Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers and Discussion
39 and doing fine.
Some people are thinking “can’t we just skip Island of the Idols” and go right to Survivor Season 40?
(That, by the way, is rumored to be the all-winners season.)
You’ll be fine waiting for that one. In the meantime, we have what we hope will be a perfectly fine Survivor season in Island of the Idols. Boston Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine, hanging out before Season 40, will be on said island giving the n00bs pointers on how to play the game.
Twenty new castaways made it to Fiji, but one will emerge as Sole Survivor. There will be spoilers along the way for those who want them. We assume all of you want them. Prepare also for various amounts of tea and/or shade.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Status of the Season
Click to enlarge — through the December 18, 2019 season finale — scroll to bottom for most recent updates and spoilers
Last Season on…Survivor!
Now this is how you get a twist to blow up in your face. Chris Underwood, one of the first few voted off the island, came back in the last episode of the season and won Edge of Extinction. He showed off some major-league BDE in sending himself to the fire-making challenge, beating Devens, and winning over the jury of mostly his former Bitter Betty Island comrades against weak opposition.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Cast
The twenty Survivor players in Season 39 are all new. Source: Survivor Wiki (Survivor.fandom.com)
Oldest Castaway: Tom Laidlaw, 60
Youngest Castaway: Jack Nichting, 23
Average Age: 34
|Aaron Meredith||36||Warwick, RI|
|Chelsea Walker||26||Los Angeles, CA|
|Dan Spilo||48||Los Angeles, CA|
|Dean Kowalski||28||New York, NY|
|Elaine Stott||41||Rockholds, KY|
|Elizabeth Beisel||26||Saunderstown, RI|
|Jack Nichting||23||Harrisonburg, VA|
|Jamal Shipman||33||Providence, RI|
|Janet Carbin||59||Palm Bay, FL|
|Jason Linden||32||New York, NY|
|Karishma Patel||37||Houston, TX|
|Kellee Kim||29||Philadelphia, PA|
|Lauren Beck||28||Glendale, CA|
|Missy Byrd||24||Tacoma, WA|
|Molly Byman||27||Durham, NC|
|Noura Salman||36||North Potomac, MD|
|Ronnie Bardah||35||Henderson, NV|
|Tom Laidlaw||60||Greenwich, CT|
|Tommy Sheehan||26||Long Beach, NY|
|Vince Moua||27||Palo Alto, CA|
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 1st Boot: Ronnie
One down, 19 to go in the new Survivor season. The first victim was Ronnie, who (justifiably) thought Elaine’s social game was a big threat when combined with her humble upbringing and backstory. If the rest are not careful, it will become one to the rest of them. The first elimination was not the time to go after her; throwing out the name of a well-liked player and sticking to it made him look overeager and mayhap a bit underhanded.
Ronnie’s problem is that multiple people, not just Elaine, found him untrustworthy from the start and without hesitation. We only saw the parts where he was giving Elaine a fake build-up; either he was quite the shady individual on the island or he gives off a certain vibe without trying. He could have also done without boasting about how impressive and varied his personal resume is at tribal council.
The season’s big twist played out right from the start for Elizabeth, who on the losing tribe was sent to go see Boston Rob and Sandra. She learned to make fire, which, you know, is a major element of the game. After doing it once (on who knows how many attempts), she then decided to challenge Boston Rob, former Survivor winner to a fire-making contest for a chance at immunity. Needless to say, she lost, and her tribal council vote went bye-bye.
I do not begrudge her for having a competitive spirit, but there is such a thing as picking your battles. Her odds of winning were somewhere between a Pat Buchanan presidential victory and Akron making the College Football Playoff. When it goes from competitive fire to “I can beat this guy” who is one of the faces of the franchise, when you have about an hour of applicable experience and he has years of it, that’s hubris. One would hope she learned a lesson because she seems to have a lot to offer the game.
Let’s just calm down the week one waterworks at tribal, guys.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 2nd Boot: Molly
Kellee with three E’s went to the Island of the Idols, otherwise known as Sandra and Boston Rob Big Head Island. The latter is missing a certain je ne sais quoi but is accurate. She zoned out during her tutorial but found a way to win an idol. Thereafter, she put on the water works and nobody suspected a thing.
