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- His legacy has been tainted numerous times over, but let's give it up for Richard Hatch, who sussed out, almost immediately, the one path of secret alliances, game theory, random challenge competence and just plain luck that would convert a tubby, often-naked Smug Snake into a Magnificent Bastard and first Sole Survivor. His crowning moment was probably intentionally throwing the final immunity challenge, even explaining his reasoning right there and then: that if either Kelly or Rudy won the challenge, both had an incentive to take him, an admitted slimeball, to the finals over their relatively likable other competitor. From that point forth, it was clear that if this guy could win, anyone had a shot at a million dollars.
- Kelly, from the same season, won four consecutive immunity challenges (as well as a reward challenge) when the target was on her back after she betrayed Rich's alliance.
- Hell let's give it up to Rudy Boesch. 72 years old, anti social by nature and made it to the final 3 anyway based on his going outside his comfort zone
- Not only did Rudy make it to the final three, the only reason he didn't make it to the final two is because of a very simple and dumb move at the Immunity Challenge. His body didn't give out, he didn't succumb to the weakness of his age, he made a plain old mistake that anybody could have made.
- How badass was Rudy? He immediately applied for season 2. He eventually would return in All Stars, setting the record for oldest castaway at the age of 75. He was even willing to play on Heroes vs Villains when he was in his early 80s. The guy is a beast!
- Gervase was one of the first people to recognize the Tagi alliance, to the extent that he started going to tribal council wearing a shirt that had a bulls-eye made of duct tape on it. When he realized he was about to become the next one to be voted out, he decided to go out with a Badass Boast that even impressed Mark Burnett.
Gervase: Theyíd better vote me off. Gervase learned long ago that the only person responsible for Gervase is Gervase. If they donít vote me off tonight I will win this game. I will win every Immunity Challenge, and get rid of them one by one. If they donít vote me off, I will win the million. I will make them pay for this mistake. Thatís all I got to say. Donít make the mistake of keeping me around because I. Will. Beat. Your. Ass.
- Susan Hawk set the bar for scathing jury comments with her "snakes and rat" speech, which is still quoted today by Survivor fans.
Susan: I plead to the jury tonight to think a little bit of the island we have been on. This island is full of, pretty much, only two things - snakes and rats. And in the end of Mother Nature, we have Richard The Snake, who knowingly went after prey; and Kelly, who turned into the rat that ran around like rats do on this island, trying to run from the snake. I believe we owe it to the island spirits we have come to know to let it end in the way that Mother Nature intended: For the snake to eat the rat.
- The immunity challenge of the penultimate episode has the final five go on a Blair Witch style hunt. Before the hunt, they're told several legends from the culture of Borneo, along with a mysterious circumstance that had been occurring at Tribal Council since the merger: during the voting, the torch of the castaway that was going to be voted out was extinguished by the wind, forcing the production crew to relight it so it could be snuffed out. At that night's Tribal, Sean is voted out, and when he goes to grab his torch, sure enough, the wind had already extinguished it.
Jeff: The tribe has spoken, the jungle has spoken.
- Colby's streak of 7 individual Challenge victories right up to the end, interrupted only by a reward challenge in which family members played instead of the castaways. It's pretty much taken for granted that he would have won the season if he had taken the very-beatable Keith to the finals, instead of staying loyal to Tina.
- Consider this: Tina's victory came from one of the most unique strategies in Survivor history: using the first season as a weapon. After Borneo and the Tagi 4 left a bitter taste in viewers' mouths, she managed to convince all of the other players she played with that they should be more moral than the people of Borneo, and that The Good Guys Always Win. As a older spunky Southern mother, she was able to give the appearance of a mother figure and good guy, all the while orchestrating the elimination of everybody post-merge (and giving some less-heroic snarky confessionals in the background to boot.)
- The reward challenge from episode 3. Both Colby and Mike are holding more than 400lbs of water on their backs for several minutes before the pole Mike is carrying snaps in half from all the weight.
- Jerri gets one early on. When the tribe is starving, in part because Keith's attempts at cooking rice ended up with inedible results, Jerri manages to make tasty tortillas from scratch, managing to get the whole tribe something to eat.
- Although she didn't win the actual game, it was quite impressive to watch fifty-seven year old Kim Johnson from Africa beat out two guys who were respectively twenty and thirty years younger than her in the last endurance contest that featured scorching heat and after going through a previous 38 days of physical hell.
- Ethan utterly subverting the idea of Nice Guys Finish Last, especially in a game where they often do, and winning Survivor after Lex and Big Tom implode by fighting with each other. In fact, the very reason Kim took him to the end over Lex was because she thought Ethan was a more deserving, less entitled player.
- The Individual Reward challenges all being downright amazing. You have epic ones like Lex and Big Tom on an African Safari by way of Hot Air Balloon, heartwarming ones like Ethan and Lex visiting the African village to barter goats and other items or Lex delivering health supplies to a local clinic, and ones that are downright funny like Frank and Brandon going on a movie date or the amazingly hilarious food auction.
- Maraamu's surprise challenge victories in Episode 5 and 6 - after Gabriel fumbles at the Reward Challenge for Rotu, Maraamu go on a short but meaningful challenge streak that involved not one but two come-from-behind victories at Reward Challenges, and although all original Maraamu members are gone by the end of Episode 6, it was still worth watching one of the biggest train wrecks of a tribe actually win something.
- Neleh and Paschal finally listening to Kathy and Sean telling them that they were on the bottom of the Rotu alliance, and with their effort perform the biggest power shift in the show's history at that point.
- Once it was down to five, The Rotu-4 show up all dressed in black, as a warning sign to the rebels. Vecepia got the hint; Neleh, on the other hand...
- Vecepia Towery may have been Out of Focus for the good half of the season, but for a good part of the show's history she was the only person before Chris in Vanuatu to seamlessly backstab and worm her way in and out of alliances and into the Final 2 and ''still' get the jury to vote for her at the end.
- He may be a borderline sociopath and a convicted animal-abuser, but Brian Heidik's run during Thailand took Richard Hatch's template for strategy and did it even better than him. In fact, he so thoroughly dominated everyone in his season that Thailand is often considered one of the worst seasons due to his win being practically written in the stars (although many do like the season on its own terms and/or actually enjoy watching Brian run rings around everyone). Bonus points by being able to do so after his wife CC showed off his huge house, grand piano, Cadillac and Mercedes in the video from home, despite him putting up an image of a humble, down-on-his-luck used car salesman.
- Brian stands out as the first winner to be dominant in all aspects of the game. Brian devised a strategy to have a final two deal with everyone in his alliance and positioned himself as the number two in each alliance so he wouldn't be percieved as a leader. He was masterful at reading people and understanding what everybody in the alliance thought of everybody else, which he used to tailor his relationship with each player and exploited by bringing the most hated member of the group to the end (the first time a goat was brought to the end). And physically he was a fantastic challenge competitor who won the final three immunity challenges, effectively making him untouchable when his alliance was forced to turn on itself and giving him ultimate control over the final phase of the game. While his season his hated and many fans are turned off by his personal life he is still held in high regard as one of the best one-time players.
- Just from how the first episode was set up, one could probably tell immediately that it was going to happen, but the all-female Jaburu tribe absolutely pulverising the all-male Tambaquis in the first immunity challenge in not one but two parts, the balance beam and the puzzle (where a rocket scientist and a computer guy were beaten in the puzzle by none other than a school counselor and a mother of three) was one of the most satisfying (if you were a female) and humbling (if you were a male) premiere moments of the entire show.
- The men roared to life in the fourth round. At the reward challenge, the men were down two points. They literally banded together, putting their bare hairy legs in harm's way to protect their fire, and rapidly scored their four points while the women remained stuck at two and went into a tailspin. Spear Counterpart to the aforementioned incident: satisfying if you were a male, humbling if you were a female.
- Rob Cesternino managing to orchestrate two (three if you count Heidi) consecutive blindsides of former allies, one right after the other, and still being able to make it almost to the end (he ends up getting booted just a day before the finals, and according to most, would have won had he been in the final two). Rob is also arguably the first person to introduce modern style game play to Survivor, influencing players for years (including fellow Chessmaster Jonny Fairplay one season later).
- Matt takes notes from alliance partner Rob, and blindsides him in the final three by throwing the immunity challenge. The student doesn't win the million, but hey... he beat his sensei.
- Jenna gives up her immunity necklace to Heidi at the Final 6 and managed to survive, in the season with no HIDDEN IMMUNITY IDOL, can you replicate that?
- Jenna, knowing she was next to go at the final 4, going on an immunity streak to secure her place in the final 2.
- Jenna becoming the first winner to win in a "blowout" (she beat Matt 6-1). In previous seasons, the runners-up at least got a few votes from the jury.
- Guess where his hand was at the reunion?
- Though he ended up having quite the Broken Base, Rupert swiping the other team's stuff to sell in the marketplace during Pearl Islands. One would like to think that he knew that since he was in a season with a Pirate theme, the Manipulative Editing would be on his side all the way to the end.
- Sandra's entire performance while in the town counts as well. While the people from the Morgan tribe were running around confused, disorganized and having problems with the language barrier, Sandra already spoke Spanish, so she had no problem communicating, but then she also shows herself to be very skilled at dealing with the merchants to get the best prices on what they needed, including things like a living chicken, kerosene, lamps and toothbrushes, amongst other things. And then she stumbles upon a barbeque party, where she exchanges a gold chain she had for aluminum foil, ketchup, condiments, BBQ sauce, cutting board, knife, and all their grilled chicken.
- Johnny Fairplay getting nearly everyone to throw a reward challenge because he's convinced them his grandmother died, while Arch Rival Sandra, the only one not convinced, has to sit there and watch him breeze to an easy win. Moral Event Horizon? Possibly. But man was it hilarious.
- Let's not forget his very impressive game, being able to manipulate almost everyone post merge into voting out who he wanted. And when he was in danger, in every instance but one, he was able to talk his way out and throw the dirt onto someone else.
- But during the reunion show, Jeff Probst invites Johnny Fairplay's alive grandmother show. Take that, Fairplay!
- "I'm gonna screw you aaaaannnnnnnd Burton!"
- What happened was while Jon was on a reward feast with Burton, Lill was upset that Jon broke his promise and assume everything he says is a lie including the 'dead grandma' (Which is true and Sandra comment that everything she says after hearing Lill's confession was true). Taking this opportunity than sabotaging their stuffs, she rallied Darrah and Lill to get rid of his right-hand man, Burton. She manage to pretend she's in depression that she's going home. Cue to Jon's convincing Sandra which cue to the line above. During the jury vote, the men were stunned that the women did in fact make an alliance and Burton was voted out. The jury loved it seeing how it was played.
