Survivor Island of the Idols episode 12 recap: What it is worth playing for

Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

When you’ve been in survival mode for a month, family means everything. Survivor: Island of the Idols episode 12 brings the castaways to their loved ones.

There’s been a great deal of gamesmanship this season. With Island of the Idols bringing unprecedented banter from the rafters and advantages into the game (well, maybe not unprecedented numbers of advantages), Survivor has been about getting out the big threats as soon as possible. Most have been playing like a gamebot, even if they present a personable front. The Loved Ones visit is about to change that perception.

We wasted absolutely no time jumping into the players meeting the loved ones, with Lauren falling into the arms of Matt, Tommy trembling in tears after embracing his girlfriend, Nicole, Karishma bursting uncontrollably after seeing her husband Drew, Noura getting absolutely mauled and bowled over by her sister Lana, Janet learning that her granddaughter is a girl thanks to John’s pink shirt, Dean matching the ensemble of his mother Laurie, Dan reuniting with the youngest loved one to appear in Survivor, his son Ryan, and Elaine holding tight to her rock of a girlfriend Tanya.

To enjoy time with their loved ones longer, the castaways were tied together in pairs to complete a series of obstacles. Noura and Dan, Dean and Elaine, Karishma and Lauren, and Tommy and Janet comprised the pairs, with Jeff masterfully accommodating Lana’s visual impairment by letting her stay near him as they progress through the challenge.

Karishma and Lauren were the only pair that seemed to be fairly out of it heading into the sand bar portion of the challenge, with Elaine and Dean being the first through to throwing a sandbag onto the final platform. However, that pair in last for most of the challenge eventually caught up, as Dean and Elaine had all sorts of problems landing their sandbag.

Despite Tommy trying to pull Janet through an impossible space under the sand, they managed to catch up and win the challenge, with Janet picking Dan to come on the reward and Tommy picking his number one in the game, Lauren. Karishma pointed out to others that they finally recognize what she’s felt on the bottom and openly called to take out one of the others, showing both fire and a high level of game awareness.

While the castaways did get to have a moment to talk with their loved ones and enjoy a wholesome feast, Janet did gather the team to agree to take out Elaine, as she is the biggest threat to that old Vokai group to win both immunity and win the game at large. They did sit fairly pretty, as Lauren posited that she didn’t think an insurrection could form back at camp.

Must Read. Celebrity Survivor: 16 realistic celebrity castaway suggestions. light

Meanwhile, Noura was firing off against her old Vokai members with all cylinders, going on an all-time rant about how she’s jumping into camp with Dean, Elaine, and Karishma. With many eye-rolls aside, it seemed like the loss of more time with their loved ones got people on board to work as a group, working as a team to find the Hidden Immunity Idol (which Elaine did find).

It does bring a thought to mind, especially at the Final Nine; it might actually be worth it to play an idol if you’re in the minority group at the Final Nine if you know you’re not going to get picked and with the loved ones reward just around the corner.

Day 32 brought us to the Immunity Challenge, with castaways needing to stand on a small block of wood while keeping a round ball in place to a post using a round paddle and the last castaway standing winning immunity. It seemed like Karishma got away with keeping the ball out of the paint to start the challenge, although that didn’t prove too much of a bonus.

More. 5 Survivor themes we want to see in future seasons. light

Dean dropped out amazingly quick, with Tommy moving off the mark right after. Noura finishing in sixth in this balance challenge was a surprise, as was Janet being fairly okay after taking a tumble and bashing her foot. Karishma finished in the top half of the field, which is a big improvement, while Dan’s muttered cheers and looking around distracted him from the challenge, forcing him out.

With tears streaming down her face and her arms clearly in pain, struggling to hold the ball (and her arms) in the air, it felt like Lauren was destined to finish in second. However, this is a Survivor challenge, so whenever the focus of struggle stays on one person, the other drops out suddenly. Elaine proved that case to be true, suddenly dropping her ball after standing strong for 15 minutes as Lauren won her first immunity of the season. Tommy seemed insistent that the safe vote of Karishma would be going home tonight.

However, if we know anything about overconfidence in Survivor, it’s that anything can happen, especially when a goat army forms. The idea at camp seemed to be splitting four votes onto Karishma and three on Elaine, but when your idea hinges on keeping Noura in on the plan while admitting she’s on the bottom with reward picks, you’re gonna get burned.

Must Read. Survivor: Ranking the best Survivor seasons ever. light

Noura is a problem for anybody to rely on in this game, as it was decided that the loved ones sit-outs would vote out Tommy and their four votes would break up the others’ split vote plans. However, Noura had to go into 5D chess maneuvers with Dean to make sure that it was a “foolproof” plan, with Dean reminding Noura that they shouldn’t plan for splitting in reverse since Elaine found the idol herself.

With Dean and Noura spending so much time away from the Vokai group, it seemed like Tommy was aware that he could be blindsided, making him nervous about relying on Noura. Meanwhile, Elaine and Dean were just as worried for the same reason, as Elaine reflected on her Island of the Idols visit with Boston Rob and Sandra to remind herself to seize every opportunity and do not hesitate.

It didn’t take long for a good plan to go off the rails, but it wasn’t necessarily Noura who screwed over the minority. It was Dean who told Tommy they were going to vote his name, saying the trio of Elaine, Noura, and Karishma was responsible. This set off a series of whispers followed by outspoken conversations, with Noura saying the old Lairo was trying to convince her to join and that Elaine found an idol.

Both Dean and Noura, at separate times, appealed to Tommy and Lauren at Tribal Council by throwing the other under the bus despite having a plan to blindside them both, and in the end, it blew up both of their games. Sure, Noura took the brunt for being a bad liar and unable to convince them that Dean wasn’t along for the ride, but they literally could have taken out the most influential player in the game. Instead, they acted as goats, ready to feed the hungry.

Next. Survivor winners: Ranking the best Sole Survivors by season. dark

Janet, Dan, and Karishma voted for Noura, while everyone else voted for Karishma. It turns out that Elaine didn’t need to play her idol before the votes were read, but it doesn’t matter; the last opportunity to get a meaningful player out and actually flip the game upside down was squandered to keep a Vokai majority intact.