Today’s Survivor Oz Top Ten is a collaborative effort brought to you by two of our Ozlets, Ben Powell and Heather Smith, who have listed ten of the best Immunity Challenge wins in Survivor history. Immunity Challenges are a crucial part of Survivor because the winning tribe or individual is guaranteed safety at the following Tribal Council. This could simply mean a few extra days in the game, or it could be the difference between walking home with nothing and going home with a million dollars. Certain Immunity wins stand out because of the unpredictable winner, the memorable challenge, or because the outcome ended up changing the entire course of the game. Which Immunity win will top the list? You’ll have to read on to find out.
10. Susie Smith – Gabon – Episode 9
“She’s clearly not an athletic person. I’m so confused – don’t you want to win Immunity?” – Charlie
Ben: Gabon was a season of the unexpected, and there was nothing more unexpected than the mother in her forties winning an Individual Immunity Challenge right off the bat. While her win would be somewhat overshadowed by Bob – who was even older and looked even less likely to win challenges on his own; going on an impressive Immunity streak. Her win remains notable for all the right reasons. It protected her from the vengeance of the “Onions”, and it tied in perfectly with Charlie – who would be voted out that night – and his first confessional criticizing her ability to do anything.
Heather: The first Individual Immunity challenge of Gabon happened directly after the Merge. Susie probably wasn’t one to draw up positive first impressions. After she turned on the “Onions” with Marcus’s vote out, the rest of them wanted her gone. The Immunity Challenge was pretty simple: whoever could make a fire high enough to burn through a rope wins. However, during the challenge only two people made fire: Sugar and Susie. Susie beat out Sugar to win, giving an unlikely Immunity winner and sending Charlie home later that night. Susie pulled off an important win in Gabon. With it, she was safe while Charlie, who is known for having his first confessional criticizing the choice of Susie in the Tribe Schoolyard Pick, was sent home that night. Although Susie herself remains a rather underrated player in Gabon, she definitely had a hand changing up the season.
9. Kim Johnson – Africa – Finale
“The Final Immunity Challenge was not luck, was not being nice, was not any of the things I had done so far. That was something that came out of me – inside of me; a determination that I haven’t seen in me, maybe ever.” – Kim
Ben: In the finale of ‘Survivor: Africa’, something unexpected happened; Kim Johnson, who had so far been as far from of winning as possible, started to get her game on. With her state in the game on the line, she managed to pull out not one, but two Individual Immunity wins when she needed them most, forcing out major competitors, Big Tom and Lex, from the game. Though she would not go on to win the game, it was an unexpected showing. While her first victory has been somewhat infamous due to the mix-up of answers that allowed her to win, it was her victory in the Final Immunity Challenge that sealed her status in Survivor history. It was the routine “hands on the Idol” challenge, which had been used as the Final Immunity Challenge in the very first season. However, the circumstances were notably different here; aside from the malnutrition everyone was facing, everyone’s feet were planted on wooden posts which could not be lifted even for a moment. Not only that, it was reaching temperatures of over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Kim Johnson stuck it out in a challenge against guys several decades younger than herself for hours on end, and she was the last woman standing in the challenge, giving her a place in the Final Tribal Council.
Heather: Kim Johnson winning Immunity wasn’t expected due to both her age and the fact that she was competing with two younger males that have both shown their abilities in other challenges. It also threw a wrench in the plan of Lex making it to the Final Three so that she could have a spot in the Final Two to plead her case to the Jury. Although Kim Johnson didn’t win Survivor, her Immunity win in the heat and in one of the toughest seasons of Survivor is impressive in itself.
8. Jonathan Penner – Philippines – Episode 9
“Well, maybe he’ll win Immunity…well no you won’t, dude, because I’m winning Immunity today!” – Jonathan
Ben: In his third attempt at the game, Jonathan Penner was in a rough position by the final ten. He’d saved himself by playing an Immunity Idol the night before, but now his time was almost up. As is par for the course, the only way to save himself was to win the Immunity Challenge, and over two seasons he hadn’t even won one Individual Challenge. The odds were against him. Against a very agile and athletically sound cast, he almost didn’t stand a chance. He barely got himself into the final round of the challenge, and he fell behind early in the puzzle. However, fatal screw-ups in the challenge by Jeff and Pete saw Jonathan catch up and secure himself a spot in the final nine. It also, much like other Immunity winners, saw him screwing up the plans of the majority. Following Jonathan’s win was a mad scramble for safety and power amongst the other nine, which saw Tandang almost turning on themselves, but instead pulling together and voting out Jeff. Such a scramble would not have happened without Jonathan winning Immunity.
