Survivor Ranking: Tocantins

A couple years ago, this season would be ranked very close to the bottom. I don’t know what I was on, because upon a couple of re-watches, I consider this to be one of the best all-time seasons. This unique honour belongs to. . .










4. Tocantins — The Brazilian Highlands (season 18) Rating: 8.25/10


If I had to list the top three times in my life where I was least interested in a Survivor season as it aired it would be:


1) Redemption Island. You know why by now. Awful twist.


2) Exile Island. Very close to quitting Survivor because of how much I was tired of Survivor and having recently come off The Amazing Race Family Edition.


3) The first eleven episodes of Tocantins.


So why is Tocantins ranked so high when I couldn’t have cared less about it as it aired?


At the time, I was in the third quarter of the twelfth grade. I had a writing class for half of the day, and a Chemistry class for the other half. I’m not as great with the sciences and math, so if I want a good grade, I will be doing two hours of homework every single night. Sometimes more. Especially because it was my grad year, I was trying hard to get the scholarships and be accepted into a decent university. For anyone who has taken Chemistry 12 in the Canadian Semester system, imagine doing that course in exactly ten weeks and spending three hours on it in class daily too. It was also the only course in the whole high school where every test was taken after class and there was a tutorial on each evening before the test. These tutorials happened to coincide with seven o’ clock on Thursday nights. My seventeen season streak of watching every Survivor episode live ended when the first tutorial occurred during episode four or five of Tocantins. If anyone tries to use the ‘you’re too obsessed with reality tv and it interferes with your life’ line, I always direct them to this example to show I do in fact make sacrifices. When the school dance happens on Thursday nights, there just ain’t a whole lot to do during the school year on Thursday nights other than watch Survivor. 😛


The amusing part while Tocantins aired is that when I talked about my favourite episodes of the season, they either took place a) after my Chemistry course was over  and it was the next quarter where I had a spare for half the day and History for the second half of the day. b) during Spring Break when I didn’t have Chemistry class for that week.


I must’ve had a miserable quarter of Chemistry if Tocantins seemed more of a chore than a thing of enjoyment to watch as it aired.


So last summer when I finally decided to re-watch Tocantins all the way through, I absolutely fell in love with the season in its entirety. Also, it is the only season besides Africa that my sister has watched every episode. If my sister likes it, then it means there wasn’t any ugliness and that none of the contestants are annoying or playing for the camera in a malicious way. Can’t go wrong with that.


The other reason why Tocantins is much more valued in my books: After Samoa, Heroes vs. Villains, Nicaragua, and Redemption Island, all over-the-top seasons that either involve poor camera whore editing, Final Threes, bloated cast sizes, and ridiculous twists that have ruined Survivor, Tocantins is a very recent season that rewinds us to how Survivor used to be. It’s what Survivor should have been like all the way through to its eighteenth season. Even the relatively twistless/F2  seasons like Vanuatu, Palau, Guatemala, and Exile Island have more of a ‘modern’ Survivor feel than Tocantins did.


Things I didn’t like about Tocantins:


1) Episode one is the Psycho Sandy show. There are fifteen other players, right? Carolina’s exit seemed to have very little story to it other than the quick little snippets of whining.


2) Coach was so freakin’ annoying once we hit episode eight. He took up so much airtime. I found him more annoying than funny in this stretch of Tocantins.


3) Tyson wins immunity on day 20. . .but then it’s considered moot because of Joe’s evacuation! He should’ve at least been given an advantage in the next challenge or have his immunity carry over to the next round. One of the most irritating things in Tocantins.


4) Nobody to root against in the Final Four and see their downfall.


5) Tyson’s ouster didn’t even seem legitimate considering whoever goes last in the shuffleboard immunity challenge was all but guaranteed to win. Perhaps the most unfair challenge setup in Survivor history. Sure, challenges favour a certain player’s ability, but they’re typically spread out in the environment they’re in and it’s up to the players to have those skills. Getting selected to go last in a challenge doesn’t involve any skill at all.


6) J.T. wasn’t my first pick for most desired to win.


7) The gameplay in the finale was too straight forward. Knowing that J.T. would’ve been blindsided if he lost F4 immunity in a 2-1-1 vote is disappointing to find out and would’ve been amazing to see on TV.


8) Tyson should’ve had more screen time.


9) The finale challenges weren’t too great. Very ho-hum. Not the worst by any means, but quick fifteen minute challenges isn’t an epic conclusion to a season of Survivor. Especially for a season that hinged on being ‘retro’.


