30 from 30: #27 – Parvati Shallow’s Double Idol Play

The Moment:

Parvati Shallow plays two idols at tribal council during Heroes vs. Villains.

We’re counting down the 30 Moments That Shaped Survivor, events that happened on the show that helped create and evolve the game and the series that we know and love. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. And since these posts are covering the first thirty seasons of Survivor, there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Why It Matters:

For its tenth anniversary (and 20th season), Survivor brought back twenty of its most recognizable faces and biggest personalities (well, eighteen of them, plus Candice and Danielle) for an all-star season that hoped to eclipse the last All-Star season six years prior. (This was…not a high bar). Luckily for the show, Heroes vs. Villains became one of the most revered seasons, starting strong out of the gate and regularly topping “best Survivor season” lists.

After a series of big blindsides pre-merge—including snuffing the torches of Boston Rob, Tom Westman, Tyson (Editor’s note: sigh), and Coach, plus more idols than you can shake a Hantz at— the two tribes entered the merge dead even. Five heroes and five villains. But let’s back up a second…

Leading up to the merge, some of the Heroes mistakenly believed that a Black Widow female alliance was controlling the Villains. Naturally, they assumed that the women, having ousted Rob and Coach, planned to take out Russell next. To gain his trust- and a potential post-merge ally- JT gave an idol to Russell at the immunity challenge. Russell promptly shared the idol with his alliance, along with the attached love letter asking him to oust Parvati.

“XOXO Will you go to prom with me?”
“XOXO Will you go to prom with me?”

Meanwhile, Parvati received her own clue to an idol at a reward challenge, and proceeded to find it with her ally Danielle (presumably lacking the idol detector Russell keeps under his hat). Thus, two members of the Villains tribe enter the merge with idols, while the Heroes have none.

The scoreboard at the merge: five Heroes, five Villains, two idols, and one very hopeful(ly naive) JT thinking Russell is the swing vote that will change the game. (The five Heroes also think that both idols were played the night before. They are not smart).

At the immunity challenge, Danielle is the last one standing, unleashing chaos back at camp as suspicions about an immunity idol and Russell’s trustworthiness swirl. Russell attempts to solidify his alliance with Parvati and lends her his idol to play because the Heroes want her gone for real this time.

Russell forgot that idols should come with notes.
What, no love note attached?

The Heroes (wisely) target Jerri, the player they think least likely to be protected by an idol if Parvati pulls one out. Little do they know that Parvati now has TWO idols.

They said “call now to get a second one free”, so…
They said “call now to get a second one free”, so…

And then Tribal starts…

Ohhhh snap.
Ohhhh snap.

After a tense fight about bananas and idol play, the Heroes go along with the plan to vote out Jerri. As Jeff brings back the votes, Parvati  drops a bomb. She plays an idol for Sandra…

HvV_Idol_4

and before the Heroes have time to get in a silent fist pump that their target isn’t immune, Parvati pulls out a second idol. This one is for Jerri.

HvV_Idol_5

The Heroes quickly go from this:

HvV_Idol_6

To this:

HvV_Idol_7

With three members of their alliance immune, and the biggest target deflected, JT’s earlier gift comes back to haunt him as he’s voted out of the game, and the Heroes never recover.

Next time just buy Russell a gift card.
Next time maybe just buy Russell a gift card.

The Impact:

As idols became an increasingly large part of the game’s strategy, it wasn’t enough to play them for yourself to get to final tribal council. You had to curry favor with those inside and outside of the game in order to prove your worth. Playing idols in front of the jury and making Big Moves™ became a significant part of both endgame strategy and a way to establish your gameplay in the minds of those who will award your million dollar check. Tribal council became not just a place to vote someone out, but a place to show off- and a more exciting viewing experience.

Anything less than this = kthxbye.
Anything less than this = kthxbye.

We saw it in the next major returnee season, Caramoan, as Malcolm and his Three Amigos played idols left and right in an attempt to save themselves and become immortalized in Lego. It didn’t carry them beyond the next few tribals, but it bought Malcolm a few extra days and got Eddie (and his dog bar fantasies) to the final five.

Dude, this collar will go great with my fur. 
Dude, this collar will go great with my fur.

It happened again in San Juan Del Sur, as Natalie double-crossed Baylor to break up the last family pairing and add to her Big Moves™ résumé after snuffing Jon Misch’s torch in revenge.

#Twinning
#Twinning

This phenomenon of exciting moves at tribal council isn’t constrained to immunity idols. One of the biggest moves of recent seasons was Hayden’s Hail Mary that pushed Ciera to do more than vote out her mom in Blood vs. Water. He convinced her (and Tyson, for that matter) to go to rocks for the first time in a long time. Had their luck gone another way, either Ciera or Hayden could have catapulted into the final three.

Not pictured: purple paint. Anyone?
Not pictured: purple paint. Anyone?

Making a big move doesn’t even have to endear you to the jury. Parvati’s big move explained above? It didn’t get her a second win in Heroes vs. Villains. The same goes for her ally Russell, the king of big moves in both this season (see a few episodes prior) and Samoa. He got to the end twice, but was never bestowed the title. In Cagayan, Chaos Kass made several Big Moves™, including turning the course of the entire game, and all it got her was a lousy T-shirt booted as the last juror. (Granted, anyone but Woo would have taken her to the end, though she still would have lost.)

And no, it's not because you're a woman, Kass.
And no, it’s not because you’re a woman, Kass.

