Most memorable moments from Survivor: Samoa

Survivor winner Natalie White poses after "Survivor: Samoa Finale" (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Survivor winner Natalie White poses after "Survivor: Samoa Finale" (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) /

Survivor: Samoa was the 19th season of the show and aired in the fall of 2009. It’s the second to last season in the “old school” era of the show.

Season 19 of Survivor took the series to Samoa, where 20 contestants competed for the title of Sole Survivor. What were some of the most memorable moments from Survivor: Samoa?

Tribe Leaders

One of the first things Jeff Probst asked the two tribes to do was to pick a leader for their tribe. This happened without anyone having the chance to talk to anyone. Foa Foa selected Mick Trimming while Galu chose Russell Swan.

These two were then tasked with people certain people to accomplish certain tasks in a challenge, which Foa Foa won. Those two gentlemen continued to be the leaders of their respective teams until Russell was medically evacuated. Shannon “Shambo” Waters then was named the new leader of Galu.

Introduction of Russell Hantz

Without a doubt, when people think of Survivor: Samoa, they think of Russell Hantz, who dominated the air time that season.

When asking around how people felt about Samoa, the consensus seems to be that if you enjoy watching Russell play, then Samoa is a decent season. If you dislike Russell and were annoyed with him hogging all of the airtime, then it’s probably not a season you’ll look forward to rewatching.

So much of the air time was devoted to Russell that a YouTube user actually took the time to make a newly edited version of Samoa with equal air time split up between the contestants. The link has unfortunately been taken down, but the fact that it was even created shows how skewed the edit was.

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Visiting the Losing Tribe

Past seasons have used the kidnapping twist where the winning team gets to pick a member of the losing team to come spend time with them for a day. Samoa was the opposite where the winner would choose someone from their own camp to go to the other tribe until the next challenge.

This was something that the team leader would decide and it appeared

Medical Evacuation

I mentioned earlier how Russell Swan – the other Russell on Samoa – was medically evacuated 15 days into the game. This happened during a challenge where Russell actually passed out onto the table maze the tribe was working on. He was so exhausted from how hard he was working that he had to be pulled from the game.

Mike Borassi was removed from the game on Day 5 due to some hard hits he took during an incredibly physical reward challenge. This season had some brutal challenges and that showed with Mike’s departure.

Kelly Blindside / Galu Implosion

It wasn’t looking good for the four remaining members of Foa Foa when the two tribes merged into Aiga. They were down eight members to four, but it was clear there was a strong divide amongst the remaining Galu members.

Somehow, even with an eight to four person advantage, the former Galu tribe was content with taking out their own, which happened when Erik Cardona was blindsided on Day 21 and became the first member of the jury.

The next vote was what really changed things, as the Foa Foas all threw their votes on Kelly Sharbaugh while everyone else voted for Russell, who played his Hidden Immunity Idol and that negated the seven Galu votes thrown his way.

Kelly’s exit lead to six Galu members and four Foa Foas, but the problem for Galu was that Shambo had flopped over to the other side after she felt disrespected by Galu throughout the entire pre-merge. This made it even at five-five and made drawing rocks a possibility, which John Fincher did not want to do and cast his vote for Laura Morett instead.

There was the final nail in the Galu’s coffin. They blew an 8-4 person advantage and lived to tell the tale.

Bitter Jury/Controversial Winner

More from Surviving Tribal

There’s a large majority of people who don’t feel like the right person won Survivor: Samoa. I’ll be honest in saying that yes, Russell deserved to win the season because he was controlling most of the votes that season.

The problem with Russell’s game, however, and a big reason why he has never won in any of his tries is that he doesn’t have something important called jury management. When Russell voted someone out, he was a jerk about it and he flaunted his game play in people’s faces. This is not something a person should do if they expect to receive someone’s vote at the end of the game.

Russell learned this the hard way in Samoa and because he didn’t have the opportunity to watch his season play out and learn from those mistakes, he did the exact same thing on Heroes vs Villains. He had no regard for people’s feelings and was arrogant about the way he played and then he whined at both reunion shows about how the game was flawed. Ugh.

While yes, the jury in Samoa was bitter about the way Russell voted all of them out, they had every right to feel that way!

Natalie White, the winner of Survivor: Samoa and who has been crapped on so much by the fan base that she’s disappeared completely, understood early on that her best play to get to the end was to ride Russell’s coattails and let him be his own worst enemy. That’s EXACTLY what played out.

While Russell imploded, Natalie was forming bonds with the Galu members while also voting them out. It’s also worth noting that the editors clearly didn’t want to show Natalie as a good winner and that was obvious when they didn’t give her a freaking confessional until episode 5 and she had maybe 15-20 confessionals the entire season while Russell had triple that.

I’ll defend anyone who wins Survivor because if you win a season, then you deserved it! Russell was great at getting to the end, but when it comes to being great at all aspects of the game, he couldn’t get the social aspect down and that cost him every time.


Survivor: Samoa is in the bottom tier of seasons for me simply because the editing was putrid. It was all about Russell and this began the “Russell Hantz Era” of Survivor, which finally ended after Caramoan, three and a year years later.

Natalie doesn’t get the credit she deserved and it’s a shame that Survivor fans scared her off to the point where we never hear from her anymore. She didn’t deserve the hate and should have gotten an edit that showed why she was worthy of winning Survivor: Samoa.

These are the biggest issues with Samoa.

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What were your favorite moments from season 19?