Survivor First Boots Season: Could It Work?

Introduction by Martin Holmes

CBS officially announced their upcoming Second Chance season during the airing of Survivor: Worlds Apart, and if you were to visit the official Survivor Facebook page afterward (that hotbed of Survivor opinions), you would have seen an interesting reaction. Among the expected “Where’s Ozzy?” and “Where’s Malcolm?” posts were an alarming amount of comments suggesting that CBS should have done a Survivor First Boots season instead. A season comprising entirely of players who were voted out first. This wasn’t just one or two comments; it seemed like every other post was bringing up this concept.


A First Boots season has been suggested online before many times, but it has never been one that has completely grabbed my imagination. Yet the fervor for this theme from a particular subset of fans after the Second Chance announcement peeked my interest. Why do people want to see it so much? And could you legitimately compile a compelling enough cast to make it worthwhile?

Newest Inside Survivor contributor Jacob Derwin tries to do just that…

Jacob Derwin Talks Survivor First Boots

It’s no secret that getting on to Survivor is a long and arduous process even beyond the casting process: months of preparation, training and putting your life on hold in the hopes of making it the full 39 days. But, as an unfortunate class of castaways has learned first hand, someone is always eliminated first.

If we count Wanda Shirk and Jonathan Libby from Survivor: Palau as co-first boots from their season, and I do, 30 contestants have the distinction of being the first sent home from the game. To get on Survivor, you need to be an interesting character in some way or another. Even the first boots, though often limited in screen time, must have left some sort of impact on the casting directors and producers of the show to get out on the island in the first place.

Remember Sekou Bunch from Cook Islands? The man has performed and recorded with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Ray Charles among other music greats, but many only remember him for his performing of a Survivor tribute song during the reunion show despite his early removal from the game. Zane Knight from Philippines, though sadly mistaken in his peculiar reverse-psychology strategy, absolutely left an impression on the viewing public before his departure – as abrupt as his nicotine withdrawal.

Many a fan of the game has suggested, at one time or another, that a season of first boots be brought into existence. The typical response: something along the lines of, ‘compile that list and see a disaster of a season unfold before your eyes.’ Is that so?

I am going to attempt to “cast” a best-case scenario 16-person season of first boots with even gender representation. I will not consider returnees who went out first on their retries unless they have only ever come in dead last. Of course, a lot of this comes down to opinion, but I can’t imagine better circumstances than what I’m listing below.

SonjaBorneoSonja Christopher – Borneo: If Sonja were to return to Survivor today, she would surpass her Borneo peer, Rudy Boesch, as the oldest contestant of all time at 78. Sonja’s personality, described as “very pleasant” by Jon Stewart, was not her issue. Her early elimination is generally attributed to a poor performance in the first Immunity challenge. I don’t believe Sonja would ever return to the game, but if she ever did, I think we would see similar results. Regardless, a large, nostalgic part of me would love to see her ukulele show up on my television again sometime.

PeterMarqPeter Harkey – Marquesas: Peter Harkey had no idea what he was doing. I could attribute his self-destruction to being on an early season of Survivor when it was not common knowledge that trying to control voting policies was a bad idea, but we’ve seen it happen since then. I personally would love to see if Peter repeated the exact steps he took to anger the rest of his tribe, or if he learned from his massive mistake in Marquesas.

RyanAmazonRyan Aiken – The Amazon: Ryan was the youngest contestant on his season. Had he come into the game with a better work ethic and a greater sense of balance, Ryan probably would have been fine for a while longer. Now, in his mid-30s, I could see Ryan at least making it past the merge if he were to try again. He’s not stupid, nor weak, just socially unaware of himself.

NicolePINicole Delma – Pearl Islands: “Not one of The Outcasts! No!” I might get some heat for this, but I genuinely believe that if Nicole had re-entered the game with Burton, rather than Lil, the Outcast tribe would not be looked back upon so negatively. She didn’t play very stealthily, as her plotting got back around to the tribemate, she was trying to send home, Tijuana, but at least she was trying to play the game. With more precaution, Nicole could do well on a second attempt.

