Heroes vs. Villains is often regarded as the best season of Survivor, or at least in the top 5. But despite the acclaim, there are more than a few reasons why it might not hold up as much as you might believe on a re-watch. This week our Ozlet from the Empire State, Jordan Rose takes on the historic twentieth season, sharing his top 10 reasons why despite being a very enjoyable season, it may just be a little bit overrated. Do you agree with his assessment? Let us know with a comment!
10. No Major Twists
Other than returning players divided into Heroes and Villains, there really weren’t any major twists this season, unless you count the double-Tribal Council in Episode Six. Although a tribe switch clearly wasn’t planned (as evidenced by naming the tribes “Heroes” and “Villains”), the classic pre-merge format set the stage for a rather straightforward post-merge. A more fitting twist would have been a mutiny (become a hero by joining the Heroes, or become a villain by joining the Villains), so it’s a shame we didn’t get to see that offered.
9. Russell Sees a Flaw In The Game
There were many high points and low points of Russell’s Survivor career, but to me this is probably the worst he has ever looked. It is the point in the reunion show where he complains that the game of Survivor is flawed, in essence because he didn’t win. “America should get a percentage of the vote”, he says. It is this point in the show (along with the Samoa reunion), that really makes him come across as a sore loser.
8. Not Enough “Old School” Players
Of the 20 players in Heroes vs. Villains, only 5 of them had played in the first 9 seasons (Jerri, Colby, Rob, Rupert and Sandra), and a whopping 10 of them had played in the previous four seasons. Although it was great to see some interaction between old-schoolers and newer players, I feel the season could have been made better by including some more of the older characters. There were also just too many relationships that we saw (such as the Micronesia connections) that we already knew about and had seen develop just a couple of years earlier.
7. Boring Heroes
While many of the characters on the Heroes side were some of the most dynamic in the show’s history, for some reason they just didn’t seem to be a fun tribe to watch. There were a few fun moments, such as the killing of the chicken in the first episode, Banana Etiquette, and J.T.’s letter. But, other than that there were merely idol hunting, injuries, James being mean to people, and routine strategy talk. And then the post-merge game developed, where just nothing happened that either went right for the Heroes or was interesting to watch.
6. Little Character Development
It’s no surprise that Heroes vs. Villains had a lot of strategy talk. But when I say it had a lot of strategy talk, it was to the point where there was very little time for anything other than strategy talk. Previous seasons had much more time for character development, and after the first episode only the major characters (Coach, Russell, Parvati, Rupert) got any scenes where we could enjoy them for the personas they created. Maybe there wasn’t just much there, but major players Sandra and Danielle were largely invisible for the first half of the game, and previously fantastic characters like Courtney and Jerri had basically no character scenes. And not all of the strategy was that sound (see below).
5. A Mini-Pagonging
As I said earlier, the twist-less pre-merge portion of the game made for a fairly predictable post-merge, even though the editors tried to conceal it. Tribal alliances were strong for the most part, and after the vote-off of J.T., it was all downhill for the Heroes as they were picked off one by one (interrupted briefly by the Danielle vote). As we have seen with many Pagonings, the losing tribe after the merge has very little to no chance to advance to the end and this season was no exception.
4. Tarnished Legacies
Many all-star seasons leave us with a different image of the returning players than we had going in, and Heroes vs. Villains had several of these players. Most of the Heroes did far worse than they did in their original season(s), and several Villains had bad games as well. Former winners Tom and J.T. came away looking much worse than they did coming in, and in the case of J.T., it was shown that strategy was certainly not his strongpoint. James came off looking like a bully, Colby came off as lazy, and Tyson’s demise was embarrassing for him. Some came away looking better than the first time around (mainly Jerri), but the legacies that were tarnished outweigh them for me. Also, I wonder what Rob’s legacy would look like had he not come back in Redemption Island.
3. Imbalanced Editing
This one annoys me, because editing can really make or break a great season. To me the editing in Heroes vs. Villains was too much strategy-based (as I have already said), and worse, only focused on some players’ strategies. I get it, since Russell’s game was easily the most impactful on the season, but it seemed like Jerri’s and Danielle’s impacts on the game were not shown nearly enough and the reasons for Sandra’s win were not explained very well. The pre-merge edit was probably better than the post-merge edit, but again, after Episode 1, there were very few character scenes and there was basically nothing on the Heroes’ side.
2. Strategic Blunders
Say what you want about Parvati’s double-idol play and Russell’s takeover of the Villains tribe, but to me there were far too many bad strategic moves in Heroes vs. Villains. I know people will argue that J.T.’s move of giving the idol to Russell could have worked, but the fact that 5 All-Star Survivors would come to a consensus of giving away their post-merge weapon to an enemy tribe they knew nothing about baffles me to this day. Tyson’s move of straying from the split-vote plan was possibly even worse, directly leading to his own vote-off and starting the plunge of Rob’s alliance. And those two moves were just the tip of the iceberg. There was also Candice flipping to the Villains, effectively ending her game, Amanda giving the idol clue back to Danielle (and Colby’s reaction to it), and Russell’s burning of most of the jury members.
Honestly, I could write a top ten of bad strategic moves in Heroes vs. Villains. And it would probably be valid.
1. Russell is a Bulldozer… Again
…Yeah. Russell’s way of playing Survivor may make for good television, but it leaves very little room for other players to play strategically. Which is what he wants, of course, but his M.O. of trying to control every aspect of the game, bullying people, and throwing them under the bus makes them disrespect his gameplay. And, his way of playing will never earn a victory no matter how much he tries, because the players he burns will never want to give him the million dollars.
What makes his game in Heroes vs. Villains especially hard for anti-Russell fans (like me) to watch is that it is being played for a second consecutive time – immediately after Samoa. His game in Heroes vs. Villains basically mirrored his Samoa game, where it was shoved down the viewers’ throats. And then we had to watch it again.
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!
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