39. Thailand (S5)
Survivor Thailand was the most difficult season of Survivor for me to watch. Although Brian is at the very least a top half winner and a very good one, he also played one of the most dull games from any winner before. There probably isn’t a single character in the cast to really truly root for and Shii Ann Huang remains the only contestant to ever make a return from the season. Helen Glover gives this season some redeeming qualities while Brian’s gameplay is at times very interesting and at this point is a bit of an anomaly in Survivor history. But that isn’t enough to make it a good season of the show. The Ted and Ghandia controversy stands out as being the most memorable thing from this season but it’s something we’d all like to forget. I think I actually like the logo for this season more than the season itself…it’s purple and has an elephant on it! So just like my #1 ranked season will probably forever remain that way, it’s going to have to take something special for Survivor Thailand to get knocked off the number one spot in the contest for worst season ever.
38. Island of the Idols (S39)
Survivor Island of the Idols is very lucky not to be last on this list. It is quite honestly, a season of Survivor that I never want to re-watch and I would advise anyone who hasn’t seen it to simply skip the season. The only thing that has Thailand at the same level as this season is the Ted & Ghandia situation which was probably equally bad to the main issue with this season, but also something that the show and production team made no attempt to stop either and in hindsight due to the era of the season, was probably handled even worse than this current situation where so much of the backlash came back on Ghandia at the time. This season is a bit of a aberration from everything we’ve come to know and love about Survivor and the whole season just felt silly and ill-conceived. The Rob and Sandra twist could have been so great if Rob and Sandra actually acted as mentors and helped players with the specifics of their games, rather than just being a source of playing some stupid game and giving out an idol or advantage. Instead of having a pre-planned lesson that might not even apply to the player going to the island, the player should have been given the choice of what they wanted to learn and should have been given freedom to ask Rob and Sandra whatever they wanted within the boundaries of fairness in the game. I’ve heard a lot of people say “All the good moments of this season came out of the Idols of the Idols.” To me this is incredibly far from the truth. Elaine’s block-a-vote advantage stopped what could have been the show’s historic fourth ever rock-draw or a massive shift in the game where Lairo completely flipped on their own alliance. Noura’s kookiness upon return from the island was fun, but Noura was going to give that nonsensical behaviour throughout the season regardless. Finally Lauren’s visit to the island was by far the most entertaining and well-thought-out by production, but it was literally all for nothing when she burned her idol right after. The show did a decent job balancing air-time for their ill-conceived twist with the actual happenings of the game, but because of the nature of the island and Rob and Sandra’s interactions, every single episode centered around who had the idol or advantage and what they are going to do with it, which is just not what Survivor is supposed to be about. The fact that every single episode centered around an idol, advantage or the awful actions of Dan made this season just impossible to watch and makes me so disappointed in the direction that the show has gone in. This season will forever go down as one of the worst, if not the worst in just about every rankings list you’ll see and the show has a lot to correct moving forward from this incredibly bad season and year.
37. One World (S24)
The main problem with Survivor One World is that the cast is just so incredibly unlikable. There are a few really interesting characters like Kim and Troyzan, so it’s not the worst cast of all time, but many of the characters just did not provide any entertainment at all. The game-play of Kim Spradlin is masterful but other than that, the tone and feel to the season is just so dull. Colton’s frantic game-play dominated the pre-merge from an editing standpoint and that might be the first way the editors went horribly wrong with this season. Due to Kim’s stellar hold on the season, Survivor One World was probably the most predictable season to date. Kim was pretty much written on as the winner of the season from the very first episode and she was easily able to manipulate the rest of the cast, most of whom were dull personalities and didn’t know the game at all. Moreover, none of the players knew the game except for Colton, Troyzan and Kim, which made for very boring and predictable game-play. The one thing in favour of One World over Thailand is that Kim’s game is incredible to watch and although it isn’t flashy or extremely entertaining, it’s one of just a few masterclass performances in Survivor history.
