Rudy Boesch is a Survivor legend that represented the cultural melting pot core to show’s motif, and that core was emblematic of Island of the Idols episode 7.
It’s been a few days removed from the death of Survivor great Rudy Boesch, and not nearly enough can be said about the man. My first memories of the show came from watching him overcoming his own prejudices and pre-determined thoughts on his tribemates, including his conflicting thoughts on Richard Hatch and his homosexuality. The fact he could loosen his views to the point of “He’s fat, but he’s good” showed a classic struggle with regressive upbringing and progressive life experiences.
I bring this up because Survivor: Island of the Idols has experienced a few of these moments of bridging cultural gaps this season, doing right by the spirit Rudy brought to the game 38 seasons prior. As for episode 7, we began with sour grapes on display from the original Vokai tribe, with Lauren sharing her feelings of betrayal by Missy. It’s clear that old Vokai members on the new tribe faced little adversity heading into last week’s Tribal Council.
Back on Lairo, it seems like the origin story of keeping the women strong by working together seems to have been picked up right before the merge. One episode, Jamal was expounding wisdom about the microaggressions faced by members of the African-American community, the next, he’s being criticized for mansplaining things to the women of the Lairo tribe.
Having an all-girls’ alliance is a legitimate strategy, one that should work to the benefit of the women in that alliance. However, the fact that Noura is the one both pushing it and doing so in a not-so-subtle way could be the undoing of such an idea at the merge, as men in this game typically try to kill those movements as soon as they form.
“Calculated risks” was the lesson from the Island of the Idols, with Janet being the one selected to go by Elaine last week. Her test was simple; draw a stone and win a “Safety Without Power” advantage, one that will allow her to take herself out of any Tribal Council just before the vote up until the Final Seven. She can’t vote at that tribal, and she only adds to her target, so she opted not to play at all. This was a relief to Boston Rob, with Sandra opining that a woman will win this season.
The story of the Island of the Idols remains a secret, which is a relief to the players on Lairo who have visited and did their best to keep that secret buried. The fact that Janet’s story was in line with the others while also flashing her entire tribe and the guy bringing her back on the boat was another memorable moment in a great season so far.
Dan Spilo had an unfortunate introductory episode in Survivor: Island of the Idols’ premiere and the Handsy Dan edit continued with Lauren, Elizabeth, Missy, and Tommy bonding over some genuinely concerning behavior. It then turned into a gameplay reason for Lauren and Tommy, separately, to pitch to the controlling Vokai members that Dan has been targeting people like Aaron as a means to throw Dan under the bus.
However, Missy and Elizabeth, being in control of Vokai, could recognize what a power duo looks like on the other side of things, noting that Tommy was a player to target should they head to Tribal Council. The idea that Tommy and Lauren working their magic at the merge being catastrophic is something to note if you want to enjoy future storylines further this season.
There was only an Immunity Challenge this episode, as the Reward Challenge shown in the press photos seems to have been yeeted out of existence. This challenge saw three castaways per tribe tossing coconuts into a basket until it weighed down a levy that knocked down a series of huge puzzle pieces needed to form a puzzle forming the logo of Survivor: island of the Idols.
With Vokai bringing their heavy shooters in the first part, the Lairo shooters (especially Janet) were swinging low like sweet chariots with their shots. That gave Vokai an early window to solving the puzzle, which proved to be of utmost importance heading into the finish line. Lairo wasn’t too far behind, however, as their puzzle-solvers made up lost ground by knowing where the pieces fit and sliding them in with great accuracy.
Vokai looked to solve the puzzle with some time on the clock, but as Elaine explained, the end pieces were just a tad off. This gave Lairo a window of hope and a chance to capitalize on the misplay, but even with Dan fumbling around with something that wasn’t another castaway at night, he managed to slide the last piece in just as Jamal was trying to squeeze the last middle-center piece for Lairo, giving Vokai the narrow win.
Karishma might be on the path to the end of the game at this rate, as Dean was the name pitched by Jack and Jamal to go home. Jamal even felt so confident that even though he always brings a Hidden Immunity Idol to Tribal Council, this round felt like the safest of the season so far. If those aren’t “famous last words,” I don’t know what are!
With Dean bamboozled into thinking Noura’s going home, Kellee wanted to keep Dean safe and make a move of her own thanks to some mid-confessional inspiration that was 100% her own thinking and not inspired by a series of leading questions from a producer. She made a calculated risk (hey, that’s this week’s Island of the Idols lesson!) to give her idol to Dean and convince Noura to vote alongside Dean and blindside either Jamal or Jack.
Immediately upon arrival of Tribal Council, the issues of playing 4D chess before the merge in Survivor emerged with Noura immediately giving Jamal concern about an all-girls’ alliance. Noura was quick to say “Vokai strong” in passing about feeling more comfortable with Jamal than Dean, but Dean was quick to throw it back onto Noura, who had previously thought of voting out Jamal and making an alliance with the women.
Though Kellee was annoyed with Jamal’s microaggressions at camp, when Jamal mentioned the idea that he doesn’t feel safe and that the women would come together to form a girls’ alliance because they become powerful once they realize their potential, she had to respond to the sexism on display. Though part of the reason was to hide her ulterior big move, it did strike a chord with her, putting forth the idea that women are a threat when they can actualize their abilities.
It prompted an open dialogue that openly discussed real-life events such as the #MeToo movement while Janet rationalized the all-girls’ alliance talk based on the sexism she has experienced throughout her life. Most importantly, just like last week, it didn’t feel like an attack on the offender, but a discussion about the defense to a bad-faith argument, one that has dogged Survivor players for decades.
What happened next was a whirlwind of a storm in a teacup, with Dean playing the idol Kellee gave to him and Jamal, in return, not playing an idol on himself (he even said he might be going home), but on Noura. It did not work, as everybody but Dean and Noura voted for Dean, while those two voted for Jack. A small consolation prize; Jack becomes the first member of the jury, meaning we might be headed towards a jury of 11 by the end of the season.