Survivor season 1-32 rankings (with spoiler-free summaries)

Note: If you’re here, you’re probably looking for our new, updated Survivor season rankings. But if you’re just here looking to see how we felt about the first 32 seasons, have at it.

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The list below was created by taking an average ranking from the opinions of the only two people that matter around here: Andy and John.

Each season is both ranked and described below in spoiler-free fashion so you can happily share the list with newbies to the show (or remain unspoiled on seasons you haven’t seen). And because we’re now posting this as a list, I’m sure we will inspire more comments telling us how wrong we are. You can do that in the comments below, on Twitter (@PurpleRockPod, @purplerockandy, or @purplerockjohn), or on gmail (purplerockpodcast). Please realize before you dispute our rankings that even though your opinion is totally valid, these are the definitive Survivor season rankings (because they were made by us).

Reminder: If you’re looking for our updated rankings, go here: Survivor season rankings

32. Survivor: Nicaragua (season 21)
The season that will hopefully forever remain in last place, Nicaragua is the lowest of lows for Survivor. Terrible casting, a terrible gimmick, and the worst winner ever combine to make a truly horrendous Survivor viewing experience. If this was the first season of Survivor you ever watched, I hope you enjoy whatever it is you do now on Wednesday nights instead of watching Survivor.

31. South Pacific (season 23)
There were a few bright spots in the cast of this season, but there were so many unlikable people that you almost forget the enjoyable ones. The two returning players for this season were terrible choices, and the gimmick was every bit as much of a failure here as it was the first time it was used. The winner of this season did exactly what was needed to win, but it didn’t help the entertainment value of the show.

30. Gabon (season 17)
Possibly the most inept Survivor cast ever from a gameplay perspective. This is the season that almost convinced Jeff Probst to quit as host, and after watching it you’ll understand his reasoning. Unlike Nicaragua, this season did have at least one enjoyable episode.

29. Thailand (season 5)
A definite contender for least likable cast of all time, this season also featured an incident that makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience. Thailand did have some memorable challenges- one of which is memorable because the cast is so deplorable- and one of the best final immunity challenges the show has ever had. The winner played a strong game, and some have argued that it’s one of the best games any first-time player has had.

28. Vanuatu (season 9)
This season is particularly hard to review without spoiling anything. The casting was below average on this season, although not horrendously awful. The gimmick/twist for this season was one the show had used before, but it worked fairly well and sets up a narrative for the post-merge game. The issue here is whether you like that narrative and the winner. We don’t.

27. Redemption Island (season 22)
The cast here is below average, though it is supplemented by two returnees that are some of the most popular Survivor players ever. The dominant performance by the winner is why this season stands out, although it makes for generally boring and predictable television.

26. Africa (season 3)
More than anything else, this season suffers because of its location. In the early days of the show, Survivor was much more interested in having its players live in tough environments to prove that they were real “survivors”. Eventually they came around to the idea that the most appealing part of the show isn’t watching people almost die of dehydration and starvation. The cast on this season is generally pretty decent, and probably would have been much better if they weren’t constantly sapped of energy by lack of food and water.

25. San Juan del Sur: Blood vs. Water 2 (season 29)
In a typical Survivor season, there will be players that were essentially cast to be fodder. They are the pre-merge boots that were cast not because they’d be great players, but because they’d fill a certain role the show always casts. This season has a cast that is realistically about 80% fodder. This season gets more interesting after the merge and has an excellent winner, but it’s hard to get past how unappealing this cast is. The production staff probably fell too in love with the blood vs. water concept after using it to great effect the first time around, and it led to some poor choices here.

24. One World (season 24)
Some might argue that this season features just as much fodder as San Juan del Sur. But the reality is that the cast was made to look like fodder because of the work of one of the most dominant winners the game has ever had. There have also been a surprising number of returning players from this season, whether that honor was deserved or not.

23. Worlds Apart (season 30)
A cast that seemed pretty promising early on quickly disappoints, and the winner becomes obvious fairly early on. This season, like Thailand and All-Stars, also features an incident that is uncomfortable to watch. The reunion episode is awful, saved only by the inclusion of the announcement of the cast for the following season.

22. Fiji (season 14)
When mentioning this season on the podcast, we speculated that we could talk for a solid hour about Fiji alone. Does that mean it’s a great season? Clearly not- look where it’s ranked! But it’s also not the worst season. So what would a middle-of-the-pack season do that inspires our fascination? In a word: everything. This season has a pretty terrible cast- with a few stellar exceptions- but it also seemingly throws every possible twist and gimmick against the wall in order to see what might stick. It fails, but it does so in spectacular and interesting ways. It even has one of the best episodes the show has ever had. It is Survivor: Magnificent Failure.

21. Marquesas (season 4)
The season responsible for the name of our podcast gets a few bonus points for that, and for one of the best narrative arcs of the early years of the show. The cast is fairly good, and even some pre-merge boots in this season are memorable. But that narrative arc referenced earlier reaches its conclusion before the end of the season, and once that story has been told the show sort of limps to the finish line.

20. Samoa (season 19)
This season is incredibly divisive, and understandably so. It is impossible to think of this season without thinking of one specific player, and your feelings about that player will likely determine how you rate this season. It’s hard to properly judge the cast, because the vast majority of the screen time this season goes to one person. From a gameplay perspective there are interesting things that happen here, with some tricks and strategies we hadn’t often seen before.

19. Kaoh Rong (season 32)
This season brings back the format of one of Survivor‘s best seasons and introduces two new gameplay tweaks. The cast is fairly good, with several memorable players. Despite a few unfortunate setbacks that throw off the gameplay, it’s an enjoyable season.

18. Guatemala (season 11)
An above-average cast with two returning players from the previous season, and yet nobody originally from this season has ever returned to the show again. That’s a shame, because there are some notable players here. The winner isn’t incredibly dynamic on the show, but does have an interesting path to victory.

17. Caramoan (season 26)
This season didn’t even try to push the “fans vs. favorites” thing, because it’s hard to define a lot of the returning players here as “favorites”. And it’s safe to say that many of the “fans” wouldn’t qualify for that label either. The pre-merge portion of the game is mediocre to awful, but there are some very interesting and memorable episodes post-merge. Also, a few of the returning players are among our favorites, and the winner of this season plays an excellent game.

16. All-Stars (season 8)
Have you ever heard the phrase “bitter jury” when discussing Survivor? This is where it all started. For the first time, the show brought back returning players for what truly was an all-star season. The majority of the players this season were wildly popular, and had developed massive egos because of it. This season also features one of the most uncomfortable incidents in the show’s history, and it is not handled well. But despite that, there is some decent gameplay here- just be prepared for a hate-fueled final tribal council.

15. Panama (season 12)
Andy describes this season as “replacement-level Survivor”, which is pretty apt. This is roughly the median season of Survivor, and that’s not meant as disrespect; if a season is better than Panama, it’s a good season. The casting here is good, with one of Survivor‘s greatest finds and a few other interesting people that keep the season entertaining. The gameplay is almost more interesting for what doesn’t happen than what does, but the gimmick here is one the show would deploy for several seasons until it ran out of steam in Gabon.

14. The Australian Outback (season 2)
It happened so long ago that it’s hard to judge this season fairly. Strategically, there isn’t anything earth-shattering here; Survivor was still trying to figure out if it was a game or a show about people surviving together. But the cast is good; half of them have come back for future seasons. If you watch it now, you’ll be amazed at what passed as villainy back then. It was a very different era.

13. Blood vs. Water (season 27)
This season combines returning players and family members, leading to easy emotion-laden moments that Jeff Probst can use to extract those sweet, sweet tears he needs to sustain his ageless appearance. The cast here is great, despite three players pulled from a very lackluster season (in Survivor‘s defense, two of them were cast just to get their partners on the show). The blood vs. water gimmick does lead to some interesting strategy, including the exact situation Survivor producers hoped for when they planned this season. And yes, we realize that the title of this season doesn’t make a lot of sense when you see how the tribes are set up.

12. Borneo (season 1)
How do you rank the first ever season of this show? It’s hardly the same show at this point, with narration provided by Jeff Probst and a general disdain by most of the cast for the concept of voting someone out. But this is also the season that makes Survivor what it is, as someone quickly realizes that Survivor is nothing more than a game. And that realization leads to what has become the one constant strategy in every season of Survivor. This season has an excellent winner, even if you didn’t necessarily feel that way at the time.

11. Tocantins (season 18)
One of John’s personal favorite first-timer seasons, this cast is excellent. It features multiple players that have returned to play again (and this is the most tolerable version of one of those players), and an entertaining mix of personalities. The strategy is slightly lacking and there isn’t any sort of gimmick or twists, but the season makes up for it with comedy and a group of players so likable you probably won’t care much who wins the season.

10. China (season 15)
A truly fantastic cast, with several players that have returned for future seasons of the show. The winner is excellent, and redeems some mistakes made along the way with a stellar final tribal council. The landlocked location is interesting, but a ridiculously ill-advised twist gets exploited by the players. As much as you will probably hate many of Nicaragua or Thailand‘s players, you will probably adore China‘s players in equal measure.

9. Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites (season 16)
A season that definitely takes the “fans” and “favorites” label more seriously than Caramoan did, Micronesia brought back some enjoyable players from the seasons after All-Stars to play against a group of first-timers. This season is just plain entertaining, with some of the most memorably funny moments in the show’s history. There is also interesting strategy and gameplay. The only reason Micronesia is ranked this low is because Andy thinks the gameplay suffers based on the season’s gimmick.

8. Palau (season 10)
Palau has a lot of things going for it: great challenges, a good cast, an interesting way to start the game, and several great story arcs. All of those factors work into an interesting final episode that make the season memorable and result in an impressive winner.

7. The Amazon (season 6)
An early season of the show that actually emphasized strategy, Amazon also features a player who went on to produce his own Survivor podcast. (Some have even suggested that podcast is nearly as good as The Purple Rock, which is quite a compliment.) The casting here is pretty average, and the winner’s narrative doesn’t quite work, but this season earns its rank based on several memorable moments of both gameplay and comedy.

6. Philippines (season 25)
Philippines rescued Survivor from a four-season slump by giving us a strong cast and a trio of returning players- one of which we were even happy to see again! There’s an excellent winner, some great storytelling (and narration) along the way, and just enough strategy and scheming to keep you invested in the gameplay.

5. Pearl Islands (season 7)
In our original Survivor season rankings, this season was fourth on our combined list. But out of fear of recency bias (we first made our rankings immediately following Cagayan), we edged Pearl Islands up one spot to avoid over-rating Cagayan. We’ve since corrected that. But at this high of a level, it doesn’t matter much. Pearl Islands opens the season with a 15-minute stretch that’s so good you should be hooked immediately. The cast and the way they fit-or don’t fit- with each other leads to some great moments, and even one of the worst twists in Survivor history can’t ruin what is a fantastic season from beginning to end.

4. Cook Islands (season 13)
Most other rankings probably won’t give this season its due strictly because of the gimmick that gives this season its alternate name- Survivor: Race Wars. There are four tribes divided by race in this season, but the greatest impact it had was that it forced Survivor to recruit a more diverse cast. And this cast shines because of it; this season has four players that returned for future multiple future seasons. It also features one of the more compelling narratives the show has ever had, and gives you the rare opportunity to see in-depth strategy talk between players. The finale features a hilarious moment just before proceeding to final tribal council, where the right player is awarded the victory.

3. Cambodia: Second Chance (season 31)
Since this season featured a cast voted in by the fans, the cast is an obvious strength. The gameplay is great as well, with ever-shifting strategies as players jostle for position to make the most of their second shot at the game. There are funny moments, emotional moments, and a convincing and satisfying winner.

2. Cagayan (season 28)
If you’re a newbie (or relative newbie) to Survivor, you probably came to this list hoping for some opinions on which season you should watch. To help you out, I will give you this suggestion: do not watch Cagayan until you’ve watched at least five other seasons first. If this is the first season you watch, you won’t fully appreciate the wild shifts and twists. But once you do watch it, you’ll get to enjoy one of the best groups of new players Survivor has ever had. There is tragedy, comedy, and above all chaos, and it gives us one of the most interesting Survivor winners ever.

1. Heroes vs. Villains (season 20)
An all-star season without the ever-present bitterness of All-Stars, Heroes vs. Villains brought back some of the most memorable players from the show’s past plus two players from Gabon. This season is an all-you-can-eat buffet of amazing moments, including one of the best strategic moves the show has had and one that is often cited as the worst (but which we consistently defend as a reasonable gamble). It also features the sad deterioration and break-up of one of the greatest man-crush relationships mankind has ever known. As with Cagayan, you’ll want to see other seasons before you watch this one so you can appreciate what takes place here.

If you’re new- or relatively new- to watching Survivor, we hope our Survivor season rankings were useful to you. Of course, these rankings are just determined by averaging our own rankings together. If you’d like to see Andy and John’s individual rankings, they’re listed below.

Heroes vs. Villains11
Cook Islands38
Pearl Islands84
Blood vs. Water1311
Millennials vs. Gen X1015
Kaoh Rong2216
Game Changers2122
One World2725
Worlds Apart2528
San Juan del Sur2826
Redemption Island2632
South Pacific3233

WARNING: People will discuss spoilers about these seasons in the comments below. If you do not want to see those spoilers, do not read the comments on this post. 





Seriously, if you keep scrolling down you’re going to see comments. This is your last chance to turn back. 

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John is the co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast. He can get loud too, what the fuck!

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia
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186 thoughts on “Survivor season 1-32 rankings (with spoiler-free summaries)

  1. The concept you can put One World above SJDS baffles me. But that is me the SJDS apologist. It’s an entertaining season, yeah a lot of fodder, a lot of dumb dumbs but a lot of fun.

      1. I have to agree. Keith and a few others (not Drew) were sort of likable fodder. Troyzan, Tarzan, Matt, and others were not (only Jonah seemed likable.)

        And the closest that SJDS came to an uncomfortable event was Natalie yelling at Jon Rocker. And that’s stretching it because … its Jon Rocker … and Natalie.

        Pretty much anything Colton did and Colton and Alicia bullying/making fun of Christina Cha was uncomfortable.

    1. As you can see from our rankings table at the bottom, it’s remarkably close. And while you may be an SJDS apologist, I’m a Kim Spradlin truther. One World is not good, but Kim fucking slays.

        1. SJDS has John Rocker! Admittedly, Colton said more John Rocker-esque things in One World, but SJDS has *actual* John Rocker!

      1. I disagree with none of your statement. if this were a winner ranking I’d have her top 100% and Natalie isn’t top 5 but this is seasons.

    2. John and Andy made the list by ranking the seasons separately and then assigning spots based on a median of the two. Iirc John had One World mid-tier, and Andy had it super high because he likes watching great players dominate.

        1. Oh, duh, I forgot they shared the individual lists with us. Why did I remember Andy having it higher?

    3. Yeah, I think Natalie’s game is just below Kim tier except it’s more entertaining, surprising and satisfying. Plus there is significantly less negatively and several great episodes.

      1. Natalie’s win is an entirely different kind because her game really begins post merge and Kim’s is like a slowly building dominance that starts off very under the radar but becomes obvious quickly pre-merge. Oh God Kim’s game was magnificent! But Natalie’s was satisfying in a way few wins have been for me as a viewer.

        1. There are several reasons Kim’s win is superior to Natalie’s (insert literally any other winner’s name here and it would work, except maybe Danni’s flawless incomparable style of win). I am a bit biased though as Natalie is who I think delivers the most entertaining win, with her flashy moves and fun confessionals. She also pulls the girls together in the Drew boot, which is her only pre-merge tribal. The only thing that docks her is the Jeremy blindside, but the way she rebounds from that almost makes her even more impressive. Kim is perfect, but her win was almost inevitable.

          1. My friend I will never ever argue Natalie is a better winner because Kim is the ultimate. She is Khaleesi, Empress of Survivor.
            Natalie was just hella entertaining.

        2. What’s funny about both is that many podcasts picked them both to go out fairly early to the middle. I remember one saying Kim would go out early because she did that thing where she would try and figure out what animals people were.

    4. i’m giving them shit about exactly this (as well as having WA above SJDS). That said, SJDS wouldn’t be that muhc higher, maybe just one or two spots, but there is a clear dividing line there

      1. I’m not claiming it’s a masterpiece, it’s probably only like 20 tops if I put my rankings together but it’s better than WA.

    5. We have hours of audio proof of our displeasure with SJDS while it was happening, including a show where we dedicated time to what would have to happen to make the season worthwhile (I believe John proposed “aliens replace the whole cast” while I went with a more realistic “Natalie winning”), and one where we basically stopped talking about the season and fancast a first boot season instead. Natalie showing up for the final two episodes doesn’t really change the fact that for the majority of the season, we thought it was worthless.

      One World, on the other hand, allowed us to marvel at Kim for a much longer period of time, thus providing a slightly more satisfying experience.

      1. Thanks, I was just about to protest the putting Natalie Anderson on the same level or higher than Kim. Natalie was most certainly a boss at the very, very end (which, fine, that was the right play for her situation), while Kim not only ruled more or less wire to wire, she had the insight to form a Taylor Swift squad and deny her potential rivals resumes of their own, rather than just drag two goats across the finish line.

        1. She was not featured heavily but she did have stuff to do premerge (hip-check and yell at Rocker, cry over her sister being voted out, wake Drew up by ticking him from one of his many naps.)

          1. Part of the problem with Natalie’s edit is that Hunahpu only went to tribal council once before the merge, so she wasn’t needed in the edit. But, during the Drewchebag episode, she is instrumental in getting him out.

      2. I accept your explanation. To be fair my ranking is based on rewatchablilty and SJDS is way more rewatchable but you are right I’m forgetting how fucking amazing it was to watch Kim just Kim all over the season.

