I came late to the game of Survivor. My first ever season was San Juan del Sur and from that moment on I fell in love. Now that I have watched all of the seasons and now that the latest season of Survivor, Kaoh Rong, is over, I can finally do my season rankings. The list goes in order from worst to first and takes into consideration characters, story-line, game-play, memorable moments and whether or not the season had a satisfying winner.
33. Thailand (S5)
Survivor Thailand was the most difficult season of Survivor for me to watch. Not much happened, the characters were boring, the winner was boring and only one player, Shii Ann Huang, has ever returned and even she’s not that great. Although Brian is one of the best winners, he also played one of the most dull games and there probably isn’t a single character in the cast to root for. The Ted and Ghandia controversy stands out as being the most memorable thing from this season but it’s something we’d all like to forget. I actually like the logo for this season more than the season itself…it’s purple and has an elephant on it!
32. One World (S24)
The main problem with Survivor One World is that the cast is just so incredibly unlikable. Sometimes I watch One World and think, ‘hey, this is kind of interesting!’ but far more often the words of ‘why am I even watching this’ ring through my ears instead. The game-play of Kim Spradlin is masterful but other than that, the tone and feel to the season is just so dull and annoying. Colton’s frantic game-play dominated the pre-merge from an editing standpoint and that might be the first way the editors went horribly wrong with this season, as he was just such a cringe-worthy player to watch and ended up being one of the most hated in the show’s history! The bullying, rude comments, whining and unfortunate medical evacuation are just all really uncomfortable and not fun to watch. Also, Survivor One World was probably the most predictable season in Survivor history. Kim was pretty much written on as the winner of the season from the very first episode and she was easily able to manipulate the rest of the cast, most of whom were dull personalities and didn’t know the game at all. Moreover, none of the players knew the game except for Colton, Troyzan and Kim, which made for very boring and predictable game-play. The one thing in favour of One World over Thailand is that Kim’s game is incredible to watch and although it isn’t flashy or extremely entertaining, it’s one of just a few masterclass performances in Survivor history.
31. Nicaragua (S21)
Although third lowest on the list, Nicaragua isn’t all that bad and is redeemed by a couple of exciting final few episodes in which the inevitable winner goes on an immunity run and controversy fills the air with Sash. Na’Onka is probably the main reason why people hate Nicaragua so much. Although this season has a few better characters than Thailand, it arguably has even less memorable moments. The most memorable moment of Nicaragua is probably Kelly and Na’Onka’s decision to quit at final nine, which is another Survivor moment that we’d all like to forget. But getting back to the characters, not only is their no one to root for, the winner, Fabio, is probably one of the worst one ever (Check out Survivor Winner Rankings on this very site).
30. Panama (S12)
Now we move away from the bad seasons of Survivor and get more into the average seasons of Survivor. Survivor Panama certainly had memorable characters. Cirie, Terry, Shane and Aras are memorable Survivor characters that have all returned or in Shane’s case, should have returned. The main problem with Survivor Panama is that not a lot happens. Terry Deitz goes on an incredible immunity winning streak but then can’t win the most important one of all at the final three. Other than that, does anything really memorable happen? Cirie has some great gameplay moves and Shane has some great confessionals and hilarious moments but it really is just kind of an average season with not a lot going on. Bruce and Courtney are also incredibly annoying characters, and as terrible as it is to say, I was happy when Bruce got medically evacuated. Moreover, Danielle is a nothing character who makes it all the way to the end and Terry and Aras’ disputes are lame and exasperating. But with all that said, Cirie, Terry and Shane certainly make this an entertaining enough season to watch.
29. Fiji (S14)
Fiji has some great characters, but some not so-good game-play, and there isn’t really much of a story-line to follow besides Earl’s kind of dull and commanding win. After Yul’s use of the idol in Cook Islands and Fiji’s entertaining immunity idol moments that produced great TV, this season probably established the immunity idol as an important tool to have and as an important twist in both the evolution of strategy and as something that is always going to create good TV. This season also of course has Yau-Man who is great, and I also tend to disagree with people who despise Dreamz. Yau-Man promising Dreamz the car he had won in a reward if Dreamz wouldn’t vote him out at final four, only to be betrayed by him was the standout moment of the season.
28. South Pacific (S23)
As much as I love Coach as a character on the show, I hate Ozzy just as much. Bringing the Redemption Island twist into Survivor South Pacific was probably set up to help give Ozzy the win and Sophie Clarke winning this season, just might have saved Survivor. If Sophie hadn’t won this season and Ozzy had instead, Survivor might have realized they could bring back whoever they wanted to win by using this format. The next season could have been Stephanie vs. Rupert for all we know. But thanks to Sophie, this ridiculous format hasn’t returned since. In terms of South Pacific, again most of the characters are kind of annoying. Almost everyone on Savaii treats Cochran with complete disrespect making it almost unbearable to watch and Brandon Hantz has far too many cringeworthy moments as well. In addition, nearly half the cast goes absolutely missing in the season and even the winner, Sophie, receives a miniscule amount of confessionals. The last thing I’ll say about this season is that Coach wasn’t the same Coach we had seen in Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains. In his previous two seasons he was a hilarious character/sociopath with comedic release and amazing television moments. On South Pacific, he was almost like a robot CBS had re-wired to go out and be a rational leader of a majority alliance that would remain in power all game and then he couldn’t even win which was all the more disappointing. I appreciated Sophie as a player and as a winner but that wasn’t enough to make this season anywhere close to being one of the best.
