Survivor Oz Top Ten's are back again for yet another week, and today, Ozlet Nick Chester, brings you ten of the most notable Reunion shows from past seasons of Survivor. The Reunion offers a chance for the audience to catch up with the contestants of a particular season, with insight both into their time on the show, as well as into their lives after the show has ended. The Reunion shows have brought laughter, tears, arguments, confessions and even controversies; but which ones will make today’s Top Ten? Read on to find out!
Despite many format changes, twists and other evolutions to the game of Survivor, it is still a game very much rooted in tradition and rituals. Some things haven’t changed and are unlikely to ever do so – voting, torches, Jeff’s shirts. It’s also a firmly established tradition that each season will end with a live Reunion show. Sometimes enlightening, occasionally funny, and often awkward, the Reunion show caps the season off. The Reunion, just like the show itself, has evolved, and there have been many memorable moments that have come out of it. Below is a list of ten of the most notable Reunion shows. Please read that last sentence again carefully. Notable. Not best. Some on my list are there for all the wrong reasons, but they are notable and memorable all the same.
The first Jeff Probst-hosted Reunion is a great one to watch in retrospect, and boy did he have to hit the ground running. He comments a few times about the speed at which the show was going, but still manages to get to talk to everyone. Having to deal with the Ted/Ghandia situation in a tactful way showed that Jeff was definitely up to the job. He also gave insight through Tanya about the difficulties of being away from family whilst the game is being played, and the sometimes tragic consequences. Plus, he also got some great moments from Helen (“Yes sir, yes sir, that would’ve been tough”) and managed to get inside the dynamics of the Sook Jai tribe through Robb and Shii Ann. It seems strange now that Jeff wasn’t always the host, and his first attempt was definitely a memorable one.
This is a Reunion that is memorable for being slightly odd, much like the season. Although Chase’s song was weird and long talks with Terry Bradshaw unnecessary, the discussion with Jimmy Johnson was actually really interesting. Jeff also dealt with the quitters well (bonus fact: NaOnka’s mothers name is Xena), managing to slam them without being disrespectful. Likewise, his interactions with Shannon were carried out well and he kept things moving passed the awkwardness and on to more fun stuff, like Holly buying Dan some new boots. The Boston Rob introduction to the upcoming season, which he would turn out to win, seemed more than a little cheesy, but unlike many modern seasons where the Reunion is altogether forgettable, this one was actually worth watching for all its strangeness.
Again, this Reunion is worth watching just to see Jeff. This was, of course, just after he started dating Julie, and he directs a surprisingly large amount of questions her way. He also throws Chris under the bus several times, but generally for comedic purposes. It is a shame that he doesn’t give Chris more credit for playing a pretty great game though. The section that discusses Twila’s big lie and her son was also very touching, especially seeing how moved she was when he held nothing against her for it. There are also a number of minor interactions, which are great, throughout the show, including Jeff’s disappointment that Rory didn’t burn the shelter down, Brook’s desperate pleas to be put back on the show, and Chad discussing how his plan to downplay the issue of his leg amputation worked too well.
The China Reunion is a pretty crazy hour of TV. Seeing Todd, a lifelong fan, win the game certainly kicked things off in a positive light; but a number of the other players also made sure they delivered. James had a great story about being recognised at a graveyard by a grieving daughter and widow, and Courtney got a huge laugh out of saying she hated kids, just after talking about them approaching her a lot. And whilst the story about Denise ended up being false, it made for interesting TV at the time. But this was a great Reunion because everyone seemed to get their moment to shine and it didn’t feel dominated by anyone in particular. A pretty fun hour of TV to cap off a fun season.