If a player doesn’t make a big move these days, subtle gameplay won’t be enough, even if they make it to the end. They will likely be consigned to being ignored at Tribal, asked to take out their dentures, or be on the receiving end of a juror’s roast. Without a solid combination of social skill, challenge wins, and power plays, a castaway will flail their way to the end like a dead fish with nothing to show—and that stinks.

A bigger flop than Fantastic Four?
Magikarp! Magikarp!

What Else Made the List?

You can view all our 30 from 30 content by clicking here.

Mark
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Mark

A Survivor fan since the end of season one, Mark hasn’t finished One World, but still thinks Kim is overhyped.

Top 5, Baby: Cambodia, Cagayan, Heroes vs. Villains, Pearl Islands, and Palau.
Mark
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  • Diego Armando

    This was one, if not the, biggest moment in Survivor history, yet this play is likely what cost Parvati the game. Russell felt betrayed that Parvati did not tell him about her idol and proceeded to destroy his own alliance by voting out Danielle. The rest is history.

    • Sylvisual

      One of the showiest and fun to watch? Sure. But I’d argue several of the other events on our list are the “biggest” moments of the show. (Though yes, agreed that Parvati saved herself in the short term at the expense of the long term.)

      • Diego Armando

        This was the move that made me think “Okay, she deserved her win”.

        • Kemper Boyd

          It’s amazing that it’s moves on this season not her season that make people think she is a great winner. Almost every move on Micronesia she was either just their for or co-owned. This season is what makes me consider her a great player though.

    • Kemper Boyd

      I’ve always wondered if Parvati would have been any better off had Russell known, I doubt it, because Russell has a bit of chaos Kass to him. He would have wanted to split Parvati and Danielle up anyway. I think she obviously would have had a better chance to win without Sandra on the jury but I don’t think there was much she could do about it when Russell was so set on Sandra being the goat. Do you feel had it been Jerri not Sandra Parvati would have won?

      • Diego Armando

        I did until I read that Parvati and Russell used to mockingly read JT’s letter in front of the surviving heroes after he was voted off (I read this on the Funny 115). That probably built enough of a vote animosity against her to get Jerri a win. Parvati would have beaten Russell and Danielle though.

        • Kemper Boyd

          I just don’t see Russell allowing Parvati and Danielle to stay together as Parvati said after they took Danielle out, he couldn’t stand anyone having a strong relationship with anyone but him. Danielle was Parvati’s first and foremost not him so was not allowed to stay.

  • Kemper Boyd

    My big thought whenever I watch this scene is that Parvati didn’t play it perfectly. I mean obviously it was crazy entertaining and the right move that put her alliance in control BUT she didn’t pause between the idols to gauge the room. Hear me out, imagine for a moment the order was different or the vote was on Sandra not Jerri and the first idol had been given to the person with the votes not the second idol. Parvati could have looked at the Heroes seen the reaction and then gauged whether to use the second idol or not. She did not pause at all between giving one to Sandra and one to Jerri. Obviously it works out because she needed to give it to Jerri but the perfect play would have been a nice pause, look at JT and Colby’s grins then the second idol when needed. That way in the event she looks up and they are crestfallen she has an idol in her bag, Russell thinks she has played the idol he gave her and all is hunky dory.

    • andythesaint

      Tony read the room while playing his idol post-merge. That’s why he did the whole “Jeff, can you verify?” thing. He could tell that they weren’t worried about him playing the idol for himself, so he guessed LJ.

      • Kemper Boyd

        Parvati’s move is very much about the drama of it as well as keeping everyone safe. But yeah as my long screed says, it’s another nitpick of her game.

      • Purplerockmatt

        my favorite part of Tony playing the idol for LJ, is him shaking his head no when LJ plays it for him. tony knew that idol was wasted and should be given to someone else (which again is why he was a good player)

  • gouis

    Kass is great and part of the reason people hate her is precisely because she’s an older woman.

    • Barbara Anderson

      Isn’t she also a mother?

  • Barbara Anderson

    I have been thinking about how JT’s idol play screws over all of the remaining players except for Sandra and Jerri. After all, Jerri got more life in the game and Sandra came away looking pretty. But, it set up two big narratives: the Heroes are now sitting ducks for the Villains while Russell decides to screw over Parvati and Danielle for their disloyalty. Also, JT’s letter will ultimately impact Parvati’s game (supposedly) because of how she gloats over it. It is crazy how one little letter screws over so many people.

  • By The Numbers

    I will always defend this as the single greatest move ever. Let me elaborate:

    Danielle has won immunity. 4 villains are at risk. But Parvati knows the Heroes will not vote Russell, meaning 3 villains are at risk. She has 2 idols, and suspects they aren’t voting her – if she plays both idols there isn’t any risk and she’ll be on top with no real need for an extra idol. That’s the obvious stuff we all appreciate about her double idol play.

    BUT

    There is another layer of genius everyone always overlooks. The tribes are split 5/5 – sans idols, 8 people are drawing rocks. The only potential flipper is Sandra on the re-vote. By playing both idols, Parvati assures 3 villains immunity if it goes to rocks. And if the Heroes voted for Parvati, it is a tie and Sandra will not flip because Parvati just gave her an idol. And Survivor rules are that when drawing rocks, the people with votes are then immune. So Parvati also is not going home. That leaves only Russell at risk, while 4 Heroes could go home – 80% chance the Villains win the rock draw. (Russell being the only villain at risk also secures Sandra’s loyalty – no way she flips if the only member of her alliance at risk is the one she desperately wants out).

    So no matter what, by playing both idols, Parvati assured herself immunity and stacked the deck incredibly towards her alliance.

    (Sorry for being That Guy who keeps posting on old threads, but I’m finally going back and watching seasons that aired before I started watching)