27. Caramoan (S26)
The idea of Fans vs. Favourites was an interesting concept that brought out some incredibly great moments in the original FvF, Survivor Micronesia. But if you’re going to cast another fans vs. favourites for Season 26 of Survivor at least cast fans and/or favourites. That’s right the theme of Survivor 26 was Fans vs. Favourites 2, yet the cast included neither fans nor favourites. The fans tribe was comprised of just four people that were actually fans of the show and actually applied for the show. All four were gone early. The favourites tribe meanwhile was comprised of probably only two real favourites, Malcolm and Cochran. The rest were just a bunch of people that CBS wanted to have back and thought would stir up drama or provide good TV. Unfortunately they were horribly wrong on that front as the only good TV moments of the season were provided by Cochran and Malcolm while Phillip, Brandon and Corrinne were all insufferable on their second goes at the game. Malcolm’s idol plays were impressive and entertaining but I just hate how cocky he was about the whole thing. Meanwhile, a final tribal council bashing of Dawn and Sherri was incredibly difficult to watch and Brenda asking Dawn to take her teeth out so that she could be humiliated just like she was, was probably one of the show’s worst moments in it’s history. Speaking of one of the worst moments in the show’s history, half the cast wasn’t allowed to sit on stage during the reunion show so that they could take attention away from Brandon Hantz not being there. This proved to be an utterly ridiculous move and not only upset the players but thousands of fans watching at home. A few redeeming things about this season are “The Three Amigoes” who thanks to Malcolm had some very entertaining moments, the blindsides of Andrea and Brenda and of course Cochran being the winner. Cochran as the winner of the season certainly redeems it as a decent season but even that is getting old now as Jeff now constantly wants to compare every single intelligent player to how they are like Cochran. Survivor Caramoan is definitely a season that should be forgotten.
26. Africa (S3)
Survivor Africa stands out as one of the most unique seasons of Survivor in a couple of different ways. Firstly, Survivor has only been to the continent of Africa twice, and this was the first. The contestants literally living right next to dangerous animals made for an entertaining and truly unique Survivor-type feel where the contestants had to Survive the dangerous animals as much as anything else. Secondly, it is unique in that it had the first ever twist on Survivor, the tribe swap which resulted in Silas, a player in a powerful position going home sooner than expected in a very entertaining episode. But, “The Twist” was Africa’s only standout episode and Frank and Lex made the season difficult to watch. I will give Lex props though for being a savvy player and we can’t forget about other interesting characters as well, including Big Tom, Kim Johnson and Ethan. A big knock against Africa is that the game-play wasn’t superb by any stretch of the imagination and besides the tribe swap which has now just become just a regular Survivor custom, there are no real standout moments at all.
25. Worlds Apart (S30)
Survivor Worlds Apart is a roller-coaster of a ride. It had incredible moments like Mike’s immunity winning streak that took him all the way to the end of the game but also incredibly horrible to watch moments like Dan and Will’s bashing of Shirin and really just anything that came out of Dan’s mouth at all. We all know the bad about Worlds Apart so let’s talk about the good. Mike Holloway won in a unique way that has only been seen once in 32 seasons. No other player has been able to win their way to the end and then win the final vote. Moreover, Joey Amazing is one of the biggest casting breakouts of all time and the cast had a mix of strategists like Max and Shirin, entertaining characters like Rodney and Carolyn and of course a solid winner in Mike. The game also had surprising vote offs, all three idols were used to vote someone out in an entertaining fashion, the final four fire making challenge was good and the auction was Survivor’s best ever as most of the big moments from this season arise out of that auction. Unlike most of the seasons listed for me as being worse than it, the story of this season clearly gave us two people to root for in Carolyn and Mike and again the way Mike won the game stands out as being incredibly unique. However, with that being said Mike’s incredible immunity run is one of the only things worth re-watching in this season.
24. Cook Islands (S13)
Cook Islands is another solid season. The twist in which the tribes were divided by race could have worked out horribly wrong but thanks to a swap early on, nothing controversial arose out of it and we ended up with an incredibly diverse cast coming from all different walks of life. On top of the birth of Parvati Shallow on to Survivor, this season also has one of the greatest ever strategists and winners, Yul Kwon and one of the most entertaining Survivor characters ever, Jonathan Penner. Yul’s use of the idol to flip Jonathan and decrease his numbers advantage stands out as the highlight of this season for me, but the twist with Candace and Jonathan deciding to join the other tribe was also interesting especially since this twist has never happened before in the show’s history. Among the things that knock this season down in the rankings are Ozzy just being there in general, not great gameplay apart from Yul, and Adam and Candace kind of being jerks when they realize they are about to be eliminated. If Ozzy had won instead of Yul, this surely would have been considered one of the worst seasons ever, but luckily, Yul was the winner.
23. Redemption Island (S22)
As a humongous ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano fan, I love Redemption Island. I think both Rob and Phillip provide some much needed comical release in their confessionals making this a lot more of a fun season than people give it credit for. Admittedly, not too much happens, and the game-play except everything that Rob does is really bad. This helps Rob win in one of the most dull ways in Survivor history as it was almost too easy for him to win and manipulate everyone around him. That being said, we can’t ignore how good of a win this was for Rob even if it was his fourth time. I probably would rank it as the best win in Survivor history but you’ll have to stay tuned for that ranking to find out for sure. One thing that most people hate about this season was the Redemption Island twist, but one of the best things about this season is the struggle Matt goes through staying at Redemption Island for nearly the whole season only to win his spot back in the game and then be sent right back out of the door by Rob. It also can’t be forgotten that even though the post-merge is predictable, the first three episodes are absolute dynamite and the premiere is one of the best in the show’s history. Redemption Island is a lot better than most people think it is and deserves a lot more credit than it gets.
