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.: 24
Broadcast Date: February 15 – May 13, 2012
Location: Upolu, Samoa
No. of Castaways: 18
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Survivor: One World aired right smack-dab in the middle of an era of the show commonly referred to as the “Dark Ages.” The stretch of seasons between Nicaragua and Caramoan—except for Philippines—is typically reviled by fans. Whether you want to blame it on poor casting, bad twists, general growing pains, or all of the above, the early-to-mid 20s were undoubtedly a rough patch for the franchise, and One World is no exception.
After two back-to-back captains seasons with Redemption Island and South Pacific, Survivor recruited a cast made up entirely of newbies for its 24th season. Back in Samoa for the show’s fourth (and final) time, One World saw its 18 castaways divided into two tribes: Salani, the women’s tribe, and Manono, the men’s tribe. The catch? Both tribes would live together on the same beach.
As a twist, the One World concept is actually a fairly interesting one. Its brief appearances in previous seasons (Thailand, Palau, and Fiji) never explored its full potential, so, on paper, the decision to try it out as the main season twist isn’t a bad one. Unfortunately, the One World twist doesn’t lead to any particularly compelling gameplay or memorable moments during its 12 days in play. The women sneak over to the men’s camp to steal fire on the first night and later negotiate a trade with the men. Beyond that, though, the One World twist offers nothing particularly exciting and disappears entirely with the tribe swap.
The main reason the twist ultimately falls flat is also the reason that One World is so weak as a whole: a terrible cast. One World has its share of memorable, OTT characters in Tarzan Smith, Troyzan Robertson, and Kat Edorsson, and a few genuinely strong players in Kim Spradlin, Sabrina Thompson, and Chelsea Meissner, but the vast majority is either wholly forgettable or actively unlikeable. Colton Cumbie’s racially-charged crusade against Bill Posely is one of the most uncomfortable moments in the history of Survivor. Similarly, Alicia Rosa’s season-long vendetta against Christina Cha—including a secret scene where she and Colton mock Christina by doing “slanty eyes”—casts a dark shadow over the entire season.
However, the saving grace of One World is its winner Kim, who absolutely dominates the game from day one. Kim’s winning game is a Survivor masterclass: she finds a Hidden Immunity Idol without a clue and never needs to use it, wins four Individual Immunities in the endgame, and plays a superb social game on top of it all. The only compelling reason to watch (or rewatch) One World is to witness the majesty of Kim’s winning game in all its glory.
The one downside to Kim’s win is that it’s just so damn obvious, even if criminally underrated runner-up Sabrina—who absolutely deserves a second chance one of these days—still snags a couple of votes from her at the Final Tribal Council. From the second she steps on the beach, it’s hard to imagine anyone on the cast besting Kim, which is both a testament to how strong of a player she is and how weak the cast One World is.
The birth of a legend — Again, Kim’s winning game is the saving grace of One World. She dominates the season from start to finish, and it turned her into a Survivor legend. Even in One World’s darkest moments, it’s an absolute pleasure to see Kim play such a strong game and come out on top.
That balance beam challenge — The second Immunity challenge is a must-see just because of Salani’s hilariously bad performance. The castaways compete in a challenge known as “By The Numbers,” where they line up on a narrow balance beam and have to pass each other one-by-one, only able to touch one tribemate at a time as they progress. Kat cannot get the hang of it and has to jump in the water multiple times after touching more than one castaway. Then, for no clear reason, she just keeps jumping back in the water even when she doesn’t have to. It’s one of the great trainwreck challenge performances of all time.
The men choose to go to Tribal — Even though it leads to the uncomfortable Colton vs. Bill confrontation, the men of Manono’s choice to give up Immunity and voluntarily go to Tribal Council has to be mentioned. It’s hands down one of the most baffling (and strategically terrible) decisions in Survivor history.
Kat’s blindside — Kat, in general, is one of the funniest parts of One World. From her abysmal performance in the balance beam challenge to crawling on her hands and knees towards her cousin at the Loved Ones visit, she continually delivers much-needed comedic relief during a pretty dull and predictable season. Fittingly, her brutal blindside at the Final 7 is one of the highlights of One World. At Tribal, Kat goes on and on about how exciting a blindside would be, fully under the impression that she’s about to be part of a massive move against Sabrina. But as Jeff Probst reads the votes, she slowly realizes, completely devastated, that the exciting blindside she was looking forward to was actually her own. Blindsides don’t get more poetic than that.
Tarzan — First, it’s worth noting that One World features not one but TWO men with a Tarzan-inspired nickname. But while Troyzan is certainly the more outwardly strategic player of the two, plastic surgeon Tarzan deserves recognition as the season’s most eccentric character. He’s the kind of Survivor character who needs to be seen to be believed: words, even when employing a vocabulary as advanced as Tarzan’s, can’t possibly do him justice.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which season placed at number 36. You can check out the previous entries here.