'We' need to talk

Credit: Screen Grab/CBS
S31 E13




1. used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people considered together.

<"shall we have a drink?”>

2. used in formal contexts for or by a royal person, or by a writer or editor, to refer to himself or herself.

<"in this section we discuss the reasons”>

3. something to be repeated ad nauseam at Tribal Council for no apparent reason whatsoever.

<"Jeremy, how confident are you in your we tonight?”>

I have to be honest: I have no idea what just happened at Tribal Council on the latest episode of Survivor. I mean, I understand that Abi got voted out (and most likely torched Ponderosa approximately 13 seconds after arriving there), but I still have no basic clue as to what the hell was discussed during the actual Tribal Council ceremony. There was a lot of talk about “we” — which for some odd reason was deemed a remarkable development. Kimmi told us about her we, Keith discussed his we, Spencer explained his we, and Jeremy implied he had a lot of we. So either they were all talking about going to the bathroom or I have no idea what they were talking about. Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down, perhaps?

So that was all a bit confounding. As was Abi voting for Keith when she had a plan with Kelley, Keith, and (she thought) Spencer to vote out Tasha. And then she goes and votes for Keith? Who, it should be noted, randomly voted for Tasha last week. What are these people doing?!? The whole thing is almost as confusing as Stephen Fishbach’s Tribal Council Jury shirt. Don’t believe me? Just look at that thing:

Is there a Tommy Bahama pop-up store at Ponderosa where the jury hangs out or something? You combine that shirt with Savage’s beanie hat and have the ultimate absurd Tribal Council outfit. It’s as if a wannabe hipster got lost inside a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Not unlike the Wonder Twins, those forces need to combine for awesome effect. What’s going to happen next week? Is Ciera going to bust out a pair of moon boots?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There is a lot to get to because this is the penultimate recap of the season and that means it is also time for our updated Survivor season-by-season rankings. Where will Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance fall? You’ll have to stick around to find out. But before we get to the rankings, let’s blast through this recap at record pace… which, for me, will still be way too slow.

But first… we have one other matter of business to attend to. I have one super cool opportunity for one super cool Survivor fan. As many of you may know, when I was out on location in Cambodia before the season, I had the entire cast of 20 players write Thank You Notes to their fans for voting them onto the season. I then took pictures of each of them holding them up and posted them on my Instagram. Well, I still have the original Survivor Thank You Notes and want to send the entire collection (along with the full set of photos of them being held up by the players) to one lucky fan, and that fan could be you!

I thought it would be cool to raise some money for a charity connected to this show, and this season in particular, and I can’t think of anything better than the Danny Strong Fund. As you saw on the show, Terry Deitz had to leave midway through the season when his son Danny required immediate medical care. Danny — now a 17-year-old high school junior — was found to have an enlarged heart, spent months in the hospital, and had open-heart surgery, and then had a successful heart transplant in September. Terry and his family have started up the Danny Strong Fund to “support the priorities of the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center including research around cardiomyopathy and other congenital heart diseases, the extraordinary needs of patient families, and education of staff and patient families.”

Obviously, this is something that hits home for the Survivor community now and this cast in particular. My daughter was also born with a heart issue, so it holds special significance for me as well. Well, here is an instance where we can give back to help. I encourage everybody to go right here to donate, but for one of you lucky and selfless bastards, you can win the entire collection of Survivor Thank You Notes written by the cast. I’m officially putting the entire set up for auction. Just tweet me @DaltonRoss with the hashtag #SurvivorAuction and how much you are willing to bid to win the notes.

We’ll keep the auction open until 3 p.m. ET on Dec. 16 (the day of the finale) and the highest bidder will get the Thank You notes written by Joe, Spencer, Ciera, Kelley, Fishbach, and everyone else. It’s a super-cool exclusive Survivor memento, and it can be all yours! Tweet me @DaltonRoss with your bid and #SurvivorAuction now! Then come back and read the rest of my recap. Go ahead, I’ll wait… All done? Great. Let’s go ahead and recap this sucker!

NEXT: Keith tries to remember Tasha’s name

Things start off with Abi informing us that “payback’s a bitch,” after getting rid of Joe, although I am not exactly sure what the vote-out is payback for. Being super dreamy? Anyway, Abi goes on to say how nobody had any compassion for Joe, because why would you have compassion for someone who just collapsed in the middle of a challenge and was then voted out of the game just a few hours later?