BrookVanBrook Geraghty – Vanuatu: I genuinely love Vanuatu. It’s one of my favorite seasons with a lot of my favorite characters. That said; I really do feel bad for Brook. The guy wanted to play the game so badly, and he went out first for being too strong in the eyes of “The Fab Five” alliance. There is no doubt in my mind that Brook would have been fun to watch further down the line.

JonathanLibbyPalJonathan Libby – Palau: I’m putting Jonathan Libby on the list simply because I feel he would have made it past the first Tribal Council had he attended one. The schoolyard pick eliminations in Palau were brutal. I’m not putting Wanda in the lineup because I believe she would have been the first out of the game even without the schoolyard pick.

JimLynchGuatJim Lynch – Guatemala: Dear lord this man went through hell and back within the three days he was out in Guatemala. Voting Jim out seemed more like a mercy killing than anything. He was the oldest person on the tribe; he was sick from the grueling 11-mile hike Reward challenge that opened the season, and he had somehow torn his bicep during the first Immunity challenge. I’m not saying the man would make it too far in a second attempt, but he sure worked hard just to be booted first.

TinaScheerPanTina Scheer – Panama: I’m not saying Tina is top notch Survivor material. Her lacking social game is what caused her tribemates to turn on her, rather than voting out Cirie, seemingly the weakest member of the tribe. That said, the circumstances that led to Tina being in Panama were harsh. In case you don’t remember, she was supposed to be in Guatemala, but her teenage son died in a car crash just a week before she was meant to leave. That’s no minor distraction. She actually took time away from her tribe, while they plotted against her, to grieve her loss. I doubt Tina could ever succeed much in Survivor, but it would certainly get my attention if the lumberjill returned to give it another shot now that more time has passed since her tragedy.

SekouCookSekou Bunch – Cook Islands: Sekou is a super interesting and accomplished man and musician, but he wasn’t much of a player. He and his ally Nate Gonzalez targeted tribemate Sundra Oakley, citing her as the weakest member of the Manihiki tribe. Reliant on Stephannie Favor for the crucial third vote, their plan failed when she decided to side with Sundra and Rebecca, claiming Sekou was the least productive member of the tribe – and they were probably correct. He appeared to be a somewhat demanding, but struggling and weak leader. If you’re going to lead in any capacity, leading through action is a highly recommended approach. I don’t believe Sekou would last very long in any season.

ChickenChinaChicken Morris – China: Man, just take one moment to consider what China would have looked like had Chicken lasted a little while longer. Though tribemate Peih-Gee Law said she was voting for him because of his reluctance to step up in times of need, it was relatively clear that Chicken didn’t exactly mesh well with most of his tribe. But what if Chicken had another chance? He has lots of outdoor experience, and had his tribe been more cooperative with him, and he with his tribe; maybe he would have become a real asset. I can see it now. Chicken Morris: power player. What a day that will be, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Damn!

CarolinaTocanCarolina Eastwood – Tocantins: There is unreferenced information on the Survivor Wiki claiming that Abi-Maria Gomes from Philippines was originally supposed to be on Tocantins, but she was replaced last second by Carolina. Regardless of whether it’s true, I do see similarities between the two. It makes me wonder what would have happened if Carolina could have kept her mouth shut for a little while longer. She wasn’t the only member of her tribe lacking in challenges. Maybe she would be over in Cambodia right now preparing for Second Chance instead of Abi-Maria… okay maybe not.

FrancescaFrancesca Hogi – Redemption Island / Caramoan: One more time! One more time! One more time! Put Francesca out there without one specific former federal agent (?), and she might actually succeed.

CourtneyMoonOneKourtney Moon – One World: This one is more out of curiosity than anything. We really know nothing about Kourtney in terms of the game. It became pretty public knowledge that Kourtney’s doctors found a large, cancerous tumor in her abdomen around the same time of the One World premiere. Unfortunately, I can’t really find anything about her from after 2012, but I hope she is doing well.

ZanePhilZane Knight – Philippines: Zane is, well, Zane. I want him back just to see what he does. Does he have another backward scheme cooking inside that brain of his?

