Survivor: Island of the Idols – “I Will Never Let It Go”

Reality TV never got more real than it did last night. There have been so many serious and socially historic moments of Survivor, but the last episode was monumental for reflecting the social climate of today. I review an emotional week.

This episode dealt with some serious themes and issues, and just like the episode, I would like to warn readers of the upcoming content. Reader discretion is advised.

Also, because of the episode’s nature, there will be no Top Five this week, and the recap will be very basic, covering what’s necessary, with an in depth review entirely.

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

EPISODE 8 RECAP

The remaining 13 players celebrate making it to the merge stage of the season, and prepare to enjoy a big feast while toasting with their buffs.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

The episode began with a title card warning viewers parental discussion was advised. This was a first for Survivor, so we all knew something was upcoming.

After Jack’s idol blindside, Noura is pressed as to why she voted with Dean for Jack, and despite attempting to conceal the truth behind the decision, she eventually cracks and reveals to the tribe that Kellee told her to vote that way, prompting her to ask to speak with Janet and Jamal on the beach. But she denies everything, saying Noura and her never got a chance to speak. But it doesn’t fool Jamal entirely, who still suspects something.

In the morning, Kellee manages to find the rehidden idol after the entire tribe goes on the hunt. She’s got the power back in her hands, and can’t quite believe it either. Jamal then informs the tribe that they have merged with Vokai, and together the 13 convene and feast together. Dan lets us know he’s keen on working with Kellee and Janet again, and has a conversation with the latter about leaving out Jamal from the alliance. But another hand on one of the girls’ leg’s reminds me the sheer uncomfortability of Dan’s actions. And that’s not the end of it, in fact, it’s quite the beginning.

Missy and Kellee talk on the beach about the consistent physical contact between Dan and some of the women in the game.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Tommy informs Kellee and Janet about flipping over to the new Vokai tribe, a majority of nine, but Kellee is not keen seeing them as the most dangerous players left, with Missy as the most threatening of them all. Tommy is a little pissed about this, because neither lady is letting him inject his opinion.

After we return from commercial, Missy and Kellee are talking on the beach about Dan’s wandering hands on Missy’s first night on Vokai, and Kellee tells us about the two bonding over Dan’s extreme inappropriate behaviour. Kellee details Dan’s continuation of touching her even after she’s told him she doesn’t like being touched, from moving her hair behind her ear, and wrapping his arm around her rib cage. Missy agrees with what Kellee says, but reminds her that it is difficult to make a scene in a social game like Survivor. Kellee reflects this in her confessional, saying she can’t stand up to it in the game, and it is much like real life where women find it hard to stand up to men that sexually harass or assault them. And she’s right, standing up does affect how people look at you, heartbreakingly so. Missy tells Kellee that for her mental health, Dan can go. He smothers her at night, and at the merge feast he’s wiggling her toes. ALL OF THIS caught on camera, and we’re shown the raw footage that’s never been seen in an episode of Survivor before.

Kellee identifies that she is not the only case, and that her, Lauren, Elizabeth, Missy, and even Molly, have all been targets of Dan’s inappropriate touching. She breaks down in front of the camera while delivering her confessional, saying it sucks that he’s done it to five different women in the game. All of a sudden, we hear a producer interject, saying that if there are issues that producers can intervene if necessary. Another first for Survivor. Kellee tells the producer she believes it will stop because Janet is on the tribe, but the producer does remind her that it is not okay.

Elsewhere, Tommy and Lauren are discussing Kellee talking with Missy for two hours when the former is targeting the latter. They know she’s a threat, and want to go after her first at the merge. Lauren isn’t so into the decision, but does see her being an extremely dangerous player in the game.

Kelle laughs at something off screen while standing at the merged, Lumukwaku tribe, camp.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Later, Kellee talks with Janet about Dan’s inappropriateness and Janet comforts her as Kellee visually shows emotion. Kellee says it’s a problem, because now she knows it’s not just her, but it’s Dan creating the problem because it is recurring amongst the younger women on the tribe. Janet, who otherwise trusts Dan strategically, explains to us she has a duty to these women to protect them. And will join forces with them to take him out even if it’s not the best strategic move. Missy and Elizabeth also talk together about Dan’s touching, joking in some sort of way, but Missy adds that it’s made Kellee feel uncomfortable, and it’s a motive to take Dan out. Suddenly, it’s become a game move for them, who want to use this very serious issue about personal boundaries as a tool to assist them further in the game and potentially vote Dan out.