10) Joe’s medical evacuation. In a season with so few players to begin with, a med evac always sucks.


11) Erinn seems to be underappreciated as a player. I felt like she had grown throughout the game and was a very savvy strategist, in contrast with let’s say, Sierra, who didn’t seem like a savvy strategist but yet everyone seemed to love her.


12) Exile Alliance never came to fruition for how much build-up it had in the first half of the season.


13) A reunion show so boring that I ended up taping the season seven finale of 24 over it. I don’t regret that decision.


14) Producers loved it, but the viewers’ overall hatred of it at the time has arguably led to the ridiculous format we see in Survivor today.


R.I.P. 16-person cast with a F2? Who knows.


Things I enjoyed about Tocantins:


1) Nobody in the cast is hated by me. One of the best casts ever.


2) Episodes 12 is easily one of my top three favourite episodes of all time. It’s been my most re-watched episode in the past two years. I’ve probably seen it around a dozen times.  It was edited masterfully. Very cinema-like. Bravo, editors.


3) A lot of moments that make you laugh during the season. Very good sense of humour.


4) Tyson is sooooo funny.


5) The challenges for the first 36 days if you exclude Shuffleboard are either one of the most inventive challenges in quite some time or are challenges that haven’t been used in several years. Very good blend of fresh and nostalgic challenges for an eighteenth season.


6) Final 2. Who knew this has been the only planned Final 2 in the past TEN FREAKIN’ SEASONS!


7) Only time there’s been a Final 2 with a 7-person jury since Exile Island. None of this possible tiebreaker crap on day 39.


8) First season to merge at the proper time since Pearl Islands. Pretty much the literal halfway point of the game.


9) Brendan’s mid-game downfall.


10) Using the same Exile Island format from Fans vs. Favs on a group of new players, but combine it with the ‘hidden at your camp rules’ that seemed to work out well in Fiji. Producers finally got it right. But then they axe Exile Island permanently the following season?! I don’t get it. Why make something extinct when you finally gave it legs after trying to perfect it for six out of the past seven seasons. What was the logic there?


11) The Exile Alliance. Something brand new and something we will likely never see again.


12) Good Jalapao rally. One of the few times where the ‘good guys’ are all at the end.


13) The finale episode made me feel like I was watching a season finale compared to the first six seasons. Very old school feel. It was an amazing touch.


14) “Can we get medical to take a look at your leg?”




“There’s something wrong with your leg, and we’re going to get medical to take a look at it.”


“What happens if medical looks at my leg?”


“Don’t worry, medical is just going to take a look at your leg.”


“So you’re going to get medical to take a look at my leg?”


“Yeah, we’re just going to get medical to take a look at your leg.”


“I don’t want to go home if medical takes a look at my leg.”


“Can we get medical to take a look at Joe’s leg?”




“Okay guys, Tyson, congrats on winning immunity. You guys can head back to camp.”




“Joe, stay behind. We’re going to get medical to take a look at your leg.”


15) “I wanna smash this pig!”


16) Erinn = Feet puker.


17) Coach’s poem. It’s even been a quote in my Facebook profile for two years now.


18) Coach’s Exile Island ‘unyielding, unbreakable, invincible’ line was copied into one of my characters for a Creative Writing university exercise word for it.


19) Watching Beerfest and say ‘I know her!’ and have everyone look at me weird. Little did I know the topless woman was somebody I recognized from Survivor and not ‘other films’.


20) Episode 12.


21) Episode 12.


22) Besides Shuffleboard, it is an extremely relaxing season of Survivor to watch.


23) The opening twist of voting out your weakest link was a great unique way to start the game.


24) Idols weren’t re-hidden.


25) Although every season after Cook Islands has the immunity idol as its top highlight, Tocantins had two idols that never factored into the season but it doesn’t hurt it at all. It’s good to not see so much focus on the idol in the last few episodes for once.


26) Stephen is one of my all-time favourite strategists and narrators.


27) The season as a whole was a great blend of nostalgia and freshness. It all came together so well.


28) The producers didn’t try to pretend there was going to be any water challenges. They’re in a field. We know what to expect. You can’t have let-downs of being absent of water challenges if the only body of water around you is a skinny little river.


29) Probst not recognizing Taj in her music group photo and Taj having to correct him.


30) The most recent season that reminds us of an era that has long passed by in the Survivor universe.


Overall, not the most exciting, but like any season that turns out to be great, it has a solid cast. And not having ridiculous twists intertwined. >_>

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