In celebration of Survivor’s 20th anniversary, over the next couple of months, Inside Survivor is publishing a series of articles looking back at the show’s history, best moments, and most memorable characters.
We’ve talked about the greatest duos and friendships throughout Survivor history, but what about the rivalries? There is always going to be conflict when you take a bunch of strangers from all walks of life and throw them onto a deserted island. Sometimes a feud is borne from differing viewpoints or a clash of personalities or competitive drive. Or sometimes, you might just not like the way someone snores. But the best rivalries tend to combine a perfect mix of hilarity and intensity.
There have been many memorable feuds over the years, and narrowing down to a top twenty was a challenging endeavor. Nonetheless, here are my twenty greatest Survivor rivalries of all-time.
20. Laura versus Shambo (Samoa)
The most one-sided rivalry in Survivor history? Probably. But that’s what makes it so comically memorable. Shambo just did not vibe with her fellow Galu tribemates. In fact, she detested them, and Laura was the main target of her ire. I’m not quite sure what Laura did to upset Shambo so much, other than daring to exist in her vicinity, but it did give us the hilarious “there’s fish… in the ocean” confessional.
19. Kelly G versus Lex (Africa)
When Lex received a hinky vote at an early post-merge Tribal Council, he set out on a warpath to find the culprit. His main suspect? Kelly G, who certainly wasn’t the biggest Lex fan even before she became the subject of his dogged investigation. “Am I the only one that notices he’s a totally weird person?” Kelly said about Lex at one point. “It’s annoying.” The tragic part of all this, Kelly wasn’t even the one that voted for Lex, and yet she paid the price regardless.
18. Courtney versus Shane (Panama)
Casaya is one of the most dysfunctional tribes of all time, and Courtney and Shane just might be the most dysfunctional relationship of the lot. Their conversations would go from zero to 100 real quick. At one point, Shane even jokingly threatened to kill Courtney in her “sh**ty little apartment” if she dared betray him. And, in true Courtney fashion, it was the diss to her apartment she took offense to, not the threat of murder.
17. Abi-Maria versus RC (Philippines)
Speaking of death threats, the feud between Abi-Maria and RC is another of those weirdly one-sided rivalries. The two women began as allies, but Abi got paranoid and decided to confront RC on the beach. “If you f**k with me, you’re dead,” was the now iconic line. Tensions mounted as the Tandang tribe kept winning and avoiding Tribal Council. And some sneaky pot-stirring by Pete certainly didn’t help matters. The rivalry got so bad that RC claims to have turned down a spot on Second Chance due to Abi being in the mix.
16. Sierra versus Tyson (Tocantins)
Tyson is known for his cutting remarks and mocking of fellow players, and, for the most part, people take those traits in good humor. But Sierra might think differently about that. During Tocantins, Sierra was a constant punching bag for Tyson’s verbal jabs. It got quite mean-spirited at times, though Sierra had the last laugh, seeing Tyson blindsided at the final eight. Although, Tyson went on to win a future season, so he probably isn’t losing sleep over it.
15. Francesca versus Phillip (Redemption Island, Caramoan)
You’ve got to feel for Francesca for getting stuck on a tribe with Phillip both times she played. “How did I get stuck with the old, annoying guy in the droopy, fuchsia briefs?” she laughed. The two of them were even aligned for a brief moment in time, even though Phillip couldn’t pronounce Francesca’s name, or spell it, which he did, when he voted out first, twice! That’s got to hurt, especially when you promised to eat a rock if voted out first again.
14. Alicia versus Kimmi (Australian Outback)
“I will always wave my finger in your face,” is one of the classic Survivor quotes from the early years. Alicia and Kimmi’s fight was also one of the first major arguments on Survivor. Yes, there were disagreements in Borneo, but nothing quite like this. And what was the argument over? Something that would become a consistent source of controversy throughout Survivor history. Chickens!
