Movie Stream Cast Bonus: Survivor Season Rankings

Survivor 30 Season RankingOn another special bonus episode of Movie Stream Cast and on the eve of Survivor 31 (premieres September 23rd, 2015), Josh and Cody are bringing you rankings of the 30 preceding seasons. That’s right, we’re ranking all 30 seasons of Survivor! Right here, right now. Four plus hours of podcasting. You’ve got to dig deep!

The 31st Season of the show, Survivor: Cambodia, “Second Chances” airs Wednesday nights on CBS. If you can’t tune in or set your DVR, the show also streams live from the CBS website a few hours after it airs on television. You can also find many back seasons of Survivor streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus and you can steam all 30 previous seasons (along with the rest of the CBS catalogue) with the CBS All Access app.

Cody and I will be ranking the 30 seasons as subjectively as possible and then comparing those rankings to a more (admittedly still subjective) mathematical combined list in this epic four hour podcast. Spoilers do abound in this discussion, so be warned.

Find our subjective SURVIVOR RANKINGS and more details on our approach AFTER THE JUMP, but you’ll have to listen to the episode to hear our new mathematical combined list.

Okay, here’s the breakdown: Cody and I first ranked the first 30 seasons, basically just off the top of our heads. Then, we went through each season and gave 0-4 points for each of the elements below. I then added Cody’s points with mine to create our combined season rankings. These are the rankings we are going through on the show and we discuss them and compare them to our original, personal lists.

0 = Terrible
1 = Disappointing
2 = Average
3 = Good
4 = Great

Good TV

Good TV

Rain, bugs, animals, food, fishing, fire, shelter, etc


Fun trips, good food, etc

Production’s use of swaps, hidden idols, Redemption or Exile Island, Blood vs Water, One World, Men vs Women, game advantages, THE MEDALLION OF POWER!!! etcetera



And then we gave up to two extra points for a

And gave an extra point for especially good

And gave an extra point for an awesome

And then give an extra point for a good
i.e.: Pirates, WWII, Collars, Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains, etc. Crosses over with twists, but I think it’s different, even with Redemption Island, One World, Blood vs Water, Fans vs Favorites, Men vs Women etc

And finally, we gave one point for EACH of the

That’s it!

You’ll have to listen to the (spoiler laden) show to hear this combined mathematical list, but our subjective individual rankings are below. Rachel has included her list for the seasons that she’s seen as well. And you can also find links to lists from Survivor Host and Executive Producer Jeff Probst, Entertainment Weekly’s Survivor Correspondent Dalton Ross, Survivor Contestant Spencer Bledsoe, and more. Enjoy!

1. Heroes vs Villains
2. All-Stars
3. Palau
4. Blood vs Water
5. Cagayan “Brawn vs Brains vs Beauty”
6. World’s Apart “White Collar vs Blue Collar vs No Collar”
7. Philippines
8. Cook Islands
9. Redemption Island
10. China
11. Pearl Islands
12. Samoa
13. Panama “Exile Island”
14. Fiji
15. Micronesia “Fans vs Favorites”
16. South Pacific
17. One World
18. Africa
19. Thailand
20. Guatemala
21. Caramoan
 “Fans vs Favorites 2”
22. San Juan del Sur “Blood vs Water 2”
23. Nicaragua
24. Tocantins “The Brazilian Highlands”
25. Vanuatu
26. Borneo
27. Marquesas
28. Amazon
29. Australian Outback
30. Gabon “Earth’s Last Eden”

1. Samoa
2. Cook Islands
3. Australian Outback
4. Palau
5. World’s Apart “White Collar vs Blue Collar vs No Collar”
6. Cagayan “Brawn vs Brains vs Beauty”
7. Thailand
8. Tocantins “The Brazilian Highlands”
9. Philippines
10. Caramoan “Fans vs Favorites 2”
11.Gabon “Earth’s Last Eden”
12. Blood vs Water
13. Marqueses
14. China
15. Heroes vs Villains
16. Africa
17. Fiji
18. Micronesia “Fans vs Favorites”
19. Pearl Islands
20. South Pacific
21. Vanuatu “Islands of Fire”
22. Panama “Exile Island”
23. Amazon
24. All-Stars
25. Guatemala
26. San Juan Del Sur “Blood vs Water 2”
27. Borneo
28. Redemption Island
29. One World
30. Nicaragua

FYI, Rachel has only seen 20 seasons of the show
1. All Stars
3. Palau
4. Cagayan “Brawn vs Brains vs Beauty”
Panama “Exile Island”
Pearl Islands
Heroes vs Villains
Blood vs Water
One World
10. Cook Islands
World’s Apart “White Collar vs Blue Collar vs No Collar”
Caramoan “Fans vs Favorites 2”
14. San Juan del Sur “Blood vs Water 2”
17. Australia
n Outback
18. Thailand
19. Redemption Island
20. Amazon

(divulges winner spoilers)

(begins on page 5 of a 7 page article, divulges winner spoilers)

(contained in a tweet)

STREAMING NEXT: Cooties (and then back to our regular schedule as seen on the side bar of our home page)

We’d like to thank Sharon Rowan for our podcast artwork and Chris Ohran for our normal music. If you enjoyed this bonus podcast, check out our normal show where we give you short-form reviews on streaming movies and TV shows. You can follow us on Twitter @MovieStreamCast and subscribe on iTunes. You can also reach us by email at

59 thoughts on “Movie Stream Cast Bonus: Survivor Season Rankings

  1. Okay, for anyone serious about watching along for Season 31, this it it! I’m so excited. The season starts tomorrow (WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23RD, 2015), or probably today by the time you are reading this. The show airs on CBS. Myself, I usually watch at late Wednesday night on Thursday afternoon. The episodes usually post online a couple of hours after they air.