36. Nicaragua (S21)
Nicaragua isn’t all that bad and is redeemed by a couple of exciting final few episodes in which the inevitable winner goes on an immunity run and controversy fills the air with Sash. Na’Onka is probably the main reason why people hate Nicaragua so much. Although this season has a few better characters than Thailand, it arguably has even less memorable moments. The most memorable moment of Nicaragua is probably Kelly and Na’Onka’s decision to quit at final nine, which is another Survivor moment that we’d all like to forget. But getting back to the characters, not only is their no one to root for, the winner, Fabio, is probably one of the worst one ever (Check out Survivor Winner Rankings right here).
35. Fiji (S14)
Fiji has some great characters, but some not so-good game-play, and there isn’t really much of a story-line to follow besides Earl’s monotone run to the end, which admittedly did lead to an incredible win. Fiji certainly had a role in establishing the immunity idol as a key tool to have in the game, brought us Earl, Yau-Man and Dreamz, and the producers have gone back to the island for most seasons in recent memory, but other than that, it’s legacy is a bit short. That being said, Yau-Man promising Dreamz the car he had won in a reward if Dreamz wouldn’t vote him out at final four, only to be betrayed by him was the standout moment of the season that remains a somewhat discussed topic in the show’s history today.
34. Edge of Extinction (S37)
Survivor Edge of Extinction was not all that bad to watch and had several exciting moments but there were too many convoluded ideas and production mistakes to count. The twist of having an Edge of Extinction was always a bad idea and fell flat on its face (although it did gives us more of Reem Daly and Rick Devens). But as if having that as a theme wasn’t enough, four returning players were thrown in with a cast of first-time players and there role in the season dominated so much of the storyline. Although they were four characters most fans would have wanted to see again, it just made no sense to do it in a season like this. But the major problems with the season continued well past the merge. Rick Devens came back into the merge and via the immunity idol and immunity necklace, was immune for practically the entire merge until the final four, where he very well would have made it past had Chris not entered the game. So much of the focus was on Rick, who was such a star character, but then he didn’t even win in the end and lost at the fire-making to someone who had just re-entered the game at the final six. Why would production ever think that someone entering the game that late would be a good idea? And why have they done it every single time there is a twist like this? Chris played 12 days of Survivor and had the luxury of spending all his other days on Edge of the Extinction cozying up to the jury. And then he won the game and it was almost like a completely different show. Someone who had played 12 days in the game, had won the game. So on top of all the stupid twists, advantages, idols, the winner, who played a hell of a final four days in the game, should never have won the game.
33. Game Changers (S34)
Around the early 30’s of Survivor, we had so many good seasons of Survivor in a row that it is almost shocking how they have managed to produce such a bad 34th installment. Survivor Game Changers had negativity written all over it from the moment the cast was announced by Inside Survivor. Sure, favourites like Cirie, Sandra, Tony and Malcolm were all coming back, but so many other players that the fans had no desire at all to see back were also returning. Many of them went on to have no impact on the game whatsoever and many of them also made it far in place of favourites. It was no surprise that the lesser players combined together to take out the legends of the game so early on like JT, Malcolm, Tony and Sandra, but it made for possibly the worst boot order in the history of the show. For the entire second half of the season, the fan-base was just praying for a Cirie win, which was just something that was never going to happen with the obvious finalist edits of Brad Culpepper and Sarah Lacina. Looking back on the season years on, the Jeff Varner incident remains the most memorable thing to happen, even more memorable than the terrific gameplay of Sarah. But this was one of the ugliest moments in the history of the show. My second big knock against Survivor Game Changers was just how confusing some of the gameplay was. At times I had no idea what was going on and I analyzed and wrote about practically every single thing that happens. Players weren’t making moves that were in their best interest at almost any point in the season, making for many disappointing early eliminations and a string of almost unwatchable episodes. Finally, the edit was absolutely ridiculous at times. It focused far too much on Debbie, Sarah, Cirie and every player who went home during the pre-merge and completely neglected the game strategies of Aubry, Troyzan, Tai, Michaela, Ozzy, Sierra, Hali and even Zeke at times. This not only helped to make the season rather predictable, but begs the question: why bring some of these players back if you’re not going to show them on the show? In terms of the positives, Sarah winning in an incredibly flashy way will make her an all-time great for years to come. The changing of the final tribal council to being more conversational in style was a positive introduction and a few fun character storylines like that of Sarah, Brad and Zeke, were all very big bright spots for the season. On the whole Game Changers had a few fun episodes, most notably the premiere, Zeke’s elimination and that crazy tribal council that sent Malcolm home but it was just far too slow, stagnant and uninteresting throughout. This unfortunately makes Survivor Game Changers not just one of the worst seasons in recent memory but of all time as well.
