It’s mid-week, which means another Survivor Oz Top Ten is ready for viewing. It’s probably common knowledge by now that here at Survivor Oz, we love to give credit to seasons that are often not so popular in the Survivor world. Today, that season is Survivor: South Pacific. After we recently published a Top Ten that described reasons why South Pacific is the worst season in Survivor history, Ozlet Nick Chester decided to write the other side of the argument, producing a list of ten reasons why the twenty-third season actually deserves more love than it gets from Survivor fans. Can Nick convince you that South Pacific is worthy of a second viewing? Find out for yourself! Read on and leave your comments below.
It has come to my attention that I alone in the Survivor Oz offices am a big fan of Survivor: South Pacific. I have been ridiculed for this opinion (listen to the South Pacific Ozcap), and South Pacific was then subjected to a recent Top Ten claiming it is the worst season of all time. So it’s time for me to draw a line in the sand, just like Coach, and state my case. I’m sure it will be an unpopular opinion with many, but hopefully a few of you will be convinced that the season is better than you remember.
10. Tribal Rivalry
South Pacific had an intense rivalry between the two tribes, something that is rarely seen these days. The challenges swung back and forth in a way not seen since Vanuatu, which made for great viewing as momentum changed between each tribe week to week. Each episode, the challenge was unpredictable and made watching the challenges much more interesting than usual. It also meant that the editors couldn’t ignore either tribe for too long, as both needed to be covered to explain the dynamics going on that would come to a head frequently at Tribal Council. Of course, this led to a deeply polarised Merge tribe, but also made issues like Cochran’s flip much more personal, therefore creating more interesting TV.
9. Interesting Pre-Merge
Following on from the point above, not only was the tribal rivalry intense, but the seven episodes before the Merge were all interesting and the dynamics playing out at both tribes were fascinating to watch, especially given how different they were. Ozzy and Coach’s leadership roles played out very differently, but both in really interesting ways. The Brandon Hantz factor at Upolu made things tense and uncomfortable, and Cochran’s inability to fit in with his tribe was fun to watch. There were tense moments at Tribal Council (see below), but even the interactions at Redemption Island were fun to watch and added something to the season. This section of the season is capped off with an incredible episode (“Trojan Horse”), where the rest of the game seems to hinge on the Immunity Challenge. Savaii’s loss, followed by the tribe’s berating of Cochran and Ozzy’s risky decision to send himself to Redemption Island, is simply awesome television.
8. Great Cast
It’s hard to argue that South Pacific had a diverse and interesting cast. No, not everyone was an A+ character, but plenty were. Even early boots such as Papa Bear and Stacey gave us some great moments. Cochran was, of course, a polarising but nonetheless interesting character; Sophie and Albert were great schemers; and Brandon brought a lot of interest to the game, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Jim Rice is an unsung hero of the cast, giving great confessionals and playing a strategic game that was fun to watch. It was cool to see more relatable characters as well, and Dawn (at least in her South Pacific version) was somebody that lots of people liked because she was a fairly relatable person who viewers could identify with. Although Coach and Ozzy seemed odd choices to return for the season, they actually meshed with this cast. Yes, they got a lot of the screen time, but unlike the season before, they were not the sole stars of the show.
7. Epic Challenges
The close nature of many of the challenges was the bigger reason that they were epic than the challenges themselves. The final Tribal Immunity Challenge, as mentioned above, was a real highlight as the importance of winning it was so huge. The reaction of both tribes showed this. Other challenges were also great. The weight bearing challenge that came down to Stacey and Dawn was awesome, as was the Final Immunity Challenge where Sophie had a come from behind victory. With Ozzy being such a polarising player, the challenge had a lot of viewers on the edge of their seat.
6. Entertaining Ozzy
As mentioned, Ozzy is a pretty polarising figure in Survivor. Whilst he was a likeable challenge dominator in the Cook Islands, he was a fairly unlikeable and arrogant player in Micronesia. In South Pacific, he was an interesting mix of the two, and by far at his most interesting to watch. Pre-game, he rightly pointed out that his social and strategic game needed some work and he set about doing both of these things, with mixed results. Regardless of his plan’s success, it was always pretty entertaining. His plan to vote himself out was great viewing, as well as his fairly painful acting performance at Redemption Island the next day. He did a good degree of sulking after Elyse was blindsided, but actually dealt well with Cochran following his big move. I was not a huge Ozzy fan, but I had to applaud what he brought to this season. At times it was spectacular, and other times a spectacular failure. But it was always entertaining.