DavidCagDavid Samson – Cagayan: David, in the grand scheme of Survivor: Cagayan, ends up being little more than a piece of ally Kass McQuillen’s origin story. As the designated leader of the Luzon (Brains) tribe, David was told by Probst to single-handedly vote out the “weakest” member of his tribe. Believing he would be too big a threat later in the game, David selected Garrett Adelstein. Garrett would not be voted out, though, instead being flown to his new campsite, this would lead to David’s demise. I believe David fell into his tribe’s label harder than Mike with the Blue Collars on Worlds Apart. He wanted to represent the Brains by playing a strategy-first, physicality-second game but started overdoing it the first opportunity he had. If David were to return, he would have to slow down and remember that the game goes through many phases, twists, and turns.

NadiyaSanNadiya Anderson – San Juan Del Sur: It is always interesting when your out-of-game identity plays a role in your in-game life. Though her sister, Natalie, says she would not have been able to win the season with her “twinnie” around, there’s no telling how far Nadiya could have gone had Dale not played The Amazing Race card like he did.


Unfortunately, a common thread among many of these first boots is an “annoying” personality trait or a general lack of self-awareness. On top of that, more women are voted out first than men, leaving a smaller pool of men to select from, resulting in a relatively large portion of the gender being picked from necessity, where picking the best of the women allowed for at least some give-and-take. Basically, there are a lot more conceivable female-first-boot-returnees than male ones.

I think it’s fair to say that an all-first boot season of Survivor would be less than satisfactory. That said, there are several names on this list I would absolutely be interested to see try the game again: Sonja, Brook, Nicole, Kourtney, Zane, and Jonathan specifically; some for entertainment value, and some because I believe they had more to give. Maybe one day but not on a season restricted to first boots only!

What do you think about a Survivor First Boots season? Is it a better idea than Second Chance like the Survivor Facebook commenters suggests? Who would you cast? Leave your comments below.

Jacob is a 21-year old journalism student, with a concentration in broadcasting, currently enrolled at Kent State University. Jacob has worked as a Program Director at a college radio station and an intern at The Moth in New York City. He has seen every single episode of Survivor at least once.

  • Ryan

    I think the only problem with a couple good first boots from their original season is they are now between 60-80 years old – Sonja and Jim were likeable, but they’re nothing like the speculated 70-something coming into S32. If you’re not a very fit and healthy elder, survivor is not the game for you.

    Nadiya, Francesca, So Kim are perfect examples of players I’d want to see back. I think that CBS is biding their time on this concept until they have a pool of first boots worth seeing again that can handle the game – many as mentioned, are too old, annoying, or just kind of crazy in some ways.

    • SolidEther

      After the end of season 30, we have 29 “first boots”.
      Many were young when they played the first time and would still be an average age if they played now or in a couple years.

      Surely… 18 or 20 first boots would be healthy and young enough to play once again.

  • Ken

    What about So? The Best first boot except Fransesqua)

  • Whistler

    I think it’s a great idea. After seeing these people only one (or two) episodes it would be fun to see more of them. But please not Chicken. It’s a better idea than a “Bring back the Goats”season 😉

  • steve

    What .. no So!? She seemed too good a character to have had the boot in the first episode .. had the group picked Mama C instead of So I wonder how different the game would have been!

    • Jimbo

      Worlds Apart wouldn’t have been absolute shit if that happened. So wasn’t that great at the game but she would have been waaaayyy more entertaining and that’s the kind of player WA needed.

      If Carolyn was first boot she would be a lock for any first-boot cast though. I wonder if people would have seen her potential if she was the first boot 😕

  • Blake

    The biggest problem with the concept is that CBS wants to have memorable players on returning seasons (which makes sense), and most fans would not know who most of these people are. While I would support the idea, I do not know if CBS would ultimately go with it. Looking at S31, most of the candidates made the merge with several making the final four. This is why Rupert and Boston Rob have (unfortunately) played 4 times.

    That being said I like your cast and would love to see the season. Probst would fight for his girl Jessica deBen (14) to come back, which he has mentioned before, and for recency bias I would expect Marissa (27) and So (30) to get phone calls. Debb (2) might replace Sonja due to age. Marisa (19) and Pastor John (5) could be interesting too…

    • shhhhhhh

      i agree that CBS wants memorable players, but as a huge fan of the game i would love to see this season happen. it gives some of those early boots a real chance to show what theyre made of.