- Lill had been overall very emotional and would cry at the drop of a hat, and she became Jonny Fairplay's personal Butt-Monkey. And then the final Immunity Challenge comes up, an endurance challenge, where Lill changes from meek and mopey to absolute badass. Throughout the challenge, a desperate Fairplay tries several times to cut a deal with her to let him win Immunity, only for her to constantly shoot him down and taunt him as he struggled, and ultimately failing as Lill wins the final immunity with astonishing ease.
Lill: Do you know what? I do aerobics. My knees are great.Jon: Uh, okay.Lill: My ankles are great.Jon: Okay.Lill: These are called squats in aerobics.Jon: (weakly): Okay.Jeff: I think Lill just said "Game on."Jon (defeated): I think Lill just said "Game over."
- Or how about when Lill was voted off? Her torch doesn't snuff at the first attempt, leading Jeff to say "they don't want you to go" - and in hindsight, it's a chillingly awesome foreshadowing that was overlooked in the first viewing, because Lill does indeed come back. And while she doesn't win Survivor, she managed to outlast the people who voted her off and even made it to final two.
- Boston Rob shows he's the one whose learned the most from previous seasons and spins a web of manipulation that takes him and girlfriend (later his wife) Amber to the final two.
- Amber participating All-Stars was easily her best option in her life. Not only she won, she won the most out of anybody, money, prestige and most of all, true love.
- A shark bites Richard Hatch. Richard bites back.
- At the reunion, Richard utterly demolishing Lex and Kathy's argument that Boston Rob had somehow personally betrayed them by making a move in the game, even pointing out that Kathy made part of his argument for him by saying they had other reasons besides personal friendship to keep Amber in the game as Rob had requested.
- And this came right after the audience booed Lex while he's in the middle of claiming that it was okay for him to do to Ethan what Rob did to him because Ethan "didn't fit into his gameplan".
- Shii-Ann winning her immunity challenge in at the final 7. After the former Chaperas had completely isolated her, making it very obious that she was the next to go, she wins immunity, forcing the Chaperas to start targeting each other.
- Chris during the entire second half of Vanuatu. Stuck in an outnumbered alliance, being left high and dry when his allies are swept out, seemingly without a prayer... and then taking advantage of the growing dissent among the dominant alliance (the "bowheads") and letting all the other remaining contestants crash to pieces around him, even noting at one point: "I don't trust any of them, none of them trust each other, but the weird thing is I think they all trust me." He ultimately rode the momentum all the way to the big bucks. Bonus points because the Manipulative Editing seemed to have presumed a female victor from that season's Battle of the Sexes.
- It might have been a crushing experience for Ulong, but there was something awesome about seeing the tribe full of older people demolish the young and physically buff tribe by virtue of brains and teamwork.
- Angie basically single-handedly winning a reward challenge for Ulong after just having been deemed weak at the previous Tribal Council.
- The Koror get to determine individual immunity for the Ulong. It takes only three votes to decide on Ibrehem... and some of the Ulong are visibly crushed.
- Tom's killing of the shark, for five reasons:
- 1) Badassery: Hey, it's killing a freakin' shark.
- 2) Sustenance: It provided quite a meal for the tribe.
- 3) Strategy: As Coby points out, it made Tom a much harder target to vote off.
- 4) Irony: Bobby Jon, Ulong's main fisher, was afraid of pursuing sharks like that.
- 5) Symbolism: Ulong's tribe symbol was a shark, and given the tribe's curbstomping...
- The final Immunity challenge where Tom and Ian competed in an endurance test for 12 hours.
- Of the fifteen immunity challenges in the season, including the race for the necklace on Day 1, Tom only lost *three*. He was one of the first players to win every single tribal immunity challenge and the first player since Colby to win five individual immunity challenge, and he did it all when he was forty years old. He was the oldest winner at the time (and currently the third oldest) and absolutely one of the most badass ever.
- Rafe Judkins, a longtime fan of Survivor since his youth (sort of like a successor to Rob Cesternino and a proto-Todd Herzog), very nearly won this season by controlling the majority alliance during the merge via a figurehead (Stephanie) who he planned to take all the blame for the various betrayals that he actually cast. His only flaw was perhaps being a little too savvy (bordering on Wrong Genre Savvy) and assuming that Lydia would somehow squeak by like many other "weak" female players who won the final Immunity Challenge in seasons past (such as Kim Johnson, Neleh, and Jenna Morasca). So he voted Lydia out, sparing the much more athletic Danni (who, by all accounts, was almost dead on her feet), who would go win the final challenge, vote out Rafe, beat Stephanie at the Final Tribal Council, and win the game.
- Just Danni Boatwright. She was at the top of a majority alliance on her original tribe and had working relationships with everybody besides two people. When the tribal shuffle happened and it hurt her numbers by losing her two allies who changed tribes, she just axed one old ally (Blake) in exchange for two new ones (Gary/Amy) to maintain her numbers. Her tribe ended up losing the final challenge, and she got Amy voted out so that she would be in an alliance of all athletic males (Gary/Brandon/BJ), who she knew would get voted out before her, and they did. At the final six, she was all alone up against the Nakum alliance of five, but won a crucial challenge. That split the majority by getting the hot-headed Judd voted off, and Danni's sway over Rafe allowed her to outlast other Nakums Lydia and Cindy at the next two Tribal Councils, putting her in a final three with season-long friends and allies Rafe and Stephenie.. where she managed to take them both down in the final Endurance challenge, take America's hero Stephenie to the end, and completely demolish her in a 6-1 jury vote, having only had one vote against her the entire game. Danni's entire legacy was a Moment of Awesome, because she seemed to do no wrong and always won crucial challenges and was always in the best possible position, and nobody out there knew she was doing any of it... unfortunately, because she wasn't a big character, the viewers never caught on either, and she went down as the forgotten winner of Survivor.
Panama - Exile Island
- Cirie's Triple Play. To put it simply, she manipulates everybody else left in the game to vote exactly how she wanted.
- One tiny hiccup, though: this play throws the door wide open for the only event that could threaten her game: Aras winning immunity at the Final Four. Guess what happened?
- He might be the more pretentious, less charming version of Tom Westman from Palau, but Terry's immunity run during this season (while his entire tribe was being Pagonged, no less) was definitely a sight to behold. And the other players grew to respect him as a result.
- Terry set the record for post-merge challenge wins with nine, which he still holds a decade later.
- Aras' masterful game. He managed to keep his tribe of crazies, many of whom had ties to their original four-member tribe, and keep them on track to vote together and Pagong the La Minas, against many of their own self-interests, mainly by combining his aura of youthful-yoga-master-of-peace-and-unity with a strong anti-La-Mina propaganda campaign entirely behind the other former La Mina's backs. When Terry goes on an immunity run, you would think that Aras would be the first to go of the Casayas, as both a social and physical threat. Yet, using his campaign against Terry and La Mina, he convinces his tribe to keep him around over other members specifically so that he can beat Terry in an immunity challenge and force him to flush his idol. Simply put, Aras turned two huge post-merge liabilities (challenge strength and social strength) into advantages; he was tight enough with his former tribesmates that they let him live so he could use his physical strength to take down Terry.
- Yul, Ozzy, Becky and Sundra completely owning an opposing tribe twice as large as them after Candice and Jonathan's mutinies by winning challenge after challenge for the next two episodes and managing to become the majority alliance in spite of a 4-5 deficit at the merge with Yul cleverly using his Immunity Idol to get Jonathan to flip back over to their side.
- Also better is the quote Ozzy said to Raro after winning the reward challenge after the mutiny.
- Voting off Edgardo in Fiji, catching the arrogant "Four Horsemen" alliance completely off-guard. This was actually thanks to Dreamz's shifted his alleigance to Earl's alliance.
- Extra points go to Stacy. Earlier in that episode, a Q&A challenge centered around the contestants showed her that pretty much everybody in there hated her guts. This makes her realize she has to get in good with these people, and she's the one who comes up with the idea of blindsiding Edgardo and not telling blabbermouth Dreamz about it.
- Earl becoming the show's first unanimously chosen winner. What made this more impressive is that he hadn't even seen Survivor or even knew what it was about before he went on the show. Not only that, but he was placed on the "poor" Ravu tribe in the beginning of the game, which had nothing to its name. Despite this, he was able to form a lasting alliance with Yau-Man, who he protected when he heard the vote was going his way. His leadership and charisma kept the target off of his back. In the end, he managed to bring two universally disliked people, Cassandra, who was seen as a coattail rider, and Dreamz, who was disliked for his betrayal of the Four Horsemen and going back on Yau-Man's deal, and win easily after his opponents were roasted by the jury, only losing out on a perfect game due to a throwaway vote from Rita in the third tribal council.
- Michelle made fire by using Sylvia's bifocals and water. (a la Lord of the Flies) Not everyone thought it was going to work, but it worked!
- Anything that Yau-Man does. Really. This shows that a 54-year old man can prove to be useful.
- Yau-Man's very first scene. All of the buff guys like Rocky, Alex, and Dreamz couldn't open a crate that was dropped at the beach, no matter how hard they kicked it or smashed it or even throw the rock at it. Then came Yau-Man and gives it a try, and the group humors him. In less than ten seconds, he manages to open it by hitting it at the corner of the crate. That Master's degree he has in physics is good for something!
- During the fireball challenge, Mookie and this group laughs at him while mocking his way of throwing. Cue to Yau-Man landing a hit for his team.
- Finding the idol. All of his moments.
- At the final 6, realizing that he is in danger, he plays the idol and blindsides Stacy, making it the first successful modern idol play.
- Making a deal with Dreamz not to vote him out during the final 4. But unfortunately, he still votes him out. But Dreamz didn't win the million dollar for being unloyal.
- But even if Dreamz kept his word and voted out either Earl or Cassandra, Yau-Man would have won the million dollar and Dreamz still doesn't win. Yau-Man must have seen this coming.
- Todd shutting up Jean-Robert in the final tribal council. The jury members are, well... astounded. Watch from 7:03-8:28.
- Courtney's performance in the entire game deserves a mention. Despite her smaller figure compared to the other contestants, she managed to make it to the end, and had it not been for Todd giving an amazing FTC performance, she may have won.
Micronesia - Fans Vs. Favorites
- The many many blindsides from the Black Widow Brigade lead by Parvati, Amanda, Cirie, Natalie and Alexis. James was lucky he wasn't the victim since he was force to quit due to injury.
- Cirie successfully blindsiding Ozzy, in spite of him having an Immunity Idol in his possession.
- The girls notice that Jason has the idol after his trip to Exile Island. However, they manage to charm him that they're voting for James. Guess what happened next?
- Amanda's Oscar-winning performance with her putting on a extremely convincing "I know I'm going home and it sucks" act and then shocking everyone by playing the Immunity Idol at Tribal Council. The best part of this is that she actually dumped out her bag in front of her tribal mates beforehand to show them that she didn't have the Idol, and that she wasn't even lying because she knew the Idol was buried at camp and only had to dig it out before Tribal Council.