Heather: Jonathan would have left that night if he didn’t win the challenge. The fact that he managed to win against a cast that had younger men like Pete and Malcolm was impressive. Although Jonathan would later be voted out in a very colourful exit at the final seven, he lasted longer than two Tandang members and improved his placing in this season from tenth to seventh. Any placing gain is worth it and Jonathan lasted way longer than what was intended.
7. Savaii (Dawn Meehan) – South Pacific – Episode 4
“I’ve been through a tough Day One, Day Two, came back feeling really strong like I had a lot to contribute and then to be the last person standing in that challenge today, I almost didn’t believe it. It felt so good I couldn’t breathe!”
Ben: One of the most favoured stereotypes in Survivor casting is the older woman who is much stronger than she looks, such as Jane, Denise and Dawn as well. While she initially put herself on the outs of her tribe thanks to her expressive nature, her single-handedly winning Immunity for Savaii helped win her into the good graces of her tribe. Seeing excellence like this warms the heart for most viewers and it would easily go down as one of the most memorable moments of the season. Seeing a season that wasn’t cemented around certain characters, like it’s predecessor, helped people realize that while Survivor may not be as great as it once was, moments like this proved that it can still be good again.
Heather: Dawn was an outsider in her Savaii tribe mostly due to her age. While Jim was forming a plan of his own, Dawn felt like the only way to secure her spot in the game was to show that she was worth more than what they thought of her. The challenge was the commonly recurring “shoulder the load” challenge, where two men and a woman from each tribe will shoulder a bar that will get added on weight as time passed, as decided by the other tribe. Dawn was chosen to be the woman from her tribe to hold this weight. As the challenge went on, each of the men from both sides were gone, and Dawn managed to last longer that Stacey from the Upolu tribe, earning her tribe the win. Dawn was someone that probably no one thought could be a huge physical asset to her tribe. However, she proved them all wrong by winning this for Savaii, keeping herself off the chopping block and making it to the Merge. Dawn was an older underdog for her tribe who was prepared to do anything to prove that she was stronger than her fellow tribe mates first impressions of her.
6. Jaburu – Amazon – Episode 1
“All the guys were really pumped up. There is no way that women are gonna beat us in anything – physical, mentally or whatever – we’re never gonna go to Tribal Council.” – Daniel
Ben: What better way to start out a men versus women season than by having the women utterly destroy the men in their first Immunity Challenge. Amazon was the first season in which the tribes were divided by a specific theme, which in turn led to one of the best season premieres ever. The men’s tribe, upon finding out that the tribes were divided by gender, came into their first three days cocky, arrogant and so sure that they were going to pulverize the women and never have to go to Tribal Council. That, for any editor, or even a storyteller, was a dream come true. The episode was so over-saturated with the men declaring themselves better than the women and reducing them to objects to be ogled at, that by the time of the Immunity Challenge, their egos were huge. Then, of course, Ryan and Daniel screw up the balance beam, while Rob and Dave screw up the puzzle. Although the women were initially trailing, these two crucial mistakes saw the women overtake the men before they even got to the end. Heidi sliding down the flying fox was the nail in their coffin, and upon their victory, eight macho guys humiliated themselves in front of tens of millions of viewers. It’s a wonder they even bothered to come home.
Heather: The men were so confident that they would easily defeat the women this challenge, or anything that Survivor could throw at them. From the balance beam problems to the computer guy and the rocket scientist failing to beat two middle aged women, Jeanne and Joanna, in a puzzle, it would put any overconfident man in his place. As a result, the outcome was unpredictable, and the reaction to this loss sure humbled the men pretty fast over on Tambaqui, especially for future challenges that they did manage to win.
5. Vecepia Towery – Marquesas – Finale
“I am the only one that needs to work for the next two or three days. And I will work.” – Vecepia
Ben: Vecepia saving herself at the Final Four in turn led to one of Survivor’s biggest game-changers: the Purple Rock. The effect the Purple Rock would have on the game would continue to haunt Survivor’s even to this day, as it is the one thing that goads people into breaking ties, like John Fincher in Samoa and John Cochran in South Pacific. Without her Immunity win, the endgame of Marquesas would be incredibly different, as without Vecepia there to cut a deal, Neleh wins the Final Immunity Challenge and Kathy is voted out, upon which Paschal most likely wins in a Final Tribal Council over Neleh. It was not only a vital win for her game, but also a vital win for the series as a whole.
