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Survivor Winners: Seasons 1 - 8

Updated on September 8, 2008

16 Seasons Strong

Back in May of 2000, CBS first aired Survivor: Borneo launching the most successful reality tv series ever. In September of 2008, the 17th season will begin, and I thought it would be fun to take a quick tour of Survivor Seasons Past, who won, and where they are now.

Richard Hatch
Richard Hatch

Survivor: Borneo

Originally, it was just called "Survivor". No one had any idea that it would still be going 16 seasons later, having to add a location to each name just to distinguish one season from another. Borneo was probably one of the most exciting seasons, simply because it was the first. No one knew what to expect, and each challenge and backstab was a brand new thing for reality tv viewers.

Richard Hatch came away from Borneo, the sole survivor, beating out Kelly Wiglesworth by a mere 1 vote. Unfortunately for Richard, the one thing most people remember him as now is the "Survivor who didn't pay his taxes". Claiming that he didn't realize he was obligated to pay taxes on his earnings (which amounted to well over the original million simply due to television and radio appearances after the show was aired.) Hatch was convicted of tax evasion in 2006 and sentenced to 51 months in prison.

How did Hatch snag the million dollars? He and his four closest friends in the Tigi tribe made an alliance, and when the tribes merged, they proceeded to vote off each member of the opposing tribe one by one. Hatch was just lucky enough to be in the right alliance at the right time. Most people that were on the jury didn't exactly like this cocky gay corporate trainer, but he won their votes, 4-3 over Kelly. He is scheduled to be released from prison in October of 2009.

Tina Wesson
Tina Wesson

Survivor: The Australian Outback

The second season of Survivor was won by Tina Wesson, a nurse from Tennessee. Unlike Richard Hatch, who did have some votes against him throughout the season, Tina never once had single vote against her in tribal council. Well liked right from the start, Tina became a key player when she orchestrated a backstab, overthrowing one of the major alliances in the game.

One interesting thing about Tina is that she was an alternate for the show and almost didn't even get to go! She was notified the Monday before filming began that she was going to Australia! Many people believe that when Colby, a part of Tina's alliance, chose her to go to the final tribal council, instead of Keith, Colby practically handed her the million dollars. Tina won in another 4-3 vote.

This season of Survivor was filmed on a cattle ranch in Queensland, and aired in early 2001. Since the show, Tina has gone on to write a devotional book and become a motivational speaker, sharing her life stories.

Ethan Zohn
Ethan Zohn

Survivor: Africa

i am curious whether the third season will become known as Survivor: Kenya instead, now that the 17th season is taking place in Africa as well. This season aired in late 2001, and was filmed in Kenya's Shaba National Reserve.

Ethan Zohn became the youngest sole survivor at the time, at the age of 27, beating out Kim Johnson at the final tribal council. Ethan also competed on All-stars, but failed to win a second million dollar prize After his Survivor experiences, he founded a group called "Grassroot Soccer", which raises awareness throughout Africa for HIV/AIDS through soccer.

Ethan was in a strong alliance that dominated the game in Africa for almost the entire season. Even when the show introduced its first major "twist" by switching some tribe members around unexpectedly, Ethan still managed to stay alive and make his alliances work. In the end, he won with a 5-2 vote. Another interesting thing to note about Ethan is that he is currently dating Jenna Morasca, the winner of Survivor: Amazon.

Vecepia Towery
Vecepia Towery

Survivor: Marquesas

February of 2002, CBS aired Survivor's fourth season. Originally set to be filmed in Jordan, CBS moved the filming to the Marquesas Islands after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Vecepia Towery Robinson became the first African American contestant to win Survivor, at the age of 36. Called Vee throughout the season, she was a smart player who constantly switched her alliances in order to put herself in a better situation. Making an early alliance with Rob Mariano (who would later appear in Survivor: Allstars), she then turned her back on him and voted for him in order to try to get into a new alliance.

One of the most controversial parts of this season was when the final 5 went to tribal council. Vee knew that she was the next one out unless she won immunity, and she did. However, the vote that night was a dead tie, with two votes for Kathy and two votes for Neleh. For the first time ever, the four without immunity had to pull rocks out of a sack, and Paschal, who had not received any votes against him that night, was voted out when he drew the purple rock. A lot of people were very upset about this method, and it was never used again.

At the final tribal council, Vecepia Towery won in a 4-3 vote against Neleh Dennis. Soon after the taping of the show, she married her boyfriend Leander Robinson. Although asked to participate in Allstars, she got pregnant and gave birth to her first child during the filming of the show, making her unable to participate.

Brian Heidik
Brian Heidik

Survivor: Thailand

Filmed on the island of Ko Tarutao in Thailand, the fifth season of Survivor was won by Brian Heidik. The show aired on CBS from September to December 2002, and introduced a few new twists. First off, the two oldest contestants got to choose their tribes. This was the first time that the tribes had not been pre-set before the show. Also, when the game was down to 12, they were each offered a chance to mutiny and join the other tribe. However, no one took it, and the producers decided to bring it back for another shot in the Cook Islands.

Another twist was when the 10 players that were left had what they thought was a merge feast. They were later told that they were living on one beach, but had not merged, leaving a few contestants in a bind after they had schemed with what they thought was their new tribe. Despite all of the twists, this is one of the least popular seasons of Survivor, with even Probst saying it was his least favorite.

