‘Survivor: Island Of The Idols’ Recap: “I Was Born At Night, But Not Last Night”

For the second week in a row, Survivor presented to its viewers an incredibly insightful, important discussion directly relating to the world we live in today. This week’s focus was on gender, particularly in the context of Survivor. And we’ll get to that, but I’m going to save it for the Final Tribal section, as that’s where it took place. Let’s run through the rest of the episode first.

Lairo Beach

After Jamal’s big moment last week, he may be finding himself on the outs. After a rainy night, Jamal struggles to get the fire started the next morning. Kellee takes a crack at it, but Jamal immediately starts instructing her on what to do. Kellee understandably gets annoyed by this; nobody likes to be micromanaged, especially when you know what you’re doing. We get a few shots of tribe members saying that Kellee is good at making fire. And yet, Jamal can’t help himself but give his two cents.

This may seem like a fairly innocuous event, but everything you say and do in Survivor is put under a microscope. Things that paint you in a positive light make you look even better. And comments or actions that paint you in a negative light? Well, let’s just say it’s not great for your game. But the question remains, did production leave this scene in because drama makes for better television? Or could it be planting the seed of a conflict still to come? If I were making a bet, I’d say it would be more of a combination of the two. But as with most things in Survivor, only time will tell.

Fandomwire Video

Island of the Idols

Okay, I need to vent a little bit before getting to Janet’s time with Rob and Sandra. This week’s lesson was all about “calculated risk.” As the good homie Lyrsa would say, “Uh, excuse me?”

Hasn’t every single lesson so far essentially been about calculated risk? Every time someone decides whether or not to accept the challenge, it’s a calculated risk. Risk your vote for an advantage in the game. Risk your tribe seeing you picking up an idol in the middle of a challenge. It’s all just different words for the same thing. Except for Elizabeth (the FIRST person to go IoI, nothing that the players have done have had much direct involvement in the game, or in how it’s played.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this was my big worry about the Island of the Idols twist. It’s too gimmicky, as evidenced by the fact that the show seemingly ran out of original ideas weeks ago. Now, has it still been entertaining? Sure. But would I trade these brief fun moments for more time spent with the tribes? In a heartbeat. There is still certainly the chance that the show is saving the big guns for after the merge. But from what we’ve seen so far, I’m not holding my breath. Okay, on to Janet.

Rob presents her with the chance to play a game for a “Safety without Power” advantage. Should she win the game, this advantage would allow Janet to excuse herself from a future Tribal Council, granting her immunity but at the expense of her vote. Janet gets a chance to shine here by declining to play. She took her time to think through the entire scenario, and this allowed her to see the big picture and what the ramifications of a move like that would be.

This is actually a really interesting advantage, and one I hope we get to see play out sometime. What could make this so fun is that it’s not secretive. There’s no lost vote that nobody knows about. Everyone in the game sees you actively give up your vote in order to save yourself. Janet didn’t want to risk screwing over her alliance (while also leaving Tribal with a giant target on her back). But if someone were to make that play and then have their lost vote be the difference-maker? That’s an aftermath I need to see.

Immunity Challenge

Three members of each tribe throw coconuts into a hanging basket. Eventually the weight of the coconuts will release giant puzzle pieces for the puzzle which the remaining tribe members must solve.

Vokai goes into the puzzle with a slight lead, and that ends up proving the difference. Lairo appeared to be mere seconds and inches away from winning, but couldn’t get their last piece down in time. The occasional blowout or rout can be fun, but I’ll take a nice tight race every time.


The initial plan is to vote out Dean. The majority doesn’t see him as trustworthy, and it feels like an easy vote that isn’t going to ruffle many feathers, if any. There’s of course some talk of Noura, but Jamal gets a great moment with a very intelligent comment:

“Noura’s a handful, but I’m not going to make an emotional vote.”

This is the kind of thinking a winning player has. The emotional vote can often be seen as the easy and correct vote. But it’s usually only easy and correct “right now.” Taking out someone who annoys you might make your social life a little more manageable, but it could have disastrous consequences for your game, if you leave in a major threat or piss off other people on the tribe. So once again, kudos to Jamal.

But let’s not forget that Kellee still has her idol from Island of the Idols. This upcoming Tribal is her last chance to use it. She likes Dean and wants to work with him. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to see her idol go unused and wants to play an idol for idol’s sake. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Or maybe it’s something else entirely because we weren’t there so we don’t know and all we can do is wildly speculate but hey that’s the fun of this, right?

Anyway, Kellee gives Dean her idol, opening up the possibility of some Tribal trickery.

Tribal Council

First watch these two videos to set the stage for went down at Tribal.


I haven’t done as good a job as I normally would like, but I’ll find any excuse possible to use Always Sunny gifs. And this one actually fits!

Those were some incredibly eloquent, smart, insightful, and important comments made by both Kellee and Janet. As a quick aside, from a pure gameplay note, Janet was unbelievable here in a completely off the cuff, spur of the moment speech. If she’s approaching the end of the game, could others remember this and want to vote her out, thinking she might be a big – for lack of better term – talking threat at Final Tribal?

But back to the matter at hand. Survivor is remarkable for many reasons. And what we saw here is one of the more unique reasons why the show has stayed so popular for so long. Maybe not always on the same level as these last two weeks, but it constantly provides viewers with these raw, emotional, human moments. Survivor strips its players down to their core. It wears on them physically, mentally, and emotionally. And yet they’re still able to have these nuanced discussions in the middle of the game’s most stressful aspect? It’s truly incredible and inspirational.

Host Jeff Probst loves to talk about how Survivor has the its finger on the pulse of the world at large. And while this at times feels like a bit of a stretch, these last couple weeks that has been spot-on. There’s been something viewers of all ages, genders, and backgrounds can take from this season. I know I’m trying to take what I’ve heard and use it to reflect on my own life. Hopefully others can do the same.

And there’s another interesting point that can’t go unsaid. While I agree with Kellee’s statement that “The amount of fear in Survivor about a women’s alliance outpaces the number of times there’s actually been a women’s alliance,” there’s a reason it gets talked about. (Especially) For long time fans, how many seasons has there at least been talk between female players about forming a women’s alliance? Most seasons? Every season? The fact is, it happens a lot.

So it would stand to reason that a fan of the show, like Jamal or anyone else, who has seen that on screen over and over and over, might naturally draw the conclusion that a women’s alliance is in play, or is at least a definite possibility. I don’t know that I really have a point here, other than maybe that this discussion could go even further if we want it to. And while I’m sure there countless others more adept at having this discussion, I’m always down to talk Survivor in any capacity. So hit me up on Twitter (@MattHambidge) if you have anything to add.

Oh yeah, also, Jack was voted off. (Sorry bud, you kind of took a back seat this week).

And with that, as Jack becomes the first member of the jury, we find ourselves at the merge. I will have a preview out next week, either Monday or Tuesday, so be on the look out for that. I’m aiming for Monday. Disney Plus launches Tuesday so we will all be otherwise engaged, I’m sure.

Written by Matt Hambidge