Survivor: Island of the Idols – “I Wanted To Play, Jeff”

Surprises and shocks saw the game flipped on its head this week. But a personal and emotional moment between two castaways reminds us Survivor is, at its core, a social experiment. This was one of the most widely panned episodes yet, and we’re just getting started.

SPOILER ALERT! This recap and review will contain spoilers about the latest episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols.

EPISODE 6 RECAP

Jason and Tommy staring at the chickens they received during the episode, possibly wondering which one to eat first.
IMAGE: CBS

After Tom was voted out, the Lairo tribe awakens on Day 15 talking about blindsides and the shock that Tom is likely still reeling from. But Noura had another agenda, and is after Jack and Jamal for targeting her back on the original Vokai tribe. She pitches this to Dean, but he admits to us she’s crazy and that he isn’t interested in working with her. This leads him to confess the impending betrayal to Jamal, and he is now lining his troops to go after her, seemingly protecting Karishma and Dean for now and a Noura and Jamal showdown to begin.

Over on Vokai, screams from the shelter set everyone weary, as Elizabeth finds a giant tarantula near her head where she was laying. Regardless, the old Lairo four of Aaron, Elaine, Elizabeth and Missy convene to discuss drawing rocks against the Vokai four, unable to see any likely way out of the situation. The girls are worried about Aaron, rightfully so as we cut away to Aaron confessing to Jason that he would never draw rocks and risk his game, wanting to flip to avoid the problem. This comes as no surprise, because Aaron is after any out possible to get to the merge. He’s setting mini check points clearly, and I don’t blame him for wanting to flip. He throws Elaine’s name out there as the target, and it’s music to Jason’s ears knowing his Vokai four are likely secure if they lose the Immunity Challenge.

Still before the first commercial break, we’re treated to a Reward Challenge, which sees the tribes transport a sled with sandbags and another tribe member on top, taking them down a course before using the sandbags to shoot and knock down some planks to win the cage of chickens reward. Jeff then asks Vokai for the Vokai sit out, and Elaine is chosen. But it’s a Survivor twist, and Elaine instead will be off to the Island of the Idols.

A Probst and Elaine exchange is our hilarious moment of the week, as Elaine utters, “this sucks”. Probst then quizzes her on the comment, and Elaine replies by saying, “I wanted to play, Jeff”. And Probst’s comeback is gold when he reminds her, “you were already sitting out”. HAHAHAHA. This season is EPIC.

To the Reward Challenge, Vokai and Lairo are pretty neck-and-neck for most of the Challenge, as Aaron and Jack face off to knock down the targets and win the Challenge. Jack is first to knock one down, but Aaron quickly responds with one of his own. Aaron then hits another, 2-1, and putting them with one more target needed to clinch the victory. Jack misses twice, and suddenly Aaron manages to hit the final target granting Vokai with a third straight win for the new tribe.

Vokai and Lairo compete in the Reward Challenge, practically neck and neck towards the beginning stages of the race.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

At the Island of the Idols, Rob is building the mother of all shelters because of how much time he and Sandra have on their hands. At this rate, he might be done by Day 39, and only have to turn around and go home. Maybe he’ll keep it for his tribe on Survivor 40?……. You didn’t hear it from me, lol!

Elaine arrives and is greeted with a warm welcome by the Survivor legends. Sitting in front of them is a bottle of sand, and Sandra releases it. Rob explains that in the game, sometimes players have to make split second decisions. This was one of those moments, as Elaine needed to make a split second decision before the sand runs ou….

Elaine listens to Rob (not pictured) explain the test she will face to gain an advantage in the game.
IMAGE: CBS

“Let’s do it, I’m ready,” Elaine tells Rob. Before she even gets to hear any more information about the decision she will make, much to Rob and Sandra’s surprise and amusement. Elaine explains she’s not here for a million, but an experience of a lifetime. Rob explains that a vote block advantage is hidden at the Immunity Challenge, and Elaine must grab it in plain sight of the entire tribe. She’s only got one shot, and if she misses it she will lose her vote. This is extremely important for Elaine, because if she misses it, the Lairo four is down 3-4 (Aaron flipping permitting), but if she manages to grab it, she and her allies have a chance to be up over the Vokai four 4-3. This is a game changer. And while the 4-4 showdown we were all waiting for might be gone, this may be just as epic or even more so.