Folks, you don’t always need to play hard in the first few days. You don’t need to be “impressed” with how well you’re playing. You don’t think someone else is going to figure that out and topple you? We have the gift of being able to see things from the outside after it’s been edited and sanitized, so we know the happenings. Players just depend on their reads of people and their reads of the game in general. Arrogance is a horrible trait in this game. Anyone who thinks they are “running the game,” especially on Day 5, is not. If they are, they will not be for long.
The poster child for the above arrogance this week and in tribal was Jamal. Queen Molly paid the price with a first-tribal blindside for Lairo. Jamal and Jack will now have to scramble to get back in the good graces of others, at least until the tribes realign. As for Molly, my bet is that she doesn’t watch Big Brother, the motto of which is “expect the unexpected.” Her facial expression changed with each vote read, which tells you what she didn’t think would happen.
Player notes for this week are as follows:
- Aaron: Got caught flat-footed after the Ronnie vote but the tribe needs him for being a physical spectacle – for now.
- Chelsea: Forgettable.
- Dan: Not a bad week, or a good week.
- Dean: You wouldn’t even know there is a Dean on this season.
- Elaine: Not the focus this week but has a great deal of potential.
- Elizabeth: Invisible this week.
- Jack: Took a hit being part of the ruined trio.
- Jamal: Bad week. He’s weakened with Molly’s departure and is now probably a target himself.
- Janet: She’s a bad, bad lady and I love it. I mean that in a complimentary way; she’s one tough player.
- Jason: On the outs but he torched Jamal at tribal council. He’s not safe on his own merits, however.
- Karishma: Background character.
- Kellee: Played the Island of the Idols thing about as well as she could have.
- Lauren: She has a dominant personality which I suspect will come to the front more. She helped engineer the Molly blindside and she’s proving intelligent.
- Missy: She’s one to watch.
- Molly: Obviously, she did not have a good episode.
- Noura: Hard to see her there long-term but is lucky that there are bigger targets.
- Tom: Not a throw-away older player. He can still throw a check with the best of them.
- Tommy: Positioned himself in the middle, which is more than fine for now. He’s in a good spot.
- Vince: Not noticeable.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 3rd Boot: Vince
It figures that the first time Dean speaks the whole season, it’s to say something enormously stupid. “Let’s split the vote” in front of the entire tribe. As in, splitting the vote between Vince and someone standing there. However, that was not the dumbest thing we saw in this Survivor episode.
For his part, Vince went to Rob & Sandra Island, had an emotional meltdown…and then pulled it together to sneak into the other camp and get ashes from the fire. No fire, no problem as he figured out a way to make it work. That was resourcefulness that I didn’t think he was capable of showing.
AND THEN he gets his idol and leaves with it in his pocket. So, if you’re keeping track, Vince is aware enough of his surroundings to sneak into enemy camp and scoop up ashes from their fire, but not aware enough to know that he, the SECOND person in his tribe to go to Rob & Sandra Island, as in, he experienced someone else going and the ensuing paranoia, could himself become a target. It’s only good for two tribals; why are you keeping it? You may want to save it for the next tribal, but you have to get to the next one.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 4th Boot: Chelsea
I think there’s a new law somewhere that there has to be a Chelsea on every season of Survivor. This Chelsea did not get very far, but before we get into that, can we talk about how Noura did with her Rob & Sandra Island experience? She goes to the island, learns that she must be persuasive. Rob and Sandra give her details on the next immunity challenge, saying that she must convince her tribe to make her the un-blindfolded “caller” to guide her tribe.
Noura then goes back to camp with proverbial guns blazing, saying to everyone that there’s an advantage to be had but they have to give her a role of prominence. No mystique, no private conversations, just…here’s what I need, everyone, and you can totally trust me. I have no ulterior motives whatsoever, you just all have to agree to give me this powerful role. I’m not sure I could have come up with a more poor way to play it, but kudos to her. Noura is harmless and entertaining in a batshit kind of way, like Kaitlyn from Big Brother 20. There is as much chance of her winning as there is of you making a snowman in Cuba, but thanks for keeping me interested.