13. Jean-Robert versus Courtney (China)
Courtney is one of the funniest Survivor players ever, and a major source of her humor in China was her utter disgust with one Jean-Robert. “Any guy that shows up to this game in a silk shirt and no underwear, you gotta wonder about that,” Courtney stated early on. Jean-Robert was lazy and sleazy and creepy, and Courtney didn’t mind letting him, and others, know about it. She even voted against him when her alliance didn’t want to.
12. Kelly versus Sue (Borneo)
The original Survivor rivalry that spawned the most memorable Final Tribal Council speech of all-time. The thing is, Kelly and Sue were actually close friends for a large portion of Borneo, working side-by-side as part of the Tagi 4. But when Kelly began having second thoughts about the alliance and backed out of the group, Sue took it as a personal affront. Rather than talk it out, Sue cut Kelly off, leading to the infamous “snakes and rats” speech where she told Kelly she wouldn’t give her a drink of water if she was on the ground, dying of thirst. Who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like that?
11. Bobby-Jon versus Jamie (Guatemala)
There is a thin line between competitive spirit and two lunatics screaming at each other. Bobby-Jon and Jamie fit firmly into the latter category. The funniest thing about this feud is that, at camp, both men were relatively reserved and soft-spoken Southerners. But when a challenge came along, it was like they were under demonic possession. Taunting, teasing, yelling, chest-bumping, saliva-flying spats. There was a true, intense dislike there. That is until both men were voted out back-to-back and surprisingly became… jury buddies?
10. Rob versus Russell (Heroes vs. Villains)
The first half of Heroes vs. Villains was basically the story of Rob against Russell. There was the Robfather with his old school “get the numbers and keep people loyal” strategy facing off against the unpredictable and aggressive “kamikaze” gameplay of newcomer Russell. The simmering tension was palpable and increased with each episode, as Russell was determined to prove he was better than the great Boston Rob. The show then tried capitalizing on this rivalry by bringing both men back for Redemption Island, but the less said about that, the better.
9. Chris versus Dom (Ghost Island)
Dom has the honor of being in one of the greatest duos and one of the greatest rivalries. The beauty of the Chris and Dom feud was that it built all through the pre-merge and culminated in a fantastic face-off in the merge episode. These two guys could just never get on the same page, despite Wendell’s best efforts to mediate peace talks—Chris was too “suave” for all that. The editors were clearly having fun too, as they bounced back and forth between Chris and Dom’s confessionals, each giving their perspective on the other. To be honest, Ghost Island was all downhill after the Chris and Dom battle came to an end.
8. Eliza versus Twila (Vanuatu)
Some of the greatest rivalries are when two bitter enemies are essentially forced into working together. That’s what happened with Eliza and Twila, who weren’t exactly the best of pals throughout Vanuatu. They both found the other insanely annoying, and neither had a problem airing how they felt in the moment. That’s what made their arguments so compelling because you had two unfiltered personalities going head to head. But when it made game sense to put differences aside for a vote or two, they were able to do it, even if it killed Eliza to see Twila sitting in the Final 2.
7. Aras versus Terry (Panama)
“Somebody call the whambulance!” Much like Bobby-Jon and Jamie, this was another rivalry spawned from the challenge battleground. Terry was the last La Mina standing up against the dysfunctionally dominant Casaya alliance, but try as they might, they just couldn’t get rid of him. That’s because Terry kept winning challenges, beating Aras to the punch every time, much to Aras’s annoyance. That was until the Final 4 when Aras finally slew his arch-nemesis. Terry had some complaints about the challenge rules, which led to a bickering match in front of Probst. “What are you gonna do, Terry? Say something bad about women?” Aras quipped. Yeesh!
6. Russell versus Sandra (Heroes vs. Villains)
If the first half of Heroes vs. Villains was defined by Russell versus Rob, then the second half was all about the Russell and Sandra showdown. From the start, Sandra wasn’t a fan of Russell’s “stupid ass,” but she placated him, keeping her insults for the confessionals. But as the season neared its conclusion, and Russell’s arrogance reached insane levels, Sandra grew less concerned about holding her tongue. “Are you with me or against me?” Russell asked her. “I’m against you, Russell,” replied an over-it Sandra. Highlights? Take your pick. Sandra burning Russell’s fedora so that he had to take his “bald ass” to Final Tribal is a personal favorite. However, watching Russell’s face as the votes come in for Sandra is always a joy to relive.