Meanwhile, Jeremy has “buyer’s remorse” over getting rid of Joey Amazing. He and Spencer are worried about the possible female alliance and say they need to lock down Tasha and Kimmi, although do they mean locking them down in an alliance or a voting bloc? Because, as we all know, those are two completely different things.

But such concerns will have to wait because it is reward challenge time. This is a pretty simple one but with one clever twist as players are attached to a rope and must race to untangle it and then assemble/traverse a bridge and use sandbags to knock over blocks. But the clever twist is that you don’t know how much rope you need to unspool until you get to the end. Unspool too much and you’ve wasted too much time. Unspool too little and you waste even more time having to go all the way back to the start to go untangle more. Kind of reminds me of the often underappreciated Clash album, Give ‘em Enough Rope.

And this will come into play as both Jeremy and Spencer get to the end but then do not have enough slack to retrieve their sandbags and have to head back, which leaves Keith with a relatively easy victory. Now you have heard me argue early and often as to why you should never win individual reward challenges. You may upset people you don’t pick. You may separate yourself from the majority. Or, you simply may not make any sense at all and reveal yourself to be a crazy person.

That was Keith. After picking Kelley, he made Spencer his second choice due to “no real logic.” Well, that’s just blatantly untrue. There was logic involved; it was just Keith logic. Asked to expand on his reason, Keith told us he had no idea what Tasha’s name was (even though he inexplicably voted for her at the last Tribal Council). Who knows, maybe Keith has face blindness like Tarzan from One World.

Then, Keith proceeded to explain that he chose Spencer over Jeremy because “Spencer’s sort of a newly little girl and since she came all this way and he didn’t get to see her five minutes.” I am not sure that is even English, and I don’t understand any of it. Apparently, Keith thought Jeremy not being able to spend time with his pregnant wife was less significant that Spencer not being able to spend some QT with his girlfriend to whom he made wait for God knows how long to reciprocate her proclamation of love. Again, Keith logic. And he also told us at the very start of the episode that he needed to mend fences with Tasha because he voted for her at the last Tribal. But did he bring Whatshername? Nope! Keith logic.

And what did Keith win exactly? A trip back to the temples of Siem Reap to get blessed by monks and sleep in a temple. Pretty damn cool, to be sure. And also pretty interesting from a logistical standpoint, because Siem Reap is really far away from the island of Koh Rong where filming is taking place. To give you an idea, it’s about an hour by boat to the mainland coast and then another eight to nine hour drive to Siem Reap. Now, there are hour-long commercial flights from the coast to Siem Reap, and I am assuming they obviously flew there, but still, this was a big trip. Imagine the distance from Boston, MA, to Richmond, VA, and you’re in the ballpark. So this was no small little jaunt to get them over to Siem Reap and then back in a relatively timely fashion.

NEXT: Another big medical scare

Keith, Kelley, and Spencer certainly seem to enjoy the reward. “That looks like Raiders of the Lost Ark or something,” proclaims Keith upon his arrival to Siem Reap, while also comparing his trip there to a shuttle mission to Mars. (Ask Matt Damon how that one turned out.) Meanwhile, producers’ best friend Spencer once again provides the narrative by reading his cue cards comparing his trip there now with the one 30 days ago when he had his entire journey ahead of him.

It’s mildly fascinating how Spencer says his huge struggle throughout his life has been to show emotion, and yet he is the one we constantly hear from talking about his emotions! How do we reconcile these two things? I think it’s more a case of Spencer merely being the most eloquent person producers can go to in such situations to spell out in words the big themes they are trying to impart… you know all that stuff about “journeys” and “connections” and “second chances.”

I don’t believe for a second that Spencer spends nearly as much time thinking about this stuff as his confessional interviews would lead you to believe. I think he definitely has spent a lot of time mulling over how to improve his game from a strategic basis (and that includes being more social), but it’s probably a stretch to think that Spencer went from a 100 percent strategy-bot to the most introspective contestant in Survivor history.

Anyway, Keith, Kelley, and Spencer make another one of those final three deals that seem shaky at best. Speaking of shaky, that’s how anyone feels trying to navigate around Hurricane Abi. That explains why Tasha is trying to tread so carefully back at camp and asking a lurking Abi if she can talk privately to Jeremy. “If you want to include me, it would be better,” responds Abi. Better for whom?

“Is Abi a Scorpio?” asks Jeremy. “Because Scorpios are crazy. I’ve got two in my house. That’s why I drink.” That’s funny, I drink to compensate for my subpar social skills, but to each his own, I guess. Jeremy then goes on to say he can’t imagine even dating Abi, which I suppose he considers the ultimate insult. Does this mean Jeremy wants to date pretty much every other woman he meets? What exactly is Jeremy’s dating history and how does Val feel about it? Because it sounds extensive. So many questions. Anyway, they want Abi out next, which is not the hugest surprise.

