Survivor: Cook Islands vs. Survivor: China – Which season is better?


What’s one good thing about Monday’s? Can’t think of anything? We can! Monday’s mean that Survivor Oz delivers you a brand new feature article for you to read! And what day is it again today… Monday, which means a new article for you to enjoy! (Which means today isn’t all bad). Today, fan favourite Lancey Morris steps up alongside former Ozlet James Heimann to debate which season is better – Survivor: Cook Islands or Survivor: China. Both seasons are widely regarded as fantastic seasons so today, Lancey and James debate why one is better than the other. First we’ll hear from Lancey defend her beloved Cook Islands, before James steps in and talks up China. But wait there’s more! You can have your say once you’ve finished the article. Simply comment below leaving your opinion about which season is better!

Survivor: Cook Islands

As I was brainstorming debate topics I became aware of the number of subjects I’d love to write about, but likewise became aware of how boring they’d be to read. Topics such as, ‘Rob Mariano had an easy run on Redemption Island’ would be more like the most obvious statement of the century as opposed to an interesting debate. For that reason, I chose a topic that would be interesting to read and challenging to write. I have always loved Survivor: China and know how many people agree, so I thought I’d write about why I think Survivor: Cook Islands is better than the loveable season fifteen. I hope to convince those reading that Survivor: Cook Islands is one of the best seasons to air, and that whilst Survivor: China is a fantastic and exciting season; it will always come second to Cook Islands.


Season thirteen was, and still is, the only season to divide the tribes up according to their racial backgrounds, which included Caucasian-American, Asian-American, African-Americans and Latin-Americans. Not only did this mean the cast was diverse, but showed the ways in which the contestants handled representing their race. Players like Yul felt a pressure to exemplify the successful and capable Asian American, and found the light-hearted and casual racial jokes made by Cao Boi frustrating. The first few days saw alliances made of a different kind, as the players felt a very strong sense of togetherness through their shared experiences.

One of the vital aspects to a strong season of Survivor is a well-chosen cast. Survivor: China met this criterion with characters like Courtney, Denise and Todd, and gave us other fan favourites, (though not favourites of mine), in James and Amanda. However, Cook Islands gave us the love declaring Billy Garcia; the ‘Cancerous’ Jonathan Penner; the wacky Cao Boi Bui; the jungle boy known as Ozzy and the modern day Black Widow Parvati. Even the supporting cast with people like Nate and Flicka provided great entertainment until their early boots. Moreover, though as far as I’m concerned it was a strange choice, Candace Woodcock has been brought back to play a second time, (although I did enjoy her fights with Penner), along with the aforementioned returnees in Ozzy, Parvati and Penner.


In terms of eye candy, Cook Islands easily met the brief. J.P, Brad and Adam may not have provided us with phenomenal strategy, but they sure were nice to look at. Adam and Candace carried the love story of the season, and unlike other mild flirtations of seasons past, they gave the people what they wanted with a final kiss as Candace was eliminated. As he snuffed her torch, Probst commented, ‘Maybe if it were love he’d have given you the Immunity Idol’ – classic Jeff rubbing salt in the wound!

Let’s talk strategy. Yul Kwon executed what in my opinion was an almost perfect plan. Forging a close alliance with Becky was one of the keys to his success, but even more subtle moves like keeping Adam around for an extra three days to secure his Jury vote helped Yul claim the million dollar prize. Whilst I could write a focused essay on the best male winner to date in Yul, the most spectacular comeback is what I feel deserves a bigger mention.

I’ll set the scene: the tribes were approximately even after an early switch, when Probst offered a chance to Mutiny and join the opposing tribe. In the final seconds of his countdown, Candace volunteered herself, followed by Penner, which left Yul, Ozzy, Sundra and Becky in the minority tribe of four. They won the subsequent challenge, and in a moment of utter triumph Ozzy yelled ‘suck it!’ (or words to that effect) to the traitors he so despised. This newly formed foursome created one of the strongest alliances in Survivor history and dominated until the very end. They hit an impasse when only they remained, and it is usually at this point that paranoia sets in, and promises, (along with friendships), are broken.


You forget, however, that we are talking about a season like no other! Yul stayed strong with Becky, and by way of creating an even playing field Ozzy aligned with Sundra. After a tie was forced, a fire-making challenge ensued which was amazingly thrilling to watch… Okay, so maybe it was the most boring and embarrassing thing we’ve ever witnessed, but the fact that neither of them could make fire makes for hilarious viewing at the very least. With no hard feelings, Sundra was eliminated and Ozzy and Yul, (and Becky, though she hardly stood a chance), fought it out for the million dollars. This was also the first time we saw a Final Three.

