Survivor Rankings

From my least favourite to my favourite season, I go into an in-depth analysis of my hatred and love for every single edition of Survivor. This was started as of two-thirds or so into Redemption Island. I hope you enjoy an analysis of Survivor through a unique perspective as we take this trip down eleven years worth of memories.

22. Redemption Island (Season 22) Rating: 1/10

This is the worst season imaginable, so this will be the peak of ranting on this countdown. These are the following issues I have with this season:

1. Redemption Island is a twist that violates the core of Survivor. Survivor is an elimination game where you play until one player is left. Letting someone come back into the game without having to be on the court is ridiculous. Especially after the merge when the person on Redemption Island gets to socialize with near-certain jury members. Not to mention these jury members don’t get to gather objective information at Tribal Council but instead have to rely on the earlier jury members to recall what was said from memory. Awful twist. It also erases reward challenges which means the individual stage which hinges on dividing up alliances on the reward trips have no need to worry (hence why this new ‘buddy system’ seems brilliant, but that’s because it could never exist in the first 21 seasons.

2. An inevitable final 3.

3. Jeff Probst makes another jump in terms of integrating himself into what’s going on in the game.

4. One of the most unbalanced division of tribes in history. One tribe isn’t individualistic at all and saturated with recruits leaving Rob or Russell guaranteed to take control of them. Meanwhile, the other tribe is individualistic and studied prior seasons leaving Rob or Russell screwed. Which tribe is most likely to stick together? Well, the non-individualistic tribe of course.

5. Rob playing a fourth time as well as playing for the 2nd time in three seasons. Russell playing for a third time in four seasons. Of course, disagreeing with this makes me not a “true survivor fan”. Sorry to disappoint you, Probst. 😦

6. One of the most unbalanced editing jobs in Survivor history. Matt cries at RI, Matt pulls an upset to stay on RI, a Zapatera goes home, Phil is crazy, Rob is in control, others comment on Rob being in control, Rob tells everyone what they’re going to do, and the TC’s outcome is known before they even step into TC so instead they just show Jeff giving Rob a BJ. Rinse and repeat leaves you with an entire season of Survivor.

7. There isn’t a single satisfying outcome for this season. Only those who would 10x suck being the winner compared to those who would 6x or 7x suck as being a winner. And no Phillip, your antics aren’t refreshing after you do it for the 20th time. Hearing a lick of strategy from Ashley would be better in the later stages of the game.

8. Zero perspective on the strategy of other players.

9. The only season where I’ve stopped taping episodes and only watching approximately 50% of all footage alone puts this season at the bottom.

10. The pre-merge phase feels irrelevant when you merge at 12 in an 18 person season. Not a major complaint, just another thing to whine about in regards to this season.

Okay, I’m done. Moving onto 21.

21. Exile Island (Season 12) Rating: 2.5/10
Now that my period is over, I’ve actually got some positive things to say about each season now. If you’re questioning the rating system, you’re not going to get a very rational explanation. I merely picked 2.5/10 for Exile Island (referenced in the future as EI) because I’ll watch it 2.5 times more than Redemption Island (referenced in the future as RI).
I know many of you love this season. But the reason why it automatically gets #21 is because it is the only season out of the first 21 where I didn’t care about coming back from a bathroom break in time before the commercials ended.
Issues I had with this season:
1) At first, four tribes of four divided by age and gender was a welcome change in format…but they only leave it like this for ONE round! I hate it when a tribe votes somebody out and the game format prevents them from being accountable for their actions. I mean, does voting out Tina over Cirie in round one REALLY benefit the tribe? Voting out Survivor MacGyver day three would be virtually unthinkable when you only have four people, but hey, if everyone is put on different tribes next round why should they care. Probably my 2nd biggest pet peeve of the season. On top of that, in the following round, Casaya loses but once again it didn’t matter who was voted out because Bruce would come in to replace their number and make everything even again. The game doesn’t even feel like it starts until episode three, and by that time, the momentum shifts to Casaya and La Mina pays for peaking too early into the season.
2) Those dang previews they aired all season. “A medical emergency will take somebody out of the game, but it won’t air for a month and a half, so when Bruce gets sick, the whole episode is one boring P.O.S. episode.” and “They’re like two battering rams! And see how it is Terry and Aras?! This means if you don’t hear me yell this line prior to a TC, Aras can’t be at risk because you know he has to stay!” Thanks production for spoiling any potential excitement you had post-merge.
3) Dan Barry’s elimination. It was promoted as “a TC like no other,” which naturally, you’d assume the almighty super duper punch-my-ticket-to-final-3-unless-I’m-the-worst-player-ever-and-a-recruit had to be used for it to be a unique TC. But nope, instead you know who goes home as soon as Casaya sends Sally DaltonRoss’WetDream Schumann to Exile. And now that their numbers are down, Casaya easily picks off La Mina post-merge until Bruce can’t poop and Terry immunity’s his way to the final 3.
4) The Final Two. I was in a very pro-La Mina and pro-Terry household. So we all were forced to cheer for Terry in the finale hoping Crazy Casaya wouldn’t take home the win. But the least endurance-like challenge in twelve seasons of Survivor took place, leaving Danielle as the winner of the challenge. She takes out Terry, and then everyone in my house talked and talked for the remainder of the episode until the reunion show where the guy from Kratt’s Creatures was declared the winner.
5) The final six consisted of Courtney, Shane, Cirie, Terry, Aras, and Danielle. The worst possible combination ended up in the final two.
6) The Idol. Everyone in my household recognized its flaw about ten minutes into episode one. We even figured out that if they had it where it was played after the votes were cast but before they were read, that it would make things much more interesting. Apologies to production for not getting the memo to them for two seasons. I mean, Terry merely had to hold it up as a shield anytime he lost immunity post-merge. It’s like claiming the Fast Forward in leg 4 or 5 and being taken straight to the pit stop of leg 12. Unfortunately, we’d have to endure another idol that takes you straight to the finish line. Bleh.
7) I felt extremely underwhelmed overall by the characters and the events that transpired throughout the season. When I re-watched it for the first time, I had no interest in digging it up anymore because I was waiting for that one moment that shoots up the excitement of a season…but it never came.
8) Terry’s hero persona was lost when he put relationships with spouses above anything else in the entire universe and diminishing anyone’s value who didn’t have that type of relationship as being “not worthy” of a trip from home. His inability to see Aras’ point AND insult it sent his stock plummeting and leaving me excited about nobody for the remainder of the game.
However, despite all of this complaining, there were things I liked about this season:
1) Austin Carty days 16-21. His “I was acting so well to throw the immunity that I felt I needed to tell you guys” and his secret scene on The Early Show where he created the first fake idol in Survivor history to show Danielle….but then explained the idol was a fake. *facepalm* So when someone asks you “Who created the first fake idol in Survivor history?” The answer is not Yau-Man, but instead Austin Carty. Too bad 90% of people didn’t see this moment and 90% of those who did see it probably have forgotten it.
2) Shane once it got down to seven people. At first, I hated Shane for almost quitting but instead booting my beloved Melinda. It took me a while to forgive, but when I got really bored with the season, he was probably the one factor that kept it entertaining. After I had forgiven Shane, his antics on a re-watch were freakin’ hilarious. The ending to the final five immunity is the scene I’ve watched the most in all of EI. Classic Shane.
3) No Stephenie for the first time in three seasons. Nobody whose guts annoyed me to near-death this season.Unfortunately, nothing else to really add to this list.
20. The Australian Outback (season 2) Rating: 3/10If there is any ranking that will have fellow old schoolers and purists wishing nothing more than for a trident to be lodged through my heart, this will be it. Bear with me, I can explain!I have been watching Survivor since day one (well, really since day four, because I missed the first episode. But I found it completely on my own when I was eight years old. Same with The Mole about a year later. TAR is the only series I found on episode one). The idea of taping episodes on VHS AND saving them didn’t occur to me until the season four finale. So for several years, I had to rely on my love for season 2 by memory. I remember talking about the Fuschia tribe to my fourth grade teacher, and how everyone and their mother was supposed to love Colby but hate Jerri. At this stage, being nine years old and watching only the second season didn’t really equate to me looking for exceptional strategic gameplay. So scenes like trading shelter for rice or burning your hands or grabbing rice out of a flooding river or Nick and Elisabeth having diarrhoea were the peaks of entertainment in a season.
Until about 2 1/2-3 years ago where my brother gave me “access” to the episodes. Maybe my expectations were too high, but you know what was my reaction as I went through the episodes? Complete boredom. I can always get through the first three episodes, but after that it starts to sizzle, er I mean fizzle until episodes six and seven. In fact, the last four or five episodes are very unmemorable to me. I can still watch those episodes anytime I want, but the discs continue to collect dust. The only reason why I bumped Outback UP to twentieth instead of twenty-first is because of how pure and untouched it is in the Survivor universe. Not because of enjoying it.The issues I have with the season:

1) Strategy leading up to a TC takes about 30 seconds to two minutes of every episode. Seriously, do this with the first few episodes. If you didn’t start watching Survivor until the past few years, you absolutely need to watch Outback. You’ll rewind thinking you missed something because it’s like the contestants don’t even acknowledge one of them is about to be sent to the rail.

2) Everyone’s love for Colby and claiming him to be the all-time challenge beast. In the years leading up to Heroes vs. Villains, I tried in vain to convince relatives whenever they talked about Survivor that Colby ain’t the greatest. He didn’t start winning immunities until seven were left. Who was his competition? Tina, Keith, Ro(d)ger, Elisabeth, Amber, and Sick Nick who was first out in this group. Plus the challenges Colby won were all either physical or memory-based. Combine that with many of his reward winnings while others live in one of the all-time harshest camps in history, the challenges shouldn’t even be close. In fact, I’d be worried if Colby DIDN’T win immunities under that condition considering he was one of the fittest heading into the game. Not to mention one of Colby’s few immunity losses was in an endurance challenge. So when Hvs.V comes along and suddenly Colby isn’t performing in a very heavy endurance-based post-merge, we’re supposed to be shocked? C’mon.

3) The episodes don’t seem to build up to anything. “Epic” eliminations like Jerri’s elimination seems to come out of nowhere on a rewatch. And watching Rodger and Elisabeth try to climb back in as they spend 50% of every episode catching fish isn’t exactly great TV.

4) Kucha doesn’t win after Michael’s evacuation. It’s like one royal f*** you by the editors when the tribe 90% of viewers want to win ends up being reduced to a Zhan Hu’ing in the grand scheme of things.

5) Michael’s evacuation = the greatest (which means the most annoying) ’what if’ in Survivor history. Once the season plays out, I’m sure virtually every viewer wonders what would happen if Michael didn’t get cooked. At least if it happened in season 22, we would see the unedited footage on the next episode of tosh.0

6) Elisabeth Filarski’s evil twin sister Elizabeth Hasselback consumes Elizabeth Filarski’s image on a re-watch. Evil truly triumphs over good in the Outback. It’s like Jack Nicholson now instead of Jack Nicholson 1974.

7) The Final Four immunity is the least elaborate Final Four immunity in Survivor history and the Final Immunity is Fallen Comrades. Yuck. (When I say Final Four immunity in the future, I always refer to the 2nd to last immunity challenge.)

Things I enjoyed about this season:

1) It’s a classic. Anybody who claims this season to be their least favourite of all time isn’t a true Survivor fan. And it will be the only time I use this phrase. Yeah, it’s boring, but its place even in television and in the ORG world is very significant.

2) I love endurance challenges. The episode seven challenge is one of my favourites because if you win it, you end up guaranteeing yourself in the core of nine (remember when people used to throw this phrase around?) and viewers are left with the satisfaction that somebody involved in the end-game truly put everything they had to ensure they stuck around.

3) Getting a laugh out of how unbalanced the rewards were. A Doritos meal with your tribe, a day and a half trip that includes eating lunch with Probst while being accompanied by Aussie cowboys in an actual outback steakhouse, OR going on a trip for two to some lame world wonder called the Great Barrier Reef where you can’t even take the coral as a souvenir.

4) When Survivor eliminates camp life permanently, there will always be this season to bring back what the survivor are actually experiencing 90% of the time. Plus they actually read Tree Mail for every challenge. They stopped airing the tree mail when the producer who wrote these gems was pissed with how annoying the filming of Survivor: All Stars was and switched to being a producer for American Idol in ‘04.

Pardon the long write-up, but this is the second season and its place in Survivor lore is something that can’t be ignored. Even if I find it to really suck.

19. All Stars (season 8) Rating: 3.5/10

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!!

18. Nicaragua (season 21) Rating 4/10

It’s always difficult to rank Nicaragua, Vanuatu, and Gabon because they directly follow a season filled with returning contestants. They seem to serve as a “cooling off” period for production and stay away from casting too many extreme over-the-top characters.

Even though Nicaragua started airing by September of last year, the infamous double quit episode aired just in December, leaving it as still being very fresh in the grand scheme of events on Survivor. Plus it hasn’t been off-the-air too long for it to move up or down based on its rewatchability.

Issues I had with Nicaragua:

1) No bother leaving it for later, may as well get it out of the way. The double quit episode brought to you by Gulliver’s Travels. Instead of the viewers getting to see Na Onka’s inevitable defeat, whether before day 39 or in the final vote, she essentially gets off easy by quitting. I imagine that for many viewers this is a very unsatisfying storyline. Especially in final three seasons where the endgame usually starts with nine people rather than seven. So not only does Na Onka get off easy, but the peak of the season is completely thrown out and instantly switches to the Fabio and Benry hunt. Not to mention it is an extremely boring episode. In fact, I think the previews of Gulliver’s Travels in the episode and the constant promoting of it made me less inclined to see the movie.

2) It seems like this year of Survivor has been a year of experimentation for production. Did you remember that Nicaragua started out as old versus young? Boy did Burnett’s idea completely flop. Apparently Thailand is blocked out of production’s mind because they forgot the energy and testosterone level of the young tribe in that season led them to losing a very physical challenge because of a bunch of rules. For some reason, production was so scared of any physical activity for the old tribe that it led to some of the lamest challenges to start out a season of Survivor. Which leads me to my next point…

3) The people responsible for putting Dan Lembo on the show. He couldn’t move. He didn’t do work at camp. He was richer than Russell, Boston Rob, and Heidik combined. He was a recruit. He never strategized. He is the one and only Dan Lembo. What boggles my mind more is that they put him on a season with an early merge and with very few physical pre-merge challenges. In other words, none of the players ever had to worry about paying the consequences for keeping Dan because they knew full well there wouldn’t be enough challenges to lose where you absolutely needed to kick out Dan. So is anybody shocked that when they merge, Dan skips (eh, well not really) his way to the finale? And the funniest thing of all is that if Dan makes it to final three, he would’ve won. We were so close.

4) Medallion of Power. When Espada uses it, Dan can take a seat on the bench. When La Flor uses it, the challenge is ridiculously lopsided. Thank goodness production took it out before it caused way too many ‘what ifs’ and frustrate viewers everywhere. Nobody wants to see a challenge where one tribe is automatically assigned a significant advantage before you even start. Did you know that Probst said that the Medallion of Power could be used during reward challenges? This leads me to think they ended the MoP early because there wasn’t a single reward challenge before it was taken out. Wise decision by production if the premature removal is the truth.

5) The quitters being allowed on the jury. Jill, Yve, and Kelly B must be pissed. Oddly enough though, if it weren’t for quitters, Chase would have been the winner instead of Fabio. That right there would’ve made the ranking plummet.

6) Chase. A frustrating Survivor player.

7) Probst crossing the line in the TC where Jane exits. I’m still pissed he openly suggested for Fabio, Dan, and Jane to make an alliance and cause a tie with Holly. Of course when this takes place, it’s set up for Chase, Sash, and Holly to be some evil threesome and hopefully we root for Fabio, Dan, and Jane. But you know what’s an even dumber mistake made by production? Jane goes home easily in a 5-1 vote so not only do we root against Chase, Sash, and Holly, but now we’re led to believe Fabio and Dan are extremely stupid, thus attempting to forbid anyone from liking this season. Next time you don’t like a season Probst, just let it be bro. Don’t bother with using it as a tool for “see why we need Redemption Island? It’s much better than this, right? RIGHT????? If you don’t agree, then you’re not a real Survivor fan.”

8) Holly’s elimination. It came out of nowhere without any explanation.

9) A third season in a row with a final three along with twenty brand new contestants. A bit much.

10) Jimmy Johnson being the centre of attention in the first episode and the reunion show. Seriously, the guy had almost ZERO relevance in the season. He didn’t do crap to earn all of that attention. And how in the world do you justify five minutes of Terry Bradshaw which in turn takes away from Benry, Yve, Jill, and Tyrone at the reunion?

Things I liked about Nicaragua:

1) The first Russell-free season in over a year. It was finally time for those to put aside their differences about their Russell feelings and come together to witness a fresh season. It’s like everyone assumed the Ed Bundy Watching Television Pose. Relax.

2) La Flor’s first two TCs. I really enjoyed the Shannon and Kelly B boot episodes. The chaos of the former’s TC and the gutsiness of Marty at the latter TC was fun to watch. Plus I love it when you crush people’s dreams.

3) Fabio’s come-from-behind-win while still being goofy. I wanted Fabio to win after he laughed at Na Onka’s “smuff” comment and I just overall liked the guy. When the person you want to win ends up taking the title, sometimes that’s all you need to turn a season around and maybe restore it a couple years down the road.

4) Purple Kelly. It was the first time ever where I was interested in confessional counts, and each time she struck out in silence made her storyline become progressively more and more exciting. Another bonus was that anytime she spoke it ended up being a priceless quote. I also think the editors have never made someone’s storyline to be 99.9% comic relief. The peak came when I played the role of oracle and called in to the Joann and Stacy’s podcast prior to episode seven claiming Purple Kelly would get a confessional. And when she did, it was the biggest highlight of the season for me.

5) “Benry’s here baby!” *tumbles down a flight of stairs and lands on concrete covered in thumb tacks*

6) The fact they merged sooner rather than later. I couldn’t imagine them having a delayed merge at nine and open it up with a double quit.

7) I liked the idea of them being tricked into what their tribes were in the opening challenge. Just a nice little twist to counter advanced strategists. Fortunately, there were very few of them in Nicaragua for this to make a difference.

8) Each of the first four episodes had only one challenge. In a twenty person cast, this is almost essential in order to get to know everybody.

9) Did I mention it was a Russell-free season?

P.S. If the next three seasons are Russell and Rob-free, this will move down in the rankings. If any of the next three seasons continue to be plagued by these two characters, then this season will likely get a boost up for being a diamond in the camera-whoring rough.

17. Gabon: Earth’s Last Eden (season 17) 4.999999/10 rating

It’s always difficult to rank Nicaragua, Vanuatu, and Gabon because they directly follow a season filled with returning contestants. They seem to serve as a “cooling off” period for production and stay away from casting too many extreme over-the-top characters. Woops, deja vu. Pardon me.

For me, Gabon is a very weird season for me to analyze. It’s like production combined old twists that worked in the past and other twists that they knew failed before. Along with one of the funkiest edits for a winner and runner-up, it’s tough to be satisfied with this season. When I rewatched Gabon, I seemed to dislike it much more than when I saw it play out during its initial run. And if you’re curious about my ridiculous rating for this one, it’s because a) I will likely never watch all of the episodes the next time I rewatch it and b) I felt a very ‘so-what’ feeling when I reached the end. Recently though, I talked with an old friend and my parents about Gabon out of the blue and figured out why Gabon made me feel this way.

Issues I had with Gabon:

1) Exile Sugar Shack. I thought production finally realized that two people from opposite tribes was so much better to create intrigue on exile. Instead we’re treated to a bonus scene of Sugar crying on exile for five consecutive episodes. Joy. You could’ve skipped out on this scene, producers.

2) Danny/Dan/GC/G Sizzle/Golden Child. You’re one of the central focuses for the first few episodes then you freakin’ quit at the end of episode five? Another thing that bugs me is that this guy isn’t even a power player in this season. He’s just a footnote. After the hilarious Probst-randomly-forces-GC-to-be-leader storyline in the 2 hour premiere, I think you could’ve just let this guy alone. But nope. Editors robbed us of quality Randy time and instead gave us more Sizzle. And the “zomg we won’t be able to play in the challenge if GC doesn’t show up” bit was one of the lamest things in recent memory. It was even more ridiculous when Kelly wraps it up by saying “O-M-G! So glad you’re like here, GC! Five minutes and we would’ve had to forfeit the challenge. That would’ve been like a total bummer!” You’re telling me they still had five freakin’ minutes? Yeah, sounds like it was real close. *eyeroll*

3) The delayed merge. If memory serves me correct, no season after Gabon with the exception of Heroes vs. Villains merges any later than day 20. Gabon went to a bit of an extreme by not having them live together until after day 27’s immunity challenge. The most exciting phase of the game is effectively removed when you’re leaving us with a very rushed day 27 elimination along with only five other ejections before we’re at Final Tribal Council. If it were a final two, then I wouldn’t be complaining. But the fact it’s a final three and a Bob win is all but sealed up isn’t particularly spectacular.

4) Kenny’s vote for Matty on day 33. If there was a top ten for moves that didn’t make sense and pissed me off, this would easily be on it. You have to understand that I was rooting for Kenny even before the season began. I already knew who he was from being a big fan of Super Smash Bros. Melee and was well acquainted with his near-perfect mind games and SSBM gameplay. If there is any reason why you shouldn’t be emotionally attached to a Survivor player, this would be it. It’s day 33. Bob has already demonstrated his supreme capability of creating fake idols. Kenny KNOWS Sugar has the idol from exile, and SAW the other idol being thrown into the ocean. There is the dying alliance of Bob and Corinne vs. the triumphant uber cool alliance of Kenny, Sugar, Matty, Susie, and Crystal. All that needs to happen is for Bob and Corinne to be taken out, and Kenny will presumably waltz his way to day 39 with Crystal and a handout of anti-depressants. Bob and Corinne approach Kenny and Crystal claiming they have an idol. Corinne will use it to oust Matty because Bob already has immunity and Matty is a threat. Kenny and Crystal (should) be skeptical of this. Throw all five votes on Corinne and Corinne doesn’t play the idol, and she goes home anyway. Throw all five votes on Corinne and she plays the idol, Matty goes home without blood on their hands.