GREEN HAT ALERT! Anyone who is anyone knows the orange Survivor hat is the mightiest of all Survivor hats, but I place green as a close second. Much better than the overrated blue one. And indeed that is the lid Probst is busting out at the immunity challenge as he looks to his feet, orders everybody in, and then tells them they’ll need to race out into the water and across obstacles, dive in and get a key, and then race back to open up a chest of puzzle pieces to solve a five-piece puzzle. And not just any puzzle. The puzzle in question is actually one of the three puzzle options from the first challenge of the Worlds Apart season. “So the second chance story is the puzzle,” says Probst. “Finally getting a chance to be run.” That’s pretty damn funny. (Does the Medallion of Power also get a second chance? Can I put in a request that it does not?)

The race basically is between Jeremy and Spencer, with the latter sustaining a nasty hit to the face along the way. Jeremy gets to the puzzle first, but then can only stand there idly as Spencer absolutely demolishes his puzzle in less than 15 seconds.

“Nobody has ever done it that fast,” Jeff will say later, referring to all the challenge rehearsals. “Ever. That was amazing.”

But as amazing as it is, all the drama is out on the water where Tasha is struggling. All that time out in the currents trying to retrieve her key has taken its toll and she finally calls for help. “Safety, get Tasha!” yells Probst. “Medical, let’s go!”

Sure enough someone resembling the creature from the black lagoon pops up out of the water to grab Tasha and brings her to the platform where the suddenly ubiquitous Dr. Joe meets her. “It’s hard to breathe,” pants Tasha after spitting up water. Soon, Probst is on the scene as well after having a dinghy deliver him to the platform to get Joe’s diagnosis that Tasha got “panicky” because she was exhausted and taking in water.

If I’m Tasha in that situation, I am first and foremost super appreciative to the Survivor team for such prompt action in saving my ass. But there’s also probably a small part of me that is most likely not too psyched to have just been dubbed “panicky” on national television. Not exactly the sexiest injury out there. Regardless, it was a scary scene and Jeff Probst has much more intel on it in this week’s Q&A.

NEXT: Saying goodbye to Abi

But out of life-threatening situations can come life-affirming ones as well, and Tasha’s rescue was immediately followed by a sequence that affirmed my love for this program. It was a quick moment, and you may have missed it. Once the players are all reunited on land, Jeff Probst walks over to the group, where Kimmi is squatting on the ground comforting Tasha. So Jeff walks over and squats himself to get down by the big emotional pow-wow. Only one problem: right as Jeff squats, Kimmi stands up. Okay, well this just got awkward.

And then, to make things even more awkward, in the next shot, Kimmi is back down squatting again. I don’t know if she was ordered to get back down there, or if she felt awkward for abandoning Jeff, or if she was just doing calisthenics, but regardless, it is my favorite awkward moment since Stephen Fishbach was not allowed to touch the immunity idol. Remember that gem? Here’s a refresher:

Ahhhh, good times. Anyway, here’s something to consider: With this latest immunity win, Spencer has built himself quite the résumé. He now has multiple individual immunity wins, orchestrated a key ouster (Stephen), and has not pissed anyone off along the way. Remember a while back when I wrote that all these contestants would rue the days they decided to oust Shirin, Woo, and Kelly Wiglesworth instead of Spencer? That ruing should officially commence. As for me, I love it! I picked the dude to win the whole thing before the game started. I got some weird looks from the rest of the press corps when I did that, but that pick is looking pretty solid now. Spencer, Kelley, and Jeremy all have legitimate claims as to why they should be the winner should they make it to the end, and dear God I hope they all do make it there. #BestFinalThreeEver. (Of course, final threes still pale in comparison to final two. That goes without saying.)

Back at camp after the challenge, Tasha needs some alone time to collect her thoughts because as Keith said, she “almost drowneded.” (And no, that is not a typo.) Meanwhile, Spencer is in the perfect position of alliance hopper. He can go in a final four with Kelley, Keith, and Abi, or in an alleged final three with Jeremy and Tasha (with whom he seals the deal via an awkward three-person fist bump). Kimmi appears to be persona non grata in these scenarios. Maybe she’s off calling Monica on the ol’ coconut phone for advice on how to build successful female alliances.