Elizabeth and Kellee also talk about Dan, and Elizabeth tells Kellee a story about Dan’s touching, unknown if true or not. Despite all of this, Kellee is still convinced that Missy is the biggest threat and is putting her personal feelings about Dan aside to make the right game decision in voting out Missy. But Lauren spills the beans to Missy, and tells her to win the Immunity Challenge if she wants to secure her spot in the game going forward.

We are then shown another title card explaining that the producers spoke in a group and individually with every person on the tribe, and gave Dan an official warning for his behaviour.

At the first Individual Immunity Challenge, which I’ll keep short, the contestants had to hold onto a table with three balls atop, where once the balls drop they are out. Aaron manages to pull out the win over Jamal, making Missy feel unsafe and everyone else looking at either her, Kellee, or Dan as the potential first target of the merged tribe.

The merged Survivor players compete in their first Individual Immunity Challenge, where only one person will walk away with safety for the upcoming vote at Tribal Council.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Tommy and Lauren try to get Dean on board with the plan to vote out Kellee, and Dean’s in a tough spot because she just saved him and he’s got no one else to trust at this point. The word spreads to everyone else on the new Vokai tribe, and now Kellee’s name is well and truly out there. Elsewhere, Jamal and Noura talk about voting Dan for, and I quote, “rubbing people the wrong way”. Noura’s ready to take the show now because why wait and take someone out that’s making several women uncomfortable? Jamal promises Janet they’ve got the numbers, and she’s relieved that the girls who have come to her upset about being in his presence will get their wish to send Dan out. She likes Dan, but this is a moral decision that she needs to make because it’s in their best interest.

Elizabeth and Janet discuss this plan, and Elizabeth tells her that while Janet was gone, her and Missy couldn’t sleep for twelve days, implying Dan was worrying them at night for possibly touching them inappropriately. Elizabeth does reminds us in a confessional, that she has felt safe the entire time with Dan, and she has never actually felt uncomfortable with Dan and his behaviour. Dan is then tipped off about the Dan plan by Elaine, and he can’t fathom why Janet would target him. Word also gets to Kellee that the plan has switched from Missy to Dan, and she senses something off, prompting to her to go looking for the merged hidden immunity idol, which she successfully finds, adding two to her current total, and three overall.

The Lumuwaku tribe sit at Tribal Council, about to vote someone out.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

At Tribal Council, discussion is predominantly around trust versus deception, with many agreeing that trust is the most important asset to the game and that the deception doesn’t start until trust is formed with others. Eventually, the tribe goes to vote, and when Jeff returns with the votes and asks for idols, Kellee does not stand to play either one.

This becomes costly however, as we quickly learn that Kellee is voted out 8-5, becoming the second person and first woman voted out with two idols since season 15. The most vocal victim of another’s sexual harassment is now out, and it’s made even worse when Dan obnoxiously pumps his fist when Kellee is eliminated, saying under his breath, “yeah, put that torch down”. The Queen of Lairo is gone, I’m devastated, and I’m even more disgusted with the events that have taken place thus far. But we’ve got another hour, and it’s not finished yet.

Back from Tribal Council, Janet asks the tribe what was up with the decision, seeing Dan as the right move for everyone than a game move for some. Feeling betrayed, she talks with Lauren and Tommy, with Lauren saying she felt uncomfortable with, “the way things were coming to light”. Lauren explains she can only tell her story, and for her Dan was never an issue and hopes Kellee wouldn’t take it personal.

Janet then talks with Dan, saying Lauren, Elizabeth and Missy came to her crying over Dan’s inappropriateness. Dan tries to defend himself, but Janet tells him the production talk from earlier was about him. This leaves him shocked, saying it’s an absurd accusation that takes him by surprise. He tells us it’s depressing people would lie about it but also depressing that it would even be considered authentic for a moment. Janet is now upset that the women lied and crossed a line in doing so, and Dan is prompted to ask them about it adding that he is sorry if he’s ever crossed a line with them. But they tell him it’s all good and they never cried to Janet about it, but Dan’s rightfully concerned it could ruin his life. Dan explains that it’s reprehensible that (either Janet or Kellee, I’m not sure) would use Dan’s behaviour as a tool in the game EVEN THOUGH it’s Elizabeth and Missy who used it as a tool in their game!

