Is there anything more exciting on Survivor than a hidden immunity idol play? Sometimes! But is there anything more exciting than the below idol plays at tribal council? Maybe! However, all you’re getting today is my totally objective* list of the most entertaining plays at tribal council. They may not all be successful or have a lot of impact on the game, but they sure were fun.
Friendly reminder that I do not include current season moments or players in these lists.
*Your results may vary.
10. Jenn Brown and the Last Bastion of Joy – Worlds Apart
In what was probably the last fun moment of Survivor: Worlds Apart, Jenn Brown plays her immunity idol and gave us hope that the minority alliance could turn things around.
This play is easily the most analogous to Kelley Wentworth’s on the list. The Wentworth idol play’s place in history will likely be contingent on whether anything gets switched up in the following episode. We’ll see. In the mean time, just like we will always have Jenn and Shirin’s high five, we will always have Wentworth and Ciera’s fist bump.
9. Hold up, Bro – Caramoan
Despite this ranking being based on entertainment value, I will have a tendency to rate successful moves higher (although not always!). Thus, the moment that launched a LEGO music video is at number nine.
However, it makes the list over other successful idol plays, because what a weird tribal! It starts off with Phillip talking about Stealth R Us and a variety of reaction faces from everyone else. But when people start talking about how there being eight favorites and three fans means someone could be trying to make a move, Phillip goes on a long speech against it. During Phillip’s filibuster (I refuse to make that a pun), Malcolm starts to look concerned.
Idols have been brought up, and Malcolm is lucky enough to have one. So as Phillip drones on, Malcolm considers his options.
But when Jeff asked if anyone had an idol, it was not Malcolm who stood, but Reynold(s). Before our dear Reynold could even make his way to Probst, Malcolm stopped him with three words that gripped a nation. Of Survivor fans.
Hold up, bro.
AND HOLD UP HE DID!
Now, usually this moment is discussed for comedic purposes because come on, “Hold up, bro”? But I think we’ve forgotten how fucking bad ass this actually was, despite its eventual failure. Malcolm had an idol. And yet he quickly talks Reynold into giving up the idol he was about to play for himself, and instead gives it to Malcolm, his bro.
Which is already impressive, but I think a forgotten fact is that MALCOLM VOTED FOR REYNOLD.
I mean, that is some stone cold shit right there.
But alas, this neither ended up in votes for Reynold or Malcolm, either of which would have ranked this play higher. Your clue is that the first votes Probst shows are all for Andrea. When an idol is played successfully, he’ll start with the ones that do not count. The blindside here is that they didn’t vote for Malcolm or Reynold, but poor forgotten Michael Snow.
8. Russell Hantz’s Second Idol – Samoa
After wasting his idol the previous tribal council when Galu decided to blindside one of their own, Russell was able to have the element of surprise. No one (except Monica Padilla) imagined he could have had two idols.
But two idols he had, and at Jeff’s cue, Russell swaggers up to proclaim that he “ain’t finished playin’ just yet” and instructing his fellow Foa Foas to “keep hope alive.” Hope, however, was very much dead for Kelly Sharbaugh, who amazingly is the second Kelly to be idoled out on this list.
7. Amanda Kimmel Surprises Everyone – Micronesia: Fans vs Favorites
This being the only time a modern immunity idol was played without the audience knowing the player had it added an extra level of excitement to the proceedings.
With Erik having immunity, the Black Widow Brigade was forced to turn against their own (they would figure out a workaround for the next vote). Parvati and Amanda were still BFF at this point, so Cirie teamed up with the remaining fans to vote out perceived jury threat Amanda.
But alas for Cirie, Natalie, and the one no one cares about, Amanda pulls out an immunity idol. She also makes a point of saying she didn’t have it when she came back from Exile Island, so she hadn’t lied. Because she’s Amanda.
Minor forgotten bit of entertainment is that after the first vote for Alexis is read, Jeff weirdly explains to her that the next vote would have to be for someone besides her or Amanda for it to tie.
6. Tony and LJ Misplay Their Idols, Succeed Anyway – Cagayan
What a tribal this was. I mean, two idols were played and that’s not even the most interesting thing that happened! Oddly enough, I think this dual idol play would actually rank lower had one of those idols been played correctly. But they weren’t, so here it is at number six.
The drama of this tribal council is so great that I keep looking ahead on my list to see if I should move it up. While Sarah was the obvious swing vote for most of the episode, Tony was able to deduce that she would not return to the Solana crew. Which is why he declared his immunity idol at tribal council to be a community idol, saying he would play it for anyone on his side so they could keep the numbers. After hearing Spencer tell his Aparri alliance to vote for “the other one”, Tony plays his idol on LJ. Possibly ridden by guilt that Malcolm certainly didn’t have in Caramoan, LJ plays his idol for Tony, despite Tony saying that’s a mistake. Everyone on their side of the vote is jovial and feeling good about their votes when BOOM.
The faces of Solana fall faster than anything you’ve seen until two entries from now. (Spoiler alert!) They are devastated, the plan has failed, they’ll be outnumbered without their idols. Then suddenly…
5. Three Amigos – Caramoan
Obviously Malcolm is the talker for the Amigos, and he hands out an idol to Eddie, declaring that (with Reynold’s immunity) none of them are going home.
Immediately the majority start buzzing, most notably Brenda throwing Andrea’s name out in an instant.
Malcolm acknowledges that while they’re safe tonight, very little will change tomorrow.
Probably shouldn’t have said who they’re voting for, but it’s exciting!
