Wednesday is back, which means another Survivor Oz Top Ten is here for your viewing pleasure. This week, Ozlet James Pickering discusses his top ten reasons why Survivor: South Pacific is the worst season in Survivor history. South Pacific is frequently ranked as one of the worst seasons by Survivor fans, but just what is it about this season that turns people off? Is it the return of one of the most criticised additions to the game, Redemption Island? Is it the confusing choice of returnees? Is it the disappointing winner? Read on to find out what makes South Pacific such an unpopular season, and remember to leave your comments in the space below.
10. Invisible Edits
This is a pet peeve of mine about modern day Survivor. People who are cast on this show go through an extensive pre-game application process that includes countless interviews and surveys. There are thousands upon thousands of applicants, and these people are supposedly the best of the best. I’m not going into the whole ‘recruits versus applicants’ debate now, but these people are supposedly the best possible group of people out of the many thousands at the disposal of the casting people. That is why it is indefensible to give so many characters no character development scenes and such few confessionals. The confessional count for some characters is quite frankly a joke; Rick received eight in fourteen episodes (check out the Survivor Oz interview, he’s a funny guy), whilst Whitney received four in eleven episodes (and her first one came in Episode Five). These people were cast for a reason! Show us their personalities and their stories! And don’t say its impossible; Dirk Been received twelve confessionals in five episodes in Borneo. And people remember the pre-Merge people from the earlier seasons for that reason. Who can honestly say they remember Elyse Umemoto?
I remember the good old days when the seventeenth castaway on a season was the country the season was filmed in. Survivor went from the Borneo beach to the Australian outback, from the beaches of Panama to the desert of Kenya. We saw the stunning terrain of Gabon, the rainforest of the Amazon and the Mayan ruins of Guatemala. With these locations, we saw the local culture through Reward Challenges and introductory game rituals (Vanuatu and China immediately spring to mind). Whether it’s through budget cuts or other reasons, South Pacific was the second time Survivor had returned to the same location for a third season. It starts a very bad precedent that has now been followed since; we have only seen two different locations since South Pacific, regardless of how they might think the cryptic season names might fool us. Plus, Samoa just generally sucked as a location.
8. Ozzy’s Arrogance
I’m one of those Survivor fans who see Ozzy, beloved three-time returnee to many, as a tad self-entitled and arrogant. Although I acknowledge and grudgingly respect his physical game and challenge prowess, his social game is appallingly bad and he often comes across as arrogant on screen. Watching him dismiss Cochran early on in the season as weak, isolating him from the rest of the Savaii’s and then turning around shocked that Cochran flipped, underlines the fact that Ozzy has not learnt the number one rule of Survivor in three attempts at playing it: if people don’t like you, they might not do what you want them to do. Redemption Island and its premise allowed Ozzy to sit on an island by himself through the entire post-Merge, where his job was to very kindly make his visitors a fish before sending them on their way to Ponderosa. That was his one task, and even then he couldn’t do it without an aura of arrogance. His badgering of Cochran to give him his Jury vote if he made it to the Final Tribal Council is evidence of this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Ozzy is a very interesting person in real life; I just didn’t need to see him on my TV screen for a third time.
7. Boring Pagonging
Is there anything more tedious to watch than one tribe getting the numbers at a Merge then systematically picking off the other tribe one-by-one? I don’t think so, and that’s what happened in South Pacific. We were shown in the first episode of the season the formation of a five-person alliance between Coach, Brandon, Sophie, Albert and Rick, and that alliance made it to the Final Five of the game. The moment Cochran infamously flipped at the Final Twelve Tribal Council, we were subjected to one of the most boring stretches of Tribal Councils in Survivor history. It was so boring and dull that the Survivor producers even conceded defeat and made two double boot episodes in a row, followed by the tedious Recap Episode! The boring Tribals didn’t even stop there; it was so transparent that the next to go after the Savaii members were pagonged would be Edna. Lo and behold, she got voted out next! The only way a pagonging is remotely palatable is if the audience are invested in the characters on show. The only way that is possible is to develop their characters throughout the season. This season was more interested in Redemption Island duels, so we were bored to tears instead.
6. Invisible Winner
This invisible edit gets its own special mention! I’ll start off by making this clear; in no way do I think Sophie did not deserve to win her season. She thoroughly deserved it; you don’t win a jury vote 6-3-0 if you don’t deserve a win. She was both a strategic force, using Coach as a spokesman and shield, and also a challenge dominator, with three Individual Immunity wins, most noticeably when she beat Ozzy at the crucial Final Four Immunity Challenge. So why did the editors bury her story? Why did she receive the second least amount of confessionals a winner has ever received? Oh that’s right; we had to make room for all the entertaining Brandon struggles, religious prayer circles, and Cochran bleating about his insecurities. And don’t forget about those super entertaining duels/truels! Good one, Survivor editors.
5. Coach Vs. Ozzy
I must have missed a Survivor season where these two competed together before this one. How epic that season must have been to constitute a whole season theme around a battle between them. They must have clashed big time! Because I mean, there is no other possible explanation for it. They couldn’t be more different as Survivor characters. One is ‘honor and integrity’ and quotes from Marcus Aurelius; the other climbs coconut trees really quick and swims even quicker. OH, they both need redemption because they had a poor social game! Oh I see, that makes complete and utter sense. I mean, ask anybody what a good example of a poor social game is; guarantee the first answer would have been prior to this season: ‘Too easy. Obviously Coach and Ozzy. They totally need a chance at redemption. Preferably in a season where there is Redemption Island so they don’t even need a social game to get to the end anyway!’ At least Russell versus Rob made sense.