- The best moment is during the Final Five, and Erik has won immunity. Worried, the girls might have to sacrifice one of their own. However, Cirie manages to give a crazy suggestion by making Natalie asking Erik to give up his immunity necklace. Crazy as it sounds even Natalie comments "Who would fall for that?" but much to everyone's shock in the tribal council...IT WORKS. Cue to Erik getting voted out while Jeff final comments it "I think this is what we called...A life lesson!".
- Bob winning a string of Immunity Challenges and surviving a Final Four showdown to win Gabon. Creating his own fake Immunity Idol might have been the highlight.
- To date he's the oldest winner at 57.
- In episode 11, Bob and Corinne decided that she should sucker Kenny into helping to evict Matty. This sets up an absolutely glorious saga of trust and betrayal which ends with Kenny getting crushed and humiliated by his own lies and trickery.note Episode 13 sees Bob necklaced yet again, and then he shuts Kenny down:
Kenny: I really feel that Bob is acting only to back down on his deal, because the deal was that if he won the next challenge, he'd give it to me, and then he said, "...only if I think you're going". Apparently, there was some small print at the bottom of the contract that you had to look through the magnifying glass to see, so I think that he's putting some loopholes around the deal, and trying to back out of it somehow.Bob: Well, what I didn't realize was, he went back to the tribe and discussed with people that when I gave him the necklace that they would then blindside me. I was trying to take care of him, and he was gonna take advantage of me! That changed things quite dramatically. (to Kenny) That was the small print at the bottom of the contract that you forgot to read: "if I help you, you help me", not "if I help you, you stab me In the Back".[The Jury silently goes wild at this revelation.]
- To be fair, even though Crystal did bone it up with the help of Ken's voting split idea, the fact that Bob and Corinne nearly fished out of a 5-2 minority with a fake immunity idol and was seriously close to getting into a Final 4 deal is pretty outlandish and awesome. Here's the fake idol he used (with the charred remains of the Randy idol.)◊
- Sugar putting Randy through a Humiliation Conga by convincing Bob to give his fake Immunity Idol to him. It might not have had any strategic purpose, but damn it was hilarious to watch, especially since it relied on Randy and Corinne believing that Sugar was too stupid to have found the Idol on Exile Island before Bob was sent there. (Which she had. On her very first trip to Exile Island. Who's the stupid one now?)
"All three of you. Kiss. My. Ass!!!"
- What happen was Randy was so annoying even after the 'cookie incident' during the Survivor auction that Sugar and her alliances wants him out. Randy was hoping Bob would find the hidden immunity idol, unknowing that Sugar has it. At Exile Island, Bob realize that someone else has it so he decides to create his own idol by stuffs he has taken (E.g: beads from the banner, rope from the clue) and it was well convincing (even Jeff mention during the reunion show that this is something that the show would produce). So once Bob shows the fake idol to Sugar, Sugar came up with a brilliant plan to spare Bob for a couple more days and tells him her plan. Bob then purposely shows Randy his 'idol' and gives it to him since Randy pisses everyone off. Randy takes the bait and handed to Jeff the idol. (cue to the above).
- Technically Randy is still pissed on Sugar's plan and delivers an Ironic Echo (based on Crystal) when casting his jury vote:
- At the reunion show, Jeff felt guilty of tossing Bob's perfectly made idol into the fire since it is part of the show and once everyone left, he quickly takes it out and manages to salvage it of what's left of the idol and gives it back to Bob as a memento.
- Randy of all people is the first player to discover a hidden immunity idol without any clues or hints, beating Russell to the punch by two seasons.
- J.T., from Tocantins, is the first player to have a "perfect game" to his credit; he managed to reach the final tribal council with no votes cast against him and won the final vote unanimously.
- Stephen's performance in the final 6 immunity challenge, despite being behind due to not being able to cross the balance beam, he is able to memorize the string of mathematical signs in one go by turning them into a string of numbers, and making an epic comeback to win immunity.
- Why is it no one talks about Jaison putting the insanely ignorant Ben Browning in his place the Tribal Council after he called black castmember Yasmin ghetto trash and Ashley a bitch? Jaison made it his mission in life to have the bully sent out of the game, and succeeded. After watching the way Colton treated Bill in One World and seeing no one step up to the plate in Manono to stop him, it's refreshing to look back on this awesome takedown.
Jaison: I just have to draw a line in the sand. And I have to say that there is no one million dollars that is worth me sitting up here with him anymore. I mean, I sat here and watched him scream at Yasmin at our camp and over here, saying... incredible things. So is there a way to patch this rift? I don't think so. But I'm not gonna sit in camp and just listen to this guy anymore. I'm just not.
- Though, in retrospect, his strategy was deeply flawed, at the time, Russell Hantz's first game of Survivor was a sight to behold. The top moment was how he managed to survive a very unfavorable merge by playing his immunity idol at just the right time. Finding immunity idols without hints is a bit more commonplace now, but it single-handedly turned the game upside down... Though, of course...
- Natalie staying quietly in the background and letting Russell destroy himself with his unethical game and arrogance in the final tribal council of Samoa, then hilariously smirking at him when he loses to her, 7-2.
Heroes vs. Villains
- The very first episode starts off with one. The castaways arrive at Samoa via airlift from the New Zealand Air Force. The Heroes arrive first and get a chance to do a Power Walk to the beach. Then the Villains arrive, do their own Power Walk, while their helicopters blow sand into the faces of the Heroes.
- They're then thrown immediately into the first challenge, which involves fighting over a buried bag. The animosity between the two sides is palpable, and makes for some incredibly brutal combat. Then two of the Heroes, Stephenie and Rupert, suffered the earliest injuries ever in the history of the show (with a dislocated shoulder and broken toe, respectively). And the Heroes still won. This was the moment that told you this season was going to be badass.
- Rob being the first player in the series to make fire without the use of flint or matches - he creates it entirely from scratch, after everyone gave up and Randy finished telling them they're never going to have fire by nightfall. Following this, Rob becomes the de facto leader of the group for over half the season.
- Russell may have a Broken Base, but he made some very clever moves in his second go round:
Russell: (After the challenge) Now I donít even have to find idols. People are actually giving' me idols. You donít hand the enemy the idol, especially when his name is Russell Hantz. You donít do that. Thatís a no-no.Russell: (After showing it to Parvati J.T.'s letter) How do you give the idol king an idol? "Here Mr. Russell, hereís an idol, this idolís just for you!" Why thank you. You know what? I think that J.T. has just handed to me one million dollars. Hey, I guess he can afford it.
- He capitalizes on the Hero tribe's belief that he's the odd man out in an all-women's alliance, and winds up with a free Hidden Immunity Idol for his deception (to the point of tricking them into giving it to him for essentially nothing in return). The Heroes are way too convince about the all-women's alliance part.
- Seeing Russell lose again. It was still awesome to see him by bragging "who's the man?" at Tribal Council and acting like his arrogance and utterly sociopathic gameplay should be rewarded... and getting ripped apart by Hero and Villain, foe and ally alike. And then, at the live reunion, he ends up without any votes.
- After losing several Reward and Immunity Challenges, the Heroes tribe stages a complete domination over the Villains during a combo Reward/Immunity Challenge, which involves fighting with bags on a platform over a mudpit. Again and again, the Villains get unceremoniously thrown into the mud - Danielle gets mud stuck in her teeth, Randy gets bowled over by James after being told to fight dirty, Coach gets pushed out by Rupert after trying to cheat, and Cirie practically chases Jerri off the platform. The Heroes end up achieving a Flawless Victory.
- How about Jerri? Jerri went from the most hated woman in America to the sweetheart of Heroes vs Villains. By far the most docile and genuine of the villains, Jerri got a ton of support from a matured fanbase who realized that compared to Russell, Danielle, Randy, and Parvati, Jerri was a lot nicer than she got credit for. By the end of the season, she was the favorite to win, and had she been just a moment faster on the Final Immunity Challenge, she very well might have.
- Related to that, by far a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming was the look on Jerri's face during when, in sharp contrast to when she got booed off of the stage in All-Stars Reunion for little discernible reason, the crowd cheered emphatically for her before she spoke.
- Jeff Probst telling Russell off at the Heroes vs. Villains reunion, after spending two seasons more or less favoring him over everyone (though thanks to the Manipulative Editing; we can be for certain whether or not he actually was favoring Russell or the parts where he mentioned Russell in anything but a positive light were merely cut out) even being nice to Russell when he was almost in tears at the Samoa reunion, he quickly tells Russell off when he begins to say that America should have control of the votes because he lost, Sandra won, and therefore the rules were flawed. He literally says, "That's not Survivor, that's a different game".
- Boston Rob weighs in: "He plays a good game to get to the end, but he doesn't play the game to actually win the game. And that's where he and I differ, among other things." He challenges Russell to another go-around, and Russell, being Russell, accepts on the spot without thinking about what he's set himself up for.
- Parvati's clever distribution of her Immunity Idols at Tribal which gives the Villians the majority for the remaining seasons, too bad the execution triggers Russell's ego.
- Sandra had several incredible moments that validated how well she played the game, and led her to become the first (and, so far, only) two time Sole Survivor):
- Burning Russell's hat (partly to unsettle him, and partly because she just plain hated him), and then helping him look for it to diffuse suspicion, and then proceeding to become the first (and so far only) two time Sole Survivor, by knowing how to play the social aspect of the game. Russell never knew (and still doesn't know) what hit him.
- Sandra uses Russell's inferiority complex to protect herself and Courtney - by convincing Russell that Coach is gunning for him. Russell immediately rallies his alliance and uses them to take out Coach, while Sandra laughs the whole time, unknowing this would mislead the Heroes that the villains are having a women's alliance.
- Realizing (at about the time that the Heroes were outnumbered) that it was to her advantage to keep Russell around as a goat...BUT to make sure the Heroes know how much she hated the man who voted them all out (despite the fact that the Heroes were eliminated one by one). The rest of the series is spent with Sandra calmly sassing and insulting Russell at every opportunity whilst he fumes and snarls over the one person on the island who refuses to be manipulated and/or bullied by him. Come the final tribal council, all Sandra has to do is point out that she was trying to help the Heroes get rid of him. She must have known she had it in the bag.
- Rupert tricking Russell with a fake immunity idol bluff, scaring Russell into voting off an alliance member instead. The big dummy outfoxes the puppetmaster without breaking a sweat! Didn't work out in the end for Rupert, but hey, it bought him another few rounds.
- In addition, earlier that round found Rupert spending the morning sitting Russell down and telling him how horrendous his behavior was, triggering Russell to show his fellow alliance-members just how borderline sociopathic and abusive he was to others. He and Colby then went on to rig a vote split to take out Candice, who'd betrayed them the round before, giggling about it when they planned it.
