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Survivor Season Rankings - Survivor: Thailand (#39/41)

 

01-04-22 07:38 PM
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Continuing with this series where I rank all 41 (current) Survivor seasons on how much I enjoyed them as a viewer. This time I’ll be going over the first old school Survivor season on the list, Survivor: Thailand, ranked at #39/41.

Survivor S5: Thailand

Oh boy. Thailand is, uh, certainly something. By far the weakest classic era Survivor season. Well I guess that depends on how you define the eras of Survivor.
I’ve always used a system of;

S1-S8 = Classic Era
S9-S20 = Postclassic Era
S21-S24 = Dark Era
S25-S30 = Modern Era
S31-S40 = Postmodern Era
S41-Current = New Era

This is not some universally agreed upon split but it makes the most sense to me personally. Just know if I happen to reference any of these in the future this is what I’m referring to. But back to Thailand. At the time, way back when, Survivor had just finished its fourth season, Survivor: Marquesas. This season had not received the same positive reception as the first three had. Survivor production really wanted to revitalize the public opinion and interest after this. So they decided on Survivor: Thailand. Now, unless I’m the only person with this opinion, which I assume I’m not, this didn’t work. For numerous reasons really. As the name implies, this season was filmed in Thailand. An absolutely stunning location with tons of beautiful background shots and a rich culture. So obviously they want to show this off right? Right? Well, kind of I guess. There was a lot of culture put into the general look of the season (I’m talking things like the tribal council set) but that’s where it stopped. Unless I’m completely forgetting something, they only really had one cultural challenge or reward. One. In a country as beautiful as Thailand. What a missed opportunity.

As for the format, this season followed the standard founding format set all the way back in season one, Survivor: Borneo. Nothing new here, just 16 players split into two tribes of 8. This season had an orange tribe called Chuay Ghan (never typing that name again for both your sake as well as mine). Oh and a purple Sook Jai tribe. While the previous two seasons, Survivor: Africa and Survivor: Marquesas, each had a tribe swap, this trend did not continue into Thailand. The two tribes remained the same up until they merged into one. Which is really where one of the only twists happened this season, more on that later. They did tease us in the premier episode with the orange and purple tribes, as I will now refer to them as, not being predetermined before the game started. The oldest man, Jake, was going to select the members of the purple tribe, while the oldest woman, Jan, was doing the same for the orange tribe. Kind of like they used to do in PE class in school. Shoutout to all my fellow last round picks. They did make the tribe camp locations slightly interesting. One tribe had a cave to sleep in but had no water nearby, while the other had water but no natural shelter. All I’m saying is that I’d gladly take option 1. You can go out to get water just fine while sleeping in a completely dry, wind-free shelter.

Now where this season really takes a hit, similar to One World (I’ve mentioned that damn season more times this week than any previous week of my life), is that the cast sucked. There really was nobody that stood out as particularly likeable or great TV. Not one person.

On the orange tribe you had some older folks like Jan, John, Clay, Ted, and Helen. Half of these were completely racist or had such strong accents that you could only hear about one word they were saying every time they spoke. I mean you’ve got a problem when Helen of all people is the most likable person on your tribe. Jan was a lunatic, Clay was super grumpy and racist (but I have to admit he was also kind of funny at times), and Ted would end up in one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve seen on Survivor. There was also Brian, a used car salesman who was just as grimey as his occupation implies. Zero real emotion coming from that guy all season. Oh and Ghandia was mentally unstable. Great tribe guys!

Over on purple it was even worse. This tribe was much younger overall but that didn’t help their likability one bit. I didn’t hate these people as much as I did the average orange tribe member but they were also 3 times as boring. I legit had to look up the list of names on this tribe because Jed, Stephanie and Erin didn’t ring any bells. The rest were slightly better I guess. Shii Ann was kind of snarky and had decent game sense but got royally screwed over by production (more on that later). At least she was memorable enough to be the only person from this season back on All-Stars three seasons later. Legit, they only had 7 seasons to fill a cast of 18 All-Stars from and only put one person from this season because they had to include every season at least once. I’m sure if that wasn’t a requirement this season would have forever been ignored by the history books. Jake the old man was nice, kind of gave off a wise dad vibe. Ken was a good player but super boring, and Robb (2 B’s, guys!) was your typical frat boy (though he had a few good moments).