If Kenny throws a rogue vote for Matty and Corinne plays the idol, Matty goes home but now you look like a complete a–hole and even if Kenny voted Corinne it didn‘t change Corinne receiving the majority of the votes. If Kenny throws a rogue vote for Matty, Corinne goes home and you suddenly look like a major a–hole, and even if Kenny voted for Corinne it didn’t change Corinne receiving the majority of the votes.

5) Susie’s edit. She supposedly talked a lot, but yet she is overall one of the quietest players on-screen. She was only one vote away from winning, but yet remained completely ignored including in the Crystal blindside. I still remember thinking “well, it’s gonna be a 3-3 vote between Matty and Crystal. If they talked to Susie about it, I’m sure she would’ve shown it.” So when the vote comes out 4-2, I found out it ridiculous that a pivotal vote if an idol weren’t played was supposed to be viewed as a non-factor. Boooo.

6) Episodes 4-7. “That’s not change, it’s more the same!” Promoting the use of HD camera shots isn’t intriguing for anybody who doesn’t own an HDTV yet. All we get is a very repetitive sequence of pre-merge episodes.

7) Survivor: Fast Forward. I think Gabon’s biggest mistake was being over-saturated with challenges in a shortened thirteen episode season (Survivor since Vanuatu has always been 14 episodes with the exception of Gabon and Tocantins). Along with a shortened season, they cram two eliminations and three challenges in a two-hour season premiere. Gabon is also the only season that has two challenges in a pre-merge double boot episode making for a double elimination that has very little story to it.

8) No accountability. As I said with EI, I don’t like it when a tribe can lose numerous times but never have to pay the consequences for it. Despite Gabon having  the longest pre-merge phase in Survivor history, the game is set up so a tribe never dips below four members.
Phase #1 worst case scenario: 8-5, but then you mix up tribes to make it 7-7, and if you vote somebody out, the person from Exile will re-join you making it 7-7 once again.
Phase #2 worst case scenario: 7-7 and lose two challenges to make it 7-5, but then there’s a double boot so it will be 6-4 and a switch to make it 5-5.
Phase #3 worst case scenario: You lose an immunity and go down 5-4, but then you merge anyway.

9) Marcus Lehman got screwed. In Thailand when they had a tribal endurance challenge during episode 8, they made it truly a tribe effort by combining every tribe member’s  efforts to determine who receives immunity. But for some reason the team from Men In Black came to erase the production’s memories of Thailand. Gabon’s episode 8 tribal endurance challenge merely hinged on a Last Man Standing = wins immunity for the whole tribe. So when Marcus, Charlie, and Corinne claim that there was supposed to be a merge in episode 8  and accuse production of changing their minds, you can’t help but think they may be correct.
* Random fact: Marcus has the longest immunity streak in Survivor history. The first time he was vulnerable was at the ninth Tribal Council on day 24.

10) The finale challenges were rather lame. It also featured the first time since the Outback (or arguably Exile Island) to not have an endurance challenge as the final immunity.

Reasons why I enjoyed Gabon:

1) Randy, Kenny, and Crystal. Three of my all-time favs.

2) Picking your own tribes to start out the game. I love it when producers set up twists that leave the contestants themselves in control. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter a heckuva whole lot when you switch the tribes twice in a span of six episodes. Also, the only other time they started out with the picking of the tribes by the elders was in Thailand. Guess production won’t revisit this twist anytime soon considering they dislike Gabon and Thailand.

3) Dan searching for the idol in a sandy underwater crater. You don’t need a Funny 115 entry to remind me this happened.

4) Bob’s underrated fake idol tricks in consecutive rounds. My dad, who is usually a big fan of the older contestants on Survivor (particularly Yau-Man), and picked Bob in a Survivor pool because they were the exact same age, claims Bob as being one of the least strategic winners. I argue that Bob’s consecutive fake idols is one of the most strategic moves anybody has ever made. If Bob doesn’t create BOTH fake idols, I highly doubt he makes it to final three. If Bob doesn’t succeed with being convincing with BOTH fake idols, I highly doubt he makes it to final three. Can you imagine how difficult it is to use the exact same strategic ploy against somebody who isn’t named Jason? Prior to Gabon, the only time somebody set up a fake idol and got somebody else to bite was with Ozzy’s stick. Despite how amazing and effective Bob’s plan was, nobody has repeated that kind of success since then.  Not even self-proclaimed Idol King Russell Hantz set up a fake idol. Since Gabon, the only season to feature attempts were by Jalapao and Timbira during Tocantins but Joe was planning to throw Jalapao’s fake idol into the fire at the next TC and Sierra only put the idol clue that would force Erinn to dig for days and days in the Timbira beach just for her own amusement.

5) Long-time applicants were accepted.

6) The genius of the fakeout merge on day 22 mixed with an idol being thrown into the ocean. If they did this with twelve people remaining instead of ten, I think it would’ve worked out much much better in the long run.

7) “It was like they were sleek weasels and we were legless chickens.” Nobody else but Ace could come up with such an eloquent and unique analogy to describe a contrast in challenge performance.

P.S. It is ranked #17 and it’s season 17? oooooooooooo

16. The Amazon (season 6) 5.0/10 rating

I know many of you will be surprised to find Amazon ranked this low. If you change one little thing about this season, I would bump it up to a much higher rank. In fact, there’s some exceptionally great things about this season mixed in with exceptionally terrible things which leave it as a passable season.

Issues I had with this season:

1) Sexist division. I really don’t like sexist remarks and prejudice. Or 95% of poop jokes (sorry Dictatorship). So the first four episodes have a lot of quotes that really grind my gears and results in the show being irritating to watch from time to time. Big blow to the pre-merge phase.

2) The cast was on the side of being recent graduates of the school of Jockcraft and Douchebaggery. For some reason, this season created one of the most unlikeable casts in Survivor history. All of the younger players came off as people who at the time resembled those I disliked in the sixth grade, and the older people with the exception of Jeanne and Butch weren’t the greatest. From Janet’s granola bar to Joanna’s over-the-top religiousness along with Roger’s homophobia and Deena pretending she hadn’t already switched to women wouldn’t be people I’d root for. However, it’s ridiculous to think now that I judged these people as thinking this is who they must be in real life. In post-game interviews, virtually all of them (except Heidi) can come off as being good people and not who the editors want us to think they are (except for Alex, too. There’s just no hope for him. A**hole.)

3) The auction incident further infuriating my family’s feelings about Jenna and Heidi. Probably the only time we all hated Jenna more than Heidi. A very uncomfortable scene to re-watch to this day.

4) Rob C’s gameplay is now undervalued. It’s depressing to think “the smartest player to never win” is now recognized as “The Rob That Sucks.” Or, as players from recent seasons like to call him, “the guy who interviews me and frequently attempts Russell Hantz impressions after I chat with Joann and Stacy on Thursday mornings.”

5) Matt being picked on. I think one of the bigger problems while re-watching this is that Matt never really does anything mean to anyone all season long. In fact, he came across as being one of the nicest players in Survivor at that point. So to see him constantly picked on for no reason that we know of other than him possibly being crazy, and to see this continue after he’s already lost at the reunion show, was just a bit cruel even for my taste.

What also bugs me is that Matt, who didn’t seem to have any faults for his social game, is being punished for being…weird? Yet Jenna, who frequently got into arguments, was extremely lazy, and was on the outside of the vote more than Matt was ends up being rewarded with a win? I believe that no matter which seven players out of the other fourteen and what took place, Jenna beats Matt in the Final Two. Matt was screwed even before he entered The Amazon. I’m typically one of the much better people for accepting all reality show characters equally and never to take what they say or do to each other seriously, but Amazon is one of the few instances where I found myself having reactions to it. Which leads me to….

6) Jenna Morasca’s victory. Perhaps the most upsetting victory to this point in Survivor, TAR, and The Mole combined. Yes, at least Flo AND Zach were declared winners. When you contrast somebody who everyone in my house really wanted to win (Matt) and assumed he would win with anywhere between 4-6 votes, with somebody who was just one step above Flo or Heather (Mole 2) hatred, you’re either going to be really happy or really angry.  So when Jenna wins, it was important that she not only win by a little, but win by a lot (sue me Dan Kay) because it results in one of the most devastating reactions from a pro-Matt household. My mom was so pissed off that almost every 2nd word said during the reunion show made her yell at the TV. I think we were all hoping to wake up the next morning and find out that Matt was the one who won, and Mark Burnett was playing  a mean trick on us all (Burnett did have control of Survivor at one point). If it was a Jenna and Heidi final two, it would be nowhere near as irritating of a finish and instead be in the “Do not care what happens” pile with EI and All Stars. Thankfully, the blow has softened over an eight-year period where Jenna wasn’t annoying in Survivor Talk (well, when my mother and sister are around when I watched Survivor Talk, they criticized every word Jenna said). Also, it helps when you have accumulated worst reality show winners since then (Hint: Don’t watch TAR6). So for Jenna winning, that alone drops the rank of this season significantly.

Things I enjoyed about this season:

1) Very few twists. A switch after four rounds. It’s funny to think the producers made another attempt to force a hook-up like the Sean-Jenna Lewis ambassador meeting in season one. Guess they gave up after the camera operators were too frustrated that they got excited for nothing. Oh, and the “You will open this when you least expect it because this box containing a map to your new home would be too obvious for being this box’s contents”. That was it for twists. Yay. 🙂

2) The excuse to make fun of Probst at the episode six reward challenge. “Matt and Alex, former tribemates…squaring off.”

“Oh that’s neat—wait a minute, not so fast! This challenge is man vs. man and woman vs. woman, and we just had a switch in the previous episode. Of course EVERY match-up will pit former tribemates against each other! You think you’re Dorothy Ann with that observation, Jeff?” It’s just my interior monologue every time I watch this challenge. Odd, I know.

3) Sharply reducing the length to the Fallen Comrades segment. The producers finally got the placement of Fallen Comrades correctly. Do it after ALL strategy in the game (unless you’re Chris Daugherty) is done. Did you know that because Butch decided to the ceremonial burning of the camp five days prematurely, the producers were forced to move Fallen Comrades to day 39 to fill that gap? But seriously, there’s still so much strategy to do on day 38 to ensure you’re still around for day 39 if you lose immunity. Why waste it on Fallen Comrades crap? Instead, move it to when you have no one on the island left to strategize with and paint the players’ initials accompanied by a two second flash (no Christy, that wasn’t your cue. It’s not Mardi Gras).

4) Rob Cesternino using John Nash’s guide to non-cooperative gameplay for strategy and resetting the game every three days. Do you know why the end of the Thailand reunion featured a random advertisement of John Nash’s book of non-cooperative gameplay? Because the filming of Amazon would have just finished and Rob C kicked a** by integrating it into his overall strategy. Why do I think Amazon isn’t one of the most impressionable seasons ? Because there was never a main alliance. Think about it. John Nash’s guide hinges on you forcing equilibrium by having everyone choose a side and recognize your position. Once this happens, the game resets as everyone jockeys for a new position. Thanks to Rob, this occurred virtually every three days in the Amazon, leaving you with no “Aitu 4” or “Foa Foa Foursome”. Thanks for demonstrating a textbook strategy can in fact be used on Survivor, Mr. Cesternino. You left us with so much to discuss for seven months until Pearl Islands began airing, and then being swept off the face of the map when you became the Rob That Sucked thanks to All Stars.

5) Rob C importing the strategic gameplay and wittiness of the ORG world into a TV version of Survivor. For about a year leading up to Amazon, players in ORG began to a) form mega alliances b) realize coming up with witty confessionals would lead to the host wanting you to play again AND a freedom to diss fellow players in the most amusing way possible. So Rob, for accomplishing both, along with being the hundredth person to say “na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” in their confessional. That was soooo 2002. We thank you.

6) Joanna’s participation leads to her being referenced on The Office approximately six years later. The Temp finds people of her body type to be attractive. Who knew.

7) Everyone’s gameplay in the finale. I can hate on Morasca winning and saying how much more I wished Matt won in the final two, but what I can’t ignore is how well all four of them played in the finale. Nobody makes social errors and everybody is making deals with each other to ensure they wake up on the beach for days 38 and 39. This is a strong plus for this season. The last thing anybody wants to see is somebody laying around not immersing themselves into the Survivor experience on finale night.

8) Alex’s elimination on day 30. One of the best blindsides in the history of the show. I remember how happy we all were thinking the “good people” would come out victorious this season.

9) Heidi’s elimination on day 36. One of the best blindsides in the history of the show. I remember how happy we all were thinking the “good people” would come out victorious this season.

10) Few ugly exchanges between the contestants themselves makes for episodes like Roger’s farewell or Deena’s exit to let you know all of the players are enjoying the experience and into the game.
In closing, not the most likeable of casts but this season certainly had its moments and appealing enough to keep the damage control down to a sixteenth rank.

‎11) Jacare is a sweet tribe name.

In closing, not the most likeable of casts but this season certainly had its moments and appealing enough to keep the damage control down to a sixteenth rank.

15. Guatemala: The Mayan Empire (season 11) 5.5/10 rating

There is a decent jump from the quality of Amazon to the quality of Guatemala. It’s interesting to note that for very few people this season ranks at the bottom (Justin is the first person I remember saying that) and for very few people this season ranks at the top. It’s just another season of Survivor. Unfortunately, if this season had made a stronger impression, we wouldn’t have faced the Transition Era of Exile Island and Cook Islands. Yes, for the past four years, I have always referred to EI and CI as the most significant shake-up to getting away from the soul of Survivor. After Guatemala, Survivor will never be the same.

Issues I had with this season:

1) Bringing back two contestants. I still remember how controversial this twist was when it was first announced. Seriously, two players being brought back to play against sixteen players? Bobby Jon and Stepheme are playing for a second time IN A ROW???? I don’t get why production did this because they could’ve just taken the valuable screen time to promote their newest characters rather than build up older ones. This alone contributes why none of the original sixteen are the only group to never get a second shot at the game, and it would be nine seasons even before their beloved Stepheme would make a comeback. Ultimately, this twist hurt the quality of Guatemala. This idea would fade into being a minor complaint for many fans when Redemption Island went way overboard with this concept. Thanks to casting Boston Rob for the fourth time in nineteen seasons and Russell for the third time in four seasons, casting the only pre-merge Final Two to come back doesn’t seem so bad.

2) Watching Guatemala with my family. Nobody in my family likes Steph. My mother probably gave her more eye rolls than Boston Rob. It got to the point where I had to watch it in a separate room so I could watch the season in peace.

3) Stepheme being praised for her “athletic ability” and being a “competitor” rather than her strategic game. I’m still puzzled to how production thought they could promote Steph’s ability in challenges and how the public bought it overall. The only individual challenge she EVER won was one of the most luck-based immunity challenges in Survivor’s history (you have several keys. One of them will open a lock. Keep doing this until you have enough rope to get to the finish. You may or may not get a little knot before the end. Good luck with having luck!). She also had one of the all-time worst challenge records in Palau, and willingly gave up in two of the three challenges she competed in post-merge of Palau. Along with sitting out of a challenge at the start of the merge in Guatemala. Yep, sounds like a competitor to me. But what takes skill is going into a tribe eight vs. one and being able to survive for a couple rounds, then coming back the next season to completely dominate strategically to get to the Final Two. THAT’S the part of Stepheme’s game that I respect. Few players can have the strategy of a season completely revolve around them.

4) A ridiculously early switch. To this day, Guatemala has the record for the earliest tribe shuffle (no, EI and CI had a mini merge. That’s different). When you shuffle the tribes on day 9 and hold off for a merge until night 18, no wonder why this is the only season where post-shuffle tribes had the strongest bonds.

5) End of the episodes fizzled. It’s tough to promote any suspense at a Tribal Council when Guatemala holds another Survivor record by having the most unanimous eliminations. Editing was better off just focusing on camp life rather than try to fool us into thinking Morgan might be staying or that Amy had a shot. In a cast where strength was favoured at almost every corner, the guy with the arm in a sling or the broken ankle is sure to be out the door.

6) No over-the-top episodes. There wasn’t really an episode this season that was exceptionally spectacular. Besides Jamie and Judd’s exchanges with the others, there isn’t anything that makes you go ‘wow’.

7) The cast has faded. When production refuses to invite back any of the original sixteen, you don’t allow for the season to remain alive. Even when Steph comes back for Heroes vs. Villains, they embrace her Palau image and refuse to acknowledge (along with James) anything she did in Guatemala. I’m sure Rafe, Judd, Jamie, Gary, or Danni being invited back would prevent this season from being permanently ignored.

8) A double Tribal Council. A Survivor staple by this point. I’ve never been a big fan of the losing tribe having one of its members receive immunity just because a person from the opposing tribe chose them randomly.

9) The ‘better’ camp for the day 2 reward ended up being the worst camp. What up with that?

Despite the negatives I presented, there are some very strong points for this season:

1) The opening challenge. Back when Survivor experimented with drastically different unique ways to open up a season, they came up with this gem. This will go down as the harshest challenge in the history of the game. When people are having their eyes rolling back, Golden Boy is seeing the White Light of BB, and Judd paying the consequences for bailing out of a boat too early, you’ll have very few contenders. It was neat to see the ORG world attempt to replicate this twist as it made for very little inactivity…but then Exile Island soon aired, and the opening challenge would fade from everyone’s memories.

2) Danni being worthy of the competitor title. She resembled everything that production deluded people into thinking what Stepheme was. She did quite well in challenges. She was well-liked. She was strategic. And she never gave up in any endurance challenges. My sister liked Danni so much that she claimed that’s who she picked in our family’s Survivor pool. The only problem? Our family didn’t start doing Survivor pools until Exile Island. For somebody who refuses to watch seasons with any bit of camera whoring or people being excessively mean, I think Danni deserves a nod if my sister was willing to watch her.

3) An overall likeable and extremely strong cast. I did a hurt n’ heal for this season a few years ago, and I found myself having a tough time for who to hurt and who to heal after Steph and Bobby Jon was gone. If a cast makes me hesitate during a hurt n’ heal, then quite frankly, it ain’t a bad cast. Lydia, perhaps the only non-athletic person in the whole group, was one of the top camp and fishing contributors.

4) “Aye Dee Dee”

5) “The idol is definitely on the ground, even if my chin is tilted directly towards the sky”

6) *ROARIOWJRWEIOJFDJLKJsouthernaccent* *ROARROARJitsnotfairJFJASIOIFJMCASNUIsouthernaccent*

7) “Scumbags”

8) “Blindsided, nice! Now that’s how you vote someone out!”

9) The hidden immunity idol. This is the only way an idol should be in Survivor. At the merge, hidden in a huge jungle where ten people spread out for six days to try and find it. People say it is too weak for how it was a one-time use and had to be played before everyone voted, but it still had a big enough impact on the game. When Gary used it, he survived for an additional SIX days. If he simply went home three days after playing an idol, then yes, you can say the twist was pointless. But he survived without immunity at the next TC. How you can say the idol wasn’t a big enough of a boost is beyond me. With the present day rules, people like Kristina, Tom, and Yau-Man have survived a shorter period of time than Gary did with his ‘pointless’ idol. Sadly, this idol would foreshadow a horrendous format for the Transition Era.

10) A challenging environment. Besides Africa and Australia, the Guatemalan environment is probably the only other season to match up in terms of overall toughness. For whatever reason, people prefer a beach environment, yet the past four beach seasons have featured very few water challenges. Guatemala had a few rowing and swimming challenges.

11) Guatemala had some of the most unique challenges in Survivor, and besides the day 18 immunity, most of these challenges worked out extremely well. Plus the final immunity was a test of endurance rather than balance or making a task impossible within thirty minutes, which is something Survivor has ran away from ever since. 😦

12) The car dilemma. Do you keep the car for yourself or give away four cars? The idea seems almost laughable after the crisis that the car companies have gone through over the past couple years. A minor but very good twist for a final reward. It wouldn’t be until season seventeen that the winner of the final reward challenge would go on to win the game. Now the curse of the final reward/car is just another reminder of an era long past in the Survivor universe.

13) A Final Two.

14) A great season finale. A Final Four to start out combined with a mix of strategy, camp life, a ritual that is reduced to a joke thanks to eating a Mayan sacrifice, and strong challenges contribute to a very good season finale.

15) Neither Bobby Jon nor Steph won the season. Imagine how painful and controversial that would be if one of them won. A couple weeks ago, I read Mario’s article that a past player will never win at a Final Tribal Council against a new player. Eleven seasons later, and Mario’s theory may be proven wrong in less than 7-10 hours.

14. Cook Islands (season 13) Rating: 5.51/10

If Exile Island marked an end to the first era of Survivor, Cook Islands certainly ushered in a new one. In a game where underdogs who should have never been in the running end up on top; a gimmicky beginning; and filled with more twists forced by production than any other game in history, Cook Islands would set the frame for the next eight seasons of Survivor.

Issues I had with this season:

1) Division by race. I remember how controversial this opening ended up being. I think it was the only time since 2001 where politicians openly acknowledged Survivor. To this day, it seemed like a ridiculous gimmick to grab attention considering it was abandoned after two rounds. I also blame it for my reputation being destroyed on a board called ORG Reloaded. I made a “Previously on…Survivor!” for the race concept but had each tribe be a group of racists with xenophobic sentiments towards the other tribes. Let’s just say the joke wasn’t well received.

2) The mini merge after only two rounds. A tribe couldn’t fall any lower than three members. I would’ve liked to have seen Aitu pay for their own stupidity, although that pretty much happened with the mini merge. (J.P., Cecilia, and Cristina go home in three of the next four rounds)

3) Ten minutes of an episode wasted on an overly elaborate mini merge. “Pick a tile…each group take turns picking remaining members who have birthdays between January and June…those who are right-handed, go on this mat…if you thought Back to the Future part II is better than Back to the Future part I, switch out to two groups to your left…now squeeze this egg! C’mon, you know you want to. SQUEEZE ‘EM NOW!!!

