Survivor Season Rankings (Worst to Best)|
Last updated with:
Disclaimer: The following countdown contains MAJOR SPOILERS. Other items worth noting:
- I generally tend to favor seasons where players innovate great ideas.
- I never penalize seasons for how many times a player has returned. If a player is entertaining,
they can return every season as far as I'm concerned.
|| Survivor: Thailand (season #5)|
A painfully boring season that best exemplified why I almost stopped watching the show.
This season also featured the lamest twist ever: rival tribes cohabitating instead of merging.
Highlights: Can't remember any.
|| Survivor: Nicaragua (season #21)|
For me, this season took the cake for annoying castaways and inane gameplay. Although some of the
more colorful characters, e.g., "Hurricane" NaOnka, "Fabio", and ex-NFL coach Jimmy Johnson
entertained me, I basically had no one to root for during the entire season. In fact, I felt that
the series hit a low point when Fabio won the game and Jane won Sprint's Player of the Season.
Also found that Medallion of Power twist pretty lame.
- NaOnka lasting long despite shoving a girl with a prosthetic leg and stealing socks
- Marty playing decently but then inexplicably giving away his hidden immunity idol.
- Chase lasting long despite constant indecision and broken promises.
|| Survivor: One World (season #24)|
An embarrassing, mind-numbing season of quite possibly the dumbest (and most delusional) crop of
players in Survivor history. It still pains me to think that a juvenile twerp like Colton could
run the game and convince an entire tribe to forfeit team immunity (the dumbest tribal move I've
ever seen until I see one worse)! I actually rooted for the women to vote out all of the men.
Plus I'm sick of that tiresome "impulsively ally with four other strangers" strategy.
- The gender-divided tribes feuding over axe, chicken, fire, and immunity snafus.
- Colton remaining selfish to the bitter end, clutching his immunity idol as he exited.
- The best strategic player, Kim, actually winning (even though for this season that didn't
strike me as much of an accomplishment).
|| Survivor: Panama - Exile Island (season #12)|
I considered this season one of the flukiest in that the most annoying people seemed to dominate
the game instead of getting voted out at the beginning (admittedly, Cirie Fields eventually
impressed me in a later Survivor season). The only player that I liked (Terry)
made it pretty far only to get betrayed and eliminated after the final challenge. That
reinforced my disdain for the unpredictability of the final challenge--and unfortunately, the
expansion of a final two into a final three didn't start until next season. :(
Highlight: Rooting for Terry in individual immunity challenges.
|| Survivor: Guatemala - The Mayan Empire (season #11)|
I just remember this season for the returning Stephenie LaGrossa. I lamented how she
tarnished that "America's sweetheart" image from "Survivor: Palau", but still rooted for her
to win. To my chagrin, she blew it on the very last immunity challenge.
Highlights: Can't remember any.
|| Survivor: China (season #15)|
A season highlighted by the bizarre coincidence of one castaway (James) ending up with both
hidden immunity idols. I honestly cannot remember very much else about this season.
- Jaime finding both hidden immunity idols in James' bag; then inexplicably mistaking a
plaque for a hidden immunity idol.
- James getting voted out holding both hidden immunity idols.
|| Survivor: Marquesas (season #4)|
A dull season except for the pivotal power shift and the infamous "purple rock" tiebreaker.
- The pivotal power shift.
- The infamous "purple rock" tiebreaker.
|| Survivor: South Pacific (season #23)|
The return of Ozzy and Coach! Cue the chirping crickets. I did get excited for the merge due to
my high hopes for that Trojan Horse ploy--but alas, nothing much came of that.
- Russell Hantz's contradiction of a nephew, whom I once deemed the worst Survivor player of all
time thanks to his unsolicited self-sacrifice when we won individual immunity.
- The exciting (but disappointing) Trojan Horse plan and Cochran playing double agent.
- Ozzy's distinctive "Redemption Island" strategy which made him the only player to get voted out
thrice in the same season.
|| Survivor: Pearl Islands (season #7)|
I hated the twist in this season where eliminated castaways voted two outcasts in. I also hated
how two of my favorite castaways, Rubert and Andrew, got voted out while two of my least
favorite castaways, Jonny Fairplay and Lillian, made it all the way to the final episode.
