It’s been an up and down decade of Survivor, but there were still plenty of memorable seasons that rank among the greats of all time.
Another ten years of Survivor are over. The show has evolved enormously during the decade, bringing rise to voting blocs, new advantages, and a whole plethora of creative strategies. In the process, the show has lost some of the endearing classic feel of old school Survivor, but it still has introduced us to many dynamic players and unforgettable moments. Let’s take a look at the best ten seasons from the 2010s.
10) Ghost Island (Season 36)
It might not have been the strongest overall cast, but there were a few castaways that made Ghost Island enjoyable. The beef between Domenick Abbate and Chris Noble was a highlight of the pre-merge game. It felt like a genuine old school rivalry that was fun to watch.
Dom and Wendell formed an incredible duo, and watching how they dominated the game and fought it out at the end made up for the cheesy theme. Their performance puts this season slightly above San Juan del Sur and Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. Beyond this pairing, there were a few other strong players that came out of this season including Michael, Laurel, and Kellyn.
9) Philippines (Season 25)
After four painful Survivor seasons, the tides began to change. Led by three returning castaways who got their journey’s cut short, Philippines turned out to be a solid season with a great cast. As always, Penner was so fun to watch and pulled off some brilliant moves to keep himself in the game.
This season also had its own exciting rivalry between Abi-Maria and RC. Watching Pete manipulate that relationship made it even more entertaining! The pairing of Malcolm and Denise was also a fun one to watch, as they went from being on one of the worst tribes in Survivor history to having full control over the season. There wasn’t really anything in Philippines that makes this season elite, but it was a strong outing that put the show back on track.
8) Blood vs. Water (Season 27)
The idea of playing with or against your loved ones transpired into a season like no other. When looking back at Blood vs. Water, on paper you might see a season where Tyson dominated and brought two beatable castaways to the end. However, to get to that point, the dynamic created by having loved ones on the same beach brought along some exciting moments. That said, I still feel like production pushed this theme too hard, especially with the ridiculous opening twist of immediately sending someone to Redemption Island.
7) Game Changers (Season 34)
Was this a full cast of iconic players who proved in their seasons that they could change the game? No. But did several castaways surprise us with incredible performances to prove why they were brought back? Definitely. Looking past the title for the season, Game Changers had some thrilling moments of advanced gameplay.
It almost felt like the Cook Islands finale with Sarah Lacina’s sneaky but masterful strategic gameplay up against Brad Culpepper who dominated physically winning Five Individual Immunities and played an impressive pre-merge game. We also got treated by another great run by Cirie, proving why she’s the best social player in Survivor history.
6) Kaoh Rong (Season 32)
While Game Changers was full of advantages, idols and super crazy gameplay, Kaoh Rong brought back that old school Survivor feel. Season 32 will probably be the last time we’ll ever see only three Hidden Immunity Idols in 39 days. The great part about Kaoh Rong is that it didn’t need advantages or idols to make the action entertaining.
Tai Trang stole the show with a lovable and unique personality. Combine that with several other dynamic characters including Scott Pollard, Kyle Jason, Aubry Bracco, and Cydney Gillon and you have the recipe for a strong season. Although the winner might not have been the most deserving finalist, on a whole, Kaoh Rong was a fun throwback that gave birth to one of the most memorable Tribal Councils in we’ve seen.
5) Millennials vs. Gen X (Season 33)
Who would have expected a theme like this one to work so well? From start to finish, Millennials vs. Gen X was constantly surprising viewers with active gameplay. This season had it all from correct and incorrect idol plays, to a climactic rock draw and even a perfectly created fake idol. Combine that with one of the strongest and most entertaining new casts of the decade and you have yourself a great season.
4) David vs. Goliath (Season 37)
Here’s another season that had fans scratching their heads when the theme was revealed. It didn’t take long for the season to change our minds. From Day 1, audiences knew that this group of contestants were special. Even though there were quite a few advantages and idols in this season, there were several unforgettable Tribal Councils where nothing was played.
Christian, Davie, Angelina, Nick, Gabby, Mike, Carl, Natalie and the list of incredible Survivor personalities go on. This talented cast also produced one of the most iconic moments in the show’s history, something that I didn’t think could happen 37 seasons in. Carl’s epic Idol Nullifier play came at the height of the battle between the Davids and the Goliaths, putting the icing on the cake of a phenomenal season.
3) Cambodia – Second Chance (Season 31)
Returning player seasons got a little muddied after Heroes vs. Villains. Second Chance showed Survivor fans why having a full cast of returning players every now and then is so important. This group of second-time castaways evolved the game in a way we have never seen before. Led by Stephen Fishbach, this season moved from alliances to a more temporary form of allegiances called voting blocs.
This led to an unpredictable season where bonds and alliances were constantly shifting. Second Chance entered into the history books with some great moments including Kelley Wentworth’s record-breaking idol play. Beyond strategy, Cambodia still brought dynamic personalities to the forefront with the help of Keith Nale, Joe Anglim and Abi-Maria.
2) Cagayan (Season 28)
Speaking of dynamic personalities, say hello to Survivor: Cagayan. Having Tony Vlachos run around the island with his bag of tricks and his spy shack was enough to make Cagayan a fun outing. Add in a great rivalry between masterful strategist Spencer Bledsoe and Chaos Kass, as well as Woo Hwang’s trademark chill personality. Cagayan might not have as a complete cast as David vs. Goliath or Millennials vs. Gen X, but this core group made for one the most unique and exciting seasons there is.
1) Heroes vs. Villains (Season 20)
The one season that kicked off this decade must be at the top of this list. Heroes vs. Villains was the perfect transition from Old School Survivor to the game it is today. There was no need for a tribe swap, as the dynamics among the Heroes and especially the Villains made for the greatest pre-merge phase.
Beyond the infamous personality clashes and big-time alliance battles, the game’s strategy took a big step in its evolution. It became the first season to feature two idol plays by the same person, as well as the concept of playing a Hidden Immunity Idol for someone else. No season has more legendary moments than Heroes vs. Villains, and it will be difficult for any season to get even close to its level of greatness.