samoa re-watch wasn’t my first choice.
4) Brett’s gameplay could only be discovered if you listened to interviews of Galu players after they were voted out. EVERYONE had a Final Two with Brett, and Brett was even going to give immunity to Laura if he won the day 27 immunity challenge, which he didn’t lose until the last shot of the challenge. You’re telling me a guy who makes it to day 38 and makes a bunch of shady deals ends up being the most under edited player in history? C’mon! There was so much in Brett’s storyline versus his Ian-like quantity of facial hair and sounding like a twelve year old in episodes thirteen and fourteen. Shame on you, editing.
5) Too many team challenges post-merge. In fact, every reward post-merge was in teams, even when there was an odd number of people. Sure, it happened in China and re-used again in Fans vs. Favourites, but it wasn’t a pick ’em to determine who was on the outs. It was just luck of the draw if you were to sit out. These team challenges and a random selection of who sat out on day 22 effectively erased all political decisions in rewards. Something that had major drama from time to time in prior seasons. It wouldn’t be until the last two rewards of Nicaragua that this would be revived, then switched over to a couple of immunity challenges in Redemption Island.
6) I have never re-watched the Final TC. It was a broken record even in its original viewing.
NATALIE: Marisa, Betsy, both threatening, gone. So I had to go under-the-radar and let people misunderestimate me.
SHAMBO: MISUNDERESTIMATE IS NOT A WORD! I’LL TELL YOU A WORD, AND IT STARTS WITH A C, AND IT DESCRIBES YOU AS A PERSON NATALIE! YOU LITTLE —
RUSSELL: Marisa threatened me…Betsy threatened me…
SHAMBO: YOU’RE MORE ROCKIN’ THAN MY MULLET AND A CHICKEN STEW, RUSSELL! OM NOM NOM NOM NOM.
MICK: I came, I saw, I….Fecklessed? Is that how I use it?
SHAMBO: NO, IF YOU BROUGHT A WEBSTERS DICTIONARY AS YOUR LUXURY ITEM DOOGIE HOWSER, YOU WOULD KNOW THAT YOU COULDN’T USE IT AS A VERB! I’LL TELL YOU A WORD, AND IT STARTS WITH A C, AND IT DESCRIBES YOU AS A PERSON MICK! YOU LITTLE —
7) The kidnapping twist is brought back, but in a much less elaborate form. The clue was given straight up. Not the most intriguing. It was only used four times in a 20-person game, so it feels like an afterthought when the season was over. Shambo being sent twice did really change the game, though. So not a huge negative by any means.
8) “Congratulations! You have a clue for a hidden immunity idol! However, Russell has already found it at this camp without any clues, and Erik found the idol at the Galu camp with two clues of an idol at the opposing tribe’s camp that referred to an entirely different location. Hey John, want to pay two hundred bucks for a clue to an idol half the tribe had Sprint video footage to see where it was? You know you waaaaaaant it.”
All idols can be found with one clue or less thanks to shrunken camps and production wanting idols to be played multiple times. I guess a four season stretch of only one idol making any difference frustrated producers.
9) Airtime spent on the third idol that Russell found. He never played it and John searching for it seemed like a big waste of time for strategy.
10) When even my dad can predict the order of eliminations after John goes, you know you don’t have the most unpredictable finish.
11) Laura as a juror in episode 11 gets more airtime and speaking parts than Brett did as a contestant for three days in the same episode. That just doesn’t seem quite right.
12) Russell’s med evac makes for an unnecessary ‘what if’.
13) The first reunion show since Rosie O’ Donnell hosted where players are ignored (John, Kelly, and Liz).
14) A Final 3.
15) Debut of Survivor Bowling.
16) Finale challenges are underwhelming. Both challenges couldn’t have taken more than twenty to thirty minutes to complete. Not very epic if you ask me.
17) Dave and Monica’s eliminations squeezed into a single episode.
18) Erik Cardona, one of the most entertaining contestants in recent Survivor history, is reduced to being invisible for a couple episodes. Same with John and Dave.
19) “For the first time ever, I’m ejecting someone from a challenge. I’m going to keep repeating that so those who watched Survivor when Thailand was airing can be continuously ticked that I’m not acknowledging that Jed, Stephanie, Robbbbb, and Ken should be on this list. Nobody liked Thailand, though right? I sure didn’t. That’s why I ranked it dead last. If you’re a true Survivor fan, you’ll agree that it sucked.”
20) The editing crew included the shot of Shambo falling back at the day 30 immunity challenge. Did we really need that?
Things I enjoyed about this season:
1) No double TC pre-merge thanks to Russell Swan’s near-death experience.
2) The leader twist was a new way to start the game, and had a couple of interesting situations. Never resulted in someone being immune because of wearing it, but just a neat addition to the game. The only occurrence of the Samoan culture being tied into the game too.
3) After every season that had more than sixteen players seemed to be incapable of merging at the correct halfway point, Samoa finally got it right. If it was a Final 2, a merge at 12 on day 20 is the literal halfway point. But 12 people with having completed 8 eliminations and having 9 more to go, I guess a day 19 merge is fine. Surprisingly, Survivor for the most part has shifted to merging earlier than normal.
4) The jury having a mic on them to give the viewers some entertaining responses to a TC result.
5) Jaison’s run makes me feel like I’m watching the Comedy Network sketch of Chasing Raj Binder. And for those that don’t know Chasing Raj Binder or the actor/horrible comedian Shaun Majumder, please for the love of God don’t look it up. Baaaaaad source for laughter. Shaun’s best role was in 24. Only reason why this is in the positives is because of Jaison’s run making a pop culture reference.
6) Given that they merged with twelve people, production was wise enough to give out two immunities at the first individual challenge, and give us a throwback to a twist that had only been used in the original All Stars.
7) The run of eliminations from the merge through Laura’s elimination is one of the wildest episode runs in Survivor’s history.
8) The first immunity challenge was awesome. Almost all challenges were excellent until they debuted bowling.
9) The harshness of the rain and dehydration was actually shown in the earlier episodes. Sure there was no camp life, but at least the survival aspect got its share.
10) Ben’s crazy antics climax with him and Jaison duking it out on day 8 at TC.
11) Russell Swan’s screwup of choosing blankets over a FREAKIN TARP came back to bite him…although the karma could have eased off a bit.
12) Foa Foa Foursome’s rally from being down 8-4 to come back and win. Four distinct personalities in the alliance.
13) Russell’s fondness for Natalie is his one Achilles heel that prevents him from thinking clearly to win the game. She was borderline useless in challenges, she had a strong social game, but Russell took her anyway and was doomed to lose.
14) Brett’s late game immunity run puts in the nail in Russell’s coffin and gives the victory to Natalie thanks to Foa Foa’s decisions to getting rid of the two biggest goats so they can take down Brett, which Russell had to do anyway. Great way to end the season.
15) A lot of hilarious moments and confessionals by Erik, Dave, and some of the others throughout the season. A big plus.
Someone said that why isn’t this season further down if I complained about Rob’s airtime Redemption Island when Russell had more in Samoa? Think about it. Russell has over one hundred confessionals in a twenty-person season that eliminated players permanently in every episode. He went to Tribal Council in all fourteen episodes except for one. Boston Rob had over ninety confessionals in RI, but shared his airtime with eight to seventeen other players for the ENTIRE RUN OF THE SEASON. Rob missed going to Tribal Council in four of the episodes, too. Russell only had to split with four other people heading into the finale. So ratio-wise, Rob’s would be much higher than Russell’s count for Samoa.