Survivor: Island of the Idols – “A Decision Has Been Made”

Only seven players remained in the 39th season of Survivor, but a history-making first rocked players and viewers alike. In a highly covered issue across the media, I’ll give my thoughts on the show’s first and evaluate those heading into finale night.

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


Lauren and Tommy discuss the latter’s ability to blindside the former, thus breaking their Day 1 alliance before the Final Tribal Council.

After Karishma’s record-breaking exit (most votes cast against any player in history), Tommy talks about the moment Dean saved him from an untimely exit and the mistrust in Noura after she scrambles to fix her wrongs from the days prior. She’s pleading for forgiveness and that she never really intended to go with the plan, but Noura knows Dean can not be trusted, especially after the major blow up to her game that could cost her a spot in the winner’s seat. Her retaliation? She’s hiding Dean’s shows up high, and once again, this is fact number 326 why I freaking love Noura.

Elaine stands at camp looking to her right at her fellow tribe mates.

Elsewhere, Elaine is also in trouble because she just wasted an idol and was targeting Tommy, so her and Dean hunt for the rehidden idol, to secure some extra safety into the final six. Janet and Tommy also go searching, and Janet is especially determined to grab the one item that can save her in the game, and right on cue, Janet manages to find another hidden immunity idol (only the third woman to find multiple idols in history, behind Kelley Wentworth and fellow 39 cast member, Kellee Kim). She can’t quite imagine winning the game after this little milestone, and even shows Tommy the evidence of her safety. But Dean and Elaine catch them from a distance looking at an item in front of them, prompting Dean to believe the idol lies between the two of them, and thus found.

Janet reads to the rest of the tribe the note given explaining who will visit the Island of the Idols next.

On Day 34, Elaine and the rest of the tribe talk about how ‘crazy’ Noura is. But Elaine doesn’t see her next on the chopping block, and instead believes she’s next to go. Her pitch is to Lauren about the men forming an alliance and sending Lauren to the fire-making challenge and potentially out of the game. Lauren is very intrigued by this information, and talks to Tommy about his potential disloyalty later in the game. Tommy defends himself saying that Janet needs to go but Dean is fourth to him, her and Dan. In reality, Tommy is after Lauren and swaps her finalist position with Dean. He relays the plan to Dan and Dean, and together the three are pretty set to stick to the plan, even if Dan is weary about Dean’s loyalty.

Dean sitting at camp after being selected to visit the Island of the Idols earlier in the game.

Suddenly, a boat arrives to camp asking the tribe to draw a name to send that player off to the Island of the Idols, and Dean is drawn to visit the two Survivor legends that are Boston Rob and Sandra ‘The Queen’ Diaz-Twine. On that island, Rob talks about how much he loves Survivor and the adventure that comes from it. He compares it to riding a bike that he’s back on, so maybe we’ll even see him sooner than we could have expected (WINK, WINK). As they greet Dean, the three eat some freshly cooked fish and the two mentors quiz Dean on his position in the game. Dean also says he feels comfortable because he’s got the (fake) legacy advantage to play at the final six. Dean asks the mto verify it, but they say they cannot. He also explains his other fake advantage and Sandra believes the plan is brilliant, even if his actual advantage is also fake. Rob and Sandra then talk about the lesson for Dean, which is about jury management and the case to make on Day 39. If Dean wants to wager his vote, he can gain one of three advantages, either an idol that can’t be played on him, an idol nullifier, or an extra vote. The test? A coin flip… Omg. And even Sandra and Rob talk up the 50/50 shot! This IoI twist really looked promising but the stupid tests really bum the theme down, unfortunately. Dean ultimately decides to go after the idol nullifier, and puts his fate on the coin. Sure enough, he wins the flip and thus walks away with an idol nullifier and the knowledge that it can void any idol found by his opponents, so watch out Janet, he’s coming for you.

Dean returns, and tells a story that he didn’t win a flip and lost his vote for an extra vote. But relays the actual story to Lauren, Dan and Tommy. This really scares Tommy, who didn’t quite realise how much of a threat Dean was becoming, and maybe he needed to go sooner than expected.

At the Immunity Challenge, the players must navigate through an obstacle course after spinning to unravel a rope, making them seriously dizzy. At the end, they must solve a seven-word phrase puzzle to clinch a victory. Tommy does really well at getting a bit of a lead ahead of everyone else, as everyone tries to centre themselves after the major dizziness over their bodies. Noura and Dean get to the puzzle first, followed by Lauren, Dan, Tommy, Elaine and Janet. Everyone’s struggling to get something going, with Elaine getting a few words seemingly before everyone else. Dean also starts to see something, and it looks like Dean and Elaine are fighting to take home the victory. Dean’s first however and he wins Immunity, sending himself through to the final six and really putting Elaine firmly on the chopping block.

The remaining seven players compete to solve the puzzle in the Immunity Challenge, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the final six.