Speaking of the greatest male winner Survivor has seen, let’s talk about Yul. Whilst in this category China isn’t close behind, Survivor: Cook Islands has a strong cast and a stronger winner. Yul was strategic, physical, and reflexive, and played an extremely well-rounded game: he made smart decisions and managed to step on very few toes in the process. In terms of a runner up, Ozzy likewise brought something to the table. Whilst I do not care to discuss the Ozzy of South Pacific or Fans vs Favourites, the Ozzy of Cook Islands brought us a quarter man/quarter fish/ quarter monkey/quarter lizard we had not seen before, which balanced out Yul’s game beautifully.


Survivor: Cook Islands is better than Survivor: China because of the wonderfully diverse relationships and characters we got to know. For instance, after seeing his tribe fail at a fire-making challenge, Cao Boi used a bizarre ritualistic dance to create a flame. After seeing a tribe mate suffer with a headache, Cao Boi rubbed his forehead and somehow made it go away. After hearing the other Asian-Americans discuss how they wished to represent their cultures well, Cao Boi made ‘Asian’ jokes and laughed very loudly once he had finished. Jonathan Penner likewise offered us fantastic moments as he contemplated aligning with every person on his tribe and responded to being labelled a Cancer (‘How dare you!’ he exclaimed!).

Exile Island and the Hidden Immunity Idol made appearances during Cook Islands, and whilst the Idol was not used directly, its known existence was certainly leveraged. Additionally, the challenges were fantastic and included contestants being stuffed into barrels and rolled over bumpy surfaces. These elements, the racial twist and the magnificent casting, all worked together to create the best non-All-Stars season to date.

In the interest of boring the lovely reader to tears, I shall wrap up my thoughts. Unfortunately I have not been able to go into detail about why Survivor: China fell short in comparison to Cook Islands, though I feel the season can largely speak for itself, (though my endorsement is still worth a glance). Survivor: China had a good cast, a really good winner and some great country-specific elements. Survivor: Cook islands had a PHENOMENAL cast, the BEST male winner to date, the most SHOCKING premise we’ve seen, the GREATEST Final Four comeback and FABULOUS twists along the way. Therefore, Survivor: Cook Islands is better than Survivor: China, and absolutely demolishes seasons like Redemption Island, (but let’s not even go there). If you don’t believe me, begin your re-watch at once and we shall discuss when you’ve finished!

Survivor: China

When I was faced with this debate, on Survivor: Cook Islands being better Survivor: China, I found it pretty clear where I stood: Survivor: China is better than Survivor: Cook Islands, (I decided this even without a coin flip). In this probably extremely long, rambling-on sort of debate I will prove to you why Survivor: China is much better than Survivor: Cook Islands. Now, don’t get me wrong, both were phenomenal seasons, but there were specific aspects of the game in China that Cook Islands didn’t have, and even some aspects of the game in Cook Islands that shouldn’t have been there.


Now let’s address the elephant in the room. The biggest difference between these seasons is a certain aspect of the game, (and no, it’s not the racially divided tribes), that became very controversial throughout Survivor’s fan base, and this of course is Exile Island. Exile Island was first implemented in Survivor: Panama and was carried out onto the next season in the Cook Islands. This twist was not only disliked by the fans, but was also extremely unfair on the castaways. Being left out of camp and out of the strategizing to go on a Reward is enough incentive to throw a Reward Challenge anyway, let alone a one night camp out, away from the camp, away from the strategizing- and opening up a chance for your tribe to plot against you. Sure, it’s another twist in the game, but it’s just too unfair, and strays too far away from what the game of Survivor is. China stuck true to its roots: no Exile Island, no unfair disadvantage that awards far too much power. Exile Island is ultimately one of the most disliked twists in Survivor history, (perhaps with the exception of Redemption Island), and Survivor: China‘s lack-there-of is one of the reasons Cook Islands is inferior to China.


You have to make a pretty huge impact in the game of Survivor if the producers bring you back for another go in back to back seasons. Only a few have done it: Russell Hantz, Rupert Boneham, Malcolm Freberg, Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon Drinkard; China’s Amanda Kimmel and James Clement have also done it. Amanda and James were brought back for Survivor: Micronesia, where Amanda went on to become the first person to make it to back to back Final Tribal Council’s, (although was unsuccessful both times). Now, we have to recognize how amazing China was to introduce some of the most memorable contestants of all time such as James, Amanda and of course, Courtney Yates.

A good season of Survivor is really unpredictable; you really never know truly what’s going to happen, (this is predictability which came after a certain point in Survivor: Philippines which is what down-graded it from one of the best seasons to one of the more average seasons). This was the case in China with the unpredictable twists in the game, including: the twist on Day Fourteen which allowed each tribe to select two members of the opposing tribe to switch to their tribe, as well as the kidnapping twist which allowed the winning tribe to select a member of the opposing tribe to come to their camp until the Immunity Challenge, and also give someone the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol. This was an interesting twist, which created a lot of scrambling and confusion to who had the Idol clue, and further more the Hidden Immunity Idol, but didn’t grant too much power like in the Cook Islands, (with the Exile Island twist), because unlike with Exile Island, your tribe can have a use for you when you cross to the ‘dark side’: to gather information on the enemy.


