20. Samoa (Season 19)
Finally, we have arrived at one of the more polarizing and “game-changing” seasons in the history of Survivor. The arrival of Russell Hantz in the show’s canon is something that forever altered the notion of a villain in the game but also shone a light on the importance of jury-management.
Hantz was undeniably incredible to watch in this season. Finding Immunity Idols without a clue—and then finding more and more—he seemed like a maniac put on this earth to play the game in a way it had never been played before. That was continued with his incessant lying to everyone, all with the purpose of getting ahead in the game. Even crazier was that his manipulation tactics worked to get him to the end-game and Final Tribal Council, just as he desired. Of course, the goal of the game isn’t to get to Final Tribal.
The goal is to win, and Hantz’s strategy was never going to allow him to do that. His strategy was almost wholly predicated on burning bridges for personal gain. That’s not going to make any friends, and it’s how you end up with one of the most underwhelming winners in history, Natalie White. Even still, the arrival of Hantz makes Samoa a noteworthy and unforgettable season.