Jeff Probst: The ''Survivor'' seasons I loved -- and hated
Jeff Probst ranks past seasons and relives the show's highs. As ''Survivor'' enters season 10, its ringmaster talks on everything from Richard Hatch to Sue Hawk
1 Borneo (SEASON 1)
You’ll never repeat those first 39 days — never. It was the virgin season, and the show was being created day by day. In many ways, Richard, Sue, Rudy, and the other 13 created it as much as we did. Even though content-wise the show was solid, we weren’t always sure where it was going. As for me, I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Plus, CBS made us put that trunk of cash on the Tribal Council set, which I hated. It was a little corny, but hey, the show was corny, so in that sense it fit. When Sue made her big speech blasting Kelly at the final Tribal Council, the only thing I was thinking was — this is money. It’s probably still the greatest Survivor moment, and another reason why season 1 will never be repeated. And I honestly thought Richard would be the first person voted off. He’s a scheming, pompous, condescending guy, but is so endearing you want to keep him around even though you know he’s got a dagger with your name on it.
2 Australia (SEASON 2)
I could almost put Australia as a tie for No. 1. It had the incredible cast led by Colby and Elisabeth. You had forest fires, a flood, Mike Skupin killing a pig and then falling in a fire, burning his hands so severely that the skin was falling off. And rarely do you have a choice in the final three that makes people drop their jaw, and Colby’s choice to take Tina to the final two over Keith made people’s jaws drop. And then Colby lost. That show delivered every damn week. Everybody wanted to marry Elisabeth, and Jerri was maybe the best female villain ever. And as for that season’s biggest controversy: I do think Kel had the beef jerky. Just a gut feeling on what I heard and saw. People try to smuggle things all the time, and if you’re really good, you can get away with stuff. It’s part of the game. We’ve had people try to smuggle things up their a–! And I won’t say who, because we caught them and it never made the show, but yes, somebody tried to smuggle something up their anus. So beef jerky is no big deal.
3 Pearl Islands (SEASON 7)
There are many reasons why Pearl Islands was good. Top of the list would be casting one of the greatest heroes and greatest villains in the same season with Rupert and Jonny Fairplay. You know you’re in for a good season when Rupert immediately starts stealing people’s shoes. And then you have Jonny Fairplay, who’s completely despicable. It was actually fun to work with Fairplay on the show because he’s a producer’s dream. When he shows up drunk or flips somebody off, he’s bringing you gold every time. I wish we had a Jonny Fairplay every season. Personally, however, he’s an absolute jackass whose actions at the Vanuatu finale after-party pissed me off so much that he’s banned from any event that I’m at from now on. I’m done with Jonny Fairplay. Osten was the complete opposite. Outside of the game, Osten is a very likable guy, but on the show he frustrated me because every time he showed up, he wanted to quit. When he finally did quit — the first person ever to do so on the series — we didn’t want to give him the honor of being voted out. Instead, we said, ”We’re just gonna lay your torch down and you can go home — loser.” The other thing about Pearl Islands is one of the most debated twists ever — the Outcasts. I hated the Outcasts. I felt it went against everything we say the show is about — that if you are voted out, you are out of the game. In addition, it cost us a great player in Andrew Savage and in return gave us Lill, the most undeserving final-two member ever. But the flip side is, you ask people what the memorable things are about the show and Outcasts always comes up. So, was it a good twist? I guess so. I just philosophically hated it.