    We’re going to do a Survivor Bonus here at MSC every few episodes and have discussion here on the blog each week, but I have to recommend to you the very best Survivor podcast in existence. It’s called SURVIVOR KNOW IT ALLS and it is usually hosted by Survivor podcasting superstar Rob Cesternino and his fellow former-Survivor Stephen Fishbach. The catch this season is that Stephen is competing on the show for his second chance, so his spot on the podcast will be filled by the very funny Josh Wigler, who is Rob’s host for the epic THE EVOLUTION OF STRATEGY audio-books–which I highly recommend–and a Survivor Correspondent for Parade Magazine.

    SURVIVOR KNOW IT ALLS is a must-listen. Like, seriously. You won’t even be able to hang in the conversations if you don’t listen.

    Those of you who listened to our Survivor 31 Bonus Episode back in May have already heard our feelings about many of these contestants. In fact, you’ve heard us interview a few of them as well!


    But, if you really want the skinny on the current cast, read the afore-mentioned Josh Wigler’s excellent pre-game features. They are wonderfully written and full of information.


    And this pre-season video from Mikey Glazer at The Wrap is pretty crazy. Never before have we had this much insight into pre-game alliances in the history of the show. The craziest thing is that most of these people ended up on Varner’s tribe. This should be interesting. A must watch!


    Also, it may be too late by the time you read this, but Cody and I are participating in three Survivor Fantasy Leagues and it would be fun if any of you want to play along. Those we are doing are run through THE TRIBE: A SURVIVOR PODCAST, THE PURPLE ROCK PODCAST and the SURVIVOR FANS PODCAST. If three is a bit excessive for you, I’d recommend The Tribe’s fantasy league above the others. It’s my favorite by far as the fantasy leagues go. And all of the podcasts are worth listening to in their own way. They are very different. Still, if I had to recommend just one podcast, it is the Know it Alls.

    • The Tribe fantasy game is cool and probably the one that most encourages season-long investment. The Survivor Fans game is very similar, but harder to make up ground when you fall behind.

      The Purple Rock game is fun in a different way, but it helps to be able to read “Survivor” contestants, since you get locked into your team right away and can’t make changes after that.

  2. This is the season I’ve been most excited about ever, I think. Fun to see so many known characters and it will be interesting to see how so much preparation before the game is going to affect things. I would love for the season to be really unpredictable. But we’ll see! Also, I can’t believe you podcasted about this for more than four hours. And then spent way more than four hours editing that podcast. I mean, I can believe it because it’s you. But still.

    • Rachel, on behalf of everyone who actually listens to this behemoth, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing so much of Josh’s time with us. He is a true podcasting warrior poet and I cannot begin to fathom where he finds the hours in the day to keep up with this, HMP, SFP, MPW, etc. :-)

      • You (all) are so welcome. He loves doing it, and I like to seem him happy. And Podcasting Warrior Poet–I think we need to get some new business cards made up for Josh with that title :).

        • This made imagine the likes of Josh, Jay, Dr. Shock and others sitting around a table, showing each other their latest podcast business cards in a scene straight out of American Psycho.

          It gave me a sensible chuckle.

          I wonder which of them would even have a watermark!

  3. Holy crap. This is not a short episode. Ha.

    I only got around to finishing one season of SURVIVOR this past month, but I plan on tuning into every week for this latest season.

    • Okay! There are a lot of spoilers in this ep, so I’d avoid it as long as you plan to watch more seasons (WHICH I RECOMMEND!), but please do join us live for the new Season 31. It’s going to be a lot of fun. And seriously, check out these recommendations above in my first comment.

      • I wasn’t really sure if I should listen to this podcast or not. On one hand, I’d like to watch the seasons as unspoiled as possible, but on the other, I have what…28 other seasons to watch to catch up enough to listen to this? That could take a long time. lol

        After your recommendation in the other thread, I did begin watching Season 19: Samoa. Glad to see Cody ranked it so high. You pretty much nailed it when it came to suggesting that season to me for Russell. The dude is evil and ruthless in just the first episode. I love his attitude in going into the game even if it seems foolish to go so hard so early on.

        Frankly, up until I came to Movie Stream Cast, I had no idea that SURVIVOR was still such a big show to people.

        • Okay, watch Samoa and then watch Heroes vs Villains right after that UNLESS you have access to Palau, Pearl Islands and All Stars. If you can get those watch those three and THEN HvV because that season spoils the winners for the other three.

          We don’t spoil much of the gameplay, but we do spoiler the winners on a few of these seasons. Personally, I’ve watched a BUNCH of seasons knowing who the winners are because I came to the show so late and got so involved in the Survivor online community, it was just kind of unavoidable.

          Only you can know for you. If you’re only going to watch the stuff on Amazon, then it kind of frees you up in a way.

