Survivor Island of the Idols cast assessment: Tom Laidlaw keeps in check

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

The first Canadian-born Survivor in the history of the show, Island of the Idols’ Tom Laidlaw will have to lay out big hits if he wants to make it far.

It’s hard to escape hockey if you live in Canada like I do. Before the Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays rose to prominence in different bursts this decade, it would be impossible to find a sports bar willing to turn on anything but Hockey Night in Canada (unless you lucked out on a dingy TV set in a corner near the bathroom). Seeing a guy like Tom Laidlaw compete in Survivor is going to blow the minds of many middle-aged hockey fans.

Of course, the first Canadian-born Survivor castaway had to be a hockey player; there seemed to be no other way. Tom Laidlaw is a few decades removed from his 11 years of service as an NHL defenseman, splitting his time between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings. He still has the physicality of an imposing enforcer, which will serve well for him considering he’s the oldest castaway this season at 60 years old.

It may seem that Tom is a no-nonsense kind of guy, as his self-written CBS bio doesn’t exactly spin a yarn. He’s a guy who loves to watch Survivor, hang out with friends, and loves “anything fitness.”  That may be enough to help him coast through the early stages, as contributing to the tribe’s success physically should see him thrive.

However, if you listen to his RHAP interview, it becomes instantly clear that he is quite a sociable person. He knows how to endear himself by talking about his hilarious draft story, which also hints at his humble nature as an athlete who fought hard to earn what he has. He has a friendly voice to him, which works well to have potential allies see him as a friendly giant type.

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As someone who uses his experience as an athlete and a leader in the locker room to turn in a post-athlete focus in motivational work, I don’t doubt that Tom Laidlaw will be slotted into an early leadership role for Lairo. He is one of the tribe’s strongest guys (perhaps even stronger than the much younger gym owner Aaron), but his age will naturally see others seeking his guidance if his personality shines through early.

Being an early leader has been something of an eventual death knell on Survivor, however, especially on orange tribes. What separates Tom from a Brendan Shapiro type is that his experience playing on a team will naturally lend him the kinds of social skills to work as a team and not lead from the top.

My big concern for Tom is if Lairo, much like other orange tribes, is cursed with multiple early losses, that could mean trouble. Though I feel like his starting tribe needs him early if they want to compete, he is the oldest player by quite a margin. It will be more difficult by default for him to connect with the younger individuals, especially as a guy who is as regimented as Tom.

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He may also be the kind of player that you’d want to take out in a swapped tribe scenario, as it makes sense to take out the leader types in those scenarios. I’m rooting like hell for the first Canadian-born player on Survivor to do well, and I like what he’s offering to the show, but I am concerned that he might be taken out far too early for my liking. I hope like hell that I’m wrong.