Top 25 Episodes In The History Of Survivor

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Over the last month we’ve been asking for your votes in the TOP 25 GREATEST EPISODES IN THE HISTORY OF SURVIVOR, and after receiving over 700 submissions it’s time to bring you the results! Amazingly every single season had at least one episode from it voted for, and in total 248 different episodes were voted for, with 171 episodes receiving more than one single vote. The top 25 is covered by an impressive 15 different seasons, from the first season of Borneo through to the 29th of San Juan Del Sur! So which episodes will be in the 25 and more importantly which episode did you vote as the greatest episode in the history of Survivor? Read on and find out!

25. Persona Non Grata – Caramoan Episode 5 (19 votes)

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From a personal stand point, I absolutely love this episode. The entire season of Caramoan is a bit of a mess and is overall a poor season. However this episode is a stand out based on the entire situation involving Brandon. Whether or not you are a fan of his, it’s fascinating and entertaining viewing. The music swirling alongside his breakdown, the reaction of his tribe members which then follows into that heated screaming match between himself and Phillip that involved Jeff Probst taking Brandon away to calm him down. It’s 42 minutes of pure enthralling action. I remember watching this episode with a person who is a non-Survivor fan and he was hooked on everything that was happening. Which to me goes to show that even people who aren’t fans are glued to such a unique episode.

24. It’s A Turtle?! – Fiji Episode 10 (21 votes)

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Fiji is such an underrated season, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this episode make the top 25. This was the episode that brought the ‘four horseman’ to a close, and the tribal council is one of the most entertaining and fascinating TCs to have ever taken place. The sheer arrogance of Alex, Mookie & Edgardo is amazing to watch as it then gets ripped out beneath them and their facial expressions are priceless. An amazing episode.

23. Dead Man Walking – Philippines Episode 8  (23 votes)

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This episode could lay claim to having the most confusing and complicated tribal in the history of Survivor, something that even Jeff Probst mentions at the end of it. There was talk in council, last minute moves and so much strategy that it’s hard to know where to look. We also had the gem of a moment involving Abi and her “i have one too” moment and her idol and that was followed by priceless Jeff Kent facial expressions and priceless Jeff Kent final words. Gold.

22. Anything Could Happen – Heroes vs Villains Episode 14 (23 votes)

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This won’t be the last time you see a Heroes vs Villains episode on this list and that is easy to tell from the season that is usually considered the best of all time. I remember watching this episode like it was yesterday, as from a personal stand point three of my favourites of all time (Jerri, Colby & Russell) all fought out for a chance to win but unfortunately all fell just short. Outside of that first viewing, the last episode has so much happening that it’s hard to look away at any point. Shame it didn’t make the top 20, but a worthy entrant on this list.

21. I Promise… – Micronesia Episode 10 (23 votes)

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It’s all about THAT blindside. Ozzy and not playing his idol, the look he gives his fellow players. Gold. One of the best blindsides in the history of Survivor. But remember before that? The moment Jason was duped by the women to step down? Those fingers being crossed behind their backs? It’s really hard to fault that as a package with this episode as well. But that glare by Ozzy, boy oh boy…

20. Surprise! And…Surprise Again! – Vanuatu Episode 11 (24 votes)

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Vanuatu getting some love makes me happy! This was a great episode, and it’s the episode that really set Chris up for his amazing win. THAT challenge involving his then fiancé (now wife) Lorie and the emotions that came with losing really helped the women sway their vote and ‘keep him for one more round’ that night. Of course looking back, it was stupid. But at the time, it was emotional and amazing to watch. Rejoice Vanuatu fans, an episode of your favourite season made it!

19. Zipping Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Caramoan Episode 10 (25 votes)

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From such a poor season it’s somewhat surprising that two episodes made the top 25. However despite the overall season being poor, it still had a couple of standouts and that is reflected by this entry as well as number 25 on this list. Again, it all comes down to a tribal and that amazing moment Malcolm pulls out not one, but two idols to ensure the ‘three amigos’ are safe. There was scrambling, smiles and shocks as the enigma that was Phillip was swiftly taken out of the game. If you remember anything from season 26, remember that TC.