4) Double TC. I’ve already covered this issue before so no point repeating myself. I just wish the tribe would eat and listen in BEFORE they voted so when people talk about the boot list after the season is done, there isn’t any confusion. A tribe who doesn’t win the reward in a double TC always has the worse rank in my books even if they vote thirty minutes before the winning tribe.

Plus, what if your tribe wins a food reward on a double TC night and the person knows they’re going home? They’d just try to eat as much food as possible before the other tribemates had a chance to have their share. Wouldn’t that be hilarious to see? “Screw you guys, I’m eating three  lamb shanks and a litre of apple juice, and you can’t stop me!”

5) A ridiculously easy idol to find on Exile Island. Seriously, somebody finds the idol by day five? Did you see how tiny that island was? No wonder why Yul found it so quickly. Dig up the whole island and you’re bound to get it. Speaking of the idol. . .

6) The idol is made much more powerful than in EI. The effect of the idol carried over to Cook Islands. You never had to play the idol until after Jeff read the votes. Why production thought this would be worthwhile to try again is beyond me. What’s even crazier is that if somebody sucked so badly that they did have to play an idol, then ANOTHER idol would be re-hidden at micro Exile Island. What’s even crazier than that? Instead of the idol only being good through day 36, the idol was good through day 38. A mediocre player can now get all the way to the Final Tribal Council thanks to an idol. Thankfully, the idol was given a lot less power after this season, and it was good through day 37 then it was done. The rules would be amended once more after Fiji where the idol was only good through day 36 which would become a mainstay until Redemption Island broke a seven season precedent by having it be playable through day 37.

Note: Because production increased the power of the idol from EI to CI, I think the same thing will happen with Redemption Island from RI to South Pacific. I’m gonna lock in and say the person from Redemption Island won’t re-join the game until somewhere between day 37-39. Go ahead, mark it down. Just a gut feeling that I have based on the EI to CI transfer.

7) The most lopsided elimination ratio in the history of Survivor. Eleven people eliminated pre-merge compared to only six post-merge? Even Thailand kept it down to eight pre-merge and six post-merge along with a final two. This is even more puzzling considering a person who will be in a position to possess the idol is typically a strong player, thus they will be very safe within their own tribe but will be an immediate target by the opposition once the merge comes. So thanks to an extremely delayed merge, the outcome is even more slanted towards the idol possessor.

8) Ozzy the Jack*** ends up Ozzy the Popular. Remember after episode two when the casual audience viewed Ozzy as the biggest jerk of the season? Apparently, their memory of the early days of Ozzy when he would go on to be part of an underdog tribe. I remember my sister watching the first three episodes and being so turned off by Ozzy that she didn’t watch another episode until the last two of the season. She was shocked to find out “that jack***” was still in the game. So when Fans vs. Favs come and people think Ozzy is a jerk (with the exception of those who put him in the top three for the fan fav ballot), I just merely shrugged and said ‘so what?’ at this sudden revelation.

Note: He’s one of five people who I think will have a shot at being in South Pacific. I guess you could say my faith in Jeff Probst is very low at this point.

9) The bottle twist. I think the idea of a tribe losing two tribe members because of ONE challenge loss is insane. It hurts the editing of the overall episode, it’s timed so that everybody has only five minutes to think about it, and a tribe that may have won very few challenges gets to rally back because of a challenge that favoured them is suddenly given extra weight. Oh, and as soon as they announced the twist, anybody who couldn’t remember the extremely random scene about Jenny needing to go home after Rebecca at the start of the episode were the only ones surprised by the outcome.

Who knew this twist would reappear in a post-merge form nine seasons later? Wasn’t Survivor supposed to be off the air by this point?

10) An early jury. Sadly, this will occur three more times after CI. A jury that includes three people who didn’t have a chance to live with all three of the finalists at one point isn’t fair for because there was no way for the relationships to be built. In fact, two of those three had only lived with Yul and Becky, thus giving Yul an even greater advantage.

11) The infamous beginning to the Final Three era. I’ve posted why a final three is terrible so many times so here’s the short version:
When you have a final three, you prematurely stop the eliminations at final three. You also run the risk of somebody winning by plurality rather than a majority. The jury has to vote for a winner rather than eliminating anybody (in a final two, the jury simultaneously votes out the fifteenth person from the game and grants a victory. Remember when Probst snuffed Lil’s torch at the Pearl Islands finale?). It’s identical to being at a poker tournament and the game being stopped at three people and declaring the winner by who has the highest number of chips. Nobody gets eliminated further, and all we get left with are a bunch of ‘what ifs’. Production also instituted this twist because the ‘deserving player’ was voted out in 3rd place and a goat was a regular occurrence in the FTC. But in future seasons, people immediately recognized that now they had to adapt to having two goats at the end and the ‘deserving player’ would finish in fourth. The fact people were doing this in Fiji before they knew a Final Three had ever existed should’ve told production that Final Three just doesn’t work. Guess that didn’t happen.

The biggest element missing from Survivor is its inability to integrate major post-merge twists into the game. Unfortunately, their second major post-merge twist in history is a horrendous one.

12) Ozzy was robbed. As much as I dislike the guy, he would have won this season if it went down to a Final Two. Instead we’re left with a “I guess Yul sort’ve won” at the end.

13) Virtually all of the worst twists are recycled in the future, while the best twists have been discarded ever since.

14) Four tribes, and all four have too many syllables in their tribe names. That could’ve been a mouthful if it wasn’t shortened. And if they were going to shorten them on TV, then why in the world name those tribes like that in the first place?

15) Flicka using the word ‘like’ so many times in her one TC question. Episode three or six? One of the two. God that was annoying.

Reasons why I liked this season:

1) The race twist presented funny sketches for MADtv. “Team Burrito is up to seventeen tribe members…wait, eighteen.”

2) Pearl Islands’ kidnapping twist revisited. I like it when Survivor revisits a twist that was great in concept but didn’t play out in the most exciting way. I’ve always wondered what would’ve happened if Rupert or Nate stayed to share the reward with the tribe that kidnapped them. I assumed that they could flop entirely if they wanted to stay heading into the next immunity challenge, but I guess we’ll never know. Plus the exchange between Flicka Flame and the rest of her tribe as NATE WAS WATCHING was one of the more entertaining moments of the season.

3) An overall enjoyable cast. Remember how I ranked EI in 21st place? Well, when a decent group is put together and one of the initial favourites ends up winning the season, that right there skyrockets the quality of the season.

4) A much much much better final immunity challenge than EI. In fact, consider every post-merge immunity to be a success.

5) Production makes attempt number two at the mutiny. It’s like the producers wanted to re-try every twist where none of the players ended up biting. And my oh my, I think to this day the Cook Islands mutiny (which fit in quite well with the overall theme of this season’s location) is the most memorable moment for casual viewers. It seems anybody who decided to mutiny would be branded by Probst as “an excellent player willing to make big bold moves.” Jonathan returns in Fans versus Favs where his knee bothers him to this day, and Candice gets a ‘WTF?’ spot in Heroes vs. Villains solely because of this move.

Note to future players: If you think you already don’t have a shot at winning the game, keep alluding to the fact you really want to switch tribes to production. Before you know it, you may end up with an additional all-star spot or two in the long run. Sweet.

6) Speak about wanting mashed potatoes + gravy = Smuffed. In a game where contestants talking about food is served as a comedic scene at least once in every season of Survivor is suddenly what sends poor Stephannnnnnie out the door. She was one of only three applicants this season and this is how one of our own goes home? Ouch.

7) Final Four tiebreaker. This lasted nearly four times longer than the EI final immunity, and I’m almost certain the entire TC went on longer than the duration of the following day’s final immunity challenge. I’m sure Butch could’ve ended the tiebreaker within seconds. Pyromaniacs probably crave a final four tiebreaker on Survivor. Hint to who is a pyromaniac in the Cook Islands: Not Sundra and Becky. Neither knew how to work a freakin’ match for an hour.

8) Parvati and Candice’s negative attitude towards Jonathan sends them home 6th and 8th respectively. Satisfying exits.

9) Cao Boi. People try to compare Phillip to Coach, but I think a comparison of Phillip to Cao Boi is much more accurate. They were both older, not useless in challenges, terrible overall at the social game, but had enough strategic sense to scheme through parts of the game. The only real difference is that Phillip was much more aware of the camera and its value. Phillip said in an interview that one of the two reasons he picked plum-coloured underwear is because he’d get camera time. Cao Boi’s jokes carried the Puka Puka tribe.

10) Shortening the tribes’ names in challenges. Puka Puka, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and Manihiki being shortened to Puka, Raro, Aitu, and Hiki is much easier to say. Add in the fact they used this on TV allows for universal viewer understanding in terms of which tribe we’re talking about.

11) Jonathan and Probst’s exchange at the episode eight reward challenge. The one exchange that sums up Probst’s increased involvement in the show. If only his contract was for the first 22 seasons rather than the first twelve, then we wouldn’t see this much commentary.

12) Flicka minus what I said earlier about her TC response. It was neat to see somebody like her trying to understand the game of Survivor. She was also sharp enough to catch on that each of the four tribes had the ‘alternative’ option (Cao Boi, Flicka, Billy, and Sekou).

13) Jonathan. Even if he did screw up epically on day 27.

14) Some of Nate’s over-the-top quotes.

***A non-issue but not really a positive either***

1) Cook Islands featured some of the most head-scratching post-merge moves in the history of Survivor. After day 25 until the end of the game, I am under the impression that everyone’s gameplay except for Yul vanished completely.

a) Jonathan being not-so-subtle to the Rarotongians about Yul having the idol on day 27. Jonathan: I don’t have it, Candice doesn’t have it, and you don’t have it, so Yul might have it” *wink* *wink*
Adam: …………….
Jonathan: Right?
Adam: No, I don’t think he has it.
Geez. It was Survivor’s version of that Simpsons episode where Chief Wiggum wants a bribe from Homer and Bart tries to tell Homer it’s a bribe but Homer keeps talking over him.

What bothers me most about day 27 is that all Jonathan had to do was vote Yul, then the idol would be used and Nate would go home. Why would he feel in danger when Aitu wouldn’t dare risk a 4-4-1 tie? Of course they’re voting Nate. All voting Nate did was make every single person hate your guts AND ensure Aitu runs the remainder of the game.

b) Adam approaches Yul and tells all of Aitu that if they vote Jonathan out before him and Parvati, then he’ll vote for Yul to win at FTC. If I were Ozzy, Becky, and Sundra, you know what I’d do? Not vote out Jonathan before Adam and Parvati!!! I know they always said “Adam doesn’t get that we always make decisions together.” But does Adam care that you say that? No he doesn’t. You grant his wish and it’s an auto-jury vote for Yul. Trying to explain your side does nothing. All voting Jonathan out does is send a message to Adam that Yul is indeed the one running the ship. If they didn’t find out about Adam’s deal until after day 33, then someone correct me on this. But I think that’s an awfully stupid move by Ozzy, Becky and Sundra if that was indeed the case.

c) Adam approaches Ozzy and Sundra on day 37 after the challenge. “Yul and Becky are voting for me. Why not vote with me and remove Yul’s idol from the game so you have a chance at getting him tomorrow?” And what do Ozzy and Sundra do? Nothing. Yul, a major jury threat at this point, keeps his idol and advances to day 39 to win the game.

Thanks to a season that had a twist in nearly every single episode, this entry ended up being much longer than I anticipated.

P.S. Many of you will be surprised to find out what my next rank is going to be.

13. Micronesia: Fans vs. Favo(u)rites (Season 16) Rating: 5.75/10

“Besides our first season, word on the street is that this one is our best.” – Jeff Probst prior to reading the votes.

I was shocked when I first heard this. For me, this was a fairly predictable season. And before you say “yeah right Saunders, no way you can predict Erik giving up immunity!!!!111oneoneone” I have a little story to back that up. I was participating in a GameFAQs fantasy Survivor league where each week we had to predict who would win reward and immunity, who would be sent to Exile, who would have the first confessional, and who would be voted out. Typically I do pretty bad in these fantasy leagues. However, by the time Micronesia concluded, the host accused me publicly on the board that I was in possession of spoilers because of how many points I accumulated throughout the season. Ever since then I have rarely played in fantasy games.

So, anyways, may as well get into it.

Issues I had with this season:

1) The producers had a one night stand with a final three after James is medically evacuated. The game was lined up to be a final three right up through day 31, but then production decided to get a bit too close with it and suddenly their path for over the next eight days had significantly shifted. They were forced to change course and go with a final two for the endgame.

In the other twenty-one seasons of Survivor, whether it is a final two or a final three is known before the game even starts. So why is Fans vs. Favo(u)rites the lone exception? I think it’s because of there being an alliance of five against Erik. If they go with a final three, that means they have to wait until the end of episode 13 for the next Tribal Council, which will be EXTREMELY predictable if anyone other than Erik wins the challenge. Then they’ll head into the finale with an alliance of five who will only have two rounds of backstabbing until the end of the game. Not to mention the idol expires on day 36, so the idol drama is also evaporated if they skip a day 33 TC.
So, the producers decide to throw in a rushed elimination on day 33 and change it to a final two because they wanted to change everything that the Cook Islands endgame failed to do (the Aitu alliance doing very little backstabbing and an idol that never came into play). I hate the producers doing this because it’s a dangerous precedent for how much they can control what to do last-minute, and quite frankly, this is more infuriating than having a final three lined up from start to finish.

2) Quits, unofficial quits, medical evacuations, and unofficial medical evacuations. Considering Fairplay, Penner, Chet, Kathy, and James all fell to one of these categories, it’s tough to feel like a proper game of Survivor has been played when a quarter of the cast is removed one way or another from the game. And when a player like Jason makes it to the merge and doesn’t have a chance to make it to the end, you’re left with very few contenders in the game. The winner may have just won solely based because the people who targeted them were removed from the game, which leads me to….

3) Parvati is the luckiest winner in Survivor history. I thought she played very well in Cook Islands and Heroes vs. Villains. Sorry, had to get that statement out there before all of the Parv fans start yelling at me. It’s tough to credit Parvati with a proper win when she would’ve been gone first round if Fairplay didn’t quit, and Jonathan has said in several interviews that he was targeting her on Airai and claimed to have the numbers to oust her. Parvati claimed she would’ve still been in the game even if Jonathan had a plan to get her out on Airai. Unfortunately, we’ll never know who would have won this showdown, but it’s not satisfying at all when Jonathan and Kathy both had to leave making Parvati’s path much easier to get to the end. Perhaps only Amber can rival the amount of luck that resulted in a victory.

4) Idols are freakin’ easy to find. When production re-hides and idol on day 34, and idols expire on day 36, along with Parvati accidentally finding the last clue for it makes Exile a bit ridiculous post-merge.

5) Finale challenges were underwhelming. The staircase challenge had too much luck involved, and the final immunity should’ve re-used the challenge from Palau considering they were in the exact same location. A missed opportunity.

6) Ozzy’s idol, fake idol, and building up his exit took up too much time in the episodes. A storyline that starts in episode four and gets bashed over our heads for the next six episodes isn’t too much of a pay-off. Sure, it’s entertaining and Jason playing the worst fake idol in Survivor history was hilarious, but then you realize not a whole lot else was going on.

7) An idol being hidden back at camp. All idols except for one are hidden at Exile Islands. Doesn’t hiding an idol back at camp give somebody a huge advantage by simply proving “I don’t have it” when they return from Exile, and everyone can buy it because they assume the rules were supposed to be the idol had to be at Exile. Just a minor detail that has irked me.
8) For how much strategy they showed this season, it ended up being fairly predictable.

9) From episode two it takes until about episode nine for the season to pick up at all.

10) Episode eleven was like an inferior and unfunny version of Roger’s boot episode.

11) Ami’s talk of booting Ozzy pre-merge never amounted to anything.

Not a whole lot else to complain about this season.

Things I enjoyed about this season:

1) Good cast. One of the most over-the-top personalities for a cast on Survivor.

2) Joel and Chet’s relationship was hilarious. One of the best early short-term relationships in Survivor history. Anything like it never existed before and since

3) “It’s just a f***in stick!”

4) Amanda pulling off one of the biggest blindsides ever.

5) From the middle of episode nine until the end of episode ten is one of the best in Survivor history. Challenges, characters, and camp life combine for the climax of the season. The only downside is that the season digresses in quality as we head for the end, but this portion of the game makes up for it.

6) The opening forty-five minutes is one of the best in the series. Several great quotes from Mr. Fairplay, and showing the strange dynamic of the Fans tribe.

7) Tracy giving a lesson on how to rally from a 7-3 deficit on day two.

8) See Chet swim. See Chet pull a George of the Jungle and run into a tree numerous times. See Chet solve a puzzle.

9) Erik the Superfan being a focus throughout the season. People remember his downfall, but forget how much of a freakin’ roller coaster ride he had to get to day 36. For someone with very few elimination votes and being on the outside every couple rounds, he proved the importance of social skills in Survivor. He needs to return to Survivor someday.

10) Cirie showing that you can control the game back-to-back seasons even when people know of your original reputation. She may get rid of your favourite players, but my oh my she knows how to work this game.

11) Ami redeems herself and comes off in a much more positive light this go-around. The power of Survivor editing.

12) Eliza’s eyerolls. I don’t even have to go any further.

13) A bloated cast, yet they avoid doing a ridiculous double TC twist.

14) Having one person from each tribe go to Exile Island is by far the best Exile Island format they’ve ever had. With new alliances and relationships being built for post-merge, and the fact the idol won’t be found right away results in a very refreshing and intriguing gameplay. I wish they would continue this post-merge. And for whatever reason, they eliminated this structure in Gabon. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

When Probst introduces the twist, instead of saying “two people…one idol,” I always expect him to say “two people…one cup” just to see everyone have a WTF? expression on their face. Odd, I know.

15) Joel and Kathy’s exchange about Mary. “It’s Mary…It’s Mary…It’s Mary…It’s Mary…It’s Mary.” So freakin’ funny.

12. Vanuatu: Islands of Fire (Season 9) Rating: 6/10

Pardon the delay in this ranking. You didn’t think I’d get bored of doing these rankings, did you? I personally find it fun to talk about the better seasons of Survivor rather than always finding myself arguing about why a particular season sucks. (I’m still pulling out the trident from my body after the Australia write-up)

Now that we’re hovering around the middle rankings, I think it’s only appropriate to stick Vanuatu in here. If I had to ask all of the casual fans I know to name off all the seasons, Vanuatu would be skipped the most by far. I think when a season like Vanuatu is clustered in with Amazon, Pearl Islands, All Stars, and Palau, it’s doomed to be forgotten. Even if Chris made the biggest individual comeback in Survivor history.

Issues I had with this season:

1) The lack of recognition for this season. When it comes to Survivor seasons, bad press is better than no press at all. Just as much as when people praise their favourite seasons, bickering about their least favourite seasons can be just as effective in cementing a season firmly in a fan’s mind. Unfortunately, thanks in part to Jeff Probst now having his ex-girlfriend in this season, it will likely be ignored forever. Two years ago, Jenna Morasca hosted a TVGuide special about doing a ‘Where Are They Now?’ for each of the first eighteen winners of Survivor. I decided to time how much airtime each winner received. Chris had by far the least airtime because he was given a measly forty-five to fifty seconds. It’s a bit disappointing to know that’s how this season will be treated in Survivor history. I’ll go so far as to say it will be the one season that will never be represented ever again. Should’ve made a bigger mark in Fans vs. Favs, Ami and Eliza.

2) The first ever double TC. Losing entertaining figures like J.P. and Mia by episode three is just uncalled for. Forcing both tribes to vote someone out is also uncalled for. Who knew this twist would become a Survivor staple?

3) J.P. is gone by episode three. After I watch J.P. go home, I always find myself in a sour mood for the next hour or so and feel that my Vanuatu re-watch is pretty much a chore. That’s how good of a character J.P. was.

“We’ve got…Amber!”

4) Rory goes home before the jury. I was surprised how many people absolutely detested Rory. I wasn’t a huge fan of the guy, but his delusion of thinking HE was the reason that the women turned on each other (poor choice of words when two lesbians are on the tribe, by the way), his speech about Mia’s celebration is one of the longest exchanges I memorized verbatim in any Survivor, and his random clashes practically carry the action at any tribe he’s at. Imagine this guy on a jury? That would’ve been TV gold!

5) Ami’s “I love my baaaabe” from the episode eleven immunity challenge still makes me cringe every time I watch it. I don’t know why, but it’s like intruding on Ami having verbal sex with her partner. On my last re-watch of Vanuatu, my whole family and a couple of random aunts walked in on me ONLY during that two minute window. Everyone would get a front row seat to me cringing. Also, this issue has a lot of unintentional innuendo. My apologies.

6) Julie getting so much airtime at the reunion. We get it Jeff, you wish to channel your Colby and Boston Rob feelings onto her. Can you leave her alone at the reunion show, please? Take the time to talk to J.P. or Rory.

7) The backlash of Twila swearing on her son’s name. If there is one event that tilts the ranking of this season downwards, this would most definitely be it. It almost taints the ending of this season because of how much it creeps into the last episodes. Sometimes I have to try hard to not fast forward through these scenes because of how irritating they are. Frankly, it just pisses me off. At a time in the game when the season should have been at its max in terms of enjoyability, the mood gets speckles of sourness to downgrade the quality of the game. It’s unfortunate.

Things I enjoyed about this season:

1) The format to the double TC is one of the least irritating of all time. The tribe that wins reward competes for individual immunity, then the person who wins goes to the other tribe’s camp to decide who receives individual immunity. Much better than “one of you guys will randomly be given immunity based on thirty minutes of hearing your pre-planned answers here at Tribal Council”.

2) The tribal switch format is by far the series’ best. It was a pick ’em among the chiefs, AND the thirteenth person got to choose which tribe they wanted to be on. Once Exile Island came along, the odd-numbered switches would change to ‘the last person remaining goes to Exile Island and will join the losing tribe so they have no real motivation to win the next challenge’. Just another fundamental flaw that Exile Island would exploit. Thanks Vanuatu for making sense.