- Rooting for Andrew Savage's team in immunity challenges.
- Rupert Boneham's victory scream.
- Jonny Fairplay lying about his grandmother's death...except I didn't see how that
helped him in the game.
|| Survivor: Vanuatu - Islands of Fire (season #9)|
A female-dominated season where the last man managed to win against all odds. I remember a lame
controversy about whether a player crossed the line by swearing an oath on her son.
- The interesting matriarchal alliance.
- The two most deserving players making the final two. :)
|| Survivor: Africa (season #3)|
I loved the generational clashes in this season. Didn't care much for the self-righteous
winner though. :(
- The contrast between one tribe's younger and older players.
- The first ever tribe swap that fractured the young folk alliance.
|| Survivor: The Amazon (season #6)|
The first season to divide tribes into all-male and all-female castaways. Made for some
interesting social dynamics.
- The contrast and socialization between the male and female tribes.
- Rob Cesternino's levity and shrewd moves.
- Multiple blindsides.
|| Survivor: Gabon (season #17)|
A veritable encyclopedia of the different Survivor strategems, including: a) a player
who voted tactifully and constantly lied, b) a player who voted emotionally and felt that
"the good guys should win in the end", and c) a "paragon" player, good at challenges, who
tricked voters with fake immunity idols.
- Alliances implementing "Plan Voodoo" a couple of times; one of them backfiring on a
tribe because the runner-up defected.
- The tribe deciding to toss one of the immunity idols into the ocean.
- Kenny and Crystal overcoming the majority three times in a row (twice by
unexpectedly swinging Sugar and Susie).
- Bob and Sugar swerving voters with their idols.
|| Survivor: Tocantins (season #18)|
An unpredictably cutthroat season wherein the last two castaways managed to betray all three of
their alliances. This cast featured one of the haughtiest personalities I've ever seen, Coach
the "Dragonslayer", and showed the importance of building character references. For
instance, I couldn't help but respect J.T. and stigmatize Sierra after hearing fairly
consistent remarks about them.
- A "first impressions" poll that led the two stigmatized castaways to choose between high
and low roads.
- A curiously well-liked player that various castaways wanted in their alliance.
- A crossroads where a three-person alliance had to choose between a "Warrior" alliance and
an unprecedented "Exile Island" alliance.
- One case of poetic justice where a desperate outcast outlasted a cocky nemesis.
- An interesting exploration into whether a million dollars should outweigh a close month-long
|| Survivor: Fiji (season #14)|
This season reminded me of a counter-intelligence thriller because of that one episode
where a rival alliance conspired to use a hidden immunity idol. It also featured a
castaway that I hated more than anyone in Survivor history, Dreamz, because of a deal
with that he infamously reneged on. Granted, back stabs happen a lot on Survivor--but it
make me sick how this guy boasted on and on about how he'd honor the deal and show his
son a good example. Then he had the nerve to act all proud of the betrayal!
- The sad contrast between the "jocks" and the "nerd".
- The pivotal tribal council where the minority alliance plotted to use their hidden
- The suspense over the tribal council where Yau-Man used the hidden
- The suspense and outrage over Yau-Man's deal with Dreamz.
|| Survivor: Philippines (season #25)|
A refreshingly unpredictable season thanks to the return of the three tribe formula (breaking the
five-person alliance tradition), shifts in alliances (including one betrayal foreshadowed by
the "four-fingered handshake"), and...players who didn't seem to know what they were doing
(particularly during the tribal council where all of the alliances and hidden immunity idols got
blown). I enjoyed rooting for Jonathan Penner again as he narrowly escaped elimination multiple
times. I also legimitimately worried that Michael Skupin might require evacuation again.
- Colluding tribes, i.e., the reward challenge bargain and the interesting merge wherein rival
tribes conspired in a Plan Voodoo against Jonathan (first time I ever saw that work).
- Michael Skupin defecting during a crucial tribal council.
