Plus, the annual season-by-season ranking
Whatever the reason, Ashley is gone. So who’s the favorite to win among those left? My guess is that it would come down to Ben or Devon. Ben has been seen as the biggest threat going all the way back to the merge. If he makes it to the end, you have to feel that the jury would respect that. Archnemesis Joe certainly seems to. But Ashley brush-off aside, Devon is probably the most universally liked by the jury. Again, it’s been very hard to tell this season and I really have no idea what anyone makes of Ryan, but it seems like Devon is a guy most people would feel good handing a million dollars to, and he could point to his ideas to make Ben an undercover agent and lying to the Coconuts about Lauren using her extra vote, which totally kept them from flipping. The fact that Devon can make a case and also does not seem to rub people the wrong way could make him a millionaire.
Of course, I have a rooting interest in Ryan because he was my episode 1 pick to win it all and I would love to put an end to my 20-season streak of misery, but his path seems tougher. He is a great talker though, so he could definitely sway some votes through the mighty power of words! But that’s only if he makes it to the end. Chrissy seems to not have many fans or friends on the jury so it would be surprising to see her take home the title of Sole Survivor, but if she can pull out a few more immunity wins, then I suppose there is a chance.
And I don’t know what to make of Mike, at least in terms of how others view him. His one big move was flipping the vote onto Ben last week when Chrissy wouldn’t commit to voting out Lauren. But then Ben played an idol and Lauren got voted out anyway, so I’m not sure what he can point to as his signature imprint on this game. Again, it just looks and feels like a Ben or Devon victory — which means it probably won’t be.
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Okay, we need to get to the new updated season rankings now and see where Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers falls, but since the rankings tend go for a bit, just a reminder to read my weekly Q&A with Probst and to check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode on the last page. Okay let’s get it to it, and please feel free to put your own rankings in the comments section as no two lists are ever the same.
SURVIVOR SEASON-BY SEASON RANKINGS
(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 No. 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 No. 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: Cambodia—Second Chance
(Winner: Jeremy Collins)
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 who 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, leading to some truly crazy Tribals. Sure, the challenges were a bit blah, but still, a rousing and triumphant success.
6. Survivor: Amazon
(Winner: Jenna Morasca)
Probably the first truly 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.
7. 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?).
8. 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. (Recap continues on next page)