‘Survivor: Island Of The Idols’ Recap: “Suck It Up Buttercup”

8 min


Lairo Beach

We start off with Noura talking about plans to vote off Jamal and Jack before Dean and Karishma. So she approaches Dean about working together. Dean, however, is wary of working with Noura, saying that while Noura does indeed have a plan, she is “absolutely crazy. And I think a little bit delusional.” That’s not exactly the kind of person you want to work with in this game. Crazy and delusional are not reliable. You want reliable.

Dean wastes no time in going to Jamal with this new information. Jamal is on board with targeting Noura, because, as he puts it, she is “out of tune” and just “doesn’t get it.”

Later in the episode, we witness a true human moment, one we don’t often get on Survivor, much less reality TV in general. Jamal is showing the tribe his African drumming and dancing skills, and everybody is enjoying themselves. Jamal is offering a small, welcome break to the intensity of the game.

But then Jack stumbles. He asks Jamal to remove the water from the fire using his buff. Except instead of saying buff, he says durag. And I’ll have to admit, I didn’t see why this affected Jamal like it did. But that’s the thing. That perfectly ties into the next few minutes with Jamal.

Jamal calmly, smartly, and eloquently explains to the audience his issue with the use of that word. He says a good portion of white America still has this stereotypical view of black men as dead-beat dads, tattooed thugs with the accompanying durag.

And in talking to Jack, too, Jamal remains composed, and has a tough, honest discussion with Jack about the situation. All the credit in the world goes to both men here. Jamal explains his side, why that term can be and is hurtful or insulting. And on Jack’s side, he doesn’t get defensive, trying to defend his actions. He accepts the blame and responsibility and offers up a true, sincere apology.

It was a moment that could have ripped these two allies apart. But because of how well they both handled it (something you can’t always expect from reality TV contestants) it might ultimately make them closer and stronger than ever.

Vokai Beach

Nothing as touching is happening over on Vokai, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting. With a 4-4 old Vokai/old Lairo split, the discussion naturally turns to the subject of drawing rocks. Assuming original tribal lines hold, there would be a 4-4 tie at Tribal Council. So the question becomes, Will anyone flip? From what we see here, nobody from old Lairo wants to go to rocks. But on the flip side, old Vokai is holding strong, declaring their willingness to draw rocks if that’s what it comes to.

Seeing that, Aaron is ready to flip. He’s ready to offer up one of his own, if it guarantees his safety for at least one more vote. His choice is Elaine, and of course old Vokai is on board with that. They might be willing to draw rocks, but nobody actively wants to draw rocks.

Reward Challenge

Each tribe transports a sled loaded with sand bags and one tribe member through an obstacle course. They retrieve a key, which unlocks a slingshot. Whoever rode up top uses the slingshot to knock down three targets. And what’s even more fun about this particular challenge is that “slingshot” should be a key word for many Survivor fans.

I love Fishbach, and Dalton Ross is one of the best out there when it comes to Survivor coverage. The relationship many former players have with the Survivor press is endearing and tons of fun to witness from the outside. And when it brings us friendly fire like this? Well that’s just all the better.

Anyway, Vokai comes out victorious again, winning themselves some chickens.

Island of the Idols

Before the challenge started, Vokai, up one in the numbers, elected to sit out Elaine. But instead of actually sitting out, she is sent to Island of the Idols.

Elaine’s lesson is all about having the courage to be daring, which…fine, okay, whatever. Aside from Elizabeth’s fire-making lesson, nothing that Rob and Sandra have “imparted” on the contestants has been all that interesting or relevant to the game. Making a fire is valuable from Day 1 until your last day in the game. But telling someone that being convincing is important? That you need to stay clam under pressure or be daring? If they don’t already know that, they’re already behind the eight ball. And most people are already going to be capable of those things, or they’re not going to be. You can’t change that in an afternoon.

It all seems like a cute way to tie it into whatever task or challenge awaits the contestant. And that’s all well and good, I just wish it could be done without the window dressing.

Elaine agrees to her challenge before Rob can even begin to explain. This is becoming a common occurrence here at the Island of the Idols, and while it isn’t the smartest gameplay, at least it’s entertaining.

Hidden at the next immunity challenge will be a “Block a Vote” advantage. Rob walks Elaine through the challenge and tells her exactly where it will be. The usually consequence of losing her vote looms if she can’t retrieve the advantage.

Upon returning to camp, Elizabeth and Elaine bond over their shared knowledge of the Island of the Idols. Elaine tells Elizabeth about her opportunity at the next challenge. And Elizabeth is ecstatic, as this could mean new life for their group of four.

Immunity Challenge

This was another pretty fun challenge. The tribes enter a bamboo cage by digging their way under and in. Once inside, they pick it up and carry it through a course, collecting five balls along the way. The balls must be landed in five separate targets.

Elaine gets the advantage, yes, but it’s how she gets it that’s more interesting. The advantage is taped underneath a table. So first Elaine has to awkwardly make her way around the table and find where it’s located. Then she needs to pull it off, which she does. Then she needs to pocket it, which she does, though less successfully. She literally drops it, has to turn around to look for it and pick it up again, before finally being able to conceal it. And yet, through all of that, not one single person seemed to notice.

But I think that goes to show that these “hidden during challenges” idols and advantages are easier to get than you might think. I don’t know that I’ve heard anyone talk about this aspect specially, so it’s mostly speculation. But I think the logic is sound. Everyone is so focused on winning, on avoiding going to Tribal Council, that they won’t notice something small like Elaine fidgeting around underneath the table.

If Elaine had to go elsewhere, literally separate herself from the tribe, that’s a different story. But as it stands, if you can mostly remain calm, and don’t fumble the advantage out in plain sight of somebody else, you should be golden. To be fair, I’m not saying it’s easy. Just that it might not be quite as difficult as you would assume. Still though, doesn’t make it any less fun to watch.

But back to the challenge itself, Lairo comes from behind at the end to finally win something.

Pre-Tribal

Elaine tells Aaron and Missy about her advantage, but Aaron still says he wants to vote against Elaine. And that’s an interesting position to take. I’m assuming that confessional came very soon after he learned this information, before he had the chance to take stock of everything else. Because now that Lairo had a 4-3 advantage, there would be no reason for him to flip. I see his thinking behind it when the numbers were still 4-4. You can’t blame someone for wanting to avoid drawing rocks. I respect those that have the resolve to do it; but I also completely understand why someone would flip to avoid it. But that risk is now gone. Flipping on his tribe at this point would get him farther in the game, but it would hurt his chances at winning considerably.

Tribal Council

Elaine elects to block Jason’s vote, and then the scrambling begins. Everyone is whispering to everyone, even to Jason who, as you’ll remember from just a few words ago, cannot vote. But hey, it’s nice they included him? But as soon as we see the subtitles of Aaron telling Tommy “We’re good,” I know they’re not good. If Aaron had chosen to vote Elaine, I don’t think CBS would have included that shot, or at least not the subtitles.

And in the end Aaron sticks with old Lairo, voting out Jason 4-3. If looks could kill, Tommy would have murdered about 12 people with the stare he gave Aaron. But Tommy’s a smart guy. Even though he won’t like it, I’d like to think he will be able to at least understand Aaron’s decision. Dan and Lauren should be able to do the same. But that may not matter if Vokai loses any more immunity challenges.


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Matt Hambidge