Best Season Rankings – No. 20 – Gabon

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: 17
Broadcast Date: September 25 – December 14, 2008
Location: Wonga-Wongue Presidential Reserve, Estuaire, Gabon
No. of Castaways: 18


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Survivor: Gabon‘s placement on this kind of list will always be controversial no matter how you slice it. Detractors will say it’s placed far too high, and its acolytes will complain that the season is ranked far too low. To say that Survivor‘s seventeenth installment is polarizing would be a gross understatement. The oft-repeated sentiment is that Gabon was so bad, it made Jeff Probst want to quit the show for good. Regardless of how much truth there is in that statement (there were certainly other factors contributing to Probst’s Survivor fatigue at the time), it still gets at an important truth: Gabon is not a “good” season of Survivor.

Gabon is bizarro, clusterf*** Survivor at its finest. It’s the Mad-Hatter’s Tea Party of Survivor seasons. The cast feels like it was genetically engineered in a lab to be as chaotic and dysfunctional as possible, with the Fang tribe, in particular, being one of the all-time great trainwreck tribes. Major strategic players go home early. With a few exceptions, the gameplay is completely baffling, with the season’s outcome being almost entirely shaped by a pin-up model named “Sugar.” The cast bickers over ridiculous s**t like cookies. Sometimes players disappear from camp before an Immunity challenge. They willingly throw a Hidden Immunity Idol into the ocean. The merged tribe’s name is “Gabon” backwards, for God’s sake!

Photo: CBS

However, all of this is what makes Gabon so special. There’s no other season of Survivor quite like it. Gabon is, hands-down, one of the most entertaining seasons of the show from a comedic perspective. The cast is stacked with memorable characters, even just in the pre-merge. There’s Fang’s resident elephant dung expert Gillian Larson, reluctant Fang leader Danny “GC” Brown, and wannabe James Bond villain Ace Gordon. Post-merge, we have iconic villains in Randy Bailey and Corinne Kaplan, laid-back surfer Matty Whitmore, an unlikely powerhouse duo in Kenny Hoang and Crystal Cox, and, of course, Jessica “Sugar” Kiper, the pin-up model who unexpectedly ends up controlling most of the post-merge gameplay.

It’s only fitting for Survivor‘s strangest season to have the show’s strangest winner in Bob Crowley, who squeaks out a win over runners-up Susie Smith and Sugar in a close 4-3-0 vote. Bob usually ranks somewhere near the bottom of most Survivor winner rankings, and for good reason. Bob’s winning game is hard to pin down beyond making fake idols, scoring some impressive Immunity wins, and winning the Final 4 fire-making challenge. His strategic game certainly leaves a lot to be desired; then again, that could be said for Gabon as a whole. As a result, Bob’s win isn’t particularly satisfying, but it serves as a fitting conclusion for a season as wacky as Gabon.

Gabon is definitely an acquired taste. Between the messy gameplay, the bitterness between many of the cast members, and a lackluster winner, this season won’t win everyone over. But for those who can appreciate a good trainwreck with some larger-than-life characters, Survivor doesn’t get much better than Gabon, which is just downright hilarious from start to finish.


The Sugar Shack — Sugar holds the record for most Exile Island visits, having been sent to Exile a total of five times throughout the season. No one (especially Corinne) expects Sugar to be able to find the Hidden Immunity Idol during her visits, but lo and behold, she finds the idol her first time at Exile. Sugar spends her subsequent visits in the lap of luxury, enjoying the free food and the hammock in the Exile hut she dubs the “Sugar Shack.”

Marcus’ blindside — Marcus Lehman is Gabon‘s clear strategic front-runner from the get-go. He’s smart, level-headed, well-liked, and creates the Onion Alliance on Kota just a few days into the game. After a fake merge feast where Marcus convinces everyone to throw an idol into the ocean, there’s a surprise second swap at Final 10. Marcus is safe, in theory, with his old Kota allies outnumbering original Fang members Kenny and Crystal. He targets Kenny, but Kenny and Crystal convince Marcus’ ally Susie to flip on him, blindsiding him in a 3-2 vote just before the merge. This leads to not only the most iconic Survivor GIF but one of the most memorable GIFS ever.