- At the reunion, Russell says, "Let me tell you how good I am!" Parvati's body language (remember, she's sandwiched between him and Sandra) pretty much sums it up. Ozzy, Jason, Alexis, and especially Erik must have fallen off their seats from laughing so hard.
- The Final Immunity Challenge is both awesome, hilarious, and tragic, especially at the end where Russell beat Jerri to the immunity necklace by not even a second, with Parvati only a few seconds behind them. Juxtaposed with Sandra still a long ways behind in the maze, complaining about how the challenge sucked.
- The beautiful part? The three who were inches away from winning the challenge would all go on to lose the game, and the woman all but cursing out Baby Jesus in the maze, Sandra, who had not won a single individual challenge in the history of the game, would go on to win Heroes vs Villains and be the only two-time winner.
- After an especially disappointing challenge performance, the latest in a series of losses that are at odds with his reputation from Australia, Colby is clearly very disheartened by the way the game has been going. When James' injury forces the Heroes to vote him out the tribe tells Colby that they took a risk so they could win challenges and they hope he can pull it together for the challenges ahead. He does, leading them to victory in the next reward challenge and doing very well in the immunity challenge.
- One immunity challenge gives wins to the last man and woman able to hold up an iron bar purely through keeping tension on it. Jane becomes the female winner...and keeps going until the challenge is completely over just to prove a point.
- Jane making fire with no problem because she had practiced it before coming on the show, even saying she's shocked nobody else thought of the same thing in the twenty or so seasons the show's been on.
- Fabio going on an immunity run at the end to win it all and proving that he wasn't as dumb as he let the other players think he was.
- Fabio's entire game is worth a mention. In the beginning, he started off as a complete doofus, most of his tribemates writing him off as a dumb blonde. However, he reveals in his confessionals that it is all part of his strategy- to appear as non-threatening as possible and let the stronger players take each other out. When his neck was on the line, he became unstoppable in challenges, winning three in a row. His crowning moment was when he convinced Chase and Sash to vote out their ally Jane, and the two of them forgot that Fabio even suggested the idea, making the two of them look like assholes in front of the jury as well as revealing their alliance.
- Holly's comeback story- in the beginning of the game, on Day 5, after her friend Wendy was voted out she was a nervous wreck, expressing a desire to quit and dumping Dan's alligator shoes in the lake. After Jimmy Johnson gives her a pep talk, she recovers from her desire to quit. She ends up making it to the final FOUR with a very good shot at winning, and had Fabio not won the final immunity, she may have.
- No mention on her coup d'etat against Brenda? She managed to get all of Brenda's allies (minus Purple Kelly) and vote her off unanimously leading to a big shift in the game.
- Kristina hits the beach and immediately begins to hunt for idols. And she pulls one out before the first tribal council.
- Episode 1. Philip is caught in a bad alliance with two other women, one of which is planning on using a hidden immunity idol to take out Boston Rob, team leader with the rest of the tribe behind him. Even when Philip calmly asks how they plan on doing that without votes, he receives dismissal and is treated like an idiot by his own alliance. To top it all off, Boston Rob has expected the possibility of an idol, and split the votes to win regardless. Just like Philip expected stepping into the alliance, this would typically put him on a sinking ship of distrust outside the rest of the tribe, doomed. Without even batting an eye, Philip breaks 21 seasons of tradition and loudly pronounces in Tribal Council everything. His alliance, the idol, their target of Rob, all the while his alliance members denying and trying to act like he's crazy. Instead of selling them out, he merely tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In the end, Philip changed the game by being the one thing nobody has been yet; 100% truthful. And yes, he walked away from that episode still in the game, his old alliance mates giving him votes anyway for spite. This act has since broken the Metagame to the point he went from next on the chopping block to the Final 3. No one on the show or at home can determine to what degree Philip's Cloud Cuckoo Lander personality was genuine and hilarious, genuine and annoying, a masterful play of the metagame, a terrible play of the metagame, or any combination thereof.
- Episode 3, when Russell Hantz was finally, finally, voted off of his tribe for the first time in two years. Russell haters across the country relished at seeing his torch getting snuffed. And then he was voted off for real in the next episode when Matt beat him in a duel. Yes! YES. Finally his reign of terror is over! And There Was Much Rejoicing. Bonus points for the fact that he whimpered on the way out.
- Matt's undefeated duel rush in Redemption Island. Boy, that dude really can play the physical game. Even after being voted out a second time, he's still on a roll.
- Boston Rob finding an idol clue in a cookie, successfully hiding it from everyone, then tossing it in a friggin' volcano.
- Towards the end of the season, Rob tells us how determined he is to finally win Survivor and proves it right in the next immunity challenge by pushing himself so hard that he collapses after his victory.
- After four attempts and a record 117 total days playednote , Rob Mariano won a season of Survivor, with an 8-1 jury vote in Redemption Island (Philip was the only other player to get a vote). He did so by playing what Probst called "the closest thing to a perfect game ever played". He earned trust in his tribe early on by helping out to build the camp. He found the hidden immunity idol with only one very esoteric clue, and kept all the other clues out of anyone else's hands. He used a blindside of Matt in the second tribal council to make an example of what would happen to any player who showed any signs of fraternizing with the other tribe. He kept every other member of his tribe thinking that he was bringing them to the finals. He successfully Pagonged the Zapatera tribe after the merge, even blindsiding Matt a second time before he could get in with the minority tribe. He was lucky enough to never have to face a food challenge and only have to face a couple endurance challenges and obviously had the producers on his side with puzzle after puzzle thrown at him for challenges. He won four individual immunity challenges, including the last one. Finally, he picked the two best people to serve as his rivals in the final tribal council: the girl who had ridden Rob's coattails the whole way and made no plays of her own the entire game, and the obnoxious Jerk Ass who everyone on the jury despised. Even Russell Hantz ended up giving props to Rob during the reunion for dominating the season from start to finish. Even if you think Rob is a Creator's Pet, you have to be at least happy that he'll be taking some time off.
- Jim and Brandon setting a Survivor record in the weight holding challenge, 240 pounds. It doesn't last long, but damn.
- Coach convincing Cochran to switch sides after the merge by A. Laying out an entirely correct explanation of all the secret plans of Cochran's tribe B. Simultaneously playing on Cochran's ego and resentment at exactly the right time in exactly the right way. Pagong'd!
- Even though Ozzy may have Took A Level In Jerk Ass, it's not hard to deny how much he dominated in Redemption Island, and is the only Survivor contestant to go back in the game twice.
- Cochran scores some points by giving Ozzy a close battle even though both of them knew he stood no chance agaisnt Ozzy.
- Sophie overcoming Ozzy's commanding lead in the final immunity challenge and beating the seeming unstoppable challenge machine. She gets dubbed the New Dragonslayer by Coach, eliminates Ozzy, and goes on to become the Darkhorse victor of the season.
- Colton's downfall, you can hear people singing Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead when he was evacuated.
- Kat's boot episode, full stop. Especially the Tribal Council where she said blindsides would be fun ("cool beans"). Then the votes come in for her, and she is stunned speechless. For viewers complaining about the predictability, if not the practicality, of the way the votes were going, this was a much-needed shot in the arm.
- Alicia had perhaps one of the best Karmic evictions in the series, She pretty much spends almost the entire game thinking she's got it. Cue an elimination in 5th place.
- Especially since she was Kim's preferred final opponent to face the jury - showing just how much control Kim had at the game.
- Say what you will about Christina, her performance in the final immunity challenge was nothing short of Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. Christina doesn't perform well in challenges in the game, yet is the only person who gives Kim a run for her money in the final immunity challenge. The immunity challenge itself might count as a Crowning Moment of Awesome too, it's one of the most creative challenges they did in the series.
- Penner finding the hidden immunity idol (arguably the most difficult and cleverly hidden since Nicaragua), on just the second episode.
- Episode nine, "Dead Man Walking", after Penner's attempts to form a majority alliance collapse thanks to Jeff Kent, he's the agreed upon target for the entire merged tribe. Penner would go on to win immunity against NINE people specifically targeting him. This would lead to one of the wildest tribal councils in the show's history and the eventual eviction of Jeff Kent.
- Malcolm in episode twelve. During an immunity challenge, he made a mistake and had to restart. Despite this drawback, he was able to catch up and win.
- Denise winning in part due to the fact that she came from one of the worst tribes in Survivor history and survived every single tribal council up to this point.
Caramoan - Fans Vs. Favorites
- Shamar's eviction, full stop. After four straight episodes of having to deal with his Jerkass behavior, he finally gets pulled out of the game by some sand in his eye.
- Brandon Hantz's elimination was not exactly his most...noble moment, but he still managed to be one of the only contestants to ever leave, as he put it, "The author of his own book". On top of the fact, the fact that he finally feels like he did exactly as a Hantz should in the game shows that, regardless how you feel about him (or the Hantzes in general), he knew how to go out in style. Top that with his absolutely scathing speech towards Philip, and you have one of the most memorable exits in Survivor history.
- Despite a few of his approach towards Brandon's argument were wrong ( E.g.: bringing up Brandon's relatives and kids (which he learn from his past season), Phillip also deserves kudos for not giving in and trying to attack Brandon after all his threats and the spilling rice and beans incident without getting physical, even trying to advise him to think of his actions whether he's right or wrong despite Brandon refusing to listen to him or his allies. It definitely takes strength to stay calm and walk away from a fight.
- The next episode, whether you love them or hate them, all of Bikal members share an agreement that they should forget about what Brandon did (despite some doesn't want him to see him back on Survivor due to his meltdown) and stay united.
- Jeff also scores some Awesome points for managing to go through the entire scenario as calmly as possible and working towards calming Brandon down. He's standing there massaging Brandon's shoulders and managing to keep him from going completely nuts. Kudos to him that Brandon didn't go and punch Phillips for the sake of Jeff calming him down.
- Corinne thought it was time for a blindside. She was right.
- Malcolm, knowing he's in danger, doesn't play his idol and instead convinces Reynold to play his own idol FOR him right as the votes are read. One of the better strategic moves in recent memory.
- Granted he didn't need to as there were no votes cast for him so It could be a dumb move since it deprives his alliance of one of the immunity idols
- Had Eddie not told Andrea that his alliance was gunning for her, she wouldn't have changed the vote to Michael and Stealth R Us 2.0 would have continued to vote for Malcolm. As Rob Cesternino and Stephen Fishbach said, it would have easily been one of the all-time great moves had it worked, and Malcolm deserves credit for that.
- Let's also keep in mind that Malcolm asked for Reynold's idol after he voted for him.
- A better example would be the next episode, where Malcolm, on the chopping block along with Eddie, finds the hidden immunity idol. Malcolm plays the idol he just found and gives his other hidden immunity idol (which he found earlier in the game and which nobody knew about) to Eddie, screwing over "Stealth R Us" and sending Phillip home.
