My Favorite Seasons of Survivor: My Guide for Survivor Newbies

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My love for Survivor has been well-documented on my blog in the past, and I’m happy to hear that other people are getting into it thanks to Netflix adding two seasons (two of the best!) to its catalog.

In the spirit of sharing the love, I’m recommending a few more seasons that Survivor newbies should definitely check out! As far as I know, all seasons up to 34 are available on Hulu, while every season is available on CBS All Access and for individual purchase on iTunes.

A few important notes for these picks:

  • I am personally drawn to Survivor primarily for interesting characters and storylines, with great gameplay coming in as a close second. Because of this, I’ve split my picks up into two separate lists: all-around great seasons, and seasons with great characters where the gameplay isn’t quite top tier. I enjoy seasons in the second camp just as much as those in the first camp, but I think it’s helpful to know if the gameplay will be sub-par going in, just to know what kind of ride it’ll be!
  • My recommendations for newbies purposely do not include returnee seasons! I am a big proponent of watching as many first-timer seasons before jumping into returnee seasons for the sole reason that a lot of the players’ chemistries, reputations, and storylines rely heavily on their past seasons. While I’m sure it’s still possible to enjoy a season without watching the preceding ones – I’ve heard of people enjoying Heroes vs. Villains as their first season ever, which is baffling to me! – I’m almost positive that they don’t hit as hard!
    • I am happy to give suggestions for returnee seasons, though! Some of my actual favorite seasons are returnee seasons but, as I mentioned before, part of their appeal is following individual characters’ arcs. I can even suggest seasons-to-watch-before-you-watch-another-returnee-season if you want!
  • I am going to keep these summaries pretty spoiler-free, which unfortunately means that there’s not a lot to say! I’ll try to include as much as I can without giving away too much, but my preference is to not spoil anything about the season – even my favorite characters! – before letting you jump in.
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To the picks!

All-Around Great Seasons

The first two seasons that came to mind to recommend were Kaoh Rong (32) and Millennials vs. Gen X (33). These were actually two of the first seasons that I watched live, and they did not disappoint! There are fun moments, great villains, spicy drama, and a handful of players that return for future seasons.

This is also one of my favorite challenges ever! (image from

Digging a bit deeper back, my older recommendations are Cook Islands (13) and Tocantins (18). It was tough to narrow this list down, but I feel like I can stand by these two! Again, these two seasons include some of my favorite characters, many of whom return for future seasons, and have some really great overarching storylines, both heroic and villainous, that unfold over the entire seasons.

(I will concede that some themes – Cook Islands’s race-based tribes and Millennials vs. Gen X’s eponymous theme – are kind of cringeworthy! A lot of Survivor themes are! I encourage you to simply push through, as the theme never really carries past the first couple of episodes anyway.)

Finally, I do love recommending Borneo (1), The Australian Outback (2), and Africa (3) to newbies after they’ve watched a few seasons. I loved going back to these to see just how different things were in so many different ways – production-wise, gameplay-wise, even player-wise! The latter two are especially interesting to watch because the show hasn’t revisited them as locations, so they’re worth watching even if just for change of scenery.

Great Character Seasons

I included the disclaimer about embarrassing themes above because one of my favorite seasons ever, Amazon (6), is originally organized as a men’s tribe vs. a women’s tribe. The men’s tribe talks a lot of trash and ends up losing the first (very physical) challenge! It’s great! There are some great characters (emphasis on the character), funny moments, and the setting is definitely unique. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s first season, as the gameplay is fairly standard and nothing to write home about, but it’s a ride!

See! Sandra can do a challenge! (image from

My final three recommendations – Pearl Islands (9), China (15), and Gabon (17) – are grouped together because, in my opinion, they are completely character-driven. I could talk your ear off about specific contestants on these seasons, but I am currently completely blanking on any specific strategic moves, especially ones that are purely strategic and not personally-motivated. Not that the winners don’t deserve their wins! This is just how I remember them, and I don’t think anything less of them because of that. (China and Gabon were also not set on beaches, and are both beautiful to watch in their own unique ways!)

Anyway, hit me up when you’ve watched – I’m dying for more people to talk with about Survivor!