I’m going to use a proverbial analogy here; a good game of Survivor is like a clock, if you have all the aspects of the game working well together, you have a great season of Survivor. Survivor: China gave us some extremely amazing characters, in my opinion, one of the greatest winners, as well as some interesting conflict we hadn’t seen before, plus some fantastic one-liners from the hilarious Courtney Yates. Survivor: Cook Islands brought us a relatively boring winner, and an extremely predictable post-merge game. China gave us something that we can remember, Cook Islands did not. For these reasons, I am proud to oppose the topic at question, on Survivor: Cook Islands being better than Survivor: China, because, this simply is not true. So fans of Survivor everywhere, I leave you with this, I want you to think for a while and truly remember what Survivor: China was and what the impact it has left on the Survivor world, and I want you to realise that Survivor: China is not only better than Cook Islands, but also one of the greatest seasons Survivor has ever seen.



Who do you agree with? Lancey or James? Leave your thoughts by commenting below!

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13 Comments on Survivor: Cook Islands vs. Survivor: China – Which season is better?

  1. Cook Islands because of the comeback, but I love China as well

  2. Codey Wambold // August 5, 2013 at 11:24 am // Reply

    I’ve always thought that Cook Islands was one of the better seasons, along with China. It’s hard to pick between them, but I’ll say Cook Islands is just a bit better. It had the comeback of the Aitu 4 and introduced my favorite survivor player in Ozzy

  3. Cook Islands where a ragtag team of underdogs overcame seemingly impossible odds. Very romantic in a narrative sense.

  4. Wow…the side of China didnt go into detail like Cook Islands but. I think China is better because it pretty much wasnt predictable.

  5. I think you have to go Cook Islands. The Aitutaki comeback and Yul’s ability to swing the game his way was fantastic! I agree he’s the best Male winner, taking nothing away from Todd and others, but I think Yul really controlled everything with a real aura of calmness, and I personally loved seeing Candace regularly exiled. Lancey’s made me want to watch Cook Islands again now!

  6. Cook Islands was one of the worst seasons ever. It was good pre-Merge because of how unpredictable it was, but after the Merge it was unbearably boring and predictable; Yul took advantage of the dumb rules for the Hidden Immunity Idol and managed to Pagong the entire Raro tribe – Pagongings are never entertaining. China, on the other hand, was one of the most unpredictable and greatest seasons ever. It was amazing start to finish and you never knew what was going to happen next; it had unforgettable moments, like James being voted out whilst he was in possession of two Hidden Immunity Idols. Also, in China, every single contestant was a great character and we got to know everyone, whereas, in Cook Islands, due to there being a ridiculously large number of 20 people, we only go to know a few of the contestants (Rebecca, Jenny and Brad literally never spoke).

    In my opinion, Cook Islands doesn’t even compare to how great China is.

  7. Lancey, if you loved Cook Islands so much, you should know that ‘Candace Woodstock’ never played, but Candice Woodcock did play. You’re writing articles, at least know how to spell people’s names…

  8. James, Exile Island was first implemented in Palau. Get the facts straight.

  9. I think Lancey makes a good case for Cook Islands whereas the case for China isn’t as good, however, China speaks for itself. I think overall China had a better cast and a better winner. Plus it has Courtney Yates, but Amanda isn’t a good reason why China is better. James, yes, even if only for his crush on Denise. Amanda, no. Also, Phillippines was a great season, but that’s another debate. Sorry Lancey, I love your case but in the end I think China is better.

  10. David Emory // August 6, 2013 at 5:29 am // Reply

    Cook Islands hands down. And how can Cook Islands be called predictable post-merge? Predictable would have been the former four person tribe being swallowed up and decimated, not the other tribe falling apart completely. And ya, Yul is one of the most brilliant winners ever, beating out another incredibly fierce competitor. Just placing him up against the Ozzy of that season has brought the idea for what I think would be a very cool season theme; brains vs. brains.

  11. The main problem with Cook Islands is the cast tbh. Other than the Yuls, Ozzys, and Raros everyone else was irrelevant. Unlike China where literally everyone had a role in the story.

  12. I couldn’t stand the Aitu four. The whole season felt so rigged in Yul’s favor. Every ridiculous twist only benefited him. His immunity idol that NEVER expired, the double elimination on the Raro tribe, and Becky being caught on camera helping him count jury votes so that he could win all disgust me. And the fact that he was such a smug, self-satisfied person, desperate to be seen as an intellectual, makes him so much worse. Cook Islands is almost unwatchable. It focused on approximately 5 contestants, and the others would randomly pop halfway through an episode as boot fodder. Such a lifeless season… China is infinitely better. The game wasn’t riddled with ridiculous twists. It had one of the best Survivor cast. Every character had a story and received airtime. Comparing the two is laughable.

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