- Even better? He did it before the votes were casted. That move turned the Entire Tribal Council on it's head, going from an easy vote for "Stealth R Us", to them scrambling during the Tribal Council over what to do.
- Cochran, arguably the biggest Fish out of Water in Survivor history, making it all the way to the end and winning the game. Not only did he win, he became the second competitor to play a perfect game having received no votes cast against him throughout his entire run and received every single vote from the jury. Plus the fact that he won by taking complete control over the game and winning the most immunities (although he had advantages in 2 of them. Ozzy, Keith, Whitney, and Jim must be kicking themselves right now.
- Brenda delivering an epic calling out to Dawn about her hysterics and betrayal.
- In retrospect, Dawn pulled off her false teeth and showing her toothless face for the jury.......and the public. Everyone, this is called guts. Also the fact that whether or not Dawn took her teeth out would've made her look bad. If Dawn took out her teeth (which she did) it would've shown how dramatic she was and prove she lied to Brenda about quitting. If she didn't take them out it would've shown it was Brenda who saved her from quitting thus making her look like an ungrateful backstabber.
Blood vs. Water
- Galang's (Returning Players) coming-from-behind victory at the first immunity challenge, just when it seemed like Tadhana (Loved Ones) had the entire challenge wrapped up.
- How about Tyson participating in a challenge after he had dislocated his shoulder, an injury he was told would take most of the game to heal, and then Galang still winning with him right in it?
- This season has a lot of great, unlikely challenge beasts. Laura Boneham's performance in episode 4 involved her repeatedly diving underwater to free giant wooden blocks. Laura Morett has beaten her daughter at two puzzle challenges thus far. Of course, the real physical star of the season has been Candice on Redemption Island, and her current three-challenge streak, two of which she came in first.
- This extends to the post-merge, where Laura Morett once again dominates Redemption Island and Monica Culpepper reels off a streak of three immunity wins.
- This season has a lot of great, unlikely challenge beasts. Laura Boneham's performance in episode 4 involved her repeatedly diving underwater to free giant wooden blocks. Laura Morett has beaten her daughter at two puzzle challenges thus far. Of course, the real physical star of the season has been Candice on Redemption Island, and her current three-challenge streak, two of which she came in first.
- After John wins a duel on Redemption Island, he and Candice conspire to give Monica the clue to the HII as revenge to Brad Culpepper, believing that it will make her a target. In response, Brad and Monica decide to burn the clue in the fire pit.
- This becomes a recurring theme of Bv W: the RI winner tries to give the clue to someone they want out of the game, and the recipient immediately throws the clue into the fire pit. Turns into a Headscratcher when John tries to give the clue to Monica again, and she immediately burns it again. (Or perhaps John knew what was going to happen.)
- Caleb pulling an impressive Paranoia Gambit similar to Malcolm's gambit in the Phillip Tribal Council in Caramoan. After Brad made some comments about possibly voting Caleb out, Caleb announced to the endangered Ciera and Katie during Tribal Council that he was voting for Brad, earning their votes with him. After a tie vote, Big Bad Brad was voted out on the revote. This was epic enough on its own, but keep in mind that Caleb didn't have any Hidden Immunity Idols like Malcolm had. This was entirely on his own.
- Tyson turning the vote on Aras after the merge with an alliance he made at Tadhana right under his nose.
- Laura Morett consistently outdoing the others in Redemption Island, winning 5 out of the 6 challenges she participated in. She also became the first person to survive a vote after returning from Redemption Island, surviving three before being eliminated. Deliberately protecting Tina because she doesn't pose as stiff a competition as Vytas and Caleb is also a great example of the metagame.
- Only guess who ends up stomping both Laura and Hayden in the final RI duel and enters the game?
- Hayden's Purple/White Rock Maneuver at the Katie Tribal Council. He not only convinces three people to let it go to rocks but to vote how he wanted them to and do things that contestants rarely had any business doing, all after arguing for Ciera's vote at Tribal Council. It didn't work because ally Katie got the rock but it was refreshing to see someone truly fight for his spot.
- Tyson's dominant game this season deserves mention. After a quiet pre-merge where he planted anti-Aras seeds, he forms a new alliance of seven to take him out, Pagonging his former alliance with two unstable people as allies, and then stopping every uprising attempted against him before cruising the finals to win 7-1-0.
- An early moment, but when his girlfriend Rachael was voted out in an attempt for Tadhana to lure Tyson to switch places with Rachael and Galang would lose a strong asset, both of them saw through this. Not only did Tadhana's plan fail, but Tyson warned them that he was coming for them.
- The Beauties tribe, which most people assumed would be full of ditzy eye candies managed to make fire before everyone else.
- While it wasn't enough to keep them from going to Tribal, Spencer single-handedly keeping the Brains tribe in contention during the fourth elimination challenge was quite impressive to see, and likely played a huge role in saving him from being eliminated by the rest of his tribe, which was in an alliance.
- Trish and Tony's blindside of Cliff in episode 4.
- Trish convincing Kass to flip, essentially changing the entire course of the game and sending Sarah home.
- Woo engaging in Ninja Stealth Mode to swipe a clue from under Spencer's nose.
- Spencer not only finding an immunity idol, but doing so while standing feet away from Kass...without her noticing, despite her being there in part to keep an eye on him. How? He spots it, but rather than immediately grabbing it, plays it cool, talking to Kass and apologizing for his rant the night before. He then waits for her to look away and takes it.
- Trish continuing her team mom streak after her close ally LJ is blindsided. Rather than get mad and start a fight like Jefra was, she admits in a confessional that she understands Tony's reasoning, continues to play well with others, convinces Jefra out of flipping on them with the Brains/Jeremiah, and drags Tony over to Kass and Jefra to make him apologize and promise to stick with them. The fact that they all were able to stay together and not implode lies largely in the results of her calm, subtle actions.
- Tasha's immunity steak after the merge. Keep in mind that she is the first African-American female to possess individual immunity since Jolanda from Survivor: Palau, and she is also the first African-American female to possess individual immunity post-merge since Vecepia of Survivor: Marquesas.
- Spencer and Tasha tag-teaming themselves out of a 5-2 scenario by taking advantage of Tony's paranoia to get him to target Jefra, someone in his own alliance, over the two of them who are much bigger threats. Tasha does it by simulating a fake women's alliance by accompanying Trish, Kass, and Jefra in the water where she knows Tony will see her, and Spencer seals the deal by revealing Jefra's attempted betrayal the round prior.
- Spencer's entire run so far has actually been somewhat amazing.He's been on the bottom since the Garret boot, betrayed by Kass three times, and has had some crap luck but he's very determined. So far he's surprisingly made it to the Final 5 and doesn't seem to be slowing down.
- In the Final 5, with his neck once again on the line, Spencer comes from behind to steal immunity from Tony via a slide puzzle, which he solves in under a minute whereas Tony had been working on it for ages. Even Probst is clearly stunned.
- On a Meta note, the producers listening to the fans and, at least for this season, giving us a Final 2.
- In perhaps the single biggest challenge comeback in history, Kass goes from being minutes behind the others in a challenge while the other three in the F4 are working on the puzzle, before she swims up and slaughters the puzzle in no time. Whether you're a fan of Kass or not, you have to admit that was the most unprecedented win ever.
- To the surprise of many viewers and edgicers, Tony made all of his crazy schemes come to fruition for a flawless 8-1 win. While his strategy was often compared to Russell Hantz, he managed to set up a systematic deconstruction of his alliance, creating valid reasons for his betrayals to defend himself, and used Spencer/Tasha as shields to make sure he got all the way to the F3 unscathed, and that's even discounting the several idols he'd found. The finale has him sealing the deal with him lying about the powers his special idols have in order to save his ass from the vote at the F4, and then convincing Woo to take him based off of Woo's moral code, a Tina-esque social play unprecedented from the loud, spastic New Jersey cop. Most importantly, his humility in the FTC and the powerful social bonds he made with everyone, including the outsiders, had him dominating the vote against Woo, who wasn't a half-bad competitor himself.
- After spending a season dealing with constant criticism on social media with angry outbursts, Tony made many rounds on podcasts to show even further how intricate his game was, compliment the skills of his tribesmates and highlight scenes of their strategy that went unseen, and apologize to some of the people he'd lashed out at.
- A meta example displayed in Spencer/Tony's fireside chats that took place after the show aired. Spencer and Tony traded text messages where Tony suggested that he buy his domain name on Go Daddy to make a website similar to how Tony had. After getting talked into it, Spencer realizes someone's already bought his name and spends a significant amount of time negotiating the owner down from an extremely high price to a $100 purchase price, and bought it from the previous owner. Tony then went on to Twitter to reveal that he was the one who bought Spencer's name and had been negotiating with him the entire time as part of a prank, eventually tricking him out of his $100 (which he promptly returned).
- Trish's raw, emotional jury speech where she digs into Tony, asking him if the million was worth it if he had to lie on his dead relatives. Unlike other speeches, the emotion was raw and organic, and Tony owned his gameplay with his answer.
San Juan Del Sur
- Using the sun/glass trick, Dale snaps his reading glasses in half to provide the Coyopas some fire after they lose the first challenge.
- At the beginning of the first Immunity Challenge, the tribesmembers are tasked with crawling under a netting path. There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of Jon Misch shooting through the course so fast on his hands and knees that it's almost creepy.
- Jon Misch in spades.
- Goes from being a outsider up until the swap. At Coyopa he becomes the swing vote and holds all the power.
- Then at the merge he blindsides Josh at the final 11 and the following week he blindsides Jeremy at the final 10. The crazy part? He gets away with it for quite awhile and manages to go deep in the game. Not being taken out until the endgame.
- The blindside of Jon at the final six, spectacularly orchestrated by Natalie, first by having a three-way tie, followed by Natalie and Baylor voting Jon out. Made more awesome by the fact that Natalie's suggestion to Jon of using his hidden immunity idol at an earlier tribal council solidified Jon's trust in her so he would never see the blindside coming, as well as the fact that that was also a move of patience, Natalie deciding to bide her time in blindsiding Jon as revenge for his voting out her fellow ally Jeremy, waiting for the right time to strike. Her timing could not have been more perfect.
- Natalie organizes another blindside in the Final Five, this time targeting Baylor, rather than Missy (as Missy couldn't win challenges because of her injury.) Baylor actually said "That was a good move" and congratulated Natalie for it. The best part? She did this so Missy's resume at FTC would be shot, and announced that Jaclyn was voting for who she said so the jury would see who really was in charge.