So the season starts off predictable enough. The younger purple tribe dominates the older orange tribe for the first 4 rounds, only losing Jed along the way (who cares lmao). There was a whole uncomfortable moment between Ted and Ghandia on the orange tribe but I think it’s best I just don’t talk about it. After this, however, the purple tribe runs into some issues. Their young age also makes them more volatile and they start fighting among themselves. This gives the orange tribe the opportunity to put the numbers back to an equal 5-5 split. They then get told they will be living on the same beach. Now every person there, and every person watching, logically assumes this means the tribes are merging into one. Shii Ann makes quick work to jump ship to the orange team as she was likely next on the chopping block over at purple. This is when Jeff drops a bomb on these people. Apparently living together does not equal a merge. In fact for 2 more rounds they just coexist with each other while competing on separate tribes. Guess this season is more similar to One World than I first thought. Shii Ann logically gets the boot from purple when they lose, and by the time they actually merge the numbers are at a 5-3 advantage for orange. Who then proceed to nonchalantly vote off the 3 remaining purples. This orange tribe went from being down 7-5 at one point all the way to being the last 5 remaining. In other words, apart from Jed (who cares), the entire purple tribe was voted out back to back to back. All 7 of them. So now you’re left with Brian, the grimey used car salesman, and 4 people who think they’re his best friend. Brian’s been toying with these people all season, blatantly making fun of how much they value their bond with him when they’re not around. He called the season ‘just a business trip’ and has put on his Mr. Freeze persona the entire way. Which is honestly impressive given that you’re living in poor conditions with little sleep the entire season.

In fact, the entire season he only breaks out of character once. At the family reward the cast gets to watch videos their families had made for them while they were away. Now Brian upon hearing this visually panics under the smile he’s putting on. Something is happening out of his control and he can’t stop it. The whole season he’s been telling these people that he and his wife are living in poor conditions and the money would mean a lot to them etc. General grimey stuff like that. When it’s Brian’s turn to play his video we are immediately greeted with Brian’s, erm, modestly dressed wife. Let’s just say her personalities were both on display pretty much. Much to Clay’s enjoyment, the old perv. You can audibly hear him breathing heavily in the background. Brian’s wife then goes on to show off their house, their cars, everything they own. I don’t actually know why she thought that’s what Brian wanted to see, but unbeknownst to her that was the absolute last thing Brian wanted. You can see Brian’s gears turning in his head as he’s figuring out how to recover from this. Next to him you can see Clay looking at Brian’s wife. Brian ultimately manages to bulls*** his way out of the whole situation, but that’s probably the closest anyone got to cracking the ice behind Mr. Freeze. And it wasn’t any of the players that did, it was his own wife.

He ultimately chooses to go to the end with Clay, who nobody really likes. Clay goes along with this as he’s still thankful to have seen Brian’s wife. Some of the purples give Brian s*** for being an a**h*** basically, and vote for Clay to spite him. Still, the 3 orange people on the jury got along better with Brian, or Mr. Freeze to be more specific, and as the swing vote old man Jake decides to vote for Brian. So the used car salesman wins the game by being deceitful and putting up a friendly persona the entire season. Somehow that fits. I’d argue watching the way Brian goes about this season was the only thing that made this season have some kind of good ending. I didn’t like anybody after everything was done, I didn’t like the season overall, but at least the best player won.

As for the rest, outside of a very few brilliant moments (the attack zone challenge is an all-time highlight), it was a very forgettable season. Aside from the mandatory Shii Ann, nobody has ever returned from this cast. I’d say that’s a wise decision. Next season will be the season to introduce one of the worst twists ever seen. Stay tuned.
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