Survivor: All 46 Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best — Which Top Your List?

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Survivor: All 46 Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best — Which Top Your List?
Survivor: All 46 Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best — Which Top Your List?

A brand-new Sole Survivor has been crowned, which means it’s time to see where Season 46 stacks among 24 years’ worth of blindsides, backstabs and other cunning gameplay.

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In Wednesday’s season finale, Kenzie Petty defeated Charlie Davis and Ben Katzman by a jury vote of 5-3-0, making her the series’ 46th winner and the recipient of that hefty $1 million check. (Read our full recap here.) But how does the sixth installment of the game’s new era fare in our overall ranking?

From casts we’ve loved and loathed, to real-life controversies that overshadowed the game (Island of the Idols, anyone?), there are plenty of reasons why some Survivor seasons may be remembered more fondly than others. But those aren’t the only criteria taken into consideration below. Here, we dissect all of the series’ twists, advantages, themes, casts and more in order to rank every single season and declare which ones are the cream of the crop.

A bit of housekeeping: This ranking can and will shift as we see fit! Not only has Season 46 been thrown into the mix below, but subsequent off-season rewatches can and will shake things up. Since our last update, China took a huge leap toward the top, while Vanuatu also inched forward ever so slightly. Other seasons such as Gabon and White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar (seriously, who thought that title was a good idea?) dropped a few spots each as a result.

Ready to revisit the highs and lows of seasons past and find out where 46 landed? Scroll down to view our ranked list, then be sure to hit the comments to let us know where you would place Survivor 46!

46. SURVIVOR: THAILAND (Season 5)

46. SURVIVOR: THAILAND (Season 5)
46. SURVIVOR: THAILAND (Season 5)

Not even the fake merge twist could save Thailand from its spot at the bottom of the barrel. This cast was perhaps the most unlikeable bunch in franchise history, leaving us with absolutely no one to root for.

45. SURVIVOR: ISLAND OF THE IDOLS (Season 39)

45. SURVIVOR: ISLAND OF THE IDOLS (Season 39)
45. SURVIVOR: ISLAND OF THE IDOLS (Season 39)

There was potential here — amazing characters to root for in Janet and Jamal, a cast full of knowledgeable gamers, a Boston Rob/Sandra twist that was fun enough — but the season took a nosedive after castaway Dan Spilo was accused of inappropriately touching female contestants. The show should’ve immediately ejected him, but didn’t; he was later removed from the game following an off-camera run-in involving a crew member. The incident sparked even more ugly behavior from other players, and the whole shebang left us shaking our heads in disgust.

44. SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA (Season 21)

44. SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA (Season 21)
44. SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA (Season 21)

Not only was splitting the tribes up by age a massive flop, but the Medallion of Power — a necklace that allowed the tribe holding it to receive an advantage for a challenge of their choosing — rivals Fiji‘s Haves/Have-Nots twist as being one of the worst ever. Challenges became way too predictable, and the lack of water competitions was truly felt in Nicaragua. Also, two castaways quit the game at the same Tribal Council! Jane Bright (pictured above) and Holly Hoffman were perhaps the season’s only saving graces, but overall, this wasn’t it.

43. SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLAND (Season 22)

43. SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLAND (Season 22)
43. SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLAND (Season 22)

OK, Boston Rob fans, before you get out the torches and pitchforks, we admit: Rob deserved all of the accolades here. But look at the people he played against! Imagine if a professional footballer went head-to-head with a kids’ Pee Wee team. Redemption Island was B.R.’s fourth time on the island, and this group of newbie recruits couldn’t come close to touching that in-game experience. They followed his lead like starstruck middle schoolers who had never even seen the show before. Plus, don’t get us started on the actual Redemption Island twist.

42. SURVIVOR: ONE WORLD (Season 24)

42. SURVIVOR: ONE WORLD (Season 24)
42. SURVIVOR: ONE WORLD (Season 24)

Kim Spradlin’s game here was one of the most flawless reality TV runs of all time. She dominated the season strategically, socially and physically, perfectly exemplifying the show’s tagline of outwitting, outplaying and outlasting her competition. If only her competition had any fire inside to fight back. And while we love-to-hate a quality villain, there was nothing to love about the mean-spirited Colton, whose petty behavior bordered on cruelty.