On to Chelsea, you know what they say about showmances. On some Big Brother seasons, they get you all the way to the end. In games with more savvy players, like this Survivor season evidently, it gets you sent home with an unused idol. Her merely being close to the irrelevant Dean got her blindsided. They could not find it within themselves to go after Dean despite him floundering in challenges, so they did the next best thing. Meanwhile, Karishma still rides on even though nobody in camp finds her useful.
Missy did not have a good episode, and not just because she got slapped in the challenge. She is smart and ambitious, but she is playing the game at about 300 miles per hour. Drop a name, drop another name, drop everyone’s name but yours and people will notice. Not to mention, she booted her own ally for reasons unclear. The Wardog strategy will eventually end her game, and I say this as someone who was impressed with her in the beginning.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 5th Boot: Tom
Breaking: Lairo still sucks at challenges despite a change in composition.
Karishma was an easy out — maybe too easy, which is why they didn’t get rid of her. Instead, the tribe boots Tom, a retired hockey player and not a complete liability to the tribe. You have to ask why. The only insight we have is that Janet (whom I love BTW) said that his straight-shooting ways were admirable, but his loyalties may lie elsewhere. If that’s the only reason, okay, I guess. She is going to be easily manipulated by whomever gives her a faint promise of keeping her, which is the extent of her usefulness in the game for now.
I respect that Karishma is trying, and that she opened up about her lackluster forced marriage to the tribe. You also have to feel a little compassion in just how much Probst and others are shading the living hell out of her at every turn. However, she brings zero to the table (or at least, that’s how it’s edited) and she keeps surviving votes. It’s one thing to want to keep weaker competition around for the merge, but in the interim, you will lose every challenge. This may, in fact, accelerate the merge because of the depletion of one tribe against another. That’s a bold strategy, Cotton; let’s see how it works out for them.
We bring back the player evaluations for this week:
- Aaron: Positioning himself alright for now but he’s tracking for an early-merge exit. Once a tribe doesn’t “need” his physical prowess anymore, he’s in trouble.
- Dan: Invisible. Reminding me of the same trajectory of Mike from David vs. Goliath, but more unnoticeable.
- Dean: He’s like a car that you know is going to run out of gas soon, like with Kramer on that Seinfeld episode, but you’re just enjoying the ride until it does. He’s scarcely trusted.
- Elaine: Understated social game working its magic this week.
- Elizabeth: I think she got a head start going up that purple ladder. False start, five yard penalty.
- Jack: From being blindsided early to now, Jack is in a much better spot.
- Jamal: Jamal is fading into the background, which is a good thing for him, believe it or not.
- Janet: Janet is one smart player and she hustles, even if she is not as fast as the others at times.
- Jason: Not quite sure what to make of him, but he survived the early target and looks like he will make it to the merge sans a miracle Lairo win.
- Karishma: This year’s “how the hell is she still here?” player.
- Kellee: Another very smart player. She is just understated enough to coast to the final six or so while making her moves.
- Lauren: Generally good vibes from her, though we will not see much of her in tribal council on Vokai.
- Missy: She is playing way too hard, but she KNOWS she is playing very hard and it does not bother her at all. Her burn rate is enormous and she will eventually go, but a little subtlety could help her.
- Noura: A complete trainwreck, and that’s why we love her.
- Tom: He got voted out and his reaction was, in essence, “aw shucks, eh? Hope you all have a great rest of your time in Fiji.” Canadians are a very polite people.
- Tommy: If you have Tommy in your Survivor pool, you have a decent shot of winning.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 6th Boot: Jason
Queen Elaine still rides!
She goes to Rob & Sandra Island, accepts a challenge without knowing what it is, swipes an advantage during the immunity challenge, drops it, stealthily recovers it, plays it at tribal, and survives the vote by cancelling Jason’s. Did we mention Jason went home?
Elaine still has strong reads on the cast. For example, she knows Tommy is a threat, and may be one of the only to admit it at this stage. Others have identified her as a threat, and they are correct.