(Maybe I will dust off my very old, never published love letter to my favorite player of all time…)

2020 Gratitude: The Amazing Race and Big Brother

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I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of reality TV in quarantine! My love for Survivor (and now The Bachelor/ette!) is much better documented at this point, but I also gave two other shows a try this year: The Amazing Race and Big Brother!

I watched only one season of The Amazing Race before this year – not coincidentally, the one that included Survivor contestants – and while I enjoyed it (spoiler ahead!), I fell off after the last Survivor contestants were eliminated, and didn’t see the rest of the show through. With nothing else to do, I decided to start watching the next season!

Again, not going to spoil any gameplay, but the nice thing about watching The Amazing Race was pseudo-travelling through watching the race. After all of this time spent at home, even watching complete strangers on TV fly to India, South America, and even The Philippines felt like a tiny, little change of pace. It was even fun to jump into The Amazing Race fandom for a bit, if only to look into fan reactions to specific moments!

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On the other hand, I also tried following this summer’s season of Big Brother. While I was really excited to give the show a chance, given my well established Survivor fandom, I was not impressed. I even had high hopes because it was an all stars season! Though there were some funny moments and genuinely interesting characters, I couldn’t bring myself to watch three times a week, especially as I grew more and more disinterested in the game.

I can’t talk about why I disliked the season without some spoilers so… spoilers ahead!
I actually had a few favorites early on in the season… and they were promptly eliminated. I stopped following right before some controversial moments happened as well. I actually thought the gameplay had the potential to be super interesting, but I tuned out when it became more obvious that the dominant alliance was going to dominate. In terms of gratitude… I guess I’m glad that I bailed before things got too nasty!

I’m happy that I’ve had the time in quarantine to watch more reality TV competitions, which I’ve kind of relied on throughout this time as a security blanket. Comfortable! Repeating tropes! Manufactured excitement! Now, truly, my concern is how I am going to keep up with all these shows once “real life” starts up again…

2020 Gratitude: January and February

Though 2020 will certainly be remembered for self-isolation and time mostly spent at home, there were two precious (in retrospect!) months this year where life continued as it had before.

I wrote about it briefly in the previous Flight Club entry, but my life before quarantine was very busy. I was going into the office, taking improv lessons, working at the improv theater, training for a marathon, and sprinkling in community service and hangouts with friends in here and there. While it is nice that quarantine has allowed me to slow down, there are definitely times when I miss the hustle and bustle of city life!

I started off the new year running a 10K through Central Park and hanging out with my friends in Central Park.

The next week, my boyfriend and I saw his favorite magician, Shin Lim, perform live. If you’ve never seen a magic show live, I recommend it, as long as you’re willing to let your guard down and suspend your disbelief for a second. (Or, if you’re like us, you can raise your awareness for the whole show and spend the rest of the night thinking, “How did he do that?”)

We also went to see my favorite band, Motion City Soundtrack, on their reunion tour. Looking back, a friend invited me into the mosh pit, and I said no at the time, but now I kind of wish I had accepted – if only because I can’t imagine being in a mosh pit now!

… and later saw Ripe at the same venue, for some more good vibes!

We also saw Cats together, which was a very strange show! That’s all I have to say about that!

After that, we saw Mean Girls, which has now risen up the ranks as one of my favorite Broadway shows. It was incredibly funny, the music was catchy, and the story deviated just enough from the iconic movie that I was still on the edge of my seat for most of the show.

We got a Broadway in Boston membership several months ago, which gave us a “season pass” to see almost all of the touring shows that were coming to town. This was our second season with the pass, and we really enjoyed all the shows that we were able to see – but were looking forward to so many more, and were obviously very disappointed when the entire rest of the season was deferred indefinitely.

I’m glad I was able to experience what I was able to back when I was able to! Sometimes when I get comfortable in quarantine, and not having to see anyone or go anywhere or do anything, I think back to the “before times” and realize that I do miss going out and doing things, as tiring and expensive as they were.

I miss going to New York for a short trip, I miss concerts and shows, and sometimes I even miss going out to bars and clubs with friends (which I didn’t include here, because I do not have pictures, but that’s probably a good thing!). Sitting at home to recharge was nice for a few weeks, sure, but I’d like my life back now, please!