18. Nothing Tastes Better Than Five Hundred Dollars – Gabon Episode 9 (25 votes)

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Gabon is another season that I was shocked made this top 25 but I’m not too disappointed it did! This was a great episode, remembered for two key moments: Randy and the cookies and Randy and the idol. So much gold did Randy bring to that season, but you really couldn’t help but feel sorry for him in this episode. Sugar was a tad on the mean side in both moments but in the end she got what she wanted and Randy departed the game. It also brought us arguably the greatest vote out speech of all time from Crystal and one of the best ever facial expressions from Randy when he found out the idol was fake. So good!

17. Let’s Make A Move – San Juan Del Sur Episode 13 (28 votes)

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Before people start screaming RECENCY BIAS with any San Juan Del Sur entries, make sure to realise the moments that these episodes brought. SJDS is such a good season, and to me it will be appreciated the longer we go into Survivor folklore. But the penultimate episode of the season brought with it the end of one of the biggest characters of the season in Jon. A tie was there, before Jon was finally sent on his way. It was the moment that really gave Natalie the win at that point too. Great to watch.

16. Hot Girl With A Grudge – Cagayan Episode 1 (32 votes)

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Cagayan is such an amazing season and easily one of the greatest of all time, and it’s no surprise to see the premiere episode of the season crack the top 20. In an extended episode with two vote outs, there were so many moments that make it so good, but the whole situation with J’Tia, the rice and then Garrett and THAT move make it just so good to watch. Go back and re-watch it and appreciate it for just how good it is, and then stay for the entire season to see why you voted it last year as the greatest season of all time.

15. The Martyr Approach – Tocantins Episode 12 (35 votes)

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Interesting to see a Tocantins episode make the list as it’s one of the more sub-par seasons in the history of the show. However this was the episode that brought with it the demise of ‘the dragon slayer’ and saw a real human moment to Coach as he struggled through pain to attempt to wear that immunity necklace. It also showed the strength of eventual winner JT that put him down as one of the most tenacious and cunning winners in the history of Survivor.

14. This Is My Time – San Juan Del Sur Episode 14 (38 votes)

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Another San Juan Del Sur entry sees the finale make the top 15. Two moments stand out, the moment Baylor was blindsided to sway the game and then of course Jaclyn and her stirring win to take her into the final tribal after nearly killing herself in the process. As I mentioned before about SJDS, it’s a season that overtime will be considered a lot better than it is now, so just wait for that day to come!

13. Jury’s Out – Marquesas Episode 8 (41 votes)

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Some would argue this episode set the standard for how Survivor would be played in the future. It took one challenge, four people and overconfidence to change the game and for the very first time in Survivor history we saw a power shift that took out the people who at that period in the show should’ve waltzed to the win. From a personal standpoint it also brought to an end the playing time of John Carroll, who not only was one of the best players in the first ten seasons but is also one of the most robbed in terms of never having played again! CHANGE THIS CBS!

12. We’re A Hot Moss – San Juan Del Sur Episode 4 (46 votes)

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What can you say about this episode. It saw one of the most amazing downfalls ever of one of the most dumbest Survivor players ever all wrapped up into one. The whole thing could be called a ‘Drewbarcle’ as we saw Drew go from no screen time too the ‘kingpin’ in the space of 42 minutes and have his crown ripped from his head. Still shaking our heads over here at everything that happened in it.

11. Beg, Barter, Steal – Pearl Islands Episode 1 (57 votes)

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The start of one of the greatest seasons of all time certainly set the standard for just how good it was going to be. Still unique all these years and seasons later, the opening moments of the players having to barter and negotiate with locals just what they would have to take with them back to camp really enthralled viewers and saw the birth of two of the biggest names in the history of Survivor in Rupert and Sandra. There is nothing bad to say about how good the premiere episode was of Pearl Islands, and should always be on your list of episodes to watch over and over again.

10. Rustle Feathers – Blood vs Water Episode 12 (60 votes)

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It took 23 seasons for the ‘purple rock’ to finally reappear after Marquesas but it did in Blood vs Water and came out a different colour too. The tribal council was so riveting to watch, with Gervase losing the plot, Hayden trying to sway things and Ciera just sitting in the middle amazed at what was happening around her. A deserving entry into the top 10 and somewhat surprising that this episode made the top 25 without it’s other ‘purple rock’ episode from the 4th season joining it.