Let’s talk about Aaron for a minute. He was setting himself up for the villain edit. We do not have a “villain” of the season yet, and it may soon be him, but there he was, talking about flipping the vote on Elaine and how much power he has in this game. Like we said last week, if he is around at the merge, he will not be much longer thereafter. His power is limited at present to his physical usefulness to the tribe; no tribe, no usefulness. He did not make more friends by telling the other side of the tribe that he was going to flip and then he did not. All the tribal council chatter to get Elaine was for nothing.
There was some big arrogance from the likes of Dan and Tommy at tribal until Elaine pulled out her scroll. Tommy still retains a solid chance of winning, no matter how mad he was after the vote. I am interested to see how far Dan goes. He is not well-trusted and may draw the villain edit himself.
Missy did not play too hard this week, which was a pleasant surprise.
Jason did not seem like a bad guy, so the question is “why him?” Without much of the backstory (yet), we don’t know, except to say the other side needed a consensus target and they settled on him.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 7th Boot: Jack
On Rob & Sandra Island: Janet made a very smart move not accepting the challenge from Rob and Sandra, but more than that, she THOUGHT about it before she did it. The challenge was on taking calculated risks, and she calculated. Janet determined this was not her time to make a risky move while everyone else previously jumped in head-first. I do not see her as a play it safe character, but she seems to know when to play it safe and that she will know when she needs to make another move.
Back at Camp: Jamal feeling the “safest” he has felt and “welcoming” his alliance members to the merge was foreshadowing of his epic fall. Jack did it, too: “guaranteed” to the merge. The former made it there, the latter did not. For the record, Jamal could have saved his buddy Jack had he not played the idol on Noura. However, they’d have gone to rocks. Waste of an idol, really. Regardless, the edit set us up for one of those two, Jack or Jamal, to go.
Kellee: very smart. Dean: not getting “smart” from him. He allegedly had no idea that he was “the vote” before tribal began. Are you paying attention? Are you truly that far out of the loop? Anyway, Kellee saved him and then got a big target, Jack, out of the game. In so doing, for now, she has convinced her tribe that Dean had the idol, not her, and keeps the squinting eyes of tribia paranoia off of her. It was a high-level game move. Dean makes it to the merge, but more surprisingly, Karishma makes it to the merge. If she lays low enough, she’ll get dragged deep into the game as the “non-threat.”
The player putting forward the best game through seven eliminations so far is Kellee. There are no two ways about it. Karishma and Noura are hilariously bad at the game but ride on, however, so who’s still here does not mean a lot at this point.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 8th and 9th Boots: Kellee and Jamal
That two-episode special was a trip and a half.
Because the content of the episode got very heavily into #MeToo, there are two different ways we can go with this. We can tapdance around it and stick to game, or we can talk about what happened. Since this is a sports and sometimes pop culture website, our initial thought would be the former. However, there WAS no game play, or very little of it, so we need to meet this reality.
First, you can agree or disagree if Survivor is the place to discuss sensitive social issues like race, sexual assault, and so forth. If you had no issue with Big Brother going face-first into it this past summer, then this should not bother you, either. Keep in mind that we only see what the editors want us to see on Survivor, and there are no 24/7 live feeds to reveal or expand upon certain truths. Nevertheless, it happened. Since the start of the season, Dan’s touchy-feeliness was mentioned, but it came to a head in the two episodes tonight.
Janet wanted Dan to go strictly because she heard what other women in camp said about him and she made a moral, not a game decision. Others, like Elizabeth and Lauren, felt they could separate that from the game and then turn it on Janet. There are going to be a lot of people out there in internet land who praise Janet and bash many others this season because of what happened in these two episodes. We are not going to join in the pile-on, but we will direct this towards Janet: We liked you before, and we like you now.
My concern with this season, most of it fueled by these last few episodes, is that like in the most recent season of Big Brother, the likeable people are being eliminated and all that’s left are…what we have now. Who seemed like potential likeable players have seen their sparkles dimmed in one prime-time two-parter. What happened with Dan was clearly a large part of the 39 days and CBS could not avoid it. Survivor is a social game, and this is part of the reality of social life. All we can say is that it’s a sad situation all around, for many reasons, and the court of public opinion is convicting many people right now. Everyone involved was probably dreading these episodes coming to air.