    6. I 100% agree. I don’t rank it as highly as some of the reddit weirdos, but it’s certainly better than WA.

  2. Nicaragua’s still last, phew. Good to see that not everything this year has gone topsy-turvy.

      1. How bad would a season have to be to be worse than Nicaragua? Would it be a season we all abandon 6 episodes in to rewatch HvV or Cambodia as a palate cleanser.

        1. They’d have to do something stupid like take the olds vs youngs concept of Nicaragua and set it in Fiji or something.

        2. I don’t even want to think about what a season would have to do to be worse than Nicaragua, but I’d imagine it would involve one or more of the following:

          1. A Hantz that isn’t Russell
          2. Returning player Will Sims
          3. Survivor: Christians vs. Muslims
          4. So. Much. Racism.
          5. A women’s alliance (kidding, kidding)
          6. Gabon-like player incompetence
          7. Survivor: Redemption Island 2: Troy vs. RC
          8. Haves vs. Have Nots

          1. 10. The contestants are given access to an on-site astrologer / palm reader
            11. The auction is replaced by a talent show
            12. “For this Pepsi Reward Challenge, you must eat as many delicious Butterfinger snack bars as possible in 45 seconds. The winner gets a Taco Bell dinner back at their State Farm shelter.”
            13. A special twist gives any couple immunity as long as they agree to marriage after the show
            14. Survivor: Red vs. Blue (Republicans vs. Democrats)
            15. Survivor: Naked and Afraid
            16. America gets 3 votes in the final tribal council
            17. An entire season filmed on a crab fishing boat at sea
            18. Medical care as a reward

          2. lol the last one, I could just imagine how Jeff would entice people with that
            “Want to know what you’re playing for?”

        3. Well, most of us just voluntarily rewatched Gabon, so a season would have to be considerably worse than Nicaragua to get us to abandon it. I dunno, maybe swap entire casts with Big Brother?

          I think what many of the lower-ranked seasons have in common is too many inept players in the post-merge game. Either there are zero competent players and everything is a chaotic shambles (Gabon), the one or two competent players drown (Nicaragua), or the one competent player takes over (Redemption Island). While World’s Apart was a very close call in that regard, I think casting is doing a much better job now of casting just enough inept players to get comic relief (Drew, Keith) but not so many that they reach critical mass.

          1. Oh, a Big Brother or Amazing Race cast might be an actual, horrifying possibility. I’ve updated my previous comment to reflect that potential nightmare.

          2. There are still some good or interesting Big Brother contestants that could work on Survivor, but the rest are terrible. Do you want another Gabon? No, no you don’t

        4. Every single castaway would have to be some combination of ageist, sexist, racist, homophobic, and/or generally unpleasant in some other way.

          Now for some irrational reason, I want to list a season of returnees (if I can stomach it) where I would not watch:
          Rudy, Roger (Amazon), Troyzan, Colton, Tarzan, Phillip, Brandon Hantz, Will, Alicia (One World), Natalie (Redemption Island), Zoe (Marquesas), Joanna (Amazon), Candice, Lisi, Corinne, Missy

          Feel free to make your own list, if you can manage it.

          Would there be any reason Survivor wouldn’t air a season? Aside from the obvious ones, like someone dying.

          1. I feel a little bad for Missy on this list. Like she played the social game badly but to be stuck on an island with Roger, Troyzan, Tarzan, Phillip, B Hantz, Alicia Rosa and Corinne seems like a punishment way beyond the crime.

            I’ll add mine though: Monica Culpepper, Dan Foley, Savage, Abi-MAria (even though I totally enjoy her as a force of chaos) and Tasha.

          2. I’ll admit Missy is more tolerable than the other ones I chose–she was the last one chosen for this. It was tougher to choose the women in my list than the men. There aren’t a lot of female castaways that I outright don’t like. Abi-Maria, Monica Culpepper, and NaOnka were also ones I thought of, but Abi could provide some entertainment value (though that may vary for others), and I like Monica more than I like Missy. Maybe NaOnka and Missy can switch.

            Dan Foley is a way better choice (in this context) than some of mine (and I don’t know why I didn’t think of him), but I don’t know who I’d replace for him. Also, Dan Lembo.

          3. Ooh, that’s who I’d replace Trish with – Tasha. And good call on Monica and Abi-Maria.

          4. Survivor Pyongyang: Out-Annoy, Out-Anger, Out-Offend

            Old tribe: Dan Foley, Troyzan Robertson, Will Sims, Roger Sexton, Caryn Groedel, Jane Bright, Joanna Ward, Trish Hagerty

            Young Tribe: Colton Cumbie, Ben Browning, Brandon Hantz, Sash Lenahan, Corinne Kaplan, NaOnka Mixon, Alicia Rosa, RC Saint-Amour

            “This Wednesday on Survivor: You won’t believe who finds the Medallion of Power. Only on CBS.”


          6. Better. But Abi-Maria or Tasha (after Cambodia) works for annoying. I had to think about it.

          7. I also had a harder time choosing the women. I hate to say it, but I think it’s because they tend to get booted immediately.

            I like Tasha, although she eventually wore out her welcome. I couldn’t stand Abi-Maria in Philippines or the early part of Cambodia, but I’ve come around to the idea that one or two chaotic players improves the game.

          8. I was ok with Tasha in her first season but not getting past her first season soured me on her (because good move or bad move aside, I like Kass. ) I do agree with the chaotic players help but I was never an Abi fan, because unlike Kass, she can dish it out but she can’t take it.

          9. If I had to watch that, I’d probably cheer for Caryn, Trish and RC. I didn’t hate them as much as the rest of them. I can’t remember what Sash was like. (PRP: That’s a good thing!)

          10. Other than Trish, good list. I’m not sure who I’d put in her place that would be considered “old.”

            If you were looking for others, I’d add Jason Kyle, Alecia H? and Rodney to the Young list and Scott the basketball player to the old one (I’m blanking on his name and am too lazy to look it up) and Tarzan.

          11. Eh, I think Rodney is ultimately just a meathead, and a relatively entertaining one at that. The other two are terrible people and would be awful in any cast, whereas there’s not that much separating Rodney from, say, Judd in Guatemala.

      1. I appreciate Cirie far more now than I did when it originally aired (so, a plus on my rewatch of it!), and Shane is indeed amazing. But the post-merge, aside from Shane Shaning out left and right, is some of the dullest Survivor ever (again, just my opinion).

    1. Also, I am glad to see South Pacific fall to second-worst, even though I agree with Max_Jets that it can be a fascinating watch at times. My being glad it’s this low is entirely due to Ozzy’s “I’ll break it over my heart” comment in the first five minutes of the first episode. UGH.

      1. That is awful. A season is really bad when I don’t even find Ozzy to be the worst in his tribe. Looking at you Jim.

        1. Jim is one of a long line of people in Survivor who annoy me the most, based on their self-righteous “I can’t believe your gameplay doesn’t align with my gameplay of me winning a million dollars! Therefore, you are scum!”

          1. Agreed. It was awful the way he (and Whitney) treated Cochran after that vote. It is satisfying to see Cochran move on to become a winner while America collectively decide that no one needs to Jim play Survivor again.

          2. Cochran was hilarious. That that thing he said to Jeff : ” talking strategy with Brandon is like talking to you (Jeff) about shirts that aren’t blue.” Funny ass kid!

          3. I think it’s a tough attitude to get out of after losing Survivor though. Like when you lose that basically guarantees you’ll be bitter about it, and that bitterness is going to nearly always be turned on the person who caused you to lose, and you’ll be angry at them whether it was in their best interests or not.

          4. I think Whitney was just a general purpose spoiled creep. She basically uses her final tribal speech to throw a tantrum.

    2. I am also very very “Eh” on Panama. I just don’t think anything very interesting or noteworthy happens in that season.

  3. Good list. I think Guatemala deserves to be better ranked though. Strong cast, entertaining episodes and a very good winner. Underrated season.