41. SURVIVOR: GABON (Season 17)

41. SURVIVOR: GABON (Season 17)
41. SURVIVOR: GABON (Season 17)

Remember when Corinne lambasted Sugar for being sad about her recently deceased father? Gross. Despite its likable winner, too many weak players made it way too far in the game. In hindsight, Gabon deserves its place here are the bottom. (Sorry, Bob.)

40. SURVIVOR: SAN JUAN DEL SUR — BLOOD VS. WATER (Season 29)

40. SURVIVOR: SAN JUAN DEL SUR — BLOOD VS. WATER (Season 29)
40. SURVIVOR: SAN JUAN DEL SUR — BLOOD VS. WATER (Season 29)

The Blood vs. Water concept worked so well two seasons prior when returning players brought a loved one to the island with them. But this sequel season lacked the intensity and originality of its predecessor. It did bless us with future returnees Kelley Wentworth and Jeremy Collins, in addition to a very capable winner.

39. SURVIVOR: FIJI (Season 14)

39. SURVIVOR: FIJI (Season 14)
39. SURVIVOR: FIJI (Season 14)

The Haves Vs. Have-Nots twist was a real buzzkill to the game. The unfair advantage ultimately delivered a very lopsided first half, and it didn’t get much better from there. Just ask Yau-Man, who gifted Dreamz a truck in exchange for the final immunity necklace, only to have Dreamz reneg on the deal later. We love the winner, but tolerate the season.

38. SURVIVOR: WORLDS APART — WHITE COLLAR VS. BLUE COLLAR VS. NO COLLAR (Season 30)

38. SURVIVOR: WORLDS APART — WHITE COLLAR VS. BLUE COLLAR VS. NO COLLAR (Season 30)
38. SURVIVOR: WORLDS APART — WHITE COLLAR VS. BLUE COLLAR VS. NO COLLAR (Season 30)

So much misogyny! Worlds Apart might’ve ranked higher had it not been for the rampant attacks against women in the cast, and the gross verbal diarrhea of some of its men. (Poor Shirin!) It delivered a solid winner, however, and you know we’ve got much love for Mama C. Still, the season didn’t do much else to notch itself any higher or make a lasting impression otherwise.

37. SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA (Season 11)

37. SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA (Season 11)
37. SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA (Season 11)

Palau‘s Stephenie LaGrossa came back with a vengeance. And listen: If you’re going to return to play a reality TV game again, don’t play the same game twice like Russell Hantz; rather, pull a Dan Gheesling (Big Brother). That’s exactly what Steph tried to do. But despite her change in strategy and savage gameplay, the jury still didn’t reward the right winner. Guatemala did introduce the first-ever hidden immunity idol though, so points for that.

36. SURVIVOR: EDGE OF EXTINCTION (Season 38)

36. SURVIVOR: EDGE OF EXTINCTION (Season 38)
36. SURVIVOR: EDGE OF EXTINCTION (Season 38)

Twists that give ousted players a chance to return to the game can often be controversial, and the Edge of Extinction was no exception. Not only do mixed seasons of returning vets and newbies deliver mixed results, but the third person voted out of the game went on to win! Massive props for the hustle there, but do we love the Edge twist? Hardly. But don’t hate the player, hate the game.

35. SURVIVOR: AFRICA (Season 3)

35. SURVIVOR: AFRICA (Season 3)
35. SURVIVOR: AFRICA (Season 3)

Survivor: Africa is a perfectly mediocre entry. It had the first-ever tribe swap, and the cast constantly had to stave off lions, which upped the survival elements from the first two seasons. The lack of water challenges was a bummer, and some of the castaways were far too young, immature and salty. Though it does make us miss the days when the show traveled to exotic locations.

34. SURVIVOR: ALL-STARS (Season 8)

34. SURVIVOR: ALL-STARS (Season 8)
34. SURVIVOR: ALL-STARS (Season 8)

When this game gets personal, it gets personal — just ask Lex and Kathy. Boston Rob played a masterful game here, and looking back, it’s absurd how much people trusted the guy. But the season’s a little overrated, if you ask us. So many great players went out far too early (Colby, Rob C.), plus, back-to-back seasons with Rupert was exhausting. But that final Tribal Council? Savage, even if it did give us the worst winner ever.