- Despite that Nadiya was the first person voted out, Natalie manages to win the game 5-2-1 - with no votes cast against her. After a solid early game, she bounced back from Jeremy's blindside immediately to regain the trust of the people who blindsided her, saving Jon from a blindside via telling him to play his idol, waits until women have the majority, sneaks in an Alec blindside under Jon's nose to keep Keith around to dethrone him in challenges and have a loyal number, and still earns the trust of all of the remaining contestants to launch stunning blindsides of Jon and then Baylor before both of their loved ones keep her over Keith, who Natalie successfully kept as a shield. It is certainly fair to say that she pretty much dominated the entire season with cunning strategic gameplay, strong social play, patience, and overall good performance in challenges.
- She's exhibiting her dominance in the game as early as episode 3, where her tirade at John after an immunity challenge, which turns into a shouting match between them, ends up with John being voted out by his tribe. She somehow managed to get the other tribe to vote out the person she wanted to see gone and still managed to come out on top of everything after that.
- Another awesome thing about her is that she went into the season, alongside her sister Nadiya, being very disliked after their stint on The Amazing Race, yet after Nadiya's early elimination, people started warming up to Natalie, and after the merge happened, she became the favorite to win and became generally well liked, even by fans who had disliked her in the Race.
- Keith's performance in the game - For one who is pretty Genre Blind he manages to hold himself well in competitions and is generally well liked, only one vote away from winning the game.
- Reed gives an expertly done soliloquy as his speech to Missy, turning her pitch as the Team Mom into defining her as the Wicked Stepmother who spoiled her children, was entitled to the benefits of others, and who treated those below her power as inferiors. This ends with the line "that's why I love fairy tales, because there's always a happy ending and the wicked stepmother never wins."
- Carolyn's performance in episode one needs to be seen to be believed. After losing the first challenge, So decides to have Carolyn eliminated for being unwilling to "put herself out there and take risks." And what does Carolyn do? She proves So to be flat-out wrong. She uses a clever combination of building friendships, showing the idol to the swing-vote, being stubborn enough to fight So's judgement, and generally being a more pleasant person than So, all to orchestrate So's, who spent the whole episode setting herself up as the Big Bad, blindside. Carolyn made her way onto many "winner" picks that episode.
- Kelly gets injured in a blindfolded challenge when a lift falls on her head, leading to blood gushing down her face and into her buff. She doesn't make even a hint of a fuss, gets stitched up, and is right back in the challenge. They may not have won, but it was certainly impressive on her part. Bonus points since Jeff praised her even further in a post-episode interview, pointing out that despite everyone else being freaked Kelly didn't panic at all, keeping her cool.
- While she certainly is flawed as a character and spent most of her time being not-so-sweet, Lindsey going out with a bang by calling Rodney out on his blatant sexism is a sight to see.
- Jenn using the immunity idol to save herself in an 8-to-4 vote to send Kelley home. It may not make a difference in the long run, but Jenn played the idol purely because of the possibility she could be voted out, not because she knew.
- Will asks at the immunity challenge if he can step out of the challenge in exchange for letters from home, which he missed at the auction. Jeff says that only if everyone agrees can that happen. After enduring a hyperpersonal abusive rant from Will, Shirin is the lone dissenter.
- Jeff himself calling out Will for refusing to apologize after the awful things he said to Shirin, and providing this zinger after Dan tried to compare Shirin suffering domestic abuse in the family to him being adopted.
- Mike's Batman Gambit at the episode 11 Tribal Council, in which he reveals that he has a Hidden Immunity Idol and is planning to play it on Shirin. After announcing that Shirin is voting for Tyler, and that he is voting randomly, causing at lest two members of the six-strong opposing alliance to vote for Dan. Mike then does not play the idol, ensuring his own protection in the future. Time will tell if this is enough to crumble the six alliance, but the preview implies so.
- Dan using his advantage... and then Carolyn plays her idol. The looks on everyone's faces made the scene, it was just like the downfall of the Four Horsemen in Fiji.
- Even more impressively, Carolyn keeping her idol a secret from almost everyone for more than a month to everyone except for Tyler. Voting him out made it so no one ever suspected her idol, letting her drop the bomb on everyone and negate five votes out of seven, a new percentage record.
- Mike finishing his Curbstomp Battle against the Axis of Evil by being immune from the Final 9 on, winning five of the six immunity challenges (tying the record!) and using the idol for the challenge he couldn't win. Even better, he used being immune to have a hand in controlling any vote he could to split the axis up, eliminating enemies and challenge threats and forcing a fire tiebreaker both to complete a secret revenge plot against the Blue Collars that abandoned him and go to the end with the two perfect people, Will and Carolyn, winning in a 6-1-1 vote.
- Kelley Wentworth is already playing one step ahead of her teammates — by being the first person to discover a hidden immunity idol, and sneakily smuggling it away during a challenge no less! Props to her for discovering the clue while claiming she was just looking for more supplies, thereby tricking her teammates and avoiding suspicion, in contrast to Stephen who blundered about.
- Kelley playing the idol in Episode 8. No one else suspected her having an idol (including her own allies Ciera and Abi) and the majority alliance of 9 didn't even split the votes, setting a record for the most amount of votes negated by an idol and sending an unsuspecting Savage home.
- When Shirin and Spencer are on the chopping block, they try to get Woo to vote with them, but Woo shoots them down, saying that he's in the majority and they never even bothered to talk to him up to that point. For those that didn't like Woo's passive gameplay in Cagayan, it was definitely refreshing to see Woo think for himself.
- Jeremy pulls a Big Damn Heroes and saves Fishbach in episode 10 with an idol, getting out Ciera who was apart of the seemingly unstoppable Witches Coven alliance.
- Joe managed to be immune for a record of 29 days, due to being part of a dominant tribe pre-merge and winning the first four individual immunity challenges.
- Kimmi, realizing she can't just hang back and let Jeremy call all the shots, rallies the women together and they get out Joe in episode 12. Pretty good for an old-school player. She later tries to get out Jeremy, seeing him as the threat that he later proved to be. She failed, but a good effort on her part.
- Jeremy wins the title of Sole Survivor in a unanimous 10-0-0 vote - getting the most votes in survivor history.
- All in all, this season has the best play of the My Greatest Second Chance trope compared to previous All returnee seasons. It has the most rank improvement with six (beating ''All-Stars' record of five) and even some who weren't able to improve their ranks (Varner, Savage and Keith specifically) unquestionably played the game much better.
- Aubry, despite being sick and dehydrated, manages to singlehandedly pull off a clutch win for her Brains tribe in the first immunity challenge in the puzzle.
- Despite being ostracized by her tribe, Alecia was determined to get a fire started for her tribe. After 5 hours,she manages to get fire after everyone else gave up.
- Aubry's monologue right after Neal's evacuation, where she compares Survivor to the Oregon Trail. Could also double as a heartwarming moment.
I didnít think Iíd be crying this much on Survivor, but there have been ups and downs... and right when I thought that we were going to get some traction under us, my biggest ally is out of the game, I got a nice little bulge on my leg that everyone got to see, and Iím thinking to myself, ďWith Neal gone, there is no way the Beauties join the Brains," and the idol went home with Neal. That son of a bitch. Really, Neal left me hanging, but Survivor is a path. You pave your way by yourself. Itís like going on the Oregon Trail. You have to ford every river, you have to caulk every wagon, you have to up the hills and down the hills, and sometimes you get dysentery and die. You have to pave your own way.
- Nick's blindside. Holy shit, Nick's blindside. What a satisfying blindside. After the merge, the Brains were down to three due to a medical evacuation and were targeted by the Beauty and Brawn alliance. And during the whole thing, Nick was gloating and overly confident, giving condescending sympathy to Aubry, checking up on the girls in his group to make sure they don't start a girls-alliance, outright saying at the Immunity Challenge that the Brains were on the bottom, and explaining in his confessionals that he felt confident he was in a good spot. But then Cydney starts to get pissed at Nick due to his arrogance and his paranoia about an all-girls alliance, and after the Immunity Challenge, she defects from her Brawn group and brings together all the women and Joe to vote him out. And the look on his face as he gets the votes is priceless.
- The showdown between Tai and Cydney in the Episode 8 immunity challenge. Despite Cydney being physically stronger, Tai was determined to win the challenge, and despite his stature, managed to outlast Cydney and win immunity.
- More than a little miffed about the above blindside, Jason and Scot decide to sabotage the tribe by hiding a hatchet and machete, important tools for preparing food. How does the Women's Alliance respond? They take it in stride and come up with clever ways of making food without those tools.
- And then Tai gets in on the act, but in doing so, he causes the blame to fall on Scot, which terrifies Aubry into plotting to blindside Julia, and then Debbie. The best part? He did all of this without revealing himself, meaning everyone still thinks he's a perfectly nice guy.
- And then in Episode 10, Tai decides he is on the bottom of his alliance with Jason and Scot and decides to turn on them. At tribal council, Scot gets voted out, and Tai doesn't use his idol to save him. The best part? Jason gave his idol to Scot before tribal, leaving Jason without his ally and without an idol!
- Bonus points to Aubry for dodging one of the most overpowered twists in the game aimed right at her with little more than a social game and a clever plan. In nine out of ten scenarios, there's no way anyone survives that, but she managed to pull it off.
- Aubry's confessional while voting for Julia in episode 11:
- Despite his age, Joe managed to win the Episode 13 reward challenge after everyone else was out of the challenge. Too bad that the food he ate led to his eventual evacuation.
- Let's give props to Joe. He's the oldest contestant since Rudy from Borneo/All-Stars, and these later seasons usually have the older contestants eliminated first. Not Joe. The fact he managed to make it all the way to top five, outlasting thirteen younger players in what's called the most punishing season yet, and even managing to win a challenge all by himself, is really something to admire. While he was underedited and has received some flak for his gameplay, he got what he wanted, a challenging adventure.
Millennials vs. Gen-X
- Zeke's leadership single-handedly turns the Millenials around after a disastrous first two days, leading to them building a passable shelter, getting fire without flint, (a feat the Gen-Xers couldn't accomplish) and won the first challenge. All while the Gen-Xers spent the entire first episode mocking them.
- Michelle managing to save her alliance by suggesting Mari and using Zeke's comments against him, getting seven on board. Not only that, but she informed Hannah at TC that she (not her alliance) was voting Mari, not burning a friend even as she had the numbers. If next episode is to be believed, Hannnah is taking the flak for the flip, acting as a further shield for her
- David finally finds the idol, and gains allies in Ken and Cece. And this is after he was the one who started the fire, but the majority alliance still wanted to boot him. So it was much needed.
- David, Ken and Cece successfully oust Paul in episode three, after conspiring on the bottom, planting the idea in the other women's heads, and letting Paul dig himself a grave by telling those very women he wouldn't have their back if a guy's alliance happened. They managed to completely flip their positions in the game, from the bottom to the top, with alpha males Bret and Chris now at the bottom.