  4. I’m going to be very self-important and repost my rankings I posted last week. Feel free to post/repost yours in response.
    1. Heroes vs Villains – Sometimes I think maybe I am placing this season too high, even when I do think of great moments like the merge tribal, Rob vs Russell, and the Tyson vote. Then I remember the JT idol story and the whole season feels too good to be true. I prefer the idea of the game “purity” of an all newbie season and some more Courtney confessionals would be nice, but that can’t stop this from being the best season ever.
    2. Cagayan – What’s so great about Cagayan is that even as one person is dominating the game, so many other players are playing great games alongside it that compliment the winner’s game. Delightful cast from top to just above the bottom (sorry Lindsey).
    3. Pearl Islands – Thank you for this season, Lill.
    4. Kaoh Rong – A contender for favorite cast. Everyone here brings something to the table. The medevacs are unfortunate, but even the episodes without tribal are entertaining. The power struggle in the early merge is top notch, and after the season passes its climax the dynamics of the remaining players are interesting enough that it almost doesn’t matter what happens. There are several great tribal councils. The Aubry Cydney duo is one of my favorite alliances. Tai is one of the show’s most dynamic characters. Jason and Scot are great, emotionally complex “villains”, as all villains should be.
    5. Blood vs Water – Tadhana is one of my favorite tribes, which helps to light up the pre-merge portion of the game. The post merge also has several memorable moments, between the rock draw, the Laura vote (fuck the haters, it’s emotional and interesting), and Caleb & Hayden’s attempt to flip the game. The boot order is good, leading to one of the show’s best postmerge casts who all seem to be enjoying themselves.
    6. Micronesia – I know people complain about the unfair nature of fans vs favorites, but the favorites still have to compete with each other and watching them use the fans as pawns is just as interesting to watch from a gameplay perspective.
    7. Philippines – A great cast with an exciting unpredictable post merge. Even when the season is winding down, we still get to watch the Denise and Abi dynamic play out. Biggest complaints are the somewhat dishonest portrayals of Skupin and Artis, but there is enough great stuff to overlook it.
    8. Cambodia – What should have been a top tier season will have to settle for second tier. Some great pre-merge moments, and a delightfully chaotic postmerge with several players playing very hard. Kimmi should have been a main player here, but the edit ignores her, which sucks a lot of suspense from the endgame. Many of the votes here seem completely out of left field, the Wiglesworth one in particular. Why does Joe go home? Apparently for more interesting reasons than were shown. Still a very fun season.
    9. The Amazon – Cringeworthy comments abound and one of my least favorite moments from the show appears here in the peanut butter strip. Rob C also gets a few too many confessionals in at least one episode, but I cannot remember which one. Everything else is great. Yes, even the Jenna edit.
    10. China – A perfect cast and Denise. Peih Gee and Jaime throwing the challenge and the aftermath is one of my favorite Survivor stories.
    11. Guatemala – An underrated season with one of the most exciting wins of the show. Some great blindside reactions and only one postmerge tribal without any intrigue, which is pretty rare. A couple great pre-merge boots, but a few red shirts too. Good cast overall.
    12. Tocantins – Coach, Tyson, and possibly the greatest final 4 of all time.
    13. Palau – Not as fun as I usually like my Survivor, but still great.
    14. Samoa – Could have been a top 5 season, but the editing screwed it. Still a lot of fun.
    15. Marquesas – There’s a couple episodes in the postmerge that are a pretty boring, but the first 2/3rds are phenomenal and it picks up again a bit in the end.
    16. Borneo – The classic.
    17. San Juan Del Sur – The pre-merge isn’t very good, but there has been much worse. The post merge is incredibly exciting and I think would be more enjoyable on a rewatch when you know it’s not heading towards a trainwreck. Some of the characters are a bit bland, but the editing is some of the best in the show. There are several “winner’s edits”, but the real winner is my favorite of the series.
    18. Panama – Casaya <3
    19. Vanuatu – The women’s tribe is great, as is the endgame. The men’s tribe…eh.
    20. Caramoan – Bad pre-merge, good post merge. Dawn is a star this season.
    21. Worlds Apart – I don’t feel like talking about Worlds Apart, but it’s okay.
    22. One World – Not quite as boring as it’s made out to be. Kim’s gameplay is always interesting to watch.
    23. Nicaragua – I prefer this trainwreck to Gabon because there is not one predictable episode in the post merge, the ending/winner is more satisfying, and Holly. Also, I like NaOnka… Survivor is at it's worst when it is either unpleasant or boring. This avoids both of those, but just barely.
    24. Australian Outback – A terrific pre-merge, but the post Jerri episodes are so dull with Tina being the only top tier character in the final 7. The finale is easily the worst finale the show has ever had, and probably my 2nd least favorite episode of the series.
    25. Cook Islands – So many redshirts. Really forgettable cast overall, with only a handful of highlights. A fairly pleasant season, with a storyline that is satisfying but leaves little intrigue in the endgame.
    26. Africa – Bring back Kelly Goldsmith.
    27. South Pacific – I might actually have this too low? South Pacific could have been a great season with a different edit. Sure, it would still have a post merge Pagonging, but YOU ARE WATCHING A CULT. How is that not interesting? Give Brandon a more complex edit and give Albert and Sophie some more screen time and it’s already a lot better. The pre-merge is pretty solid with some entertaining pre-merge boots and some entertaining overplaying from Jim. The merge episode is great and the last two episodes are even better. Brandon’s boot is dark and fascinating to watch. The finale is one of the best the show has done. The final 3 are all great as characters and it ends the way it would have if it had been scripted.
    28. Gabon – Gabon is weirdly entertaining and watchable, but that value wears off towards the end.
    29. Thailand – Actually has a decent pre-merge, but the postmerge is a slog. Clay and Jan are actually pretty funny as characters, but the cast isn’t that interesting overall. I love watching Shii Ann though.
    30. All Stars – Hey look, Shii Ann is back! & she is the only person to root for once the merge hits, other than maybe the legend that emerges from the season. The first few episodes are good, but then we get the worst episode of the entire show when Sue quits. Thanks to some commentary about it from old favorites, we now have less favorites in the cast! Then we have a bit more unpleasantness, and then an incredibly boring slog of a post merge that is only slightly salvaged by Shii Ann’s immunity win. Bad.
    31. Fiji – The show’s worst premerge and a pretty solid postmerge. The social dynamics here feel barely explained, leaving us with some confusing animosity between certain contestants.
    32. Redemption Island – The most uneven playing field and few standouts in the cast leave us with the worst season ever. Doubt it will ever be topped.

    1. I cannot believe you have Cook Islands so low I’d have allowed it had you not had Nicaragua and both WA and OW above it!

      1. I think part of it may have to do with expectations, but also when I match them head to head I come out thinking that Cook Islands is better than Nicaragua and Nicaragua is better than Australian Outback, but Australian Outback is better than Cook Islands. It doesn’t make any sense, so it is impossible to rank. I am considering moving Cook Islands just above Nicaragua though. I will absolutely defend ranking Worlds Apart over Cook Islands though, as Cook Islands only has 3 good characters make the merge (almost unheard of), while Worlds Apart has Mike, Shirin, Jenn, Carolyn, Rodney and Hali. I get how the two duds in the bunch sink it for people, but even Dan is getting set up for a really great boot episode. I also think Worlds Apart is very entertaining on an episode by episode basis, but just looks like bad when taken as a whole.

        1. If Rodney is a good character so is Adam, if Hali is a good character so is Parvati. Also Cook Islands has the greatest pre-merge moment of all time.

          1. Billy and Candice is amazing, if that is what you are referring to. Also great? Cao Boi and whoever showing up to the other camp. There is definitely good stuff, but Survivor is usually good. Parvati is included in my good characters , with Penner and Yul. I have never found Ozzy interesting (I am a bit fond of him in Micronesia for being hot). Hali and Sundra are probably comparable though, I just think Hali is the better player. If good means likable, I agree with the Adam/Rodney comparison, but I find Rodney extremely funny between his impressions, complaining about his birthday, “a reward that will fix wishin’.” For other reasons I’m not high on Cook Islands, it also sets us up for an incredibly boring endgame. Once we get past the WA Pagonging, we get to see the main alliance turn on each other, which is usually the reward after a dull pagonging. After the Cook Islands Pagonging, the surprise final 3 leaves the Aitu 4 just fairly splitting the votes two on two to make fire. It’s cute, but I don’t find it interesting.

          2. If I were a man, with a penis, Parvati would be the anti erection. I loved, LOVED Cook Islands, but then again, I love Ozzie. All the final four were impressive human beings.

          3. You don’t have to be attracted to Parvati to get her appeal in Survivor. She developed an extremely successful skillset coming off the back of Cook Islands.
            Also Cook Islands Ozzie is the only ok Ozzie, Ozzie is a douche.

          4. Maybe we can agree to disagree. Don’t take offence to what I’m about to say, but it might be a cultural thing. First off, where I come from, Parvati would be mediocre looking at best, so it’s definitely not about looks. Romania is where I’m from and girls much prettier than her are a dime a dozen in our country. So, we (decent people) really base our women’s beauty on character more than anything (of course, there are exceptions). Conventional beauty (or lack thereof in this case) never even entered my mind. It’s the way she slithers around that I find disturbing, especially when the women (so much for feminism, women’s lib, equality – that just showed what vile creatures they are) gang up on the guys and screw them out of the game one by one. We call that whoring, batting your eyelashes and lying to get what you want – in the end – money – not a good skill set in my eyes. Hell, if I did that in real life I’d be a millionaire. I can’t speak intelligently about Ozzy on a personal level since I don’t know the guy. What I can say is that he was impressive to ME because I can’t swim, I can’t climb trees and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t catch a fish if my life depended on it. He fed them – for crying out loud. We have a thing we like to call “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Also, Yul, Ozzy, Sundra and Becky – were, in my opinion, honorable players, especially given the mutiny. There’s no honor in what Parvati did. I mean, how she handled this (Ozzy, Jason and Eric) is the antithesis of everything I and every decent woman stands for. The sad part is women like that can become role models for little girls. And it sucks because all that equality we fought for, in this game, becomes a joke. It reminds me of women who took the whole idea of feminism a bit too far and became just as bad as their former patriarchal counterparts. I’m hoping this makes some sense. I majored in a few languages, studied a fair amount of feminist theory and women writers, lived in 3 other countries. This might be why my perspective might be a little different. I also read “An American Tragedy” when I was 10. Probably a bit too early, but hey, in communism you read anything you could get your hands on. 🙂 Parvati and Hanz make my skin crawl because they remind me so much of the inhumanity and socipathy in that book.