5. Transformed Coach
Coach came into South Pacific with a reputation as a joke. Nobody took him seriously, and for good reason. In his first two shots at the game, he seemed more interested in quoting historical figures and doing Dragon Chi than actually creating successful alliances (not to say South Pacific was completely lacking these antics). Many people will say that a person can’t really change the way they play the game; they are who they are and there really is no changing it. Coach certainly seemed to change things up on his third attempt, creating a strong alliance and remaining fiercely loyal to it. He used religion as a way of bonding the group and ensuring their connection was made to seem to be about more than just the game of Survivor. He cleverly used his profile as a former player to woo super fan Cochran. He managed to control Brandon in a way no one else could, shutting him down and refocusing him on what was important. If the Jury are to be believed, he was just one honest confession away from winning the game, and his inability to own up to his duplicitous nature was what cost him the win. Regardless, you can’t help but be impressed with Coach’s game and the radical transformation from laughing stock to strategic powerhouse.
4. Great Finale
Survivor finales can often be a bit of a letdown as the main action happened weeks ago and the final episode is really just a formality of crowning the winner. This was not so in South Pacific. It could be argued that going into the finale, there were still four possible winners in the mix based on editing (Ozzy, Coach, Sophie, and at a stretch, Albert). This makes things interesting, especially when they end up being the Final Four. The challenges were both tense. The strategy was still high on the radar, and with Coach unable to admit to Rick he was going and then his apparent guilt at voting Ozzy out of the game, nothing was certain until it actually happened. The Final Tribal Council was also interesting, with several jurors really sticking the knife in. And then of course the unpredictable final vote… but you will have to look a couple of bullet points down for a discussion on that.
3. Better Tribal Councils Than You Remember
How anyone sees South Pacific as a boring season where nothing happens is beyond me. The game play was actually pretty interesting. Yes, the part of the season where Savaii gets “Pagonged” is lacklustre, but this is a very short part of the season, and everything else happening before and after it is actually pretty unpredictable. I count at least three excellent blindsides, or at least three epic Tribal Councils. The Elyse vote was really cool to watch, and seeing strategy and vote splitting that early into a season is unusual. Ozzy’s reaction clearly shows that he never saw it coming, making it all the more fun. Keith’s vote out was also an incredible moment, and the reaction Savaii had to it was classic. And Brandon’s vote is often glossed over or forgotten, but the Tribal Council where he leaves is gripping TV, albeit in a very dark and disturbing way (the difference between his necklace giveaway and Erik’s in Micronesia could not be starker). Other votes, although not a huge surprise to viewers, still made for great Tribal Council moments, such as Stacey, Ozzy (the first time), Cochran, Edna and Rick. I think the reason people forget these moments can at least in part be explained by the fact that these players didn’t leave the game immediately but went to Redemption Island, so the shock or interest of seeing their vote out is somewhat dulled by the fact that they aren’t completely out of the game.
2. Unpredictable Winner
As mentioned above, the South Pacific finale is great to watch, and a big reason for this is that Sophie is a somewhat unpredictable winner. Many modern seasons seem to make it abundantly clear who wins weeks in advance through editing. South Pacific had many factors going on – could Coach get Jury votes? Would Ozzy win his way to the end? Would Albert be seen as too slick? The end story was really viewed more about whether Coach would win or lose than who would win, so Sophie came as somewhat of a surprise, and a pleasant one. It was nice to feel a little blindsided in the end rather than spoon fed a winner for weeks on end, and the show was much better for it. It also makes a re-watch of the season more intriguing as you have to watch a little closer to see what Sophie had done. And the viewers were not the only ones to be surprised – watch Coach’s reaction when Sophie’s winning vote is revealed. He thought he had it in the bag.
1. The Cochran Flip
Following two seasons where there wasn’t much in the way of big strategic moves, South Pacific was a welcome change. The key move in deciding the game was the controversial flip made by Cochran at the Merge. This set up Upolu to eliminate Savaii one by one and take the game over. Whether it was a good or a bad move is not really my point; the point is that it was a move that got fans discussing the show and debating the decision Cochran made. Some of the discussions and podcasts from that time still make for great listening as everyone had an opinion. It was such a polarising move, made all the more so by the polarising figure that Cochran was – seen as a victim of Savaii’s bullying by some and a pathetic coward by others, the fact that it was Cochran who made this move really sold it. As alluded to in earlier points, the reaction of the former Savaii members to the flip really made it fascinating to watch. The move itself wasn’t as much of a shock, as it seemed clear Cochran was going to make this move, but Ozzy’s inability to talk him off the ledge or give him the Hidden Immunity Idol made it even more compelling. And let’s not forget Dawn’s decision to not tell her allies what Cochran was planning to do when she found out. In hindsight, it’s easy to say Cochran’s move was dumb, but as it played out in real time, there was certainly much more debate about it with the repercussions still not fully obvious. A great TV moment, but even more fun was the huge viewer reaction to it.
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!