SURVIVOR SEASON RANKINGS
1. (Tie) Survivor: Borneo (Winner: Richard Hatch) and Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Winner: Parvati Shallow)
I’ve gone back and forth with these two over the years. After Micronesia aired, I named it the best Survivor season ever. Upon reflection, while I still considered it the most enjoyable, I also worried I was understating the impact of the first season, which became a national phenomenon. (Yes, Borneo now seems dated and tame by comparison, but it’s the biggest game changer in the past 20 years of television.) So then I returned that to the #1 spot. If I wanted to watch one season again, it would be Micronesia. If you ask me which is the most important season, well, obviously it’s Borneo. So instead of constantly flipping them, they can simply share the top spot…until I change my mind again.
3. Survivor: Heroes vs Villains (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)
The Russell vs. Boston Rob feud made for the best pre-merge run of episodes ever. And the greatness just kept on coming. Filled with huge memorable moments like Tyson voting himself off, J.T. giving Russell his immunity idol, and Parvati handing out two immunity idols at one Tribal Council. Loses a few points for having so many three-timers, though, including a few (Amanda, James) that we simply didn't need to see again. I know many people would consider this #1, but it’s all returnees. For me, the fresh blood of Micronesia keeps that season higher.
4. Survivor: Cagayan (Winner: ???)
That's right. I'm calling it out. This is the best Survivor season ever with all new players since the very first one (which is only better by the fact that it was the very first one). It has been an intoxicating mix of terrific and terrible gameplay in which the big personalities (Tony, Spencer, Kass) weren't just personalities — they actually were there to play the game. (Maybe not well at all times, but at least they were playing.) The casting was killer, the challenges were solid, the boot order was completely unpredictable, and the creative twists worked (although I was not a fan of the return of the post-votes read idol; thankfully that never came into play). And if Tony and Spencer can both somehow get into the finals, we will have the best million dollar match-up since Yul vs. Ozzy. It feels super weird to rank this so high, but honestly, for me, I think this is where it belongs. (Note: As always, this ranking could still move up or down a slot or two depending on what happens in the finale.)
5. Survivor: Amazon (Winner: Jenna Morasca)
Probably the most unpredictable season ever from week to week. Some people hate on Morasca as a winner, but she won challenges and played an effective social game.
6. Survivor: Pearl Islands (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)
Rupert stealing shoes. Fairplay getting drunk at Tribal Council. Osten sucking at everything. It was all delicious. Loses points, though, for the awful Outcasts twist, which also led to a disappointing final two (Lil? Seriously?).
7. Survivor: Palau (Winner: Tom Westman)
I loved watching one tribe decimate the other, culminating with Stephenie becoming a tribe of one. And the challenges may have been Survivor's best ever. What’s interesting about Palau is that we basically all knew Tom would win from episode 1, but it was still gripping nonetheless.
NEXT: The 8th through 12th best seasons ever