          5. Maybe we can agree to disagree. Don’t take offence to what I’m about to say, but it might be a cultural thing. First off, where I come from, Parvati would be mediocre looking at best, so it’s definitely not about looks. Romania is where I’m from and girls much prettier than her are a dime a dozen in our country. So, we (decent people) really base our women’s beauty on character more than anything (of course, there are exceptions). Conventional beauty (or lack thereof in this case) never even entered my mind. It’s the way she slithers around that I find disturbing, especially when the women (so much for feminism, women’s lib, equality – that just showed what vile creatures they are) gang up on the guys and screw them out of the game one by one. We call that whoring, batting your eyelashes and lying to get what you want – in the end – money – not a good skill set in my eyes. Hell, if I did that in real life I’d be a millionaire. I can’t speak intelligently about Ozzy on a personal level since I don’t know the guy. What I can say is that he was impressive to ME because I can’t swim, I can’t climb trees and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t catch a fish if my life depended on it. He fed them – for crying out loud. We have a thing we like to call “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Also, Yul, Ozzy, Sundra and Becky – were, in my opinion, honorable players, especially given the mutiny. There’s no honor in what Parvati did. I mean, how she handled this (Ozzy, Jason and Eric) is the antithesis of everything I and every decent woman stands for. The sad part is women like that become role models for little girls. And it sucks because all that equality we fought for, in this game, becomes a joke. It reminds me of women who took the whole idea of feminism a bit too far and became just as bad as their former patriarchal counterparts. I’m hoping this makes some sense. I majored in a few languages, studied a fair amount of feminist theory and women writers, lived in 3 other countries. This might be why my perspective might be a little different. I also read “An American Tragedy” when I was 10. Probably a bit too early 🙂 but Parvati and Hanz make my skin crawl because they remind me so much of that book.

          6. Yeah, I’m going to take some offense here and it’s probably cultural but what you are talking about is basic misogyny. I literally said you don’t need to be attracted to her to appreciate her game play and you started your whole spiel by telling me how you don’t find her attractive and there are thousands of prettier women than her in your country. Who cares? Her gameplay uses that others on the show find her pretty but not just that, it uses that other players are drawn to her socially too, Natalie Bolton and Alexis were both drawn to her socially, Cirie enjoyed her company, even Sandra had a good social relationship with Parvati and that is a much bigger part of how she won once and came 2nd another time. Russell Hantz was attracted to her but her big play was keeping him so on her side that he played an idol for her despite her not really liking him at al. How Parvati handled getting out Jason/Ozzie/Erik were all fantastic game moves where she and her alliance of women outwitted men who thought they were cleverer than her. Survivor isn’t real life, to win you have to lie to people, you have to outwit them and you have to be able to do those things and still be liked, Parvati did all those things. You are asking her to be a “decent woman” by being subservient to the men, by not using a part of her skill set because you find it “whorish” even though you don’t fault the men for falling for it, that’s a huge double standard. The expectation that women only act in a way acceptable to you because you feel that a use of their sexuality is a step too far is not feminist at all. It’s in fact yet another way that people belittle feminism. Feminism is about allowing every woman to be what she wants to be and act as she wishes as long as it is within the realms of legality, if she wants to show of her body that’s fine, if she wants to flirt with men that’s fine too. So yeah, I find everything you say about Parvati to be very basically misogynistic.

          7. Hehehe… I was going to try to explain myself but then it dawned on me that many times I don’t realize some people never left this country. It’s hard to explain to someone my experience. I have something to compare this to. I don’t know if others do as well. That’s a big difference on how you look at things and people. Regardless, people like Hanz and Parvati would get their ass handed to them so fast outside the US they’d never know what hit them. I’d really like to see more people from other countries involved. Some Romanian Gypsies would give these folks a run for their money. 😉 Living in communism where we literally had things like rice and sugar rationed made us learn how to live with less, but it didn’t make us savages. Amazing what a million dollars can make people do in the land of opportunities. I never said anything about anyone being submissive. My argument was more for class, respect, diplomacy, dignity. Yul had all of that. Until women learn to navigate through life with all of these, they will never be considered equal to men – by men. Trying to overcompensate by being deceitful and plain evil, is, in my eyes not only defeminizing but also dehuminizing. Hence, my dick joke. 🙂

          8. I’ll just say this much. Maybe this will help clear things up. When I came here I was 14 and spoke no English. High school kids here can be such little assholes, the girls especially. I had no problem with the guys since I was 24-36-24 and 5 feet 3 inches (just like in the Baby Got Back song). The mixers loved me; I danced. The head bangers loved me; I liked their music. The weirdos loved me; I was weird. The nerds loved me; I was the only girl they asked to play D&D with the top 5 guys in our class. I was by no means popular, nor did I want to be. What I hadn’t realized was that some insecure little bitches found me waaaay too pretty or hot or sophisticated or what have you. I have always considered myself a nerd, average looking at best, because I liked books. This one particular group of girls decided to try to beat me up in gym class, they called me names I didn’t understand every single day on the bus, and then one day they finally tried to drawn me in gym class. Had it not been for one of my guy friends who was in my ESL class and in gym that day, I’d be dead now. I’m still afraid of water to this day, and I loved swimming. I guess what I see when I look at Parvati and her all mean girl click is those girls who hated someone so much because they felt threatened by her being different, so much so, they’d kill her if they could. So, this is why I like people like Ozzie, Becky Sundra and Yul, and I can’t stand the other kind. I can joke around and take shit from anyone, but I developed this weird sense that I can spot a sociopath pretty quickly. These girls crossed a line, game or not, a line that once you cross, it’s pretty much impossible to cross back. This is about beauty both inside and outside. One can be beautiful, smart and kind or one can use smarts to be cruel. Maybe that helps you understand that I was far from being misogynistic. I was speaking from personal experience with these kinds of personalities. Also, if you pay attention guys usually have words, throw a few punches and they resolve their argument. Vicious women on the other hand, pour antifreeze in your rum and coke and end up on Snapped.

          9. This is a problem. You are projecting a lot onto people you have never met. Survivor is a social game, alliances are inherent in it. You didn’t like an alliance simply because you don’t like groups of women who even remotely remind you of groups you knew at school. Well boohoo, kids are shits, they pick on people who are different to them, it sucks it happens but it’s been happening since the dawn of time and it happens to literally everyone.
            In Survivor you have to make alliances with the right people to get you to the end against people you an beat. In Micronesia that is what happened, Amanda, Cirie and Parvati formed an alliance, pre-merge they used James and Ozzie as 4 and 5, but they knew that they couldn’t beat either of them in the final, or even for immunities so Parvati formed a second alliance with Alexis and Natalie which allowed them to take out Ozzie, then Jason, then Erik before those players could beat them. Did they take a little joy in getting one over on some guys who had the arrogance to think they couldn’t be stopped? of course but was it some terrible injustice? No, that’s your own projection. You don’t know Parvati, you are watching a tv show and using anecdotes from your own life to form opinions, opinions that I’m sorry come across as misogynistic. Especially when you are talking liking Ozzie because some jock helped you in gym class, this is Ozzie a guy who was consistently one of the most arrogant contestants on Survivor.

            Just so you know your last sentence is complete bullshit. Half of all women killed are killed by their partner or ex-partner, in fact only about 20% of women murdered are killed by a man they do not know. Men don’t just “throw a few punches” many women are killed because a man in their life believes that they have a right to that woman. Men and boys are far more likely to snap and cause serious damage to someone than women and girls.

          10. Haha! No, that is not a problem. A problem is breast cancer and cervical cancer and my hair falling out. I just thought I could pass the time debating some things here so I don’t think about those actual problems every minute of every day, but I forgot. In this country they don’t teach people to think or look at someone else’s point of view objectively. Don’t bother answering, please. I got enough actual bullshit to deal with. Like cancer. Some jock…wow, he was the only one who was in my ESL class, who actually knew my name, a skinny Italian kid. Vote Trump while you’re at it. Hope it made you feel great attacking a 40 year old woman battling cancer. Nighty night big man

          11. Yeah, actually your attitude towards women is a problem. Is it World Peace? No, but people like you having attitudes you do makes it harder for women to exist and live their lives without uncalled for judgement and ridicule.

