It may have been more than 10 years since Survivor Palau aired on our screens, but there's still plenty to love about a season that Jeff Probst himself called one of his favourites and when Survivor's challenges were so much more than puzzles and balancing balls. This week, our ozlet Jordan recaps why if you haven't already, you need to rewatch Palau now. Do you agree with his reasons about the need to rewatch Survivor Palau? Leave a comment and let us know!
10. Stunning Location
Survivor: Palau was set in perhaps the most beautiful location used to date: A Pacific paradise where the temperature rarely drops below 70°F and sunshine abounds for most of the day. Many of the rewards of the season were set in spectacular places, such as Jellyfish Lake and a Palauan village. Survivor also elected to re-use the location in the Micronesia season. Although numerous rainstorms in both seasons pummeled the castaways like few seasons before them, the island nation was the perfect setting for both and will hopefully be used again in the future.
9. Use of the World War II Theme
Palau was one of the few seasons where a theme was used and was extremely prominent throughout the season. The WWII theme was a perfect addition to the season, as the islands were the setting for numerous bloody battles during the 1940s. It was apparent that the theme was used in numerous challenges, such as the shipwreck challenge (involving obtaining sake bottles), and the shooting challenge depicted above. The tribal council set was instrumental in exploring the theme as well, with nearly every prop being incorporated. Other items incorporated included the music used, fonts used, and even Morse Code.
8. James Miller
Palau had many great characters, not the least of which was James Miller of the hapless Ulong Tribe. He gave great confessionals, starting with the first confessional of the season by saying “Jeff’s a son of a bitch!” after Probst told the players that the game was on without giving them breakfast. His redneck persona endeared himself to the other players as well as Probst, who thought he was simply playing a character. The editors had fun with him as well, with nearly every one of his predictions shown turning out to be wrong. (Seriously, go back, watch, and pay attention.) He was voted off too soon, in Episode 6.
7. Tense Tribal Councils
Of the Tribal Councils that took place during Palau, I would have to say that there were more than half where the outcome was up in the air (at least to the viewers) as to who was going to be voted off until the final vote was read. The first dramatic one took place during the double-Tribal Council episode, where the Koror Tribe had won the right to vote to give one of the Ulong members immunity, which turned out to be the vulnerable Ibrehem. Once Ulong was whittled down to two members, Bobby Jon and Stephenie competed in a tense fire-making challenge which Stephenie won. Starting with the Final 9, nearly every tribal council was intense, including the Janu quit, the blindside of Gregg, and the Caryn vote-off, where Caryn aired the core alliance’s dirty laundry. The Final Four Tribal was probably the most compelling of the season, where Tom turned on his season-long ally Ian and forced him to participate in a tiebreaker.
6. The Snarky Katie Gallagher
Katie may be one of the most forgotten finalists in Survivor history. And that’s a shame, because she was one of the funniest and most entertaining characters of the season. She had many arguments with tribemates Caryn and Janu, taunted Janu after she bailed out of the “Last Gasp” challenge, and refused to answer her question at the final Tribal Council. Also, she delivered one of the greatest quotes of the season after Caryn tattled to Tom on her plan to form a women’s alliance at the Final 7: “We can’t get an all-female alliance together because Caryn sucks.” I might be in the minority here, but I’d love to see Katie return for a Second Chance season in the future.
5. The Hot Mess That Was Ulong
Despite being the only tribe in Survivor history to never miss a Tribal Council, Ulong was one of the most entertaining tribes ever. From the first immunity challenge, where they did not choose to play for flint if they had won, everything Ulong did was a comedy of errors. Sure, they did win some rewards (which also made for great entertainment, such as the outfits they made with the sewing reward), but they were at their most fun to watch when they were depressed. They had no majority alliance, as only one of the votes was unanimous (the Kim vote) before the last three people remained. Also memorable was the scene where Bobby Jon was depicted as a caveman, when only he and Stephenie remained. And of course, Ulong became the only tribe of one in Survivor history; Stephenie walking out of Tribal Council alone was simply surreal.
4. Awesome Challenges
Palau was the setting for the original versions of many challenges that have been re-used, such as “Sumo at Sea”, “Last Gasp” (above, in which the first person to bail was sent to the first Exile Island), and “Hot Pursuit”. There were many challenges that were used for the last time to date, such as the S.O.S. challenge and the Perch challenge. It was also the first season where physical combat was commonplace, which has become a mainstay in current seasons. As I stated above, the World War II theme was present in almost every challenge, making them even more memorable. I love the challenge aspect of Survivor, and in my opinion Palau was the best season of all-time for challenges.
3. The Premiere Episode
The premiere episode of Palau was groundbreaking, both in the way that the game started and the personalities that were introduced, setting the stage for the season. To open, all of the contestants rowed a large boat to shore, where two individual immunity necklaces were awaiting for the first man and first woman to claim. It was the first time where twenty castaways competed, and all spent the first two nights together on the same beach. On Day Two, a schoolyard pick was held for the first time in Survivor history to set up the tribes; the last man and woman (Jonathan and Wanda) remaining would leave the game.
If you go back and watch you will see that Koror was painted as the underdog tribe(!) as they were an older and less fit tribe than Ulong. In addition, they lost their flint to the bottom of the ocean on the way to a new campsite when their boat capsized. For all of these reasons, the Palau premiere was the perfect hook for the season.
2. Tom Westman
The winner of Survivor: Palau was one of the most beloved winners in history. New York City fireman Tom played the most dominant winner’s game up to that point, and did so with incredible charisma, leadership, and physical performances. He shares the record for most individual immunity wins in a season (at the time of writing), with five. He never received a vote at Tribal Council, and only one person voted against him to win the game. And, his ability to betray his allies towards the end of the game without losing their respect makes him one of the best natural Survivor players to ever compete.
Tom’s winner’s edit was set up from the first episode, making it easy for the viewer to see his dominant game on a re-watch.
1. The Finale
To me, the Palau finale is in the top two or three finales in Survivor history (Borneo’s probably being better). There was drama. There was treachery. There was suspense. And a really, really long challenge. Ian was the first person to show signs of betrayal, telling Jenn and Katie that he would vote out Tom if Tom didn’t win immunity (which he ultimately did). This information then got back to Tom, who decided to vote against Ian at Tribal Council. Overnight, Ian, Tom and Katie shared emotional scenes where Ian was made out to be a backstabber and a liar. At the final immunity endurance challenge, Ian decided to step down after 12 hours out of guilt, under the condition that Tom vote him out. The final Tribal Council was a sight to behold as well.
If you don’t want to re-watch all of Palau, just make sure you see the finale. It is truly one of the greats.
Honorable Mention: Jenn Lyon
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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