The finale of the intial Survivor was barely half of the rating of the top ten shows of all time, but it was bigger than most anything else in the last few years. While the networks don't command the same monopoly, this show got people talking.
The finale of season 1 set the tome for the rest to follow - the pace is a bit slower, with more character interaction and reflection.
Jeff Probst admitted on the DVD commentary that one stray camera they used happend to catch Rudy's hand slipping off the immunity idol, which was the dramatic moment for most fans. They learned to be better prepared after that.
The Sue Hawk speech is memorable - but people also should remember that in his final voting confessional, Gervase rebutted Sue strongly, airing the longest confessional shown in Survivory history.
This would be the only time the players knew the winner on the spot as it happened. While the live voting they do at the reunion does work, it is fun to see the jury greet Richard and Kelly at the end.
Fortunately, CBS stopped ordering contestants to say "last week" when mentioning someone voted off. It is a sticking point this season.