All this in a pair of episodes in which Kellee found TWO more idols and went home with both of them, and Jamal went to the island, lost his vote, and then got blindsided. Back to Kellee for a moment: she seemed very smart and very intuitive. This was apparently not the case, as she felt too safe. It’s one thing to sit on one idol if you feel safe, but two? You sensed something was up but did nothing about it. If you’re giving off “I’m smart,” people will catch on, but she missed it.
Aaron may yet end up as the villain of the season. His arrogant speech in tribal did him no favors, as much as Dan’s “I have lots of employees and know many women” talk didn’t. Being a physical threat, the rest would do well to get him out a la Joe Anglim last time as soon as possible, now that the merge has happened.
The thing is, with Dan still there, if you want this to fade into the background and “get back to Survivor,” that probably ain’t gonna happen.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 10th and 11th Boots: Aaron and Missy
We got very little Rob and Sandra, but what we lost in Survivor legends we got in two tribal councils. The Lumuwakus were split in twain, with each half participating in the same immunity challenge, two winners, and two eliminated losers at tribal.
Noura was the last one standing in her half, and in celebrating, she throws away her wheel and steps down. Of course, had she been the last one standing out of both tribes, her half-tribe would have (1) won reward and (2) batted second at tribal council. She makes for great TV but probably made for a very frustrating tribemate. Elaine was the overall winner of the challenge.
First Tribal: Queen Janet was the quote-unquote obvious target, but before long, people got to talking. Aaron did not win immunity this time after winning the previous two. He’s a large, muscly man. Why don’t we vote HIM out instead of Janet? That’s what they did by a 5-1 margin, so no, he will not have time to become the villain of the season. Give Noura some credit for getting behind the Aaron vote early, which may not make up for lost sandwiches but does show she is on occasion capable of rational game moves.
Second Tribal: With only five members, there are only so many targets. The tribe zeroed in first on Karishma, seen as dead weight around camp, but then the survivors realized she’s too irrelevant to waste in a vote. She will get dragged to the end as a zero-vote finalist. This was an opportunity to get out a target, so the names floated were Missy and Tommy. Missy floated Tommy’s (by dictating to others that this is how it’s going to go), and once Tommy heard, he wanted her gone. It came down to a 3-2 vote with Missy completely blindsided. It also took her about an hour or so to grab her torch and go see Jeff.
Both Aaron and Missy made it about as far as we expected: relatively early in the merge. Aaron was too much of a physical threat to leave in the game when sitting vulnerable. (Also, he mentioned several times that he was vulnerable.) Missy was playing the game at about Mach 2 since the minute she got there. Neither one of those traits lends itself to longevity in the game.
Elizabeth had a terrible week, amongst those who survived tribal. This sets aside the fact that she got poured on all night. Two of her closest allies went down in one night, and the grief-stricken look of panic on her face said it all. It was an “I think I just lost a million bucks” sort of countenance. Hey, at least a rat didn’t crawl in her mouth, so there’s that.
Janet, find another idol soon.
After what we all went through last week, this was a satisfying rebound episode to see two good sets of game moves on behalf of the tribes, though Tommy would have probably been a better target.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 12th Boot: Elizabeth
Just 40 percent of the original season cast remain, with Olympic athlete Elizabeth the latest to go. Just think, her tribe WAS going to waste a vote on Karishma until some idols got played. Karishma is getting dragged to the end as the season goat, and note how we did not say GOAT as an acronym.
Lauren played her Rob and Sandra Island task well. She got her two ladies in the competition against Karishma, who dropped before Jeff even had a chance to make a backhanded remark about how she was struggling. Lauren got her idol and used it right away, which she did not need to, but I suppose her read of that situation at tribal was not as good.
Speaking of bad reads, oh Dean. In this episode, he played a fake advantage, which itself concealed ANOTHER fake advantage that, if he is lucky enough, he will get to play at final six. Dan got a villainous edit, Karishma is getting the clumsy edit, Noura has the crazy edit on lock, and Dean, well, you got the stupid edit.