          In terms of the lists above, I would say you can flat out skip most of mine from 18 and down, but I like the rest and I love, love LOVE my Top15, in roughly that order.

        • Russell Hantz is a golden god of “Survivor.” “Samoa” will not disappoint you, Sal. I’ve been watching since “Survivor: Thailand” (Season 5), so I’ve seen almost all of the seasons as they aired. For the few I hadn’t, knowing most of the larger details before seeing the actual episodes did not diminish my enjoyment. I’d been told most of the twists and turns of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” (Season 2) for years before actually finally watching it this summer, and it’s still one of my favorite seasons ever. Didn’t really matter that I already knew who won, who checked out early, some of the big disasters to happen, etc.

          • I’m kind of up in the air when it comes to Hantz. He’s formidable in a lot of respects and amazingly resourceful but his approach totally lacks subtlety and he seems totally oblivious to the concept of the jury. He seems to have this idea that so long as he makes it that far through by being the most devious player that he’ll automatically be deserving of a vote without being able to grasp that getting to the end WITHOUT totally alienating and upsetting people is an important part of the game. In fact to me that’s one of the most interesting and dynamic elements in the game but he acts as though bullying and threatening people is the only way to play and win. And he didn’t seem to learn anything from his first attempt and just used exactly the same psychopathic tactics the next time around. I can’t deny that his resolve and idol finding abilities are second to none (at least from what I’ve watched so far) but his arrogance and blatant lack of respect for the other players are his downfall. He makes for some amazing television though and his blindsiding of Tyson and Boston Rob in Heroes Vs Villains was a spectacle to behold. I feel like Rob’s own arrogance and cockiness were quite deservingly taken down a peg by Hantz’s far superior approach to strategy.

          • Wait, I’m really behind, David. When did you watch Heroes vs Villains? That means you finished Pearl Islands?! You are rocking and rolling, man! I still want Juan and Mattroid to get going and Sal and Dino to continue, but we’ve made a legit Survivor fan here and that makes it all worth it!

            Now, you know I wasn’t just a crazy person back during all of those MPW episodes when I had to endure Jason and Karl’s mocking. But, there’s actually a big part of me that is glad they didn’t watch bc they probably would have been harsh on it and it would be Upstream Color all over again.

            The addiction! And, honestly, the podcasts really enhance the experience from just watching alone. They make you second-guess all of your strategy and up the “what would you do in this situation” factor. Make sure you check out the links I left above in the first comment. You are already so well primed for Second Chances. I love it!

            I’m with you on Russell Hantz, David. I love watching his intense play but he has a vital misunderstanding of the most basic (and interesting) element of the game, that you need to vote people out in a way that they will still vote for you at the end. He has zero social game. Or at, at least, his social game is based on a hard sales tactic that is based on fear and bullying and leaves people very sour on him. You’re also perspective that he didn’t change much from his first game. The reason is that Russell is one of about 6 players who have played back-to-back seasons, so he never saw his game. Also NOBODY ELSE saw his game and it is my belief that he’d have been Boston Rob’s first target if anyone there had a chance to see Samoa. But, I’m kind of glad they didn’t. Made for a spectacular game. What a glorious villain!

          • You’re not behind, Josh, I’m just waaaay ahead! I’m actually on my 11th season now. That said, I did quit one season half way through (Thailand) because I literally couldn’t deal with my unbridled hatred of Robb Zbacnik. He was just the epitome of douche-bro awfulness and when it got to the point where he was mocking the eating habits of Shii Ann (who I really like) in what to me felt like an incredibly racially insensitive moment I just couldn’t hack it any more and turned it off. But yeah I’m currently halfway through “Gabon” and the other seasons I’ve watched so far are as follows (in no particular order though I plan to rank them and discuss them in greater detail when I get the chance):

            Thailand (quit half way through)
            Pearl Islands
            All Stars
            Heroes Vs Villains

          • Wow! This is happening!

            I responded to your Fiji, Micronesia, Palau and All Stars posts on the other blog post, yesterday.

            Honestly, with this run, I am shocked you are still going. You’ve watched what I think are some of the absolute WORST seasons of the show. Gabon is dreadful, in my opinion. Amazon as well, although I LOVE Rob Cesternino. I think Thailand is worth finishing. I hated Robb too, but he’s not a factor for much longer. Tocantins is a lesser season, in my opinion. Samoa is great for Russell, but in the “soft middle” (as Cody would say) in every other way for me. What, did you decide to save all of the good seasons for the end?

            Read my other comments, but I’m looking for you to DISH on Pearl Islands and Heroes vs Villains–two classic seasons in my opinion! Be sure to tag SPOILERS because we have a few people here not as far as you. You’ve only got 9 more to go to catch Rachel.

          • Well I picked some of the seasons based on players they had in common with seasons I’d already seen (which I find a good way of navigating between seasons and being able to invest in a character from the very get go) and others I picked just because the locations sounded interesting.

            I can definitely see why you’re not a big fan of Gabon. So far it’s a bit uneventful and a lot of the players are terrible. I do like Sugar and oldman Bob though.

            I really enjoyed Tocantins though. So many memorable moments, mostly coming from Coach admittedly, but I found it super entertaining. I also really liked Stephen and Taj as people and I was suriprised that you guys weren’t big on Tyson in this season because I thought his cutting, deadpan remarks were hilarious. My favourite moment of the season had to be when Brendan said something along the lines of “We’re throwing metal balls underhand to break ceramic tiles, none of us have ever done this before.” and without even a shred of self-awareness or irony Coach replies “I have.”