22. Samoa (S19)
Whether you hate or love Russell Hantz, you can’t deny the impact he’s had on Survivor. Russell’s strategic manipulation in Samoa was the most incredible the show had seen up until that point and the story of how he lost is still one of the most interesting and most highly-debated topics Survivor has to offer. The post-merge part of Samoa is pretty great and it’s still a mystery to me how Galu let a 8-4 numbers advantage go to waste to allow the four Foa Foa members to make it all the way to the final five. It is really one of the most unique set of circumstances to ever occur on Survivor that allows Natalie White to win the season and as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m a lot higher on Natalie as a winner of Survivor than many, so her being the winner does not spoil the season for me at all. If anything it makes it better. My main qualm with Samoa in fact is the over-edit that Russell gets and the incredibly unfair under-edit that the intelligent and socially brilliant Natalie gets. Russell has 105 confessionals over the course of the season to Natalie’s 15, which is completely unjustified and does not make for a better story. One of the other main strikes against Samoa is that there are really no stand-out episodes. Not even a single Samoa episode was considered for my “Perfect Season of Survivor” article, which is probably because although the season is great as a whole, there isn’t really any particular episode or even moment that really jumps out as being amazing. The other major knock against this season was that CBS might just as well have titled it “The Russell Show”. The story was all about Russell and half the cast was completely ignored as a result. Brett Clouser made it to fourth place and I still don’t have a clear image in my head on who he was or how he got there. Natalie, the winner of the season, meanwhile only had 15 confessionals, the lowest a winner has ever had. Her minimal amount of confessionals is due to the fact that they focused far too much on Russell, giving him the most confessionals in the history of the show with 108. Survivor Samoa is an interesting season to analyze from a strategic standpoint but it really is too Russell-heavy and although Russell’s game is incredible, Survivor Samoa doesn’t actually offer that many great moments if any at all.
21. Borneo (S1)
Now I move away from the average seasons of Survivor and get into the good seasons. It’s quite obvious why I have Survivor Borneo down so low. Because I came to Survivor so late, Borneo does not have that same nostalgia factor for me that it does with every other die-hard Survivor fan. Admittedly, Borneo does have an incredible impact on the show and if Borneo had not been so incredible and ahead of it’s time, Survivor would not have been as successful. But having said that, watching Survivor Borneo for the first time in 2015, rather than in 2000, it’s actually really tame compared to what we have been accustomed to these days. It is for the exact reason why watching this season was absolutely fascinating at times and definitely worth while but it is also why several parts of Survivor Borneo are a bit hit and mess. One thing that fascinates me about Borneo in particular is how strategically sound Richard Hatch was despite this being the first time anything like this had ever been done in an English speaking nation. We see Rich build the first ever alliance and then ride his power position in the game all the way to the end, voting off every single member of the other team with ease. But that meant that the way Borneo worked out was so boring at times that the term “Pagoning” has become a common term used in Survivor to describe one tribe completely decimating the other. The challenges are also kind of boring and although Richard is amazing, the focus of the show is on surviving, not on strategizing. With all of that being said, Borneo is still incredibly interesting to watch because it lays the foundation for what would become future Survivor and is certainly the most unique season in the show’s history as it’s filmed almost like a documentary and has a completely different feel to it than the other 31 seasons.
20. Pearl Islands (S7)
I know I’m probably lower on Pearl Islands than anyone else, I just really don’t love the cast that much. Sandra is entertaining and a good winner of the game, Jonny Fairplay is incredibly entertaining but also kind of a lunatic and besides Rupert everyone else is nothing special, which is why only those three and Savage have returned. I know everyone loves Rupert but I really don’t like him in Pearl Islands. To me, he’s just kind of arrogant and annoying and the only joy I got out of watching him besides the shoe incident was how easy it was for Jon to exploit him. The highlight of Pearl Islands no doubt is Jonny Fairplay’s dead grandmother lie. But I do think it is a bit overrated in that it is generally seen as the best moment in Survivor history, when I wouldn’t rank it that highly, especially since it really didn’t have that much of an impact on the outcome of the game. Other moments that I enjoy from Pearl Islands include the crazy argument between Sandra and Jon and the good piece of gameplay from Jon when he pits Lil and Darrah against each other to save himself At the same time though, I really don’t like watching Jonny Fairplay and his arrogance. Also, the outcasts twist was a nightmare and it’s no wonder why it hasn’t returned since. In terms of the highlights of the season, the first episode is wonderful. We have this really unique opening scene where the contestants are sent off into the town to buy anything they think they’ll for the season from local markets. This produces some incredible moments like Rupert stealing other contestants’ shoes and selling them for fruit, Sandra speaking Spanish to all the locals and saving Trish from a lustful shopkeeper and Andrew Savage establishing himself as the leader of his tribe. Other than an amazing premiere and “The Great Lie” the rest of the other episodes are kind of tame by comparison and the fact that there’s no one to really root for to win in this season often seems to go missed due to everyone being so in love with Rupert. But Pearl Islands is still a really great and entertaining season.
