It’s Wednesday again, so why not wake up to another Survivor Oz Top Ten! This week, our host, Ben Waterworth, lists ten of the top reasons why one of his favourite seasons, Survivor: Thailand, deserves more love. Thailand is often ranked poorly as a season of Survivor, with even Jeff Probst citing it as it his least favourite season, calling its Final Four contestants the "least likeable" finalists ever. This is a shame, as season five actually has a lot to offer and certainly deserves another chance from many of you Survivor fans reading this today. Can Ben convince you of Survivor: Thailand’s merits as a season? You’ll have to read on to find out, and make sure to leave your thoughts in the space below!
It seems to be a habit on this show that we need to give more love to seasons that are often considered among the ‘worst’. We did it with Redemption Island (which was a REAL stretch), we did it with Guatemala, and now it’s time to look at the original ‘bad’ season in Thailand. It’s been over ten years since the fifth season was on our screens, and for many of you, it might have been some time since you saw it. First, fix that now and go and watch it, because it’s a season that has a reputation that isn’t warranted, and in my humble opinion, is a top five season. Before you laugh at me for that statement, read on and find the top ten reasons why I feel Thailand is one of the best seasons in the history of Survivor.
It might seem odd putting a situation that caused so much controversy in the Top Ten, but I feel (no pun intended) as though this list would be empty without it. Ted and Ghandia at night and a little ‘cuddle’ soon turned into some pretty serious allegations and set the tone for what many people thought was a ‘negative’ season of ‘unlikeable’ characters. Looking at the positives though, I think it was a ground-breaking moment in the history of the show. This, to me, was the moment that Survivor evolved from a group of people playing a game, to a game that was real enough with real human emotions and a game where feelings could really get hurt and affected. We had seen glimpses of it previously in the first four seasons, but this was the first real case where the emotional aspect of the show hit home. It was also a huge turning point for Chuay Gahn, as Ghandia soon found herself on the outs after the incident, leading to her eventual vote out, and the tribe wouldn’t lose another member until the Final Five. It was also a great water cooler moment to keep Survivor in the headlines for even longer, and provided us with one of the greatest quotes in the history of the show. How often would you hear somebody say they are 150-200% happy with their wife?
9. The Throat Grab
What do you get when you take an outspoken forty-six year old man and an even more outspoken twenty-three year old man and you put them up against each other in a ‘battle zone’ fight for reward? The answer: one of the only cases of intentional physical contact between two Survivor players we have ever seen, and one that resulted in some heated words and language in the fall out. Clay and Robb were two of the games most memorable characters and both wouldn’t give up the battle to win two Thai Red Beret soldiers in their camp. Robb took it upon himself to take the ‘battle zone’ quite literally as he grabbed Clay by the throat, forcing an angry Jeff Probst to stop the challenge and reiterate the rules once again. Yes, it continued the ‘negative’ vibe at the start, but it also continued the ‘different’ vibe that had been happening. We weren’t seeing these contestants battle for survival as much, nor battle for friendships. They were battling in every sense of the word and it continued to see Survivor evolve into the next level of the game that we have seen it become today.
8. A Season of Firsts
Many people are quick to forget just how many things we are used to in the Survivor world actually started in Thailand. The most notable has to be the love it/hate it Jeff Probst challenge commentary, which has become as common place in Survivor as flames going out and Russell finding Hidden Immunity Idols. It’s almost strange to go back to any season pre-Thailand and watch challenges in ‘silence’ with a few text-based prompts on screen to update you on the challenge. It was also the first ever season to have Jeff Probst host the Reunion (more on that below); the first and so far only time Jeff was unable to read a vote at Tribal Council (#byebyedenverdiva); the first time the Jury phase began the Merge; the first time tribes weren’t pre-picked before the game began (more on that below as well); the first time two tribes lived on one beach together; the first time loved ones were able to compete in a challenge; the first season to have an Asian-American; the first season in which the winner of the Final Immunity Challenge won the season; and the first season not to have any tied votes in Tribal Council. With so many firsts happening, Thailand is a ground-breaking season for more reasons than one.
7. Underrated Pre-Merge Contestants
The first two seasons had contestants that everyone still remembers to this day, Africa had its fair share of memorable contestants, but Marquesas seemed to put a trend that, as seasons went along, contestants in the pre-Merge would slowly but surely become less and less memorable along the way. In Thailand, this trend seemed to take a pause, as pretty much every single contestant who failed to make the Merge has their redeeming qualities that deserve to be remembered, and I would even say warrants a surprise return spot on a future season. First boot John was perceived as somewhat of a threat but also a bit of an outsider, and he had potential to go far. Tanya, who has gone on to be one of our closest friends here on the show, would’ve gone on to be America’s sweetheart had she not fallen ill, and definitely saw us being robbed of an amazingly beautiful and incredible contestant who deserved to go further. Jed had his qualities that could’ve made for interesting TV, Ghandia definitely went home way to early for good TV, while Robb and Shii Ann obviously stand out as two of the biggest characters in the history of Survivor. Shii Ann was brought back, of course, for Survivor: All-Stars (and she remains the only Thailand contestant to play on another season), but how Robb Zbacnik has never played for a second time is something for the CBS casting crew to explain. Certainly an underrated group of people who deserve another shot.
