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: 14
Broadcast Date: February 8th – May 13th, 2007
Location: Macuata, Fiji
No. of Castaways: 19
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Though Fiji itself has become the permanent location for all Survivor seasons, there is only one Survivor: Fiji. Unfortunately, this season starts on uncertain terms for numerous reasons. Firstly, one player drops out at the last minute, leaving the season with an uneven 19 players. Then, the castaways spend their first day exploring the island and building shelter. They have no instructions for next steps and no indication for how they will be divided into tribes. Finally, the much-maligned Haves vs. Have Nots twist, which is exactly what it sounds like… one tribe has everything, the other has nothing.
While Haves vs. Have Nots is an interesting concept for a sitcom, it makes Fiji‘s competition aspect incredibly one-sided. The Moto tribe (Haves) dominates pretty much every challenge, while the Ravu tribe (Have Nots) sees their numbers dwindle. However, while the Haves are thriving as opposed to surviving, their cockiness is their downfall. Despite having the numbers, the Moto tribe makes it no secret that Cassandra Franklin and Andre “Dreamz” Herd are at the bottom. Well, guess who ends up sharing 2nd place in the end? While some recognize that this could be disastrous to their end-games, it’s too little too late. Dreamz makes it clear in his confessionals that he and Cassandra will jump ship the moment they have the opportunity to. That’s exactly what happens, resulting in a great lesson about the importance of the social game.
The gold of Fiji comes with the tribe swap and the merge. After the swap, the dynamic duo of Earl Cole and Yau-Man Chan pulls in Cassandra, Stacy Kimball, and Boo Bernis to their side on Moto. On Ravu, Alex Angarita, Mookie Lee, Edgardo Rivera, and Dreamz form “The Four Horsemen” alliance. Divisions begin to take shape, setting up the dynamics for what is, at times, an exciting and underrated post-merge game. Edgardo’s blindside, which sets the fall of the Four Horsemen, is still one of the most unforgettable blindsides in Survivor history. Even without that episode, the season is filled with other brilliant moments, such as the segments about life at the different camps, the eccentricities of different players, and the infamous Dreamz/Yau-Man car deal.
Fiji is excellent for a rewatch if you know who to root for. Make no mistake, the edit wants us to support Yau-Man, who is certainly an impressive castaway that shakes up expectations for what makes a successful player. But if you plan to give this season another shot, try watching from the perspective of the Final 3. Cassandra, Dreamz, and Earl are truly the season’s underdogs, and their success should not be discounted. This trio works their way up from the bottom of their tribe’s pecking order (Dreamz and Cassandra) and from the tribe losing everything (Earl) to become the most successful players in the game. The bitter jury and the aftermath of the infamous car deal end the season on a negative note but don’t let that minimize the finalists’ accomplishments. They all play excellent games and make history doing so. It’s time we give them the praises they deserved 13 years ago.
While not a perfect season, Fiji is certainly not as bad as its reputation would have you believe. Yes, the Haves vs. Have Nots twist is flawed, and there are some negative, unlikable characters. But it’s also a season with some great stories, rootable underdogs, comedic moments, and exciting post-merge gameplay.
Tribe Dynamics — Say what you want about the cast; both tribes give us a gold mine of entertainment. Take your pick of your favorite camp life moments: Boo constantly hurting himself, Alex and Mookie finding an idol while Lisi is sleeping (after she said they’d never be able to), Earl comparing his tribe to “Good Times” while the other tribe was “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. Some moments are uncomfortable; others are hysterical, but never are they boring.
The Fall of the Four Horsemen — Even Fiji‘s biggest critics can admit that “It’s a Turtle?!” is one of the greatest episodes in Survivor history. The back and forth between both alliances is perfectly paced, and we have Stacy Kimball to thank for the wham line, “Why not vote out Edgardo?”. The episode comes to its amazing conclusion at Tribal Council, where Alex confidently plays his idol, much to the amusement of his alliance. The smiles drop immediately once Edgardo’s name is read, and the camera pans to show Earl’s satisfied smirk as their plan plays out. Edgardo is voted out, the Four Horsemen fall apart, and we’re given one of the most gratifying Tribals ever.
The Car Deal — Listen, Dreamz is 100% in the right for his decision, and most people would agree with me if he was a Boston Rob or Russell Hantz type. Yau-Man’s offer, the drama leading up to the Final 4 Immunity challenge, and Dreamz going back on the deal is unexpected, dramatic, and exactly what Dreamz should have done. The jury and many viewers do not agree with me, but they’re just plain wrong. Survivor is a game about self-preservation, and Dreamz worked hard to secure himself a spot in the finale, the goal of the game.
The Final Three — The Final 3 make history as the only all-Black finalists in the show’s history. There is truly not enough credit given to Dreamz, Cassandra, and Earl, who each bring different strengths to the season. Dreamz is a dynamic player from start to finish. Make no mistake, none of the memorable moments in Fiji happen without him. Cassandra brings a quiet confidence that is often underrated in women’s games. And of course, Earl is equal parts leader and strategist. He votes correctly at every Tribal he attends, is unanimously voted the winner (the first player to achieve that feat), and is one throwaway vote from playing a perfect game. None of them have come back on the show since, but they all have the potential to be amazing returnees.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which season placed at number 26. You can check out the previous entries here.