33. SURVIVOR 43

33. SURVIVOR 43
33. SURVIVOR 43

Despite the fact that producers nixed the Do or Die twist and that horrendous hourglass, Season 43 had few fireworks to celebrate outside of that brilliant Cody blindside. With most of the advantages landing in the hands of the majority, we didn’t see a bevy of wowing moves at Tribal Council. In fact, it’s safe to say the gameplay this season was safe and downright sleepy.

With the zanier creative elements thankfully trimmed, the cast, for some reason, felt that stealth-mode was the appropriate modus operandi. And it’s not like we didn’t have dynamic personalities who wanted to play; Cody, Jesse and Karla were all great players who should be asked back. But with barely any huge moments, 43 lands comfortably in the series’ bottom half and is easily the worst installment of the new era. If one of the frontrunners had won, maybe it would’ve notched it up a tick. But that winner? Controversial, to say the least.

32. SURVIVOR: SAMOA (Season 19)

32. SURVIVOR: SAMOA (Season 19)
32. SURVIVOR: SAMOA (Season 19)

One of the show’s most despicable players was also one of the craftiest. Russell Hantz took the game by storm, hunting down idols without clues (which at the time was craaazy!), and being a general thorn in his tribe’s side. He lied about everything (he claimed he was a victim of Hurricane Katrina — Johnny Fairplay would be proud!), dumped out his tribe’s water cannisters and even burned a guy’s socks. His idol-hunting skills buoyed him all the way to the end, where his lack of jury management lost him the game. While we wouldn’t claim to be fans of his, he sure was… something.

31. SURVIVOR 41

31. SURVIVOR 41
31. SURVIVOR 41

It’s unfortunate that Survivor‘s big post-pandemic return was this much of a mixed bag. On one hand, the casting for this season was some of its best yet. Not only did these players have a deep understanding of the game’s strategy, but they came to play, swinging for the fences at almost every turn. We had some quirky characters (Brad and Naseer), big time strategists (Shan and Ricard) and just plain likable castaways (Evvie and Danny). Everyone here had something to add. Plus, the increase in diversity brought real-life elements to the season, which always fuels conversation and complicates an already complex game for its players.

However, the over-abundance of idols, advantages and twists made it difficult to keep track of who held what. Despite the fun and silliness of the secret phrases, it revealed too much information, and once everyone knew what was in each player’s arsenal, the mystery soon deflated. In addition, the hourglass debacle was one of the most manufactured and nonsensical “twists” ever (more than one castaway referred to it as “a lie“), rewarding losing players, while punishing others who had won fair and square. The Shot in the Dark was a flop, too.

While we can respect the fact that advantages aren’t going anywhere in this game, there needs to be a balance, so that the social dynamics of camp life aren’t snuffed out along with its torches. This strong cast could’ve delivered compelling moments without all the gimmicky hoopla.

30. SURVIVOR: VANUATU (Season 9)

30. SURVIVOR: VANUATU (Season 9)
30. SURVIVOR: VANUATU (Season 9)

The men vs. women set-up worked splendidly for The Amazon, but Vanuatu didn’t quite create that same magic. The female cast was strong though, and despite wanting one of them to win, it was a hoot watching them self-destruct. The dudes were all duds, but kudos to its winner for pulling out a victory when all the cards were stacked against him.

29. SURVIVOR: GHOST ISLAND (Season 36)

29. SURVIVOR: GHOST ISLAND (Season 36)
29. SURVIVOR: GHOST ISLAND (Season 36)

The season that finally gave us the answer to: What would happen if the jury vote is tied? Watching Wendell Holland and Domenic Abbate battle it out all season long was thrilling to watch. They knew exactly when to work together, and exactly when to cut that deal off. While the Ghost Island twist was good in theory, by season’s end it seemed like a bunch of hyped-up hullabaloo, with most of the older advantages still being used incorrectly and ultimately tossed. Cool concept, less-than-stellar execution.

28. SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS (Season 18)

28. SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS (Season 18)
28. SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS (Season 18)

Tocantins is very much the definition of “middle of the road.” J.T. and Stephen’s blossoming bromance made them a worthy duo to root for, while Coach gave us a Survivor “character” we had truly never seen before. Also, special shoutout to Taj, a member of the R&B trio SWV who made it all the way to the Final 4. Beyond that, it was… fine.