32. South Pacific (S23)
As much as I love Coach as a character on the show, I hate Ozzy just as much. Bringing the Redemption Island twist into Survivor South Pacific was probably set up to help give Ozzy the win and Sophie Clarke winning this season instead, just might have saved Survivor. If Sophie hadn’t won this season and Ozzy had instead, Survivor might have realized they could bring back whoever they wanted to win by using this format. The next season could have been Stephanie vs. Rupert for all we know. But thanks to Sophie, this ridiculous format hasn’t returned since. In terms of South Pacific, again most of the characters are kind of annoying. Almost everyone on Savaii treats Cochran with complete disrespect making it almost unbearable to watch and Brandon Hantz was even worse to watch. In addition, nearly half the cast goes absolutely missing in the season and even the winner, Sophie, receives a minuscule amount of confessionals. The last thing I’ll say about this season is that Coach wasn’t the same Coach we had seen in Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains. In his previous two seasons he was a hilariously kooky character/sociopath with comedic release and amazing story-building. On South Pacific, he was almost like a robot CBS had re-wired to go out and be a rational leader of a majority alliance that would remain in power all game. And then he couldn’t even win which was all the more disappointing. I appreciate Sophie as a player and as a winner but that wasn’t enough to make this season anywhere close to being one of the best and I still wish we had been able to see more of her stellar game.
31. Panama (S12)
Now we move away from the bad seasons of Survivor and get more into the average seasons of Survivor. I know I am lower on Panama than most, and although its cast is pretty memorable I really just didn’t find the season or the gameplay all that intriguing. Cirie, Terry, Shane and Aras are all memorable characters that have all returned or in Shane’s case, should have returned. But the main problem with Survivor Panama is that not a lot happens. Terry Deitz goes on an incredible immunity winning streak but then can’t win the most important one of all at the final three. Other than that, does anything really memorable happen other than a few of Shane’s crazy antics? Cirie has some great gameplay moves and Shane has some great confessionals and hilarious moments but it really is just kind of an average season with not a lot going on. Bruce and Courtney are also incredibly annoying characters, and the disputes between Terry and Aras are lame and exasperating. With all that said, Cirie’s strategic mind, Terry’s physical presence and Shane’s entertainment value certainly make this a season worth watching.
30. Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers (S35)
Although by no means the worst season of Survivor, Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers failed to produce enough wow moments, eccentric characters and stellar game-play. The theme of the season was a bit odd and…aren’t healers and heroes basically the same thing? But the theme mattered so little to the game-play that it should not count as a reason against the show’s 35th season. The biggest critics of HHH, rightly suggest that the game was stunted by an over-abundance of idols that allowed Ben Driebergen to walk his way to the final three despite being without a loyal ally from about final seven onward. The pre-merge was much weaker than the post-merge and although it had its fun moments like Alan Ball’s antics and whatever Patrick was up to, most pre-merge votes were a bit boring and predictable. The season gained momentum toward the end, but again it was largely a result out of the over-abundance of idols. Chrissy, Devon and Ben were very fun to watch while also providing solid game-play but it wasn’t enough to save the producers from a poorly executed theme and season.
29. Worlds Apart (S30)
Survivor Worlds Apart is a roller-coaster of a ride. It had incredible moments like Mike’s immunity winning streak that took him all the way to the end of the game but also incredibly horrible to watch moments like Dan and Will’s bashing of Shirin and really just anything that came out of Dan’s mouth at all. We all know the bad about Worlds Apart so let’s talk about the good. Mike Holloway won in a unique way that might never be repeated. No other player has been able to win their way to the end mostly through challenges and then win the final vote. Moreover, Joey Amazing is one of the biggest casting breakouts of all time and the cast had a mix of strategists like Max and Shirin, entertaining characters like Rodney and Carolyn and of course a solid winner in Mike. The game also had surprising vote offs, all three idols were used to vote someone out in an entertaining fashion, the final four fire making challenge was intriguing and the auction was Survivor’s best ever. Unlike most of the seasons listed for me as being worse than it, the story of this season clearly gave us two people to root for in Carolyn and Mike and again the way Mike won the game stands out as being incredibly unique. However, with that being said other than Mike’s incredible immunity run and maybe some of Rodney’s moments and Carolyn’s game-play there isn’t much worth re-watching in this season.