- Adam finds an idol, at the time he needs it the most. This also counts as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and a Tear Jerker.
- Michaela almost single-handedly took down all the Gen-X women in a physical reward challenge (including LUCY). If the last match hadn't been Men vs Men, she could have possibly won it for her tribe.
- David playing the idol for Jessica and ousting Lucy in episode 4. Not only did he prove her wrong when she thought she was safe and Ken had lied, but he also earned her loyalty (and potentially her advantage should she get ever get voted out), and saved himself, Cece and Ken from going back to the bottom as Lucy, Sunday, Bret and Chris tried to reform their alliance.
- On paper, it looked like the new Ika Bula tribe would struggle just like Angkor did, but not only did did they make fire in their first few days, they came first in the next immunity challenge. This is largely on the back of Michaela, who made said fire when the other guys gave up, and who did amazingly well in the challenge, covering up Sunday's mistakes.
- Jay pulling an absolutely vicious blindside on Michaela just before the merge. What tops it off is her realization that she was the target of the vote.
Michaela:(after the third vote is read) WHAT!? (to Jay) Did you do that!?Jay: Yeah. I did. (cue a staredown where Michaela glares at Jay in absolute rage, while Jay smiles pridefully.)
- And a bonus point for the editors. Up until that point, the season had been criticized for telegraphing the boot. So when Bret started getting screentime, many called it his death knell... except the editors managed to expertly hide the fact that it was Michaela except for one scene where Jay comes up with the idea.
- Will becoming the youngest person (at 18) to win an individual immunity challenge, that Jeff Probst said was modified to be even harder.
- David, the neurotic geek who sucked at challenges, won individual immunity in episode 10. He's in tears by the end because he never believed he could do it.
- Sunday, of all people, gets a moment in episode 10 by pulling off an incredibly risky Batman Gambit in episode 10. By knowing that Hannah, David and Adam were very overly paranoid players, she simply told Hannah and Adam they (Bret, Will, Jay, Zeke and herself) were voting for Ken when questioned on who the vote was going for. And when Adam ratted it out to David as he played the idol, he gave it to Ken, who was the wrong target - which enabled a tie and gave people a choice - either switch your vote on Hannah or draw rocks. The latter happened, and got out her rival Jessica. Not bad for an otherwise under-the-radar player.
- From the same episode, Jay winning individual immunity in a walkover. Once he got out of the first part of the challenge, it was over. No one else even got to the slide puzzle.
- All those who drew rocks at F10. Whether you think drawing rocks is good or bad gameplay, or some were being stubborn or petulant about it, leaving your game in the hands of fate is an incredibly bold and risky move. Special mention goes to David- often perceived as disloyal and having been shown dealing with anxiety and his neuroses (even being mocked for it), he went to rocks for Hannah, a fresh ally of his. Drawing rocks can lead to someone being emotionally broken if they draw it, but these six went for it anyways.
- In addition for David, him not backing down when Bret and Zeke attacked him for having anxiety, simply saying "That was a personal attack. I didn't personally attack you." Props to the Day 1 worrywart who made alliances with everyone sticking to his guns and not making it personal and standing up to the ones who did.
- Episode 11 is definitely Adam's breakout episode. In the span of one episode, he redeems most of his strategic and social blunders. When the family reward happens, he states quite vocally that he will NOT play his advantage because he couldn't do that to the others, touching everyone's heart, including his nemesis Jay. Jay then brings him along, and as a sign of goodwill - as well as a strategic play - Adam gives him the Reward Advantage and patches their rocky relationship up. Then comes the immunity challenge built around endurance and focus, and Adam wins. Then when Ken blunders their plan to eliminate Zeke and they aren't sure if Will is with them or not, Adam uses his idol on Hannah as a safety measure. Which, while unneeded since Will did vote with them, showed his loyalty to his alliance and proved Will was untrustworthy - and overshadowed what should have been Will's "big move".
- Adam accomplishing his childhood dream, and winning the title of Sole Survivor in a unanimous vote- receiving all 10 votes from the jury.
- Hannah, who has never been good in competition, channels One World's Christina in the final immunity challenge, giving Ken (The local challenge monster) a run for his money.
- The fact that Sandra and Tony, as former winners and seen as the two biggest threats on their tribe, were up for elimination and not only survived the first vote, but neither gets a single vote. This is slightly negated when Tony is the second to be voted off, but both surviving Day 1 is extremely impressive.
- Taken Up to Eleven in Episode 4, where both New Mana and Nuku went to Tribal together as a unit. Despite being up in numbers, Tai of Mana found an idol, and J.T. was itching to flip on Sandra. In fact, J.T. tells Mana who Nuku is voting for in the hopes of getting Sandra idoled out. And yet, despite all of that, Sandra still gets no votes against her. (Malcolm is voted out instead.)
- In the second episode Sandra was able to do to Tony what she couldn't do to Jonny Fairplay or Russell Hantz: Take him out. As soon as Tony hinted he was crossing her she began plotting his elimination. According to Jeff Varner she was able to assemble her alliance in fifteen minutes, and despite being the weakest person on an outmatched tribe with two wins under her belt and no real reason to keep her around she skated through without a single vote, not even from Tony. In doing so she proved to her harshest critics that she can make a big move and doesn't simply coast on the backs of stronger players. Tony himself gave her credit in his final words and admitted that she is the queen.
- A minor one in comparison to the above moments, but props to Sierra Dawn Thomas of all people for finding the Legacy Advantage. That is a huge advantage for her in the game.
- A small one for Varner. Nuku winning immunity in episode three meant that for the first time in almost 17 years, he wouldn't be going to Tribal Council.
- Tavua managed to follow in Ika Bula's footsteps and win the next immunity challenge despite being a newly formed tribe with not a lot of supplies from the get go.
- Troyzan, the only Mana castaway in the Tanuva tribe, managed to get the idol right after the challenge ended while the rest were celebrating.
- Although the twist itself is quite controversial, the fact that New Mana was able to outplay New Nuku despite it's numerical disadvantage was very impressive. Each member of Mana played a part, which lead to not only Malcolm's elimination, but also for J.T. (who had been playing both sides in hopes of getting out Sandra without blood on his hands) to lose his only ally on Nuku and get caught double-dealing.
- Doubly impressive because up to this point, Nuku had been the Invinvible Villains of the season, with nobody able to beat them until this episode, where they lose the challenge to Tavua, and the vote to Mana.
- After the fallout of the last episode, Sandra openly accuses J.T. of plotting against Malcolm, and J.T. still wants her out. The morning after, J.T. obtains an idol. After witnessing J.T. bitch about how much sugar Michaela wants with her coffee, Sandra waits until they're gone and eats all the sugar herself. As expected, J.T. blames Michaela for eating it and is so against her that he leaves his idol in camp, letting Sandra, Michaela, and Varner vote him out, despite him having an idol as public enemy number one.
- Sandra strategically dominated the first five episodes, got rid of her intended targets (among them two other previous winners) and received no votes until the Tribal Council she was eliminated in, all this despite coming into the game with a huge target on her back. The very reason she gets voted out is because many others considered her the most dangerous player and didn't want to risk her getting to the merge, and as Probst himself pointed out, it took a whopping 94 days for her to be officially voted out of the game. She may not have made the merge, but Sandra displayed full well why she is the queen and the only two-time winner.
- After finding the Mana idol and being moved to Nuku, Tai deduces that the hiding place for Nuku's idol is identical to the Mana idol. He's correct, and gets a second idol with Ozzy nearby, and still isn't caught.
- After Jeff outs Zeke as transgender to get him voted out, everybody calls him out and votes him out right on the spot.
- Props should also be given to Zeke, who managed to stay strong and composed throughout the entirety of the tribal council.
- Shortly after the episode aired, Zeke confirmed on Twitter that despite the contestants normally getting no say in what goes into the show per their contract, in this case the crew offered to do some editing magic so he could keep his secret until he decided himself to reveal it, and he gave the okay to air it.
- Episode 8 is filled from beginning to end with awesome moments from several members of the cast. In a season where the biggest players had been going home, it was refreshing to see everyone playing hard right out of the gate. To name a few:
- Brad and Tai volunteering to sit out of the merge feast without even a second of hesitation. And they both do so smiling.
- Andrea being the first woman ever to win a particularly grueling endurance immunity challenge.
- Cirie, wanting to protect Michaela from being voted out, takes advantage of Andrea's worries over a Hidden Immunity idol and decision to split the vote between Hali and Michaela by ensuring that her alliance would be designated to vote Michaela, then flipping them all on Hali. For a bonus, she votes for Michaela to maintain Plausible Deniability in the blindside.
- Tai beats Ozzy in an endurance immunity challenge that Ozzy had won twice.
- Sierra almost single-handedly implodes Zeke's entire game by warning Cirie that Zeke is targeting her, ensuring Zeke has lost any power he had when he was working with Cirie.
- Debbie takes advantage of the confusion caused by Zeke's surprise flip against Cirie to blindside Ozzy. For extra points, she plays the double vote against him just in case.
- Aubry not only wins immunity in the card stack challenge, she manages to set a new record at 6 minutes (the original record was held by Cochran at 17 minutes).
- Sarah manages to outwit Cirie by giving her Vote-Steal Advantage to her, and when she tries to play it, Sarah snipes it back since the advantage is non-transferable. And Sarah calculated just the right time to give it to her- just before Tribal Council, when she would be unable to read the fine print.
- At the tribal council following Michaela's elimination, Tai is so pressured into playing his idols by Brad, that he uses them to cover himself and Aubry, which starts a chain reaction where everyone else holding some form of protection from elimination up to that point uses theirs as well and breaks the record for most people safe from Tribal Council in one setting, five. Tai pulling out one idol doesn't cause much a stir, but his use of two in a row arouses the jury's attention. Then, Sarah's legacy advantage is good for this vote only, and when she suddenly plays it, the jury starts to lose its composure. Finally, Troyzan decides he might as well play his for good measure, since Brad's got his back anyway. At that moment, the jury, who is supposed to remain respectfully silent, transforms into a peanut gallery as it explodes with amazement and cheers. Cirie, the only person who has nothing to keep her safe from elimination, is forced out of the game by default, when nobody voted for her that night.
- As unfortunate as Cirie's elimination was, she goes out in style by only being eliminated because nobody else could be eliminated due to all the immunity idols and the like in play. She gives a speech of how this game changed her, is given a standing ovation by the entire jury, and Jeff lets her borrow his Elimination Statement. To top it all off, she broke Ozzy's record for the most days played by a single day.
- Brad joins a very small group who have won five immunity challenges in one season, and four of them were in a row.
- At the live reunion, Jeff reveals that the true reason there is a final three is if the jury ever comes down to a split decision upon deciding who should be the winner, the odd man out will join the jury and cast the deciding vote. Jeff also puts forward a "what if" scenario where if Brad had not bullied Tai like he did and the final three remained relatively unchanged, the jury would have tied its votes and Troyzan would have been the odd man out and decided it in favor of Brad.