Missy, Elizabeth and Janet sit together at camp looking at something off screen that takes them by surprise.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Janet then talks with Missy and Elizabeth about denying what they said to her to Dan, and this is just a horrible debacle that’s come from an already terrible issue. Janet tries to fish a confession out of Elizabeth, and she does tell her and Dan that she did tell Janet she was uncomfortable and was thankful she was with her. But when Janet leaves, she’s quick to tell Dan it only needed to be said to get Janet off her back. Janet then sleeps out by herself on the beach, and explains that joking about sexual behaviour is unacceptable, as lies can destroy the lives of wrongly accused, victims, etc.

In the morning, Missy and Aaron go idol hunting, but it’s Janet the queen of all thing left in this game, that actually finds the idol, something rewarding for an emotional night for me as a viewer, and for Janet herself. Karishma and Jamal are also talking during the day, where Jamal plucks out a note hanging from a tree sending him to the Island of the Idols, despite Karishma initially noticing it.

Lauren and Karishma talk together on the beach, after only just meeting as they merged only hours prior.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

When Jamal arrives to meet Sandra and Rob, they remind him there are no free rides in Survivor, as the minute he grabbed the note, he lost his vote at the next Tribal Council. What a strange lesson. Jamal just loses instantly. No chance for it. No chance to redeem it. Okay Rob, okay… Anyway, he can sabotage someone else by being gifted a pencil and note that he use for whatever he sees fit, and he decides to fake a legacy advantage and gifts it to Dean publicly, putting a target on him, albeit with a dodgy story and piece of parchment to go along with it.

The final twelve then rock up to the Individual Immunity Challenge where the last remaining woman AND man will win Immunity. They must lean forward with their arms holding a bar behind their backs above the water. It’s serious pain on their limbs, and eventually Aaron manages to pick up his second Immunity win of the merge, and Missy wins her first too.

Jamal feels in danger about going home after the Island of the Idols saga that took place earlier. The group of eight agree to split between Jamal and Karishma, thinking someone might have an idol within the mix. Tommy tells Janet she’s safe and to vote Jamal, but she’s not so certain if he’s telling the truth.

Dan sits on a chair at the Lumuwaku camp, looking to his left.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

At Tribal Council, Dan’s behaviour is discussed and the lies and miscommunication that came through. Janet discusses being blindsided by everyone and that she saw voting out Dan as a solution for the entire tribe and the women that came up to her discussing feeling uncomfortable. Missy explains that she’s just met Janet, and has no correlation between safety and her because they’ve never met, and Janet admits (although she shouldn’t have to), she was wrong. Aaron chimes in and says that Janet’s move was a Survivor play that went wrong, but Janet is quick to deny this saying he has no idea what was going on surrounding this issue. But he says he DOES know a lot about it, and Janet is assuming the victim role and potentially spinning it to damage Dan’s personal life. If it really was an issue, he, Tommy, Jamal, all the men would have been involved to stop it.

Here comes HERO Jamal who tells us that it’s wrong to assume that the men would know all about this, considering that’s the problem in real life right now as women are negated when bringing up a charge, being told, “if it was such a big issue why didn’t she bring it up last year…”. He says men are not entitled to know things just because they are in power. Jeff then questions Dan on it, and Dan tries to make him let it go. But Jeff tells him that the context is necessary, as everyone is talking around it creating more uncertainty about what was said. Karishma tells everyone that perception is reality, and Janet perceived the situation because of the evidence she was given.