Back on Lairo, Jamal teaches the tribe the Wassalunka rhythm and a West African dance to Kellee, earning the respect from ally Jack. But a comment Jack makes switches the mood almost immediately, as Jack asks Jamal to push the pot of rice closer to the fire to catch more heat, by saying, “can you push it with your durag?”. Jamal immediately lets Jack know the comment came from a subconscious association with Jamal’s race, and Jack equally immediately understands the mistake he made by making the joke. Jack is embarrassed, and worries over how Jamal will perceive him, not strategically, but personally and emotionally as humans. They agree to move forward, and Jamal explains to us why the comment is offensive, adding that it can be difficult to understand why it’s insulting to Jamal. He notes that someone might believe there is no problem, thinking that, in all fairness, “don’t black men wear durags?”. But Jamal explains it’s so much more deep than that, as the image imagined by white America involves African American men as thugs, deadbeat fathers, leeches on social services. These characteristics of people often wear durags, so the caricature is ingrained in society, making it comfortable for white America to digest the black male body and not recognise how the comment can be deep-seated.

Jamal and Jack sit on the beach while on the Lairo tribe, amidst one of the most emotional moments of Survivor.
IMAGE: CBS

Jack and Jamal discuss this, and Jamal explains that white straight men have a long way to go to understand the privilege they have in life by being the superior group in each class, gender, sexuality and race. Understanding what it’s like to be, “on the bottom”, is something never truly understood by the general group. Jack learns a lot from this, and notes that why he doesn’t consider himself to be privileged, he knows that many privileges do lie by being a white male. They share such a human and emotional moment, and both of their approaches to the conversation is so beautiful and lovely that I admire both so much for their handling of the topic, with Jamal adding that he is not used to people recognising just how harmful comments like that can be.

What I can not possibly understand is the mega thread on the Survivor Facebook page filled with comments expressing disgust in the show for airing the conversation, with many agreeing to turn away from the show for even airing the conversation! This is a social experiment, why not air the scene? Are we supposed to sweep race issues under the rug? What do the Facebook keyboard warriors really think about racial issues? If prime time television doesn’t show it, who will? I’m so enraged by the ignorance and hate that it’s making me emotional over how many are quick to dismiss the conversation of race! To add fuel to the fire, of course, there’s many people arguing against Jamal, saying a durag is just an object and that it has no association with race whatsoever.

UM. HELLO! Did you not watch the episode or scene? Jamal literally tells us, to the camera, that it would be difficult to understand WHY it’s offensive, and that the association is often an unconscious association with African American men. So to argue that it has no relation, when Jamal literally explains why, makes me question whether the people that watch TV are actually watching it, or just pipe up when they hear the music intensify and someone say the word ‘race’. To those ignorant haters on social media, please leave the show, as fans, we don’t want you watching. If you’re not going to listen to Jamal explain literally why some people won’t understand why he’s hurt, then bye.

Anyway. Rant over. We return to Vokai where Elaine tells Elizabeth about her opportunity at the next Immunity Challenge, as they both also bond over the shared knowledge that Rob and Sandra are the big surprise at the Island of the Idols. Elizabeth’s shocked face at learning Elaine can block a vote is amusing. She agrees to cover Elaine if she can at the Challenge, and ensure Elaine walks out of the set with it in her pocket.

At the Immunity Challenge, the tribes must dig and pick up a giant cage and collect five balls along a course. As they approach the finish, they must shoot the balls into five baskets, with the first to do so claiming Immunity. When Elaine reaches the table with her advantage underneath, she attempts to put it behind her in her pants, but it flops out and on to the ground, leaving her in a panic. She picks it up and puts it down her front, still remaining undetected in a surely heart stopping moment. Vokai manages to gain a lead too, reaching the final stage with a decent lead. Tommy lands 1 ball, but Lairo manages to catch up and even tie the score, 1-1. Dean lands a second, with Lairo in the lead 2-1, until Aaron gets a second and then a third, 3-2. Aaron then scores a fourth, 4-2, and Jamal then lands another 4-3. Aaron just misses a chance to win, with Jamal landing another for a 4-4 score. With one basket left each, Dan manages to land the fifth ball, granting them Immunity, and sending Vokai and Elaine with her advantage to Tribal Council.