19. Australian Outback (S2)
One of the main reasons why I loved Australian Outback so much was because I watched All Stars first and was highly intrigued when I was given the opportunity to watch a good amount of the players from All Stars in their original season and get to see why they were All Stars. Colby is great and his 5 immunity wins still holds today as the record, albeit in a tie with Mike, Tom, Ozzy and Terry. Tina is an interesting winner and her incredible social game still stands as one of the best social performances today. Moreover, Jerri is just amazing for confessionals and her relationship with fellow All Stars Amber and Colby was incredibly entertaining to watch unfold. Alecia and Kimmi Kappenberg’s dispute, the beef jerky incident, Jeff Varner stepping down for peanut butter only to be voted off and sweet, innocent characters like Roger Bingham and Elizabeth Hasselback are also highlights from this season. But perhaps the most memorable moment of all in Survivor: Australian Outback has to be the moment when Michael Skupin falls in the fire and becomes the first Survivor contestant to be medically evacuated. This was not only dramatic and scary, but it changed the course of the game as it allowed Colby and Tina to take control of the game rather than Jeff and Mike. Outback just has a really good mix of really interesting players which is why it remains as the season with the most players to come back and play again. Like most early seasons though, it’s not really all that great for strategy and in terms of big moments, there’s only really the Mike Skupin evacuation and Kel Beef Jerky moment to look back on. But, Australian Outback is still an amazing season with one of the best casts in the history of the show.
18. Gabon (S17)
As much as you want to say that the cast was unlikable, that there was no one to root for and that all of the worst players made it to the final three, at least they were entertaining. In fact, Survivor Gabon had one of the most hilarious and entertaining casts in the history of the show. It is partially because everyone cast on the season is a bit of a nutcase which makes for some hilarious strategy but it is also a testament to how different each character was from the other. Who could forget Sugar, or Corrinne, or Randy or Kenny Hoang? These types of characters are just absolute gold and even players like Ace and Crystal you can admit to loving to hate. The biggest knock against Gabon, will forever be that it had the worst final three in the history of the show and possibly the worst winner in Bob. There will never, ever, ever be a worse final three in the history of Survivor than Bob, Sugar and Susie. But, this season does have some interesting moments, such as Bob’s fake idol, the Charlie vote off because of Kenny’s personal grudge against him, the fake merge and when the tribes had to rank their team based on importance and then swap players. If I had to rewatch a season of Survivor, Gabon would not be at the top of my list but would certainly not be at the bottom because there are just far too many interesting things that occur and the strategy of the season really makes you think and dissect each and every move because some of the moves made quite honestly make no sense! Gabon really isn’t as bad as people make it out to be, it just often gets knocked because of it’s unlikable cast with no one to root for. The fact that Sugar and Bob were the two fan favourites kind of says it all. I’ll also pull a Jeff Probst and say that another redeeming thing about this season was it’s stunning location as Gabon is probably one of the most incredible places Survivor has ever been and that one scene with the contestants watching that elephant is amazing. Gabon is not a bad season but it is far from perfect or even great for that matter.However, it’s an incredible and hilarious cast and series of events ensures its top half finish.
17. Marquesas (S4)
Now I move into the great seasons of Survivor, starting with Survivor Marquesas. Marquesas is probably one of the best casts in the history of the show, certainly within the first couple of seasons. There are so many characters I could name as being incredible TV and incredible players from Survivor 4. The standouts though are Rob Mariano, Kathy, John Carroll, Sean Rector and Vecepia. Marquesas kind of changes the way the game is played as it involves some very interesting strategic moves and because of its historical context to the rest of Survivor is a really important season. The first of those historical moves, is when Rob, Sean and Vecepia band together to vote out the strongest person on their team in Hunter, as it’s the first time that a big alpha male is voted out pre-merge in the show’s history. Then we get one of the greatest moments and biggest moves in Survivor history in the John Carroll vote off, as this was the first ever power-shift in the game where the minority alliance took control of the game by successfully taking down the majority’s leader. Kathy is also amazing TV, Vecepia is a pretty-decent winner and the first African American player to win and Boston Rob enters the scene of Survivor and is able to make his mark on an incredible season. What makes it even better is that these incredible moves are still relevant, fun to talk about and applicable to modern-day Survivor. Marquesas is really enjoyable, and although not the greatest season ever, it has several big moments that would change the way Survivor would be played.
16. Philippines (S25)
Survivor Philippines is widely regarded as the season that returned Survivor to the good old days and that description is beyond true. Philippines just has such an upbeat energy and flow to it, along with such an interesting cast and it just lifts Survivor back up after four seasons of disappointment following Heroes vs. Villains. The season had three interesting and logical returning players, three players who were medically evacuated from the game and could provide entertainment. In addition, we get the birth of Malcolm onto Survivor and an amazing strategic winner in Denise. Other intriguing characters include the always crazy Abi-Maria, the non-stop thinking machine in RC Saint-Armour and even a crazy first boot in the form of Zain. You also have both Lisa Whelchel and Jeff Kent hiding who they really are which is incredibly entertaining as well as the contestants’ initial strategies on how to deal with the three odd returners. It’s also an incredible season in that it’s the first three-tribe season since Survivor All Stars way back in Season 8 and it worked out so well that Survivor has stuck with it for the majority of their seasons since! Philippines is also unique because Denise is the only player in the history of the show to attend every single tribal council of a season yet she still manages to win! Season 25 is also a seriously interesting season for strategy in both the pre-merge and post-merge and we get a good mix of both brilliant and baffling strategy. Good challenges, and a solidly conclusive winner’s story also make this a very interesting season to watch. Philippines isn’t one of the best seasons but it is a very good one and a top half season at the very least.