- The winner becoming the first and only player to attend (and survive) every tribal council of
|| Survivor: Palau (season #10)|
A season highlighted by two standout players: Tom Westman and Stephenie LaGrossa.
I once called Tom the best Survivor player of all time. He inspired such respect in
fellow players that the jurors actually took his BS seriously. He even inspired one player to
forfeit the last immunity challenge for him! Now that's what I call charisma.
- A clean sweep of immunity challenges that reduced one tribe down to one member, Stephenie.
- Ian forfeiting the final immunity challenge for Tom.
- The most deserving player winning. :)
|| Survivor: All-Stars (season #8)|
This season pitted a lot of renowned Survivor players against each other, stirred some
intense emotions, and sparked the romance between my favorite Survivor couple, Rob and "Ambuh"
(both of whom I later enjoyed watching in "The Amazing Race").
- Rob betraying Lex, Kathy, Alicia, and Tom. The emotional backlash brought up an
intriguing controversy about whether real-life friendships factor into the game.
- A bizarre coincidence where the tribal swap only affected one player.
- Rob courting and then proposing to Amber in the live finale.
- Rupert Boneham winning the million dollars as the show's favorite contestant.
|| Survivor: The Australian Outback (season #2)|
This season had a good villain (Jerri) and a memorable tragedy where Michael Skupin passed
out into the fire. It also featured a young Elisabeth Filarski before she went on to co-host
"The View" as a staunch Republican.
- Jerri convincing players to vote out Kel based on suspicion rather than proof.
- The aftermath of Michael Skupin's accident. I remember re-watching that scene over and
- A pivotal tribal council where the rival tribes tied their votes.
- A memorably heartwarming scene where castaways cyber-chatted with loved ones.
|| Survivor: Caramoan - Fans vs. Favorites (season #26)|
Just as "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" helped me proclaim the best player of all time, this
season helped me crown the worst player of all time. I mean seriously, at first glance that
"Favorites" tribe looked like a Survivor Hall of Shame. But admittedly to my admiration, some of
them really stepped up their gameplay. I felt particularly proud of Cochran, who in my
judgment delivered the best jury presentation in Survivor history.
- Francesca Hogi clinching "worst Survivor player ever" by getting voted out first twice!
- Brandon Hantz melting down and forcing me to reconsider him as "worst Survivor player ever".
- Corinne forging a secret counteralliance during an entertaining tribal merge.
- Malcolm dominating the hidden immunity idols from playing Reynold's own idol to playing two
idols in one tribal council (until Andrea finally foiled his streak by hovering over him).
- Cochran, the ultimate underdog story, going from South Pacific outcast to heavyweight
|| Survivor: Cagayan - Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty (season #28)|
A bizarro, borderline subversive season where the players (particularly "Chaos" Kass and Tony
Vlachos) seemed to indulge whatever harebrained "strategy" suited their fancy. Examples: the
inaptly-named "Brains" tribe keeping a nutjob who dumped out their rice, castaways swapping
immunity idols at tribal council, safe players illogically flipping on their solid alliances,
and Woo opting to "compete against the best" in the final two! But possibly the biggest farce
of them all: the show bringing back the super-powered "immunization" idol, which combined
with the normal immunity idol gave Tony the most ridiculous handicap in Survivor history.
- Tony repeatedly thinking outside of the box. Even though most of his ploys seemed to fizzle,
e.g., engineering "spy shacks" to eavesdrop on fellow tribesmates (like the schemer in one of
those Shakespearean comedies), misrepresenting an immunity clue, and masqueraiding a real
immunity idol as a fake one, he did innovate one idea that I considered a home run: bluffing
that he could use the super idol in the final four.
- Spencer and Tasha somehow making Tony, the most immune player in the history of the game,
paranoid enough to turn on his own alliance.
- Spencer fighting tooth and nail against elimination pretty much the entire game.