9. Trial By Fire – Australian Outback Episode 6 (67 votes)

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What can be said about this episode that hasn’t already been said over the years. It was the episode that really showed people that Survivor was REAL. Mike Skupin falling in the fire was just so shocking and so iconic that this list wouldn’t have been valid unless it made it deep into the count. Those words of “he’s hurt pretty bad Terry” are recognisable to any fan of the show, and seeing the skin literally hang off Mike’s hands was disturbing, graphic and entertaining all rolled into one. Not only one of the best episodes of Survivor, but one of the best episodes of TV in the last 15 years.

8. Banana Etiquette – Heroes vs Villains Episode 6 (71 votes)

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So many highlights to this episode, so little time to talk about them! From the downfall of James with his injury, the invention of ‘banana etiquette, right through to Russell and the moment he took down Boston Rob and the shock the ensued at tribal council with Russell playing the idol for Parvati and the bewildered Boston Rob that could do nothing but sit there wondering where it all went wrong. Amazing episode, amazing television.

7. The Marooning – Borneo Episode 1 (71 votes)

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The moment it all began. The first episode in the history of Survivor and the episode that changed TV forever. Jeff Probst on a boat, chaotic scenes around him. Where would we be if we never saw that on our screens? The confusion of people playing was a sight to behold and going back and watching it now still takes you back and makes you wonder just how such a simple idea turned into a global TV phenomenon. Of course we’re glad it did or we would never exist!

6. The Final Four – Borneo Episode 13 (87 votes)

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Just like the first episode of the season was iconic, the final episode too was right up there in terms of memorability and just how important it would be for the show and TV in general. Rudy stepping off and costing himself a million dollars. The ‘rites of passage’. The first ever addressing of the jury. And THAT speech by Sue. So much happening. So many memories. Look up iconic in the Survivor history and this episode is there with a bullet.

5. If It Smells Like A Rat, Give It Cheese – Micronesia Episode 13 (88 votes)

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There has never been an alliance in the history of Survivor that worked as well as ‘the black widow alliance’ and all of it’s power and dominance came to fruition in this episode when they got a young, naive Erik Reichenbach to hand over his hard earned immunity and then get promptly voted out. You just can’t plan for that, and for that reason alone this episode thoroughly deserves a top 5 spot.

4. Slay Everyone, Trust No One – Heroes vs Villains Episode 1 (94 votes)

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The episode that started one of the best seasons of all time. An amazing collection of some of the biggest names in the history of the show all coming together in military helicopters to a remote beach and forced to battle it out against each for a million dollars. So amazing. So brilliant. And so worthy of it’s spot at number four. Can I just watch it right now please?

3. Going Down In Flames – Heroes vs Villains Episode 10 (96 votes)

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The final Heroes vs Villains entry on this list, it ends as the season with the most overall episodes on this list with four. Some would say this episode was the episode that really gave the win to Sandra, as it was the episode that made sure the Villains were in control and they never looked back. What can be said about it? THAT move by Parvati with the double idol give is a selling point enough. If you’re a superfan of the show, there is nothing more to add as this episode is truly amazing.

2. The Great Lie – Pearl Islands Episode 11 (100 votes)

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This episode contains the moment you all voted as the best in the history of Survivor back in 2013 and once again THAT lie is good enough to get the entire episode into the silver medal position. So amazingly iconic was that moment that it reached far beyond the genre of reality TV and has been shown countless times on other shows and is one of the biggest moments that Survivor is known for around the world. It sold us our very first true ‘villain’ in the history of the show and made Survivor the most talked about TV show in America once again. So good. So so so good.