Vokai and Lairo compete in the Immunity Challenge, where the must shoot five balls into baskets, with Vokai slightly ahead in progress of the Challenge.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS
Lauren and Missy stand in front of the Vokai flag pole at the Vokai camp.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

After losing the Immunity Challenge, Vokai kill a chicken for dinner, and Jason likens Elaine to one in the cage, waiting to be slaughtered at Tribal Council. Meanwhile, Elaine and Elizabeth read the advantage together, and agree to tell Missy and Aaron to avoid them getting spooked and flipping anyway. Both are shocked at the news, and Elaine takes pride in coming through for the team. Missy admits she was ready to offer up Elaine as a sacrifice, but with the advantage, she’s ready to stay Lairo strong. Aaron on the other hand can’t agree with the sentiment, telling us it’s all an act for him as he’s still planning on blindsiding Elaine by working with the Vokai four. Which puts his vote as the swing, considering Elaine will take one of the Vokai votes out. He’s thinking three votes ahead, not just one, and all the cards are on him. But who’s the target? Elizabeth is thinking Lauren because she does nothing for her game, Missy’s thinking Dan because he’s snoopy and sneaky, Elaine’s tossing up Tommy because he’s an excellent social player, but also maybe Jason for being strategic and smart within the game. So we’re left asking who are the Lairo four going after, and will Aaron stick to the status quo?

The whispers are on at the Vokai Tribal Council after Elaine pulled out her vote-blocker advantage.
IMAGE: CBS

At Tribal Council, words are exchanged about flipping and sticking to drawing rocks. Elaine says it’s a Mexican standoff, and she’s ready to take the plunge into drawing a rock. Tommy explains any Vokai members flipping makes no sense because it paints a target on their backs for flipping on the tribe, but offering any of the Lairo members a chance to join Vokai and become pure purple… Haha Tommy, right… Jason explains that the group with the upper hand is the group that’s prepared to draw rocks, with him Lauren, Tommy and Dan all agreeing they’re ready to do it. But Elaine drops the bomb and says she doesn’t like rocks, presenting her vote blocker and telling Jeff she will block Jason’s vote. A shocked Vokai four then proceed to play the whisper game and talk with Aaron, attempting to keep the remaining three on Elaine, with Aaron as the fourth. Lauren begins to cry because of the sucky situation she’s in, and that the likelihood her four stays intact has dramatically plummeted. Jeff then tells the tribe to vote, and Aaron’s smirk leaves me with no certainty on where he’ll land.

Jeff returns with the votes, and after no idols are played, he begins reading. The first three votes are for Elaine, but the next three are on Jason. With one vote left, Jeff flips the vote to reveal that the sixth person voted out of Survivor is Jason! He’s blindsided by the intact Lairo four, the remaining Vokai three are shocked, and my winner pick is sent out of the season.

Jason is blindsided by the Lairo four, and is voted out of the game with the snuff of his torch by Jeff at Tribal Council.
IMAGE: CBS

REVIEW

I’ve already broken down the Jamal/Jack moment so I won’t go into that again. But damn Elaine really brought it this week, sure, there’s some luck involved in being the person to visit Island of the Idols, but she did manage to play it correctly by only informing Elizabeth before the fact but both Missy and Aaron after. Although Aaron was telling us he wasn’t wavering and was heart set on taking out Elaine, I wonder if this was some editing magic and if he was actually always on board with the Lairo four once he knew they would have the numbers.

Taking out Jason was probably a good move, but from what we know on the original Vokai tribe, I feel like Jason probably would have been blindsided or targetted eventually anyway. Tommy and Lauren have always been central players in their alliances, and while I love them, they are without a doubt playing strong games and I think are probably more likely to keep loyal allies at the merge. So I don’t think Jason is a bad vote at all, he was extremely strategic, and in all fairness all four options were the own threats, but I doubt Jason probably would have made it to the end anyway.

While we didn’t get much of a look into the gameplay of Lairo, this new Noura targeting Jamal and Jack scenario might hold up, sparing Karishma and Dean. And the girls have the numbers, so four against the boys (as Dean is putting trust in Jamal) might equal a result of another Vokai blindside. But Jamal has an idol, so that might throw a wrench into the plan. And Kellee also has an idol that can only be played at the next Tribal, so maybe she’ll attempt to do something with it and we could see a really fun Tribal go down.