28. Redemption Island (S22)
As a humongous ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano fan, I really enjoyed watching Redemption Island. I think both Rob and Phillip provide some much needed comical release in their confessionals making this a lot more of a fun season than people give it credit for. Admittedly, not too much happens, and the game-play except everything that Rob does is really bad. This helps Rob win in one of the most dull ways in Survivor history as it was almost too easy for him to manipulate everyone around him. That being said, we can’t ignore how good of a win this was for Rob, even if it was his fourth time. One thing that most people hate about this season was the Redemption Island twist, but one of the best things about this season is the struggle Matt goes through staying at Redemption Island for nearly the whole season only to win his spot back in the game and then be sent right back out of the door by Rob. It also can’t be forgotten that even though the post-merge is predictable, the first three episodes are absolute dynamite and the premiere is one of the best openers in the show’s history. I know I won’t be able to convince you otherwise, but Redemption Island is a lot better than most people think it is and deserves a lot more credit than it gets.
27. Africa (S3)
Survivor Africa stands out as one of the most unique seasons of Survivor in a couple of different ways. Firstly, Survivor has only been to the continent of Africa twice, and this was the first. The contestants literally living right next to dangerous animals made for an entertaining and truly unique Survivor-type feel where the contestants had to survive the dangerous animals as much as anything else. Secondly, it is unique in that it had the first ever twist on Survivor, the tribe swap which resulted in Silas, a player in a powerful position going home sooner than expected in a very entertaining episode. But, “The Twist” was Africa’s only standout episode and Frank and Lex made the season difficult to watch. I will give Lex props though for being a savvy player and we can’t forget about other interesting characters as well, including Big Tom, T-Bird, Kim Johnson and Ethan. A big knock against Africa is that the game-play wasn’t superb by any stretch of the imagination and besides the tribe swap which has now just become just an annoyingly regular Survivor custom, there are no real standout moments at all.
26. Cook Islands (S13)
Cook Islands is another solid season. The twist in which the tribes were divided by race could have worked out horribly wrong but thanks to a swap early on, nothing controversial arose out of it and we ended up with an incredibly diverse cast coming from all different walks of life. On top of the birth of Parvati Shallow on to Survivor, this season also has one of the greatest ever strategists and winners, Yul Kwon and one of the most entertaining Survivor characters ever, Jonathan Penner. Yul’s use of the idol to flip Jonathan and decrease his numbers advantage stands out as the highlight of this season for me, but the twist with Candace and Penner deciding to join the other tribe was also interesting especially since this twist has never happened before in the show’s history. Among the things that knock this season down in the rankings are Ozzy just being there in general, not great gameplay apart from Yul, and Adam and Candace kind of being jerks when they realize they are about to be eliminated. If Ozzy had won instead of Yul, this surely would have been considered one of the worst seasons ever for me, but luckily, Yul was the winner.
25. Ghost Island (S36)
A season dominated by two very strong players and a nearly unbreakable alliance is hardly ever the most entertaining season of Survivor, but Ghost Island produced many positive moments that left viewers entertained. The main problem was not in the game-play or the characters or anything of the sort. The main problem was in everything that the producers tried to manufacture in the game. Ghost Island was a very good idea on paper. Send castaways to an island where they can play a game to find a relic from a mistake from a previous season. However, Ghost Island was poorly executed as the tribes always drew rocks to see who would go there and then when castaways got there sometimes they wouldn’t even get to play a game. Sometimes it felt like the show was wasting ten minutes that could have gone to game-play and instead focusing it on one person on Ghost Island who wasn’t even going to find anything. There was also a strange twist where the castaways split into two groups, both of whom went to tribal council. The final four twist proved to screw over Domenick Abbate, although the result of Wendell winning was still a very good outcome. It’s safe to say, the producers did not get the exact result out of the very good idea that they had in creating Ghost Island. That being said, the season had very good characters in Domenick, Wendell, Laurel, Donathan, Michael, Kellyn, Chris and Bradley. The list goes on. The game-play was also very strong with Domenick and Wendell dominating the season but Michael, Kellyn and Laurel coming up with very strong moves of their own. It also has legacy for being the first ever tie vote at the end of the game. Ghost Island was not the worst season of Survivor, but it also wasn’t one of the best. Perhaps in future years with its fabulous final three and great winner, it will gain a better reputation.
