1. Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites
Season Sixteen, Winner: Parvati Shallow
Pros: Some of the best blindsides the show has ever seen, the first successful all-female alliance, Eliza’s facial expressions while on the jury and the best player winning.
Cons: Many of the “fans” turned out to be less than memorable and pretty dopey, and things didn’t start to really heat up until around the time of the merge.
2. Survivor: Borneo
Season One, Winner: Richard Hatch
Pros: Originally I had this first season at number one, but after thinking it over I think I was more captivated by Fans vs. Favorites. However, this first season was unlike anything I’d ever seen and introduced me to my all-time favorite reality TV show. It was all my 14-year-old self could talk about.
Cons: The castaways were brand new and not everyone caught on to how to play the game as quickly as Richard Hatch. Remember the guy who cast his vote in alphabetical order?
3. Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
Season Twenty, Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine
Pros: Every. Single. Episode. Seriously, every episode this season had me completely captivated. The twists! The turns! The Boston Rob and Russell showdown; The Heroes’ embarrassing themselves, coming back, and then embarrassing themselves again; stupid moves from Tyson and J.T.; Amanda giving the clue back; Parvati kicking challenge butt.
Cons: Some favorite players getting voted out early in the season (Cirie, Boston Rob), Russell having the advantage of anonymity in a season based on reputation and too many immunity idols that were too easy to find. The season lands in third place because the best all-around player (Parvati) didn’t win.
4. Survivor: Cook Islands
Season Thirteen, Winner: Yul Kwon
Pros: Some of the most exciting and memorable players we’ve ever seen. Parvati! Ozzy! Jonathan Penner! And Yul was a very strong winner – social, strategic and physical. And then there was Billy declaring his love for Candice after about 20 seconds. The tribes segregated by race was controversial, but also resulted in one of the most diverse casts we’ve seen.
Cons: I wasn’t a huge fan of the mutiny, and it was the first time we saw my least favorite Survivor move – the final three.
5. Survivor: Amazon
Season Six, Winner: Jenna Morasca
Pros: Rob Cesternino. Also, the tribes were separated by gender which was pretty interesting. It was an unpredictable season and the final two really showed that social skills are more important than survival skills in the game. And for the guys, there was the whole “I’ll take my clothes off for peanut butter” thing.
Cons: Rob Cesternino not making it to the finals.
6. Survivor: Australia
Season Two, Winner: Tina Wesson
Pros: An exciting cast – forget about the Colby we now know and think back to his original season. The guy was a rock star, dominating challenges and flashing that pearly smile. We had America’s sweetheart Elisabeth (forget her on The View – on Survivor she was adorable) and “the black widow” Jerri Manthey. They were also starving – I’ll never forget when Tina jumped into the river to save the tribe’s last canister of rice. Then we had Mike Skupin falling into the fire and confrontations between Kimmi and Alicia.
Cons: The eliminations were a little predictable – no one wanted to take Rodger or Elisabeth to the finals because they were too likable. And Colby made a million dollar mistake in taking Tina to the finals over Keith.
7. Survivor: China
Season Fifteen, Winner: Todd Herzog
Pros: A fantastic cast. Todd, a gay Morman flight attendant, was funny and strategic. Some of the best commentary Survivor has ever seen came from Courtney Yates. We met James, one of the biggest and strongest guys to ever play, who got voted out with two immunity idols in his pocket. And don’t forget Amanda “second place” Kimmell, Denise the lunch lady, Peih-Gee and Jean-Robert.
Cons: Todd easily won when Amanda failed to defend herself well and Courtney decided she didn’t care about winning. It also wasn’t my favorite location.
8. Survivor: All-Stars
Season Eight, Winner: Amber Brkich
Pros: This season has a bad reputation, but I loved it. We saw the true Boston Rob – after all, on his first season he didn’t even make the jury. We saw people with huge egos, lots of betrayals and blindsides, a couple of people quit the game and the creation of reality TV royalty – did anyone really think Boston Rob and Amber were for real? Two seasons of The Amazing Race and a baby later, they’re still together.
Cons: Boston Rob should have won, but the jury was full of bitter people with hurting egos. I also hated the “America’s Tribal Council” after the finale where Rupert was handed a million dollars thanks to a few tie-dyed shirts and a couple very flattering edits.
9. Survivor: Palau
Season Ten, Winner: Tom Westman
Pros: A team of one! It was unbelievable watching a tribe lose every single immunity challenge. We also saw one of the stupidest moves in Survivor history when Ian told Tom he would step out of a challenge if Tom promised him NOT to take him to the final two. What?
Cons: As shocking as it was to watch one tribe decimate another, it also got a little dull. And Tom’s not my favorite winner.