15. Millennials vs. Gen X (S33)
Although the pre-merge was a bit slow at times, Millennials vs. Gen X took off to extreme heights in the post-merge in what was one of the most exciting runs of episodes in the history of Survivor. The cast of this season was so rootable and likable with no major villains or people you just couldn’t stand to see on your television screen. Every single player came to play and with complex strategy, and with highlights like Michaela’s incredible blindside pictured above, a rock draw, and eccentric characters like Zeke, Adam, David and Jay there was never a dull moment. Obviously the biggest knock of Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X was the incredibly slow and dull pre-merge as other than Episode 2: Love Goggles, there probably isn’t a single episode I’d watch again, including the Premiere. The post-merge was exceptional though and because of how great the characters were, particularly those that made it far, this season will forever go down with a very good reputation in the Survivor community.
14. Amazon (S6)
Oh Rob Cesternino. You can’t help but think of him the moment someone says the word ‘Amazon’ in a Survivor context. Rob, dare I say it was the biggest casting breakout in the show’s history up to that point and he could easily be on the podium of top winners had he been able to win. Rob Cesternino changed the way Survivor was played as he swung from tree to tree to the various alliances voting people off while always keeping the heat off of himself and somehow managing to ingratiate himself back into the good graces of those that he just betrayed every single time. Amazon also has the really interesting Men vs. Women tribe format which proves to be a huge success and has Jenna and Heidi, who lets just say are probably the first two players to successfully use sexuality as a strategy in the game of Survivor. Christy, Matt and Roger are also really memorable characters and this was probably the season where strategy really took to new heights in the sense that the game became more about strategy than surviving for the first time. A few knocks against this season would include it having a relatively disappointing winner, although Jenna is probably one of the best alternatives to Rob, Roger’s constant misogynistic comments, boring challenges and not having enough memorable moments.
13. China (S15)
Survivor China has one of the most character driven story-lines of any season of Survivor. You can easily tell why, there are some amazing characters! On top of Jean-Robert, James, Courtney, Amanda and Peih-Gee you also get Todd, teaching everyone a less on how to win the game and revolutionizing the way the game is played. Todd showed us that it’s okay to be a villain, it’s okay to play an aggressive game, as long as you can back up your game at the final tribal council and stay in the good graces with the members of the jury. My main qualm with Survivor China is that the pre-merge is a little boring. “Love is in the Air” is the only standout episode from the pre-merge and besides the scenes from that epiosde not much really happens at all. But the post-merge is excellent and the John-Robert and James vote offs are certainly very entertaining. The final tribal council is also one of the best in the show’s history and Todd’s performance is widely regarded as the best final tribal council performance ever. Courtney’s performance is also a standout though and is probably the best from a player not to win as she goes from having 0-1 votes going into the night to securing two votes and almost winning over John-Robert’s vote as well who completely disregarded her throughout the season. Survivor China is a really fun season with some really great players, it just doesn’t have as many standout moments in Survivor history to look back on as some of the seasons ahead of it do.
12. Kaoh Rong (S32)
One of the best casts in the history of Survivor. Survivor Kaoh Rong had so many incredible characters and entertaining players. No one on the entire cast was a disappointment and so many of these players had an impact on both the story of the season and on the game. With so many amazing characters, this could end up being one of the seasons with the most returning players ever as time moves on. Caleb, Debbie, Tai and Aubry are all destined to return and the list doesn’t stop there. Debbie was one of the most original contestants in the show’s history and was an absolute pleasure to watch. Aubry’s incredible social game, and the characters of Cydney, Peter, Scott, Julia, Jason, Nick and Neil also added to the fun. Another very good thing about Kaoh Rong is that each section of the game, from the pre-swap, to the swap, to the merge, had it’s entertaining characters and moments and there was never really a dull moment. But now we get to the troubling things about Survivor Kaoh Rong. As time moves on, I’ll slowly come to terms with the Michele win more and more, but it is probably the most puzzling win in Survivor history and I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand why the jury voted for Michele instead of Aubry. Michele might be one of the worst winners of this game ever. The other knocks against this season is that strategically it was one of the most difficult seasons of Survivor to follow and the story that was told never showed Michele as being a deserving winner yet she won over somebody who was shown to deserve it way more, which was a disappointing end to a great season. The story of the season also did get kind of overpowered sometimes by the constant medical evacuations and the pre-merge was overshadowed by the Scott, Jason and Alecia bullying controversy. However, Survivor Kaoh Rong was certainly a memorable season and will go down in the history books as one of the best in my opinion.
11. Palau (S10)
Survivor Palau is one of the most unique seasons of Survivor. We will certainly never see another season of Survivor where one tribe loses every single challenge and gets completely decimated down to just one member before that person is just observed into the other tribe. It was an incredibly unique set of circumstances and kind of a bummer, given that Stephanie, Bobby Jon and James were such interesting and dynamic characters. But on top of one of the most unique set of circumstances in the show’s history, Survivor Palau also brings us one of the most commanding and dominant wins in Survivor history and there’s nothing dull about it. The finale in which Ian steps down after 13 hours of hanging onto a pole, to allow Tom and Katie to vote him off in hopes that he could restore his friendship with the two of them is one of the most incredible moments in the show’s history and up until Survivor Second Chance, Survivor Palau’s finale was considered by almost all to be the best one ever because of it. In addition to the interesting Ulong members, Koror also has it’s standout characters as Coby is a lot of fun, Janu is interesting to discuss about and Gregg and Jenn Lyon’s relationship is very fun and interesting as well. The thing that is really in favour of Palau is that when you think of it, you think of Tom and you think of Stephanie and you go “wow that was amazing”. The one knock against it is that it is not by any means the greatest season from a strategic standpoint but the story really makes up for that fact and makes this a really enjoyable season to watch.
