Best Season Rankings – No. 19 – Blood vs. Water

The Best Season countdown continues.

Photo: CBS

Over the next few weeks, Inside Survivor is counting down all forty Survivor seasons from worst to first. 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 No: 27
Broadcast Date: September 18 – December 15, 2013
Location: Palaui Island, Philippines
No. of Castaways: 20


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Survivor: Blood vs. Water is a season that shouldn’t have worked when looking at it on paper. It was yet another mixed newbie and veterans season—a tiresome staple of the 20s seasons. And bringing family members into the equation just seemed to be asking for trouble, especially after what we’d seen previously with Brandon Hantz. On top of that, one of the most maligned Survivor twists of all-time in Redemption Island was coming back. The season had flop written all over it. And yet, against all odds, these elements somehow work in Blood vs. Water, which turns out to be a genuinely fun and entertaining season, albeit with a predictable winner.

For proof of how good Blood vs. Water is, you need only look at the implementation of Redemption Island, the only time this much-hated twist positively adds to the show. Having loved ones preside over the duels gives them an emotional weight that was lacking in Seasons 22 and 23. Here, there are real stakes involved, especially as loved ones can choose to switch places, effectively removing themselves from the game, as we see with Rupert Boneham in the opening moments of the season. It gives us classic moments, like Marissa Peterson’s “F**k you, Brad Culpepper,” and also does an excellent job in highlighting the women’s challenge strength, particularly that of Laura Morett and Tina Wesson, something often undervalued in the main game.

Photo: CBS

The choice of returnees is also an interesting mix, for the most part. There are past winners, Survivor icons, big characters, underestimated second chancers, and Colton Cumbie, for some reason, who quits early on in one of the season’s grimmer moments. But the great thing about the Blood vs. Water cast is that the veterans don’t completely overshadow the newbies like in previous mixed seasons. Sure, the past players mostly dominate the gameplay, but there are some shining stars on the newbie side. Ciera Eastin and Vytas Baskauskas are captivating in their own right, wily, rootable players who step out of the shadow of their returnee loved ones. Brad Culpepper makes for a perfect pre-merge villain with an entertaining downfall. And former Big Brother winner Hayden Moss, along with the likable Caleb Bankson, show off crafty Survivor skills at various points.

It’s a season that has a bit of everything: humor, drama, emotion, intensity. Perhaps the gameplay becomes a bit predictable post-merge, as Tyson Apostol takes a more strait-laced approach than his previous appearances. Still, that cheeky Tyson humor comes out from time to time—there is, of course, the coconut bandits moment with Gervase Peterson and the whole “Rustle Feathers” exchange. The post-merge also sees Ciera voting out her mom—this isn’t a top moment because it’s a ruthless blindside; it works because we see Ciera forced to write Laura’s name and her mom’s eventual acceptance. And, we can’t forget, there is the infamous rock draw at the final six, an event not seen since Season 4.

Blood vs. Water overcomes what appears, at first, to be a ridiculous theme by providing a great cast of characters, some unexpected moments, and just a whole lot of fun along the way.


Rupert’s sacrifice — After a first impressions vote-off, which sees Laura Boneham ousted from her tribe, her husband Rupert chooses to switch places with her. This sends Rupert to Redemption, where he goes on to lose the duel. It’s a surprise start to the season that shows nobody is safe.

Undateable — Kat Eddorsson was one of those fun characters that it was cool to see return for a second shot. And while she doesn’t last too long, she does provide a classic Kat quote before she leaves, when she wonders if her boyfriend Hayden will still want to date her post-vote-out. “No one wants to date someone who doesn’t make the merge!” she cries. Kat and Hayden broke up not long after the season had aired.

Brad’s blindside — The Brad hate-a-thon at Redemption is a funny side-story of the season, but his blindside is also fantastic. Brad mistakenly thinks he’s still in control of the tribe, only for the tide to turn at Tribal. It’s our first sign of scrappy Ciera and also shows off Caleb to be a strong-willed strategist. Caleb forces a tie, which then sees Vytas flip on the re-vote, sending Brad to his welcoming committee at Redemption.

She voted out her mom! — Yes, this moment has become a Survivor meme over the years, and the way the show presents it as this cutthroat move is certainly wrong. However, it’s still one of the season’s highlights, but, as I mentioned, not because of the blindside but because of the mother-daughter relationship and the conversations that come before it.