3) The Final Four immunity challenge is my second favourite out of all twenty-two Final Four/day 37 immunity challenges in Survivor history. A vertical maze is just amazing. The only knock from the challenge is that the puzzle was very underwhelming. Still an AWESOME challenge though.

4) The final immunity challenge was great too. A lot of willpower to not let the spear pierce the paper. A very inspired and classic endurance challenge.

5) Integrating the culture of Vanuatu in the game. One of the main things that has been stripped from Survivor in recent years. When you have to name seasons “Heroes vs. Villains” or “Redemption Island,” you can’t really acknowledge that you’re in Samoa AGAIN or Nicaragua AGAIN. In the past four seasons, I think there has been only one reward of having interaction with the locals, and it was a feast. Other than that, there’s been zip. With Vanuatu, they divided the tribes based on the treatment of gender differences during the ceremony. They spent the first twenty minutes of the episode for the players to drink kava and watch a pig get killed! They wouldn’t shut up about Roy Mata, as it would conclude with the contestants being Shyamalan’d that they had been living across from Roy Mata’s grave the WHOLE time! Dun dun dunnnnnn. Or who can forget the native guy who came into camp while the Yasur tribe was fighting? I think every visit by a local to one of the tribe’s camps has always made for hilarious and awkward interactions in Survivor. Vanuatu did an excellent job of integrating the environment without being annoying about it or making it seem pointless.

6) Scout’s ability to perform in individual physical challenges. It was this odd sense of dark Survivor comedy in every running and swimming challenge. You would think the other contestants jumped the gun because of how quickly they’re ahead of Scout. Maybe Survivor suddenly changed to Diddy Kong Racing rules and let Scout play Diddy Kong as everyone got to be Wizpig and get a two second head start. At least Scout didn’t pull a Dan Lembo and actually did try to work around camp and gave it her all in challenges. She could probably write one of her Survivors Strike Back blogs before completing three laps of the episode twelve reward challenge.

7) Rory’s speech about Mia’s celebration.

8) Chris teaches us a lesson about how to avoid being first voted out after pulling a Ryan Aiken/Dan Lue performance in the first immunity, then following up with a tutorial about how important a social game in Survivor really is. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the majority or if you’re down 6-1, a social game will get you the win. Winning once out of four attempts does not make you the ultimate social player in Survivor. Chris mastered this technique within the first three days.

9) A satisfying Final Two, and a satisfying Final Four. Eliza, Twila, Chris, and Scout may be the most mismatched group to head into a finale of Survivor, but that doesn’t make them annoying or bad people at all. I was very happy to see them in the finale. This is the first season on the countdown where all four players in the end were all ‘good’.

10) “HEY CHRIS, I JUST GOT SWITCHED AND IT’S ME OR RORY IF WE LOSE BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALL THE POWER AND I’M TRYING TO GET THEM TO TRUST ME, BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT IF WE MERGE, WE STILL HAVE AN ALLIANCE, RIGHT? WHY AREN’T YOU SAYING ANYTHING???? I WAS ABLE TO CAST A MUFFLIATO SPELL ON EVERYONE ELSE SO THEY CAN’T HEAR US. OH, AND I JUST GOT A CALL FROM STEINBRENNER, I’M GETTING A JOB WITH THE NEW YORK YANKEES!”

11) “You have a leg up on us, Chad. Get it, because you’re handicapped and only have one leg? Because you lost a leg to a rare form of cancer and now you only have one. Gasp, your mouth just unhinged! You’re so shocked I’d be this offensive, eh?”

12) “Ami…the laugh.”

13) A nice leaf for Survivor to turn over after a bunch of over-the-top and arrogant personalities in All Stars. It feels like real people who aren’t just mugging it for camera time. A highway construction worker, a soon-to-be lawyer, a person who works seven days a week and multiple jobs with kids, and a lesbian cattle rancher on day 37 is about as real as a Survivor cast as you’re ever going to get.

Redemption Island Final Five: Dancer/cheerleader, model, model/actress, reality TV personality, and an actor/camera seeker.

Nicaragua Final Five: model/actor/singer, country singer, richest real estate agent ever, real estate agent, and congressman’s wife.

14) The tables flipping on day 30 is a prime example of how Survivor should be played. Believe it or not, in Survivor lore the round with seven players left is always pumped up to be the most important round of the game because it will almost always determine who the Final Four will be and is the last chance for players to choose their path for the end game. Past players on TV and in the ORG world have said there is always this unexplainable difference in the game once it gets down to seven in terms of paranoia and having the urge to be thinking much more about strategic moves. I believe it is essential for the round of seven to be a 3-day cycle and have its own episode because it is such an exciting part of the game and will typically be the climax for all alliance clashes for control. Especially on the show, where you need the three days to think clearly after living on the island for a freakin’ month.

Survivor Samoa: round of seven is reduced to two days and about twenty-five minutes on TV in episode 12.

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains: round of seven is reduced to one day and about twenty minutes on TV in episode 12.

Survivor: Redemption Island: round of seven is reduced to about thirty minutes (yes, even during filming!) and about five or six minutes on TV in episode 11.

So Vanuatu, I applaud you for making an excellent round of seven episode with a massive pay-off. Eliza’s and Ami’s exchanges at TC are great.

P.S. Did the producers really think “Islands of Fire” or “The Mayan Empire” from the Vanuatu and Guatemala titles would actually stick?

P.P.S. I would like to thank Mario Lanza for trying to promote Vanuatu’s image in the Survivor community. I completely missed out on some of those TC moments.

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.

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.

16)

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.

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.

**Note**

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.

8. Thailand (season 5) Rating: 7/10

They’re going to hate me for saying this, but this final four of Brian, Clay, Helen, and Jan was the least likable final four ever.” Jeff Probst ranking the seasons in 2005.

“Some things never change. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now, and you’ll notice nobody from this season was invited back for Heroes vs. Villains.” – Jeff Probst ranking the first 19 seasons in 2010.

I think the influence from Jeff Probst’s constant hatred for this season makes anybody who disliked this season at all to hate it even more, and then others who are on the fence about the season are pressured to say they didn’t like it by a domino effect. Now that we’re in the 7s, and ultimately the top eight seasons in terms of ranking, all of these seasons hold some major memories for me that aren’t just “my mom hates stepheME” or “my sister doesn’t care for the camera whores”. Prior to Thailand, whenever I taped an episode of Survivor, they were almost always taped over with the following episode. When Thailand aired, I told my parents that I wanted to archive all of the episodes for once. I would keep this up until near the end of Nicaragua when the VCR broke and I was busy with university and some poker nights at the Sports Bar. Over sixteen seasons is a pretty good run.  As you can probably figure out, since Thailand was the first season I archived, that is  also the season I’ve rewatched the most. The funniest thing about the Thailand tapes is that the only episode I missed was Erin’s boot episode. So over five years later, TV Tropolis was finally re-airing Survivor Thailand. I looked it up in the schedule when episode eight was going to air, had my mom tape it while I was at school and was looking forward to watch it all day. If you’ve seen the Erin episode,  you can imagine how hilarious it is that someone was excited and waited for over five years to get it on tape–maybe I intentionally taped over it after I saw it the first time when I was eleven. Wouldn’t be surprising. Anyways, enough of the anecdote. Let’s get on to the lists.

Issues I had with this season:

1) The h8erade being poured on this season by a huge percentage of Survivor fans. I always loved it, so it becomes an ongoing battle to try and defend the quality of this season. Not exactly the most fun thing to do.

2) A game our teacher made us play a few times to be dismissed a couple minutes early is used as a Survivor challenge. Thai 21 is about one step above Shuffleboard and Bowling in terms of being in the Survivor Challenge Pit of Lameness. It doesn’t translate to being terribly exciting on television. “If we take two we lose” is about as dramatic as the challenge ended up. Sorry production, but having players sit on benches except to casually stroll to grab one, two, or three flags shouldn’t be one of John Kirhoffer’s tasks to design.

3) Many of the challenges mid-to-late game aren’t physical at all as well. Counting fish, numerous puzzles, Thai 21, remember the numbers, and trivia crammed into one season hasn’t been the most thrilling of challenge rosters. There isn’t too many ’wow’ challenges in Thailand.

4) Sook Jai’s post-merge extinction is inevitable. Despite Jake leading a charge to try to shake things up, but screwing himself with some of his techniques in the process, makes for a clean sweep of Sook Jai.

5) Nobody takes up the offer of mutiny. Most fans probably don’t remember a mutiny was apart of Thailand. I’m sure for many that it only existed in the Cook Islands. If anyone in this season was a camera whore, I can guarantee you somebody would have mutinied. That’s a guarantee of an All-Star slot, which is a concept all but confirmed at this point in Survivor history. However, no real camera whores or risk takers existed in Thailand, so nobody mutinied. Luckily production was willing to try it out again in Cook Islands, and it resulted in some great entertainment. Most likely what they intended for to happen with its initial use in Thailand. Why didn’t you take it Shii Ann and Stephanie? Y’all were on the bottom of the totem pole. Should Jan have taken it? Who knows.

6) Erin’s boot episode. A very boring episode that was made of such fail. It started off with Soo Yee, and Helen’s recipes…but the recipe joke got a bit old after they were already bashing us over the head with it forty minutes later. The “us four are so close” boo-hoo fest was a bit much, too. We already have the loved ones episode for that. No need to mutate it and throw a new form of it into the episodes. The immunity challenge featured the worst endurance challenge of all-time. In fact, the challenge’s edit on television was longer than what took place during filming. If I recall, this is the only challenge in Survivor history to end up like that. You know what else? It’s the only challenge in the whole episode! Nine people left on the same beach with the boot from each tribe already known shouldn’t be limited to one challenge unless there’s some crazy events going on at camp. But other than the ’they piss in the cave’ and the aforementioned recipe bit, there’s no real conflict. I wonder if somebody who didn’t get into Survivor until the past few seasons would be able to get through this one. (If it weren’t for this episode, I would be ranking Thailand higher than eighth.)

7) The producers change the finale staple. Sure, I guess you can’t really consider it to be a staple when it’s only been the pattern for three out of four seasons, but I remember how outraged I was when they decided to go to a  Challenge Medley and a new endurance challenge instead of  Fallen Comrades and Hand Hard on Idol. I bet Brian doesn’t stand a chance at winning F4 immunity if it was Fallen Comrades like they’ve done every season up to Thailand. Clay or Helen would’ve won. But hey, the finale challenges aren’t even close to the worst final immunity challenges for a season of Survivor (I’m looking at you EI, Micronesia, Gabon, Nicaragua, and RI.)

8) Jan’s gameplay in the finale results in a not-so-thrilling finale. I remember from the reunion show where Jeff asks Jan why her and Helen didn’t team up on day 37 how Jan said it never came up but Helen quickly interjects saying she went to her but Jan didn’t want to do it. Jan really wasn’t fit for the endgame of Survivor, which makes for a simultaneously interesting and frustrating experience. Her forfeiting the final immunity is a prime example of that, too. In an endurance challenge on day 38 where winning gets you a million but losing gets you insta-voted out, you shouldn’t be in any condition to announce “I can’t” during the challenge. It should just be an epic slip of the coins falling into the pot. I think another reason why it was frustrating is because it seemed that Jan and Helen were too close to be voting for each other on day 37 and after the purple rock tiebreaker in Marquesas, everyone naturally assumed another tie would appear in Thailand. Who knew it would be six seasons after Marquesas for another F4 tie to take place. Speaking of which, we’ve now gone five seasons in a row without a F4 tie in present-day Survivor. And they know there ain’t no more purple rock. Guess new recruits really don’t like making fire.

Things I enjoyed about this season:

1) The cast. I know some people say it was the worst in the show’s history, but I was very pro-Chuay Gahn. To see them rally from being down 7-5 to being up 5-0 was neat to watch. Even Jake being apart of the last six in the game was good to see. Ted, Brian, Clay, Helen and Jan was a very likeable group of five for me.

2) Grindgate. Robb choking Clay. Sook Jai being beaten by a bunch of rules. Russell Hantz doesn’t need to have a foot in the attack zone when he first makes contact. Clay giving one of the best confessionals of all time that it’s even user Kimari’s quote on GameFAQs. The red berets being present for all of the conflict. Chuay Gahn earning their first immunity win. Robb’s alliance targeting early fan favourite Shii Ann is taken down at the end of the round. Episode three remains one of my favourite episodes of all time.

3) Mutiny option as opposed to a forced tribal switch. We’ve touched on this numerous times by now, but I love it when production leaves it in the hands of the contestants to embrace the twists or not. It seems much more fair that way.

4) First time production doesn’t divide the tribes themselves. They let the oldest man and the oldest woman take turns picking somebody to join their tribe (a.k.a. School Yard Pick.)  Whenever I’ve hosted a ORG Survivor, I never have the tribes pre-determined. Again, I love it when production lets the players choose their own destiny. The only format that I think could have been better is if production didn’t choose who got to pick the tribes from the start. “We’re going to have the oldest man and the oldest woman…oh wow, that’s you Jake and you Jan! Production totally didn’t know how old each contestant was prior to the game. Well isn’t that something, eh?!”

5) The intro theme song is the best of the whole series. It’s one of the most unique and by far my favourite. The other intros I typically skip and head right into the episode.

6) Penny going home right after she sells out Jake the same way that Shii Ann sold out Penny and the rest of Sook Jai at the fake merge.

7) The fake merge itself. This was the first season where Survivor altered the merging day. Typically, the merge should always take place halfway through day 20 to mark the literal halfway point of the game. So of course the first time Survivor messes with it, will be the best results ever seen. Perhaps Gabon would be the only season to match Thailand in terms of the whole “Gotcha!” effect by the producers. I just picture the producers being like Genie pretending to be Aladdin near the end of Return of Jafar or the first baseman who pulls the hidden ball trick from Rookie of the Year. However, the delayed and fake merge quickly loses its effect as starting with Pearl Islands the idea of not merging on the proper day would be long forgotten and become just as much of a twist as the fake merge was in Thailand. It is also the only fake merge that has both tribes live on the same beach, which hasn’t been repeated ever since. I enjoyed the awkwardness following an immunity win knowing the people you defeated are living in the same quarters or if you lose knowing how happy the people in the same living quarters must feel. An underrated dynamic, if you ask me. And now with early merges becoming the norm, attempting this concept wouldn’t be too difficult considering they can fully merge at ten nowadays anyway.

8) The final immunity challenge is one of the most brutal. Compared to the other non-Hand Hard on Idol final immunities, Thailand’s is easily one of the best.

9) The FTC was entertaining and had some suspense to it because I was rooting for Brian and realized that ‘holy crap, Clay could actually win this thing’. In true Survivor fashion, it came down to a 4-3 vote. Also recall that there wasn’t any ridiculous Adventures of Jeff Probst scene as they did with some of the earlier seasons. No parachuting or riding on the subways or ending up on an episode of 24.

10) Jon Raymond is one of the best first boots ever. The reaction to what he thought was a hilarious practical joke with the water source is classic Survivor.

11) Robbbb’s character arc coming full circle in just six episodes.

12) Seeing as how the Spelling Bee just aired on TV, I think the idea of a spelling bee champion failing at spelling ‘road’ to win a car is great comedy.

13) Great confession givers throughout the season.

14) Not a whole lot to complain about given how many twists were thrown into this season of Survivor.

15) Robbbb entering the game of Survivor on a skateboard and Probst trying to trick them that there would be a division by gender.

**Note**

Thailand and Redemption Island are almost identical. If any two seasons of Survivor can be compared as being the same, Thailand and RI would be it.

1. Purple tribe wins first two rounds.

2. Purple throws third round, but comes back to win fourth round.

3. Orange wins the rest of the challenges, and makes the purple tribe extinct after the merge.

4. The orange tribe has two strategists, two super loyal goats, and one person in between. The one strategist is first to go, the person who is in between is next to go, then the two goats go to the end. The strategist wins easily.

5. Challenges aren’t the greatest.

6. Thailand had the first ever delayed merge, while RI had the first ever rushed merge.

Why Thailand is Better Than RI Even Though They’re the Same:

1. Thailand didn’t waste a ton of time with strategy when it never really came into play. In RI, that’s all focused regardless of none essentially being present.

2. Challenges are even lamer in RI than they are in Thailand. The Thai challenges were inspired by the culture and history of the locale.

3. The goats in Thailand still had potential to beat Brian in Thailand. The goats in RI were so bad at the game of Survivor that they didn’t have a shred of ability to know how to handle jury questions. Rob never had a chance to lose the FTC.

4. The cast in Thailand was full of people who wanted to be there and all wanted to play. RI had a bunch of recruits where most of which hadn’t really seen the show and didn’t come off too likeable on-screen.

5. The winner for Thailand was playing for his first time. The winner for RI is one of the most recognized figures of reality television heading into the season, and was playing for his fourth time. When you’re rooting for the 4th time player in FTC, you know something is seriously wrong.

6. Thailand didn’t have a F3 or RI twist.

7. Thailand gave airtime to develop all of their characters in the season and made them all distinguishable with their own personalities. In RI, Rob had the highest ratio of airtime given to a player in the history of Survivor (yes that includes you Russell Hantz,) leaving the audience to assume the other people in RI had done nothing which we will never know if it was true or not. Also ensuring no other characters were developed outside of somebody who has had ten years of TV to build their own image and cement their placement in the minds of viewers.

That’s how you get to be one of the greater seasons of Survivor as opposed to being unwatchable television.

7. Borneo (season 1) Rating: 7.25/10

Think back to when this show first came on the air — and how we had never seen anything like it. The season may not quite hold up when watched next to some later ones, but nothing will ever be able to duplicate that sense of wonder and excitement…” Dalton Ross ranking the seasons with Borneo as #1

This spot will never be replaced. Like my first girlfriend, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It birthed the show, laid the foundation for how the game would be played for the next 10 years.” Jeff Probst ranking the seasons with Borneo as #1.

If you hate my anecdotes, stop reading this post now. There’s a lot of memories I feel like I have to share in regards to Borneo, and how I grew up with reality TV in general. I can almost guarantee you that this will bore you to death, but I haven’t written my overall initial Survivor memories before, so it’s more like I’m writing to myself than for the enjoyment of all you reading this. If you can get through this post without needing a cup of coffee in the process, I commend you. So if you get through this post and whine about how crappy it was, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ok then, moving on. . .

This is highly unorthodox, but I’m going to tell you the first thing I enjoy about Borneo:

1) Because it is the first season, virtually everyone who watched it as it aired could probably recall every major Survivor-related moment that occurred during and after Borneo until season 2 debuted. If a television show can make you reflect back to it and what was going on during that period in your life from time to time, then I say it’s done its job. So for the first time ever, I’ve typed out a written account of how I came into Survivor:

Once upon a time, Logan and his family moved from everything they had ever known in the summer of ’99. (It would have been sweet if it was a witness relocation program.) Logan didn’t know anyone, was a very quiet kid, and outside of showing off his electronic globe and a World Wizard gadget in the third grade, he didn’t really make too many close friends. As the third grade drew to a close, Logan was watching TV shortly before bedtime and tuned into the second episode of a show called Survivor. His siblings were out hanging with their new friends, playing sports, playing video games, or working during the summer, his dad worked most nights, and his mom keeping herself busy,  Logan watched much of these episodes by himself. Eventually, Logan spoke much about the show and his mom watched one of the episodes herself with Logan. In the following days, Logan’s mom would call her friends and relatives and boast about the new show that Logan was watching. An eight-year-old was the root of about 30-40 people getting hooked into watching reality television. Go me. Oops, there goes my third-person streak.

The season finale is probably one of the longest-lasting Survivor memories I have. Every summer up until grade 12, I would travel to my aunt’s in the Cascades. They had a wicked swimming pool and Game Show Network. Seriously, those are the only two activities I would do each time I was there with the exception of maybe attending a Mariners game. That year’s trip coincided with the week of the season finale. It was the last episode of Survivor that I watched away from home. I can still recall our viewing party where we ate gummy worms and wrote on a small slip of paper our “vote” for who was going to win with a Crayola crayon. I also remember how much we all wanted Rudy to win, and how disappointed at first we were when Richard won because Kelly was our back-up choice and we were convinced she would win at the end. I haven’t really publicly posted my original experience with Survivor too often, so it’s sort of funny to being forced to remember the fact that Richard was just a jerk instead of his current status of being a legend.

There’s one other memory that I have while Borneo was airing (or back then, Survivor. Not even Survivor 1. Just Survivor.) There was only one occasion I hung out with somebody during the third grade. But my parents never kept their number and they didn’t live anywhere close, so I essentially didn’t have any friends during the summer. My mother, however, recently connected with a family friend from her childhood who lived in the same town.  She had a son who was in the same grade as me, but a year older. I can’t go into much detail about him because it would be mean and non-Survivor related, and the fact this is going to be published on the Internet and my blog for the world to see (yes, I’ve been archiving these rankings in a blog.) Let’s call her son ‘Daryl,’ because that’s the name Charlie Murphy made up for his friend in the extra Charlie Murphy Stories on the Chappelle’s Show DVD. I love the Charlie Murphy stories. Anyways, back to the story at hand:

My mother brought me over to her friend’s to play with Daryl. She never knew Daryl too well yet, so she had no idea that games with Daryl were a baaaaad idea. We were deciding what we wanted to do.  How about that show my mom told his mom about? Yeah, we both have been watching it. So let’s play Survivor! I believe we started out with each being in control of a tribe. Eventually, when it came to Tribal Council and losing some of his members, Daryl decided to create a new rule that some of his characters get to have the right to cast two votes at Tribal Council. Initially, my numbers advantage still trumped him with how he split his own votes so he was about to lose a person regardless. He then came up with a new rule that they could have however many votes he wanted. He added on additional votes like the King from the Robin Hood cartoon added on additional taxes spontaneously. Somehow, his alliance was able to cause a major upset but the game never finished because he wanted to play something else right before his claim to victory. On the drive home, my mom told me that Daryl’s parents let him win at games, so she warned me all games with Daryl would likely end like they did with Survivor.