  • survivornightmarez

    What about pastor john Raymond from s4??? He was amazing


      He was in season 5 but yes I remember him and he would be great for a season with early boot returnees

  • Dave

    I’m not so sure about the first boots season so much as a pre-merge boots season – there’s a heap of varied and interesting people to fit that theme, and that cast could be great. That said, if we had to go with first boots only, perhaps we can expand it to include first boots from each tribe? That would add people like Billy Garcia, Stacey Powell, Brice Johnson and the almighty Vince Sly to the mix.

    • Jay

      That’s a good idea. It opens lots of doors to contestants that weren’t technically first boot, but never survived a tribal council. Billy Garcia was amazing for example and deserves a second chance almost as much as Sekou. As much as I love Ozzy it would have been so much more satisfying for him to have placed 19th in cook islands :p

      Overall there is just an insane amount of people that left early / pre-merge that I want to see back. I think many of the Cambodia returnees should have been saved for an “all star” season and allowed for more pre-merge people or people screwed by twists. That said, it’s still a season i’m very excited for, i just don’t expect them to do a pre-merger season soon after a season themed “Second Chance”

  • Matt

    The casuals confuse me. Half the time they are complaining about the current cast saying “put real people on the show” then they complain and say stop bringing back returning players or just “bring back ozzy and Malcolm”. Was surprised to see these first boot season comments when second chance was announced.. They complain about the second chance cast saying none of these people are memorable but they want a season of first boots….?
    The survivor Facebook page really frustrates me sometimes as there’s so much awesome survivor stuff happening but the comments are just filled with complaints and terrible ideas

  • Felipe

    I’d rather see Nadiya on Survivor Second Chance than Kelley, honestly.

    • Cole

      Do you still believe that?


  • nina acosta

    great article… I would love to see Kourtney play again, but technically I have the unfortunate distinction of being the first boot on One World, since Kourt was medically eliminated. All of us who have played and exited early would love a second chance, I’m sure… Being the “old gal” on an all female tribe didn’t work in my favor and was totally unexpected but then, that is why I love Survivor.. no regrets.would do it again, in a heartbeat!

    • Martin Holmes

      Hey Nina, thanks for commenting. I guess that is true, you were technically the first boot! I will amend that when I post Part 2 featuring who I’d pick on my personal first boot season.

      • nina acosta

        no worries Martin….not the distinction I was hoping for, but it is what it is…:)

      • Afiq Shahril

        Personally, I would love to see this season happen and I’m expecting the list of your personal first boot season very soon 🙂

  • Dutch

    I would love to see this season happen. Though no way would Sonja be out there again. At almost 80, it’s quite impossible. Most of your pics I agree with though. Ryan, Brooke, and Johnathan go the short end. I think had they of lasted longer things would have been so different. So Kim deserves another chance, gosh I wish she would have stayed longer, best scenario the white collar had one the first IC and one of the unlikable blue collars went and spared us. I’d throw Marissa in there too. As for Francesca, if she could get on a season WITHOUT Phillip, then I could see her being a power player.

  • Jimbo

    I think Sekou would actually do well. He was a good player but was stuck on a tribe in the minority. His strategic talks with the swing vote at that first tribal council were actually competent. But the real reason i want to see him back is that he is so funny and entertaining. In one episode of Survivor he became one of my top 5 favorite contestants of all time.

  • shhhhhhh

    tbh what about SO??? and also they dont have to do JUST first boots, they could add maybe second and third boots to that as well, the whole idea of a season like that in my mind id to bring back people who really didnt have a great shot and were voted out REALLY early

  • shihomt

    If they have included first boots to the Second Chance pool, I doubt any of them will get it. I mean, they aren’t that memorable. The only first boots I can remember were Marissa (From Samoa, who wore that stupid headband), Francesca (Philip’s bestfriend), David (who played the first 3 days like it was the final episode already), and So (from the latest). Kourtney have not really made that impact, but I wud like to see her play again, if she’s better now. I think the best way to add first boots as returning players for a season is by letting the production put them there themselves, and not the public’s vote. maybe a Fans VS First Boots season, or just adding 1 on Fans Vs Favorites (like Francesca).

  • jan pennabecker

    I have said this for a very, very long time.
    I would title it SURVIVOR: FRIST-TO-LAST
    (Meaning first voted off to last person standing. A backwards play on the usual last-to-first)