CBS’s long running reality show Survivor has a cult-like following, especially from the people who play the game. Even as far back as Season 1 20 years ago, contestants talk about “respecting” the game, and “being worthy” of the game of Survivor. With hundreds of dedicated players over the years striving to “outwit, outplay, and outlast”, it’s no wonder there are some seriously memorable moments from the ever-changing game - it’s a challenge to pick just ten. Here are the most memorable Survivor moments from some of the best Survivor seasons (if you haven’t watched all the Survivor seasons and plan to, beware of some massive spoilers ahead!!), at least so far:
10. Ozzy’s Fake Idol Gets Played (Season 16 - Fans vs Favorites Micronesia)
There have been a few fake idols in the history of Survivor, but not all have been played, and those that have were a little more convincing than “a fucking stick”. Ozzy carved a crude face into a stick and replaced the real idol he found with it. It was later found by Jason Siska -- who bought the trickery 100% -- and given to Eliza Orlins, who was way less convinced but willing to try it anyway. Ozzy’s glee over his stick being played as a real idol will forever live rent free in the heads of fans.
9. Chris Underwood's $1 Million Fire-Making Challenge Decision (Season 38 - Edge of Extinction)
Although voted out early in the game, Chris Underwood won his way back from the Edge of Extinction and ended up winning final immunity in the game, allowing him to choose who to take to the final 3 with him and who would make fire together for the final spot. He shocked everyone by giving up his immunity and making fire himself. He won the fire making challenge, earning jury votes and the million dollars - the first and only time someone who had been voted out has won the million dollars.
8. Johnny Fairplay Lies About His Grandma Being Dead (Season 7 - Pearl Islands)
Johnny Fairplay started playing Survivor even before he hit the beach, convincing a friend to come to the loved ones’ visit if he made it that far and act as if his grandma had passed. Fairplay spun a tale of loss as he grieved a grandma who was, in fact, alive and well. While it was a move that may have indeed kept him in the game longer, it went down as a real scumbag move.
7. Dreamz Goes Back On His Deal With Yau-Man (Season 14 - Fiji)
One of the legends of Survivor is the curse of the car, meaning anyone who wins the car prize ends up losing the long game. This proved to be true twice in Season 14 when Yau-Man wins a new truck but trades it to Dreamz Herd on the promise that Herd would give Yau-Man his immunity necklace if he happened to win it at final 4.
Dreamz Herd did win the immunity necklace, but reneged on his deal to Yau-Man and kept both the truck and the immunity, which boosted him to second place but may have just cost him the jury votes he needed to win the million.
6. Years Worth Of Winners Get Loved Ones Visits And We See How They’ve Grown (Season 40 - Winners at War)
The loved ones' visit is a sacred thing on Survivor; it’s one of the few milestones contestants strive to make it to and the biggest reprieve from the harshness of the game. Unlike past Seasons, Winners at War brought entire families to visit the winners all throughout Survivor history, and fans got to see just how far each winner has come from their first appearance on the show.
Married Couple Boston Rob and Amber were both stuck on The Edge of Extinction, but fans still saw them reunited with the children they have together - an amazing moment for fans who witnessed the beginning of their love story. Fans watched as grown men were brought to tears at the sight of their families - tough guy Tony Vlachos crumbled at the sight of his daughter. Jeff Probst called this loved ones’ visit the “Full Circle Moment” for a lot of the winners.
5. Erik Reichenbach Gives Up The Immunity Necklace (Season 16 - Fans vs Favorites Micronesia)
In one of the strongest arguments for women having power over the logical reasoning skills of men, Erik Reichenbach gave up his immunity necklace to Natalie Bolton. It was one of the most shockingly successful strategic moves in Survivor history, as the four remaining women in the game convinced the last remaining man, who would have probably had a great chance at winning the million, to give up the one thing keeping him from getting voted out all in the name of a misplaced loyalty and friendship.
Erik Reichenbach, of course, was immediately voted out - that is, after the shocked awe that coated tribal council finally dissipated.