Jamal smiles while sitting in a chair at the Lumuwaku camp.
IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Jamal tells everyone that, intentional or not, everyone has a responsibility to listen to women when they communicate genuine uncomfortable feelings with someone else’s physical behaviour. Dan is then asked to talk about it, and he insists that it will never be let go. But Jeff reminds him that he himself will never let it go because… Nope, Dan cuts him off. He explains that if anyone ever felt uncomfortable with him, he’s horrified with it. But says that in the rain, tight shelters, crawling over each other, he made Kellee uncomfortable, he’s sorry. But while he’s issuing an apology, he’s still defending himself by saying it happened because they were in close quarters. Using these examples does NOT help Dan. It’s actually disgusting he references that, because we KNOW it’s not true because we’ve seen video footage, just an hour earlier, showing that this occurred on the beach, in the shelter, at the merge feast. Don’t act like it was an accidental touch. It WAS intentional. But he does rightfully admit that it doesn’t matter if he meant it, if someone feels it, it is true. And he’s right. If one person is uncomfortable, it is true. But mostly everyone is upset because it turned into a game thing. And that isn’t Janet’s fault. It’s Elizabeth’s and Missy’s mostly. Janet is now considering quitting, but is talked out of it and Jeff wraps the story for everyone, Kellee shared a story with Janet, who wanted to take action because of it, and it’s complicated because of a vote, and asserts that no one can brush over a story like Kellee and Janet’s, and everyone’s perception becomes true because it’s what they’ve seen. Lauren explains that this Tribal Council can be separated with what needs to happen in the game. And it’s everyone’s best guess that with this comment, no one’s going to just vote Dan out because the issue is then removed. The tribe then goes to vote after an extremely eye opening and difficult Tribal Council.

As Jeff returns with the votes, Janet plays her idol to keep herself in the game. But it only negates two votes, and Jamal is subsequently voted out in a 6-3-2 vote, given Jamal couldn’t vote either at this Tribal Council.

REVIEW

I’ll very quickly go over everything else in this episode. Kellee, two idols, NO! But I get it, and I don’t understand why everyone thinks she’s dumb for not playing it. She didn’t know! What can you do? It sucks. I wish she knew, but she didn’t and there’s nothing wrong with that. The eight that were coming after her kept it hidden well, and yeah, Dean you’re a jerk for not telling her (not really, but she was the queen…). The Island of the Idols twist was stupid as well, like, there’s just no sense in taking away Jamal’s vote entirely. With no chance of it coming back. Maybe the lesson should have been on redemption and we can work on sabotage another damn day.

Now, onto the serious stuff. Firstly, these opinions are my own. And I am not qualified to talk on sexual assault or harassment, nor will my opinion reflect the true nature of what happened on that show. But I have tried relooking at everything that went down, and the various angles that must be considered.

From Episode 1, I have felt uncomfortable with Dan’s actions. The touchy feely stuff is not for Kellee. And my heart broke for her as she told her story to the producer early in the episode. It’s true. A lot of women think it’s just them, and then when you hear other women confirming your uncomfortability, it’s a realisation that the man causing the indecency has the problem. It was sexual harassment. She told him to stop. Back on Day 1 with the back and head placements, and this episode when he tried to touch her head. She said no. He didn’t listen. She has a right to feel uncomfortable, and Dan was right in saying it doesn’t matter what he intended, she is right because it’s what she feels and it’s genuine. Which is why it sucks SO much she wasn’t there to enlighten the situation at camp, and didn’t voice her thoughts at Tribal Council. I feel so much for Kellee, because it’s terrible for her to go through it. But the courage to still not use it as a tool to target him, and instead block those feelings to go after the threat Missy, wow. Kellee’s a wonderful woman and player. We are so lucky to have her join the Survivor family.

Now looking at Elizabeth and Missy. Yeah, they were wrong for ever intertwining sexual harassment with game. There was a terrible error in judgement to use this as gameplay, not considering that it crossed the line of lies that the game of Survivor has. Because it CAN ruin lives. I don’t know if the girls were blind to it, if they didn’t admit it, if they were genuinely okay with it, or nothing happened at all. We can confirm Missy did have interactions with Dan, because there’s footage shown. Elizabeth, not so much. They made a serious mistake by using Dan’s behaviour as a tool to the game, and should be held accountable for their actions. But, we do not know the full story. First of all, perception IS reality, and with apologies issued and more, it’s clear the two ladies did not realise just how harmful Dan had been to Kellee and that the issue was so big to begin with. I truly believe them. Add that they only know their own story, to the excessive hunger and sleep deprivation. And then add another layer in that they are playing an intense, complicated and social game. I get why they made the error. It should not have happened. But like many, they made a mistake. And we should accept their apologies when they are put forward. Arguing that they DID know they were crossing a line is circumstantial, because we weren’t out there. We are not Missy. We are not Elizabeth. They have their own account of what happened. And while they made terrible, terrible judgement decisions in playing the game, and lying about it, they deserve a chance to grow and learn from this and we should understand the circumstances surrounding it all influenced their decisions. Sending hate to them, and in extension Lauren, Tommy and Aaron, not okay.