Heroes Vs. Healers Vs. Hustlers
- While the season did start off slow with the first two predictable boots, come episode three, and the viewers get a shocking and satisfying blindside. The Hustlers lose the challenge, and the vote is coming down between Lauren and Patrick. On paper, it should have been Lauren, as Patrick is physically stronger, has an ally in Ali (who he knows in real life), and the four younger people seem to be in an alliance... but then comes tribal council, and Lauren proceeds to verbally bash Patrick by pointing out how much of a liability he is in physical competitions and strategic game-play, refusing to go down without a fight. And you're led to believe that Lauren is still going to be sent home regardless when you see her name come up in the voting, with Patrick smiling smugly... until you see Patrick's name come up a second time, which wipes the smile right off his face. He's then voted out. While Jeff had stated the season started off slow, this was a moment that was anything but slow, and is probably the most shocking pre-merge boots since Michaela's in season thirty-three.
- Episode four actually manages to top episode three's Shocking Elimination when a blindside is enacted through the convenient timing of a tribe swap, Jessica deciding to punish someone with an advantage that can be used for or against someone if she gives it away (thus sabotaging the Levu tribe and actually influencing the following elimination from outside the actual group gathered at tribal council), and Joe and Desi managing to execute a perfect blindside through sheer body language alone. With Devon incapable of being a swing vote as the only Hustler around due to the advantage used to block him from voting at Tribal Council, the two Healers (Joe and Desi) are pitted against the two Heroes (Alan and Ashley) on the new Levu tribe. A subtle smirk from Desi tells Joe to pull out his Hidden Immunity Idol and use it for himself, canceling the Heroes' votes against him and leaving the only votes in play the Healers' votes against Alan, immediately sealing his fate in the game. Joe even has the nerve to taunt him as Alan exits the game with a mocking, "Hollaback!" Because Survivor class is in session, and he just got schooled. So what this means is A: Joe is now the de facto villain of the season and has made a move that would make his likeness Russell Hantz green with envy, B: Jessica, who is not even part of the new Levu tribe, but the new Yawa tribe, has actually had a hand in a blindside without even knowing it and can't be exposed for doing so until the merge because she willed it to Devon anonymously, C: Jessica actually went and read the fine print and managed to use an advantage in an unexpected and absolutely diabolical way, D: Joe is now tight with Desi and regained her trust after causing nothing but trouble for her up until here, E: Alan was taken out of the game by a Hidden Immunity Idol just like he feared, only it turned out to be from a separate camp, and he Did Not See That Coming due to being so involved with the first Heroes tribe it gave him tunnel vision and left him totally unprepared for the inevitable shuffle, and F: Cole can no longer use the idol Joe has against him because they were split into separate tribes, Joe is no longer in possession of an idol, and Joe has gained a dominant position of power with this killer pragmatic move. Opportunity knocked and Joe took it. Things are really heating up now!
- Ryan gets one moment of his own. His own ally and Number Two, Devon, is shipped off to a new tribe, but through luck, he gets Chrissy in place of him. Ryan immediately takes the first opportunity he has to befriend her and reveal how he gave the Super Immunity Idol (which went unused) to her so that she becomes his replacement ally. Now Ryan has two allies floating around and if he and they make it to the merge, he will have a lot of staying power in the game.
- With Jessica as his witness, Mike snatching up the Yawa camp's Hidden Immunity Idol in Episode 5 on a hunch that it's by the well like the one Joe found that Cole told him about. Mike takes this opportunity to celebrate the fact he's gone from the bottom to the top and that this is sure to make his wife and kids proud of him. Also, Mike effectively has all the power Joe no longer has anymore- as in the guy who gave him a hard time just because he looked nosy and unimpressive. Now the shoe is on the other foot.
- Ryan making a move for himself by choosing to keep Chrissy over Roark, knowing he will full well incur Ali's wrath for going against her wishes but banking on the idea he can explain his strategy to her convincingly enough to have both of them on his side and keep his social game intact. Sure enough, Ali gives him a Death Glare when she realizes he flipped his vote.
- The Yawa tribe in Episode 6 were behind in the immunity challenge as both Levu and Soko were neck and neck with their tower while Yawa had to start from the bottom. But thanks to a perfect strategy of balancing the slack, they speedly caught up and claimed the win in first place.
- JP managing to go from the guy who nobody thinks a lot of or pays attention to and revealing he's deliberately keeping mum and dodging the radar for his own benefit, when confronted at Tribal Council as an easy target right before merge. He manages to do such a good job of remaining calm that Ali, whose back is against a wall, ends up looking like a fool and becomes the ouster (Ryan also didn't want her to become his enemy in the game).
- Despite not really even speaking or doing anything note-worthy, Ashley almost wins the first individual immunity challenge over Desi.
- Also, Desi, proving her worth as a very strong competitor. The sudden death portion of the challenge resulted in Ashley's defeat, but Desi prevailed, even with a band-aid on her ankle. And her triumphant smile afterward is very heartwarming to watch.
- The first merge elimination has Joe and Cole feeling like they are on the outs due to their names coming up and no one telling them otherwise. Come tribal council and Joe plays his idol on himself....only for Jessica's name to start coming up, sending her home in a very shocking vote. Why? Chrissy set up Jessica as a Plan B vote under the suspicion Joe had another idol. When Joe revealed he did have one, it made it painfully obvious for her and everyone supporting this plan to default to Jessica.
- We see Cole try to hide a hidden idol clue by disguising it, only for veteran fan Chrissy to instantly catch on and find it, and then just to add insult to injury, Ryan finds it even faster and does what Cole should have had the sense to do- throw away the clue entirely!
- In a situation where he was sure to go home if he didn't win immunity (everyone's annoyed at him, people think he found an idol out in the open), Cole is able to hold on in a difficult endurance challenge (balance a statue with a pole and balance on a beam at the same time), outlasting JP. Both of them had to avoid falling several times, with Cole badly learning out of control at one point but recovering nicely, and then JP finally slipped with the pole. Cole himself said if he won immunity it would be a game changer. And he is very pleased with himself after his big win.
- Lauren managing to hide a secret advantage with strings attached. She has to steal a piece of parchment from the Tribal Council instead of voting. But then the vote hits a snag: it's a tie. And because this season has reverted back to the classic rule of a re-vote before drawing rocks, Lauren has to fake her vote twice, and this time she can't steal another parchment. So she does the only logical thing. Send it flying off the table and fluttering away into the jungle!
- In episode nine, the Roundtable alliance becomes afraid of Cole making it far due to his physical prowess, and know they need to defeat him in individual immunity in order to eliminate him. Who ends up taking him out in a very physically demanding challenge? Not Ben, Devon, JP or even Ashley... but Lauren, who proves she's a physically strong and determined competitor despite how others have dismissed her.
- Seeing Mike decide he would rather team up with Joe- the guy who was once his Arch-Enemy and the most disliked person at camp- than side up with a much bigger alliance of seven people, all because he knows the Healers are on the bottom and being targeted, himself likely to be a target sooner or later, is incredibly ballsy. He even decides to brag about his knowledge of the game just to bait people into voting for him, then plays his Hidden Immunity Idol to soak up the votes, protecting Joe from being a target (even though Cole got the brunt of the votes). He does all this to prove to Joe he is not a joke and on his level- and Joe acknowledges him for it. Even though Mike is playing with Honor Before Reason, nobody's gonna say he floated through the game now because he had the guts to cut away from the majority and embrace being the Underdog, only now a much more exuberant one who is willing to play rough. Now he's mostly reliant on himself going forward, which is what reaching Survivor's ultimate goal is about.
- The splitting of the Round Table Alliance is a moment of sheer strategic brilliance. Lauren, recognizing that Chrissy and Ryan have the most power within the Round Table recruits Ben, Devon, and Ashley for a Final Four Alliance to seize control of the game. But it doesn't end there. She recruits Joe and Mike to help. But that is not enough. Devon, of all people, comes up with the idea to install Ben as The Mole within the Round Table Alliance so he can feed them information. After JP's blindside, Ben gives a fantastic performance as a betrayed alliance leader. It's such a well executed masterstroke where everyone played a role in changing the game.
- This is soon followed by Devon and Ashley going from players who have sat in the background over half the game to becoming the two most dangerous players of the season when they decide do go to the Final Two together and use Ben to dupe Ryan into playing his idol and throw out dummy votes for him at Tribal Council- all so they can dispatch Joe from the game. Ashley also deserves extra mention because she thought about going after Ben while they could. Little does she know she's already too late to try and it was a good thing Devon talked her into playing along with using Ben as a secret agent.
- Ben discovers a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol on a rock just by chance and hunts down the necklace by finding a clay pot hidden up in the trees and smashing it. He then does a gleeful Happy Dance and claims his wife helped him find that one with blessings from back home.
- Ben later takes things a step further and decides to craft a fake version of the idol necklace for show so that he can hold onto the real one while toting the fake as a decoy!
- Mike's fantastically diabolical decision to destroy the half of Lauren's idol she entrusted to her by throwing it into the Tribal Council fire pit because she was too foolish to realize how stupid it was to trust someone else with half an idol (like when JT made that move so long ago) and Mike thought the move was so idiotic that he wanted to punish her for it and use this chance to make a devastating move no one would expect (the hashtag #WOW even appears as soon as he does that). It led to her elimination, because Ben played his real idol that night, and said he would be voting for Lauren after a heated discussion and a plot to blindside her turned belly-up and he became the bigger target. Everyone else voted for him, so no guesses need to know who went to the Ponderosa next. To add to the awesome, Mike turns to look at the Jury right after Lauren gets voted out and gives his buddy Joe (who was just voted out last Tribal Council) a gleeful grin, and Joe is completely cracking up with a "so proud of you" smile. Lauren did play a part in Joe's elimination, so Mike wasn't unfounded in what he did.
- Ben manages to pull off a Survivor first that fans have been waiting for with baited breath since the introduction of Hidden Immunity Idols. Ben was voted for unanimously, but he played the idol, negating everybody's vote but his, allowing him to total control of the vote to get rid of Lauren.
- Ben obtains a second idol less than an hour before Tribal Council and saves himself again by revealing it was hidden in his boot. This time, he just plays it before votes are even read as a Badass Boast by itself to show everyone they still don't get to be rid of him. He has saved himself with Hidden Immunity Idols twice in a row.
- And props to the editing team as well in this one. The idol was actually hidden under the bamboo the tribe uses for a bed, which meant Ben had to sneak it out in front of everyone. The editors never actually showed Ben with the idol in his hand until he pulled it out during Tribal, making it just as much a surprise for the viewers as it was for the other Tribe Members.