27. SURVIVOR: PANAMA — EXILE ISLAND (Season 12)

27. SURVIVOR: PANAMA — EXILE ISLAND (Season 12)
27. SURVIVOR: PANAMA — EXILE ISLAND (Season 12)

Justice for Shane Powers! That guy could’ve and should’ve been brought back for another go-around. Besides that, Exile Island was a neat twist (that was originally tested out in Survivor: Palau), but that Final 2? No thanks.

26. SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC (Season 23)

26. SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC (Season 23)
26. SURVIVOR: SOUTH PACIFIC (Season 23)

Survivor just couldn’t get enough of Ozzy Lusth, who returned for his third island adventure (of four). He and Coach spearheaded two tribes of new players, and the result was a mixed bag. The Redemption Island twist was back in play (ugh), which gave Ozzy what felt like 10 shots at returning, yet he still couldn’t pull it off.

25. SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. HEALERS VS. HUSTLERS (Season 35)

25. SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. HEALERS VS. HUSTLERS (Season 35)
25. SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. HEALERS VS. HUSTLERS (Season 35)

The season where Chrissy was robbed. HHH started slow, but picked up speed as it went. While the show really started to kick the advantages into high gear, at least it started placing expiration dates on some of them. But the Final 4 fire-making twist that was introduced here felt like a cheap production ruse specifically put in place to get Ben to the Final Tribal. Frustrating, to say the least.

24. SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN — FANS VS. FAVORITES (Season 26)

24. SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN — FANS VS. FAVORITES (Season 26)
24. SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN — FANS VS. FAVORITES (Season 26)

We will not speak of this season’s grating pre-merge episodes, but what came post-merge makes this one a pure and total standout. From the Corinne blindside to the plight of the Three Amigos, once these tribes merged, the season took off like a bat outta hell. The Tribal Councils were hectic and unpredictable, resulting in blindside after blindside. Plus, it was a pure redemption season for former South Pacific players Dawn and Cochrane.

23. SURVIVOR 42

23. SURVIVOR 42
23. SURVIVOR 42

Let’s start with the pros: We couldn’t help but love the editing. Less time spent explaining advantage rules gave us more time to hang out at camp, examining relationships and strategies that came into play in major ways at Tribal Council. The cast was a great mix of gamers, which gave us some of the best players we’ve seen in recent years including Omar, Drea, Hai and Maryanne. The season once again dived deep into the personal lives of its cast, providing us with more intricate storytelling, and as a result, more gut-wrenching vote-offs. And the moves? They were BIG.

Now on to the cons. While we understand 42 was thrown together mid-pandemic, we didn’t love the fact that so many of 41‘s lackluster twists were simply copied over. We did not need to see the Do or Die twist again, and that damn hourglass needed to be smashed for good. Add to that the prisoner’s dilemmas and secret phrases, and what we were left with was stale creative that teetered on boring.

All things considered, 42 felt like another middle of the road season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! We were still left feeling entertained and engaged thanks to its top-notch casting and super savvy players, whose understanding of the game was both impressive and incredibly fun to watch.

22. SURVIVOR 44

22. SURVIVOR 44
22. SURVIVOR 44

Once again, the new era of Survivor delivered a monumentally impressive cast. There were so many people to love including students of the game (Matthew and Carson), some wacky oddballs (Yam Yam and Carolyn) and some straight up showmen (Danny). For the first time in a while, the game didn’t feel bogged down by a slew of advantages. The birdcage added a unique twist to the immunity idol, and the Beware Advantages finally took a much-needed break. (Plus, the hourglass and do-or-die twist thankfully stayed dormant.)

Nothing on 44 was too explosive or flashy, nor did it follow in 43’s stealthy (read: boring) footsteps. There was no Cirie-ing (see Game Changers), nor were there any crushing betrayals or backstabs. While this all may sound like reason enough to rank this lower, the season felt refreshing in a way. A bit of course correction since the days of 41, even. It wasn’t overly produced or manufactured, but it was consistent. While 42 has the slight edge in comparison due to its bigger plays, 44’s colorful characters and zany antics were incredibly watchable, plus the Final 3 — and its winner — were totally deserving. No complaints here. (Watch our exit interviews with Yam Yam and Carolyn.)