- Kass' "anti-Survivor" strategy of making enemies and voting against allies. I still can't
reconcile why this worked as well as it did.
|| Survivor: San Juan del Sur - Blood vs. Water (season #29)|
Same tears, pangs of emotion, and double-edged swords as the first Blood vs. Water season
(as far as I'm concerned, the show can bring back this premise every season)--but even
more unpredictable this time around, mostly because of this one maddening lovey-dovey couple who
seemed to play musical chairs with their loyalties every time a new tune played (from Jaclyn not
getting enough attention to Jon trusting someone different). Side note: Never seemed to dawn on any
of the players that relinquishing a reward to win someone over doesn't work!
- John Rocker getting vilified after falling confusingly short on an Exile Island deal to protect
Jeremy's wife Val.
- Drew Christy managing to get eliminated early when he threw his tribe's immunity challenge without
securing a single vote first. Smooth move.
- Sweethearts Jon & Jaclyn weighing who to be "couples' friends" with during a Hunger Games-type
rivalry (where one daughter had to inherit her father's "beef" against players whom she could have aligned
with); then becoming the swing votes again for a for a post-tribal merge power struggle between Josh and
Jeremy (leading Joclyn to flip on both of them).
- Keith throwing a tribal council into chaos when he accidentally leaked Reed's Plan Voodoo ploy.
- The show hilariously pointing out that "5 hours later", Jaclyn was still giving her boo Jon
the #SILENTTREATMENT (which apparently put everyone else's game on pause too).
- The deserving winner Natalie making some big moves, including long-awaited revenge on Jon.
Interesting side note: I learned afterward that
Jon was no longer allowed to give his immunity idol to Jaclyn (and that it was even confiscated
from his bag).
|| Survivor: Worlds Apart - White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar (season #30)|
All season long, it felt like I was watching a bunch of children. From the vicious mean streaks
to castaways wallowing in their own hurt feelings (in one case because a guy didn't get a
reward for his birthday!), the overall lack of maturity made it hard to root for anybody. I kept
dreading a nightmare final three of the season's three biggest jerks: Dan, Will, and Rodney.
Thankfully, Mike Holloway managed to scrape and claw his way back from the brink of oblivion
(due to that auction mistake fairly early in the game, he went from odds-on favorite to dangling
by a thread). The most touching irony for me: that Mike spent the whole game premeditating
stratagems, but probably never even stopped to consider that a single act of kindness (his
impromptu defense of Shirin while everyone else stood by) would end up helping him when he needed
- The tribal shuffle causing amusing predicaments, e.g., Mike coaching loudmouth Dan on
how to apologize to a female swing voter he offended, and a multi-Collar tribe debating which
of two zealous players is more annoying.
- Mike course-correcting himself into a tailspin. His best gambits: framing Joe with finding
the hidden immunity idol and then using it to make Tribal Council voters blink in a "Survivor
Russian Roulette" bluff. His most dubious gambit: comically throwing a tribal immunity challenge
to save his ally on the other tribe. His most disasterous gambits: trying to renege on an
auction pact to gain an advantage and then publically outing Rodney's secret four-person
- Carolyn parrying Dan's extra vote with her hidden immunity idol (fortunately it did not
occur to Dan to force a Plan Voodoo with that extra vote). Side note: I liked the "extra vote"
idea but wasn't happy that they had to draw rocks for it--I would've rather they just had given
an extra vote to all three bidders.
- Rooting for Mike in quite possibly the best, most emotional Survivor finale ever--from the
immunity challenges (one in which Mike's mother felt like she failed him) to a jury presentation
that looked dire for him until Jenn, Shirin, and even Dan spoke in his favor.
|| Survivor: Borneo (season #1)|
Although I remember complaining about the lack of strategy among these castaways, this
first season of Survivor kept me on the edge of my seat and led to some interesting talk
around the water cooler.
- Rudy Boesch's curmudgeonly remarks.
- Sean Kenniff's alphabet strategy.
- The riveting final episode.
- The most deserving player winning. Too bad that he neglected to pay his taxes. :)
|| Survivor: Redemption Island (season #22)|
The return of Boston Rob and Russell Hantz! Even though Russell went out too early, I'd still rather
watch four episodes of him rather than entire seasons of lame players. :) As for Boston Rob...I
developed a whole new respect for the guy. He took the game to new heights, and masterminded some
impressive (albeit troubling) new strategies. Of all the castaways to ever play Survivor, I proclaim
that Rob deserved to win the most. P.S. I didn't like the Redemption Island twist.