In the end, after lots of confusing chatter about everyone’s various “we,” Abi is indeed sent to the jury. This is usually unlike me, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Abi this season because I got a kick out of seeing how the other players (especially those aligned with her) went about dealing with her fickle and combustible nature. It was another added element to the game — a thermal detonator that exploded every so often without warning and managed to wreak havoc on players accustomed to logic and predictability. So while she was not on my personal Second Chance ballot, I’m actually glad Abi made the cast and think she indirectly added to the show’s quality in her own odd Abi-Maria way.

And now the stage is set, with six players heading into the finale. Does that mean we have four Tribal Councils left? Does this mean we won’t have one of those reward challenges that leads to an advantage in the immunity one that follows? And — horror of horrors — does this mean no Rites of Passage?!?! Clearly, a LOT to get through in next week’s finale and reunion.

But before we can get to all of that, it’s time for the updated Survivor season-by-season rankings. Now if this sort of stuff does not interest you then you can feel free to jump straight to the final page where you can check out the exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode. Some people do that every week anyway. It hurts a bit to have all my hard work so thoroughly rejected, but I can take it. However, if you are a huge Survivor nerd, then you most likely do care as this has become something of a tradition here in our penultimate episode recap of the season.

And before you — like so many thousands before you — ask “Why don’t you wait till the finale to rank it?” well, the reason is that my finale/reunion recaps are already so long and unwieldy as they are that it would simply be way too much. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know next week if the ranking has moved due to what happens in the last episode.

Speaking of which, last season’s Worlds Apart ranking did move based on the finale, so you’ll be able to see where it is now. And the one mild spoiler I’ll give about Cambodia is that it could move several spots depending on the outcome on Wednesday. With that said, let’s get to the rankings!

NEXT: Ranking all the Survivor seasons


(From best to worst)

1. (Tie) Survivor: Borneo

(Winner: Richard Hatch)

and Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites

(Winner: Parvati Shallow)

I’ve gone back and forth with these two over the years. After Micronesia aired, I named it the best Survivor season ever. Upon reflection, while I still considered it the most enjoyable, I also worried I was understating the impact of the first season, which became a national phenomenon. (Yes, Borneo now seems dated and tame by comparison, but it’s the biggest game changer in the past 20 years of television.) So then I returned that to the #1 spot. If I wanted to watch one season again, it would be Micronesia. If you ask me which is the most important season, well, obviously it’s Borneo. So instead of constantly flipping them, they can simply share the top spot… until I change my mind again.

3. Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

(Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)

The Russell vs. Boston Rob feud made for the best pre-merge run of episodes ever. And the greatness just kept on coming. Filled with huge memorable moments like Tyson voting himself off, J.T. giving Russell his immunity idol, and Parvati handing out two immunity idols at one Tribal Council. Loses a few points for having so many three-timers, though, including a few (Amanda, James) we simply didn’t need to see again. I know many people would consider this #1, but it’s all returnees. For me, the fresh blood of Micronesia keeps that season higher.

4. Survivor: Cagayan

(Winner: Tony Vlachos)

Quite simply, the best Survivor season ever with all new players since the very first one (which is only better by the fact that it was the very first one). It was an intoxicating mix of terrific and terrible gameplay in which the big personalities (Tony, Spencer, Kass) weren’t just personalities — they actually were there to play the game. (Maybe not well at all times, but at least they were playing.) The casting was killer, the challenges were solid, the boot order was completely unpredictable, and the creative twists worked (although I was not a fan of the return of the post-votes read idol; thankfully that never came into play). The fact that Woo inexplicably brought Tony to the end with him added one last great “WHAT THE HELL?!?” moment to a truly intoxicating season.

5. Survivor: Amazon

(Winner: Jenna Morasca)

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

6. 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 (Lil? Seriously?).

7. 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. What’s interesting about Palau is that we basically all knew Tom would win from episode 1, but it was still gripping nonetheless.

8. Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance

(Winner: ????)

Okay, let me just come right out and say this first before you start bellyaching about this placement. This season could go as high as number 5 depending on what happens at the finale. For me, Amazon, Pearl Islands, and Palau are all extremely close and this is right in the mix with those as well. So keep that in mind. Now let’s get to why this season is so high.

