Survivor All-Stars Theme - Russ Landau
The founder of the modern reality show (alliances, immunities, eliminations) Survivor has managed to hang in there long after other big reality shows (Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Bachelor) have faded into obscurity. You either love it or hate it, but most people who give it a chance find it interesting. For those morons out there that insist the show is fake, just know that you stink. I've seen enough people waste away to their rib cage, and enough bug bites, pimples, and hairy armpits (on chicks) that I absolutely believe it's genuine. With the end of Season 17 (the finale got 14 million viewers), it's time to rank the Top Ten seasons in Survivor History.
10. SURVIVOR: EXILE ISLAND (Season 12)
For this season, the tribes were separated according to age and gender (young men, young women, old men, old women). This seemed disasterous since old women really don't stand a chance at winning challenges, but the tribes were soon mixed up. Not a really great season, but not terrible either. It doesn't help when the horse you're rooting for loses. I wanted old man challenge king Terry to win, but he lost the final challenge and was eliminated by eventual winner Aras (youngest male survivor ever).
9. SURVIVOR: GABON (Season 17)
This is where I would put the most recent season. It featured two of the meanest Survivors in history. Randy, a wedding videographer (really!!!), was mean to every person all day every day. He constantly berated people, and most tribe members hated his bitter attitude. But his hatred was so funny, and his humor was often self-deprecating, that the audience loved him. On the other hand, the equally bitter Corinne was booed and hated by fans in an obvious double-standard. According to Probst, Corinne said the meanest and most vile thing at any final tribal council when she told Sugar, "You are an unemployed, uneducated leech on society. And the only thing I would vote to give you is a handful of anti-depressants so that no one else has to be subjected to your constant crying anymore. And maybe if you get some, then it would seem a little more sincere when you are crying about your dead father." Yikes. Other than that, the oldest Survivor winner ever, Bob (57), overcame the odds to be a challenge phenom and narrowly defeated coattail-riding Susie. I love it when the guy I'm rooting for holds on to win. Hats off to another great season.
8. SURVIVOR: FIJI (Season 14)
A season full of some likeable personalities, but the real thrill came during the finale. Yao-man, the little old Asian underdog, had won the car challenge (a brand new truck). Dreamz, a black/formerly homeless contestant, kept saying how he wanted to win the challenge because he never owned a car and was once homeless and all that. So, because Yao-man rules, he offered the truck to Dreamz, but Dreamz would have to give him immunity if he were to win the final challenge. And wouldn't you know it, Dreamz won the final challenge. Even though he kept saying how he wanted to set a good example for his kids, he decided NOT to give immunity to Yao-man, who was voted out and finished 4th. Dreamz would eventually lose, so he got what he deserved.
7. SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS (Season 7)
Home to one of the worst twists in Survivor history. Like all other Survivors ever, people get voted out. Unlike any other Survivor, ousted contestants got to come back to the game for a challenge, and 2 of them were allowed back in the game. OUTRAGEOUS! One of them even made it to the final 2. This season featured two incredible characters, though: Rupert and Johnny Fairplay. In the first episode, the tribes were sent to a fishing village to trade anything on them for supplies. Rupert, while guarding his tribe's raft, noticed the other teams raft sitting right next to him. So, like any pirate would do, Rupert stole their shoes and had them sold for supplies. In All-Stars, Rupert was the fan's favorite and won a separate million dollar prize. But the big shock was Johnny Fairplay. On the "loved-ones" challenge, his friend came to participate..... and deliver the heartbreaking news. His grandmother would've come...if she was alive. Fairplay and his buddy told everyone that his poor grandma had died, and he milked it for all it's worth. Of course, she was not dead, as Fairplay assured the audience via a confessional that she was probably home watching Jerry Springer.
6. SURVIVOR: AMAZON (Season 6)
After three stinky seasons (Africa, Marquesas, and Thailand), Mark Burnett finally came back with something interesting. This was the first season that featured a battle of the sexes by dividing the opening tribes between genders. The two big standouts in this season was Rob Cesternino, the self proclaimed "student of the game," who kept the game interesting by constantly shaking things up, and Jenna Morasca, the eventual winner. My favorite individual challenges are the simple endurance ones (standing on a platform, holding a position, etc.). After an hour or so, Probst always comes around with donuts or cookies or burgers to tempt people into giving up. Firstly, HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID TO GIVE UP THE ALWAYS ESSENTIAL IMMUNITY FOR FOOD?!?! Secondly, Probst can cite Amazon as the inspiration for this. While standing on platforms, Jenna and Heidi tell Probst that would get naked for peanut butter and chocolate. Probst, like the good host he is, promptly delivers the PB & C, and the girls deliver the goods, stripping for everyone in order to drop out of the challenge for food.
5. SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS (Season 13)
The highly controversial "Racist Survivor," the game started with 4 tribes divided by race, but it really wasn' that bad. The highlight of the season was the colorful Johnathan Penner, an Academy-Award nominated writer. He also acted in movies like Down Periscope. In the end, the almighy White race proved to be the worst, as the final 3 was made up of Latino Ozzie, Asian Sundra, and eventual winner/Asian/mastermind Yul. Black woman Sundra placed 4th, as Parvati and Penner (5th and 6th) were the best of the Whites. There weren't a lot of surprises or gimmicks in this season (at least memorable ones), just a very good cast; and that's all you need to make a good Survivor.
4. SURVIVOR: PALAU (Season 10)
I thoroughly enjoyed this season because one of the contestants, dolphin-trainer Ian, was a PSU alum. I even got my roommate interested in this season. Highlights included:
- First ever Exile Island, where the tribe who won the reward challenge would send someone from the losing tribe to be off by themselves. This could be done to break someone spirits or to strategically keep someone from dealmaking with their tribe.
