Survivor Island of the Idols episode 6 recap: The death and life of spin

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

How you craft a narrative depends on perspective. Survivor: Island of the Idols episode 6 showed us shows the power of spin and why it cannot be forgotten.

It’s remarkable to see just how hard everyone in Survivor: Island of the Idols has been playing from the start. That would continue well into episode 6, as players facing a rock draw overcame an impasse that proved it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen before and after a tribe swap.

Getting post-tribal thoughts the next day continues to be an oddity, as Noura’s perspective on the game is genuinely wild. She tried to pull Dean over to her side with the women in order to blindside Jamal or Jack, which Detective Dean applied in his private investigation into finding a hole in the Lairo tribe. Noura had the opportunity to ride out a good thing, but she just had to Noura it up!

Elaine continues to be the realist on the Vokai tribe, as she knows the hokey, fun talks are just a shield for whatever would come at a Tribal Council. With a 4-4 tie forcing rocks, you would hope both sides would go down swinging. However, Aaron initially sold out Lairo strong to play “three steps ahead,” a notion that works well in theory but cannot be promised in practice.

The Reward Challenge saw tribes transporting a sled with sandbags and a tribe member to navigate through a series of obstacles, culminating in a player both standing on the sled to grab keys as well as be the one to knock down targets with a slingshot at the end. The winning tribe received chickens (don’t tell Big Wendy Diaz).

Lairo picked Elaine to sit out, but little did they know it would send her directly to the Island of the Idols, effectively throwing a wrench into the plans of Vokai. Both tribes were neck and neck heading into the slingshot portion, and Jack even got an early 1-0 lead. However, we’re in the middle of the Lairo-low, as Aaron knocked down all three of his targets uncontested to win chickens for Vokai.

As Boston Rob and Sandra continued to work on their OSHA-disapproved mansion shelter (which doesn’t have a tree root footstool, I should add), Elaine’s test forced her to be daring. As grains of sand descended, she was told to accept or pass on a test. Without hesitation or even the opportunity to explain what it was, Elaine leaped at the opportunity, using her opportunity in the game to help heal the wounds of her recently deceased mother.

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Boston Rob then explained the difficulty of Elaine’s test, having to retrieve a block-a-vote advantage at a table holding balls at the next Immunity Challenge. The problem is everyone is encased in a tight space, and it’s in the middle of a small window of an active challenge. If she doesn’t retrieve the advantage, she will lose a pivotal vote at the moment with a 4-4 tie vote looming.

Survivor hasn’t always handled issues surrounding racism and microaggressions well (I’m looking at you, Survivor: Fiji), but I’m genuinely proud of how Jack owned up to a mistake he’s willing to learn from. As Jamal was teaching Wassalunka and West African dances to his tribe, Jack remarks about Jamal lifting the pot from the heat using his “durag.”

While Jack felt how he immediately committed a wrong and apologized for it, I congratulate the show for allowing Jamal to explain the difficulties of both approaching the subject in a game of social politics while allowing him to explain to Jack (and the viewing audience) how those small jokes add up collectively to form biases. Jamal being the orator and Jack being so receptive, aware, and apologetic for his actions, made this a teachable moment for everyone.

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With Elaine returning from the Island of the Idols, we finally saw the first conversation with players talking about meeting the Survivor mentors. That would become key to Elaine trying to grab the advantage at the Immunity Challenge, which saw players dig into a cage, move it across tables to retrieve five balls, and arrive at the end.

Per usual, Vokai got out to an insanely strong lead, arriving at the first ball station before Laido could even reach under the cage. Elizabeth did cover for Elaine, who bumbled grabbing the advantage, dropping it on the ground behind everyone and stuffing it seconds before moving on.

It was worth picking up as Vokai was firing blanks with their shooters. Tommy and Aaron did their best to sink buckets and even arrived at 4 out of 5. However, with Jamal nailing baskets like his name had been thrown out at camp days before, the Lairo tribe clawed their way back, with a final, decisive score saving the team from Tribal Council for the first time in weeks.

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It all looked hunky-dory for the original Lairo members on Vokai, as it seemed like a no-brainer for the four to team up, take out a Vokai member’s vote, and grab back power in the game. However, Aaron had other ideas, embracing a more dynamic game and throwing out his old tribe in exchange for power. Elizabeth pegged Lauren as a target, Missy alluded to Dan, but Elaine was the one who pointed out how strategic Jason was in picking out players to vote out.

Night 16 brought us a Tribal Council we knew had the potential to be explosive, but who knew just exactly what would happen. Original Vokai members talked about bringing on another player as if the seven that remain would run the gamut or that they wouldn’t just become the eighth person on a true seven-person alliance.

It’s that level of cockiness that made Elaine whip out the Block a Vote advantage early, as players like Jason, Tommy, Lauren, and Dan were suddenly confronted with the idea that hey, maybe they could be going home that night. They seemed genuinely more upset at the possibility of an advantage being their undoing than a random chance rock draw.

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To me, it was a ploy to make Elaine feel comfortable as she walked out the door, but the original Vokai did not anticipate Aaron keeping strong to his original tribe. He voted alongside the Lairo women to get Jason out of the game, burning the bridge he built with Tommy and placing a huge target on his back. He’s the kind of guy you vote out after the merge regardless, but now Vokai is even more incensed to pull it off sooner.