After the Survivor experience, I vowed to never hang out with Daryl again. Only my parents were truly connected to Daryl’s family, so at least one of my siblings could babysit me. But then one of my siblings decided to date Daryl’s older sister, making our families ridiculously intertwined. I would look forward to much dread each time I hung out with Daryl having the Survivor experience fresh in my mind, and it wouldn’t be until my brother and his sister broke up for good that I was no longer obligated to hang out with Daryl. The last time I was with him was about four years ago when I destroyed him and his friend at poker. Nothing changed from the Survivor days as whenever I won a hand, him and his friend would see what my cards were regardless if I mucked or not. They accused me of being a liar whenever I bluffed them, and once I won, they immediately went to a different room leaving me with the duty of cleaning up their own poker set at his own house…right in front of his mother. Then they came back and wished to play their own version of Michigan Rummy where they lied about the rules and tried to confuse me, but I figured the game out on my own and still beat them anyway. That event always comes to my mind after I recall the Survivor experience. Isn’t that the rule of first and last in Psychology?

Following Survivor’s airing, my parents bought the Survivor board game for me that Christmas. Yes, a nine-year-old’s most prized gift for Christmas is the Survivor freakin’ board game. December 25th, 2000 would be the first time I ever played Survivor without the aid of fictional characters or Daryl. I have a huge number of people in my extended family, and I think we had around 10-15 people for Christmas crammed in my parent’s house that year. And when you have around six or seven of them be in the range of ages nine to twenty, and one of the other families being extraordinarily rich, and even more company dropping in and out, you have so much gifts and crap and sleeping bags and food and plates and cups taking up the entire house. I don’t know how we cleared enough space for a board game in the living room, but we did. You can see how unprofessional and unequipped this area was for a game of Survivor. I remember being in charge of the rules and how much I thought it was lame that maximum amount of players was eight, and how even more ridiculous it was that the jury had to unanimously agree on a winner. Nobody else had a problem with it, but I did. I was already showing signs of a Survivor purist by the age of nine. Truly remarkable. I tried to change the rules but that didn’t fly.

In our first game, I remember the wonder of collecting supplies and doing these neat little questions and games. I can’t recall if I was on Tagi or Pagong, but I know that I REALLY wanted to be part of the Pagong tribe. It’s not like these tribes mattered anyway because the Survivor board game had you collect supplies for a certain amount of time, then you divide the supplies evenly and it becomes an individual game. Nobody gets eliminated in the tribal stage. I can remember one of my cousins doing the math of handing out the supplies, and hoping how much he would screw up in my favour. For those of you not familiar with the board game, there is a category of questions where you answer one of the three options yourself, then everyone else tries to match you to roll ahead to claim immunity. I ended up being unfortunate enough to be asked ‘what kind of woman are you attracted to’ question. None of the three options really suited me, and I remember picking ‘funny’ as the option. For a nine year old in front of a group of teens and adults, that’s not the most appealing question to answer publicly. Now whenever somebody asks me that at a family event (which I never go to anymore), I simply go with the response that will make the highest number of people uncomfortable. Sorry, I’m getting off track, aren’t I?

When we broke off into the individual stage, I was super excited. I had been looking forward to this all of Christmas Day. Win every immunity. Get to the end. Win. But of course, that doesn’t happen. I was completely blindsided…and finish sixth out of eight people. See, that’s the contrast between families like mine and families like Daryl. His isn’t competitive at all so why not just let the nine year old son win most of the time. On the flipside, you have a family like mine that’s so dang competitive that you have to fend for yourself by the age of six or seven if you want the crown. I suffered my first Survivor blindside at the age of nine. I didn’t cry. But it sucked. I stayed to watch the rest of the game and everyone on the jury asked me who I wanted to win, and that’s the person who was declared the winner. So I guess I still got my way, in that sense. I know that the youngest of my older siblings was first voted out, and that my aunt’s 15-year-old grandson was the winner. I can guarantee you if  I asked him about winning Survivor, he’ll have no idea what in the hell I’m talking about. Not a chance. He’ll say something about if it was that game we played at his grandma’s a while ago, and then I’ll correct him and say “No, that was The Mole.” and then he’ll shrug, smoke up a cigar, get into his souped-up truck, and storm downtown to soak up the Cascades nightlife. I don’t think he has watched more than maybe about an hour of Survivor , and that would have been nearly eleven years ago.

So after the first game concluded, I asked everyone if we could play again in the morning on Boxing Day (a Canadian holiday the day after Christmas). They said ’yes,’ and now I was more determined than ever to make up for how badly I performed the previous day. So we play in the morning before some of them had to depart for the long trip home. I ask if we can change the rules so we can each vote individually on the jury instead of unanimous, but yet again, my request was shot down. My tribe gained more supplies than the one I was on in the previous night, so things were looking up. We head into the individual stage. The previous champion is the first one voted out. Another person is voted out. And another. . .Then me. I finished 5th. I would have the worst overall average of anyone who played. At the end, the person who was voted out first in the previous night’s game is the person who was declared the winner in the morning game. Seems fair, doesn’t it? But I digress. . .

Since that Christmas, the Survivor board game would still get some use, but not for long. My soon-to-be best friend got hooked into reality TV also, and we would use beanie babies to fill out our 16-person cast. Not long after though, we stopped playing Survivor and started to grow apart until he moved away right around when All Stars aired. I haven’t opened the Survivor board game box since, and the only times I even touch it is if I am re-organizing my closet. It always ends up on the very bottom of the stack. Even Loopin’ Louie and Gooey Looey are used more frequently. Exactly two years ago, right before my high school graduation,  I chose to give away over a dozen board games out of our two dozen board game collection. As you’ve probably figured out, I still kept Survivor even though I haven’t opened the dang thing since fifth or sixth grade, and it will likely be collecting dust for another ten years unless a Survivor freak comes into my life and asks to see its contents. It’s more of a trophy of my Survivor fandom, if anything.

Who knew the Survivor board game would lead to 4 real life family Mole games, 2 family Mole ORGs, 1 Survivor ORG, 1 Amazing Race ORG, ten years worth of Survivor conversations, 1 classroom Survivor, a Survivor musical in elementary school,  and many many ORGs that I’ve participated in myself.

So now I’ll hand out a camcorder, and you will all head into the jungle to find five masks, each with a question on the back of them. You will videotape yourself answering the questions, then race back here where you have to wait several minutes for me to review the footage, essentially zapping out all suspense for television. HAW HAW HAW.

For more memories of watching season one, please read Mario Lanza’s 20 million pages of Experiences With Survivor. These are the only paragraphs I’m devoting to the airing of the first season. Sorry. And sorry if you actually took the time to read through all of this.

Part II:

Now that the boring crap is over, here are the issues I had with Borneo:

1) That long intro. During the first season, I know the explanation about the game was necessary, but after 11 years and going back to watch Borneo, you have to skip well over three minutes before the episode even starts.

2) B.B. was annoying. Whoops, I didn’t mean to insult the dead. 😥

3) Some of the challenges are uber lame. Everyone sharing the same tiny balance beam would be blasphemous today, or the Blair Witch challenge where the answers you gave were completely subjective, or the 3-part balance challenge with the infamous ‘no touch’ and ‘you gotta stay up’ rules. There was also the ‘don’t duplicate an item’ challenge that seemed to end way too early for how cool it looked.

4) Jenna Lewis missing her tape was memorable enough for her to be on All-Stars. If only the mail was delivered on time. Sigh.

5) The rewards were lame. (Eat this melted chocolate! Here’s a slice of pizza and a five-minute phone call home! You won immunity, so you get to have Dr. Scholls! Here’s a bud light and a plate of spaghetti!) It wouldn’t be until season 22 where the rewards became exceedingly awful.

6) Their living conditions seemed much easier than most seasons of Survivor. Again, season 22 is probably one of the few that would go on to trump this.

7) I was a huge fan of Pagong and seeing them get, well…..Pagonged, wasn’t the greatest thing to watch for six episodes in a row (I’m including Joel going home in episode 6 considering he was Pagong too)

8) The lack of strategic savvy by a huge percentage of the cast has a very frustrating side to it. None of these players read John Nash’s guide to non-cooperative gameplay, so there’s nobody there to shake Kelly and say ‘you’re a fluctuator Kelly! That’s why Rich, Rudy, and Sue will always be in control! Choose a side permanently and the game will reset!” Or the alphabet strategy where The Alliance piggybacks Sean’s announced vote, and Sean chooses to abandon it right when he would’ve been forced to vote a former Tagi member out of the game. The game was in Richard’s hands all along.

9) Kelly won immunity for a premature Colleen exit on day 33.

10) At the time, Richard winning against Kelly was a disappointing ending. Now it’s one of the most memorable victories in eleven years of reality television. Hatch is now a legend thanks to his victory, and may have been why Survivor has stayed successful for so long.

11) Joel talked too much at the reunion.

Reasons why I liked this season:

1) It’s the original. For people like Dalton Ross and Jeff Probst, this reason alone is enough to put it at the top. I say that’s a cop out for putting the effort into ranking it. Sure, it’s a major positive for liking this season, but nowhere near enough to have it be entitled to the number one position out of twenty-two on the countdown. For quite some time, this was probably the most memorable cast. But with eleven years passed and Hatch being the only one in the spotlight in the seven years since All Stars, many of the names have since faded. Unless you own a copy of Etre the Cow, of course.

2) Family Guy making fun of BB, and my futile impersonations of BB’s voice. Whoops, I didn’t mean to make fun of the dead. 😥

3) Jeff Probst got in the water. Jeff Probst hung out with the players on the rewards. Jeff Probst got mud on his hands. Jeff Probst also didn’t comment on everything everybody did in the challenges. He merely explained the process, and asked questions and listened to what the players were saying. He was much more innocent, and what’s the word I’m looking for –oh, he was a HOST! Not the 17th/19th/21st contestant that tried to influence the game. If there was one complaint I hear the most from family and casual fans around me, it’s that Jeff Probst is getting too annoying in present-day Survivor. The people on the opposite side of that argument say ‘nobody does more as a host than Jeff Probst,’ which is true, but a host that is too involved in the game can’t really be considered a host in the first place. A TV host doesn’t tell Fabio, Dan, and Jane to make an alliance of three and cause a tie to help make the game more interesting from a strategic perspective. If you look at Phil Keoghan, the only time I saw him step out from being a host was when he tried to keep his composure after The Push incident. And Phil has been doing his show for eighteen seasons! Jeff, you need to back off a little bit. You were so much better back in Borneo.

4) The strategic game was talked about way more than Australia, and just as much as any of the other earlier seasons. It was a pleasant surprise to find the editing had a really good balance. It’s not Australia where they’re hiking to TC and you wonder what the heck is going on.

5) The conch shell. Not only do they have to ring that stupid bell as they walk in, but one of the Tribal Councils had a freakin’ conch shell! Production was trying really hard to find out what works for a TC format, and I guess they figured that the conch shell wasn’t it. People find it ridiculous, but it’s that very ridiculousness that makes it such a gem in the Survivor universe.

6) The game was symmetrical. For it to be the first season, of course the format is in its purest form. Six Tribal Councils in the first 18 days. A merge halfway through day 20 to mark the literal halfway point of the game. Six Tribal Councils in the next 18 days. A Final Four with three days to go, results in the two speed rounds, then exactly half of the eliminated contestants come out to simultaneously vote out the 15th person from the game and declare the sole survivor. Such an awesome format.

7) On one side some of the challenges and rewards are lame, but on the other its failures are such a neat thing to watch. They didn’t affect the structure of the game so the harmless mistakes can be viewed as adorable and lame at the same time. I can only imagine if they revived this in the next All-Star…

JEFF PROBST: 28 days you’ve been out here in Survivor 24, and we thought you’d like what we have to offer…

MATT: C’monnnn bible!

JEFF PROBST: It’s a chocolate bar! (smiles)

SANDRA (confessional): And I was like ‘oh s—’

NA ONKA: What the f—! A chocolate bar, Jeff! That’s it, I QUIT!

DREAMZ: Didn’t I just go on a shaquilo about how much I need a car, Yau-Man?

YAU-MAN: Did you know you can construct a car from 95% recycled material? Science!

CINDY: I already have a car. I can look through the sun roof of my new car at your new car.

JEFF PROBST: No, just a chocolate bar. It’s a Mars bar. Peanut free. First one to bring back the tiles one through ten and put them in order gets this chocolate bar. I admit it’s been sitting in the front dash of MY car all day, so it’s probably melted, but hey, I know it’s worth playing for.

ANDREA: I love chocolate! ^_^

JEFF’S NIECE: Me wantee chocolate tooth, uncie Jeff!

Okay, that’s enough.

8) Rudy. If a self-proclaimed huge fan of Survivor talks to you and doesn’t claim to remember Rudy, or think he’s just an idiot, please bash them over the head for me. Rudy should’ve replaced Jimmy Johnson for the gimmick slot on the Espada tribe. It would have been so much more entertaining. And Rudy would’ve been on the only season to not feature any physical battling challenges so he wouldn’t be sent flying by James in the sumo battle of Heroes vs. Villains, or die in Schmergen Brawl.

9) Greg is hilarious for a first season of Survivor. If he was on Survivor after season four, he would be forever marked as a complete fool for thinking that alliances should be avoided and something that we should refuse to take part in. As soon as 2002 rolls around, alliances and strategic mastery as opposed to being strong in challenges, likeable, and good at camp would change to being the dominant valued traits in TV Survivor as well as Survivor in the ORG world.

10) The Alliance is a much less laughable alliance name than The Core Four, Foa Foa Foursome (didn’t Heidik and Ozzy star in that?), and Stealth R Us. Nobody cared about alliance names back then.

11) The Alliance is very telling of how Survivor was originally viewed. This would be the first push for a trend that would forever be part of Survivor’s main source of gameplay.

12) The adventures of the Superpole 2000.

13) “What fun are alliances when everyone is scheduled to go several weeks in advance…” oh how naïve they were back then. Always cracks me up whenever they talk about alliances as if they’re stable and constant entities.

14) “Jeff asks ‘Hey Sue, is there an alliance?’ Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat a question!”

Not much else to say about the first season. Very little to complain about and not an extraordinary number of things to praise about it. No twists to debate. No twists to praise. Just an extremely solid season of Survivor that has a format which will never disappoint if you used it in every single season. Now we’re stuck with Redemption Island. Boo

6. Marquesas (season 4) Rating: 7.5/10

I’m surprised how much I’ve liked this season over the past couple years. I assumed that by its boot order from day 24 up until purple rock, that it would be a boring stretch of episodes to go back and re-visit. I was wrong. Compared to other seasons that seem to have an extremely predictable boot order on paper, Marquesas still has a decent enough entertainment value.

I know production virtually ignores this season with the exception of Boston Rob and calls it a ‘snoozer’ by the end and the annoying no-no sandflies, but hey, the viewers didn’t have to experience them. We were only privy to one scene that mentioned the no-nos, otherwise it felt like just any other beach and water-heavy season of Survivor. So my apologies to Probst if ranking Marquesas sixth instead of twenty-first doesn’t make me a real Survivor fan, but this is my countdown. I loved Marquesas.

Issues I had with the season:

1) Maraamu is winless after three rounds…THEN THERE’S A FREAKIN SWITCH! I wanted to see history, dammit! Sadly, we’ve never seen a winless tribe in Survivor history. Sure there’s Ulong and Ravu that never won immunity, but even they pulled out reward victories (Ulong 3 and Ravu 1).

2) The Maraamu tribe made a ridiculous move to eliminate Hunter in the third round but are magically saved by a switchup the next day. The switch prevents any accountability for this action.

3) The overemphasis of religious talk is annoying throughout the season. Sometimes I quickly fast forward through these little confessionals in these sections on a re-watch.

4) The race card popping up multiple times throughout the season really grinds my gears at times.

5) The relationship between Paschal and Neleh makes you just wanna shake them Jeff Varner style, you know? It started out adorable, but then it gets progressively more annoying the further along you get into the show, and at times you feel like they have a sense of entitlement to being in the end over the Rotu 4 alliance. Entitlement from an underdog alliance doesn’t exactly make them the best people to get behind. A re-watch of Marquesas now makes the relationship much more inappropriate considering Paschal English’s recent tabloid scandal.

6) Gina’s exit on day 18. It’s still a sad episode to watch. The funny thing is that a few years later I would play in an ORG that played out almost identically to Marquesas where the post-switch popular and active tribe rallied back after losing so many times against the inactive and controversial tribe, only to be forced to TC right before merge to let some of the extremely inactive players to be on the jury. So I’ve been there, in a way. After Maraamu was on such a roll, seeing them suddenly lose a crucial immunity made you want nobody to go home and hope Jeff changes the rules. Or maybe if they just keep Gina, but Kathy can go. Unfortunately, worst case scenario and Gina goes home. I still remember in the fifth grade when my family and fellow students were pissed off after that episode aired. Oh well. Survivor moves on.

7) By day 38 Kathy was built up to be a juggernaut player in the Survivor universe, and it was virtually impossible to not see anyone be rooting for her. Then with a combination of Neleh tricking Kathy at 4 hours and 30 minutes into a challenge, then Vercepia makes a deal ten seconds later to save her butt and win the season, a Kathy exit was borderline blasphemous. However, as time passes, Vercepia’s brilliance is a decent counter to Kathy’s colossal fall.

8) Some of the General’s confessionals came off a bit too harsh and wasn’t exactly too likeable at times.

9) What applies to Rob the General can be applied to Rob the Construction Worker.

10) Once upon a time about two or three years ago, I had compiled so many VHS tapes between 10-14 seasons of Survivor, 12 seasons of TAR, a couple seasons of The Mole, a couple seasons of Simpsons and Family Guy, 5 or 6 seasons of 24, and numerous TV specials my mom taped on top of that. I had a few weekend’s project where I went through the task of going through the tapes and properly labeling them all because many random episodes of Survivor or TAR would end up on another tape if I either ran out of room on my tape and there wasn’t enough time to send my dad out to buy me a new pack or if I couldn’t find it fast enough before the show starts. At one point I got frustrated that this was happening so many times so I finally went through every tape and labeled it. During this process, I discovered the Marquesas finale that I had never seen since its initial airing many many years before that. So I threw in the Marquesas finale and found it wasn’t the greatest other than the two challenges and the purple rock TC. It just wasn’t thrilling for me. I happened to find the Amazon finale on its own tape during this project, too.

11) What a horrible reunion show. No insight was given or for a season that was heavy in strategy, none of it was discussed.

12) I’m trying to find other things to complain about, but I can’t.

Things to enjoy about this season:

1) Despite Paschal and Neleh’s relationship being odd, at least it’s not as odd as if say, Paschal had that same type of relationship with Natalie T, or if say, he voted for her as the most attractive survivor in a 39 Day Survivor Challenge where anyone who is over twice her age gets a visit from Chris Hansen. Don’t worry Ian, Brian, and Daymond, I won’t report you guys to Chris Hansen.

I’ll leave that to the admins.

2) The religion stuff is annoying, but remember this exchange:

JEFF: Alright, it’s down to Neleh and Vecepia. Next person to hit the other person’s target and cover their tiki with sand, wins immunity and a guaranteed spot in the Final Five. Survivors ready. . . Aim. . .

VECEPIA: Dear God, please give me the strength

NELEH: Oh my heck, god of the land of Mormonio, if I could get new hair extensions and a sweeet new pony to add to my barnyard doll collection, I’ll be happy. Oh, can you say hi to mommy and daddy, and tell them Pappy is taking good care of me? X O X O

NE-NE

PS. Did you know I was named after my mom, but the name is spelled backwards? Yep, my mom’s name is Helen. Isn’t that soooo cool? She got the idea from her Spanish friend Ramon Garciapaara. I think he was our butler at our ranch for a few years. His son had ODC or OCD. I alwaaaaaaays mix up the letters. K, thx bai 😉

JEFF (thinking this challenge is a snoozer): Okay guys, you can hit your targets now.

(NELEH misses, but VECEPIA hits her target.)

VECEPIA: Thank you Jeeesus! Thank you Jesus! Praise Jesus–

LOGAN’S MOM: Okay, you can stop talking about Jesus. You won your immunity. Good job. Just stop talking about Jesus, Vercepia.

LOGAN: It’s Vecepia.

LOGAN’S MOM: Really? Isn’t it Vercepia?

JEFF: Vercepia wins immunity!

LOGAN: Oh, guess it is Vercepia.

(JEFF attempts to put the immunity talisman around VECEPIA`s, er I mean, VERCEPIA`s neck.)

VERCEPIA: Praise Jesus! Thank you God! Thank you Jesus!

JEFF (trying to dodge VERCEPIA’s fist pumps): Here is immunity Vercepia, if–you–just–hold–still–for–a–second–

VERCEPIA: Thank you Jesus!!!!!! Thank you!

JEFF: IF YOU DON’T STOP MOVING WE WILL NEVER INVITE YOU BACK FOR AN ALL-STAR, AND WE’LL DECLARE THIS SEASON A SNOOZER WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THAT CONSTRUCTION WORKER FROM MASSACHUSETTS!

VERCEPIA (slo-mo): Thaaaaank yooooooou Jeeeeeeeeeeeesuuuuuuuuuuussssss.

(cut to JEFF frowning, his nose wrinkling, frustratingly leaves the talisman loose around VERCEPIA’s neck, and walks away with his tail tucked in between in his legs. The remaining contestants assume that VERCEPIA is safe, and that for one of the five of them, the game will end tonight. They also assume they can head back to camp and JEFF will see them at Tribal.)

**Note**

Yes, my mom still calls Vecepia as ‘Vercepia’ today. I’ve tried hard to correct it each time I’ve heard this mispronunciation, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s going to stick forever considering nine years has passed. My parents tend to mispronounce Parvati as ’Poverty’, too. Another funny little thing is that from Amazon through Heroes vs. Villains, my dad and I made predictions for who would win immunity and who would be booted each round in the finale episode, along with who will ultimately win and by what vote. The first time we did that in Amazon, I was confused when my dad put an ‘A’ above somebody’s name. I asked him about it and he seemed mildly annoyed that I couldn’t figure out that the ‘A’ was short-hand notation for ‘Amunity.’  He, in turn, asked what my ‘I’ meant on my paper. Sadly, even when we got to Heroes vs. Villains I would still see the ‘A’ on his piece of paper, and at that point I ask him what it means for my own little cruel inside joke. Of course, spelling isn’t my parents’ strongest suit. They grew up with the three R’s of Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic.  Some old people never change. Wait, I mean ALL old people never change.