24. Samoa (S19)
Whether you hate or love Russell Hantz, you can’t deny the impact he’s had on Survivor. Russell’s strategic manipulation in Samoa was the most incredible the show had seen up until that point and the story of how he lost is still one of the most interesting and most highly-debated topics Survivor has to offer. The post-merge part of Samoa is pretty great and it’s still a mystery to me how Galu let a 8-4 numbers advantage go to waste to allow the four Foa Foa members to make it all the way to the final five. It is really one of the most unique set of circumstances to ever occur on Survivor that allows Natalie White to win the season and as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m a lot higher on Natalie as a winner of Survivor than many, so her being the winner does not spoil the season for me at all. If anything it makes it better. My main qualm with Samoa in fact is the over-edit that Russell gets and the incredibly unfair under-edit that the intelligent and socially brilliant Natalie gets. Russell has 105 confessionals over the course of the season to Natalie’s 15, which is completely unjustified and does not make for a better story. One of the other main strikes against Samoa is that there are really no stand-out episodes and the season was so heavily Russell focused that we really never got to know any of the other characters. CBS might just as well have titled it The Russell Show. The story was all about Russell and half the cast was completely ignored as a result. Brett Clouser made it to fourth place and I still don’t have a clear image in my head on who he was or how he got there. Natalie, the winner of the season, meanwhile only had 15 confessionals, the lowest a winner has ever had. Her minimal amount of confessionals is due to the fact that they focused far too much on Russell, giving him the most confessionals in the history of the show with 108. Survivor Samoa is an interesting season to analyze from a strategic standpoint but it really is too Russell-heavy and although Russell’s game is incredible, Survivor Samoa doesn’t actually offer that many great moments.
23. Caramoan (S26)
The idea of Fans vs. Favourites was an interesting concept that brought out some incredibly great moments in the original FvF, Survivor Micronesia. But if you’re going to cast another fans vs. favourites for Season 26 of Survivor at least cast fans and/or favourites. That’s right the theme of Survivor 26 was Fans vs. Favourites 2, yet the cast included neither fans nor favourites. The fans tribe was comprised of just four people that were actually fans of the show and actually applied for the show. All four were gone early. The favourites tribe meanwhile was comprised of probably only two real favourites, Malcolm and Cochran. The rest were just a bunch of people that CBS wanted to have back and thought would stir up drama or provide good TV. Unfortunately they were horribly wrong on that front as the only good TV moments of the season were provided by Cochran and Malcolm while Phillip, Brandon and Corrinne were all insufferable on their second goes at the game. Meanwhile, a final tribal council bashing of Dawn and Sherri was incredibly difficult to watch and Brenda asking Dawn to take her teeth out so that she could be humiliated just like she was, was a truly awful moment. Speaking of one of the worst moments in the show’s history, half the cast wasn’t allowed to sit on stage during the reunion show so that they could take attention away from Brandon Hantz not being there. This proved to be an utterly ridiculous move and not only upset the players but thousands of fans watching at home. A few redeeming things about this season are ‘The Three Amigoes’ who thanks to Malcolm had some very entertaining moments, the blindsides of Andrea and Brenda and of course Cochran being the winner. Cochran as the winner of the season certainly redeems it as a decent season but even that got old as for years afterward Jeff compared every single intelligent player to Cochran and the production team gave him more air-time at every single finale and reunion show since his season than about half of the players on each season. Survivor Caramoan is definitely a season that should be forgotten, but likely never will be.