            I enjoyed Amazon a fair bit too despite homophobic old roger being in the cast. I didn’t think the location was that great and a lot of the players (the guys especially) were big jerks but I really liked Deena and of course Rob Cesternino just made the season. His interview segments were almost always hilarious.

            **Minor Spoilers for Survivor: Samoa**

            Samoa was great for introducing Hantz but so many of the players were really dislikeable for me. Hantz is despicable enough (though extremely entertaining) but that racist Ben guy was even worse and I was extremely glad to see him go. A lot of the other players were just damp squibs and it seemed too easy for Russell to just run rough shod over them.

            **Minor Spoilers for Survivor: Tocantins and Heroes vs Villains**

            As for Pearl Islands and Heroes Vs Villains; the former is my second favourite season so far (after All Stars but to be honest they’re almost tied) and I’ll expand more on it later. Heroes Vs Villains was great but I was disappointed by the atrocious approach to gameplay and strategy coming from the Heroes. It was pathetic and I felt like it really showed how important Stephen and Taj were to getting J.T to the end in Tocantins. I also started to get really sick of Rupert in this season. And if I never have to see Parvati’s entitled, smug little smirk ever again it’ll be too soon. Still an extremely fascinating season though.

          • Done, but they were pretty minor spoilers.

            That Coach comment you mentioned in Tocantins is among my favorite in the history of the game! So great. And he has many more tiny moments like that on all three of his seasons. I love Coach. I actually intended to bring that specific one up, but must have spaced it. I was probably hard on Tyson in Tocantins, he was indeed funny and biting, but he was just kind of a non-factor in the gameplay his first two times out. I was also probably too hard on JT and Taj because I’m such a Stephen fan (I agree with you about JT in HvV). But Stephen did himself no favors in the final tribal. The whole season was just a bit monotonous and anti-climactic for me.

            The thing I like about the heroes gameplay in HvV is that it illustrates that the game isn’t about being “heroic” (which usually just means good at challenges or naive about gameplay, anyway). I like people that go hard.

            Obviously, watch the seasons however you want. I won’t be (TOO) offended that you’re not trusting my recommendations, but I’m mostly just worried you’ll get fatigued with the game without watching the very best seasons. Some of these (like Gabon and Tocantins, in my opinion) are a bit of a trudge.

            I don’t get as caught up in my dislike for the minor bigoted characters like Robb or Ben because they are also a reflection of society in this microcosm of life that is this game and **Spoilers for Survivor Thailand and Samoa** it is all the more fulfilling when they are summarily dispatched.

            This is so much fun for me talking Survivor in this context. DAVID! Are you watching Season 31 live with us?! Let’s do this!

          • **Minor Spoilers for Survivor: Samoa** I just finished the episode where Ben from Samoa was eliminated. I don’t know what was worse, all of the racist comments or the fact that he channeled his inner-Abi and refused to shut up or keep a low profile while being hated by the others.


            SPOILERS FOR HvV and SAMOA! David, you’re on the money about “Heroes vs. Villains” Russell, but he was emotionally compromised that entire season by having been ROBBED the first time around. He was subtle when subtlety was called for in “Samoa.” And he just made the wrong assumption about how the jury would judge his game: He thought they would respect a hugely dominant strategic masterminding of everything. SPOILER FOR CAGAYAN! He was clearly expecting at least a majority of them to react the way that Spencer later reacted to Tony in “Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty.”

            SPOILERS FOR PALAU AND THAILAND! More to the point, it’s entirely reasonable for him to have expected that: Past dominant contestants like Tom from “Palau” and, far more analogously (is that a real word?), Brian from “Thailand,” showed up at Final Tribal with weak tea go-alongs beside them and were given the respect that their domination warranted. Instead of acknowledging his brilliance, however, the “Samoa” jury just hated Russell for beating them. It’s a reaction he arguably should have had in mind, but I don’t fault him too much, as a first season player, for having planned on the opposite.

            It’s a shame you bowed out of “Thailand.” If memory serves, Robb exited the game, like, one or two episodes (at most) after the point at which you quit watching. He was definitely a no-account windbag.


            Let’s remember that while it may seem logical that the more experienced gamers of HvV should have respected a tough strategic game, All-Star seasons have notoriously bitter jurys.

            Plus, Russell had done what Russell does and gone out of his way to bully and humiliate many of the people on the jury. You can only “step on the throat and demand the vote” of the competition so much. Russell makes great TV but he doesn’t understand one of the most basic (and admittedly, most difficult) aspects of the game.

            It’s rare that I agree with Rupert’s strategic-think, but I think he makes a good point when he tells Russell at the final tribal council that it’s easy to lie and do gross stuff like SWEAR ON YOUR CHILDREN’S LIVES and think that means you’ve outwitted people. Sandra’s manipulation of Russell to vote out Coach was much more interesting and strategic. Even Rupert’s rock-in-the-pocket was a more subtle manipulation than Russell’s “you’re either with me or against me” … like Sandra, they all said “I’m against you, Russell.”