4. Cirie Leaves With No Votes Against Her (Season 34 - Game Changers)
No one is truly safe on Survivor, even when they don’t technically get “voted” out. Social and Strategy player Cirie Fields’ exit from Game Changers was so shocking, because she made it all the way to the Final 6 just to be thrown out of the game because everyone else still in the game held some type of immunity.
Cirie Fields couldn’t even be mad about getting the boot, because as soon as Troyzan played his idol, she let out a little smile knowing she had to be the one to leave. She was given a standing ovation from the jury as she made her leave.
3 Boston Rob’s Deal With Lex: “You Take Care of Her, I’ll Take Care of You” (Season 8 - All-Stars)
Boston Rob is known as “The Robfather” in Survivor, for his many Godfather moments he has over the years. Probably the biggest of these moments came during the All Stars Season after he fell head over heels with his now wife Amber Brkich. After a new buff drawing, Amber was the only member of her original tribe to switch tribes, which led Boston Rob to make a deal with the perceived head of the other tribe, Lex van den Berghe. He pulled Berghe aside, saying, “You take care of her, I’ll take care of you” and rather than be faced with the wrath of The Robfather, Lex obliged his request even though voting out Brkich would almost guarantee he’d make it to the Final 5.
Amber Brkich was not voted off thanks to the deal, and she made it to the merge, where she was reunited with Boston Rob. However, at this point Boston Rob had made too many promises to too many people, and he had to double cross Lex van den Berghe and vote him out. Boston Rob and Brkich ended up as the final 2, and this led to one of the harshest final tribal council speeches when Berghe brought his fury out at Boston Rob for his deception. Brkich ended up winning the million dollars, and Boston Rob proved his love was not a deception by proposing to her at the live show.
2. Zeke Smith’s Strength After Getting Outted As Transgender To Millions of People (Season 34 - Game Changers)
One of the most emotional and devastating moments of Survivor was when Jeff Varner announced that Zeke Smith was transgender during tribal council, a fact that was new knowledge to the contestants and most of the world. Varner not only outed Smith, but also claimed that he was capable of other “deceptions” simply because he chose to not tell the other contestants. It wasn’t until the rest of the tribe immediately turned on Varner that he realized just what he had done in his attempt to stay in the game.
Zeke Smith sat in shocked, heartbreaking silence as the rest of the tribe came to his defense. Contestants were brought to tears of both anguish and anger over Jeff Varner’s thoughtless reveal; Sarah Lacina openingly vilified Varner even after apologies were made and spoke some incredibly loving words toward Smith. Smith, however, was a solid pillar of strength from the moment Varner spoke those exposing words, even embracing Varner near the end of Tribal. The reveal led to a unanimous vote-out for Varner, Jeff Probst not even needing a formal vote for the decision.
1. Ozzy’s “I’ll Feed You And Send You On Your Way” Speech (Season 23 - South Pacific)
An utter challenge beast, Ozzy Lusth presented fans with what is arguably the most epic gameplay of Survivor history when he both faced and defeated Redemption Island twice in one season. He originally made the bold decision to sacrifice himself to Redemption Island knowing he could beat the challenges, giving his tribe a better chance of keeping the numbers after the merge. After winning his way back into the game, Lusth was double crossed by John Cochran, the very contestant he saved by going to Redemption Island in his stead, and was voted off once more.
This second trip to Redemption Island was an awakening for Ozzy Lusth. Knowing once more that he could beat anyone who competed against him in a challenge, Lusth stood before all the players in the game and told them he would welcome each of them to Redemption Island, catch and cook them a nice fish, and then send them on their way by beating them in challenges - and that is exactly what he did. Lusth beat every single person who joined him on Redemption Island and he secured himself a place on the Final 5 in what was pretty much the most badass, warrior way possible.
After a relatively large break, especially for the twice a year show, Survivor is returning for its 41st Season in just a few short weeks. The premiere is set for September 22nd on CBS at 8pm and will drop to Paramount Plus the day after. The new season is sure to being more memorable moments - especially since Jeff Probst is changing the game yet again. Until then, you can check out the rest of the 2021 Fall TV schedule for what’s coming up this season.
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Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside. While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.