Survivor Thailand: In Retrospect

I decided to rewatch every season of Survivor, starting from the very first one.  Here I share my thoughts on the season, the winner’s strategy, who they should bring back, and the most iconic moments of the show.

  1. Borneo
  2. The Australian Outback
  3. Africa
  4. Marquesas
  5. Thailand
  6. The Amazon

In this post, I share my thoughts on the fifth season, Survivor Thailand.


Young vs. Old

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Survivor Thailand is also a forgotten season, belonging in the same category as Marquesas. While I enjoyed the latter, I couldn’t say the same for Thailand. A core group of five dominated the whole game from start to finish. Hence, the majority of the season was quite predictable and boring.

In a first for the series, initial tribe assignment was chosen by the players themselves. Jan and Jake, the two oldest castaways this season, were asked by Jeff to do a schoolyard pick to build their tribes. Jake picked most of the younger castaways, attributing their physical strength, to form the Sook Jai tribe, while Jan picked most of the older ones to form the Chuay Gahn tribe. Because of this, the season was unofficially tagged with the monicker of young vs. old.

A core group of five was established in Chuay Gahn – Brian, Helen, Jan, Clay and Ted. Come the Final 10 and the two tribes divided equally 5-5, Jeff informed the two tribes that they would be living on one beach. Unknowing to the castaways, this was not a merge, to the disadvantage of Sook Jai’s Shii Ann who was already playing both sides. The next two immunity challenges were won by Chuay Gahn, leaving Sook Jai with a numbers disadvantage (3 to 5) come the actual merge at Final 8.

From then on, former Sook Jai members were systematically Pagong’ed, leaving the oldies the victors over the young ones. At Final 5 and with only Chuay Gahn members left, Ted and Helen planned to turn on Clay, who was lazy at camp. On the other hand, Brian and Clay vouched to eliminate Ted. The Brian and Clay duo managed to swing Jan, eliminating Ted. Helen was promptly voted out at the next tribal council. At the Final Immunity Challenge, Brian managed to outlast his tribemates, sending Jan to the jury.

At the Final Tribal Council, Clay was criticized because of his work ethic and alleged racism. On the other hand, Brian was attacked by the jury due to his apathy and duplicity. Brian managed to sweep all three Chuay Gahn jury votes and an extra vote from Jake to win 4-3 against Clay.


The Winner’s Game

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Brian Heidik

Brian Heidik was the head of the Chuay Gahn 5. It was amazing to see how he was never seriously targeted by his allies even though he was the biggest threat.

Well, why wasn’t he targeted? Simple. He promised each one a seat in the Final Two. Even though Brian’s head was always in the game, he was able to maintain a facade of honesty which everyone believed. The self-titled “Mr. Freeze” was able to make deep connections with his core alliance members, even though he knew that he would have to cut their throats one by one.

The only flaw I saw in Brian’s game is jury management. The 4-3 final vote was unnecessarily tight. In total, Brian only had three votes locked in (his former tribe mates), while the other four were up in the air. Penny and Erin voted for Clay because they thought that Clay bonded with them more than Brian, while Ken voted for Clay because of Brian’s alleged racism. Brian could have swooped these votes if he actually tried to be a better human being.

Despite all of this, Brian, across the first five seasons, was the most dominant Survivor winner by winning the last three immunities, never actually being on the chopping block, and sitting at the top of the dominating alliance of the season.


Please Bring Back

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Brian Heidik

If not for Brian, Jake and Penny would be great returning players. These were the last two Sook Jai members. Jake tried to pit the Chuay Gahn members against each other, while Penny eventually voted out Jake to save herself. These two tried their best even though the odds were stacked against them.

Like Vecepia, Brian hasn’t played the game again. He was asked to play during All Stars, but he requested a high fee which dissuaded production.

In 2015, Brian was interviewed on RHAP and he expressed that he wanted to play again. It would be great to see Brian play again since his duplicitous gameplay probably wouldn’t work a second time.

I would love for Vecepia and Brian to be brought back for All Winners since these two are very underrated players.


Moment of the Season

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The Fake Merge

The fake merge at Final 10 killed Shii Ann’s game. Sitting at the bottom of the Sook Jai totem pole, Shii Ann made an effort to swing for the fences by aligning with the Chuay Gahn to vote out Penny, giving Chuay Gahn a numbers advantage. However, upon Jeff’s announcement at the immunity challenge that the two tribes were still separate tribes, Shii Ann’s demise was apparent.

The fake merge was the most surprising event in this iteration of Survivor, shaking up the formula of the first four seasons, albeit at the expense of Shii Ann, who got a second chance for redemption on All Stars.

Runner-up: Grindgate featuring Ted and Ghandia


Most Hilarious Moment

Jan’s Pet Cemetery

Jan was the kooky lady of the season who unexpectedly finished at third. In a normal season, she would have been first out, but Thailand is a weird season where the oldies are the ones who prevailed.

Being a very sensitive person, Jan felt that she had to pay tribute to a dead bat she found near their camp. And so she built a pet cemetery for it. Once the tribe decided to kill their chicken for sustenance, Jan took some parts from the chicken and added it to her cemetery.

Even though Jan wasn’t cut out for the strategic part of Survivor, she was able to add a lot of humor to Thailand.

Runner-up: Brian forgets Shii Ann’s name after she gets voted out


Season and Winner Rankings

*To be updated as I rewatch the other seasons.

Season Ranking

  1. The Amazon
  2. The Australian Outback
  3. Marquesas
  4. Borneo
  5. Africa
  6. Thailand

Winner Ranking

  1. Brian Heidik
  2. Tina Wesson
  3. Richard Hatch
  4. Vecepia Towery
  5. Jenna Morasca
  6. Ethan Zohn

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