            No question that Russell 2.0 should have been smarter about handling people in “Heroes vs. Villains.” (Although he did still manage to get to Final Tribal despite going back-to-back, a handicap that I think negates the advantage he gained from the others players’ not having seen him play previously. Also, as noted, I think he was compromised by his deep conviction of having been cheated the first time around.)

            My primary point is that it was entirely reasonable for him to have expected a different outcome going in than what he got from the “Samoa” jury. I don’t think he was oblivious to the fact that they’d be resentful of him, I think he just made the wrong assumption about how they’d handle it. It was reasonable of him to expect, especially as a first-time player with no previous Final Tribal experience, that they would have the honesty to see past their resentment and reward superior gameplay. There was plenty of precedent for that in the history of the show. So, yeah, his “Heroes vs. Villains” people skills can be justifiably criticized. I just don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for being aware, during the unfolding of the “Samoa” season, of the social ramifications of everything he was doing there.

  4. When it comes to Survivor Josh is my only touchstone and I never would have watched it if he hadn’t held my hand and led me to it (we sometimes hold hands). Almost every episode of the two seasons I’ve watched (and really enjoyed) was sitting next to Josh on a couch in a hotel room in some random city when we both knew we should have been sleeping…”One more episode? We can’t just leave it hanging like that!”…and it was a real treat to watch it with someone who has such an encyclopedic knowledge of the show. He got me hooked on both of those seasons right off the bat and I found myself defending survivor to a couple of people just yesterday. I’m a fan. Josh will have to remind me what the seasons we watched, but the first was the Heroes vs. Villains season and that was just nonstop drama, I loved it. I’ve never watched a season as it aired before, but I’m in. Season 31!

    • Yep, we binged both Heroes vs Villains (mostly in a Los Angeles hotel) and All-Stars (mostly in a van to Las Vegas). GREAT times!

      Really excited for you to watch this season while it airs. I think it’s going to be a really good one.

      Even the duds on this cast (Keith, Woo, Monica, Abi, etc) should be way more entertaining than an average season. I LOVE this cast. The worst part about this season is one of them has to get voted off every episode.

    • Bah. This was some really weak tea. Saw it the other day on and was mostly bored. Nine minutes of rhapsodizing about getting to experience the thrill of the game a second time/correcting past mistakes that have eaten at the soul for weeks/month/years. We get it. I already heard all of this from everyone when they were begging to be cast on Season 31. Cut to the chase already!

      The Survivor Crank :-)

      • Cody! It’s the first episode. You’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to let it build. The vast majority of the audience didn’t even know there was a vote and haven’t watch pre-season tape. This is a GREAT start to the season so far.

        BTW, if you haven’t read Joh Wigler’s articles that I linked to above, I think you would really enjoy them. Some of the most fun writing I’ve ever read about Survivor from a total fan perspective. Some are a little hit or miss because some of the cast is a little hit or miss, but most of them are GREAT.

  5. Okay, guys and gals. Survivor: Second Chances has begun and I think it was a pretty good premiere. Slightly above average, in my opinion.

    Let’s discuss and be careful to tag our spoilers.

    Listen to this first, though, folks. This is THE BEST Survivor podcast out there. A lot of behind the scenes and backstory for this first ep, but I promise you’re going to want to follow this podcast all season for some awesome insights:

    • Did you guys hear that Abi had a bracelet?

      I don’t have much to say about the first episode since I’m just getting used to the people on the show. There’s a couple of early favorites while a couple seem like weak links. The person who was eliminated played a really lousy game despite their belief that they were playing smart.

      About to listen to the Know It All podcast you posted.

      • Haha! Abi is not going to disappoint. I see a spectacular flameout in her future.

        Yes, the person who was voted out played really poorly.

        And although I thought the Gorgeous Joe stuff was overdone, it was interesting to see that juxtaposition of Joe winning people over organically versus Vytas trying so hard and creeping everyone out.


      Again, this episode of the podcast suffers from the same problem the first episode of the show does. There is just a lot of backstory and set-up to get through with not a lot of gameplay.

      The most interesting insight from the podcast that I got was this idea that Vytas was probably not voted-out because of the yoga stuff. People had seen his previous game and saw him as a serious threat due to how manipulative he was before. The Touchy McHandsalot stuff just played into their expectations and gave them an easy reason to get rid of him.

      The same goes for Stephen looking for the immunity idol. People are scared that he’s conniving and he really did himself no favors by allowing them to confirm their beliefs by disappearing from camp when everyone else was together, bonding over fire and yoga.


    So, I really liked this premiere, I’ve decided. There were some weaker elements and I stand by my initial statement that this is only slightly better than average, but I think I figured out why. As with a lot of the seasons that have slow opens, the first boot options on this episode were not very interesting. Not because of anything they did wrong, just because there wasn’t time for much gameplay to happen yet–especially with the twist of going straight to Tribal Council (I think production kind of screwed themselves there)–and people are always looking for any dumb reason they can find to vote you out. So, what usually happens and what happened here is that the editors have to set up the people who have a chance of going home. In this episode it was looking like Stephen, Abi and Vytas. And although Abi’s flameout foreshadowing and Stephen’s difficulty fitting-in show a lot of promise for the future, ultimately nothing too spectacular was going on with any of these options. Especially Vytas. They wanted him out as a threat, but he wasn’t really doing anything too threatening in this episode so they had to go with what they had. And what they had was kind of boring. Funny and quirky, but not enough to really engage my mind. Still, despite that, very interesting episode with some real highlights for me.