1. Head Of The Snake – Cagayan Episode 6 (130 votes)

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So good, so amazing, and so deserving of top spot on this list. If you think this is nothing more than ‘recency bias’ then you need to stop what you’re doing right now and go and watch it because whether that episode happened in the last 12 months or last 12 years wouldn’t make a difference as it is THAT good. Everything from the merge feast, the discussion, the cockiness of Sarah, Tony and his antics, Kass and her ‘good vs evil’ routine going on in her head right through to one of the greatest tribals in the history of the show. There is nothing wrong with the episode. It was THAT perfect. If we were to do this list again in 10 years, I would put money on it still coming out as the greatest in the history of the show. A worthy winner, and the episode you chose as the greatest in Survivor’s first 15 years!

Do you agree with this list? Which episodes do you feel deserved to be in the top 25 that missed out? Let us know below!

Our live episode will be up shortly and you can hear the results being read out live, as well as our live video Hangout. A video will also be made available in the coming days of the top episodes!

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35 Comments on Top 25 Episodes In The History Of Survivor

  1. Brennen Parker // January 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm // Reply

    Tocantins is far better than subpar. Top ten season in my mind

  2. I’m going to have to call Recency Bias here. The Cagayan merge was good, but does not belong above The Martyr Approach, The Great Lie, Jury’s Out, Surprise and Surprise Again and It’s a Turtle, not to mention all the Borneo episodes there. And nothing from Palau/Africa was here, but we need 2 from Caramoan and SJDS.

    • agreed I really think that they shouldn’t let people vote for an episode that aired in the last year or two

      • In defence of that, had we not included the last years worth of episodes we would’ve then been lambasted for that too. This poll can’t be perfect, no matter the results people will always lay claim to ‘recency bias’. At the end of the day, it’s our listeners/readers who vote, and if people wish to avoid ‘recency bias’ then make sure you vote for your favourites more often as these polls can always be voted for as many times as you like

  3. surprised so many from cagayan, don’t know what could have happened so interesting there lol. Probably just recent seasons that people remember no matter how dull they were.

  4. glad to see some fiji love though, actually one of my favorite seasons.

  5. No Palau? The two episodes where Ulong gets reduced to 1 and Stephenie is on her own before she becomes a part of Koror easily should’ve made it.

  6. Love that Jury’s Out is on the list, but wish that it was higher. My all-time favorite episode.

  7. i’m sad that mutiny from cook islands didn’t make the list, it had Candice and Penner jumping tribes, and kick started the aitu 4 win streak. i think it is one of the biggest comeback stories of survivor

  8. Two comments: the word “THAT” was way overused even though I really liked the write-ups, and I liked that you actually defended Cagayan at #1. It seems like everyone has a problem with #1 rankings no matter what it is.

  9. Tocantins subpar? ……what!?

  10. I’m ecstatic that “Surprise! And… Surprise Again!” made the Top 20 (My favorite episode). And glad to see 2 Cagayan episodes on the list (My favorite season). A little shocked The Australian Outback’s merge episode didn’t make the cut.

  11. This list is really the case of Recency Bias!
    Episode ending in a blindside does not equal good episode.
    How do you skip over “Swimming with Sharks”. Are you kidding me? All time greatest hero downfall. And amazing two parter “What the…?”.
    “The Neanderthal Man” – one of the most unique episodes – ending with Stephenie all alone.
    “Medical Emergency” – the pure comedic gold of Exile Island.
    “The Sole Survivor” – arguably the most brutal finale ever, between the purple rock and Vecepia backstab.
    “Boys vs. Girls” – that’s how you open the season. And that Jaburu victory – what a satisfying ending!
    Any of these episodes put to shame like half of this list!!

  12. No entry from The Amazon?! Seriously?

  13. Recency Bias

  14. Why so many entries for SJDS? Have you guys even watched Survivor before it? Surely there should be more from All stars, pearl islands, palau, cook islands, panama and samoa to name a few.

  15. I’ll agree with Corey: “Surprise and Surprise Again” is my favorite episode. If we could include back-to-back episodes, “Medical Emergency” and “Perilous Scramble” from Panama form a seamless, brilliantly edited story as the reward challenge reveals what the others think of Courtney; Terry discovers the Casaya pecking order and makes a plan; Cirie makes her own plan, having unwittingly revealed her true alliance; and the F6 tribal council counts down 3-2-1. Meanwhile, Shane asks Cirie to look at the rash on his genitals, and when the emergency medical guys need help carrying Bruce, Shane asks if they can wait, saying he has to sleep naked because of his diaper rash. Every minute is gold.

