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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Netflix enhanced the infamy of 2020 by dumping iconic hits such as The Office and Gossip Girl toward the end of the year. However, this meant that new shows would be added to the streaming platform. One of the arrivals to Netflix was a mere 2 out of the 40 seasons of CBS’ Survivor which has caused the show to revive some of its dwindling popularity. I am a self-proclaimed Survivor junkie, having watched most of the shows’ seasons. This reality game show with a survival twist is definitely a guilty pleasure that doubles as one of my go-to comfort shows. The first season of Survivor was released in 2000, making the early seasons especially nostalgic which prompted me to revisit many of my favorite casts over the span of quarantine. 

Panorama tropical beach
Photo by Miltiadis Fragkidis from Unsplash
The premise of Survivor can be summed up using the show’s three-word motto: “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast”—where contestants have to compete using their physical and social skills to seek out the title of sole survivor and the prize of $1 million dollars that comes with it. The 16-20 Americans that are cast on each season are split into tribes where they have to survive off of limited resources. Each episode generally consists of the castaways competing in challenges to win rewards and immunity from the vote (where the losing tribe must go to “tribal council” where they vote a tribe member off). Eventually, two or three survivors remain standing and visit the final tribal council, where they must convince those that were previously voted out to vote for them to win the title of sole survivor. The game has many intricacies and has evolved immensely since its start, but if you enjoyed the two seasons that are on Netflix, here are some of my favorite early seasons on Hulu that you should watch next…and don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything! 

Season 1: Borneo

Of course, I feel obliged to put the first season of Survivor on this must-watch list. Filmed almost 21 years ago, this season is full of charming contestants who are so naive since they are the first to chart the course of the game. Most of the players completely lack strategy as they struggle to balance their morals, causing many to ignore the ultimate fact that Survivor is a game for a million dollars. From a 2021 perspective, Borneo has a much slower pace than any following season; the editing is comical, and the show’s unknown trajectory was definitely palpable, however, it remains entertaining in my eyes. Since 2000, Survivor has changed immensely—becoming more ruthless, intense, and full of twists and turns—but this season is nevertheless iconic, which becomes increasingly glaring after watching later seasons.

Season 2: The Australian Outback

Survivor Australia was the show’s first dauntingly adventurous departure from a more cushy, beachside setting. These 16 Americans were forced into the rough terrain of the Australian Outback, so the survival aspect is interesting to watch. Despite this season’s wonderful cast and satisfying winner, it namely stands out in importance since half of the players return to later seasons.

Season 7: Pearl Islands

Almost every fan of Survivor can unanimously agree that this season was excellent, and a turning point for the show as a whole. Pearl Islands unfolds with a kitschy, yet fabulous, opening as well as a fantastic cast that is sure to hook any viewer in. This season’s winner becomes a Survivor icon and the maneuvers that led to their win showcase an interesting strategy. 

Season 10: Palau

Survivor Palau is a well-rounded season that was able to balance entertainment and the survival aspect of the show with creative challenges, a curiously charismatic cast, and interesting story arcs that make it a must-watch season!

Season 15: China

Season 15 has an interesting scenery change from most previous seasons since the survivors are planted beside a swampy lake as opposed to a tropical beach. The cast struggles in this muddy climate which makes for amusing entertainment. Additionally, this season’s winner and cast were uniquely amazing, with many returning to compete in later seasons.

Obviously, I was unable to sum up all of my favorite early seasons, so here’s a reliable, spoiler-free ranking of all 40 seasons. In the midst of this lackluster era of pandemic isolation, hopefully, these fabulously outdated seasons of Survivor can provide a nostalgic escape to the various and expansively beautiful settings of this entertaining show with a seemingly infinite amount of episodes…well, just 40 seasons worth!

Honor, Editor-in-Chief of UMass Amherst HC, is a senior honors student majoring in public health and psychology, with a minor in business. In her free time, she loves to explore the outdoors on walks with her dog, listen to music and podcasts, and experiment with new recipes.
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