          12. It’s even more pathetic when I think about it, how we all grew up. We used to get an orange for Christmas; a banana or pineapple would be insane. A toy? Your parents had to be rich! I shared it, that one orange, with my three best friends, three sisters; anything I had, I shared. I imagine these girls got Barbie dolls and clothes and nice things. Still, so much hate for someone they didn’t even know. That’s what’s scary. Then last week or so I watched a documentary on Netflix about three American teenage girls, one of them committed suicide. Why? Because of other girls’ gossip and social media, because they got drunk and one was sexually assaulted and the rest of them felt the need to humiliate her. I don’t think that’s healthy, that kind of behavior, because kids these days think just because they see it online or on TV, it’s OK. And it isn’t. That’s what’s scary about that sort of “role model” and it’s not doing a damn thing for young girls these days except put them in more danger.

          13. You are again acting like boys aren’t suffering the same fate at the hands of other boys or that girls aren’t also being bullied and harassed by boys.
            You are talking about life as if sexual assault wasn’t happening 50 years ago, it absolutely was, it just wasn’t being reported. TV and Film aren’t making people bad, culture allows some people to get away with things and you are just hearing about more of the bad things because the internet allows news to be global when before local news wouldn’t even get out of state.
            This behaviour isn’t new, it isn’t gendered. Next thing you are going to tell me that the problem at colleges is that young women are drinking too much, not that men think it’s ok to rape them.

          14. Also, I’m new to Survivor. I used to have a life… LOL. I’m watching Fiji now, and I’m in awe of how the two women on Koto, Lisi and the Asian one, are treating the only two black people (Casandra & Dreamz) on their tribe even though they are winning and have luxuries up the yin yang. And they’re nice fucking people – both of them. It almost seems racist. I mean Dreamz was a homeless kid, doesn’t know how to use the fancy coffee maker, and they are such bitches about it. I get you have to play a game, but when you are winning and you have everything, why do you have to be such cunts about it. There’s no question mark because it was rhetorical. As far as evil/villain goes, Hanz and Parvati are at the top of my list. I’m really glad Sandra won, and I’m pretty sure the Heroes, Rupert’s comment especially, thanking her for trying to let them in and them not realizing and shutting the door in her face, got her those votes. That was sweet, sweet revenge. Ironically, people like Hanz and Pavarti bring out some mean side in me 🙂 in that I enjoyed seeing them squirm and bitch and moan. Entertaining nevertheless.

          15. Parvati didn’t do anything particularly bad in HvV, she was seen as a threat who could not be played with by everyone except Russell and Danielle, so she played with them. She was a tiny bit mean girly to JT but that’s it. They perceived her as a bad person from the beginning for little reason and then because she beat them she was seen as having proved them right. The truth is had Sandra succeeded in voting out Russell there is a really solid chance she wouldn’t have won at all.

    2. It’s not self-important to post your own rankings here. It’s exactly what the comments on this type of post should include.

  5. Let me take a moment to explain my ranking philosophy/bias:

    First off, I’ve been watching Survivor uninterrupted, as it airs, since the first season (and was an adult the whole time). Which means that there isn’t some mid-series season that gets a nostalgia bump for being the one that brought me in/back and that I was able to judge each season in the context in which it happened (rather than applying modern sensibilities to older seasons). It also means that I watched every season the way I believe they’re intended to be watched: week-to-week, unspoiled, wondering what will happen next.

    My belief that this is the way Survivor is designed to be watched influences how I rank. The show has proven to be versatile enough to allow superfans to go back and watch and find new things, or even to enjoy it if you know the outcome, but it is my firm belief that the series is produced for the live viewer first and foremost. It’s not telling you a hidden story to be devoured later. Thus, my first impression is the most important one. I’m less inclined to agree with any “it gets much better/worse on a rewatch” talk because the primary goal of a season is to entertain me week to week. If it fails at that, it is a failure. Going back and realizing it’ll end better than what it puts me through doesn’t change all the weeks I was watching in frustration.

    Post-merge is always more important than pre-merge because the post-merge story can be laid out in the pre-merge. Whereas a season with a better pre-merge than post has nowhere to go but down.

    Where I’m most divergent with the consensus is if forced to choose, I will always pick single player excellence over competitiveness among lesser players. The best seasons offer a mix of both, but when you get to the bottom, it’s often one or the other. I’d much rather see a pitcher throw a no hitter and marvel at his/her greatness, even if it’s against inferior competition, than watch a close game filled with errors, sloppy baserunning, and poor plate awareness (yes, even if that game ends in a walk-off home run). Because at least I get a season where I can marvel week to week at the game play of SOMEBODY rather than spend a season frustrated by the idiocy of EVERYBODY.

    So that’s where I’m coming from. Feel free to now point out the inconsistencies of this logic throughout my rankings.

      1. You should’ve waited to post this so I could comment first. Instead, I had to take measures into my own hands.

      2. But he’s not commenting in his official PurpleRockAndy persona – it’s mild-mannered andythesaint.

    1. This is an excellent explanation. I still don’t agree with a few of your rankings but who cares?

      1. I’ll state this as well: I’m crazy arrogant, but still not arrogant enough to think everyone should agree with my line of thinking. But this is where I come from.

    2. “Where I’m most divergent with the consensus …”

      Andy admitted he’s divergent! He’s a threat to the existing social order!

  6. I look at some of the bottom seasons and think “I remember being entertained during that.” or “Oh but I liked this part about it.” And many others are making these points too. In my opinion, it goes to show that there is truly no unwatchable (have you watched CBS’ other shows?) or awful season of this show. Survivor’s great fam.

    1. Yeah, that’s something I often note in these discussions of season rankings. Survivor is fundamentally great, so when we talk about a season being awful or whatever it’s only relative to other seasons of Survivor. The Atlanta Braves are the worst team in MLB, but they’re still approximately the 30th-best team in the world.

      1. And compare the worst of Survivor against other similar reality shows … much better than most I assume.

    2. As much as we all like to shit on the bottom seasons the truth is a bad season of Survivor is still a season of Survivor so we all enjoyed it at least a little.

      1. Except Nicaragua. I truly loathed that whole watching experience. I might’ve given up if it wasn’t a decades-long habit at that point.

  7. Overall, good list. Only major divergence is probably Caramoan – that season winds up WAYYYYYYY lower for me. Vanuatu goes higher. Guatemala probably goes higher too. Panama maybe slightly lower – Cirie’s great, but such a “meh” winner.

    1. I think a lot of people hate Caramoan more than we do, so you aren’t alone in that. For me, the terrible pre-merge is somewhat redeemed by some all-time moments in the post-merge (and my strong pro-Cochran bias).

      1. i am probably the highest on Caramoan and i definitely think once Brandon goes out that the rest of the season is good

  8. Holy Crap Koah Rong is not a bottom half season. That’s enough of a travesty that I’m willing to leave this site forever.

    (No I’m not, but still…Koah Rong is not a bottom half season. I liked it better than Cambodia. So there. You both have it worse than Caramoan!)

      1. I liked Kaoh Rong. It doesn’t bother me that much that Michele won, because the season as a whole was mostly enjoyable. The evacuations did suck, but I loved watching Cydney (and liked several others, though not as much as Cydney).

    1. Let me flip the question: what’s so great about it? Was it the three medevacs? The underwhelming winner? Bringing Anna, Jason, and Scot Pollard into our lives?

      It’s a fine season, no better than fine. In five years, I don’t know what we’ll even talk about for Koah Rong besides Tai flipping to get rid of Scot rather than using the double idol. Maybe Aubry crossing out Julia’s name.

      1. I think it has the greatest 3 episode stretch in Survivor (Nick boot, Debbie boot, Scot boot). It feels like a tug of war for power between alliances, which I love and we don’t see a lot of in Survivor. The episode where Debbie is booted is just nuts start to finish, I think we’ll be talking about it for a long time. I know you are not a fan of Aubry and Cydney’s move there, but it’s still interesting gameplay that we haven’t really seen before. Jennifer’s meltdown and Debbie the pre-merge power player are great. Jason and Scot are great villains, so yes that is part of what is great about it. All of the cast members feel important to the season. Even Joe has multiple episodes where he stands out. I don’t think there is a dud in the cast, but I guess Anna yells her confessionals in her boot episode. The dynamics are fully fleshed out in a way that doesn’t happen with a lot of Survivor seasons. Tai is maybe the most interesting and dynamic character in the series, with all the ways he shifts from episode to episode. Michele, for better or worse, is at least a pretty unique Survivor winner in terms of gameplay, but no she is not why the season is great. I get why people don’t like the Alecia boot episode, but to me there isn’t a boring episode in the bunch. It’s also very funny, as most great Survivor seasons are. A lot of players this season (Debbie, Alecia, Nick, Jason, Scot, even Aubry) seem pretty divisive, but I love them all and to me the cast just works so well as a whole.

      2. I’m going to write something out long-form about what was so great about Kaoh Rong. Stay tuned.

      3. playing the contrarian for a moment: wasn’t your reaction up until near the end about how much you were enjoying the season despite the Michele wars? aren’t you violating your own rule of reaction as you watch here? Am I just giving you shit for no reason at all?

        1. Was I? I remember consciously trying to stay upbeat throughout, but I don’t remember ever really loving it. It was good. I enjoyed watching it like I enjoy watching Survivor. And thus ranked it accordingly.