3) Even though they switched, Jeff said that the twist to switch up the tribes after three rounds was decided long before the survivors were flown in for the game. Contrary to the past several years of Survivor where they can change to a Final 2 with only a week left in the game or decide to hide an idol in Russell’s shoe.

4) This season could be argued to have the ‘realest’ cast ever assembled in the show’s history. Just take a look at their occupations and the towns they’re from. Nobody had a semi-hidden mactor career that the more hardcore fans could dig up prior to the show’s airing. A limousine driver, a fishing captain, somebody who used to live in a Commune, a crime reporter, a seventh grade teacher from Harlem, and some of the most obscure hometown origins ever in the show? Add to the fact that Boston Rob and Kathy have been the only two ever invited back, and Sarah’s “modeling” career was short-lived. Definitely a big plus and makes a re-watch refreshing in a time where we’ve been plagued with California mactors.

5) Remember when the S.O.S. challenge used to be a Survivor staple? I love that Marquesas made the reward challenge prior to the S.O.S. immunity to be for a camp raid. It would essentially turn the reward into the first part of a two-part immunity challenge, and would make the winner of a subjective challenge much more obvious because whoever was raiding would have an enormous advantage. It’s great they didn’t let the subjectivity come into play. It seems that although this challenge embodies the survival aspect which Survivor has long forgotten, the producers realized subjective challenges don’t belong on Survivor and would be too controversial. So they use it for tradition’s sake in All Stars, and then its farewell in Palau.

6) One of the best challenge catalogues of any season. For a water-heavy season, the challenges they had on land were all great too. This wasn’t Cook Islands where it was swim out then retrieve puzzle pieces then solve it. Each of these challenges were quite unique, and several of them were used in All Stars. You can’t go wrong with Hands Hard on Idol. Sadly, by season four it was already on the brink of retirement. We would see one last appearance in All Stars, then it would be retired. Such a shame.

7) After Sarah goes, Maraamu becomes one of the most freakin’ easy to root for tribes in Survivor history. They’re down 8-4, then Rotu crumbles for three challenges in a row. I don’t think I’ve cheered for a tribe as much as I did with Maraamu.

8) Sean and Kathy are easily two of the most complex characters in Survivor history. Sure, this season is filled with them, but Sean and Kathy are at the peak of the list. You start off screaming at your television for them to be kicked off, then you like them, then you hate them again, then you’re sad to see them go. That’s the definition of the types of characters you crave to be on Survivor. It indicates that these are real people.

9) The kite flying challenge that

10) Jeff Probst’s VISA bill after Paschal gives the waiter a two hundred dollar tip for a three hundred dollar meal. Months after Marquesas, I picture Probst looking at the bill in his home then looking up at the camera with a McCaulay Culkin expression on his face.

11) Sean and Paschal on a reward together. That pairing is epic. They’re unbelievably different.

12) The Rise and Fall of John Carroll. I feel bad because in hindsight John is a likeable person on the show, but you have to admit, the first successful Survivor coup d’etat is satisfying to see. We didn’t have Brandon Quintin there to screw it up this time.

13) The radio show and the rapping segments are simultaneously cringe-worthy and a little bit funny. Marquesas at its core.

14) I know I had more of a fun time with this write-up than I usually do but that’s because overall Marquesas is a fun season to go along with that.  Look at the reunion show. It’s hosted by freakin’ Rosie O’ Donnell. By today’s standards, is the Marquesas reunion show the worst one ever second to only Nicaragua? Yes. That’s because Rosie never asked any intriguing or philosophical questions, who voted for who, and instead chose a different route by going over the season’s highlight reel and forcing the survivors to eat a gummy worm to own a new car. You can’t tell me that’s not fun if you’re the group of sixteen. Sucks as a viewer, but fun for them.

Oh, and remember the interview Kathy did with Rob Has a Podcast? She said everybody from the cast gathered for a BBQ last year. Do you know how ridiculous of an idea this would seem to the casts of recent seasons? Or even some of the earlier ones? No way that happens. In fact, there are only two other seasons who I think would do that, and being contractually obligated by CBS with them paying for your airfare and hotel DOESN’T count. So not only does a cast reunite completely on their own accord just to have a fun time, but if you listened to that interview, you know what makes the story even better? Nobody could contact Zoe. Nobody could find her. The editing department and the viewers had the same problems when Marquesas was airing, so they shouldn’t feel too bad about it. The best thing to that story? Zoe was in town the whole time! That’s the cheesy Marquesas-like humour at its finest.

**One last note**

My best friend who was into reality shows as much as I was at the time didn’t get to see the Marquesas finale at the time. So beforehand I promised I’d tape it for him and I’d let him borrow the tape at school on Monday. On Monday morning, standard procedure is that the class lines up outside of the door until the teacher comes to unlock it. While we were lined up, guess what happened?

Yep, within about thirty seconds somebody announced who won and spoiled it for my best friend. He was PISSED. A ten year old was having his first experience with a spoiler. I still remember his reaction to this day. He borrowed the tape regardless, and considering I have it in my possession today, he must’ve watched it.

PS. I tried to get him into the world of ORGs that same summer. However, he was in so many extra curricular activities that my efforts were futile. What makes this seem so long ago is that he hasn’t watched Survivor in probably six or seven years.

Anyways, that does it for this entry. We’re in the top five now. I’m sure you think it’s the oddest top five you’ve seen in anyone’s countdown, but hey, I really enjoyed those five seasons.

5. Fiji (season 14) Rating: 8.0/10

If I had to pinpoint one season that got me interested in being apart of Survivor forums, it’s Fiji. I had already looked up articles about Survivor, but this is the one that motivated me to post on various message boards. Yes, I know how many people absolutely hate this season. I also know another major Survivor figure who claimed that for him, Fiji is the least memorable season of all-time, and that Survivor seasons become more memorable the further you move in either direction in the chronology. If I had to guess what made people hate the season it’d be the following:

Haves vs. Have-nots twist

Nineteen recruits and one applicant

The unmerge that ousted online fan favourite Michelle Yi from the game

Earl’s victory likely being obvious from the start

Lack of women in the second half of the season

Does that sound accurate for the online hate for it? The funniest thing about this is how much my dad and my uncle love this season. They’re completely unaware that anybody would hate it. My dad, who has the worst memory on the planet, can’t even recall 90% of contestant names despite seeing every episode of Survivor and always talking about it. He mixes up players with seasons interchangeably, and good luck if he even remembers a tribe name. In fact, I’d probably hail before him if he recalls a contestant name that was eliminated before day 36, and half of those he wouldn’t know.

But for Fiji? A couple months ago, he casually referenced the season and was able to name every player up until ANTHONY during the discussion. It wasn’t even a game of ‘name the boot order,’ he just talked about Fiji with my uncle and he got up to freakin’ Anthony. My jaw pretty much dropped. There is no way I can rank Fiji too low after my dad puts on a display like that.

One last note before we get into the lists: Borneo is the only season where I watched the finale outside of my parent’s house. Fiji, however, is the only other one that’s clear in my memory and stands alone. My sister made nachos for dinner, my brother’s girlfriend at the time was there for the first hour, my dad flipped out when Yau-Man was ousted, and we all laughed at Dreamz frustrating Jeff Probst at the reunion. There is one other note about the finale, but I’m saving that for the list. Also, none of the other Survivor finales I couldn’t even tell you what I ate or who all watched it with me. For some reason, Fiji sticks out quite clearly.

Things I hated about this season:

1) It’s a Final Three. For that alone I will never let it get higher than five. I was thinking maybe having this season rank three or four, but the fact it’s a Final Three irked me enough to drop its rating.

2) Enough twists for it to be an all-star. Almost every round had a game-changing twist for the first ten episodes. The year of Cook Islands and Fiji sure piled on the twists.

3) NINETEEN recruits. The only applicant ends up being med-evac’d before he even casts his first vote of the game. Sorry Papa Smurf. I’m sure you would’ve done really well in the game. More applicants would’ve been nice to see. Note how the recruit was the one to quit, but the applicant was the one who had to be med-evac’d.

4) Was the haves vs. have-nots twist really necessary? It was a one-time twist and I didn’t have a problem with it (which I’ll get to shortly), but why even risk to do something like that  in season fourteen of a franchise? Just wondering.

5) The haves were given a bit too much. I’m sure they didn’t need beds or cutlery.

6) Liliana, Gary, Stacey…who are you guys anyway?

7) Cassandra = Not the most exciting personality cast in the history of the show.

8) They put in a memory challenge fourteen days into a game where one tribe has been extremely healthy and one tribe is hallucinating half the time. As close as it was, the memory challenge needed to be much earlier on for it to be remotely fair.

9) A bit predictable who would be victorious on day 39. Just a wee bit of suspense might’ve improved it.

10) The challenge roster wasn’t a ‘wow’ factor, but it didn’t make you disappointed in it either.

11) For anyone who lived in western Canada, you are likely waiting for me to mention the following. Right after Dreamz wins final immunity, the whole game comes down to whether Dreamz lets Yau-Man have the necklace and win the mil, or if it comes down to a tiebreaker between Yau and Cassandra. So we get to see the strategy after immunity, and then it cuts to commercial. One minute. Two minutes. Three minutes. Four minutes. Five minutes. After having experienced the season 5 premiere of 24 where we lost the lost five minutes because of a seven minute commercial, I knew exactly what was coming. I announced to my family that we wouldn’t be seeing the tribal council, but everyone flat out disagreed with me. ‘Oh no, they wouldn’t do that, they’ll show it’ I kept hearing. I sighed, and waited for the evidence to present itself. After a nine minute set of commercials, the finale comes back to everyone back at camp.

I still remember that little game of ‘who got kicked out’ and how shocked we were to find out Dreamz kept immunity and that the blasphemous action of Yau-Man’s ouster occurred. Especially when we found out Earl helped vote him out. My dad would be grumpy for the next two days as a result. He scowled to every little remark for the rest of the episode. Screw you Canwest for editing out the Tribal Council.

12) I can’t find anything else to complain about this season.

Things I love about Fiji:

1) Melissa McNulty quit. If she didn’t quit, we would be stuck with another pointless division by race where we’d see the tribes combine into two after a couple episodes anyway.

2) Nineteen contestants to start out. Fiji is the ONLY season to feature an odd number of players to start out. Even if it wasn’t intentional.

3) No double boot episodes. The first time this has occurred in a 16+ person season since All Stars.

4) The challenges didn’t have any jokes in it. All seemed fair and reasonable. That maze on day 37 was absolutely amazing.

5) The Misadvenutres of Kenward ‘Boo’ Bernis. He is the one-eyed, one-legged, one-armed, ACL tearing thicket-hiding freak of nature.

6) Haves vs. Have-nots would’ve been better ending at the switch. Cassandra, Stacey, and Boo being able to live in luxury for 22 days is no longer an intriguing twist, but rather just them on vacation.

7) The twist that the one person who  helped the most around camp for the first three days ends up dividing the tribes rather than production. I love it when the players themselves get to decide their own fate.

8) After two seasons of horrendous rules for the hidden immunity idol, the producers finally listened to what we suggested back in Exile Island and got the rules somewhat balanced.  It made the season start off on the right foot compared to a terrible season like Exile Island and a mediocre season like Cook Islands. Fiji was a breath of fresh air.

9) There were six clues in play before any of the idols were found. Even China and Exile Island only had four clues before people were finding idols, and those are two seasons that are exceptionally praised for it being well-hidden. Even the re-hidden idol in Fiji needed each of the four remaining clues before it was claimed. Besides, did you notice how difficult it is to claim an idol discreetly in your sleeping quarters, or the last idol that was at the summit of trees on the other side of the island? That’s an enormous area to search. The idol expired on day 37, and the idol that was re-hidden on night 24 wasn’t found until day 36 for something that the producers wanted to bank on for excitement. Now that’s true gameplay being placed ahead of production’s own interests. Now they’re just given to a member of each camp’s camera crew who decides to hand one over whenever they feel like it. Overall, Fiji’s setup was perfect.

10) The idol being used on day 37. My criticism of the idol is that you don’t have to be as good of a strategist if you’re forced to play it by day 36/final 6. That’s fewer opportunities to be blindsided. If it were up to me, people should be allowed to try and carry an idol to day 39 and trade it in for a jury vote. Just to see how risky and greedy the players would be if they had all the freedom and power in their own hands. No more “oh, you didn’t receive a clue, but you got it at the ‘idol here sign’ and it expires in two days. Guess you gotta play it tonight, eh?”

11) Every episode is solid for me. Not a dull episode in the whole season.

12) People rag on the Haves vs. Have-nots being extremely one-sided in terms of who had the advantage. I beg to differ. I identified this right when the twist was revealed.

a) There are two tribes of nine with one person at Exile. Whichever tribe with the worst camp goes to Tribal and votes someone out but gets a replacement regardless. Suddenly we’re at 9-9 even though Moto has the nice camp.

b) The bottle twist at the end of episode four. Whoever has the nice camp loses a member, and the people that have the worse camp is immune. Suddenly the numbers are that much closer regardless of who wins the challenge.

c) The tribe switchup. Whoever goes to Exile joins the losing tribe, which will most likely be the tribe that doesn’t have showers and beds and cutlery and a satellite hookup to watch the GameShow Network on their downtime. Suddenly having the camp advantage doesn’t matter once again.

d) If somebody in the end spent most of their time at the worse camp and goes up against somebody who spent 22 days living at the nice camp, who suddenly has the more compelling “come-from-behind-victory?” Yes, it’s the person with the worse camp.

So really, the nice camp was cursed from day three. It’s a neat idea for an ORG-based season of Survivor, but I understand how it doesn’t quite match the Survivor motif for some viewers. I appreciate the ORG shoutouts on TV, though.

13) Earl was my favourite player from day one, and he ended up winning. Can’t get angry about that.

14) Rocky bullies Anthony and is so happy to get rid of him. . .only to be voted out two days later. Poetic. Their relationship was fun to watch.

15) Mookie who wasn’t the most likeable guy all the way through ends up gaining our sympathy after being the only one to never live on Moto that made merge and never having an alliance that worked out his way. I felt bad at the end.

16) Stacey starts off as one of the biggest jerks, but redeems herself by pulling off one of the greatest strategic moves in Survivor history by the end of episode 10 and going out of the game on a good note.

17) Re-watching Fiji completely from Dreamz point of view. Extremely entertaining to see how the last 22 days of the game revolves around him.

18) Shaquilo, shalinguall, shaquary.

19) “Watch out Yau-Man for the boards in front of you as I fall off of this platfoooooooorm!” Ooof.

20) Lisi: “I’m winning immunity and I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it–” *ooof. Memory erased.*

21) Thanks to there being nineteen recruits, you see some old school style of voting splits on the Ravu tribe and Yau-Man pulling off an extremely unique car deal to end Fiji in a very distinct way.

22) Episode ten is incredible. Easily one of the top three episodes of all time.

23) Huge level of strategy when they first merged. I was so excited by not knowing what was going to happen because there was so many freakin’ deals.

24) Other seasons have a dull Final Tribal if it’s predictable. If you’re Fiji though, you can be predictable but still really entertaining and funny at the same time.

25) Dreamz’ strategizing techniques is so all over the place but quite good at the same time. Definitely intriguing to watch.

26) Lisi’s contradictory quotes in every episode. Her inability to grasp the game was comedic relief, especially when you know she goes home early enough to not make the game annoying.

27) The un-merge. Some people hate it, but it’s something I’ve always hoped Survivor would do. I liked the execution of it because it put all of the power in the players’ hands. The strategy of how Alex communicated who to vote for at Tribal is something we will likely never see again. It really tested how savvy of a Survivor player you were when thrown into a situation where you need to adapt immediately.

28) Mookie and Alex’s eliminations seemed predictable on paper, but the fact my favourite of the two Alex pulled off a great move of self-preservation by tricking Mookie, and Alex’s torch smuffing the next round was anything but set in stone.

29) The first season to have suspenseful idol usage thanks to episode 10 and episode 13. The first time where Yau-Man NEEDED to play his idol is probably the most suspenseful moment for hidden immunity idols simply because it was the first. I would rank Gary’s idol second because it occurred even before the vote happened, so it’s not like it was at the very end of the episode.

30) “You say askew I say ascoot…You say non-orthogonal I say not ninety degrees.”

31) Great cast overall. Even the early ousters were all likeable and interesting players too. Except maybe Liliana. Cause we didn’t get to know her at all.

32) Rocky’s failed alliance at the beginning with Erica and Jessica. Oh how things would change for Rocky.

33) Heavy strategizing from start to finish.

34) The idols are FINALLY not hidden at Exile. For the first time too. Made things much more fun.

35) I enjoyed it.

36) Fiji has its own cultural ‘feel’ thanks to the rewards, the overall visual appearance of the season, and the Fijian dancing competition.

37) Both camps are freakin’ huge!

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. . .

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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?”

“What–”

“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.”

“Yay.”

“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. >_>

3. South Pacific (season 23) Rating: 8.75/10

Wow. I had very low expectations going into South Pacific, but it turned out to be the bomb. Let’s get into this, shall we?

Things I didn’t enjoy about this season:

1) Redemption Island…again?! What the heck? Production must’ve not been listening to real Survivor fans and instead made themselves more delusional than Coach himself and Stephenie’s fans.

2) Coach and Ozzy…again?!

3) A format that will result in a Final Three…again?!

4) Low budget challenges. . .again?!

5) Coach and Ozzy getting a huge chunk of airtime during their episodes.

6) Jeff Probst just won’t shut up. He even casts a vote himself at every Tribal.

7) It’s in Samoa. Oh joy. As if I didn’t have enough of Samoa already.

8) No reward challenges.

9) Coach and Ozzy were the only ones spoken to at the reunion show as well as Flavour, Peter, Joe Son, Bud Selig, Joe Buck, Pyro, Ness, Boston Rob, and somebody’s granddaughter who was recruited and lied about her age to get on the show. She had a guardian sign her waivers for her.

10) A disappointing female winner at the end.

11) Ozzy won fan favourite.

Things I enjoyed about this season:

1) Ozzy gets blindsided with an idol he found 20, 000 leagues under the sea in the season premiere. HOLY CRAP DIDN’T EXPECT THAT!

2) Coach is voted out in episode two.

3) Seven men are voted out pre-merge.

4) Coach wins the last duel pre-merge to re-enter into the game. When he is about to be inserted back into the game, Coach announces that he doesn’t feel anybody who’s already been voted out once should be allowed to compete again. He gives a compelling speech where production experiences an epiphany. Upon the conclusion of his speech, Coach claims his iron sharpened the integrity of Survivor, and felt his work on Earth is done. Him and Matthew Von Ertfelda link hands and teleport to another planet.

5) The nine women band together into an alliance against the last two men.

6) One man is med evac’d, and the other manufactures his exit in the same round.

7) Production realizes they’re in for a boring finish, so they change it to a Final 2 on day 27.

8) Somebody uses an idol to blindside someone else or they are blindsided with an idol for five consecutive Tribals in a row. SPECTACULAR!

9) Pyro falling off the balance beam onto the ground. When big guys fall, they fall hard! Bahahahahahahah.

10) Carrie Prejean’s jury question. Oh my. Firewooooorks.

11) The age limit for the women is dropped between 18 and 22 after its success in Redemption Island.

12) Joe Son having a problem with his junk. Classic! Where’s Keith Hackney when you need him.

13) Joe Buck and Jeff Probst have a friendly rivalry over who does the commentary in the first few episodes. You don’t mess with J.P., Joe!

14) America casts a vote for the winner.

15) Phillip guest hosts a challenge and is a permanent visitor at the tribe’s camp after all of the men are gone. He’s up to more crazy things, but not in that crazy way.

16) Phillip saving a baby gorilla that was transported from Gabon to Samoa by production was a really heartfelt and touching scene. Phillip’s soft side and developing as a character was nice to see.

17) Rob conducted the interviews used for confessionals post-merge, then translated these confessionals into something that will intrigue the viewers and a dialect that is clearer for people from Boston to understand.

18) Jeff Probst informs us that two of the women achieved an incredible feat by being half as dominant as the first female player allowed to play Survivor, Parvati.

19) Jeff Probst didn’t write blogs about who will be at the end and who deserved it.

20) The post-merge phase of the Redemption Island twist was cut due to unforeseen budget cuts.

21) Russell was brought into the camp on day 30. The next day, the survivors received tree mail that one of them was given the role of saboteur and would receive their missions to achieve for an additional 2.5 million dollars via laptop. The next day, feces was discovered in tree mail and everyone discovered a newly hidden immunity idol had been stolen.

22) Entertaining finale.

23) Hands Hard On Idol is brought back!!!!!!!!!!!

24) Did I mention it was a great reunion show?

25) Episode 3 where Ozzy is finally eliminated from Survivor when Coach beats him in a duel. Such sad emotions.

26) The nine swimming challenges that took up post-merge were neat to see. Haven’t had water challenges in forever.

27) Good cast.

3. Palau (season 10) Rating: 8.5/10.

Yes. Palau changed my mind of The Mole being my favourite show or The Amazing Race being my favourite show. It took ten seasons and a couple hiatuses from their competitors, but Survivor finally converted me. There is a wide array of opinions when it comes to Palau, but you can place me as one of those who thought it was fantastic. It hasn’t been #1 for quite some time, but I’d be lying if I ranked it any lower. So what’s not to love about it? Well, I’ll get to that.

Things I dislike about Palau:

1) Jonathan and Wanda leaving before getting voted out. The most controversial thing to happen since the Outcasts. And according to the 39 Day Challenge, STILL the most controversial twist. At the time it was probably my least favourite twist too, but unfortunately Survivor has really outstunk that moment by dropping the ball with the extreme idol in EI and CI, final threes, and the inevitable lead-up to Survivor’s cancelation: Redemption Island.