Brian Heidik won in another 4-3 vote at the final tribal council, against Clay Jordan. Although he was known to be a used car salesman, his tribe tfound him trustworthy at first, loving him for his ability to get food and for his strenth in challenges and around camp. Later, he was found out to be very deceptive, as he had promised final 2 alliances with three different people in order to get them on his side. He definitely was a schemer and a backstabber, but he won the final immunity challenge and chose Clay for the final 2. Believe it or not, the two others that he had promised immunity to, and then backstabbed, actually voted for him, making him the sole survivor.

Another thing Heidik is remembered for is that in 2006, he was arrested for shooting a 16 week old puppy with an arrow. He claimed he thought it was a fox, but he was just a foot away when he shot it, and was charged with cruelty to animals. On another note, Brian also starred in his wife's pornographic videos, calling himself David Roth, after his favorite band's frontman, David Lee Roth of Van Halen.

Jenna Morasca
Jenna Morasca

Survivor: Amazon

For the first time, tribes were initially separated by sex, with eight females and eight males. The season was filmed in the Amazon and first aired on CBS in February 2003. The separation of the sexes created an interesting tension between the males and females, who eventually merged into one final tribe. The sole survivor was 21 year old Jenna Morasca, with a 6-1 victory of Matthey Von Ertfelda. Not only was this swimsuit model the youngest survivor to win the million, she was also the first one to win by such a large margin.

Jenna and another contestant, Heidi, are well-known for offering to take off their clothes for food in the season's first individual immunity challenge. This later earned them a cover and a nude photoshoot for Playboy magazine (which meant a second million for Jenna!) Jenna was a powerful female player throughout, but her real luck came in when, although a target, she was "sick" and the others voted out someone else, thinking that she would be easy to beat at the immunity challenge. Instead, Jenna turned it on and won the immunity challenge and hung on also win the final immunity. She chose to take Matthew to final tribal council over Rob, who had played a much more strategic game.

Jenna competed in Survivor Allstars, as did Rob, but neither of them got bery far. Jenna ended up quitting in the third episode due to her mother who was battling cancer. She said that she just felt that her mother needed her. She died only eight days later, and Jenna was there by her side. In addition to a modeling career, Jenna has been the host of Survivor Live on the internet for five seasons. She also appeared nude with her boyfriend and Survivor Africa winner Ethan Zohn in a PETA ad against wearing fur.

Sandra Diaz-Twine
Sandra Diaz-Twine

Survivor: Pearl Islands

Pearl Islands was fun right from the start with the 16 castaways dressed in clothes for a promotional event being told that they were not going to be allowed to go change or get any of their things. They were given an amount of local money equal to $100 and told that they could shop and exchange anything they had on them for supplies at a nearby fishing village. Rupert, my favorite survivor of the season, made me laugh right from the start when he took some supplies from the opposing tribe after they left it unguarded. Also on his tribe, Sandra Diaz-Twine, the eventual winner of the million dollar prize, spoke fluent Spanish in the village and was able to make some good trades with that advantage.

In a Survivor first, Osten Taylor, a young African American who had lost quite a bit of weight in a short time, quit the game. Instead of going ahead with a vote, Probst laid down his torch and told him to go. He was not honored on the final ritual remembering past contestants. Also a notable part of this season was when Jon Dalton had his friend tell the tribe that Jon's grandmother had died, convincing the tribe to let him win the challenge and spent time with his friend. When producers called to express their condolences, Jon's young and healthy grandmother answered the phone, shocking him, and later all Survivor fans with the ultimate lie. He was later known as Jonny Fairplay and came back to compete on Survivor: Micronesia, where he was the first to go home.

Sandra Diaz-Twine went on to beat Lillian Morris in a 6-1 vote at tribal council. Lillian's presence in the competition at that point was a point of controversy, since she had already been voted out earlier. In a Day 19 twist, the first six people voted out were allowed to come back and try to win their way back in. Lillian not only got back in, she made it to the final two. Sandra was the clear winner, with not votes against her all season (and interestingly winning no individual immunities). She has lived a very quiet life since Survivor with her husband and two children. She works as a bank teller in North Carolina. Although invited to appear in the All-stars season, she declined due to parasites she developed in the Pearl Island. Rupert Boneham from Pearl Islands did compete in Allstars where he won a million dollars through being voted top Survivor favorite by American Viewers.

Amber Brkich
Amber Brkich

Survivor: All-stars

Survivor All-stars was filmed in the Pearl Islands as well, and aired from February to May 2004. The season saw eighteen popular and talented players return from the first seven seasons. They were divided into three tribes, then merged into two. When they were down to 9 members remaining, they all merged into one tribe. The ultimate winner was Amber Brkich, who was the 11th person voted off on the second season in Australia.

Second place, and only losing in a 4-3 vote, was Rob Mariano, the powerful strategic player from Marquesas. Having developed a romantic relationship with Amber throughout the filming of All-star, Rob proposed to Amber before the reading of the votes at the final live show. She accepted and they were marriedin 2005, with CBS airing a special tv documentary about it shortly afterwards. They also went on to compete in The Amazing Race, where they finished second, as well as The Amazing Race Allstars, where they were eliminated fourth.

Amber has done some modeling, appearing on the cover of Stuff magazine, and being voted the 50th most beautiful woman in the world by maxim in 2004 and 73rd in 2005. Rob is currently pursuing a career in poker and they live in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is important to note that at the final live show on the All-stars season, Amber awarded Shii Ann Huang a car, and American voters awarded Rupert a million dollars with an astounding 85% of the almost 40 million viewer votes cast online or via telephone.

There's more...

This is only a brief recap of the winners of the first 8 seasons of Survivor. Be sure to check out my article on Seasons 9-16, as well as a preview of the 17th Season which will air September 25th at 8:00 PM. I will be posting information about all of the new cast members, as well as weekly recaps of the show at


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