4. Redemption Island
I can forgive a mistake the first time. Put it down to bad decision making, a risk gone wrong, being overly ambitious; whatever. If anything, I admire people who make mistakes and then can hold their hand up and say ‘Hey, this doesn’t work. Back to the drawing board.’ What I can’t forgive is making the same mistake twice, which is what Survivor did with Redemption Island in South Pacific. The Redemption Island twist in season twenty-two was universally panned; it robbed the viewer of the finality of being voted out (and the fundamental Survivor principle that when your torch goes out, you’re out of the game); it introduced tedious duels (and truels and even quaduels at one point) that lacked tension; it meant Reward Challenges were seized away from us; and it also resulted in at least fifteen minutes of every episode being dedicated to Redemption Island, thus taking away valuable episode time that used to be used to develop characters for the viewers to root for. Repeating the mistake with pretty much no changes made to the format was mind blowing. Oh, and it also was (in my opinion anyway) a blatant attempt to make sure that a social game was no longer an object for production’s golden boy Ozzy in his attempt to finally win the game after three tries. His loss at the Final Four and not winning in a landslide after not playing the game for fourteen days was perhaps the only satisfying moment of this abhorrent season.
P.S. Look how pathetic that Redemption Island arena is!
3. The Introduction of Brandon Hantz
I don’t think there has been a more irresponsible casting decision in Survivor history than the casting of Brandon Hantz. From very early on in the season, it was obvious that this young boy (at nineteen with very little emotional maturity, Brandon was effectively a child) was going to struggle to deal with the moral dilemmas that the game of Survivor involves. His constant inner torment about whether to lie or be truthful in a game where his uncle has such an infamous reputation became extremely uncomfortable to watch once it was obvious that he couldn’t cope with it healthfully. And although I’m usually an advocate of ‘all is fair in love and war’ within the context of Survivor, watching people such as Albert and Coach constantly exploit Brandon’s naivety and weakness left an extremely foul taste in the mouth. The handover of Immunity to Albert at the Final Six Tribal Council was marketed as one of the worst moves in Survivor history, but from my perspective it looked like a child being exploited for our supposed pleasure. Also, the way Russell was then wheeled out at the Reunion to publicly declare his disapproval of Brandon’s game was unnecessarily cruel by CBS. It wasn’t entertaining; it was excruciating. We saw the sad consequences this season had on Brandon’s mental health in Caramoan.
2. Coach 3.0
One of my biggest gripes with South Pacific is that it has destroyed the legacy of Benjamin ‘Coach’ Wade. In his previous two seasons, Coach was a comedic masterpiece; a never-ending source of epic quotes and sublime television. He was one of the most perfectly edited Survivor contestants ever as the producers accepted him for what he was: not a strategic mastermind, but a character to provide light relief from endless strategy scenes – and they went along with it to the hilt. They had fun with Coach and his Exile Island extravaganza, his Coach-chi, ‘I have’ moments and endlessly entertaining stories, and made him a somewhat sympathetic and likeable character by the end of Heroes Vs. Villains. His Survivor journey arc was complete. And then they ruined him. They turned him into a no-laughs, annoying strategic game-bot and tried to portray him as the figurehead and mastermind of a majority alliance. Even more tragic was that they even portrayed him as the person with the rational outlook on situations; the person who other contestants would come to for guidance and clarification on what was happening. This is not Coach. It will never be Coach. Coach is not a Brian Heidik or Yul Kwon. Coach is entertainment. Coach is fun. Coach is the Dragon Slayer. Coach is the direct descendant of Pocahontas. Portraying him as anything else is blasphemous. It makes me sick. And it’s horribly, horribly sad.
1. Kumbaya My Lord
Speaking of blasphemy… without a shadow of a doubt, the worst thing about this season was the constant religious theme that was a mainstay throughout the season. It was Rob Cesternino who said it first in Survivor: Amazon: ‘I didn’t know that Jesus had a vested interest in Survivor.’ And he is just so right. Regardless of your views on the validity of any religion, whether you’re a staunch atheist or a radical fundamentalist, there is absolutely no reason for any God to take a vested interest in eighteen strangers living by choice on a deserted island undertaking challenges such as ‘rip the most meat off this carcass using only your teeth’ in pursuit of one million dollars. God has more important things to do, like sort out famine and disease, achieving world peace and smiting Jeff Probst for thinking Redemption Island is a good idea. People praying for guidance in a game that is about manipulating other people for your own personal gain is wrong and fundamentally not what the whole idea of religion is about to start with. God would tell you to stop playing such an unethical game and stop wasting his time. Watching everybody hide behind religion and going off to ask God what to do before vote-offs was nauseating. Watching Coach use a group-prayer session to ask God for help finding an Immunity Idol, which was already in his back pocket, was outrageous. The constant prayer-circles (which for me almost made the people involved in them feel superior to the others) were infuriating. I can’t decide whether this set a cynical or sinister tone for the duration of the season. I personally think a mixture of both. Anyway, it certainly makes South Pacific the worst season of all time, and I hope it stays the worst season of all time. I don’t think I’d be able to sit through another Survivor season that was worse than this…
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!