Back from the Individual Immunity Challenge, everyone agrees to vote Elaine out and send her home pretty much unanimously. There is a Plan B in place, and that’s to get Dan to vote Noura so there’s one vote on her in case Elaine has found an idol. Lauren is still weary about the Dan, Dean and Tommy connection that could send her home. She talks with Elaine about voting out a big threat like her or a person that’s easily beatable like Noura, who if kept, is a spot in the final three that everyone else might need. It’s now Lauren and Janet’s decision as to who is the bigger threat to their final three position, because Noura is everyone’s choice to get to the end. Keeping Elaine lessens their threat level, but in saying so, Elaine is able to win Immunity to catapult herself into the finals and would very likely win the game over anyone else.

Rob and Sandra watch Tribal Council play out before them.

At Tribal Council, Jeff talks about the timing of the season, and whether the mode has shifted from not only who needs to go next but who will be left to face the jury. Dan likens the game and Tribal Council to an earthquake, and Elaine dubs herself the homewrecker to the Vokai house. The Elaine’s such a threat she’ll always be a target versus the Noura’s such a non-threat she’ll take a final three spot is in ripe discussion. Lauren and Janet still discuss switching the plan at Tribal, hearing Elaine’s good points and concerns about the future of everyone else in the game. Elaine makes a comment about the glass always being half empty for her, and Jeff is stunned at that response, prompting Elaine to discuss her unfortunate luck in life and dealing with the loss of her mother only a few months prior. It’s really tearful. Like REALLY tearful and everyone’s hearts go out to Elaine for being such a positive spirit in an otherwise negative set of circumstances to her life. The tribe then is off to vote.

Oddly, a commercial was scheduled after the voting and before they were read. This is an occurrence only ever done during a double episode, making many viewers question the upcoming events of Tribal Council. Jeff reads the votes, and in an unsurprising result, Elaine is voted out 5-2 with Dan and her voting for Noura. But there’s still five minutes on the clock, and we’re beginning to question what’s happening next that’ll shake up the game.

The day then opens on Day 36, where the tribe talks about coffee and being reminded about home. Jeff is then seen walking up to camp, and everyone is in shock at his arrival. Notably missing, Dan. And Jeff tells us he’s got some news. Jeff then tells the tribe he just spoke privately with Dan and wants to update them on what the result of that conversation. He then says, “a decision has been made, and Dan will not be returning to the game”. The five are in shock as Jeff details that Dan won’t be coming back to camp or sitting on the jury, he has left the game well and truly, for good. Janet then says in a confessional that she believes real-world issues have come into the game and that the tribe needs to process the fact he’s gone and move on. Tommy also talks about losing a number at the wrong time, and their chances at winning the season may have changed with Dan out of the game.

As the screen snaps to black, a title card is displayed detailing Dan’s exit, saying, “Dan was removed from the game after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player”. Suddenly, it’s clear. Dan has become the first player officially ejected from Survivor, because of yet another incident of his inappropriate physical behaviour. This was unprecedented, and important to discuss.


This entire season has been clouded by the sheer inappropriate behaviour by Dan, and for this to be the conclusion and at this point to that ‘storyline’, if you can even call it that, is quite frankly disappointing. I remember writing the review shortly after the merge episode and saying I didn’t believe Dan needed to be removed from the game at that point in time. I retract that statement. I’ve rewatched the defining clip of Kellee’s revelation to production, and agree with much of the Survivor community that Dan should have been removed from the game at that time.

This pattern of behaviour was allowed to continue and another incident has occured that could have otherwise been prevented entirely. It’s unfortunate for that crew member, and unfortunate to the other players that were subjected to Dan’s inappropriate actions and thus navigated through the game (or didn’t because they were voted out) following the circumstances of this coming to light at the merge. I am glad something was done, eventually. And while the full details of the events remained concealed to the public, media website People published this article detailing that Dan was removed after touching a female crew member’s leg after an Immunity Challenge while boarding the boat that would transport the players back to camp. The site also claims Dan insisted it was inadvertent, yet clearly, production decided otherwise and Dan was thus ejected from the game. This information has yet to be confirmed by CBS or those involved with Survivor.

I have felt uncomfortable just as a viewer to Dan from the premiere, and there has been much comment if the latest incident (and all previous ones for that matter) were worthy of being removed for. If the People report is true, while the leg touching incident may not be worthy of a removal, the sheer evidence from the 35 days prior make the situation a whole lot worse. If the latest was an isolated incident, perhaps Dan could be believed for an accident, but the events of the rest of the season would not help his case. That’s just to the nay-sayers who are on the camp that Dan shouldn’t be removed.

BUT I am on the side that can not make a firm decision because I simply do not know the truth. I have no idea if the incident’s recount is true, nor if Dan can be believed to it being an accident. But we should believe women. The language used in the final title card stated that it was another report of an incident, that means a person has come forward feeling uncomfortable with the actions of Dan, after the already overwhelming details of previous actions with Kellee. We should not, and we never should, dismiss one person’s report and I believe that the woman that would have come forward must have had valid reason to, and felt that Dan’s actions (whether leg touching or otherwise) were purposeful. He should have been removed. That’s my stance because we should believe women when they come forward. And I have great respect for Survivor and the producers making the right decision when they should.