10. Blood vs. Water (S27)
In terms of a season with big moments and big characters, Blood vs. Water is at the top and doesn’t disappoint at all. Tyson Apostol is one of the funniest characters in the history of the show and him coming back for the third time to play one of the most commanding games in Survivor history was very entertaining to watch and certainly made this a satisfying season. It also was probably the best theme Survivor ever produced, as having loved one’s play together proved to be an instant hit and added a whole new way of going about the strategy of the game that we could have never imagined. One immediate thing I’ll say about this season that is not in it’s favour is that it’s probably the weirdest assortment of returning players ever and so many of them should have never been given the opportunity to play the game again. Kat was a nothing player on One World and was just a mess on this season. Aras was pretty boring in his first season and is too laid back to really play the game in an entertaining way. Candace although a decent player didn’t really do anything from an entertainment value on either of her two previous seasons, Monica and Laura Morett didn’t do nearly enough in their seasons to merit a second chance, Colton is one of the most ridiculous choices for a returning player ever and Rupert is the most mysterious one of all as the jury had pretty much been out on Rupert since Heroes vs. Villains and it seems like no one cared to see him again except for CBS. The only reasonable returnees for this season were Tina, Gervase and Tyson. Nevertheless, these returning players all brought with them a loved one, creating some of the biggest and best characters of recent seasons and although the returning players weren’t great as a whole, the loved one’s that came on to the show because of them were incredible. Through Monica we were given Brad, who was one of the most flamboyant pre-merge players in the show’s history. Through Aras we were given Vytas, who was arguably the superior brother in terms of Survivor strategy and manipulated the woman on his tribe to get what he wanted very intelligently. Through Colton we were given Caleb who was key in eliminating Brad, through Laura M we were given Ciera, one of the most fearless Survivor players ever who not only voted out her mom but forced a rock draw at final six and through Kat we were given Hayden, a really good and fun player. Without the terrible returning players coming back we wouldn’t have seen all of these incredible first time players in the game. The big moments of this season such as the Rock Draw at final six, the Brad boot and the Laura B boot are absolutely massive and so entertaining that a good season is made into a great one and we can almost ignore the ridiculousness of the players that were selected to return.
9. Tocantins (S18)
You can’t help but love Survivor Tocantins. Exile Island for the first time ever was useful and interesting, JT played the best social game of all time, and two of the funniest and most interesting characters in the show’s history in Coach and Tyson arrived on to the Survivor scene. Coach seriously is the main reason why Tocantins is so amazing and fun to watch. He’s crazy, he’s a pathological liar, he’s a sociopath, his way of playing the game was ridiculous, but boy was he fun to watch. “The Martyr Approach”, the episode in which Coach gets voted off is comedic gold. Similarly, “It’s Funny When People Cry”, the episode in which Tyson gets voted off is also incredible. I might go as far as to say that Coach is the best and most entertaining character that Survivor has ever had and that no player has a stranger two boot episodes than Tyson in Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains. Additionally, Taj, Brendan, Stephen, Erin and to an extent Sierra, are all amazing characters that give this season a fun feel with actually some really good strategic game-play mixed in along the way. What can’t be forgotten about Tocantins in the midst of all the great characters is that JT played one of the best games Survivor has ever seen and was able to decrease a 6-3 numbers advantage to make it to the end of the game with his best bud Stephen and then steal all the votes and win in a 7-0 victory. The one problem with Tocantins is that there are no standout moments, no standout strategic maneuvers, just really amazing characters with a great overall story.
8. San Juan Del Sur (S29)
San Juan del Sur kicks off the first of the seasons that I consider to be amazing. Survivor San Juan del Sur is one of the most hilarious stories with one of the most hilarious casts. “We’re A Hot Mess”, the episode in which Drew Chrisite gets voted out is my second favourite episode in Survivor history and is absolutely amazing and hilarious from start to finish. Strangely, one of the things that I enjoy most about Survivor 29 is that the Huhnapu tribe was one of the most stacked and memorable tribes in the history of the show and that on the other end, Coyopa was one of the most forgettable tribes ever in the history of the show. Huhnapu had almost every single memorable character from this season including Jeremy, Keith, Kelley, Natalie, Missy, Reed, Jon Misch, and of course Drew Christy. The only casting dud of that tribe and of the entire season was Julie McGee, who was only on because of her boyfriend, a famous baseball player, Jon Rocker whom CBS had wanted on the show for years. San Juan Del Sur has some incredibly epic vote offs. The standout is of course the Drew Christy vote off, but the Jon Misch, Jeremy, Alec and Wes vote offs are all really fun and entertaining too. We also get to see one of the best wins in Survivor history after Natalie takes control of the game after Jeremy gets voted out, has two-three amazing moves and then wins the season with ease. Keith Nale, Jon Misch, Josh and Reed are also a pleasure to watch and the blood vs. water twist proved to be effective again. Admittedly, some of the pre-merge episodes are kind of forgettable but the season as a whole is certainly memorable and has already produced three of the most memorable returning players ever in Jeremy, Kelley and Keith. The big knock I have against my first ever season of Survivor was that too many unlikable players made it too far into the game and if Natalie had miraculously been voted out at final four, Keith would have won the game and would have gone down as the worst winner ever. Luckily, we were saved of that outcome as Natalie won by playing one of the best games Survivor has ever seen. San Juan del Sur also has a special place in my heart for being my very first season of Survivor.