The first thing to note about Cambodia is how well all the production twists turned out. Letting fans vote in the cast? Brilliant. Hiding idols at challenges? I think you all know how I feel about that. Tempting people to quit an immunity challenge for a mystery vote steal advantage? Loved it. All the tribe switcheroos? They played out to perfection. The Survivor producers always throw a bunch of twists out there. Usually some work and some don’t. This season, they all paid dividends. I also appreciated how hard the bulk of the cast was playing. Usually you get a small handful of big time gamers. This season you only had a handful that weren’t going hard (which granted, is somewhat a function of returning player seasons in general). Another plus: The votes were completely unpredictable from week to week.

There are only two big demerits I can think of for this season. First off, with all the shifting going on amongst the alliances — excuse me…“voting blocs” — it was often unclear as to why people were taking certain sides, who was really aligned with whom, and what the actual pecking order was within alliances. I’m not talking about the show’s use of red herrings, which are a Survivor must to keep you guessing, but rather just general confusion as to where people truly stood in the game. I wish that had been clearer.

The second negative would be the challenges. Clearly the Cambodian currents would not allow for real water challenges so we were stuck on land for most of the season with an inordinate amount of balancing competitions. I’m not opposed to balancing contests, but with so many happening back-to-back to-back they just started to feel very samey and lost some of the wonder of other classic games. So I wasn’t thrilled with that. But those are small complaints in what has otherwise been a terrific season. More than any other recent season, this one’s final resting spot in the rankings is still very much in flux.

NEXT: More season rankings (9-19)

9. Survivor: Blood vs. Water

(Winner: Tyson Apostol)

The returning contestants playing with/against their loved ones twist added new dimensions and forced players — and us — to think about the strategic elements of the game in an entirely new way. And for strategy nerds like myself, it was like opening a brand new Christmas present each and every week as new layers were revealed.

And although I am certainly no fan of the Redemption Island twist due to the fact that it neuters the show’s most dramatic moment (the vote-off), it is undeniable that the RI element is what led to many of the intriguing strategic decisions of whom to vote out and why. (However, I still can’t figure out why they went with three person duels — a.k.a. truels — and they definitely should have stopped RI at the merge.) Yes, the challenges were a letdown and there was a bit of a lull just after the merge, but all in all, this was a super solid season from top to bottom and a nice change of pace.

10. Survivor: Philippines

(Winner: Denise Stapley)

This season was all about one thing: casting, casting, casting. When you look back on what happened, while there were a lot of shake-ups with the voting, there weren’t a whole lot of jaw-on-the-floor shocking moments. So why is it so high? Because the casting and storylines that developed gave us people to root for and against — something every great Survivor season needs. And the fact that Philippines had such a strong final four — Denise, Malcolm, Lisa, Skupin — also doesn’t hurt.

11. Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites

(Winner: John Cochran)

A tale of two seasons this was, and I can already hear people yelling that I am putting it too high. But hear me out first before you Russell any feathers. If I was grading this solely on pre-merge episodes, this would be waaaay down the list due to the emphasis on big personalities (Shamar, Brandon, Phillip) as opposed to big gameplay. It was flat-out grating. But everything post-merge was spectacular. I can’t remember a time when there were so many moves and countermoves so late in the season. The same way it is more important for a sports team to play well in the second half of a game as opposed to the first, a great season needs to build momentum, and Caramoan definitely did that with six fantastic episodes in a row.

It’s much more important to finish strong than to start strong, so I definitely put more weight and emphasis on post-merge episodes when doing the rankings, and this season made a remarkable comeback. Also, don’t overlook how great the bevy of water challenges was. Should I push it down in the rankings due to the lackluster Reunion show that followed? Perhaps. Kind of not sure how much I should take that live show into consideration when ranking what happened out on the island.

12. Survivor: Samoa

(Winner: Natalie White)

I like this season a lot more than most people, but Russell’s controlling of the game (especially post-merge when his side was down 8-4) was truly a work of art. Evil genius art. He was robbed in the end, though, in the most controversial jury decision ever.

13. 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!!!

14. Survivor: China

(Winner: Todd Herzog)

After constantly threatening to move this ranking up, I finally did a year or so ago. I’ve always loved this season. It featured a really good cast stuck in a really bad location. Todd completely owned that final Tribal Council. That’s how you win a million dollars.

15. 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. Plus, just look at all the great first-time contestants (Parvati, Penner, Ozzy, Yul). Mutineers must die!

16. Survivor: Australian Outback

(Winner: Tina Wesson)

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

17. Survivor: South Pacific

(Winner: Sophie Clarke)

Here’s another one that I like more than most people, which is curious considering how much it has in common with the season that aired directly before it, which I didn’t like: the same twist of two returning players, Redemption Island, the predictable vote-offs, no real water challenges, etc… But there is one thing I really did dig about this season, and that is the cast. I was invested in the players and their fates — the ones I wanted to do well, and not so well. Plus, this season gave us three signature moments: Ozzy volunteering to go to Redemption, Cochran flipping, and Brandon giving away his immunity.