- Rob playing the best strategic game I've ever seen, including keeping kooky "Former Federal
Agent?" Phillip to the end, making up the "Royal Treatment" game so he could scramble for the hidden
immunity idol (then hilariously sabotaging the clues), segregating the tribes, inventing the ingenius
buddy system, and even preventing his starving tribe from eating the enemies' fish.
- Russell's tribe throwing a challenge (and dooming themselves) just to get rid of him.
- Matt returning to the game after winning six out of six duels on Redemption Island; then getting
voted out again at the very next tribal council! Das cold.
- Rob pulling out an emotional, clutch victory in that final nail-biting immunity challenge.
- Rob, arguably the best player never to win the game, finally winning the game.
|| Survivor: Cambodia - Second Chance (season #31)|
Chaotic to a fault and overseasoned with production twists, but made interesting by
plenty of returning fan favorites to root for. I don't know if it was fan appreciation or the
players' trauma from their first loss, but I've never seen such overzealous gameplay. This
new trend of "voting blocs" had players flash mobbing their votes cross-allegiance over
reasons that seemed totally random to me, e.g., one day it was target a threat who played
too "new school", another day it was target a threat who wasn't part of the reward.
- The show letting the fans vote on which ex-players to cast into the season, and actually
having a great selection too. It's like the show read my mind on who to nominate.
- Kelley Wentworth making the first tribal challenge excruciatingly suspenseful when she
bided (and bided) her time on the hidden immunity idol. (Also by trying to grab another one
underneath the shelter before any of her tribesmates came back.)
- Outsiders Tasha and Andrew Savage managing to control the vote of the six-person tribe they got swapped into.
- Spencer somehow staying one step ahead of multiple eliminations, including one where his
sworn enemy Chaos Kass inexplicably saved him!
- Kelley invalidating a landslide nine votes against her with an immunity idol, a Survivor
record and quite possibly the most cosmic gaffe I've ever seen a majority alliance make.
- Stephen Fishbach obsessing the entire game about voting Joe out and still failing even
after using a "steal a vote" advantage to turn Joe's vote on himself. Also Joe obsessing
so hard about winning immunity challenges that his body finally gave out!
- Jeremy and Kelley both playing immunity idols, leading to an unprecedented tribal council where
every single vote got invalidated. Maybe I'm just a stickler for formalities, but I wanted Jeff Probst
to actually go through all the motions, i.e., hold the revote, dramatically reveal the result,
hold the second revote, dramatically reveal the result, and then if need be end with the irony
of giving Keith (who wanted to draw rocks in the first place) a bag with only one rock in it.
- The final four actually coming down to the best four players.
|| Survivor: Blood vs. Water (season #27)|
A fiendishly personal season where returning castaways had their own loved ones used against them.
The premise paid off so well that I wondered why they hadn't come up with it sooner! That is,
until one player voted out her own mother. Then it just got awkward and weird for me (in my
opinion, you'd have to be one heckuva Survivor purist not to blink at that). I also felt that the
rock tiebreaker tainted the season's results.
- "Public enemy number one" Brad Culpepper intentionally using the other tribe's loved ones
against them, smartly telling wife Monica to burn an immunity clue given to her by a rival married
couple, and then ending up exiled with that very couple after Caleb improvised a coup!
- Castaways burning immunity clues instead of using them.
- The merge presenting a wide variety ways to "slice the pie", e.g., by tribe, by couples, by
gender, or by original alliances.
- Ciera voting out her own mother to get further in the game--which isn't as bad as it sounds
because they pre-discussed it. On second thought, it IS as bad as it sounds.
- Tina eliminating her own daughter Katie at the Redemption Duel, which also made me
|| Survivor: Samoa (season #19)|
An entertaining season thanks to a groundbreaking player whom I credit with saving Survivor:
Russell Hantz. At first, he seemed like a complete jerk...but then after he found a hidden
immunity idol without any clues, I really began to admire his guile. To my amazement, his
machinations went on to save his tribe from a near-hopeless 8-to-4 decifit! If only this
guy had won...
