Survivor Island of the Idols episode 1 recap: Spinning idol thoughts

Photo: Michele Crowe/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Michele Crowe/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

39 days, 20 people, one Survivor! Island of the Idols episode 1 delivered on introducing all 22 personalities, including the two mentors of the season.

Tonight marks history in Survivor. There are now as many seasons as there are days in the competition, as season 39, Island of the Idols, marks a special occasion in the show. To help guide these new players, Boston Rob and Sandra Diaz-Twine will help coach players as they arrive at their humble abode, testing their skills to earn advantages in the game. Let’s roll the bones!

For the first time since returning to Fiji, the orange and purple starting tribes didn’t compete for supplies in a boat or island-based marooning. Instead, we saw the Lairo tribe arrive on Mana beach without a marooning, learning the season theme and getting to work immediately on shelter and learning about Tom’s hockey background and Elizabeth’s Olympic background.

It’s clear that Missy is going to be a player to watch for on the Lairo, talking about the struggles she went through as a collegiate basketball athlete for the Air Force before developing a brain tumor. She’s not taking this opportunity for granted, and to see her establishing a bond with Elizabeth early shows that she might have found an early partner in the game.

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We saw something of a similar situation on the Vokai tribe, with Lauren wondering about the season twist and what that Island of the Idols means. Thankfully, people didn’t worry about the theme too much, as Janet worried more about getting rid of the perception of being an easy first boot. By making fire without flint, she may have bought herself some time.

The effects of a new casting director have been seen immediately, with Tom, Elaine and Vince emerging as a trio looking after each other. They bonded over their farmhand-like grit and determination, however, the other seven in the tribe pointed to those players as “others.” They pretty much found themselves in a Keith, Wendy, and Reem situation from Edge of Extinction, as it seems easy for a majority to point at a group and form a working alliance.

Jason was a bit too ready to play the game, as he had wandered off to find a Hidden Immunity Idol immediately. Dan used his skills as a talent manager to point out Jason’s impropriety based on Molly’s observance, putting the focus away from himself to further his game. It will be interesting to see if he can keep shifting away from focus before earning some his way for doing just that.

Jack found himself in an odd position, being the youngest on his tribe at age 23. That’s why he approached Tommy in buddying up, as it appears that he hopes to follow the Nick Wilson approach to gameplay in establishing as many one-on-one relationships as possible. That helped form a majority six group of Tommy, Molly, Dan, Jamal, Kellee and Lauren targeting Jason.

Noura didn’t like that people threw out Jason’s name, giving him the head’s up because he reminds her of a trustful ex-boyfriend. That kind of sticking your neck out for an early boot target based on nothing is super concerning but will make for a hilarious early storyline, I feel!

Elaine emerged as the class clown archetype early on Lairo, talking about the differences between city s— and stuff in the country. That helped Missy visualize how well the women have been good at being independent, strong-willed players, grabbing them in hopes of creating a dynamic group early on. She even gave Elaine a head’s up about being a potential first boot, getting Elaine’s head into the game immediately.

Much like Vytas found himself in trouble early in Cambodia for being a “tactile” person, Dan found himself in trouble for giving vice presidential-like shoulder grabs and massages. The fact that Molly and Kellee had to tiptoe around telling Dan, “Hey, maybe don’t be so hands-on with everyone?” shows just how tricky Survivor can be on Day 2 for a woman in a vulnerable position where nobody’s an outright target just yet.

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Ronnie is playing the game extremely hard, extremely early, as he saw Elaine’s likability with Lairo as a liability. He had a one-on-one conversation with her to size her up, but Elaine saw right through his reads to realize they are on the opposite sides of each other. It seems as though the two are the voting targets on Lairo for the first Tribal Council they have.

Finally, on Day 3 we saw Jeff Probst meet the 20 castaways of Island of the Idols. While Lairo was confident in their abilities, they are concerned about the theme and what it meant for the game. However, those worries would have to wait, as the first Immunity Challenge saw players go up and over a series of obstacles, including hooking a plank to knock down a bridge and everyone climb up a steep ramp using ropes and human bodies. Forming eight Gabon-like huts out of puzzle pieces would secure victory and flint.

Though both tribes kept fairly even through the puzzle segment, Janet and Jack really helped keep Vokai in it thanks to Janet’s hook-throwing skills and Jack helping pull people up the huge ramp. Dean, Chelsea and Vince were helping Lairo get through the puzzle, but that proved to be a costly decision. Vokai worked as a team from start to end, demolishing the eight puzzle huts with ease while Lairo stumbled around in confusion.

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With Vokai winning immunity, Lairo would be the first tribe to visit Tribal Council. However, as randomly selected by Elaine from a bag, Elizabeth was the first player sent to the Island of the Idols, putting a target on her back while also attending Tribal Council later that night. At least it was random!

Seeing Boston Rob and Sandra emerge from the forest on the Island of the Idols was a surreal experience, as the Island Oath reaffirmed to everyone, emphatically, that they will not cast a vote and cannot win this game. This put the idea of a Survivor boot camp into play, with Boston Rob offering up his expertise in making fire. Sandra was the one to help Elizabeth learn how to make one on her own.

Once she had enough time to try her fire-making skills, Boston Rob put forth the first test; beat him in making a fire to earn immunity for two tribals or lose her vote at tonight’s Tribal Council. Elizabeth had the time to choose, pivoting the edit back to Lairo at camp.

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Tom, Elaine and Vince tried to get Chelsea on their team to vote out Ronnie, but the main young men wanted to get Elaine out thanks to her skills as a social butterfly. Karishma had doubts because she worked with Elaine early on, not sure where her vote would lie. Vince, Tom and Elaine then huddled up in the water contemplating the numbers and where the vote would be headed early.

Elizabeth balanced out the thirst for security versus the thrill of competition, taking Boston Rob’s first offer of two rounds of immunity despite Rob being open to upping the ante. He whooped her butt in making a fire pretty easily, which he proceeded to turn his smack talk into a lesson about knowing how to cut your losses and think critically versus the ego of taking on one of the game’s best.

Elizabeth also had the unenviable task of returning to camp and wondering exactly what the hell was going on! She was told nine different stories and had to rationalize what she said to players while realizing she had no vote to give tonight. It was an unenviable position, but at least she knows how to make a fire!

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As Tribal Council’s beauty was a marvel for the fans in the game and audiences at home, little did we know that the tribal hut theme was to get Boston Rob and Sandra a spy shack to watch the festivities! The primary focus was on Vince and Elaine, with the latter knowing that she could be a threat to leave just for being so dang likable.

Vince felt that he had the potential to go home because of being an outsider, and he played Tribal Council very emotionally, as well. That helped to resonate with the blindside heading into the showcase, as Boston Rob and Sandra liked his and Karishma’s approach to playing. Meanwhile, Ronnie rationalized his many walks of life to say that everybody has a story, not just those two, and that one of them might be going home.

Unfortunately for Ronnie Bardah, the legacy of poker players on Survivor continues to be muddied and inefficient. Two votes Vince were countered by six votes for Ronnie, as he was the first boot in Survivor: Island of the Idols. We really didn’t see why everyone but him and Aaron voted for Ronnie, but I cannot wait to see the fallout of the tribe’s decision!

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It’s easy to get excited for seeing these 19 remaining castaways and a touch of Boston Rob and Sandra each week, but hopefully, the focus remains on the new players going forward.