But there is one other key element of the plan—getting Missy on board, and Gimpy McGee is not so keen on it. “I can’t do that,” she tells her daughter. “I’ve given him my word to the end. And I will get no votes.” Wrong. You will get no votes if you go against him in the finals. “Okay, well, I don’t have a deal with Jon. I have nothing with Jon,” responds Baylor. This is the kind of intrigue you want to see on a Blood vs. Water season—two loved ones with different interests trying to come to a decision that is mutually beneficial for both of them. You could argue that Jon and Jaclyn have been doing the same thing all season, but that was often over petty reasons like whom Jaclyn was annoyed with as opposed to genuine strategy. We’ll have to wait to Tribal Council to see how it plays out.
So the contestants arrive at Tribal and are joined by Sausage Party 2014 (a.k.a. the Jury). There’s a bunch of stuff happening—including Keith doing some terrible acting in talking about how he can’t pierce the alliance of five, and Jury member Alec going for some sort of Guinness World Record for having his mouth open for the longest time imaginable without talking—but we just want to get to the voting. When the time comes, Keith helps Missy up to the urn and back (rumor has it Missy proposed to him along the way) and nobody plays an idol. The votes are revealed, and indeed Natalie and Baylor got Missy to switch. It’s a three-way tie, and Jon is ousted on the revote. BAM! Natalie laughs, Keith winks, and Jon kisses Jaclyn goodbye before forgetting his torch.
“The game is wide open,” says Probst. And he’s right. Best of all, now we have someone to root for. And Lord knows I am rooting for her, because how depressing would any sort of final 3 at this point without Natalie be? Which brings me to one last point that bears clarification. I suppose I have not been particularly complimentary of the season’s cast as a whole, but I do want it noted for the record that they all seem like decent people. Terrible game-players and bland personalities perhaps, but decent people nonetheless. Keith may have driven me crazy with his nonsensical play, and Jon and Jaclyn may have had me pulling my hair out with their wishy-washiness and back and forth, but I enjoyed speaking with them out on location before the game started.
I point this out because while this may not have been the most dynamic season of Survivor, it was not a One World, Nicaragua, or Fiji situation, where there were so many actively unlikable folks among the cast. That’s worth keeping in mind as we finally get to it and delve into the latest Survivor season-by-season rankings. And to reiterate (as I do every season) these are done now instead of as part of the finale recap because the finale recap is already waaaaay too long as it is. And I always reserve the right to move a season up or down depending on what happens in the finale, so don’t freak out or anything. Okay, disclaimer over! Let’s get to it.
SURVIVOR SEASON RANKINGS
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 Morasca as a winner, but she won challenges and played an effective social game.
NEXT: More Survivor season-by-season rankings