    Contradicting what I just said, I really enjoyed Stephen. The juxtaposition of Savage chopping down the palm tree and Stephen struggling with that stick was hilarious.

    I was totally wrong about Joey Amazing. He doesn’t seem to be a target at all at this point. In fact, everybody loves him. Similarly, Spencer’s “suck-up-to-the-old-schoolers” plan seems to be working really well. And Kass was invisible. So, of my four pre-season predictions for people who I thought would be in a lot of trouble, only Stephen really seems to be. Really bad luck with the tribe he ended up on. Poor Stephen. This was not a good look for him. Still love him, though. I wish I could will him and Kass straight to the final 5.

    I was borderline on Tasha before this season, but I REALLY dislike her now. Uuugh. She’s exhausting and so arrogant. It probably doesn’t help that I was checking her live tweets (along with several other cast members), but I actually ended up unfollowing her, she is so annoying.

    Peih-Gee did not come off too great. The Abi bracelet thing didn’t help. I’m glad she connected with Varner. I hope they can help each other. She better get on her game fast.

    Savage is doing a really good job leading this time. And I have to give Terry a lot of credit as well for not being even close to as overbearing as he was on his first time out. These guys have really improved their game.

    I can’t tell if Varner is really the fish out of water he is acting like or if he’s just playing that up to put people off guard and let them drag him along. He seems to be in a good spot, which is great because he’s my pick to win. My other pick to win, Kelly Wentworth, looked really great last night as well. She almost gave me an ulcer when she was deciding whether not to go for that idol. In fact, I was so mad at her I had written her off completely. Glad she came through. Really exciting. It was crazy, that the idol totally took the focus off of the immunity challenge. I didn’t even care who won, I just wanted to see her grab that idol! It was fun once. I can’t tell if I’m gonna like that dynamic throughout the season. It kind of makes the challenges underwhelming, which immunity shouldn’t be.

    By the way, the challenge itself sucked. It’s kind of cool that it was a variation on the first challenge ever played, but it is just a boring challenge. Strange that they didn’t play up the fact that the added jailbreak portion was essentially what cost Savage the game his first go ’round.

    The marooning was a little awkward at first, compared to in years past, but I loved the way it escalated and especially how Kelly Wiglesworth just went for it and almost made it all the way swimming in front of the boats. She was amazing there. She may have no lick of strategic gameplay, but she’s still the challenge beast she was. Maybe more so. The others’ strategy to wait and then outswim her was brilliant too. Woo blew Joey Amazing out of the water. I was really happy for Woo. Woo is so dang likable. And even though I really didn’t want to see Woo or Keith on the season, they’re definitely going to be entertaining. Keith was hilarious during the yoga stuff.

    Man, I was just so happy to see all of these people back on my screen. I honestly got a little misty during those epic shots in the opening credits. Terry and Savage look so badass. Love the shots of Spencer and Kimmi. Ciera’s second shot is INCREDIBLE! She looks like a superhuman goddess. And I’m not even a fan. She looked like Famke Janssen as Phoenix with those eyes. And Jeff Varner’s face just makes me so happy. All of the second chance theme stuff really works for me narratively. There were a couple of really important second chance stories that they kind of glossed-over. I hope they get to those later.

    The location and cinematography is gorgeous this season. And I like how they found ways to coordinate the contestants pervious season wardrobe with the vibrant new tribe colors. They each have a version of their old uniforms, but it somehow works together. Pretty awesome. It’s just all so visually stimulating. What a pretty place. I hope it works for deep water challenges.

    Last thought … is Shirin running this game? I think she might be.

    This season could be REALLY great!


      Besides the comedy of Abi’s Gollum act of wanting to find her precious and the epic showdown between Stephan and the undefeated branch, the highlight of this first episode for me was Kelley Wentworth’s dilemma of whether to go for the hidden immunity or not. I loved the whole concept of using immunity challenges to be the location of hidden immunities. The drama is so much higher and unlike with other hidden immunities, you only have one real opportunity to look for it rather than the usual hunting in the jungle for as long as you please. Even though this does distract from the challenges, I hope that there’s more of these.

      In regards to the Survivor Know It Alls podcast, it made me look at some of the contestants differently. Without any real knowledge of another other than the Brazilian Gollum, all I had to go on was what they showed on the show. The whole idea of Stephen being a dangerous player never crossed my mind. With how weak he was, I was wondering how he even made it on Survivor in the first place.


      Spacewolf, curious as to what you saw in Ciera that dazzled you so. A superhuman goddess?! Eh, what? I think she had about 40 seconds of screen time in this episode.

      Good to see you let your guard down a little about Joey Amazing. I’m telling you, it’s not by accident that he came off as well as he did in what is, admittedly, a super early showing. His social game is more low-key than some, but clearly having its effect. And the best way to give yourself time to get your bearings is for the tribe to win and not need to vote anyone out. I’m not saying he should will his tribe to victory every single time, but I think for the moment he’s playing to his strengths in that regard without overdoing it.