I’m actually still really enjoying the season, and I’ve seen some comments regarding the season being boring, unmemorable etc. But I don’t get it. The season’s twist doesn’t overshadow the gameplay. The cast is funny, we’ve had hilarious moments every episode. And there are a lot of strong players in different facets of the game. This is a great cast. And the season has brought some jaw dropping moments and some big blindsides. With no third tribe, I’m loving it even more. We haven’t had two tribes since Season 29, 5 years and 10 seasons ago. So hopefully Probst doesn’t pull anything next week, and we just have a normal old episode with a merge in two weeks time.

MATTHEW’S TOP FIVE

This season, I will put together a personal top five based on the episode that aired each week. I aim to consider all factors, like physicality, strategy, social game, likeability, and visibility. They are not ranked in order, and encompass all information gathered, from pre-season press, to previous episodes and the most recent episode.

I won’t make these too long, the reasons for four haven’t much changed in one episode. But let’s see who made it.

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

TOMMY SHEEHAN is still a strong winner choice in my mind. He escaped the vote this week and given he makes it to the merge, his charm will likely draw a few allies. We’ve seen him work th tribe in both new and old situations. So he’s very capable of forming the majority alliance and hiding behind a couple of shields. But he will eventually get a target on his back, so hopefully Tommy is quick to overcome it if of course he makes it there. Yet down in numbers, maybe we’re in for a shocker and the King of Vokai is about to be dethroned.

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

ELAINE STOTT, welcome back to the top five! Elaine really brought her A game this episode, and with Lauren doubting her strategic ability, I love that she really came out as the MVP. Clearly Aaron has some trust in her if he was prepared to keep her over Jason, so she’s not just bringing out these one time advantages. She’s forming social bonds too. Her character arc has developed quite nicely, as she’s becoming more submerged into the strategic and social game. Don’t underestimate her, Elaine is on fire and I really hope she goes as far as possible.

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

KELLEE KIM was practically missing this week. But her impact is so huge we don’t need to see her to know she’s still a strong player on the Lairo tribe. An idol in hand, a connection with Dean, a connection with Karishma, and an alliance with OG women (Janet and Noura), she’s end game bound I’m sure of it. Unless she goes out in a blaze of glory soon, there’s no denying to me that Kellee will be of central focus for another episode or two, and manage to pull of some impressive game moves. Let’s go QUEEN KELLEE OF LAIRO!

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

LAUREN BECK is the emotional icon we all needed. Her heart is in this game, and I really feel for her when she notes that she’s wanted to play since she was 11 years old. Going out by a rock, while devastating to your game (hi Jessica), sometimes it’s the move that needs to be made. What’s most shocking is that with the advantage taking out of context, they probably don’t draw rocks because Aaron and Missy flip. Anyway, I believe in Lauren and her social game. She’s popping up on our screens in those social situation moments, and she’s also the biggest cheerleader when she needs to be on the sit out bench. Her social media feed is also on fire, so call me biased but I love Lauren in and out of the game so she deserves my top five spot.

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

ELIZABETH BEISEL WHAT? I know! I never would have expected Elizabeth to crawl into the top five but here she is! There was just something that captured me in this week’s episode. She proved she had social awareness and strategic capability while discussing the advantage situation with Elaine, immediately jumping on doing her best to cover for her if necessary. But she also knew to let the secret be Elaine’s to tell, as to not expose her strong bond with her. I just think she’s playing a really great social game and with that comes a very, very decent strategic game that I admire. It’s a surprising choice, and I can’t guarantee she’ll stay as I probably would with Tommy, Lauren and Kellee. But I like her game, and I’m excited to see where it goes now that I’m on board.

That’s our top five rounded out. Honourable mentions go to Missy, Jamal, Karishma, and Dean, with Noura, and Aaron just underneath, and Janet, Jack and Dan bringing up the rear.

That’s the breakdown of Week 6. I’ll see you soon for the next updates for The Amazing Race and Survivor.

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Survivor: Island of the Idols continues next week, check your local TV Guide for its listing.


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