Elizabeth’s look at the end of the prior episode was one of horror. She knew her alliance was ripped to shreds, and when push came to shove on a revote, she ran the table. She should have been the vote in the first place, being much more of a threat than Karishma or even Janet at this point. The physical specimens are almost gone – we will be nice and call Dean a “physical specimen” based on his visible abs, but you would think he’d do better in challenges.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 13th Boot: Karishma
Boston Rob said it best (paraphrased): All that just to get rid of Karishma?
First, a general observation before individual observations: This is not the most brilliant cast of survivors ever assembled. They could have gotten out anyone except Lauren, who won immunity. Tommy is a physical threat. Elaine has the social game, though with an idol that she debated playing. Janet is a warrior. Noura is nuts. They go with Karishma instead, trying to get out the easy target a second straight tribal. Usually, you WANT to drag the dead wood to the end with you. This group is saying “we’ll get Noura next,” but they are counting on votes that may not go their way in a few days.
- Dan: It’s official: he is the villain of the season. This is a title he earned, and every time he gloats at the misfortune of one of the season’s more reputable characters, he ices his position further.
- Dean: When it comes to Survivor, dumb as a brick. He complained that Noura was going to ruin the plan to get rid of Tommy, only to do it himself out of nowhere. That Dean is also surprisingly terrible at challenges despite having muscles and washboard abs is a sight to behold.
- Elaine: She is cut from the same cloth as Janet, and that is intended as a compliment.
- Janet: A fighter and a doer. You’ve done us proud, Janet.
- Karishma: An interesting player in that she lasted far longer than anyone could have predicted, and yet, could have gone farther due to goat status. That her tribe wasted multiple votes on her says more about them than anyone else.
- Lauren: Nobody has figured out yet that she is a threat. At all.
- Noura: She was this close to talking her way out of the game at tribal, and she is untrustworthy as anyone. Her Survivor instincts are awful. Noura is the living definition of a hot mess, and yet, she makes great TV.
- Tommy: People have figured out he is a threat, but nobody seems to want to vote him out – or, they talk about it, but don’t do it.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – 14th Boot: Elaine…and Surprise 15th Boot: Dan!
Dumb-edit Dean did not look 100 percent dumb this week. He took a chance with his vote at Rob and Sandra Island and it worked, and then he played to the sensibilities of the jury at tribal. He saw Janet and Tommy hovering over an idol, processed it, and took a successful gamble. To my shock, he also won a challenge involving functional literacy. If only he knew his about his “legacy advantage.”
Elaine’s elimination was boring. She cried, she hugged, she knew she was going home…and she did. Elaine was one of the few likeable people left, and out the door she walked. Who knows, maybe she will be back on a future season, or this one.
When tribal ended and they did not cut to commercial, we knew something had happened. Jeff Probst wanders into camp and everyone’s asking “Where’s Dan?” Dan was involved in an “off-camera” incident which did not involve a player and was dismissed from the game. No jury, no goodbye, just go home. We can all speculate on what he did to put himself over the top, but that will do no good. We will never know unless we were there, and Jeff Probst made it clear he is saying nothing.
Truth is, he should have been gone long before that moment, whatever it is that happened. People should not have lied to protect him over a game and thrown under the bus a woman who was trying to do the right thing. Production should have intervened sooner, not merely dunking on him at tribal but making an example of him with an earlier expulsion. Now we know why the editors made sure we knew about his touchiness, and his playing the victim, AND his snippy under-breath remarks: to ensure his villain edit. However, the show needed to take more prompt action. This should never have persisted until Day 36.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Spoilers – Tommy Wins
Breaking: the guy who gets the obvious winner’s edit from early on in the season wins.
Tommy is as bland as bowl of plain oatmeal, but a win is a win. Did he make a great case for himself in jury, not really, but it was much better than Noura’s incoherent rambling. Dean talked himself into, out of, into, and back out of the money again several times during the jury segment. The latter got the “moron” edit most of the season, came on strong, stepped in a pile of it when he found out his legacy “advantage” was fake, and then gave the best closing argument. It got him just two votes.
The best parts of this season were (1) when it ended and (2) when Janet and others got lots of Sia money. Survivor: Winners at War is going to have a lot of pressure to be good given how this season will leave bad tastes in many mouths. Not necessarily for who won, because most people may have expected Tommy to win, but all of the other social crises that popped up over the last few months.