21. SURVIVOR 45

21. SURVIVOR 45
21. SURVIVOR 45

Survivor’s new era finally figured out how to balance its game-changing advantages with camp life storytelling — and having 90-minutes of airtime each week certainly helped the latter. Having two castaways quit the game early was a huge buzzkill, as were the Lulu tribe’s consistent challenge losses, which led to some strong players leaving far too soon (bring Sabiyah back ASAP, Probst!) and made the game far more difficult for fan-favorites like Kaleb and Emily. Not a great start.

The season wound up recovering, however, with some very high highs. Kaleb hitting his Shot in the Dark was a splashy moment, while Kellie’s devastating blindside also delivered another jaw-drop. Do we wish the show would can it with the lost votes post-merge? Yep! But the stories that were told — from Jake’s weight-loss story to Katurah’s traumatic childhood — gave us plenty of folks to root for. Plus, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the return of the Survivor Auction, which was elevated by its 2.0 facelift. A fantastic Final 5 and a very deserving winner help place this installment side-by-side with its predecessor. (Read our exit interviews with Dee and Austin.)

20. SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS (Season 13)

20. SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS (Season 13)
20. SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS (Season 13)

Parvati, Penner, Ozzy, Yul? So many legends in the making! This season is also remembered for its mutiny twist. Probst offered the entire cast the opportunity to commit mutiny and immediately switch tribes, no questions asked. Penner and Candice chose to jump ship, shaking the game up and creating quite the TV moment. Beyond that, Cook Islands feels pretty average. Not bad, but not great either.

19. SURVIVOR 46

19. SURVIVOR 46
19. SURVIVOR 46

Will any new era season ever come remotely close to cracking the Top 10-15 here? No, probably not. But having said that, the newer seasons have continued to mellow out from the advantage hyperactivity we saw in the show’s very first post-COVID season, Survivor 41. And that’s a good thing! While 46‘s pre-merge wasn’t great — it’s never fun to watch one tribe get decimated from the jump — the game did kick it into higher gear with blindside (Tevin) after blindside (Hunter) after blindside (Venus)!

And while a whopping five people left the game with unused idols in their pockets (six if you count Randen, who was medically evacuated), the post-merge episodes never felt boring. Rather, they ramped up nicely as the weeks went by, with gameplay that was savvy, smart and quite honestly, entertaining. From Q’s crazy antics (and fashion ideas) to Liz’s Applebee’s meltdown, 46 had key moments apart from its Tribal Councils that it’ll be long remembered for. Plus, Maria voting for Kenzie and not Charlie in that Final Tribal left us with our jaws on the floor. Ideal winner? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on who you ask. But the path to the end was fun enough along the way and the players this time around weren’t afraid to get a little spicy. (Read our exit interviews with KenzieCharlie and Maria.)

18. SURVIVOR: THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK (Season 2)

18. SURVIVOR: THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK (Season 2)
18. SURVIVOR: THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK (Season 2)

The battle between Ogakor and Kucha goes to show: If you’re ever playing Survivor and feel down in the dumps, just know you’re only one dude-falling-into-the-fire away from a complete reversal of fate. Had Michael Skupin not burned the skin off his hands, Tina and Colby never would have made the Final 2 seats (but we’re also kind of glad they did). We loved rooting for Elisabeth and Rodger’s friendship, and cackled over Alicia and Kimmi’s argument over chickens. Australia also delivered the birth of an OG reality TV villainess: Jerri Manthey. Not enough to crack the Top 10 here, but a very worthy follow-up to Borneo.

17. SURVIVOR: KAOH RONG — BRAINS VS. BRAWN VS. BEAUTY (Season 32)

17. SURVIVOR: KAOH RONG — BRAINS VS. BRAWN VS. BEAUTY (Season 32)
17. SURVIVOR: KAOH RONG — BRAINS VS. BRAWN VS. BEAUTY (Season 32)

Oh, the bitterness of this jury! Was Aubry robbed? Yes. But was this season highly unpredictable throughout? Also, yes. Not only did Kaoh Rong have some of the quirkiest characters ever (Tai and Debbie), but it also delivered some record-book moments, like Tai turning on Scot and Jason, and, oh, I don’t know, the reward challenge that almost killed people? Watching Caleb’s emergency helicopter evacuation and the chaos of production exploding around it was a jaw-dropping and truly frightening TV moment that will forever be embedded in our brains. (When Jeff Probst yelled, “Everybody on the crew is essential personnel!” after the third castaway collapsed, you knew this slice of reality TV had gotten a little too real.) The final vote may have been controversial, but its winner hustled hard and deserved that money.