          1. I think you were? I’d have to go back and listen, which we all know i’m not going to do, but I would have expected it to be a few spots higher based upon your reactions. But really I’m just giving you shit

          2. I appreciate the giving of shit, but in the end, I just don’t think I liked it as much as the 19 seasons I have ranked ahead of it. Because I like a lot of seasons of Survivor.

            Also, I tend to be conservative with my early reactions to seasons.

        2. I don’t know if that was Andy’s opinion, but it was mine. Regardless of the Michele truthering, I enjoyed the season as I watched. I understand Andy’s criticisms, though. And neither of us thought it was a terrible season, Survivor just happens to have a lot of really good seasons. It’s the reason we started doing the podcast/website in the first place.

      4. What was so great about Kaôh Rōng? Aubry’s quasi-robot dance in the episode where Joe couldn’t poop.

      5. “In five years, I don’t know what we’ll even talk about for Koah Rong …”

        Mark the chicken.

      6. The pre-swap is pretty good, the post-swap is really good, and the early post-merge is absolutely fantastic. It kind of loses steam around the Julia/Jason boots, and while the finale wasn’t perfect, it was one of the few recent finales where there was actually some doubt about who would win up until the very end (it helps that I never really bought into the Michele trutherism). The three medevacs were unfortunate, but none of them really ruined the season. Caleb’s evac turned what would’ve been a really boring episode into a slightly less boring episode, Joe was enough of a non-entity that the season as a whole barely changed (although, disappointingly, that probably cost Aubry the win), and Neal’s might have made the season better, since it gave Aubry and Cydney three extra days to scramble and flip the game on its head (very similarly to Joe’s medevac in Tocantins). Jason and Scot are absolutely terrible and the bullying definitely knocked the season down a little, but it didn’t really last that long, and Anna was fine in the game – it’s outside the game that I wish I didn’t know who she was. I wouldn’t be surprised if I move Kaoh Rong down a bit in my rankings as it becomes less recent (right now I have it 8th out of the 19 that I’ve seen), but I think of it as a solid upper mid-tier season.*

        *I know 8/19 doesn’t really sound upper mid-tier, but a lot of the seasons I haven’t seen are notoriously bad.

      7. Most of my rankings come down to rewatchability and I don’t feel like it’s going to be rewatchable like some other mediocre seasons are (cough SJDS).

  9. On an only-ever-so-slightly less upset note, I miss the comment section for the old season rankings. I did a lot of wrok compiling all of the podcasters rankings together!

    (Okay, it was a moderate amount of work).

      1. My updated rankings, seen 2 seasons since I’ve posted this and added them:
        I’ve seen 20 seasons so far (Actually I’ve seen Borneo as well but it was a while ago and I don’t know how to rank it until I rewatch it). I can rank too. I’m a ranker.

        1. Heroes vs Villains – It’s really everything you can want in a season. All around great.
        2. Samoa – Two seasons, two seasons of Russell. I just like watching him get shown up when he least expects it.
        3. Palau – Fascinating start, and the best 3 episode stretch in Survivor history to finish.
        4. Amazon – This season is probably the best combination of fun and strategy.
        5. Cagayan – Though this season is a competitor for that too, with some additional great storylines. Plus it has Woo 🙂
        6. Pearl Islands – Not as close to the top as for some people because it gets confusing at times, but obviously a great season.
        7. Cambodia – I warmed up to this season eventually. I just needed it to stabilize a little so I could make sense of it, and it did.
        8. Vanuatu – Pretty dull early, but I’m a big fan of collapsing alliance storylines and this one might be the best.
        9. Australia – I just love the characters in this season so much.
        10. San Juan Del Sur – Where it rightfully deserves to be, in the middle. None of this top tier or bottom tier garbage I hear on both sides ;).
        11. Guatemala – There’s editing sketchiness here, but location and characters are a lot of fun and the endgame is at least interesting.
        12. Worlds Apart – I LOVE the pre-merge of this season and to some degree the early merge. I do not love from final 8 on at all.
        13. Blood vs Water – This season just didn’t really click for me like it does for some. Big Monica Culpepper fan though.
        14. Marquesas – This feels low, because BIG THINGS happen, but some of those post-merge episodes are really, really boring.
        15. China – I don’t know, there’s just no gameplay or good storylines here. I like the cast OK but I’m not head over heels for them.
        16. Tocantins (NEW) – Not too much interesting strategy wise and I really didn’t like JT this season (I thought he was much better in HvV. Coach was cool though.
        17. Cook Islands – Watched it a long time ago, wasn’t enough to hook me to the show. That’s enough to earn it the lower reaches of my countdown. Will rewatch though.
        18. One World – It’s not as bad as some people say, but it’s not exactly good.
        19. Panama – I get that it’s funny, I get that Cirie is cool, but nothing interesting happens ever. It’s baseline Survivor, as in everyone does what you expect them to do. Only exception is the 3-2-1, which is 10 minutes of one episode.
        20. Nicaragua – Is Nicaragua. Survivor internet community darling though.
        21. Fiji – I don’t hate anything in Nicaragua, there’s massive sections of Fiji pre-merge that anger me. There’s also a really boring 3 episode stretch post merge just for icing on the cake. The good parts are great, but I just can’t with this season.
        22. Redemption Island (NEW) – First 4 episodes are okay, but I haven’t been able get past Episode 9 of the Boston Rob march to victory and really have no intention to.

  10. A couple weeks ago I started ranking all 30 of the Survivor seasons I’ve seen from worst to best. I’ve been doing them in the past three HvV podcast posts, including today’s post. A quick review on my list so far. The two seasons I haven’t watched are Thailand and Nicaragua.

    30. Worlds Apart
    29. Gabon
    28. Redemption Island
    27. South Pacific
    26. One World
    25. Africa
    24. Vanuatu
    23. All Stars
    22. San Juan del Sur
    21. Samoa
    20. Fiji
    19. Marquesas
    18. Caramoan
    17. Panama
    16. Borneo
    15. Kaoh Rong
    14. Blood vs Water
    13. Australian Outback
    12. China
    11. Guatemala
    10. Amazon
    9. Cook Islands
    8. Tocantins
    7. Micronesia
    6. Cambodia

    Doing these rankings have been really fun for me. Now for the top five
    My Survivor Season Rankings Part 6

    5. Pearl Islands
    The best beginning to a season jump starts us to an awesome ride. Iconic characters are introduced in a season of many twists and turns. A big hero vs villain narrative is formed between Rupert and Fairplay. Other entertaining personalities round out the cast. The gameplay is fun chaos in many spots. This continues a transition that started the previous season into a different style of Survivor. Pearl Islands nails it all except for one major flaw. The Outcast twist is on the short list off worst Survivor decisions ever. It seems incredibly unfair to bring those people back and I call bullshit on them living in the same conditions as the other players. Even with that though it barely dampens the season. The endgame is fun and the winner is awesome.
    Favorite episode: “Mutiny” (Burton 2nd boot)
    Favorite players: Sandra, Christa, Darrah

    4. Cagayan
    Survivor on a permanent adrenaline rush. This is the Fast and Furious of Survivor seasons. From top to bottom the best newbie cast Survivor has put together. It seemed like almost everyone brought something to the table and knew or picked up how to play. This is also the season that made me a Survivor fanatic. I wouldn’t be doing this list now without this season. This is only the second season I ever saw and I was hooked afterwards. From the start everything is wild and it never lets up. The brains tribe failing is a good story. That made me perk up to Survivor. The awesome Cliff blindside had me hooked. The merge had me fully committed to this show long term. A great winner playing a crazy game against some of toughest competitors Survivor can put out makes for a great finish. I love Cagayan.
    Favorite episode: “Head of the Snake” (Sarah boot)
    Favorite players: Tony, Kass, Trish, Woo, and Brice (bring him back Survivor)

    3. Philippines
    So many great things go on in Survivor. Many strong storylines throughout the season mixed together beautifully like a well made sauce. The injury returnee idea is very clever. The sad fall of Russell Swan in his second chance is compelling. The dysfunctional Tandang with the poster child of unpredictability in Abi Maria is compelling. The duo of Denise and Malcolm navigating from the bottom to top is compelling. The arcs of former athlete and former child star reborn as Survivor players is compelling. Lisa especially is compelling as she battles a really good strategic mind with her own personal morals. This story would be a great book narrated by Penner.
    Favorite episode: “Dead Man Walking” (Jeff boot)
    Favorite players: Lisa, Malcolm, Denise

    2. Palau
    There are many great seasons of Survivor. There will never be another Palau. The most unique season in Survivor. Utter dominance over the Ulong tribe is one of the best stories Survivor has told. It was fascinating to see what I believe to be a competent tribe just get bested every step of the way. Challenges aren’t usually my favorite part of Survivor but to see a tribe just have all the answers every step of the way no matter the combination of players used was hypnotizing. Also I think the scene where Stephenie is alone after the tribe is gone is the best ever in Survivor. Palau feels the most like a dramatic television show but with real people. The post merge doesn’t let up either. Tom dominance is foreshadowed from the beginning and yet is all the more impressive. The arc with him, Ian and Katie is some of the most emotional in Survivor with the last challenge being an amazing climax. Survivor is more than just a game here.
    Favorite episode: “The Ultimate Shock” (Tom win)
    Favorite players: Ian, Stephenie, Tom

