Over more than 20 years of Survivor, a lot of tribes have dominated their opponents. While most times the teams in a given season are evenly matched, every so often there’s a season in which one tribe is an unmitigated disaster. Perhaps the best example of this came when one tribe lost every single immunity challenge, leaving only one tribe member standing before that season’s tribe “merge.”
Since that season, early-game tribe swaps have occurred to prevent a similar situation from happening again. However, there have been several unlucky tribes that cannot seem to work together well enough to win immunity and secure rewards. Often, these failures are due to poor communication and conflicting personalities. But in many cases, losing tribes seem to be cursed by fate from the start.
10 Casaya (Panama)
The Casaya tribe from Survivor: Panama was filled with a memorable cast of characters, including future Survivor all-star Cirie Fields and mortal rivals Courtney Marit and Shane Powers.
While this tribe fared a lot better in challenges than the opposing tribe La Mina,and actually ended up making it to the final stages of the game, Casaya was incredibly dysfunctional internally. They couldn’t get along for longer than a few minutes, were constantly shifting loyalties and lashing out at one another, and almost let tribemate Terry Dietz slip through the cracks and steal it all from them.
9 Zapatera (Redemption Island)
In Survivor: Redemption Island, three-time Survivor player Russell Hantz and four-time Survivor player “Boston” Rob Mariano served as captains on opposing tribes. While Rob’s tribe, Ometepe, struggled in the first few immunity challenges, they eliminated the former Zapatera tribe members after the merge.
In an attempt to better themselves, Zapatera voted known villain Russell out as quickly as possible. They won only one challenge without him and ended up getting systematically picked off one by one by Rob and his allies once the two tribes merged. The Zapatera tribe members prided themselves on being loyal to one another, but loyalty got them nowhere except seats on the jury.
8 Ravu (Fiji)
The Ravu tribe from Survivor: Fiji got off to a terrible start. After losing the first immunity challenge, they watched as the opposing tribe got to walk away with comfort items and a supply of food. Ravu, on the other hand, got nothing. This was because this season experimentally assigned one tribe to be the “haves” while the other tribe was made to suffer as the “have-nots.” No one was suprised when this unfair “twist” led the haves tribe to completely dominate the opposing “have-nots,” Ravu.
Ravu couldn’t manage to win a single immunity challenge. They continued to fail even after a tribe swap, and only four original members made it to the merge. Despite all that, the winner of the season, Earl Cole, was one of the unlucky ones who started out on the have-not Ravu tribe, proving that they weren’t the most cursed team in Survivor history.
7 Foa Foa (Samoa)
Russell Hantz’s first tribe, Foa Foa, was cursed in every sense of the word. They lost their first four immunity challenges only to win one before losing another. The tribe slowly fell apart, losing all of its strong members and leaving Russell Hantz, who would become a notorious Survivori villain, to run the show.
Thankfully, Foa Foa’s members were able to mount a comeback following the tribe merge, though this time the curse was placed on the opposing tribe. Because of Natalie’s loyalty to Russell and their strong Foa Foa alliance, they dominated post-merge and secured a final three composed of all original Foa Foa tribe members.
6 Fang (Gabon)
Survivor: Gabon started with a schoolyard pick of tribes, captained by the oldest woman in the game, Gillian. However, after losing the first immunity challenge, Gillian’s tribemates turned against her and promptly voted her out, initiating their tribal curse.
Fang lost several pre-merge immunity challenges, even after the tribe swap on Day 13. Their tribe was so bad that they couldn’t even agree on the pronunciation of “Fang” and changed it multiple times throughout the season. Despite their losing streak, a good portion of original Fang members made it to the merge, though only Susie made it to the final tribal council.
5 Manu/Lesu (Edge of Extinction)
The starting Manu tribe from Survivor: Edge of Extinction had fan-favorites David Wright and Kelley Wentworth as co-captains, leading fans to believe that they would succeed. However, Manu lost the first three immunity challenges and some of their strongest members, leading to a tribe swap on Day 10.
The tribe swap split the two tribes into three, with the new Lesu tribe being composed of all former Manu members. Just like before, Lesu immediately lost the next immunity challenge, and Kelley made the difficult decision to flip on fellow Survivor veteran David to vote Rick Devens out.
4 Matsing (Philippines)
Survivor: Philippines saw three previously medically evacuated Survivor players captaining tribes. For the Matsing tribe, Russell Swan was the leader. Hoping for redemption after his disastrous evacuation from Survivor: Samoa, he unfortunately ended up leading his Matsing team to the first four tribal councils of the season.
Matsing could not seem to get on the same page, and the only true alliance that formed among them was between Malcolm and Denise. Whether it was a genuine curse or the effects of simple exhaustion, Matsing couldn’t win a challenge as a tribe and ended up dissolved after four of their six tribe members were eliminated.
3 Saboga (All-Stars)
The first all-stars season of Survivor had a lot of memorable names. On the yellow Saboga tribe were fan-favorites Rudy Boesch and Jenna Lewis from Surivor: Borneo, Jerri Manthey and Tina Wesson from Survivor: The Australian Outback, Ehtan Zohn from Survivor: Africa and Rupert Boneham from Survivor: Pearl Islands.
Despite having a stacked team of standout players, including two season winners, the Saboga tribe suffered from severe communication problems and an inability to cooperate. After their first two tribe members were voted out and their camp flooded, the tribe dissolved, and the remaining tribe members were placed on the other two tribes.
2 Luzon (Cagayan)
Luzon from Survivor: Cagayan was considered to be the “brains’ tribe in a season themed Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty. However, they struggled to excel in any element of the early stages of the game. They voted out the player they regarded as their leader instantly, they could not win an immunity challenge to save their lives, and they clashed with each other constantly while at camp.
Things just got worse as time went on, and when J’Tia vindictively dumped the tribe’s food supply into the campfire, everyone reached their breaking point. A merciful tribe swap saved remaining Luzon members Kass, Spencer, and Tasha, and the rough days of the so-called “brains tribe” were left in the past.
1 Ulong (Palau)
Much like Survivor: Gabon, Survivor: Palau began with a schoolyard pick of tribes. The resulting Ulong tribe didn’t know that the choices they made would lead to a tribal existence so cursed that Ulong still remains widely considered the worst tribe in the history of Survivor.
Ulong lost nearly every reward and immunity challenge. They attended all but one premerge tribal council. One by one, Ulong faded away, eventually leaving only Bobby Jon and Stephenie. After losing Ulong’s final immunity challenge, the two remaining members went to tribal council where, instead of voting, they faced off in a fire-making challenge to see who would be the last one standing. Stephenie won and joined the opposing Koror tribe in the most depressing “merge” Survivor has ever seen.