The rock draw — I think it’s easy to forget just how shocking this moment was at the time. It’s almost become lost in the shuffle because we’re now accustomed to BIG MOVES era Survivor. Plus, the fact we also saw a rock draw in Millennials vs. Gen-X perhaps lessens the impact. But you have to remember; this was pre-Cagayan before Big Moves and advantages became commonplace. We hadn’t seen a rock draw since Season 4, back in 2002! So when Hayden pleads for Ciera to join him in forcing rocks and she goes through with it, it’s a real mindblowing moment.

Check back tomorrow when we reveal which season placed at number 18. You can check out the previous entries here.

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

6 responses to “Best Season Rankings – No. 19 – Blood vs. Water”

  1. I did not see this coming at all. BvW is a solid 10-15 season. How is this below Tocantins, CI, EI, or even Australian Outback is beyond me.
    We got a new location, very interesting game and personal dynamics which became much more layered with the loved ones and redemption island, fun characters, fun challenges, fun moves, fun tribal dynamics (coconut bandits), everyone giving a collective FU to Probst burning the clues to the HII, most of the newbies held their own. AND has a very high rewatchable value. The only question mark for me was bringing back Colton, and of course his subsequent quit. But as a viewer it actually feels like a comeuppance. I, for sure, thought this would be placed higher.

    • Haha, I appreciate your comment, but these comments make me laugh. Some others are like “How is BvW still on this list, it’s so boring, it should be before SJDS” and then we have others like “BvW is a Top 10”. It just goes to show, as it says at the top of each article, season rankings are completely subjective. You’re never going to please everyone. This is just Inside Survivor’s list.

      Also, when you’re discussing 40 seasons of a show, any season that makes the Top 20 is considered top tier.

      • Of course it’s subjective. No one will have the exact same ranking. It’s not like we all have a board with criteria a la Leslie Knope (Je-ne-sais-quoi, P&R fan anyone?) haha. I realize some comments have been over the top and also make me laugh (like I would never have Gabon at top 5) but I feel like most of the times trying to consider most things (character development/strategy/interesting dynamics/gameplay (or lack thereof)/challenges, you get them in similar tiers (I give them +/- 5 positions) because it is evident that everyone values different things, but I would hope like maybe there is some sort of objectivity?
        In my case, the only thing compelling about CI, is the Yul vs Ozzy. Besides what I hate about CI is that it became even more notorious that they would purple edit many questions and they wouldn’t even care. BvW is still way stronger, and now that I think of it benefits greatly from coming after Caramoan. But the 20s didnt have many bright spots. The bright spots were very bright though.
        Even early edits, such as, I dunno, PI”s Trish, which at the time I think I rememeber was the lowest from PI, would be probably 5th or 6th to last now. CI, began that transition fully.

        Anyway, I’ll publish my ranking once we’re at the last few. Just for fun. And again thank you for doing these write ups. As a fan since season 1, I greatly appreciate them, specially the trip down memory lane (fallen camrades-ish?).

  2. And I hope my comments aren’t the ones making you laugh hahaha I try to be as objective as one can be on a subjective list. I did rank some seasons that I didnt like above others that I did like because of many reasons you have stated in your write ups. But still, I wouldn’t put up Ghost Island at TOP 10 or something like that lol.

  3. I will simply never understand why on Earth CBS decided to bring back Colton, Aras, and Tyson. Colton was the most controversial player in the history of the show. He wasn’t an entertaining villain and behaved like a terrible person in general. Like Danielle DiLorenzo’s return in ‘Heroes vs. Villains, Aras had no reason whatsoever to be brought back for another season. His win was the biggest fluke in ‘Survivor’ history, even more so than Chris Underwood’s. The final immunity challenge of ‘Panama’ was completely unfair to Terry Deitz and Aras had 9 votes cast against him prior to the final tribal council. Aras was just simply a forgettable and unlikeable winner and the division of tribes by age that season didn’t work. Tyson made one of the dumbest moves in the history of the show in ‘Heroes vs. Villains’. He basically voted himself out of the game. I will admit that he did redeem himself this time around from the very little of this season that I saw, but I just couldn’t watch a full episode this season with those three competing at the same time.

    • I agree on Colton. Not sure why they brought him back. For Aras, I think it was more that they liked Vytas and found the story between him and Aras interesting.

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