Jamal oh so eloquenly outlined why men aren’t so privvy to the situation. Aaron’s verbal abuse of Janet at Tribal Council, not great. But like Missy and Elizabeth, he only knew the story he knew and his apology is more than enough for me. Jamal is the hero here, because he speaks so well about issues, and this one highlights such a focal aspect of real life that I’m so glad Jamal was the representative voice for it. His speech, perfect. And now Janet, and I’m with Janet. I’d be a Janet in this situation because to me, taking out Dan and just playing with the twelve left would have been my call, even if it hurt my game. Because I would have wanted to protect those feeling uncomfortable. She’s incredible for deciding to do that, and I only wish I could wrap my arms around her when she was sitting out there alone. She’s the one in the right, but she’s the one outcast. That’s heartbreaking enough.

I’m not sure on where Karishma and Noura sit in this ordeal, but I can only imagine they’d be in support of the decision to take out Dan considering they voted that way.

Now finally, Dan. I have a lot of thoughts. His apology at Tribal, sincere, yes…kinda. As I mentioned earlier, it was convulated. Even though he rightfully addressed that whether he intended to make Kellee feel uncomfortable or not is irrelevent, because it’s what she felt. But by adding the ‘close quarters’ excuse in the middle, it’s just not right. Survivor is not played in one tiny house. Yes, situations keep people close. But he didn’t have to wriggle Missy’s toes at the feast, wrap his arm round her leg in the shelter, touch Kellee’s scalp on the beach, twirl her hair at camp. All of these instances, unncecessary. They aren’t close quarters. So don’t give me crap excuses. Own it. Additionally, I get why he would want it to be let go. It’s got to be uncomfortable for him because I personally do not think he’s purposely trying to behave inapproapritely. It’s just what happened. Dan’s an open, touchy guy. Kellee isn’t. They don’t align so there’s an issue there. I do not think Dan is a predator or anything of the sort. And the fact accusations could ruin his life, it’s true, so he wants to shut it down. But there’s one more problem I have that some have used to defend Dan and Janet implied early in the episode. Claiming you’re an open guy and that’s how you interact with everyone, that’s not a valid reason. Self awareness and evaluation is necessary when entering social situations. Everyone does it, everyday. People act differently from work and at home, with friends and with family. Dan should have told himself that, although he’s a physical person, he’s got to check himself in a game like this. You have to be on your game 100% of the time. I do this myself. I am constantly, and always, careful about how I interact with people. I avoid touching people when I’m out at a club, when I’m at school. And I too am a physical person. So it’s hard to identify exactly when it’s okay and when it isn’t, but I limit it to who I’m close with. Dan should have known that in Survivor, he keeps his hands and his feet to himself. If that’s a problem for him, he’s got to remind himself of it. It’s not valid to say, “but that’s what I’m like”. No. You change how you interact with people. And even if Dan didn’t come into the game with this mentality, he sure as hell should have realised when Kellee had that initial conversation. She told him she didn’t like it. So to STILL do it. Not on. Not right. Uncomfortable for her, for me, for everyone watching. When someone says no, it’s a no. It’s a no then. It’s a no again. It’s a no always until stated otherwise. I want to reiterate, I do not think Dan is a bad guy. But I believe he crossed the line several times, and he should have known when to stop and where the line was in the first place.

I’m conflicted about the production side. There’s been a lot of discussion over whether Dan should have been removed first and foremost, or if they were right to keep him in the game. I really don’t know. I say, considering Kellee said it did not need addressing any higher, and that the other women didn’t actually have genuine claims of feeling uncomfortable, Dan should have stayed in. But. I am not final on that decision. I’m sure it was made 1000x more complicated by the lies though, where a clear judgement and decision could have been made if it was just Kellee’s issue to raise and nowhere else.

There’s more that could be covered, and for further reading, Dalton Ross’ interview with Jeff Probst I found really echoes a lot considering Jeff is able to understand the player perception as well. The link is here.

That’s it for this week’s review, Survivor continues next week, and I’ll be back with the review and draft update.

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Survivor: Island of the Idols airs at 7:30pm on 9Go! in Australia!


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