7. Guatemala (S11)
Survivor Guatemala is one of the most underrated seasons of Survivor and I’ll never understand why. The cast is absolutely amazing and the fact that only one player has ever returned is a total injustice. Brandon Bellinger and Brian Corridan are hilarious and are two of my favourite pre-merge players ever. Then you have two of the most flamboyant, strange, and puzzling characters in the history of the show in Judd and Jamie, two interesting returnees in Stephanie and Bobby Jon, an amazing winner in Danni, a strategic mastermind in Rafe and many more incredible characters. This is also the season with the first ever immunity idol, two incredibly historic rivalries in Judd vs. Margaret and Bobby Jon vs. Jamie and one of the most entertaining run-ins in the history of the show. It also has it’s name as being the most brutal season of Survivor ever, as the 13-mile hike in Episode 1 nearly killed some of the contestants and they couldn’t even go in the water near their camps at all because of the alligators that surrounded the area. The stunning location, particularly the temple in Nakum’s campsite is also one more thing that contributes to this season having a really original and fun feel. I also can’t talk about Guatemala without talking about one of the most amazing pieces of Survivor strategy ever in “Bait Blake” brought to us by Brian Corridan. This often goes unremembered and this type of strategy has really never come into the fold ever again even though there have been several times since when it would have been absolutely applicable to use. The story of how and why Stephanie lost is also one of the most interesting to explore and the only knock I have against this season is that some of the early vote offs are a bit predictable and unmemorable. Without looking it up I couldn’t tell you the names off the first four people voted off, which is not a good sign. However, Survivor Guatemala is an incredible season and a very underrated one as well.
6. Vanuatu (S9)
I know I’m probably higher on Vanuatu than any other Survivor fan in existence, but that’s the way I roll. Survivor Vanuatu is one of the most interesting and mystifying seasons for strategy, game-play and relationships. Chris Daugherty should have never won that game but somehow he did, making it an incredibly intriguing season to watch. Oh and his final tribal council performance is my personal vote for best ever and also takes the cake as one of the most entertaining FTC’s ever. The women vs. men twist was back again after it worked so well in Survivor: Amazon and it didn’t disappoint once again. With Vanuatu being one of the last seasons before the introduction of the hidden immunity idol, it has a really amazing feel to it and the characters are amazing for both men and women despite it being the least diverse cast in the show’s history. Eliza, Twila and Ami Cusack are great and interesting players on the women’s side while Sarge, Chris and Chad provide the entertainment from the men. One of my favourite things about Survivor Vanuatu that I briefly have already alluded to is that Chris probably overcame more odds to win than any other Survivor player and his win will always remain in my opinion as one of the most incredible because of the adversity he had to overcome in order to win. At final seven there was a powerful alliance of six women and then there was Chris who had just watched his three best buds all get taken out, yet somehow Chris managed to maneuver his way through the women, finding cracks where nobody else would have been able to and then he managed to win the game. Twila swearing on her son’s life in a horrible lie, the only ever Survivor earthquake, Leann’s elimination and the Twila-Eliza rivalry are all standout moments from this season of Survivor that are going to continue to be forever remembered in Survivor history. The location is unique, the players are unique and the twist of their being no twists proved to be effective to the maximum. Vanuatu is great and just like Guatemala and San Juan del Sur it is wrongly underrated.
5. All Stars (S8)
After seven seasons of Survivor had passed by with plenty of incredible characters and players, an All Star season was certainly warranted. Survivor All Stars was the first season in which returning players came back to play again and it remains one of the best as well. Again as a huge ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano fan, I might be a little bias in my ranking of All Stars as one of the best seasons in the show’s history. This was Boston Rob’s game to lose from start to finish and I still feel as though he was slightly robbed of his win, in place of his now-wife Amber Brkich. The stuff with Rob and Lex is considered to be one of the ugliest moments in Survivor history but I honestly look at it as one of the best pieces of strategic game-play by Rob, a dumb move by Lex and also one of the most incredible moments of not only the season but the show’s history as well. All Stars had one of the most memorable casts ever as these were all of the favourites from the early seasons of Survivor which tend to be many people’s favourite seasons. All of the strange casting choices like Amber and Shii Ann turned out to be strokes of genius by the producers while Rob and Amber also become the first ever Survivor couple and their relationship is incredibly interesting to watch evolve through the course of the season. We also have two quits, a return of the arrogant yet entertaining Richard Hatch and some really cool challenges as well. Meanwhile, huge players who played huge games in their original seasons like Colby and Rob Cesternino get voted out early as Lex, Amber and Rob Mariano steal the show. I love Survivor All Stars and I think it is criminally underrated and should be given a lot more respect.
4. Cagayan (S28)
You’ll notice a common theme among these next four seasons of Survivor, which is that they have the best casts in the history of the show, the best players, some of the best winners and the best storylines. Starting with Survivor Cagayan, not only do we have this great Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty format, we get so many memorable characters out of it that it’s almost too many to count. Tony is the standout of all and is just an incredible player and TV personnel who won by playing one of the most stellar games ever. Then there’s Spencer and Kass who were so memorable that they were locks for Second Chance, Woo who didn’t know the game at all and made arguably the worst mistake in the history of the show, Trish, who was Tony’s loyal sidekick that he betrayed and epic pre-merge players like Garrett, J’Tia and Brice. Part two of the premiere is one of the best episodes in the show’s history and leads to one of the most amazing and shocking vote offs ever. Then the merge episode “Head of the Snake” in which Sarah gets voted out is considered to be the best episode of all seasons of Survivor by many. In Survivor Cagayan you also get an amazing Cliff vote off, an amazing super-idol that Tony uses to perfection, Lindsey quitting, and the Brains tribe just being horribly bad at everything. A key reason as to why Cagayan is one of the best seasons is because of how unpredictable it was. The constant flip-flopping that Tony and Woo did made this season the most hard to predict of all time and you never truly knew which way any vote was going to go. From characters to story-line to strategy to a satisfying winner, Cagayan hits all the right notes and is an amazing season of Survivor.