    I’d also add the F10 episode from Gabon, one of the finest examples of dramatic irony in Survivor, as Marcus insists that the group throw away the immunity idol he’s going to need at the next tribal council. Again, this is a beautifully crafted episode.

  16. I’ll never understand why Caramoan is disliked by so many. I thought it was a great season and am happy to see a couple of it’s episodes make the list.

    • Fans who aren’t fans. Favorites who aren’t favorites. Just a bad cast all together. A horrifically bad edit that ignored the fans, made the winner absurdly obvious, lying about why people were medevaced from the game, Eddie and Reynolds being portrayed as douche-bags then suddenly lovable under dogs?, etc. Philip being brought back. Brandon Hantz being brought back. Most of the pre-merge challenges being shitty and not really being a team challenge. What is there to like about the season?

  17. I am so happy to see so many Cagayan, HVV, and Micrnoseia episodes make this list. I kind of wished to see more Philippines or an episode from China on here. I don’t understand why people hate on Caramoan when it’s amazing. And why is so many SJDS episodes on here. It wasn’t that good of a season.

  18. SJDS does not belong on this list- it makes a mockery of the process.

    • Episode 4 of the Outback should have been on there as well as one from Amazon (Roger’s boot), Panama (Bruce’s medevac) and China (merge). Way too many from HvV and Cagayan. And the episode where Brandon quit wasn’t really an episode of Survivor, more like a mind numbing island version of the Maury Povich show: Garbage.

  19. Watched the unveiling last night and really enjoyed the opinions. Also really enjoyed the list. Sure it isn’t perfect, but solid for the most part.

  20. Great list. Excellent episodes included

  21. So much recency bias. Likely because most people voting can’t remember individual episodes beyond the last two years. Almost a third (8 of 25 or 32%) of the best episodes ever are from SJDS, Cagayan, BvW, or Caramoan? HAHAHAHHAHA NO! Utter nonsense. I like SJDS more than seemingly almost anyone but I might have at most 1 episode on here from that in my top 25 not 3. Cagayan merge number 1? Laughable maybe in the top 25. But if so barely and that’s mostly on the strength of the tribal counsel. Similarly, “Rustle Feathers” and “Zipping Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” are entertaining tribal counsels but the rest of the episode is average at best. Plus nothing that happened in those episodes had any lasting impact on the out come of the season it simply delayed things a few days. How can anyone say that “Persona Non Grata” is a personal favorite? Watching a person who clearly has mental health issues and shouldn’t have even brought back have a break down like that is supposed to be entertaining? Gross. I realize this list was voted on by the people, but really if it’s going to be this shitty and full of recency bias and in ability to remember past episodes what’s the point? Plus the write ups trying to justify this stuff was kind of brutal. I expected more, and was greatly let down.

  22. what moron wrote this??? Tocantins sub par? I havn’t seen the season yet but some top players came out of it as well as Cook Islands which got no votes?!?!

    San Juan Del Schit is a blatant recency bias. The season was a Flop!

    Agree with no 1 – Cagaya

  23. *We’re a Hot Mess

    • Interesting picks. Most of them justify high placing at the very least, and like Ben, I am jazzed to see Vanuatu and Fiji episodes in there.

      A few random thoughts

      – Tocantins is ace – wash your mouth out Ben!
      – That Brandon boot episode is the arguably worst episode in the history of the show. I don’t watch Survivor for trainwreak TV, and for one episode, Survivor truly represented the trashy side of reality TV. Just awful.
      – Nothing from Amazon? Surely either the Deena or the Alex boot episode warrants a spot?
      – I’m surprised China and Palau are missing too.
      – Does recency bias affect Cagayan? Hell no!. Both of those episodes deserve to be on this list, and while Head of the Snake might perhaps be better suited around slot three or four, there’s no doubt it should be in contention for the top spot.
      – Does recency bias affect SJDS? Hell yeah! The Drew boot episode is the only one that will be anywhere near the top 25 in a couple of years time (and I say this as someone who enjoyed the season).

  24. Shocked that there’s no All-Stars or China on here…

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