6. Helen Glover
When people think of the ‘strong middle aged woman’ character from the first period of Survivor, names like Sue Hawk, Tina Wesson, Kathy O’Brien and Deena Bennett are all quick to jump out. But why is Helen Glover often forgotten when it comes to this Survivor stereotype? Helen was a strong personality and a strong physical threat who overcame being on the outs to finding herself in a fantastic position in the Chuay Gahn five, and she was seen by Brian as a huge threat that had to be removed at the point she was. She could’ve easily won the game had she made it to the end, and in my humble opinion, was robbed of a spot on All-Stars. It would be far-fetched to ever see her return for a second shot now, but it would be fantastic to see if this could ever happen. I think I need to start a trend with #teamhelen to see if this can finally happen.
5. Jeff Probst Hosts the Reunion
Might seem like such a petty thing to put on this list and something that we have gotten used to by now, but at the time this was a pretty big deal. After three seasons of Bryant Gumble and one of…well let’s not even go there…we finally got the man who knew everything that happened out there and was able to grill the contestants in the way a host should. It should’ve always been Jeff hosting the Reunion from the start, and it showed why, in this season, putting Gumble and thewomanwhoshan’tbenamed to shame. If you do happen to read this, Jeff, I do, however, hope you can go back and watch the tape of the Thailand Reunion in the lead up to the Blood vs. Water Reunion and see how a Reunion should be hosted. Let’s put the Caramoan Reunion in the past and move back to how it was meant to be held ok? Thanks!
4. Shii Ann
One thing is a regular when it comes to doing interviews with contestants on Thailand: asking their thoughts on Shii Ann. The only contestant from Thailand to ever return for another season, Shii Ann was memorable in so many ways. From eating all parts of the chicken (literally), her feud with Robb (which would later spur an awkward hosting role together on an MTV special about Amazon), right through to the moment she realised she jumped the gun in thinking the tribes had merged, Shii Ann set her place in stone in Survivor as one of the most memorable contestants of all time. Can you imagine how things could’ve turned out for Shii Ann had the Merge been real and she made the Jury? She certainly could’ve stirred the pot some more and made some even more memorable moments. Definitely warrants a third appearance.
3. Tribal Pick ‘Em
As mentioned in the ‘firsts’ section above, Thailand saw the first ever season that had tribes that weren’t pre-decided. This made for an extremely interesting and unique format, as for the first time, tribes could literally end up in any possible form. Gone were the days of putting certain contestants on tribes for conflict, making tribes ‘even’ to keep things fair, or even ensuring that the ‘pretty people’ were spread evenly with the ‘older people’ for better viewing pleasure. It all came down to Jan and Jake to ensure that things were put in place. It turned out quite well at the start and it looked as though Sook Jai would dominate against the much older Chuay Gahn. But things soon switched, Sook Jai was ‘Pagonged’ and the rest was history. Thailand would’ve been a completely different season without the Tribal Pick ‘Em and nowhere near as interesting, and it set the standard for seasons such as Palau, Fiji and Gabon who started off in the same manner.
2. The Fake Merge
One of the greatest twists we have ever seen in the history of Survivor, the fake Merge to me is extremely underrated and needs more love. We of course could’ve seen a similarly great twist in the Mutiny that was offered previously, which nobody took unfortunately, but the fake Merge sure as hell made up for it. Having the tribes live on the same beach certainly seemed like a Merge, and for all intents and purposes, it was right for people to believe it was. But if you listen carefully, Probst clearly avoids using the word ‘Merge’ in any sentence in the lead up to that moment, and when Erin drops the ‘M word’, much to Jeff’s shock (and clear excitement), it leads to Shii Ann’s face that just set the standard for the rest of the game. It hasn’t happened ever again, and it’s surprising. Now would be a great time to bring it back as most people would’ve forgotten about this twist, and it always adds a great element to the game to create drama. It was, of course, a preview to the whole ‘One World’ twist, which we would see later in season twenty-four, but one that was more of a shock and created one of the most memorable moments in the history of the show.
1. Brian Heidik
He went on Survivor for a ‘business trip’ and left a millionaire. What else needs to be said? To me, still the greatest player to ever put on a buff, Brian controlled the game from day one and was never challenged. In a game that had already seen Richard Hatch come along and do what Brian did, Brian made the impossible happen and had lightning strike twice, playing in the style of Richard in a show that nobody thought could have it happen again. He aligned his people close to him, ensured they voted the same the entire time, made each of them believe they were going to the end with him and then slowly but surely cut their throats along the way and won them over (only just) by taking a ‘goat’ to the end. It was the first time the so-called ‘goat strategy’ had been used, and one that fit straight into the used car salesman’s arsenal of tricks. Brian was by far a cocky and calculated character who knew what he was doing, but hid just how cocky and conniving he was until he had a camera right in his face. He also did a good job of hiding some other career pursuits he had done in the past with some certain films, and showed that, even in life, he is a sneaky individual who was born to play Survivor. It is such a shame that he has never returned, and if there is to ever be an All-Winners season and it doesn’t have Brian on it, I will literally fly to L.A. and protest outside CBS studios until he is put out there on an island to win the game for a second time. If you don’t love Brian Heidik, then start loving him now. He alone is enough reason why Thailand needs more love, and that should be enough for everybody.
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!