Malcolm says Phillip makes it not fun anymore. Funny, that’s how we felt about Survivor too. Erik ruins Malcolm’s chance to not play the idol, by pointing out they might count on everyone else being afraid to vote for the Amigos. Phillip basically says he’s willing to fall on the sword, which, okay.
Cochran can’t help but express how exciting the tribal council is, despite the fact that he’s on the other side. Judging from reactions to last week’s tribal council, Kelley’s idol play has this in common. Hopefully it doesn’t have the ultimate futility in common as well.
4. Fall of the Four Horsemen – Fiji
The highest ranking of our non-successful idol plays, Andy already covered the details in our 30 from 30 series, so the only thing you really need to know is that Alex’s incorrect idol play led to THE GREATEST (Survivor) GIF OF ALL TIME.
3. Natalie Anderson is a Bad Ass – San Juan del Sur: Blood vs Water 2
The only person on this list who played an idol successfully (though not for herself) and won the season. Natalie was in pretty good shape regardless, but she decided to increase her odds at getting taken to the final three by splitting up the final pair in the game while at the same time causing Jaclyn to feel indebted to her.
Everything about this idol play is to maximize our entertainment and to make Natalie look more impressive in front of the jury. Missy and Baylor knew she had the idol because they were under the impression that it was also Baylor’s idol.
The mother-daughter duo had tried to convince Natalie to superfluously play her idol for Missy basically because it would be “nice,” so when Natalie brought her idol to Jeff, they were smiling. Then comes the legendary, “Jaclyn, did you vote for who I told you to vote for?” and Natalie plays the idol on Jaclyn. The jury is as impressed as we are, with Jon even saying, “I knew I liked her.” That’s what you want to hear out of the jury! Granted, with Jaclyn eventually in the final three, Natalie was never getting Jon’s vote. But it’s more difficult to convince your bros to vote for your girlfriend when it’s that obvious that Natalie played the game for her.
My personal favorite part is how certain Missy, Baylor, and Keith are that Missy is going home, and then BOOM.
2. Parvati Shallow Plays Two Idols – Heroes vs Villains
This not being number one is probably a shock to a lot of you, especially those of you who know me as a bit of a Parvati stan. But this was a close race, so don’t let this ranking make you think I’m not obsessed with this moment. If this were based on strategy, it’s above my number one pick (but probably below my number three pick, so…). However, I chose to rank by entertainment because it’s subjective and now you can’t say I’m wrong! So there!
So Russell decided to give that idol to Parvati because he knows the Heroes want her out. And they do! However, they were suspicious that she stepped down at the immunity challenge when she should know she’s in danger, so they decide to target either Sandra or Jerri instead. Apparently the brilliant strategist Russell didn’t pick up on that, however, and had no idea that Parvati already had an idol. So now she has two!
A conversation with Amanda clues Parvati in to the fact that they’re hoping she’ll play the idol for herself and they can get rid of Sandra or Jerri. Unfortunately, Parvati had no idea which woman the Heroes would target. What possibly could she do?
Oh right. She had two idols. She played one for each of them. J.T. got eliminated with his own idol. It was awesome.
In retrospect, perhaps she should have noticed the reactions of Colby and J.T. when she gave the idol to Sandra vs. when she gave it to Jerri. But with the amount of idols in Heroes vs Villains, perhaps that just wasn’t a risk worth taking.
1. Russell Hantz makes Tyson Look Stupid – Heroes vs Villains
Established personality™ Gouis said it best: Russell is both extremely overrated and extremely underrated at the same time. In our rush to declare that he’s a horrible person who can never win (both true!) we forget that he made some exciting ass television at times. Whether you think this move was the result of cleverly orchestrated manipulation or just dumb luck, you can’t deny that it led to superb drama.
I assume anyone who would read this blog knows how we got to this point at tribal. Russell, Parvati, and Danielle are out-numbered, the other Villains are splitting the vote, Tyson knows his name will be written down, allegedly thinks Russell’s decided to vote Parvati to save himself.
This tribal council is so dramatic that there’s a commercial break in the middle of it. Sure, that may be partially due to the fact that both teams had to go to tribal, but let me have this, dammit. So tribal started off talking about how Tyson is connected to a lot of people on the tribe, how Rob is divisive, how Russell is on the outs and better find an idol if he doesn’t have one already, and how threatening they all find Parvati.
After the commercial break, we get to see Russell stand to play the idol. “I think I’m going to take the target off my back,” he says. Boston Rob and Sandra smile, as that’s why they split the votes! Whatever, right?
Not only does Russell play the idol for Parvati, but he also makes an appeal to Coach about honor and loyalty, which will come in handy for the next vote. Russell actually had some social game for a few second there!
Tyson’s face falls as soon as Russell gives it to Parvati, because he’s the only one who knows what’s about to happen.
Parvati states that Russell is a gentleman. Someday she will see the truth, but he and Danielle are the other people who have been willing to play with her at this point. Coach, meanwhile actually does look impressed at the chivalry.
And of course Probst praises the play before reading the votes, “It is a bold move by Russell.”
As always, the reading of the votes play up the drama, by showing the Russell votes first. It’s not until the fourth and final vote for Parvati that anyone (besides Tyson) realizes anything is wrong.
Even Danielle and Parvati are confused, though happy. This shouldn’t have worked!
Only one person knew for sure what would happen once the idol was played for Parvati, and he won’t exactly get a chance to explain himself.
In terms of game play, what’s really impressive is that Russell managed to turn a 6-3 minority into a 5-3 majority. May Wentworth have such luck.
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Micronesia, Cambodia, Cook Islands, China, Philippines
Favorite players: Courtney Yates, Parvati Shallow, John Cochran, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Kim Spradlin