Is it right for Survivor to eject two people right off the bat? No.

Do I think Jonathan and Wanda would get anywhere near the end? Absolutely not.

Wanda looked like she’d be useless in challenges. I think only Courtney had  a weaker frame than Wanda, and Courtney is half of Wanda’s age. She would’ve been gone at the double TC, no doubt. Think about it: The survivors were annoyed to death by singing on the boat that two of them jumped off the boat well before shore just to avoid it. Stephenie and Jonathan had the right idea in mind. Then the other seventeen held off for a couple minutes, then they too all jumped off in a frenzy leaving Wanda to sulk on the boat.

And Jonathan? Watch the reunion. The only time Jonathan talks, Angie corrects him saying the reason why nobody picked him is because people thought he was rude and was being too jockish, and overall not sociable. So what does Jonathan do? He gets in a fight with Angie at the reunion! His response exhibits exactly what Angie’s explanation was. If Jonathan was picked, he’d have to be on Ulong. The tribe that eliminated people with personality issues before eliminating those with physical strength. If Jolanda was voted out on day 3 for being bossy and James was taken out before Ibrehem for his annoyingness, then I can only imagine what would’ve happened to somebody like Jonathan. On a tribe with perhaps the most short-sighted strategy compared to pre-merge Marquesas and Heroes vs. Villains, Jonathan would never stand a chance.

You could argue that if Jonathan lasted to day eight and Jeff was let go to his ankle injury, then maybe yes, Jonathan’s presence gives Ulong more of a chance at challenges for the rest of the pre-merge phase. In which case, I’ll simply say you could be right.

2) Steph. Once was more than enough. But twice? And a third time? The second most overrated Survivor of all-time. For the millionth time in this countdown, I don’t understand why she’s popular. Her strategic game is 100x better than her physical game, except it’s the reverse that everyone praises. For every challenge loss, it was always someone else’s fault. For this alone, that’s why Palau drops to #3.

3) Janu quits. If Janu doesn’t quit, Steph goes home one day earlier, and seeing a tribe of seven that had been together since day 1 would’ve been exciting to see. Four episodes with an excellent tribe would’ve been awesome to see.

4) First appearance of Exile Island. An ORG host invented the idea of Exile Island thanks to Palau. In his game, it lasted the entire second half of the game. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if producers found out about his twist considering everything he does is posted online, and Survivor could have adapted it for its modern use that we all have come to love/hate, and in recent years, have since forgotten.

5) A challenge goes twelve hours….and somebody quits. I wanted to see how long it could have really gone. Since then, a challenge hasn’t gone more than three hours, but for the most part, 90% of final challenges since then have ended within thirty minutes. Boooooooo.

6) Forced Double Tribal. This is the last time I get to whine about this on the countdown. Palau featured perhaps my least favourite format of the double tribal. Nobody on the winning tribe gets to win immunity. Only someone from the losing tribe gets one. The idea of Koror being up 9-1 at the conquer would have been even better to see rather than being forced to drop down to 8-1. Imagine if that challenge was for immunity and Ibrehem screws up like that! It would’ve made that loss perhaps the most infamous of all-time. Instead it’s a ‘who cares, one of us is going home anyway, and the opposing tribe will give me immunity to reward me for the most epic challenge fail in history’.

7) Four people eliminated without an immunity challenge. Considering it’s fourteen episodes,  if you’re going to do that why not just start out with sixteen people? I have a feeling the alternative would have been a final three though -_-. But still, there could’ve been back-to-back immunities squeezed into one episode when Ulong was down to only three people. Not like there’s a heck of a whole lot to show when the losing tribe is the smallest one ever since Maraamu.

8) Tom’s win is a slight foregone conclusion. A battle against Ian would have been better. Like Katie ever had a chance against Tom at the end. Or even Ian vs. Katie. Just something that doesn’t end in Survivor’s fourth landslide in five seasons.

Things I enjoyed about Palau:

1) The location. It’s perfect. The prototype of the Survivor environment. Besides Africa, this is the best place they’ve ever been. Unlike now where they’re on the ocean, but they’re not allowed to go into the water. Maybe Burnett and co. developed Peter Benchley-created fears and forbid anyone to go in the water.

2) I loved the idea of the first two people to the beach win immunity and are tribe captains. Fairest creation of tribes in Survivor history. If I ever host another Survivor ORG or an outdoor Survivor game, this is how I will ALWAYS open up the game. Winners are immune from first TC, and take turns picking people to join their tribe. That means no production interference, and you get a little gift for winning the opening challenge. I hate it’s been five seasons since Survivor hasn’t picked the tribes.

3) Great challenge catalogue. No shuffleboard. Coconut chop is used as reward instead of immunity. The best three endurance challenges ever used in a single season of Survivor. A few multi-day reward challenges like build your own shelter and S.O.S. return but in reward forms as well  so subjectivity doesn’t enter immunity. Morse code was pretty neat too along with the impenetrable knot attempt where the work you did prior to the challenge would pay off. Every single challenge seems so fun to do that I wouldn’t mind seeing them all again in a season of Survivor, considering most of these challenges were brand new. Katie unable to get across a rope swing, Bobby Jon being Bobby Jon in the water and having a Farfaru-like moment with the balut makes for a fun time.

4) Production’s shameless shot of doing Tom “Captain America” Westman with his ripped muscles drinking the Scope as if it’s Popeye advertising spinach. Makes me crack up every time.

5) Koror was one of my favourite tribes as of the end of the first episode. Nothing better than seeing the favourites dominate.

6) Ulong wasn’t one of my favourite tribes ever. Satisfying to see them pummelled round after round after round after round after round after round.

7) Jeff losing his voice for a couple episodes in the middle of the game. Sweet justice for challenges being over-saturated with commentary.

8) Jeff making fun of Ulong’s performances after their third or fourth immunity loss.

9) Koror and Ulong’s trash talking of the opposing members at their camps was great. Particularly mocking Tom, James, and Bobby Jon.

10) James talking about anyone. Including Jeff.

11) The four episode storyline of Kim Mullens that results in a quick fall.

12) “We all get fish together.”

“So who goes in the water?”

“Bobby Jon and a couple others.”

“And what does everyone else do?”

“We sit on the boat.”

“…..WHAT?!”

13) Steph being voted out.

14) The last three episodes are freakin’ fantastic.

15) Gregg’s blindside is textbook. Ian’s strongarming his best friend in Katie to get majority to take out Gregg who seemed to have his house in order.

16) “Ulong took food, water, a few books on how to create a shelter, three DVDs of Dexter, a discman that doesn’t have any batteries…but did not take fire, a DVD player, or batteries! Interesting strategy.”

17) Ian’s downfall. I just mentioned this in the 39 Day Challenge as my favourite storyline ever. I look forward to it every time I watch Palau. Ian has the game in his hands. He stays loyal to both Tom and Katie, and chances are he’ll easily win majority in both scenarios because we know everyone doesn’t like Katie, and some jurors were bothered by Tom.

a) Strongarming and bullying Katie ten minutes before Tribal.

b) The storyline carrying over to episode 13 where he has promised to take Katie on the day 34 car reward that they made since Family Matters was cancelled.  Tom tells him to honour that promise prior to the challenge so that him and Ian don’t get overthrown.

c) Ian comes up with a lie about how him and Tom formed a gentleman’s agreement. Tom gets to go to a luxurious mansion for a day in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and still isn’t happy about it.

d) Knowing Katie feels betrayed, Tom instructs Ian that they go to their closest ally Caryn. Ian makes one of the worst alliance speeches I’ve heard in the history of Survivor. Erik Reichenbach’s rationalizing of giving up immunity on day 36 is more bearable to listen to.

e) Ian lies about his answers at the day 36 Tribal, claiming that he trusted Katie and told her about voting Gregg well ahead of time. . .When Katie is RIGHT THERE AT TRIBAL COUNCIL KNOWING THAT IT WASN’T TRUE AND ANNOUNCES FOR EVERYONE THAT IT WAS TEN MINUTES BEFORE TRIBAL!

f) Ian, knowing he has a final three with Tom and Katie, makes an additional deal with Jenn that if Tom doesn’t win immunity, they will all vote Tom.  Sure enough, Tom wins immunity as right before Tribal Ian’s deal is exposed.

g) Ian messes up the wording of his agreement with Tom IN FRONT OF TOM! Katie inserts herself into the confrontation too and Ian can no longer handle it for the fifth or sixth time and is flustered. Miraculously, Katie helps him out and Ian just has to stay in an endurance challenge and win this whole game.

h) Ian’s emotions are so out of whack that he gives up immunity after spending TWELVE HOURS BALANCING ON A TINY BUOY WHERE HE INSISTS HE FINISHES IN THIRD PLACE AND RECEIVES 25 GRAND LESS THAN SECOND AND OVER 900 GRAND LESS THAN WINNING THE CHALLENGE IN THE FIRST PLACE BY TAKING KATIE TO THE END.

18) James the Oracle. (registered trademark of Mario Lanza’s Funny 115.)

19) The final immunity challenge is the best challenge besides Hand Hard on Idol.

20) One of the most likeable Final Fours in Survivor history. Tom, Ian, Jenn, and Katie — that’s a group I’m willing to see in every season. Even Caryn and Gregg to add as the top six makes it splendid.

21) Tom’s victory by dominating in every aspect of the game is one of the most respected wins in Survivor history.

22) They didn’t do a tribe shuffle. It’s always a plus when they keep the tribes the same.

23) One of the better reunion shows.

24) An overall satisfying outcome to how things turned out during the season

25) The first time viewers were made aware of the Survivor conquer rule. It prevented ORGs from thinking there could be a tribe of zero. It also makes sense in case people want to delay a merge so it can be 10-1 with a 9-person jury or 8-1 with a traditional 7-person jury. No longer having to worry about the royally screwed 10th place position or the dreaded 12th place being a jury member to signal there will be a final three at the end.

26) A Final Two at the end.

27) An ORG host creating the idea of the modern-day Exile Island format a full year before the producers did thanks to Janu’s temporary Exile Island trip. As an ORG twist, it ain’t that bad.

28) A season I can enjoy again and again…whenever I don’t mind seeing Steph.

29) Angie’s redemption and being recognized as a strong player at the episode two reward. She broke into the group of jocks.

30) Every reward in the season presented great political decisions and/or great conflict in the individual stage. Whether it be Survivor fisherman Joe who would appear again three years later where Coby wanted to be taught how to fish, Janu being clueless about her actions at the reward, Gregg making fatal choices on day 31, and Tom being pissed about being at one of the most luxurious mansions ever made.

31) Bobby Jon, didn’t your mother teach you not to open your mouth while you chew your balut?

We’re down to two. Is it Africa or Pearl Islands? Which season doesn’t stand above the rest? Without further ado, it’s…

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2. Africa (season 3) Rating: 8.75/10

I have rarely watched it. It was one of only five seasons that I don’t have on tape. Approximately seven years between the initial airing and when I was able to re-watch it. With the exception of two episodes from the middle of the season which are EXTREMELY fuzzy and are only clear when the tape is on Fast Forward. So I don’t really count that.

I think the reason why Africa has suddenly been given a boost in the ratings is because of the domino effect. What I mean by that is when somebody well respected in the Survivor community bashes on a particular season, then it’s no longer cool to like that season to fit in the forums and overall water cooler talk about Survivor. Fiji is a prime example of this. Then when somebody at the top of the community changes their opinion about the season, then everyone drastically changes their minds as well and follows suit.

Obviously I don’t cave into this because Africa, Thailand, and Fiji made my top eight. So why did Africa go from one of the most hated to suddenly marked as most underrated in a matter of a couple years?

Believe it or not, I think several factors went into a turnaround by critics in regards to Africa.

a)  Ethan got cancer. It’s tough for anyone to bash a season when its winner is within sights of being an arm’s length away from death. Although by this logic, Murder In Small Town X should have had a green light for a second season. >_> If only they re-worked the show a little and gave it another chance.

By the way, if you saw Murder In Small Town X when it first aired (I think I was nine,) then give yourself a pat on the back. You are officially branded as a reality television geek.

b) After several years of mactors littering the Survivor casts, it’s nice to think about a season where there was relatively few of them, and the few who were there were toast well before the climax of the game. You’re not getting much mactor macterial with a retired school teacher, a middle-aged goat farmer, and a tattoo and piercing enthusiast in the finale.

c)

Fun Fact: The only Survivor to visit my town is Big Tom.

Other Fun Fact: This is by far my sister’s favourite season because the people all seemed ‘real’ and the fact that Ethan won.

Things I didn’t like about Africa:

1) The undeserved hate it received for several years.

2) Brandon not switching. I was a fan of former Samburu, and when Lex was in their sights, all that needed to happen was for Samburu + Kelly to stick together and they’d have the game. Perhaps the most unlikely combination of an alliance in Survivor history. Africa would have been given credit as the first season where the people on the bottom formed a coup and took down the people on top. Instead, thanks to Brandon’s not-so-brilliant move, Africa wouldn’t establish that feat and we would have to wait until Marquesas to get that honour. Plus I wanted Lex gone over Kelly at that point. After ten years, seeing Brandon cast that vote for Kelly still makes me roll my eyes whenever I see it. So close, Samburu. So close.

3) Lex doing well. I and others in my household weren’t big Lex fans, so to see him skate by so easily to day 38 wasn’t my first choice for how far he gets in the game. I admire how strong of a player he is, but my opinion through watching him play in Africa and seeing him play in All-Stars didn’t change at all.

4) I guess we could’ve had ONE water challenge. Although you could say the challenge of avoiding elephant dung in the oasis is a challenge in itself. Did you see that part of the episode? That pile was HUGE. Gillian would orgasm.

5) Kim Johnson — playing for the win or playing for someone else to win? It’s a storyline simultaneously of frustration and intrigue. But mostly frustration. Teresa goes to her in the final stages of the game and says ‘hey, if you flop, you have a much better chance of winning. Lex, Ethan, and Tom won’t take you. You’ll be fourth. Come with me and you’ll be in Final Three or even Final Two.’

How does the extra from a Sisqo music video respond? She declines the offer, and ACKNOWLEDGES she’ll be fourth and she’ll be okay with that. Jan Gentry and virtually half the cast in Redemption Island has done that. Sure, it’s interesting where someone will draw their line in the sand for a million bucks, but you don’t want 1/16th of your cast saying they’re okay with not being number one.

And what happens? Kim Johnson wins the last two immunities and sure enough, realizes she loses no matter which of Lex, Ethan, or Tom that she’s up against. So not only was she at the bottom of the totem pole, but even with pulling out her only two challenge wins of the season she still ends up in a lose-lose situation.

Congratulations Kim, you turned down the possibility of the first dominant all-female alliance in Survivor history that would’ve been a shoe-in for spots in All Stars.

6) Teresa is awesome. Watch Africa and I’m sure you’ll agree she is one of the top five, or at the very least, one of the top ten most underrated players of all-time. I think whoever disagrees is likely sexist. The reason why it’s a negative is because we will never hear from Teresa in Survivor again despite probably being the best female strategist besides Tina from the first three seasons.

7) Clarence’s incident with the chicken laying an egg isn’t higher on The Funny 115 as a result of people complaining about it. C’mon, it’s one of the funniest moments in Survivor history!

8) Fallen Comrades. I don’t think I have to say anything more if you already know about the incident. One of the biggest production fails in Survivor’s 22-season run. Unlike terrible twists, this was a challenge that was unfair because it wasn’t set up properly in the first place. It favoured Kim, but could’ve been what prevented Lex or Tom to becoming a millionaire. Did the person in charge of the question simply go through eleven of the other twelve names for who potentially had pierced ears and said ‘you know what, that should be good enough. Imma go lie down.’

I have a feeling the person in charge of that was fired.

BURNETT: I said I wanted you to find out who had pierced ears!

INTERN: Oh, I thought you said mirrored ears. My bad.

BURNETT: I wish I could fire you publicly, love. Sort of an extravagant moment. I would call you up to some top suite with a camera crew and do some preamble while everyone waits for me to say ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’…. This gives me an idea.

9) Silas being in power. I don’t care if the storyline was around for only two and a half episodes. That’s more than enough of Chip being the top dog.

10) The first twist. It was so innocent. I can only imagine how they discussed this at a production meeting in ’01.

INTERN: Okay guys, hear me out…Get ready. Deep breaths. I am going to say something that will blow your mind.

(Producers inhale….then exhale.)

INTERN: What if, and I mean WHAT IF, on day 13, we get each tribe to choose three people to meet Probst. Once they get here, now get ready for this…WE SWITCH THEM! WE ROYALLY SWITCH THE GAME UP ON THEIR ASSES!

PROBST: Are you crazy?! The game needs to be pure. If you want this twist, then you’re not a true fan of Survivor.

BURNETT: Bloody brilliant, mate! Let’s do that.

PROBST: Okay, but let’s not do anything beyond that. It’s just nuts. SWITCHING people for two rounds before the merge? If this doesn’t work out, I’m going to tell everyone it was all your idea Burnett and I wasn’t too happy with it.

BURNETT: We’ve signed Colby over to you. You have full custody.

PROBST: Didn’t I say I love this twist?

***FIVE YEARS LATER***

Production Meeting in ’06:

NEW PRODUCER: Hey, do you guys mind if I pitched an idea for season twelve?

EVERYONE ELSE: ……

(Burnett sighs.)

BURNETT: Sure, why not, love.

NEW PRODUCER: I suggest we all take a deep breathe before I announce what I have to say.

EVERYONE ELSE: …………..

(NEW PRODUCER looks around at everyone with anxious smiles. PROBST is trying to create a swan out of origami. BURNETT is doodling a paramilitary soldier on a legal note pad. STANLEY is doing a crossword puzzle. OSCAR and KEVIN are playing paper football in accounting. ANGELA is making the Lil face at them.)

NEW PRODUCER: Alright, looks like you’re all ears.

BURNETT (mumbled): Not pierced, I hope, love.

NEW PRODUCER: Uhhh, right. Okay, day one…we do the same start as we did in Borneo!

(No one looks up.)

NEW PRODUCER: And we split them into four tribes!

PROBST: Already been done. Casaya. Viveros. Bayoneta. La Mina. Keep going.

NEW PRODUCER: We have this item hidden where the person who finds it can skip all tasks and go directly to the pit stop.

PRODUCER: That’s the fast forward. Already been done.

NEW PRODUCEER: Or the hidden item makes the person invulnerable until the final three.

PROBST: Been there. We’re doing that again. Worked out well last season. Four tribes, idol, that’ll make for a boring season.

NEW PRODUCER: We expand the cast to twenty people.

PROBST: We did that in Palau.

NEW PRODUCER: We have a place where each round one of the players is sent to and spends several days, get this…ALONE. Nothing there on the island except the idol.

PROBST: We did that all last season. Good luck getting people to tune in if that’s all you got. If you’re not expanding your mind, then you’re not a real Survivor fan.

NEW PRODUCER: We dissolve the four tribes into two completely re-shuffled tribes for an early switch.

PROBST: Done that too. Look guys, I made a swan!

(Everyone looks up, smiles, and claps.)

NEW PRODUCER (talking over the clapping): We give them the opportunity to mutiny too!

PROBST: Never done that before. Intriguing.

NEW PRODUCER: We delay the merge until there’s only six eliminations left too.

PROBST (yelling over the claps and KEVIN examining the swan): We’ve never done that before either. Now you’re thinking like a good producer.

NEW PRODUCER: We have not one but two double Tribal Councils!

PROBST (yelling louder): YES! You’re on a roll.

NEW PRODUCER: AND THE IDOL ALLOWS THE PERSON HOLDING IT TO GET TO DAY THIRTY-NINE!

PROBST (without acknowledging KEVIN is throwing the origami at his head): I THOUGHT YOU SAID IT’S ONLY GOOD UNTIL YOU HIT FINAL THREE?!

NEW PRODUCER: THAT’S THE BEST PART! BECAUSE WE’RE GOING TO EXPAND THE JURY TO NINE PEOPLE AND….

PROBST: YOU’RE DOING GREAT! SPILL!!!!

NEW PRODUCER: WE HAVE A FINAL THREE ON DAY 39 AND ALL THREE GET TO MAKE THEIR CASE IN FRONT OF THE JURY FOR A MILLION BUCKS!

PROBST: YESSSSSSS!!!!!!! WE’VE GOT A MILDLY INTERESTING SURVIVOR SEASON!!!!!!!!!

(PROBST completes Robgasm.)

BURNETT (looks up): Eh, guess it’ll work.

NEW PRODUCER: Did I mention the four tribes are divided by race?

BURNETT: Sold!

Never has a slope been so slippery. I would go to their production meeting in ’10, but it’s truly depressing to write about.

Things I liked about Africa:

1) As I mentioned earlier, Big Tom visited my town. It’s not everyday you find out a Survivor contestant acknowledges a town in British Columbia outside of Vancouver and Victoria. If I said was there to get Big Tom’s autograph though, I’d be lying. It’d be like saying that I caught a Ken Griffey Jr. foul ball at the Kingdome when really it landed two rows in front of me. Just not the same.

If I did get his autograph, I’m sure this is how it would’ve happened:

LOGAN: Guys, I just got Big Tom’s autograph!

FRIEND: Uhhhh, sure you did. There’s just an X signed on here. You really need to do better than that, Logan.

LOGAN: Grrrrrr.

Okay, okay. That’s just offensive. Here’s how it actually would’ve happened:

LOGAN: Guys, I just got Big Tom’s autograph!

FRIEND: No way. All I see here is ‘Keep Hope Alive — MLK’ accompanied by the entire IMDb cast list of Dennis Haysbert’s rebound TV show The Unit. Yep. Holy crap, how did you squeeze the lighting and sound crews on here too?!

LOGAN: Curse you, Big Tom!

2) Final Two as opposed to Final Three.

3) The first season to have a twist is very mild by today’s Survivor standards. In addition, the tribal swap happened at the appropriate time  pre-merge. In a 16 person season, the switch should always be two-thirds into the pre-merge phase. Good on you, Africa.

