Survivor is one of the longest-running reality shows on television. Set in various tropical locations across the world, 16-20 contestants are stranded in remote areas with little more than the clothes they wear and whatever they can conjure from nature. They must endure grueling physical challenges and paranoia-inducing game play in order to become the Sole Survivor and win the cash prize of one million dollars. Although I have not seen every season of Survivor ever made, I’ve seen enough to talk about my top 5 favorite seasons and what makes them so memorable to me.
4. Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance
This was the first season I watched live. Admittedly, I did not know who most of the contestants were. I had only seen one season of the show at this point, although two of the contestants came back for this season. The concept was great: fans got to vote which contestants they wanted to see play the game again. The players ranged from fan favorites to players who were robbed to players that may have made a million-dollar mistake. I didn’t think much of it at first, since I was unfamiliar with so many of the players and their stories. But watching the season, especially live, gave me a new appreciation for the game and fueled my desire to watch the previous seasons to see how badly the players were burned. This was my first real experience of huge blindsides that left me in shock and anxiously awaiting a new episode each week.
3. Survivor: Cagayan
This is probably one of the most dramatic seasons of the show just due to the number of big personalities in the cast. This season was extremely bingeable and incredibly entertaining. From Tony’s spy shack to Chaos Kass, this season has many memorable moments that encapsulate why people love Survivor.
2. Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
This is such an interesting season to watch due to the dynamics of the players and the roles they are playing. Returning players are sorted into the “Hero” or “Villian” tribes depending on their gameplay from their previous seasons. Players who carried their tribes to victory and remained true to their word were part of the Hero tribe. Players who backstabbed allies and orchestrated complex blindsides were part of the Villian tribe. This was a great example of how what you see while playing Survivor is not exactly what you think it might be.
1. Survivor: Micronesia—Fans vs. Favorites
If you’re going to watch any season of Survivor, this is the one. The concept of taking superfans and giving them the opportunity to play with some of the most iconic players of the first fifteen seasons was genius. The first half of the season was not as interesting as the game post-merge, but it gave viewers the opportunity to see beloved contestants interact and work with each other, while also introducing new faces. After the merge, it was an absolute rush. The first two votes of Eliza and Ozzy are my top two favorite episodes of the entire show. It also was amazing to see how easily people can be played (who gives away individual immunity?!?!) and the psychological games that were as impressive as the physical challenges. It felt like the first time we saw a successful all-girls alliance on the show where a woman won the game. Overall, this is seen as the best season of Survivor, and for a good reason.
The 42nd season of Survivor is currently airing on CBS. All other seasons (plus the current one) are available to stream on Paramount +. If you’re interested in game theory or just need a show to put on in the background, this is the show for you!