Survivor: Island of the Idols test imbalance is already a talking point

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

On the Island of the Idols, Survivor’s mentors have offered a two-tribal immunity two times but with drastically imbalanced tests to earn that power.

This post will discuss details of the first two episodes of Survivor: Island of the Idols, focusing on the tests provided, negotiations and the results.

Last night, we saw the evolution of the Island of the Idols twist, with Kellee Kim being the name drawn by Elizabeth Beisel after she failed her test against Boston Rob (at least, to our knowledge). Whereas Elizabeth was effectively sent as part of Lairo’s punishment for losing the first Immunity Challenge, in contrast, Kellee’s experience seemed to be a fair opportunity to succeed.

To take us back to the start, Elizabeth’s name was chosen randomly from a bag and sent immediately to the Island of the Idols while her tribe deliberated who would be the first boot of their Survivor season. Instead of having an input and being instrumental to the tribe’s dynamics, Elizabeth was off in a season’s twist as its first participant, completely unaware of what was to follow.

She arrived at the Island of the Idols to see Boston Rob and Sandra, was shown the Oath of the Idols promising they wouldn’t become players, taught how to make a fire and after struggling with Sandra to learn the process, she was offered a test against a four-time player and winner in making a fire in exchange for a two-tribal idol.

Even though we were shown her hesitating to the point where we saw the edit transition back to the Lairo camp, and she was still hesitating coming back into the question, she eventually agreed. Boston Rob beat her handily, she lost her vote, and she returned to camp having to lie about her standing and without a vote.

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For all intents and purposes, Elizabeth was set up for Survivor failure. She was put up against a master in a test for power directly against him in a situation where if she goes home empty-handed, she could be in a position where the vote is against her, and she has no protection. It was in her best interest to try to win the idol even if the situation was heavily against her favor.

What makes Elizabeth’s situation more frustrating is Kellee’s Survivor test, comparatively, was a gimme. Kellee noticed that she was going to be tested after reading the Oath of the Idols and was talking to Boston Rob and Sandra about their lives for a long time. However, Boston Rob illustrated before asking Kellee to answer questions about Sandra just how easy it is to remember basic facts about another’s life.

More importantly, Kellee illustrated similar hesitation to Elizabeth in not thinking she could answer the questions about Sandra’s life. She didn’t outright say no and was ready to leave; it was on Boston Rob’s insistence that the deal be sweetened to a 3/5 correct answer requirement, not 4/5 to get an idol worth three tribals, not two.

Most brutal to the fact that the Island of the Idols tests being imbalanced was the level of competition Kellee faced. The first question saw Kellee answering what branch of the military Sandra’s husband served in while Sandra was wearing a US Army-branded hat. The answer was right in front of her!

The other questions were relatively easy, as well. The number of daughters Sandra has and naming just one of the four dogs she owns (rest in peace, Rio) were questions as basic as the name of her boyfriend, Brock, as well as the universities she attended, especially when that information came to you less than half an hour ago.

No matter how much a producer-influenced confessional after the fact will state otherwise, the level of difficulty facing the Island of the Idols contestants with their tests has been drastically different to the point, arguably, of unfairness.

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The test teased next week to sneak into the opposing tribe’s camp shows that the escalation of difficulty knows no bounds. We can’t blame the mentors nor the players for the cards dealt to them, but it’s worth mentioning that random luck being a factor in who wins a million dollars is an unfortunate side effect of trying to keep things fresh in Survivor.