4) The locale is AMAZING. Survivor hadn’t been to a better Survivor locale before, and hasn’t been to a more unique and epic one since. You don’t need bikinis or the façade of a resort to cover up you won’t have any water challenges for that season.

5) Survivor means Survivor. No other season has it where you force two players to stay up all night to watch for wild animals entering your camp/fence. No other season makes you take pills for 6 months-2 years straight because of the harshness of the conditions. It’s not a case of being given a full set of tools by Lenscrafters to create the best dang shelter ever, scoring flint by the end of the first three days, already awarded rice with the additional opportunity to catch fish. Not to mention they didn’t have a reward nearly every round that involved getting hammocks, chairs, a ton of food, and equipment to catch additional food. The temperatures probably haven’t reached as high as they did in Africa/Kenya on a consistent basis.

6) The above survival aspect didn’t interfere with the strategy. It co-existed extremely well.

7) The season with the best tiebreaker format. Past votes, and if past votes are tied, then the tied contestants go to a survival trivia quiz. I find it ludicrous that Survivor wished to abandon this format.

Ever since season five, the format is that if there’s a deadlock before the Final Four, then the persons involved in the deadlock are safe and whoever else possesses immunity, then the remaining players draw rocks. If it goes to Final Four, however, then it’s fire making. Part of me wants a pre-Final Four deadlock to occur while Survivor continues with their ridiculously dumb Redemption Island twist so the tiebreaker format will be amended once Redemption Island is given the axe.

8) The first, and perhaps the only, time where Survivor contestants throw a challenge at the correct time. You do it AFTER a switch, and you oust the one guy who will plot against everyone in your tribe as well as being the biggest physical threat. For some reason future Survivor contestants would interpret it as ‘Just get rid of the dang big guy when he annoys the crap out of you’. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you should never be in a situation where throwing a challenge is even an option. Although the person who should’ve never gone along with throwing the challenge was Clarence. He bumped himself up to the top of the pecking order once Silas was removed. It’s the difference between making jury and not making jury, good sir.

9) Teresa.

10) Clarence ate ALL the beans. Probably one of the best season premieres ever. Clarence’s road in the game was one of the funniest storylines. He was like a little kid getting his hand caught in the beet jar. Big Tom’s strategy of shooting Clarence a warning shot after every round should’ve screamed to Clarence that Boran isn’t the place for him, but miraculously, these warning shots didn’t affect Boran having control at all. Nowadays, I’m sure a player doing what Big Tom did would be suicide. You don’t make somebody you want on your side, even on a temporary basis, to make him sweat through every Tribal Council. But because Big Tom gets away with it, it adds to the hilarity of Clarence’s road in the game. He eats a huge percentage of the tribe’s rations without permission then he whines about wanting to eat a chicken THAT’S LAYING EGGS. Clarence’s charm is the only reason why he gets to round seven, otherwise the tribe would’ve thrown the challenge in episode five to get rid of him instead of Chip.

11) Silas Chip’s downfall. He goes from being well-liked, to being the loveable guy who chose the young guns to oust Carl, then he switches to being the original Coach by getting everyone to take a knee and asking the people he screwed over to help him win the game. He follows it up with being switched and his only two enemies in the game asking the three Boran members to throw a challenge and oust Silas. All in the first five episodes of the season. It’s hilarious to think how close Brandon, Lindsay, Kim P, and Silas were to being the Final Four of this game. Of course, this would’ve only happened if there wasn’t a switch and they didn’t lose the last two immunities. I’m sure it doesn’t take a genius on Boran in a 5-5 situation to realize Silas or Lindsay got some votes thrown their way.

One of the best pre-merge stories ever.

12) Frank Garrison. Ninety-nine percent of people with the beliefs of Frank would annoy the crap out of me. But I think Frank’s journey in Africa is one of the most well-rounded in Survivor history. He carries the same type of aura that Sean Rector did in Marquesas. You keep going back-and-forth between hating the guy’s guts for the things he says, but then he gives hilarious and great confessionals, and being endearing to those around him.

Part of me wants to see Frank in the present era of Survivor where mactors are in abundance. He only had to spend time with four or five of them in Africa. Just play your mind through what it would be like for having at least the majority of both tribes to be mactors. Why, Frank would quit or ask to be voted out after three days.

The scene with the elephant and the other scene with the Wagner family reunion invitation was one of the greatest moments ever. Only to be topped by my FAVOURITE ALL-TIME SURVIVOR MOMENT….

BRANDON: I’ve never had a threesome.

EVERYONE ELSE: Wooooooooooo.

ETHAN: I’ve never given a reach around to a spider monkey.

EVERYONE ELSE: Woooooooo.

TERESA: I’ve never NOT had sex on an airplane.

EVERYONE ELSE: Woooooooooooo.

FRANK: I’ve never broken the honour of a handshake.

(Amanda Kimmel clap commences.)

13) Ethan Zorn. Wait, what’d Gumbel say? I heard Wayne Brady made him look like Malcolm X.

14) Frank and Brandon together. Whether it be running obstacles together, sharing intimate time together at the movies, or being voted into the jury house back-to-back, you know it’s always a good time with F ‘n’ B.

15) Kim Johnson being in a Sisqo music video and Big Tom cramming a feather into his butt like a third grader stuffs a basketball down his pants in gym class only graces our television screen for 1.3 seconds of the season.

16)

BIG TOM: He can’t eat it because he’s crazy! No wait, it’s because he’s a Jew!

PROBST (laughing): Wait, Big Tom, did you say something that myself and everyone else here actually understood for once?

BIG TOM: Ree ree roo fire at will roo whatdaya think I want with Rupert and Jenna roo ree roo hyena licking a behind roo ree roo yodel roo ree ree roo there’s a tick on Lindsay’s hiney and I hit it with my goat farm hand ree rooo reeee rooo yoo don’t be stupid, stupid roo reeeeee rooo ulllllllll yooooooo if you can live with it I can live with it ree roo reeeeeeee I ain’t done diddily.

PROBST: Crap, he’s gone back into 150-200% Zbaknik-Backwoods hick-speak.

17) The best individual rewards. Ever. Virtually every reward of the past ten seasons are boring as crap. If you go back and watch Africa, the quality of rewards absolutely skyrockets and would topple the past ten to fifteen rewards combined.

Being in a hot air balloon and seeing wildebeast chases? Big Tom getting drunk? The lion hunts down a wildebeast is a classic. The lamest individual reward of all, the Out of Africa viewing, ends up with the most unlikely pair at that point and perhaps in the entire history of Survivor. We also get an exceptional day of Ethan, Lex, and (R.I.P.) Goat and Ethan being in solitary confinement. Then to top it all off Lex and Probst spend a day handing out essential supplies for kids in a village.

Oh, and three days after Lex and the producers do an act of goodwill by handing out supplies to an extremely poor area…Lex wins an extravagant new SUV. I’ve always thought that was a humorous dichotomy to have during the show. Going from handing out bare essentials to a gas-guzzling top-of-the-line SUV being handed out.

18) The rogue vote by Teresa against Lex so she could keep her word to Clarence when he goes out the door. It was anonymous. Lex assumed it was Kelly, and nine times out of ten, this terrible act of judgment should cost you the game, and most likely in the very same round. If you look at what needed to happen for the move to not backfire on Lex, it’s pretty impressive he lasts as long as he did. The best part about it is that he only finds out who did it until Teresa had zero options left in the game. She framed it by coming clean, but really it was to get herself past day 36 in the game. As I said before, Teresa is one of the most underrated devious Survivor players out there. Although Lex’s poor judgment in who he can trust wouldn’t make him pay the price in Africa (Anderson Cooper from season one of The Mole just flashed in my mind when I typed that), he would have to wait 2 ½ years for his next act of poor judgment to  be announced for the world to see and bear its consequences in All Stars. Nothing like a storyline that runs multiple seasons.

19) Freakin’ hilarious season all around. I didn’t even make any Mother Africa references yet. Maybe the whole cast had a really good sense of humour and that nobody took the game personally, but the only change I could make for hilarity without using a hugely popular character is perhaps switch out Doctor Carl for Brandon Bellinger or Judd or Jamie Newton. Then we’d be in a great position for a clear cut most underrated season of all-time.

20) Nobody in the cast bugs me. When the biggest complaint is Lex for a first time, you know things aren’t bad at all. It wouldn’t be until All Stars when Lex and Big Tom would turn into being annoying and frustrating as opposed to loveable or villainous or a fan favourite.

21) You’re in a gigantic field. Few trees. Virtually no water. Desert climate. A couple hills. And that’s it. Yet Africa ends up with perhaps the greatest challenge catalogue for a season without water. Production definitely put their creative juices together and came up with some neat and inspired challenges.

“Hey guys, you remember the guy who drove us in here on your first day, right?”

“Charlie, please puncture this cow so we can all drink the blood from it.”

“We found this boulder that was used as a prop in The Flintstones. How about Kim Johnson gets trampled by it and you roll it uphill, downhill, and around checkpoints? That shouldn’t be too exhausting.”

“Here’s this big cart we found from The Oregon Trail. Take it up this steep rock face. Did I mention it’s uneven and if you hang onto the bar, you’ll get more points for the moves you’ll do than a Chinese Olympian on the parallel bars? Good luck!”

Add that with creating a hut, memorizing objects that production would’ve picked up around camp, transporting goats, Hacky Sack catapult, debut of the Arm Torture challenge, and the beloved Hand On Hard Idol, and you’ve got a REALLY good challenge catalogue. Frankly, the challenges are of top notch quality that the absence of water challenges isn’t noticeable as you progress through the season. Unlike Nicaragua and Redemption Island where their shared tiny pool screams ‘We want water challenges and this kid’s pool is the best place for them to swim in’ or you’re left watching them count 1-100, do a tiny puzzle, and do more balancing endurance challenges than actual endurance challenges. Plus they have to dig deep or something like that. And a bunch of puzzles over and over again.

22) Ethan wins. In the entire twenty-two seasons of Survivor, I can’t think of a winner that was less devious, conniving, or as well-liked as Ethan Zohn. Sometimes seeing the nice guy win Survivor is what can turn a good season into a great season, and Ethan definitely fits that criteria. If Lex or Kim Johnson win, I’m sure Africa ends up being a lot less glamorous.

Just look at the two winners that came before Ethan: Richard Hatch, who was one of the most hated winners ever at the time that he won for his straight up conniving game, and Tina, who is probably one of the greatest early Survivor era manipulators ever. Then we transition away from those two into Ethan? There probably hasn’t been a more drastic leap in winners other than perhaps Fabio to Boston Rob.

Or what about the few winners after Ethan? You’ve got Vecepia and Brian who are extremely well-rounded and drama-free players who can rally from just about anything handed to them, and Jenna, who immunity’s her way to take the title. Then you follow up with Sandra and Amber.

In the game of Survivor, a player like Ethan should never ever win. Especially when he doesn’t win the final immunity challenge in the first place! That’s what makes Ethan such a good winner. So Kim, although you doomed Teresa, at least you recognized your lose-lose situation and thought Ethan would do more with the million than Lex. Arguably, Kim Johnson could be credited with the best decision made in the history of Survivor.

I think that about covers it for Africa. This is the first day where it’s not nasty weather here in quite some time, so I was more than able to put in the proper time and refinement for this Africa entry.

P.S. Do you think Survivor wasn’t convinced it would go anywhere for much longer considering this season is called ‘Survivor Africa’. I mean, would they go to the Amazon and say ‘Survivor South America’? And yet here we are, just shy of the 10 year anniversary of Africa’s season premiere.

 

Unless you have an inability to do process of elimination, you know what’s ranked at the top. But in case you don’t, I’ll put in the additional dots anyway. . .
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1. Pearl Islands (season 7) Rating: 9/10

A near-perfect season from start to finish. The first season where Survivor introduced twists on a consistent basis, and all twists except for one didn’t twist the game too much, but it stayed true to the integrity of the game. You also have one of the best strategic casts in Survivor history, some of the craziest moves ever made, enough drama to keep you entertained, and enough hilarious actions and dialogue to keep you laughing/ROFLcoptering. Sorry, that was my best attempt at integrating 4chan lingo into a Survivor ranking. Anyways, let’s not waste time. I’ll get into the specifics immediately.

Things I didn’t like about this season:

1) Lil makes Final Two. The scoutmaster. Who cried all the time. Who was voted out on day 9. Makes freakin’. Final. Two. HOW???? WHY???? Rupert should yell at her to ‘GET IN MY BELLY’  to become the permanent fan favourite in Survivor. Any Outcast who gets into Final Two with a non-Outcaster made day 39 a foregone conclusion. Although I was in a pro-Sandra pocket of the world at the time, so seeing Sandra win was enjoyable.

2) The producers incorporating the Outcasts twist. If Drake beat the outcasts on day 19, only Burton would’ve came back to replace Osten. But the fact two tribes who only intermingled through Rupert would be even in numbers, and mix in with two people who have been out for seven to ten days made this a huge factor to the end of this game. They aren’t deemed worthy of winning because, well, nobody wants to see somebody skip ten days of Survivor (on the other hand, apparently skipping fourteen days and then skipping another fifteen and sharing your religious beliefs is an exception to the rule) and go on to win the game. Unfortunately Survivor ushers in a MUCH WORSE adaptation of this twist fifteen seasons later.

3) Michelle baffles her tribe as well as the audience by not throwing the gross drink challenge causing the beloved Drakes to lose immunity. I think I would have had the same reaction as Fairplay did to Michelle’s ego. Surprisingly, nobody has attempted this strategy since then. I guess that’s what happens when it’s all recruits who don’t watch Survivor enough to know you have a good chance this challenge will come up and the tiebreaker is the exact same every time. It would have been neat to see this Trojan UpChucking Horse play out.

4) Skinny Ryan gets picked on. I had big expectations for Skinny Ryan. The fact he was voted out before Osten on his tribe was a letdown. Yeah, he wasn’t the strategic mastermind we all thought he’d be, but if you look at the personalities of the other Morgans, it is very evident Ryan would never fit in. He would have never been able to integrate himself into the main clique. At least he wasn’t the big social fail like Jeanne or Sherea who were in the bottom of their original tribes and their new tribes in the same episode. Then there was a tease that he had a one-in-three shot for him to come back into the game, but his opportunity of being considered a diamond in the rough is lost forever when he throws a vote for the one player who needed that very vote to break the tie.

5) The village twist is never used again.

6) The treasure twist only appears in All Stars then gone for good. It made rewards interesting pre-merge. Come to think of it, treasure twist gave birth to the hidden immunity idols.

7) Feeding Rupert’s image leads him to exaggerate his personality progressively worse throughout his next two appearances.

8) The first season where multiple players get a more toned down edit (See Michelle, Trish, Christa, and Darrah.) I would take P.I.’s style of editing over the current seasons any day though. None of them are remotely close to a Liliana, Purple Kelly, Natalie Bolton, Rick, Whitney, and Keith.

9) Skinny Ryan’s classic case of snot pouring out of his nose in the first reward challenge.

Things I liked about this season:

1) The village twist where players buy their own supplies. To this day it is the best opening to any season in Survivor history. It is one that even the online community cannot improve nor replicate. Osten sold his clothes thinking his booty shorts will be good enough. Rupert happens to be on the one season in twenty-four — twenty-four seasons!! Where he had the opportunity to steal shoes.

2) Every single person in the cast. Seriously. All of them are awesome.

3) Every single episode. Seriously. All of them are awesome.

4) Production realized the Outcasts twist was a bit too much, thus they stayed away from going too crazy with the game’s format until the introduction of the Final Three.

5) It’s the only season where a tribe wins all immunities in the first half, which happens to be my favourite tribe, followed by my least favourite tribe winning every immunity in the second half. This is great storytelling.

6) Osten and Pelican — the great comedic duo.

7) Shawn losing the spear. This led to an over-the-top celebration by Rupert as he finds the spear. Was that a pelican that flies into the air from Rupert’s shouting?

8) Ironic claims throughout the season.

FAIRPLAY: I guarantee Sandra won’t be Final Four, and I bet a mil she won’t be the Final One!
***
BURTON (weeks after he was voted out for leading the tribe to throw an immunity challenge): Christa, why did you throw out the fish? You can’t sabotage the tribe!
***
OSTEN: You get dehydrated. Then you have to go home. But I don’t want to go home.

9) Speaking of which, Sandra throwing out the fish was amazing. After our beloved hero falls, Sandra dumps out the fish and becomes the first player to blatantly make her own tribe a living hell for everyone. Sorry Russell, but Sandra started this trend.

10) Morgan dwindles down to pretty much nothing while Drake has everything. It was the most interesting contrasts in camp life. This even exceeds the disparity between the two camps in Palau. With Morgan, they didn’t have any food, their shelter was looted, and they had zero knowledge of defending their camp against the tide.

11) The treasure twist. Every reward involved taking an item from the other tribe and receiving a clue to a loot on your own beach. This made rewards infinitely interesting. It’s beyond me why this was ditched after All-Stars and hasn’t been revived for eight years with the exception of Tocantins’ episode four reward. It results in everyone giving intriguing reactions to when they see the loot is not the greatest, and how the tribes hate each other more as a result.

12) I’ll own up that the Outcasts twist likely made P.I. the epic second half that it wouldn’t have been if the Outcasts were non-existent.

13) The greatest second half in Survivor history. Rupert, Tijuana, Christa, Burton, Darrah, Fairplay, Lil, then Sandra are your boot order. Do you know how insane that is considering the tribes never switched pre-merge and that the three factions were extraordinarily tight? The biggest blindsides in succession and the constant changes in alliances makes this very entertaining and a great source of studying Survivor strategy.

14) This is the first season after the Rob Cesternino tutorial of how to play Survivor. Thus fifteen out of sixteen are extremely well-versed in how to play this game. Can you guess the one who I left out?

15) Sandra, who had about a 1000:1 odds of winning prior to the season, gets through the entire season without receiving a single vote, winning an individual challenge, and leading any dominating alliance. She adds in verbal abuse of her opponents and ultimately gets respected for it. Only Vecepia or Earl would overall have the best shot at having more wins if they have the opportunity to play again and again. We need All Winners to happen!

16) That look Rupert gives Osten in the third immunity challenge when Jeff says “Did you ever consider Darrah or Michelle would want down?” It’s a subtle thing, but my brother and sister catch onto it every time I give P.I. a re-watch.

17) Sandra slaughtering Morgan’s shelter palm frond by palm frond during a loot.

18) Fairplay is drunk at Tribal Council. There isn’t any fan fic that could get away with a player being drunk while being the swing vote in a key situation. Hilarious.

19) Fairplay’s whole pro wrestling persona. I am happy nobody has tried to copycat it since. Everything contributed to his pro wrestling character. The F and the Y. That stupid Jeff Jarrett-like walk in some challenges or when he runs to vote at TC regardless of intoxication. Or most of his comments when his votes were shown at Tribal Council.

20) Fairplay’s voting confessionals. “F— you!” and “Mr. Andrew, Mr. Savage…DIG IT?!” and “’I’m hardcore, I’m hardcore’….Have a nice day!”

21) Such a great theme song. It’s right up there with Africa, Thailand, and China. This season was inspired from top to bottom.

22) The overall pirate theme breathes new life into production. They keep up the theme of the whole season from day one to day thirty-nine. Production was truly enjoying themselves. This is why the challenges were incredible this season.

23) “I can get loud too, what the f—!”

24) “Shawn’s back looks like the moon in reverse!”

25) “Gimme my money, gimme my money!” — Tijuana in her annoying voice.

26) “I have yet to see Jon wash a dish or clean a fish.”

27) Everyone giving up rewards to each other. This not only tightens bonds between Rupert and others, but it also leads to monumental betrayals.

28) The Pearl Islands was the most aesthetically pleasing place Survivor had ever been to until Palau. It was naturally made for Survivor to be played there. Except during rainy season as we saw with the excessive rain in All Stars.

29) The most new songs added to the Survivor soundtrack since Australia or Africa. You can’t go wrong with pirate-themed music for fourteen episodes. Better than Australia’s special effects with the digeridoo or whatever those bloody things are called.

30) “WHO THE HELL VOTED FOR ME, JON?! WHO THE HELL VOTED FOR ME??? YOU STARTED THIS S—, YOU MOTHERF—ER!”

The fact Rupert runs for governor this year makes this quote about ten times funnier than when it initially aired. And even then the exchange was hilarious.

31) Two words: Dead. Grandma.

32) Thunder D’s acting is really bad when he breaks the news. Not as bad as Ozzy’s acting on Redemption Island, though. That’s in a league of its own.

33) Outcasts twist is a much better alternative to RI.

How to succeed on RI: You meet a player where it’s ‘one of us wins and one of us goes home no matter what’. Thus, the only thing these two do is play in a challenge. They have nothing else to do or worry about. There isn’t any risk to any information you share because either you die or the other dies.

How to succeed as an Outcast: You have meagre rations. You have to defeat at least one tribe to have a chance of being back in the game. Thus, multiple people could come back in, one person could come back in, or nobody comes back in depending on challenge results. You always have to be on edge. In addition, re-entry is not a fixed outcome like in R.I. You have to earn a shot for any of the six to come back in the game.

Would Outcasts be controversial if Drake and Morgan smoke them? Probably not. If they beat only one tribe? Barely. But because the outcome of them beating both Drake and Morgan occur, we are suddenly told to hate this twist.

Once Outcasts win the challenge, there is a whole new Survivor-like element that doesn’t happen in Redemption Island. In fact, this is my biggest issue with R.I. The six outcasts were forced to strategize and have their own Tribal Council to decide which two of six would be put back into the game. Burton is successful by catching on that he needs to promise each of the other five that he would protect them. Lil on the other hand annoyed the others too much that she was successful in returning to the game too.

What did you have to do to get back in the game during the RI seasons? Win a few carnival games and you’re guaranteed to re-enter? And make friends with someone who you didn’t vote out as they enter the jury house? R.I. people are given such an easy path to potentially win that everyone else in the game will ALWAYS vote them out the first round they don’t have immunity. That’s why Andrea, Matt, Ozzy 4.0, and Ozzy 5.0 never had a chance. Burton and Lil in contrast survived several eliminations without winning immunity.

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