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: 16
Broadcast Date: February 7th – May 11th, 2008
Location: Koror, Palau
No. of Castaways: 20
Get exclusive content and features by supporting Inside Survivor on Patreon.
Over 40 seasons, we’ve seen several casts mix new and returning players together. Micronesia was the first to do a half-newbie/half-veteran season, and what a debut it was. Ten former players were back, as well as Exile Island, with the winners of Reward challenges choosing a member of the losing tribe and their own tribe to send there and possibly find an idol. While Exile can be a hit or miss depending on the season, this rendition helped contribute to one of Survivor‘s most iconic moments, of which Micronesia has many!
Outside of Exile Island, the game is played full force from the very beginning. The Favorites are split into two divisive alliances. While some occurrences are out of their control (injuries, voluntary exits), it still makes for an intriguing look into their tribal life and respective strategies. The Favorites dominate the Fans in challenges, but the Fans tribe is far from dull, as they provide viewers with the majority of the early game blindsides. Also, the challenges this season are particularly ruthless, and while it adds to the “keep the tribe strong” mentality that pervades the early game, it also highlights Survivor‘s physically demanding nature.
Even with all its highs, Micronesia is not without some mishaps. Specifically, two medevacs (of fan favorites Jonathan Penner and James Clement, no less), Kathy Sleckman’s quit, and whatever you want to call Jonny Fairplay‘s early vote out. Seeing how Jonathan and James are both given no choice but to leave the game are somber occasions that remind us just how difficult the conditions are. Thankfully, these moments don’t cheapen the season the way it might with a less entertaining group of players because the gameplay is that strong. Also, there is at least some brilliant foreshadowing in James’s case, after Eliza wishes injury on him earlier in the season after he mocks her for complaining.
While the Favorites dominate strategically, there are at least some on the Fans tribe there to play for themselves and not afraid to stand out. While famously known for one thing (you know what I’m talking about), Erik Reichenbach is a kind presence throughout the season and one of the clear actual superfans who brings an infectious enthusiasm to the show. Alexis Jones and Natalie Bolton hold their own in the Black Widow Brigade, even while playing with legends like Cirie Fields, Amanda Kimmel, and Parvati Shallow. Pre-merge boots such as Chet Welch, Joel Anderson, and Tracy Hughes-Wolf also contribute to an eventful early game, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
However, it’s the Favorites that bring the majority of the entertainment and strategy to the season. And seriously, what a fantastic lineup of favorites this is. We have the true-blue heroic favorites like James and Cirie, former finalists Ozzy Lusth and Amanda, scrappy underdogs like Eliza Orlins and Yau-Man Chan, and designated villains Penner and Fairplay. And of course, Parvati, who proves her naysayers wrong as she claims her million-dollar prize and the title of Sole Survivor. Not to mention, she starts one of the greatest alliances in Survivor history, the Black Widow Brigade. These women dominate the merge phase and make it to the Final 6 with their five members. This alliance is a success story for the ages, and few come close to outshining them.
Survivor: Micronesia was the first to experiment with mixing new and returning players as a proper half-and-half season, with unprecedented success. It’s a season of unpredictability and shocking vote-offs, pretty much kicking off the “blindside era” of the show. This season has everything a fan could want—vigorous challenges, devastating exits, incredible blindsides, strategic brilliance, hilarious exchanges, and Eliza’s reactions to every post-merge Tribal Council. A strong season from start to finish with a few bumps along the way, Micronesia remains a staple in iconic Survivor.
Cat and Mouse Challenge — If you can’t tell from the multiple medevacs and other concerning injuries throughout the season, the challenges in Micronesia are physically brutal. However, none are more ruthless than the Cat and Mouse Reward challenge. Joel dragging Chet around like a rag doll is particularly difficult to watch, but Jeff Probst makes sure to list every injury sustained throughout the ordeal.
It’s A F***ing Stick — This episode is an hour-long comedy of errors, and boy, is it glorious. The merge has finally come, and Eliza and Jason are on the outs of the newly-unified tribe. Not all hope is lost because Jason promises to give Eliza his hidden immunity idol should he win Immunity. He does just that and gives Eliza his idol as promised. The only problem? Eliza knows immediately upon seeing that this is not, in fact, the idol, but a f***ing stick. The only thing that makes it better is how assured Jason is that a stick with a smiley face on it is the idol, because how it could it not be?
Ozzy’s blindside — Just one episode later, Ozzy’s feeling on top of the world after Eliza, someone he’d wanted rid of since the beginning, was voted out after she played his fake idol. Enter Cirie, who contemplates to the camera that perhaps Ozzy leaving with an idol in his pocket wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. After Jason loses the Immunity challenge, it seems clear to Ozzy that Jason will be the one to send home. But Cirie, Alexis, Natalie, and Parvati are thinking long term, and they know anyone will lose to Ozzy in the end. Tribal comes, Ozzy’s blindsided with an idol in his pocket, Eliza’s jaw drops, and Cirie gets her wish.
Erik gives up Immunity — Of course, we have to mention this moment, even if production likes to remind us about it every reunion special. The Black Widow Brigade are at a stalemate after Erik wins Immunity, essentially forcing them to turn on each other. At least, that’s what would have happened if it was a lesser alliance. Instead, the four come together and concoct a wild plan: tell Erik he’ll redeem himself if he gives Natalie the Immunity necklace. It’s such an out of left field idea, a pipe dream that could never actually work. Except it does work, as Erik falls for their tricks and is voted out immediately after. Production doesn’t even try to hide the votes and instead dedicates Tribal time to airing each of the women’s voting confessionals as they send Erik on his way.
Final 3 becomes Final 2 — I’m still mad about this one. Not because Parvati didn’t deserve her win (which she absolutely did), but because what an amazing final three Parvati, Amanda, and Cirie were. They were completely prepared to face off against each other in the Final Tribal Council, and what an epic battle it could have been. Twists are made to add excitement to the show, but this was a Final 3 that didn’t need it.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which season placed at number 6. You can check out the previous entries here.