16. SURVIVOR: GAME CHANGERS (Season 34)

16. SURVIVOR: GAME CHANGERS (Season 34)
16. SURVIVOR: GAME CHANGERS (Season 34)

This season could be considered Caramoan‘s polar opposite. The pre-season was so fire, it almost left us underwhelmed during its back half. But Sandra ousting Tony! Malcolm’s jaw-dropping blindside! Queen Sandra’s very first exit in three seasons! There simply aren’t enough exclamation points for the first portion of this game. It has its downsides. Jeff Varner outing Zeke for being trans (on national television) will forever be nauseating. Plus, Cirie’s elimination (by default, really — everyone else held and played an advantage that granted them safety) proved that the show’s advantage-palooza had gotten way out of control. But we always knew Sarah Lacina left her original season far too early, and her true grit and competitive spirit was a joy to watch. Brownie points for the change made to Final Tribal, which allowed players to have more of a conversation with the jury, rather than a cut-and-dry Q&A.

15. SURVIVOR: BLOOD VS. WATER (Season 27)

15. SURVIVOR: BLOOD VS. WATER (Season 27)
15. SURVIVOR: BLOOD VS. WATER (Season 27)

Never liked Redemption Island, and we never will. But Blood vs. Water, a season where 10 returning players competed alongside their loved ones, took the game to new emotional heights and strategic depths. There’s a reason why a reality show like Survivor can last on television for 20-plus years, and creative tweaks like this one here turned the game upside down in the best possible way. Not even Colton could sink our love for this mighty fine installment.

14. SURVIVOR: MARQUESAS (Season 4)

14. SURVIVOR: MARQUESAS (Season 4)
14. SURVIVOR: MARQUESAS (Season 4)

Marquesas gave us the first-ever purple rock tie-breaker! Watching the “weaker” players gang up to overthrow the strong ones was a refreshing plot twist for the nascent series. Also, who didn’t love Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien? If only she could’ve won that final immunity challenge, and subsequently, the season.

13. SURVIVOR: PALAU (Season 10)

13. SURVIVOR: PALAU (Season 10)
13. SURVIVOR: PALAU (Season 10)

Palau is memorable for a multitude of reasons: Stephenie LaGrossa becoming her own tribe of one; Tom’s flawless, million dollar-winning run; that nearly 12-hour final endurance challenge that Ian just gave to Tom, while asking to be voted out whatwhydidhedothat!? One could call Season 10 predictable, but that would be downplaying its wowing example of how to run an alliance and stay loyal to it. (Though in hindsight, we suppose Tom’s tribe really should’ve flipped the script on him.)

12. SURVIVOR: CHINA (Season 15)

12. SURVIVOR: CHINA (Season 15)
12. SURVIVOR: CHINA (Season 15)

Ah, the season that blessed us with Courtney Yates. China featured a respectable roster of gamers, and also taught viewers everywhere how not to use an immunity idol (James, above, was voted out with two idols in his pocket). While the location seemed like an odd choice, the season kept its players — and us — on their toes. Plus, Todd’s final Tribal Council performance should be mandatory viewing for any Survivor hopefuls out there.

11. SURVIVOR: THE AMAZON (Season 6)

11. SURVIVOR: THE AMAZON (Season 6)
11. SURVIVOR: THE AMAZON (Season 6)

By Season 6, Survivor had gotten into a groove, and The Amazon‘s men vs. women theme, while definitely a risky gambit, paid off in spades. Not only was the location exotic, but the cast delivered heart and gusto week after week. It was also extremely unpredictable thanks to Rob Cesternino, Heidi Strobel, Jenna Morasca, Alex Bell and more, all of whom turned the game’s strategic elements up to 11. From this point on, the tagline “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast” would be taken very seriously.