5. Corinne & Randy versus Sugar (Gabon)
It seems unfair to talk about Corinne and Sugar without also mentioning Randy and Sugar. They were both dominating rivalries of Gabon, a season full of petty squabbles and ridiculous rivalries. I mean, let’s face it, I could have taken my pick here. Crystal versus Randy was a close contender. However, people tend to remember the Corinne and Sugar beef the most, likely due to Corinne’s scathing Final Tribal speech. But overall, the Sugar and Randy moments are far more entertaining, from the cookie heist to the fake idol.
4. Kass versus Spencer (Cagayan, Cambodia)
The foundations of Kass and Spencer’s feud were built in the glorious mess that was the Brains tribe. They’d both blindsided each other, at the David and then Garrett votes, respectively. But then they came together to vote out J’Tia and stayed strong through the tribe swap. However, at the merge, it all fell apart, as Kass flipped, blindsiding her former Brains, and earned her moniker as Chaos Kass. And Spencer was not happy! “Kass, zero percent chance of winning the game,” was his immediate reaction, before they got into it back at camp. The tensions weren’t quite as high in Cambodia, though, once again, they momentarily put old beef aside at the swap, only for Spencer to vote out Kass as the first merge boot.
3. Lex versus Rob (All-Stars)
One of the most personal rivalries in Survivor history, the Lex and Rob beef carried itself off screen and into real life. The outside-the-game relationships are always an issue in returnee seasons, especially the case in the first-ever all-stars edition. When Rob asked Lex to save Amber, Lex believed it was a friend asking for a favor—a favor that would be returned down the road. For Rob, it was merely a game move, and he was unable to protect Lex come the merge. This not only cost Rob Lex’s vote in the end but, ultimately, their friendship. All these years later, and it’s still not clear if those wounds ever truly healed.
2. Fairplay versus Sandra (Pearl Islands)
“I’ve got a mil that says she won’t be the final one,” was the infamous Fairplay quote after one of his many shouting matches with Sandra. These two fiery personalities butted heads from day one; neither one wanted to back down and admit defeat. Even when they were working on the same side, there was no love lost between the pair. “Everything that comes out of his mouth is ridiculous,” Sandra said of Fairplay at one point—probably why she was the one person not to buy into his dead grandma lie. The fact the feud lasted all the way to the final three is one of the reasons Pearl Islands stands out as a legendary season.
1. Colby versus Jerri (Australian Outback, All-Stars, Heroes vs. Villains)
No other Survivor rivalry has had as storied a history as Colby and Jerri. It’s one of the most multi-layered and complex relationships the show has ever seen. What started as mutual, candy-based flirting soon turned into a personal battle, as Colby made his distaste for Jerri clear, ultimately voting her out of the Outback. The rivalry carried over into All-Stars, where Jerri cherished her moment of revenge, voting Colby out pre-merge.
In many ways, it was the perfect “made for TV” match-up. On one side, you had the All-American Hero and, on the other, the beautiful Femme Fatale. Oversimplified caricatures? Sure. But that’s how they were presented, as evidenced by their starting tribes on Heroes vs. Villains. But their rivalry softened in Season 20, as some of Colby’s Superman sheen wore off, and Jerri was shown as a more well-rounded, caring human being. A once bitter feud ended with Jerri voting out Colby once again, but this time with tears in her eyes. A bittersweet conclusion to Survivor‘s greatest rivalry.
Honorable Mentions: Jane & Marty (Nicaragua), Chet & Joel (Micronesia), Ben & Chrissy (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers), Crystal & Randy (Gabon), Kass & Tony (Cagayan), Erinn & Coach (Tocantins).
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more 20 Years of Survivor content over the coming weeks.