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'Survivor': Ranking all the seasons (including 'Samoa') from best to worst

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Whether you love or loathe Evil Russell, most people agree that this season of Survivor: Samoa has been a good one. But how good? Where does it rank next to other seasons like Palau, Pearl Islands, and The Australian Outback? That’s right, it’s time for our oft-debated seasonal Survivor rankings! This is where I break down the first to the worst Survivor seasons, and tell you where the latest edition ranks (with two episodes left, at least). What will come in No. 1? Where does the oft-debated All-Stars season fall? And will Survivor: Samoa crack the top 10? The top 5? Click the “Read full post” link below to read my entire rankings, and then let us know on the message boards how you would rank the first 19 seasons of Survivor. And awaaaaay we go…

1. Survivor: Borneo (Winner: Richard Hatch)

Think back to when this show first came on the air — and how we had never seen anything like it. Nothing will ever be able to duplicate that sense of wonder and excitement…

2. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Winner: Parvati Shallow)

…although this one came damn close. It wasn’t just the most insane four-episode-run in Survivor history (with Ozzy, Jason, and Erik all getting blindsided, and then Amanda pulling out one last hidden immunity idol). It was also great characters (Chet and Joel are the 21st century odd couple) and the perfect mix of solid and stupid gameplay.

3. Survivor: Amazon (Winner: Jenna Morasca)

Probably the most unpredictable season ever from week to week. Some people hate on Morasca as a winner, but she won challenges and played a great social game.

4. Survivor: Pearl Islands (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)

Rupert stealing shoes. Fairplay getting drunk at Tribal Council. Osten sucking at everything. It was all delicious. Loses points, though, for the awful Outcasts twist, which also led to a disappointing final two.

5. Survivor: Palau (Winner: Tom Westman)

I loved watching one tribe decimate the other, culminating with Stephenie becoming a tribe of one. And the challenges may have been Survivor’s best ever.

6. Survivor: Samoa (Winner: ???)

Never in the history of Survivor can I remember a player going from being so hated to so hailed as Russell Hantz. His controlling of the game (especially post-merge when his side was down 8-4) was truly a work of art. Evil genius art. (Note: This ranking could move up or down a few slots depending on what happens in final two episodes.)

7. Survivor: Marquesas (Winner: Vecepia Towery)

An underrated season that saw the first totem pole shake-up: where people on the bottom got together to overthrow those on the top. Yes, it was a weak final two, but it also had a woman peeing on a guy’s hand. Plus: Purple rock!!!

8. Survivor: Cook Islands (Winner: Yul Kwon)

What a difference a mutiny makes. It was listless until that fateful moment when Candice and Penner stepped off the mat. Then, we finally had underdogs to root for. The Tribal Council fire-making tiebreaker between Sundra and Becky may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

9. Survivor: Australian Outback (Winner: Tina Wesson)

An overrated season. Probst loves it. I didn’t. Solid but unspectacular. Pretty predictable boot order as well. Dude did burn his hands off, though.

10. Survivor: China (Winner: Todd Herzog)

Really good cast. Kinda blah location.

11. Survivor: Tocantins (Winner: J.T. Thomas)

Okay, you may hate Coach. But imagine for a second this season without him. Bo-ring! His unintentional comedy single-handedly lifts this into the middle of the pack. Seriously, other than Tyson getting blindsided, were there any memorable moments that didn’t involve the Steven Seagal wannabe?

12. Survivor: All-Stars (Winner: Amber Brkich)

Overall, a letdown, but man, were there some hate-fueled fireworks at those final few Tribal Councils. Plus: Best. Reunion Show. Ever. (Remember Jerri getting literally booed off the stage?)

13. Survivor: Panama (Winner: Aras Baskauskas)

Ah, just writing the word Panama gets me daydreaming about Survivor Sally and her intoxicating knee socks. Terry was robbed on a final challenge that may or may not have been completely fair. Another unmemorable final two.

14. Survivor: Gabon (Winner: Bob Crowley)

It got a bit better near the end, but it was still a case of too little, too late. The fact that so many unworthy players went so far is simply too damning.

15. Survivor: Africa (Winner: Ethan Zohn)

Some great challenges. Not that much else was great.

16. Survivor: Guatemala (Winner: Danni Boatwright)

One of the more unlikable casts so far. (Remember Judd? Jamie? Stephenie’s evil twin?) Rafe was good for a few laughs, though. Especially on rope obstacles.

17. Survivor: Vanuatu (Winner: Chris Daugherty)

I don’t blame producers: The battle of the sexes worked well the first time around.

18. Survivor: Thailand (Winner: Brian Heidik)

The fake merge and brutal last challenge (where the final three had to hold coins between their fingers in a crazy painful pose) keep this dud out of the bottom spot. Barely.

19. Survivor: Fiji (Winner: Earl Cole)

The season that we shall never speak of again. With the exception of Yau-Man and Earl, a true bummer of a cast, and the “Haves Vs. Have-Nots” twist was perhaps the worst creative decision in Survivor history — after the “Outcasts.”

Okay, those are my rankings. Now, how would you rank the first 19 editions? (And yes, I am prepared for another onslaught from you disgruntled Fiji lovers out there.) Hit the message boards and let us know. But first, make sure to check out our Survivor Talk exit interviews (featuring guest co-host Jenna Morasca) with both Monica and Dave below. (Our feisty chat with Dave is truly a Survivor Talk for the ages.) And to get all the Survivor scoop delivered right to your virtual door, make sure to follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.

Photo credit: Monty Brinton/CBS