10. SURVIVOR: PHILIPPINES (Season 25)

10. SURVIVOR: PHILIPPINES (Season 25)
10. SURVIVOR: PHILIPPINES (Season 25)

This season included three previous castaways who were all medically evacuated from previous games: Jonathan Penner (Micronesia), Russell Swan (South Pacific) and Michael Skupin (Australian Outback). Also appearing were The Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel and former MLB player Jeff “it’s 600 grand by the time Obama takes it” Kent. Denise Stapley and Malcolm Freberg were a duo that fought from the bottom the entire game; Stapley even became the first player in history to attend each. and. every. Tribal Council. Like a boss. 

9. SURVIVOR: WINNERS AT WAR (Season 40)

9. SURVIVOR: WINNERS AT WAR (Season 40)
9. SURVIVOR: WINNERS AT WAR (Season 40)

Speaking of Denise, she and 19 other memorable winners went on to compete in this all-winners battle royale, which gave us our second two-time winner in Tony Vlachos (Read an interview with the champ here.) The season brought back the highly controversial Edge of Extinction twist (which at least gave us more time with our favorite old-school survivors, who were whopped this season), and also introduced a Survivor currency with its Fire Tokens. All of the twists and advantages kept these winners on their toes, and delivered heaps of memorable moments: Natalie being a total beast on the Edge, Denise becoming the “Queen Slayer,” Sarah and Tony’s emotional, yet epic fire-making challenge. It wasn’t a perfect season, but it kept us on the edge of our seats, and most importantly, the right person won in the end.

8. SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS (Season 7)

8. SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS (Season 7)
8. SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS (Season 7)

Another one for the record books. Remember Johnny Fairplay’s ruse of faking his grandma’s death to gain sympathy with his tribe? The guy waited aaaall the way until the family visit, only to have his visiting friend break the “bad news.” While one could certainly throw shade at the Outcasts twist (meh) which sent two eliminated contestants back into the game, it was a pure example of a show that was willing to try new things to shake up the formula. It also introduced us to the Queen, Sandra Diaz-Twine, who went on to become the show’s first two-time winner. Her “as long as it isn’t me” strategy was sneaky and fun to watch, and it paid off.

7. SURVIVOR: MILLENNIALS VS. GEN-X (Season 33)

7. SURVIVOR: MILLENNIALS VS. GEN-X (Season 33)
7. SURVIVOR: MILLENNIALS VS. GEN-X (Season 33)

What still resonates years later is how tightly knit this cast still seems. Though it was a grueling battle once again based on age, these castaways didn’t seem to take anything personal. (Well, unless your name is Michaela, though in her defense, that blindside had to buuurn.) And for the first time ever, production evacuated the contestants due to a cyclone! But Millennials vs. Gen-X had some stellar gameplay full of flips, and David’s story arc from being a scardey-cat newb to one of the game’s most dominant players was fantastic storytelling. Plus, a rock draw is always riveting.

6. SURVIVOR: CAMBODIA — SECOND CHANCE (Season 31)

6. SURVIVOR: CAMBODIA — SECOND CHANCE (Season 31)
6. SURVIVOR: CAMBODIA — SECOND CHANCE (Season 31)

Second Chance was a fun experiment that paid off in dividends. For the first time in Survivor history, viewers got to participate in a fan vote, allowing us at home to choose which castaways (from a pre-selected list) were going to head out to the island. (Shane Powers and T-Bird not being chosen? We should be ashamed of ourselves.) And what a cast! It was a season where you wanted to root for everyone! Kelley Wentworth rose to her true potential, Cagayan‘s Spencer and Tasha played harder than ever, and Jeremy Collins bobbed and weaved all the way to the end.

Plus, the evolution of the game continued with the formation of voting blocks — temporary alliances made out of necessity rather than loyalty — which shook up the game all season long. It didn’t stop there. Idols hidden at challenges, advantage temptations at immunities, the Andrew Savage vote-off? And don’t get us started on Jeremy’s tear-soaked loves ones visit, where his wife revealed they were having a baby boy. Shock, drama, tears, action. Cambodia. Had. It. All.