I do however think they failed to act earlier. But that is now a learning moment for the future, both for this show and anyone and anything in the future. I don’t hold production negatively because they didn’t act when they should have, a mistake was made. A big one, but nevertheless it was made and at the time they had reason to maintain Dan’s spot in the game. But that has happened, and we must learn from it. The finale is now taped earlier and pre-recorded, rightfully so, and I hope the issue is addressed appropriately and everyone eventually gets their say in accordingly. Even Dan, who is apparently not attending the Reunion, needs to speak on these events. This is a serious issue, one that really has plagued the show and season from the game that lies underneath. This is a messy situation and there’s so much more I could talk about. My heart goes out to anyone that felt uncomfortable by or around Dan. I hope this issue gets the coverage it deserves, and then everyone can move on to the next step and next season in store for Survivor.

Elaine’s exit really sucks, she was a genuine and beautiful soul but nevertheless a big threat and someone who hopefully will return again if not for being one of the best characters to emerge from the season.


We have the final five and I’ll go through each of them individually as we embark on the finale of Survivor: Island of the Idols.


JANET CARBIN a really great presence to the season who has just been monumental to represent women on this show. She’s one of three women to find multiple idols! And also the oldest woman to make the merge, and the finale! Janet’s making waves and I’m wondering if that fire starting scene from the premiere is going to come up again this finale and see her make the final three. We know she’s capable. What scares me? Dean’s idol nullifier and knowledge she has one. I actually think Janet might go home with Dean making the big move to send her home. Here’s hoping not, because Janet would be the greatest winner after the events of this season. Someone who truly deserves it, not to discount the other four.


TOMMY SHEEHAN the only person to stay in the top five each week, he’s my pick to win edit-wise, and he’s got the great social game to back it up. Even if you discounted the edit, the eyes are on Lauren, Noura, Janet and Dean. Tommy was not mentioned as a threat or target AT ALL this week. So he’s gotta be making the run to the end. He’s also the only person yet to visit Island of the Idols, so perhaps he’ll be the one to nail the final test that all five visit to take on. I think his sheer social resume will be the ticket to him winning, but no idols or Immunity wins (finale pending) may come to bite him. I love Tommy, I don’t know why Reddit think he’s boring. He’s just normal lol! If he does win, I love the finish but it was obvious since Day 1, I wish the other four were edited better to make me truly believe they have a chance.


LAUREN BECK really has played a strong social game, probably stronger than Tommy. She’s also picked up an idol, an Immunity win. I think she really is a solid winner if she makes it to the Final Tribal Council. And I think that’s the problem. I think she will miss it. Just like Kara in David vs Goliath, Lauren has not received a single vote but I can see an emotional exit at the final four with the fire twist screwing her over well and truly. A lot of those personal moments from Lauren, not really seen. We know she’s game savvy and exceptional at that. But we’ve heard the teaching story from Tommy, the lifeguard adventure from Janet. Why did the editors allow this injustice for Lauren? I really hope I’m wrong, because Lauren is amazing. But the target on her back from the last two episodes leads me to believe she’ll miss the end and be a robbed player at that. Please, Survivor Gods, prove me wrong!


DEAN KOWALSKI has long been the goat expected even from Day 1 where he was the only person to not get a confessional. The fact he was pretty invisible early on makes it hard for me to believe he’s the convincing winner we’re supposed to believe he will be. Although, we saw Chris Underwood slay the game and win in three days, maybe Dean will too. He’s had some good content, and I can see an Immunity run. He’s got the idol nullifier so he might play it correctly (and probably rob Janet) and therefore he might have some great end-game moments that spell his victory at the end next to the right amount of people. Is there a bit of overconfidence though? I detect it. I just don’t know if the edit or game is enough for Dean, so I’d like to be proven wrong. But I’m not seeing the triumphant finish Dean might have been expecting at this point in the game.


NOURA SALMAN the underdog! My dark horse pick to just sweep the floor with everyone and become the greatest victor ever. I love Noura, I’ve grown to love her and I’d just love to see her take this final out. I really, really do. But. I’ve seen this story before. She’s been talked about being easily beatable and really reminds me of Angelina from David vs Goliath and how she was a great character and a pretty fine player, that just doesn’t earn the respect of the jury. It has been a season of women though so perhaps Noura is the big winner we didn’t expect but walks home with it all. I’m not sure how this’ll pan out for her but she’s been a true delight to have this season and I’m here for Noura to comment on future seasons because I have no doubt it’ll be AWESOME.

So in short, I’m rooting for everyone for different reasons. This is a really good group of people to potentially win this season, and I can’t wait to see the photo finish and of course, the Reunion that awaits.

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The conclusion of Survivor: Island of the Idols airs at 12pm and again at 7:30pm on 9Go! in Australia on Thursday. Otherwise check your local TV Guide.


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