Heather: The fact that Vecepia even made it to the Final Four despite starting on the tribe that won nothing until the Tribe Switch and had only three people representing it at the Merge was impressive. However, it looked like Vee’s time was up when Kathy sided with Paschal and Neleh to take out her closest ally in the game, Sean. However, luck was smiling on her when it was announced in Tree Mail that they would be competing in the Fallen Comrades challenge, which was a challenge that asked the castaways about the various people that they played the game with. Vecepia not only was the first winner to play with every player in the game, but she used her luxury item, a journal, to take notes about each of the castaways, causing her to easily win the challenge and throwing the other three’s plan in such disarray that it led to the only time a Purple Rock was used, and the only person that was safe from it was Vecepia. Vecepia was able to get to the Final Three by outsmarting the challenge, as the Fallen Comrades challenge was once a common staple of Survivor. This crucial win managed to save her not only from the chopping block and from the Purple Rock, but it gave her an opening to end up in the Final Two and win it all.
4. Danni Boatwright – Guatemala – Episode 12
“I’d thought I’d be going next for sure and that was the biggest Immunity I could ever win and… there’s a lot of things going on right now so something may work out even more so in my favour tonight.” – Danni
Ben: An oft-unassuming player from the get-go, Danni turned into the appropriate hero to contrast the turn to villain of Stephenie LaGrossa. Danni’s win cracked open the majority alliance and allowed her to infiltrate with her social skills alone. Without buying the Immunity advantage and without winning that Immunity challenge, Guatemala earns the predictable winner, in my opinion, of Rafe Judkins. Thanks to Danni winning Immunity, she sneaks her way past bigger targets, up the totem pole and into the Final Immunity Challenge, which she also wins, securing her win against Stephenie and producing one of many likeable underdog winners that Survivor was made for.
Heather: In the final six episode of Guatemala, aptly titled “Price for Immunity”, Danni was the last member of the post-switch Yaxha tribe against the five strong of Stephenie’s alliance, made up of all post-switch Nakum members. At the traditional Survivor Auction, Danni outbid Stephenie for an advantage for the next Immunity Challenge, which was a puzzle-based challenge that had a large mental aspect to it. Using her advantage to switch places with someone at a pivotal moment, Danni secured her spot in the final five, while she, Rafe, and Lydia got Stephenie to turn on Judd, blindsiding him as well as keeping Danni in the game long enough to last until the Final Two where she won the title of Sole Survivor. While this win was fuelled by the first advantage given out in a Survivor Auction that has appeared in later seasons, Danni used it to her full advantage and used those three extra days to work her social game towards Rafe and Stephenie, which proved to be their downfall later in the game as Danni made it to the finals and won the game, ruining their plan to be each other’s Final Two and giving Guatemala an amazing underdog story.
3. Sophie Clarke – South Pacific – Finale
“I was surprised by how easy the puzzle was once you got it going. The only thing that’s hard was the first piece.” – Sophie
Ben: South Pacific was a vastly panned season, but even if you hate the Redemption Island twist, Ozzy, Coach, and everything to do with the season, it’s hard to deny that it was one of the best finales that the show has seen in ages. The climax to this finale was Sophie Clarke, medical student and cunning Russian linguist, defeating one of the most dominant physical combatants in Survivor history in the Final Immunity Challenge and personally taking him out of the game. Ozzy had been sent to Redemption Island only a few episodes earlier and had built himself up as the biggest threat the game had ever seen by slaying everyone who was sent there, which made it almost a certainty that he would win his way to the end, sit in the Final Tribal Council and win. He easily won the final five Immunity Challenge and he looked set to win the Final Four Immunity Challenge. However, a stumble at the final puzzle saw Sophie, who had been somewhat faltering throughout the challenge, figure out the process of the puzzle before him and blitz through to a victory, claiming her third Immunity win. She not only secured herself a spot in the Final Tribal Council, but she instigated the demise of both Ozzy and Coach in their third attempts at the game.
Heather: Sophie didn’t just win a challenge, she managed to beat someone that ties the record for the most Immunity Challenge wins; with five challenges in his original season and winning all of the Redemption Island duels he was faced against. Ozzy was portrayed as this unbeatable challenge dominator in every season he was in, especially in South Pacific. It also saved us from a predictable winner that spent most of his game out of the game on Redemption Island and was voted out two other times already. Finally it gave us the second winner that beat out a returning player in the finals, which was really the best way to end this season.