3. Micronesia (S16)
Without the three women standing in the picture above, this would have not been nearly as an amazing season of Survivor. But thanks to Cirie, Amanda, Parvati and we can’t forget Natalie Bolton either, Survivor Micronesia was incredible. The amazing Fans vs. Favourites twist allowed for some of the greatest moments in the history of the show as Erik and Jason’s gullibility and insecurity arise out of them being fans of the show and starstruck by their favourite survivor players. Erik and Jason being fans of the show and thus being inherently gullible is the reason why their blindsides are so epic. The Erik, Jason and Ozzy blindsides are three of the most amazing blindsides ever in the show and they certainly help to establish Parvati as one of the most worthy winners of this game. Although it’s a close call between this season and the two ahead of it, Micronesia probably has the best strategic game-play of any season of Survivor and some of the best strategic moves as well. Unlike it’s successor in Caramoan, the original Fans vs. Favourites actually had fans and favourites and an amazing arrangement of returning players that people wanted to see back again. James was hilarious as always, Eliza and Penner were entertaining as always and a strange recall for Jonny Fairplay saw him ask to be voted out on the very first day in a really strange circumstance. The Favourites tribe isn’t the only amazing thing about this season’s pre-merge though, the Fans tribe also had a set of memorable players. Joel leads two impressive blindsides before being blindsided himself, Chet and Kathy are seen as dead-weight but somehow make it to the swap and both Natalie B and Erik are incredibly lovable players who offer amazing confessionals throughout the season. We also can’t forget about that stick that Ozzy made a fake immunity idol out of which was later played by Eliza, nor can we forget about two medical evacuations to important characters in James and Jonathan Penner. Survivor Micronesia is amazing from start to finish and deserves it’s spot on the podium.
2. Second Chance (S31)
The most complex, intricate and incredible season for strategy ever on Survivor. With so many stellar returning players, the best one-time players to never win, the strategy of this game took to new heights in Survivor Cambodia and probably will change the way the game will be played in the future. With the fans getting to vote for the players they wanted on the season for the first time ever, it made for the most anticipated season ever in the show’s history and it didn’t disappoint on any front as all of our favourite players contributed to the season in an epic fashion. It was so exciting to see all of these players back for a second time from recent heroes like Jeremy, Spencer and Joe to players who have been waiting for a shot at redemption for years and years like Kimmi, Jeff Varner and Terry. One of the most satisfying things about Survivor Cambodia is that the four players who were playing the best game made it to the final four, which is so rarely the case in Survivor. Jeremy is one of the most satisfying winners ever, but any of the final four winning the season could have been a plausible and satisfying end to the season as well. Also, Joe winning the first four immunity challenges, and then pushing himself to the limit so much that he faints stands out as a memorable part of the season. But the memories don’t stop there. We also had incredible idol plays like Jeremy saving Stephen and Kelley eliminating Savage as well as the whole thing with Stephen’s advantage which he incorrectly played and was in turn voted out as a result. Also, the finale is the best in the show’s history as the final six tribal council in which Jeremy and Kelley play their idols to give us our first ever no-vote scenario, a tie right after that between Kimmi and Tasha and then Kimmi ultimately going home after Keith who received no votes at all almost did, was all incredible. Jeff Varner, Ciera Eastin, Abi-Maria Gomes, Andrew Savage and Stephen Fishbach all proved to be entertaining characters as well. Second Chance also gave us some very surprising votes like Vytas being the first boot, Shirin being the second boot and of course the aforementioned Andrew and Kimmi eliminations. Second Chance was a roller coaster of ride but one that just kept on going up and never went down. It will forever be known as one of the craziest and best ever seasons of Survivor.
1. Heroes vs. Villains (S20)
Survivor Heroes vs. Villains had the best cast of any season of Survivor ever. Everyone’s favourite players from the first twenty seasons playing in one of the best and most well-thought out themes ever proved to be exactly the right formula to make this the best season ever. One thing to mention immediately about HvV is that it has three episodes that are constantly ranked as three of the best episodes ever. The premiere episode “Slay Everyone Trust No One”, the Parvati double idol play on JT titled “Going Down In Flames” and my favourite episode of Survivor history, “Banana Etiquette” in which Tyson is sent home after some incredible game-play by Russell and James is sent home after eating too many bananas (well sort of). The cast of Heroes vs. Villains was amazing and for the most part spot on by the producers. Similarly to All Stars, the players that we might have been scratching our heads at about their returns, like Candace and Danille proved to be interesting characters. The story of the season was also excellent and everyone’s favourite characters all didn’t miss a beat as ‘Boston’ Rob and Russell were excellent yet again, Sandra won in an entertaining fashion and Parvati played possibly the best strategic game that Survivor has ever seen. Parvati, Sandra and to an extent Russell all played games that were deserving of the win and any one of the three of them hypothetically could have won this season. Moreover, none of the votes were ever predictable. Even the first boot in Sugar which could have been a predictable one, was edited perfectly to give us a reason as to why so many other characters could have gone home as well. There are so many amazing things about this season. The Rob-Coach bromance, the Jerri-Coach romance, the Rob vs. Russell rivalry, and ‘JT’ giving his idol to Russell at the challenge were all amazing TV moments that made this an incredibly fun season to watch. There probably won’t ever be a season of Survivor that knocks this one off the number one spot. It’s that good. Survivor Heroes vs. Villains is the best season in Survivor history.
So there we have it. My definitive ranking of all 33 seasons of Survivor. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Also, check out the Survivor Winner Rankings, right here.