A truly odd hour of TV, but the one-off Rosie O’Donnell-hosted show certainly had its own vibe and feel that makes it stand out from the others. If you were looking for an in-depth discussion about the strategic plays made during the season, you were not going to get it here, as Rosie was more interested in jokes, singing and dancing. But it was still fun. It certainly felt epic by being held in Central Park and Rosie being delivered to the stage by Colby and his Harley. Rosie made sure to hit on all the comedic moments (Kathy peeing on John, Sean’s painful horse ride), then gave everyone cars. It was complete madness. But you have to appreciate a point of difference, which this certainly was. It’s also fun to watch and compare Boston Rob to how he is now – quite a difference!
Much like the season itself, the Tocantins Reunion was largely all about Coach. The reveal and reading of his lie detector tests is still one of the funniest things to ever happen on a Reunion show and was such a fun moment. However, there were lots of other things to like here too. It was cool to hear about the JT/Stephen dynamic in a bit more detail, and also hear from Taj and Eddie George (contrasted to Terry Bradshaw, this was much more insightful and interesting). Apart from the creepy moment when Jeff gave JT the part of his tooth that was missing, it was all good fun.
Memorable for all the wrong reasons, the Caramoan Reunion was a complete mess. The first and only Reunion where not all the members of the cast were on stage, the pre-jury people were notoriously left in the front row of the audience. But this was far from the end of the issues with this Reunion. So much time was wasted talking to Boston Rob and Rudy, not to mention a cut away to Richard Hatch. Then Jeff spoke to a random little girl who didn’t have anything particularly interesting to say. The biggest issue I had with the Reunion was Jeff practically forcing Dawn to apologise to Brenda. It was very awkward and inappropriate. Sadly, the sheer number of issues with this Reunion means it will continue to be remembered for all the wrong reasons for some time to come.
Unlike every other Reunion, this was done with the cast knowing months in advance who had won, which made for a good show. Bryant Gumble did an admirable job as host (although the titles he gave to each segment were a bit tacky and forced). The real issues of surviving on an island and the complexities of making alliances were discussed in detail. The polls displayed during the show (apparently “scientific”) were good at capturing the views of the audience to this new show and what it all meant. Sue and Kelly even had a reconciliation of sorts. What I liked about this one was that the cast seemed so relaxed and everyone had the chance to say their piece. Dirk even changed his t-shirt at every commercial break! It was a great way to end the first season, and the Reunion is still interesting to watch in retrospect.
An incredible season was followed by an intense Reunion show, with twenty big personalities all pushing each other aside to get their viewpoint across. Pretty much everything was great about this Reunion, from Sandra soaking up the glory of being the only two time winner and Russell stating his belief that there is a flaw in the game, to Stephanie shamelessly plugging her new restaurant. There was little cutting away to the crowd and the discussion was kept on the stage. Jeff made a lot of light-hearted fun at JT and Tyson for their dumb moves in the game, and gave Colby a hard time for not really having his head in the game. I also really enjoyed Jeff giving Coach a hard time for long winded answers to questions. Jerri even had a nice moment of reflection on her journey through three seasons. Overall, this was a really crazy Reunion, but one that actually touched on a lot of the key issues from the seasons and started the ongoing discussions on Sandra versus Parvarti and who should have won that continue on to this day.
This was by far the most personal, awkward, and enthralling Reunion of all time. Starting in the most ridiculous of circumstances (the Final Two getting engaged), the tone was set for some epic weirdness to follow. However, it’s also a great hour of TV in terms of real discussions about the game and how the lines between strategy and personal relationships blur. This is, of course, more apparent when people who know each other play together, and was brought into clearest focus through the Lex-Boston Rob arguments. Big Tom’s “don’t yes or no me” was also a big moment that drew a big reaction from the crowd. The audience were encouraged to be particularly vocal, and this comes through with large cheers for Rupert and Colby, but jeering for Lex and Jerri. Whilst Jerri’s claims about her “suffering” may seem melodramatic, I don’t know that many of us could have dealt with it differently if we were in the same situation. It was certainly a big moment in Reunion history when Jerri left during a commercial break and didn’t come back. What is clear about this Reunion, and something that sets it apart from others, is that a lot of the players clearly hadn’t recovered from the experience, and were still feeling raw and angry.
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!