2. Shii-Ann Huang – All-Stars – Episode 12
“YEAH! Take that!” – Shii-Ann
Ben: Shii-Ann’s Immunity win at the final seven saw her cracking the Chapera alliance slightly open, even if not enough for her to save herself. It exposed the sub-alliances within the Chapera Six; it created one of many pissed-off Jurors that would go on to brutalize Boston Rob in the Final Tribal Council; and it also helped close the story arc of Shii-Ann Huang, from perpetual outsider to the deciding vote of the All-Star season. In a season that, after Richard Hatch left, became wrought with negativity and bitterness, her winning and throwing a wrench in the plans of the majority alliance was showy, over-the-top, and enough to save All-Stars from becoming, in my opinion, one of the most unwatchable seasons of all time.
Heather: After Kathy was voted out at the final eight, the lone Mogo Mogo member, Shii-Ann was left alone on a tribe that already saw itself as a six-person tribe. Despite multiple attempts to break the Chapera alliance, all attempts were for naught. However, Shii-Ann had one attempt to save herself: the Immunity Challenge. The challenge was a re-used one from ‘Survivor: Africa’ that featured the castaways holding up their arms for as long as they can without dropping them, which would result in them being eliminated with a bucket of water splashing down on them. Although Rupert gave her a run for her money, and even complimented her endurance, it was Shii-Ann who won the challenge. Although Shii-Ann didn’t break the Chapera strong hold on the game and was voted out at the next Tribal Council, Alicia was voted out and even though no one wanted to flip against each other in the alliance, Shii-Ann was graceful in her exit and threw a vote towards the person she thought would win if nothing was done about it. She voted for Amber that night.
1. Lillian Morris – Pearl Islands – Finale
“These are called squats in aerobics.” – Lillian
“I think Lil just said ‘Game on.’” – Jeff Probst
“I think Lil just said ‘Game over.’” – Jonny Fairplay
Ben: As I said in my Top Ten Episodes list, Jonny Fairplay was the biggest villain the show has ever seen and will never be matched. His persona was beyond evil as far as reality show standards go, and there was no doubt he was the biggest character of the season. Pearl Islands was the season of Jonny Fairplay. So it’s only fitting that he gets perhaps the most humiliating and fitting downfall in the history of the show. It’s the Final Three and Jonny Fairplay, by some sort of miracle, managed to survive being voted out over Darrah. He is one Immunity Challenge win away from winning the game, and even though he’s the weakest person in the game in stature, his competition for the next Immunity Challenge isn’t that hard; Sandra hasn’t won a single individual challenge out there and Lil is a few decades older than him. It should be a piece of cake. However, much like Kim Johnson before her, Lil suddenly becomes the person to beat at that challenge. While Sandra and Jonny Fairplay talk about how much pain they’re in, she starts talking throughout the challenge about how comfortable she feels; how she’s only feeling a little numb. And it only gets better from there. Once Sandra falls from the challenge, Fairplay tries to cut a deal with Lil to get her to drop and let him win the challenge. She shuts him down. He repeats this several times over the next few hours, and each time she cuts him off and shuts him down more viciously than the last, at later points even starting to taunt him. After several more hours, Fairplay falls, winning Lil the challenge and giving her the opportunity to vote Fairplay out of the game in third place. It was not only the perfect ending to Lil’s story as a Survivor contestant, but also the best possible ending for Jonny Fairplay’s story. The guy who stabbed the back of nearly everyone in the game, the guy who at that point was reality television’s biggest villain, gets beaten at an endurance challenge by a 51-year-old lady. It’s without a doubt one of the greatest moments of the season, and an easy pick for number one.
Heather: Fairplay was riding high for most of the Merge. Although he had lost his ally in Burton, he still tried to get himself back into the game. However, the fact that he got beaten in the Final Three by a 51-year-old, (the oldest castaway that season), in one of the most crucial challenges, where it looked like it was stacked in his favour, was just amazing. His repeated deal makings and his attempts to win over Lil didn’t do any good, making him to look so pathetic that Sandra and even Jeff Probst were laughing at this sight. This had to be number one for the story arc of Fairplay crashing down like all villains’ story arcs should: in the most embarrassing way that could possibly happen. It’s fitting that someone that was such a villain, who lied about his Grandma dying, had his story ending in this way. Nothing else could possibly top this win ever as number one.
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!