18. Survivor: Tocantins

(Winner: J.T. Thomas)

Okay, you may roll your eyes at Coach 1.0. But imagine for a second this season without him. Bo-ring! His unintentional comedy single-handedly lifted 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?

19. Survivor: All-Stars

(Winner: Amber Brkich)

Overall, a bit of 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?)

NEXT: The rest of the rankings (20-31)

20. Survivor: Worlds Apart

(Winner: Mike Holloway)

I said if Mike won that it would leapfrog Panama, and I am a man of my word. The main problem, of course, was that there were not enough people to root for. Worlds Apart got somewhat hijacked by an assault of offensive comments to and about women by some of the male characters. It’s too bad because there was actually some interesting gameplay — mostly thanks to Mike. And there were some big moments at the last few Tribal Councils as well. This season has moved around a bunch for me. It started off middle-of-the-pack, went WAY down during all that Dan and Will ugliness, but slowly crept back up after that.

21. Survivor: Panama — Exile Island

(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. Shane Powers should have been brought back for Heroes vs. Villains. And the current Second Chance season, for that matter.

22. Survivor: Gabon

(Winner: Bob Crowley)

It got 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.

23. Survivor: Redemption Island

(Winner: Boston Rob Mariano)

The first three episodes were dynamite, but then the fuse blew out. It certainly was entertaining at times watching Rob strategize (the most dominant showing ever) and Phillip philosophize (the craziest showing ever), just not very dramatic. Most of the vote-offs were clearly telegraphed and the Redemption Island twist sucked the life out of Survivor’s signature moment — the vote-off.

24. Survivor: Africa

(Winner: Ethan Zohn)

Some great challenges. Not that much else was great.

25. 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.

26. Survivor: Vanuatu

(Winner: Chris Daugherty)

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

27. Survivor: San Juan del Sur

(Winner: Natalie Anderson)

The cast was for the most part boring if not boorish, and when you look back on this season, does any one big moment even stand out? Anything? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? I will say there were a few strong post-merge episodes, and it definitely got better over the last few weeks thanks to Natalie’s strong play. That counts for something. This is not a season that inspires anger or rage, just apathy, which is maybe the worst indictment of all.

28. Survivor: One World

(Winner: Kim Spradlin)

Look, I have total respect for Kim’s game. Like Tom in Palau and Rob in Redemption Island, she excelled strategically, socially, and physically. Unfortunately, that is really the only good thing I can say about this season. And that’s too bad, because I do think the “One World” concept was a solid one. But, man, what a thoroughly uninspiring cast. Colton was more a horrible human being than a classic villain, and the rest of the players were mostly either completely forgettable or people you wish you could forget. I worry I am being generous by putting it even this high, but out of respect for Kim, it goes here.

29. 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.

30. Survivor: Fiji

(Winner: Earl Cole)

With the exception of Yau-Man and Earl, a true bummer of a cast, and the “Haves Vs. Have-Nots” twist was one of the worst creative decisions in Survivor history. Speaking of awful creative decisions…

31. Survivor: Nicaragua

(Winner: Jud “Fabio” Birza)

It’s at the bottom for a few reasons. 1) Splitting the tribes up by age and the Medallion of Power were both enormous flops. 2.) Like One World, Thailand, and Fiji, Nicaragua had just too many unlikable players. 3) Two people quitting with only 11 days left. 4) No big memorable moments. Even Thailand had the fake merge and Fiji had the big Yau-Man/Dreamz free car deal gone bad, but what was Nicaragua’s signature moment? Unfortunately, it was people quitting, and that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Well, there you have it. But before you can tell me how terrible my rankings are, make sure to check out the exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in the video player below along with our pre-game interview with Abi and recent episodes of Survivor Talk. You’ll also want to read this week’s Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst as he previews the finale, and for more Survivor scoop you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Where does this season of Survivor rank for you? Who do you think should win and will win this season? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and don’t forget to tweet me with your bid and the hashtag #SurvivorAuction to win the complete original set of Survivor Thank You Notes as written by the entire cast. And I’ll be back next week with a special finale/reunion scoop of the crispy. See ya then!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols


Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst looks at his feet while telling them to "COME ON IN, GUYS!"

  • TV Show
  • 40
  • CBS
stream service