“Survivor: Blood vs. Water” had a crazy thing happen last episode — the Tribal Council, fueled by Hayden’s last-ditch effort to sway Ciera’s vote and save himself, went all the way to a drawing of rocks after two tie votes. It was only the second time that has ever happened in “Survivor” history and it sent Katie to Redemption Island.
But is that enough to propel this season into the ranks of the best seasons ever? We’ll have to see how it plays out. For now, here are the 10 best and five worst seasons of the granddaddy of reality competition shows.
No. 10: Season 4, “Marquesas”
Host Jeff Probst has said he thinks this season ranks fairly low because it was so boring, but we disagree. This season not only featured the first time rocks were drawn, but it also saw older competitors Paschal and Kathy team up with Sean, Vecepia and Neleh to take over the game from John. Watching the underdogs flip the game is “Survivor’s” bread and butter and it had never really happened before. This season also introduced Boston Rob Mariano, who became an instant fan favorite (but more on him later).
No. 9: Season 7, “Pearl Islands”
Rupert and Sandra are two of our favorite “Survivor” players of all time. Rupert has gotten a little over-exposed, but back then, he was a lot of fun to watch play. Plus, this was the season that Jonny “Fairplay” Dalton pulled his dead grandmother trick when the loved ones arrived, which was some next-level shenanigans never before seen on reality TV.
No. 8: Season 19, “Samoa”
Speaking of villains, this season brought us one Russell Hantz and by now, if we never see another member of the Hantz family, it’ll be to soon. But when it aired, Hantz was rather amazing to watch, from the sock burning to the canteen dumping to the various lies and tall tales he spun. What made it all extra delicious was that he made it all the way to the end, only to lose spectacularly to the girl he brought along with him the entire game, Natalie. It goes to show you — strategy is key, but you also can’t have the entire jury hate your guts.
No. 7: Season 20, “Heroes vs. Villains”
While we don’t
love the idea of making newbies play against veterans (because it’s just
not fair), getting a cast of all veterans together is always fun, and
the twist of good guys vs. bad guys was an excellent hook. It also was
pretty delightful that the villains emerged victorious, and we
were A-OK with Sandra becoming the first (and still only) two-time
No. 6, Season 13, “Cook Islands”
This season started off with a bang because CBS divided the tribes along racial lines, so right there is some inherent controversy. But the twist was abandoned early on and instead, what emerged was a fairly interesting game. Jonathan and Candice took advantage of the “mutiny” twist to switch tribes, which left the little alliance that could of Yul, Ozzy, Becky and Sundra all alone — and they made it all the way to the end intact. They were one of the most likable alliances ever to play the game, and while we don’t always want such squeaky-clean players to dominate, these guys were big underdogs and really pulled it out.
No. 5: Season 24, “One World”
We loved the twist of having
the tribes live on the same beach where they could interact with one
another — that provided a whole new dynamic and strategy to the game.
It’s also a lot of fun when women can come together and successfully
pull off an alliance. Not that women are somehow deficient at making
alliances, but shows like “Big Brother” are notorious for female
alliances never even getting off the ground, let alone actually doing
something in the game. Kim Spradlin was the puppetmaster of this game and frankly, she should’ve won unanimously.
No. 4: Season 10, “Palau”
This season featured several of our
favorite players. Stephenie LaGrossa became maybe the toughest woman ever to
play the game, while fireman Tom Westman went on a crazy immunity
streak and won the whole game at the age of 40, which is on the old side
for a reality competition show. It also featured the most epic immunity
challenge ever, where they stood on buoys in the ocean for 13 hours.
No. 3: Season 2, “Australia”
How could the show follow up the pop culture juggernaut that was Season 1? Oh, how about with some pig-killing, fire-falling, granola bar-eating, finger-wagging, cliff-diving fun in the Australian outback? Plus, it gave us all the Colgate commercial smile of Colby Donaldson, who definitely made a million-dollar decision when he stuck to his word and took Tina Wesson to the finals with him.
No. 2: Season 8, “All Stars”
It’s become all too commonplace nowadays to bring back previous players to various reality shows, but this was a novel idea back in 2004. They got a terrific group to return to the game and it was full of drama, ranging from the Sue Hawk/Richard Hatch incident that caused her to quit, to the very sad episode where Jenna Morasca quit and then we found out her mom died a week after she got back. We also got to watch Amber and Boston Rob fall in love on TV and he proposed at the live reunion before the votes were read. What else do you want from a reality TV competition show?
No. 1: Season 1, “Borneo”
How can anything beat the original? My family and I were glued to our TV all summer when this aired because it was unlike anything we had ever watched. And it still holds up. It’s not just a good season because it was so inventive at the time. The final four alone is worth it, but we also loved Colleen, Jenna, Gervase, etc. etc. An all-around winner of a season.
What’s remarkable is how well “Survivor” still holds up — it’s Season 27 and we’re enjoying “Blood vs. Water” as much as we always have enjoyed watching the show. Though “Survivor” has not been without a few less-than-stellar seasons.
No. 5: Season 3, “Africa”
We love Ethan Zohn and Lex and all the other characters from this season. But there’s a reason the producers never again set “Survivor” somewhere land-locked — this season was so boring. The castaways had to be trapped inside little areas more or less all the time because an actual fear of being eaten by wild animals. That’s not only a little too real, but it doesn’t provide much time for scheming.
No. 4: Season 14, “Fiji”
Earl Cole is one of the most likable winners of the game, and this season also featured one of our all-time favorites in Yau Man — but it was so boring. You might be sensing a theme here. Anything is better than boring.
No. 3: Season 9, “Vanuatu”
We can barely remember anyone from this season, so again — boring. Not memorable. No offense to Scout and Chris, but this was just kind of a dud season. We’re sure it doesn’t make Chris’ million dollars any less awesome.
No. 2: Season 5, “Thailand”
It might seem like watching a tribe of more elderly players beat up on the young ‘uns would be fun, but maybe if the participants were just a little more interesting. Shii Ann Huang was the best thing to come out of this season and she got voted out in episode 7.
No. 1: Season 22, “Redemption Island”
We love us some
Boston Rob, but this season continually felt like one big “let’s win
Boston Rob the ‘Survivor’ title” game orchestrated by the producers for three months. Putting Rob on a tribe full of
gomers who were too star-struck to act against him became more and more
boring, and there is such a thing as over-saturation. By this point, Boston Rob had been on a lot of “Survivor” plus “The Amazing Race.” This is the only season of “Survivor” we almost just stopped
watching, though we know this is a controversial choice as the worst season ever.
What do you think, fans? “Survivor” airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.