      I think Shirin *possibly* controlled the first vote (more about that in a minute), which was a strong play by her, but I don’t think that equates with “running the game” this early on. What it does show, if accurate, is that she’s making the most of her recency advantage. Not everyone is going to benefit from that (Keith 2.0 is more advanced in his thinking than Newbie Keith was, but still way behind the curve), but I think it’s clear that Joe and Shirin are locked in. (Also with Keith in the “What the Hell Am I Doing Here?” circle of shame: Abi Maria. You can’t just declare that you’re a changed player. You actually have to be willing and able to do things differently.)

      I’m guardedly optimistic about the prospects for Terry and Savage. They seem to have watched the show on at least a semi-regular basis since they were on it, which appears not to have been the case for Varner. He’s clearly baffled, and it’s clearly not an act. (I repeat: Clearly not an act. I’m convinced he really has been living in a different world where “Survivor” was canceled after the “Australian Outback” season.) To his credit, he’s leaning into it and trying to get up to speed, but … how much could it *really* mean to you to play again if you’ve never watched the show since you played in SEASON TWO?

      Peih Gee did not impress me either, if only on the level of being dumb enough (as far as we know; they did give her a confessional to explain herself and she appears not have been stuntin’, a la Hantz) to pick up an apparently unclaimed bag and make it her own without a) looking inside to see what was in it, or b) at least asking, “Hey, I don’t have a bag. Does this one belong to anyone?”

      Not really much to go on from anyone else. Fisch looks like “All Stars” Cesternino right now. Running scared and not sure how to deal with the fact that he’s not as far ahead of everyone else as he expected to be. I a little surprised that Tasha and Cass haven’t tried to get anything going, or at least not that we’ve been shown. I know they were far from BFFs the first time, but they aren’t just from the same season, they were frickin’ tribemates. Work with what you’re given, ladies. Even Keith (albeit clearly with guidance from Jeremy) figured that out.

      The trophy for best first episode, however, unequivocally goes to Kelly. She was clearly aware of the vote and knew whose name to write down. (I’d say it’s at least as likely that she gamed it as that Shirin did. And I’m not totally convinced that Wiggles was as unaware of who to vote for as she claimed. I think that was just a pretense for tribal council.) More importantly, however, I don’t give a single crap about the fact that everyone knows there are idols (or at least idol clues) in the wild. FIND A WAY TO LOOK FOR THE DAMN IDOL, PEOPLE. There are ways to look, as Kelly clearly demonstrated, without LOOKING like you’re looking. Again, work with what you’re given. The idol is something that’s there for everyone, regardless of whether the tribe draw helped or hurt their game. YOU ARE ALL RETURNING PLAYERS. ACT LIKE IT. Yes, it’s possible that other people looked and we just didn’t get that in the edit, but that’s not at all the vibe I got. DO NOT EVER BE COMPLACENT IN “SURVIVOR.” Probst said it best after the vote. Whoever you are and whatever you’re up to, it could all come crashing down any time there’s a vote.

      Not an epic episode by any stretch, but that’s just “Survivor.” The first handful of episodes is almost always “slow.” I still love the sensation of breaking in a new cast. Even just watching them build a shelter always warms my heart (and generally reveals emerging tribal structure, as does [potentially; and incrementally] everything else you see them do; I love that stuff).

      • SPOILERS

        Not an epic episode? I thought you’d love all of the shelter and fire building. I loved the marooning. That was epic.

        Re: Ciera, I was only referencing her shot in the opening credits. She looks like she’s going to kill you with her stare. Her eyes are rolled back in her head and then look like they catch on fire with a blue flame. She looks like Famke Janssen as Phoenix. You can’t see the intense color of her eyes here the way it looks on my TV, but maybe you’ll get the idea:

        Re: Gorgeous Joe, I just didn’t think he had much game last time and I didn’t think anyone was going to give him a chance to start winning immunities this time. Making fire was big for him. Having a hot bod is apparently going a long way.

        Re: Varner, the more I watch (I’ve re-watched the episode 3 times now) the more I’m convinced it is an act.

        Re: Peih-Gee, I think she handled the situation the best she could considering her mistake. I’m not totally convinced that someone didn’t plant that bracelet in there for a repeat performance of the Pete Bro and RC debacle. There’s absolutely no way that Peih-Gee took it on purpose. She designs high-end custom jewelry. She doesn’t want Abi’s Hot Topic bracelet. And why is nobody assuming that Abi just put her bracelet in Peih-Gee’s bag. That’s just as likely. In terms of gameplay, we didn’t see much, but for being in the middle of new school and old school with no friends in the entire game, I think she did exactly what she should have and floated toward the numbers.

        Re: Idols, I think you’re being a little loosey-goosey about how you advocate idol hunting. We’ve seen that to be a bad thing in All-Star seasons. In HvV, the entire Villains tribe decide they’re going to vote out anyone they see looking for the idol. In BvW, they go so far as to burn the clues! Being caught looking is pretty dangerous. Wentworth did it well, but it is generally risky business.

        • Agreed that Varner is an act, especially considering all of the pre-game alliances he had going on. And if anyone was really THAT clueless, I don’t think they would be advertising it so openly.


    The more I think about this, the more convinced I am that Shirin and Kelly locked in a mostly women’s alliance before the immunity challenge. I think they had Abi and Peih Gee on board, with Varner and Spencer having a foot in both alliances. Vytas was clearly targeted. Kelly was totally rocking the smirk as it played out; she was pretty sure that Vytas had been gamed. And Woo was completely taken aback, so someone, probably Varner or Spencer, cast a spur-of-the-moment swing vote to turn the tables on the alliance with the Woo-Terry-Wiggles-Vytas core.