22. Borneo (S1)
Now I move away from the average seasons of Survivor and get into the good seasons. It’s quite obvious why I have Survivor Borneo down so low. Because I came to Survivor so late, Borneo does not have that same nostalgia factor for me that it does with every other die-hard Survivor fan. Admittedly, Borneo does have an incredible impact on the show and if Borneo had not been so incredible and ahead of it’s time, Survivor would not have been as successful. But having said that, watching Survivor Borneo for the first time in 2015, rather than in 2000, it’s actually really tame compared to what we have been accustomed to these days. It is for the exact reason why watching this season was absolutely fascinating at times and definitely worth while but it is also why several parts of Survivor Borneo are a bit hit and mess. One thing that fascinates me about Borneo in particular is how strategically sound Richard Hatch was despite this being the first time anything like this had ever been done in an English speaking nation. We see Rich build the first ever alliance and then ride his power position in the game all the way to the end, voting off every single member of the other team with ease. But that meant that the way Borneo worked out was so boring at times that the term “Pagoning” has become a common term used in Survivor to describe one tribe completely decimating the other. The challenges are also kind of boring and although Richard is amazing, the focus of the show is on surviving, not on strategizing. With all of that being said, Borneo is still incredibly interesting to watch because it lays the foundation for what would become future Survivor and is certainly the most unique season in the show’s history as it’s filmed almost like a documentary and has a completely different feel to it than the other thirty-three seasons.
21. Pearl Islands (S7)
I know I’m lower on Pearl Islands than most, and maybe it is just my loathe for Rupert, but I just really don’t love the cast that much. Sandra is hilariously entertaining and a good winner of the game, Jonny Fairplay is incredibly entertaining but also kind of a lunatic and besides Rupert everyone else is nothing special, which is why only those three and Savage have returned. To me, Rupert is the most overhyped character the show has ever seen. He’s really just kind of arrogant and annoying and the only joy I got out of watching him besides the shoe incident was how easy it was for Jon to exploit him. The highlight of Pearl Islands other than Sandra’s win is Jonny Fairplay’s dead grandmother lie. But I do think it is a bit overrated in that it is generally seen as the best moment in Survivor history, when I wouldn’t rank it that highly, especially since it really didn’t have that much of an impact on the outcome of the game. Other moments that I enjoy from Pearl Islands include the crazy argument between Sandra and Fairly and the good piece of gameplay from Fairly when he pits Lil and Darrah against each other to save himself. At the same time though, I really don’t like watching Jonny Fairplay and his arrogance. Also, the outcasts twist was a nightmare and it’s no wonder why it hasn’t returned since. In terms of the highlights of the season, the first episode is wonderful. We have this really unique opening scene where the contestants are sent off into the town to buy anything they think they’ll for the season from local markets. This produces some incredible moments like Rupert stealing other contestants’ shoes and selling them for fruit, Sandra speaking Spanish to all the locals and saving Trish from a lustful shopkeeper and Andrew Savage establishing himself as the leader of his tribe. Overall, Pearl Islands is still a really great and entertaining season, but not one of my personal favourites.
20. Australian Outback (S2)
Australian Outback had a wonderful cast and it is no wonder why so many characters from the season either instantly returned, or have returned years later like in the case of Kimmi. Colby is a phenomenal superhuman of a person and his five immunity wins still holds today as the record, albeit in a tie with Mike, Tom, Ozzy and Terry. Tina is an interesting winner and her incredible social game still stands as one of the best social performances today. Moreover, Jerri is just amazing for confessionals and her relationship with fellow All Stars contestants Amber and Colby made for great TV. Alecia and Kimmi Kappenberg’s dispute, the beef jerky incident, Jeff Varner stepping down for peanut butter only to be voted off and sweet, innocent characters like Roger Bingham and Elizabeth Hasselback are also highlights from this season. But perhaps the most memorable moment of all in Survivor: The Australian Outback has to be the moment when Michael Skupin falls in the fire and becomes the first Survivor contestant to be medically evacuated. This was not only dramatic and scary, but it changed the course of the game and allowed Colby and Tina to take control, rather than Jeff and Mike. Outback just has a really good mix of really interesting players which is why it remains as the season with the most players to come back and play again. Overall, this is another amazing season with one of the best casts in the history of the show.
So there it is! The Survivor Season Rankings from 39-20 as of December, 2019. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and for the remaining list be sure to check out…
Also be sure to check out what has changed since last year and compare the lists here ->