Randy’s bootRandy’s boot episode has everything: the auction, Cookiegate, Bob’s fake idol, and two of the greatest voting confessionals of all time from Sugar and Crystal. Bob’s decision (at the behest of Sugar) to give a fake idol to his own ally is one of the more baffling moments in Gabon since it serves no strategic purpose other than to embarrass Randy on his way to the jury. It’s a good thing Bob did, though, because that fake idol helped give us one of the most memorable Survivor exits ever.

Corinne’s jury speech — Love her, hate her, or love to hate her, you can’t deny Corinne’s villainous impact on Gabon. Her journey as Gabon‘s resident mean girl culminates at Final Tribal Council with her infamously cruel jury speech where she asks Susie to remove her vocal cords and attacks Sugar for crying about her dead father.

Check back tomorrow when we reveal which season placed at number 19. You can check out the previous entries here.

Written by

Christine Pallon

Christine is a writer, musician, and lifelong Survivor nerd based out of Urbana, Illinois. When she’s not playing shows with her bands or working at her day job at a tech company, she spends her free time tweeting about bad horror movies, Kate Bush, and the filmography of Juliette Binoche. Christine writes Inside Survivor’s episode recaps for Survivor US.

13 responses to “Best Season Rankings – No. 20 – Gabon”

  1. this season is an clusterfuck but an good kind of clusterfuck and funny enough this was the season that got me into Survivor 🙂

  2. I also love this clusterfuck of a season. See, I’m so easy to please. But I’m yet to see the couple of “boring” ones left. It’s not hard to list them before Top 15, especially Top 10.

  3. Also, I just want to add that Bob is not a lackluster winner, his win is one of the most satisfying actually. First off, Crystal was the last female to be eliminated that actually deserves to win. When she got eliminated, anyone from the guys is a more deserving winner over Sugar and Susie. So when Ken got eliminated and Matty lost the challenge, there was no other way that Bob should not take the crown.

    And seeing an old guy win the whole thing? Isn’t it satisfying? So satisfying that it was like a dedication to Tom and Rudy. And a shoutout to the oldest female winner at that time, Tina, from 15 seasons prior.

    That is how I saw Bob’s win. And that is how it will be, until someone breaks his record I guess.

  4. This is such an amazing season! Definitely top 5 and so robbed in this ranking. It’s such a fun season, with so many great moments and characters. Although I’m happy that people seem to like this season more than before, I also think its reputation as the “trainwreck season” is inaccurate. Some of the characters are a bit different for sure, but the storylines and strategy actually feel very natural and doesn’t feel like a trainwreck to me (Panama and Nicaragua on the other hand…lol). I think Gabon has the strongest cast of any Survivor season, and basically everyone delivers. Sugar, Susie, Crystal, and Randy are so iconic and I doubt we will ever have a season with so many incredible characters again. It’s the first season in HD (the location is incredible) so it feels like a “modern” season, but at the same time, the season is very much focused on characters so it’s also very classic Survivor at the same time. Similarly to a season like The Amazon, it’s a very negative season and most of the people don’t get along, but as someone who watches Survivor for drama, this season delivers from start to finish!

  5. This was the season that introduced me to the show, and I’ve since watched all 39 other seasons, so i think it did a pretty good job in getting me addicted. I have very fond memories of it.

  6. Yet it was an ok season???But others have been better. Randy made it with his attitude, bit of a square but in a likeable way. Sugar should of won though..but Dear old Bob needed the money and did an ok job playing the game. Now how that “Natalie” won on her season? was really wrong# she did nothing but being brought to the end of the game becauses of Russell’s nieve way of thinking, Good for her .$$$. I think the best seasons are All Stars and a few others…I just love the whole DAM Show..God bless jeff I love him the most about the whole show…Like Amber said “SURVIVOR wouldn’t Survivor without Jeff” Here- Here

  7. Bob was a good winner. Not every winner needs to be on top at every strategic move, he was very charismatic and did his part on the game.

    Justice for Gabon cause I can’t believe it’s ranked under Palau and Tocantins!

  8. Does anyone else have Gabon in their top 10? It’s a purely original, singular Survivor season IMO. There is truly none other like it.

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