Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Season: Heroes vs. Villains
Episode: “Slay Everyone, Trust No One” (Episode 1)
Original Air Date: February 11, 2010
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Anniversaries are meant to be celebrated, and when Survivor‘s 20th season rolled around, commemorating its 10 years on the air, the show threw quite a celebration. Heroes vs. Villains was a tribute to the 19 seasons that came before it, bringing back players from all eras of Survivor, and the hype was real.
The pre-season buildup, from the moment the first preview aired at the Samoa finale to the night of the premiere, brought a palpable excitement to the Survivor fanbase. Looking at the entire cast of 20, any fan could find a castaway they enjoyed, whether by making them laugh with their quirky and endearing personality or making them pump their fists and look on with awe with their great gameplay.
“Slay Everyone, Trust No One” brings all of these fantastic personalities together for a supremely entertaining start. It’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic; even just hearing their voices is enough to conjure up some emotion. The pirate growl of Rupert Boneham. The thick Boston accent of Rob Mariano. The seductive tones of Parvati Shallow. The slow, Texas drawl of Colby Donaldson. The sweet, charming giggle of Cirie Fields. The Cajun inflection of Russell Hantz. It’s a sign of things to come having all of these players back on the beach.
After this fun reintroduction, the players get right into the action with a phenomenal opening challenge meant to stoke the competitive fire between the two tribes. The Heroes and Villains engage in a full-contact battle in the sands of Samoa. And it gets ugly fast! Injuries abound as Stephenie LaGrossa dislocates a shoulder (which Courtney Yates takes great joy in) while Rupert breaks a toe during his scuffle.
In another round, Coach Ben Wade frog-marches Colby down the beach to score a point for his team. This earns the Dragon Slayer a little redemption early on by besting a legendary challenge beast. And, of course, it’s followed by Tyson Apostol‘s memorable commentary: “Colby must be thinking… I might as well just become a woman. Because there’s no point in trying to maintain my masculinity now.”
There’s even a little topless action when Sandra Diaz-Twine, being true to the villain name, undoes Jessica “Sugar” Kiper‘s bra. However, this doesn’t bother Sugar in the slightest, as she bravely runs down the beach bare-chested, scoring the point for her tribe and, in the ultimate sign of “Suck It!,” flips the Villains the double bird. It’s an absolutely epic way to start what is surely going to be an unforgettable season.
The remainder of the episode does an excellent job of reintroducing all of these amazing characters into the world of Survivor as they settle into their respective camps. Over on the Villains beach, Russell is back to his old tricks. Having just made the finals the previous season, presumptively believing that he had won that game, he has dreams of being at the top once again.
Russell proclaims, “I’m the best player to ever play this game, now guess what, I get to prove it” in a confessional, believing this season is his chance at claiming Survivor glory for all eternity. Having thought things went perfectly the first time, he decides to stick to the same playbook, which consists of running down the beach looking for any pretty girl he can find and forcing them into a final three alliance.
For Russell, however, this episode is really the height of Russellmania. His arc—going from an aggressive but popular player who many thought was robbed of a victory to a disgraced two-time loser—is one of the season’s defining storylines. The groundwork is laid here, as Russell doesn’t realize the path he’s embarking on this time is only going to lead to the same result he’s encountered before.
There are also two blossoming relationships on the Villains tribe, both involving Coach. In a match made in Survivor heaven, the Dragon Slayer and the Maneater hit it off, as Coach and Jerri Manthey bond over their misunderstood status as villains. This interaction illustrates the fun of having all of these players from all of these different eras together. The fact that Jerri, one of the biggest villains in reality TV history, and Coach, who just showed up to the Survivor scene a year ago, can even talk with, let alone flirt with one another, is pretty awesome.
Coach’s flirtmance with Jerri, however, has nothing on his full-on mancrush on Boston Rob. He immediately sees Rob as the perfect sparring partner, somebody with whom he can match wits and strength, the embodiment of his “iron sharpens iron” philosophy. Meanwhile, Rob sees Coach as… well, Coach. Their dynamic leads to a superb scene in which Rob, after deciding climbing to the top of a tree to grab coconuts is too dangerous, seeks out somebody to do the job for him.
Luckily, Rob has that person in Coach, who jumps at the opportunity. After giving it a good old try, Coach backs down, much to Rob’s disappointment, mostly because he lost a bet he made with Sandra over whether Coach could do it or not. Coach laments his “hero to zero” status, as Rob retorts “from the villain to the never-was,” giving this funny little camp scene the perfect capper.
As for the vote-off, that distinction goes to the Heroes, who suffer a defeat in the first Immunity challenge despite getting out to an early lead, only to be thwarted by the puzzle god that is Boston Rob. As the discussion on who to vote out ramps up, it’s no surprise that three of the best players on the tribe are the ones driving the discourse, as Cirie and Tom Westman entrench themselves on opposite sides, with James “JT” Thomas using his “aw, shucks” charm to play the middle.
Tom is worried about Cirie striking up a Micronesia 2.0 alliance with James Clement and Amanda Kimmel. At the same time, Cirie, suffering from her chronic fear of alpha male types, sees Tom as the biggest threat. Both sides put in a solid effort in shoring up allies, but ultimately they decide to make an easy decision, sending home Sugar, who had ruffled feathers the night before by cuddling up to Colby (much to his chagrin) in the shelter.
It’s the perfect premiere episode, full of personality, humor, nostalgia, intense challenges, and compelling gameplay. Heroes vs. Villains had a lot to live up to, given the hype going in, and it smashes it out of the park from the moment those Villains’ choppers land on the beach, sending sand into the eyes of the Heroes tribe. The episode and season doesn’t let up from that moment on.
Check back on Monday when we reveal which episode placed at number 12. You can check out the previous entries here.