    • Check out Vytas’ exit interview from the post below to hear some insane insight from the final tribal council regarding Varner. Varner definitely flipped on “the shelter people” (his pre-game alliance with Terry and Wiglesworth) and has also something going with Wentworth, Spencer and maybe Peih-Gee on the side.

      I think Spencer sees himself as part of a “New School plus Varner” alliance and I think Shirin is promoting that publicy, but I like your theory about Shirin having a covert all-girl alliance. She had said pre-game that was one of her desired strategies. I don’t think Peih-Gee and Abi are going to last long together, though, so I don’t think it will last.

  8. Here is a really fun VIDEO exit interview with the player voted out of Episode 1 of Season 31:

    It’s really good. A lot of the same talking points given in exit interviews everywhere else but it’s much more in-depth with a very fun pre-interview intro featuring most of the Wine & Cheese alliance.

    Good times.

  9. Regarding the lists posted above, I can appreciate Dalton Ross’ Top 9, but then he really starts getting crazy after that and it falls apart for me.

    Regarding Cody’s subjective list, your placement of Gabon so high at 11, it makes my discount a lot of the rest of your list. I think your mathematical rankings actually make more sense to me after your Top 10 than your subjective list does. I mean, I have Gabon dead last (so obviously we are divided there), but I can still appreciate it above several of the lesser seasons that I like. But, I’m just plain flummoxed as to how you can have Gabon ahead of HvV, BvW, All-Stars, Exile Island and Pearl Islands. The others are MAYBE arguable, but come on, man. You’ve got some of the best Survivor games ever played outside of your Top 15. Your kingdom for a fake idol? Your kingdom for a Sugar Shack?

    For me, the one I’m most open to moving is Australia. I really have no interest in watching it due to the lack of strategic gameplay, but our conversation really reminded me of some epic adventure TV moments that are worthwhile, just not what I appreciate MOST about Survivor.

  10. Wow, you guys! Rob Cesternino’s podcast with Jenna Lewis about episode 1 of Survivor: Cambodia is SHOCKINGLY good. Jenna has some very interesting insights that didn’t come up at all in Know It Alls. Plus, some fun insider stuff on her seasons, All-Stars and the OG original!

    Listen here:

  11. I enjoyed the premiere of Survivor: Cambodia a lot. What a beautiful place. It was just so pleasant to look at.

    I also thought this episode had some fun teasers regarding things to come. Foreshadowing with Abi is always fun. Can’t wait to see her give more benefit of the doubt to people. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think Varner is putting on a show and I hope that this strategy will work for him. The Fishbach stuff cracked me up and (though editing probably played a big role) is an interesting example of how game knowledge doesn’t always translate to self-knowledge.

    One of my favorite things though is that everyone on the cast is interesting in some way. There are not hot bodies there just for the sake of looking at. There are way more older people of substance and also respected for the games they have brought in the past, which is refreshing in a game that often privileges youth. And I find that more compelling.

  12. I have good news and bad news, Yoshi. I couldn’t get a hold of the two seasons you recommended, so I just plunged into a season you recommended to Solo: Samoa (season 19).

    I hated myself (and you) for the first 10 minutes or so. Everyone seemed so ridiculous just on a first impression. Not being a fan of reality TV didn’t help—I doubted I could enjoy the show. Then the first challenge started and I was suddenly having fun. As soon as people started to show their strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and real intentions then I was all in. I can see myself sticking to at least this season. It’s too early to tell if I’ll watch every single season, but for now, Survivor is my go-to show during my lunch breaks (I usually eat at my desk). So far, the player that I like the most (even though he’s a sleazeball) is Russell aka The Puppet Master. He’s just so much fun to watch and manipulate everyone. The fact that he’s a supposed millionaire in it just to prove how easy it is to win is so much fun (even if a bit on the evil side). Anyway, those are my thoughts just on episode 1. I’m not commencing episode 2.

    There, I manned up Wolfman 😉

    • Well, Solo had already seen 2-3 seasons before I recommend Samoa (not a personal favorite of mine), but Cody loves it and Sal is enjoying it. Russell is a great character, though. If you like this and want more, watch Heroes vs Villains next. A great follow-up that also features Russell prominently.

      If you can handle keeping them both in your head AND YOU REALLY WANT TO MAN UP, you should watch the current season along with the rest of us. You’ve only missed episide one. Episode 2 airs Wednesday. You can find the 1st episode of Survivor: Cambodia “Second Chances” for free on … it is called “A Second Chance” and it looks pretty good so far. Above average for a premiere (which are notoriously slow for Survivor). This is a fun one and (more importantly) we’re all watching together! Do it!

  13. Could someone help a brotha out and post the time when Josh and Cody talk about Samoa? I want to stay away from spoilers just in case I become and addict like David 😛

  14. Josh – I still haven’t found the time to watch the seasons you assigned to me, but I do plan on watching season 31. The first three episodes are on my DVR, at least…

    • Catch up to us on Cambodia, buddy!

      Triple-feature this Wednesday night with the wife!


      You really need to check out HvV and BvW before you give up on Survivor, though. And really, Cagayan and World’s Apart as well.

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