5. SURVIVOR: DAVID VS. GOLIATH (Season 37)

5. SURVIVOR: DAVID VS. GOLIATH (Season 37)
5. SURVIVOR: DAVID VS. GOLIATH (Season 37)

Yes, the show may have been running low on gimmicky themes by the time Season 37 came along, but David vs. Goliath was yet another perfectly casted season of well-versed fans and gamers. (The less recruits, the better!) This season is also the counterpoint to the viewer who may think the show has gotten too advantage-heavy. When the Davids were down on their luck, they compared notes, and using Christian’s idol, Nick’s steal-a-vote and Carl’s idol nullifier, they pulled off one of the craziest Hail Mary plays the show has ever seen. Also, we’d be remiss to not mention Angelina’s plea for a warm jacket, which spawned plenty of memes and gags online. Can’t blame her for trying!

4. SURVIVOR: CAGAYAN — BRAINS VS. BRAWN VS. BEAUTY (Season 28)

4. SURVIVOR: CAGAYAN — BRAINS VS. BRAWN VS. BEAUTY (Season 28)
4. SURVIVOR: CAGAYAN — BRAINS VS. BRAWN VS. BEAUTY (Season 28)

Cagayan is hands-down one of the greatest all-newbie seasons of all time. Not only were these personalities strong, but these rooks came to compete. Completely unpredictable and wildly refreshing, Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty felt like Survivor on speed. These players hustled hard while trying to outwit, outplay and outlast, and their many lows and highs were felt through the screen. Six of its players would play again (and rightfully so, thanks to the season’s incredible casting), including winner Tony Vlachos, who secured the bag thanks to an astounding, WTF?! decision by tribemate Woo Hwang. What a truly excellent season, from start to finish.

3. SURVIVOR: BORNEO (Season 1)

3. SURVIVOR: BORNEO (Season 1)
3. SURVIVOR: BORNEO (Season 1)

By today’s standards, Borneo could be seen as a bit sluggish, archaic even. While most of the players had no idea what strategy was, Richard Hatch and his Tagi alliance ran circles around the Pagong tribe, and the poor chaps never saw it coming. But we will never forget the reality TV legends that were made here — Hatch, Rudy, Sue, Colleen and more — and the amount of press that ensued after the castaways ate their first rat. Not only did Borneo launch what would become an incredibly successful franchise that is still churning out quality stories over 20 years later (let that sink in), but it also gets cred for launching reality TV into the stratosphere. (Over 51 million viewers tuned in to its season finale!) The amount of copycat competition series that aired afterward are incalculable, and remain a testament to Survivor‘s long-reaching hand and overall legacy in the genre.

2. SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. VILLAINS (Season 20)

2. SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. VILLAINS (Season 20)
2. SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. VILLAINS (Season 20)

Love it or hate it, there’s a reason why returning players are called back so often: They know the game inside and out, and they know how to bring it. And what better way to celebrate 10 years on the air than a fresh take on an all stars season? The cast was the perfect blend of the show’s fiercest villains (Russell, Boston Rob, Jerri) and most beloved heroes (Colby, Tom, Cirie), and there’s not a single dud in the bunch. Rob and Russell’s incessant feuding gave us an amazing pre-merge string, while everything that followed was a laundry list of memorable moments that included Tyson essentially voting himself out, Parvati using two idols at a single Tribal (neither on herself), and J.T. giving an idol to a member of the opposing tribe. (You know what? We’re going to say that again: He gave an idol away to a villain!)

1. SURVIVOR: MICRONESIA — FANS VS. FAVORITES (Season 16)

1. SURVIVOR: MICRONESIA — FANS VS. FAVORITES (Season 16)
1. SURVIVOR: MICRONESIA — FANS VS. FAVORITES (Season 16)

Micronesia (aka the season where a young ice cream scooper learned a very valuable life lesson) pitted 10 returnees against 10 new castaways, serving up one jaw-dropping moment after another. Equally as entertaining (Joel and Chet’s hellish cat and mouse challenge) as it was strategic (see the Black Widow Alliance — who said all-female alliances never work in reality TV?), Fans vs. Favorites was a must-watch season that thrilled each and every week, including Ozzy’s blindside by the Widows (idol in pocket, of course), and Erik’s immunity snafu, which saw him hand over his immunity idol at Tribal only to be quickly sent packing. And after three seasons of having a Final 3, Survivor pulled a switcheroo, unexpectedly reverting back to a Final 2 when it was least expected. It was just another epic moment in a nearly perfect 14-episode run. Not quite old school, yet far from new (is “middle school” a thing?), Micronesia wasn’t only unpredictable, it was unforgettable.

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