Survivor Island of the Idols: Why Kellee Kim’s idol play is revolutionary

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

Kellee Kim never ended up playing any of her three idols for herself, but how she used her first one presented a brand new way to play an idol on Survivor.

It’s simply amazing that we are 39 seasons into Survivor and we are still seeing new ways to use Hidden Immunity Idols. With Dan’s inappropriate touching and eventual removal from Island of the Idols, Kellee Kim’s first 19 days were overshadowed. It’s important that we don’t overlook her brilliant move prior to the merge episode because Kellee used an idol in a way that we’ve never seen before!

Typically, when someone wants to use their Hidden Immunity Idol to save someone else, they play it dramatically during Tribal Council. On a few occasions, we have seen castaways transfer their idols to other players before Tribal Council, but that strategy has failed most of the time. Just ask J.T. Even when it sort of worked with Russell giving his idol to Parvati shortly after the Heroes vs. Villains merge, the motive was different.

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Kellee wasn’t trying to make a move to protect her majority alliance as Russell did. She wasn’t looking for idol theatrics or the thrill of pulling off a big blindside. Kellee attempted to save someone from going home while trying to hide the fact that it was her doing.

This bold move went down prior to the third Tribal Council following the tribe swap. Kellee was part of a five to two Vokai majority on this swapped tribe. The Vokai crew were confident that Karishma was going to be loyal to them, making Dean, the only other Lairo member, the default vote.

However, Kellee formed a connection with Dean and she thought he could be a useful ally once they made it to the merge. She knew that saving him openly would only damage her bond with the Vokai majority. So Kellee brainstormed a way to save Dean while still escaping notice.

Moments before Tribal Council, Kellee pulled Dean aside, revealed to him that the votes were on him, and gave him the idol. This is the first time we’ve ever seen this idol strategy. The idea was to make it seem like it was Dean’s own idol so Kellee could pretend she was still loyal to her Vokai alliance, while secretly keeping Dean around as an extra ally.

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Unfortunately for Kellee, what she had to face in the merge episode prevented this move from reaching its full potential. Regardless of the outcome, we can’t ignore the unique way Kellee used her idol. The strategy of using an idol to save someone else without giving away the source of the idol is a revolutionary idea that is beyond anything we’ve seen so far. Now that Kellee formulated that plan, maybe we’ll see another castaway attempt this unique strategy in seasons to come.