    1. Heroes vs Villains
    The greatest collection of Survivors put together for an epic battle. Great battles right from the start. Rob vs Russell is fun. The Heroes incompetentance and their contradicting beliefs are great. Just so many memorable moments from the beginning makes for the best pre-merge. The post still lives up the hype with so many great moments overshadowing the predictability of a tribe downfall. The people here are the strength of the season, even Probst is at his best. So many entertaining, funny people and so many strategic minds all in one place. HvV is the type of season where you could replay the season 100 times and get all these different combinations and still have great television. This feels like Survivor on steroids as they hit Mark McGuire like bombs in every episode.
    Favorite episode: “Going Down in Flames” (JT boot)
    Favorite players: Sandra, Parvati, Jerri, Grumpy Colby, Courtney, Coach, Boston Rob, Cirie

    1. I am curious as to what you will eventually think of Nicaragua and Thailand. Until I had finally gotten around to watching Nicaragua, I thought there was no way Thailand could have been topped (bottomed?) (said Ripley to the android Bishop) (I think I prefer “phrasing”). But yeah, it sure is worse.

      1. From what little I heard about the those two seasons, it seemed that the main issue was awful people making it far and having a lot of camera time. My least favorite part of Survivor is people being extremely cruel to others. I’ll keep an open mind to those seasons when I get to it but my expectations are low. I love Survivor enough that I’m sure I’ll find at least something enjoyable.

        1. I would need to go back and watch Thailand again to see if it’s as bad as I remember it, but my memory of it now places it kind of side-by-side with Worlds Apart, in that there are loads of unpleasant people. So, yes, awful people making it far in the game.
          I’d argue that Nicaragua actually has several likable people among its cast, but unfortunately one of them is named Benry, which causes a lot of goodwill to evaporate right off the bat.

          1. Benry? Was there a typo on the birth certificate and his parents just shrugged their shoulders and moved on?

          2. To be fair if I had a friend called Ben Henry he’s have been nicknamed Benry pretty quickly.

    2. I agree with you, especially with Palau! Palau isn’t as remembered as other seasons for having major blindsides or huge drama, but, to me Palau is like the handcrafted brew of the beers! It feels human, natural, emotional, you relate to the cast on different levels. Specially Steph and Ian (both great players). I wanted to see more of them, however, its better that the cast was not too recycled because it gives a sense of uniqueness to this cult season. Palau is definitely one of the best seasons and it carries Survivor’s Spirit all the way from the beginning to that shocking ending!

      I would place Micronesia above Pearl Islands, but I respect your choice. And HvV definitely the best of all times!

  11. I personally like to use the far more scientific Penner System:

    1-2) Philippines & Cook Islands
    3) Micronesia (because of evac)
    4-31) Everything that isn’t Nicaragua
    32) Nicaragua

    Because even the Penner System recognizes a train wreck.

  12. Might as well share my rankings since I love being told how wrong I am:

    20. Redemption Island (Yes, I have it below Nicaragua. They both suck, but at least Nicaragua doesn’t have redemption island.)
    19. Nicaragua
    18. One World
    17. South Pacific
    16. Worlds Apart
    15. Gabon
    14. San Juan Del Sur
    13. Samoa
    12. Borneo
    11. Caramoan
    10. Blood vs. Water
    9. Kaoh Rong
    8. Cook Islands
    7. Tocantins
    6. China
    5. Philippines
    4. Cambodia
    3. Heroes vs. Villains
    2. Cagayan
    1. Micronesia

    I’m three episodes into Fiji right now, and I can’t believe how bad it is. Haves/have nots is as stupid as it sounds (why the hell does Ravu not even get fire?), and most of the cast has either done nothing (everyone on Moto) or is absolutely terrible (Sylvia, Rocky, probably most of Moto). As I expected, I like Earl, Yau-Man, and Michelle, so I’m going to push through. But wow, this is painful, especially since I just watched Micronesia, Tocantins, and Heroes vs. Villains.

    1. It will continue to be painful until the merge. Like, REALLY painful. But possibly worth it?

      Your list is fine. Nothing egregious. You may stay.

    2. Give Fiji time. I think it’s a very underappreciated season. (but yes, the pre merge is atrocious)

  13. Why Kaoh Rong is a Great Season of Survivor

    I really only demand two things from Survivor: interesting storylines and interesting strategic wrinkles. And the seasons that have the most of those two things are going to be ranked the highest. In essence, I want to know why things happened how they happened, and I want those reasons to be interesting and make me think.

    Kaoh Rong doesn’t have much flashy, it doesn’t have clear strategic brilliance like the Parvati idol play or the Boston Rob buddy system. But what Kaoh Rong does have is strategic complexity in spades. And further, the strategic complexity is completely relatable and understandable to the viewer. For example, one of the best discussions of the season was the Debbie vote out. Almost all the variables were on the table for the viewer and they could weigh the decision, and it was a strategically interesting and complex decision. It’s the same with the Tai and the failed double vote, and a few of the pre-merge vote outs like Jenny over Alecia. Despite what some corners of the internet think, Survivor is a strategic game and seeing that strategy at work is part of the enjoyment, and strategy with pros and cons is far more interesting that clear strategically dominant moves.

    But really what separates Kaoh Rong is the way it is able to tell a coherent story for almost every character, and most of those stories are unique in Survivor lore. We’ve never seen someone with the character arc of Tai, or Aubry, or even Jason or Julia or Michele or Jenny or Peter. Every episode brought something new to the table for most characters. Further, the stories were very clear and elegantly stated. You had a good vs evil battle that gives the season structure with the Scot and Jason vs Aubry alliance, and you had a moral dilemma for the lynchpin in that, Tai. You had an underdog story in Michele of someone battling from the outskirts of an alliance to get herself the victory. And you have an ending in Aubry losing that completely changes your perception of the season to that point and forces you to ask difficult questions about the jury and how Survivor works.

    There’s nothing in the season that completely blows you away, and the Joe and Neal episodes are unfortunate, but there’s so much meat on this season in every part. There’s something to discuss with each player and they all feel like individual people, not pieces on a chess board, yet the moves made with them doesn’t lose that complexity. In a lot of ways Kaoh Rong is a near perfectly executed season, and should be the standard that modern Survivor strives to meet.

  14. I’m just going to cut and paste my previous ranking and put it here, so it doesn’t get lost completely as the PRP rankings update. I’ve added in the seasons I’ve watched since then and also added tiers.

    Tier 0:
    (0) Borneo: Exists outside the ranking system entirely.

    Tier 1: These seasons have it all: dynamite casts, satisfying narrative arcs, no significant boring stretches, and skilled gameplay
    1. Heroes vs. Villains
    2. Pearl Islands
    3. China
    4. Cagayan
    5. Cambodia
    6. Tocantins
    7. Philippines

    Tier 2: More flawed than Tier 1 seasons in some way, but only to a minor degree
    8. Amazon
    9. Palau
    10. Panama
    11. Kaoh Rong
    12. Vanuatu
    13. Blood vs. Water
    14. Guatemala

    Tier 3: Seasons with a serious flaw, but still worth watching (in practice, all of the seasons in this tier either have long terrible stretches and/or are overwhelmed by one player, but in theory there could be other reasons for a season to land here)
    15. Samoa
    16. Caramoan
    17. San Juan del Sur
    18. One World
    19. South Pacific
    20. Worlds Apart
    21. Redemption Island

    Tier 4. For completists only
    22. Gabon
    23. Nicaragua
    24. All-Stars

    Yet to watch: Australia, Africa, Marquesas, Thailand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia

  15. I just wanted to thank John and Andy for this. I’m new to Survivor so if I stick my foot in my mouth, let me know. If my language offends, please don’t let it. I love colorful words (huge fan of George Carlin :)). I enjoy the social experiment aspect of Survivor more than anything since I’ve been around all kinds of people from all kinds of countries. I teach ESL to adults so I can’t help but wish they’d do a season (perhaps seasons) with people from other countries and US Americans. Yes, many foreigners speak English very well so that wouldn’t be an issue. It would totally blow my mind to see how a person from Sweden might bond with someone from Congo or what have you. I’d bet the strategies would change drastically. Maybe a US Tribe vs. Overseas, and by overseas I don’t mean Canada or Mexico in spite of what Britney Spears says 🙂

  16. just wanna tell thanks for the list. i am from greece and before a month “survivor” came back to our tv after 10years and is a disater, 24 players, celebrities vs non celebrities, 4-5 episodes per week and it will end after 4 months (5 months total)

    your list help me a lot to choose witch seasons to watch.

  17. Season 7 is packed with missed opportunities. So many chances to steal the power and they’re wasted. And I absolutely HATE the winner. A total ZERO who never won a thing.

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