10. Survivor: Tocantins
Season Eighteen, Winner: James “J.T.” Thomas Jr.
Pros: Some of the most entertaining, though sometimes unlikable, characters we’ve seen. Coach and his ridiculous stories – every time he comes on screen, I quote Erinn Lobdell and say “Who is this jackass?” Then there was Tyson and his constant berating of Sierra, and the city-mouse meets country-mouse relationship between Stephan and J.T. And although J.T. ruined his rep in Heroes vs. Villains, the fact that he won unanimously and never had a vote cast against him in Tocantins was pretty freakin’ impressive.
Cons: Two people being fake-voted-out and then sent to camp before the rest of their tribes arrived. Not a lot of blindsides.
11. Survivor: Pearl Islands
Season Seven, Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine
Pros: This season is a favorite for a lot of people, but I wasn’t a huge fan. It gets points for introducing us to Johnny Fairplay and his “dead” Grandma, though. And thanks to this season, we got Sandra back to make Heroes vs. Villains interesting.
Cons: The “Outcasts” twist. I hated it, and it ruined the season for me.
12. Survivor: Marquesas
Season Four, Winner: Vecepia Towery
Pros: “Boston Rob” Mariano. Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien urinating on someone’s hand. A lot of power shake-ups.
Cons: A weak and forgettable final two. And one of the most angering things in the history of Survivor – the purple rock. How can you send home a man who’s never had a vote cast against him? It still gets my blood boiling.
13. Survivor: Fiji
Season Fourteen, Winner: Earl Cole
Pros: Everything involving Yau-Man Chan, like his fake immunity idol and failed pact with Dreamz trading a vote for a car. Earl was also a solid winner and received every vote to win, despite being in a three-person finals.
Cons: With the exception of Yau-Man, it proved that recruited cast members are duds (Wikipedia says all but one of the cast members were recruits, not applicants). Also, the haves vs. have-nots twist was lame.
14. Survivor: Gabon
Season Seventeen, Winner: Bob Crowley
Pros: Some memorable villains, like Randy and Corrine (her final words to Sugar were cruel and unforgivable), saved it from being a snooze. Sugar became an unlikely hero after being constantly sent to exile island and Bob was a likable winner. They get extra points for voting out Randy with a fake immunity idol.
Cons: Too many weak, boring or unlikable players made it too far thanks to the tribal switch. I couldn’t bring myself to root for Randy, Corrine, Kenny or Susie.
15. Survivor: Panama
Season Twelve, Winner: Aras Baskauskas
Pros: The introduction of Cirie Fields, one of my all-time favorite players. The self-proclaimed couch potato killed ‘em with kindness and, along with Shane Powers and his fake blackberry, saved the cast from being too boring.
Cons: Starting off with four teams (divided by age and gender) was annoying and lame, and the final two was forgettable.
16. Survivor: Guatemala
Season Eleven, Winner: Danni Boatwright
Pros: A cool location and an interesting final three. Rafe telling Danni that she didn’t need to stay true to their final two agreement was on a par with Ian’s guilt-ridden decision to tell Tom not to take him to the finals. Also, Stephenie and Danni were two tough, athletic women.
Cons: This is when Stephenie LaGrossa became really unlikable. I didn’t like the decision to bring back her and Bobby Jon, and in general disliked most of the cast.
17. Survivor: Vanuatu
Season Nine, Winner: Chris Daugherty
Pros: Watching the women dominate, only to lose to a guy. And not a particularly likable or athletic one at that. Eliza Orlins and Ami Cusack were interesting players who returned for Fans vs. Favorites.
Cons: A disappointing final three – Scout, Twila and Chris? Please.
Season Nineteen, Winner: Natalie White
Pros: I know, I know, a lot of people love this season. Russell’s sock-burning, lie-telling antics saved it from last place. A few funny Coach-like moments from Shambo and the Russell Swann medical scare also perked it up a bit.
Cons: One tribe gets decimated, and then the “strong” tribe self-destructs after the merge. An incredibly dull cast (Jaison was too whiny, Mick was too bland, Natalie was too sweet) and a bitter, bitter jury (Russell did get robbed this season) made the season even worse than Nicaragua, in my book.
Season Five, Winner: Brian Heidik
Pros: Some really awesome challenges, including one where Robb tried to choke Clay and the final challenge where the final three had to hold coins between their fingers in an insanely-uncomfortable pose (something I have a feeling Parvati Shallow would have rocked).
Cons: A fake merge and a really unlikable, weird cast.
20. Survivor: Africa
Season Three, Winner: Ethan Zohn
Pros: Again, great challenges. The cast was way more likable than in Thailand,, Samoa or Nicaragua with Ethan, “Old” Kim, “Big” Tom and Lex, but…