- Russell finding two hidden immunity idols with zero clues, and finding a third one
with only one clue.
- A torrent of rainstorms that depressed the castaways and kept them from strategizing.
- One particularly suspenseful tribal council where Russell saved himself with a hidden
immunity idol, followed by another suspenseful tribal council where the tide turned. Say
what you will about the "purple rock", it deters deadlock most effectively. :)
- Most thrilling final immunity challenge ever that came down to Russell vs. "bump on the log"
Brett. Man, a victory by Brett would've ruined the season for me. :)
|| Survivor: Cook Islands (season #13)|
One of the rarer seasons where the player that I heavily rooted for, Yul Kwon, actually
won the game. He overcame formidable obstacles too: a mutiny and a popular player (Ozzy)
in the final vote. Although this season took a lot of criticism for dividing the tribes by
ethnicity, I welcomed the variety. I also loved how this season finally cast some charismatic
"intellectuals", i.e., Yul and another favorite player of mine, Jonathan Penner.
- Cao Boi campaigning "Plan Voodoo" to flush out the immune player. Amusingly, Cao Boi
was the one voted out. blog
- The unprecedented mutiny of Candice and Jonathan.
- The intellectual "business deal" between Yul and Jonathan.
- A nail-biting final vote. I felt that the most deserving player won even though some would
dissent that the most athletic player should've won. :)
|| Survivor: Micronesia - Fans vs. Favorites (season #16)|
A refreshing season that cast some of the most conniving players in Survivor history--most
notably, an alliance of women that kept ensnaring men in their traps. This "black widow"
alliance led to one of my favorite Survivor moments of all time: the final four women managing
to persuade the last surviving man to give up his immunity!
- The ridiculously false immunity idol...that got played!
- Multiple blindsides...most of them orchestrated by that conniving female alliance.
- The ridiculously bold plot to vote out an immune player...that worked!
- A sappy but entertaining public declaration of love from Ozzy.
|| Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (season #20)|
A big-time "WrestleMania" meets "Game of Thrones" for Survivor fans that excited me before it
even began...and wow, it did not disappoint. Unlike other seasons where the best TV only
occurred after the merge, this season managed to thrill me from start to finish. It
featured suspenseful gameplay, shockingly bold moves, and lots of WTF moments for the water
cooler. Some of my favorite seasons' all-stars like Boston Rob, Russell, and alumni from the
"black widow" alliance managed to shine all over again.
- Boston Rob rebounding from his physical collapse, and pretty much carrying the Villains
tribe on his shoulders.
- "Plan Voodoo" backfiring on Cirie when she went up against another top player, Tom, whom
I viewed as a total antithesis of her.
- Russell feuding with Boston Rob, including such highlights as Russell unapologetically
looking for the hidden immunity idol despite the taboo against it, Russell thwarting Rob's
"Plan Voodoo" by tricking his top ally Tyson into eliminating himself, Russell casually
suggesting to Rob that they vote out the two people sitting with them, and a final showdown
wherein Russell successfully corrupted Jerri and Coach against Rob. Rob's parting words to
Coach: "You're a little man." Wow. blog
- Sanda standing up to Russell and plotting against him; poisoning him against Coach and
trying to stage a coup (then eventually resorting to burning Russell's hat; haha, the irony).
- J.T. tragically smuggling a hidden immunity idol (packaged in a written letter) to the last
person he should ever entrust an idol to, Russell, based on the Heroes' misconception of an
all-female Villains alliance!
- Parvati headlining the greatest episode in Survivor history (the one where the Heroes and
Villains merged). blog
- Amanda and Danielle wrestling for possession of a game-changing clue to the next hidden
immunity idol (unprecedented and reminded me of Barry Bonds' 73rd home run baseball).
- Rupert faking a hidden immunity idol by hiding a rock in his pants. Brilliant way to save
himself, and I'm surprised that no one ever thought of that before.
- Russell spearheading the unexpected self-destruction of the Villains alliance.
- The final immunity challenge (a maze) coming down to a climactic photofinish.
- The final three actually coming down to the best three players.