- Fireman Tom killing a 6 foot shark with a machete. The Shark briefly washed in with the tide, so Tom jumped on it and, in two swings, cut it's head off.
- Ian, at the end of an endurance challenge that was 12 hours long and still going, felt bad about supposedly losing his buddy Tom's trust. Thus, a deal was made. Ian would drop out of the challenge (A WIN WOULD MEAN A SPOT IN THE FINAL TWO!), but only if Tom would agree to VOTE HIM OUT! It's insane! What a bonehead move. Ian was subsequently voted out and Tom won the million in a landslide.
- The first ever time that one of the tribes was reduced to one person before the merge. Koror dominated the challenges and the woeful Ulong was reduced to its final member, Stephanie, who was forced to survive a night by herself in her empty camp.
3. SURVIVOR: AUSTRALIA (Season 2)
It's hard to top Season 1, but 2 came pretty close. Sweet, motherly Tina defeated challenge king Colby by one vote in the first ever live finale. There were no hiccups in the structure of the game, and players figured out the alliances were essential, so the only interesting moments in the Outback were the crazy things that happened outside of the game.
- Upon returning from a challenge, the merged Barramundi tribe saw that their camp was washed away in a flash flood. Everything was destroyed except for a mostly dry box of rice, which was found down river.
- Michael Skupin and co. successfully hunted a wild boar with sticks and knives. He wore the blood on his face to intimidate the other tribe at the next challenge.
- The wind shifted while Michael Skupin was blowing in the fire, and the smoke hit him right in the face. He inhaled too much, passed out, and fell in the fire. The camera picks up the action after the fact, as he sprints to the river. He has burns on his face, chest, and hands, and his skin is hanging off his fingers. Mike had to drop out of the game.
- For the "loved ones" segment, which involved some trendy internet chatting, loser chef Keith proposed to his girlfriend via instant message, and she said yes.
- Old man Rodger didn't know how to swim and was afraid of heights, but when one challenge called for them to jump off a cliff into a lake and swim out, Rodger overcame his fears to help his tribe.
- Elisabeth Filarski, after leaving the show, married to become Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and went on to be the only conservative/hottie on the View. Colby Donaldson went on to work in Hollywood, appearing in the movie Red Eye and an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
2. SURVIVOR: ALL STARS (Season 8)
This was the first season I ever saw and it got me hooked. Jeff Probst likes to claim that this was his least-liked season and it almost made him quit as host (because of all the drama of the returning contestants). In the end, we all lost because moron Boston Rob and Amber made it to the final 2. Now for some highlights...
- This season featured 2 quitters. Survivor: Amazon winner Jenna Morasca decided to leave because she felt something was wrong with her mom, who has long been sick with cancer. She leaves the show, and rushes to her mom's side, who dies a few days later (powerful stuff). Then a few shows later, Sue Hawk flipped out on Probst and quit on the spot because she felt violated when naked Richard rubbed up against her on a balance beam challenge (it was pretty despicable).
- Before the final votes were read live in NY, Boston Rob proposed to Amber, and she accepted. Amber then went on the win the million dollars by one vote over Rob.
- Outnumbered 7 to 1, Shii Ann had to win individual immunity or go home. The contest was simple: Hold your arm straight up in the air as long as you can, because it's tied to a chain that, if moved, would spill a shit load of water on you. Shii Ann's arm never even wavered, and proceeded to rub it in everyone's face as they sent home one of their own (she was voted out in the next episode.
- RICHARD HATCH, SHARKKILLER: While enjoying a leisurely swim in the nude, Rich Hatch saw a three foot shark under a big rock. He had no fishing gear, but in Survivor, they'll do anything for food. He snatched the shark by the tail, but the shark broke free and shot out at the fat man. The shark latched on to Hatch's arm for a big bite. Hatch held on to the shark, bit him back, and then waded into the shallows and bashed him off a rock a couple times. His tribe enjoyed a tasty meal, and the shark bite wasn't terribly deep.
1. SURVIVOR: BORNEO (Season 1)
What a disaster this show could've been if not for the success of season 1. The production value is poor and amateurish, and the catchphrases and tribal council stuff were kinda hokey. But the cast saved it. Richard Hatch, probably the greatest reality tv villain, engineered the first alliance that no one else saw coming. Lucky for us, because deception and trickery make for great television. 51 million people watched the finale, when Richard beat Kelly Wigglesworth by one vote. Here are some of the great highlights from Borneo.
- Sue Hawk's infamous Rats and Snakes speech at the final tribal council. You just can't write this kind of stuff. Sue, feeling betrayed by former bff, pretty much wishes her dead and pledges her vote publicly to Hatch.
- The first ever alliance: After the merge, both tribes came together and everything seemed to be great. Then at tribal council, the Pagong tribe's votes were scattered around, but the former Tagi members voted as a block for the biggest survival expert on the island, Gretchen, because she was a threat. This floored the loser Pagong people.
- For the first annual "loved ones" episode, each person got to watch a one-minute preview of a tape of their family. The winner of the following challenge would get to watch the rest of the tape.... except for Jenna..... because her tape didn't make it to CBS in time for shipping. Her heart was broken, but Probst knew this was great for the show. He was right.
- Sean, the moron doctor, telling everyone that his voting strategy was in line with whoever's name was next in alphabetical order. He believed that it wouldn't harm anyone, except when the Hatch alliance knew that Jenna was next in his order, they all voted for her, and she was sent home by one vote.
- The strongest alliance in the game was that of a fat, nude, gay man (Hatch), and a 70 year old retired Navy Seal veteran (Rudy). Again, you can't write this stuff!
- Day 1: Rich Hatch, in his first confessional, says that he "already has the million dollar check written in [his] name."