Ranking Hidden Immunity Idols Played for Others in Survivor

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X has been an unusual season in a lot of ways, but perhaps the most notable trait is that (so far) three idols have been played, but always for someone else . Each of these idol plays have had wide-ranging levels of efficacy, so I thought it would be useful to look back at every time and idol has been played for someone else, and rank how good of a move it was. To make it on the list, the idol exchange must occur at tribal council, whether it is handed to someone else or played for them.

Disclaimer: This is a ranking of events PRIOR to this season. This season’s actions need time to be assessed.

1. Parvati Shallow Saves the Villains – Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains


Yes, we’re talking about this again. Sorry not sorry, but this was possibly the greatest move in Survivor history, so it’s going to be featured on a lot of lists. After using her relationship with Amanda to determine the votes weren’t coming her way, Parvati kept her side safe at Tribal Council by giving both Jerri and Sandra an idol. Sure, one of them was technically wasted, but it was worth the nearly-guaranteed safety for the Villains’ side.

2. Natalie Anderson Saves Jaclyn Schultz: Survivor San Juan Del Sur


“Did you vote for who I told you to vote for?”
Even though Natalie should have clearly been the target, the knowledge that she still had the idol during the last tribal council it could be used kept her relatively safe. Instead, she saved Jaclyn – who had the biggest grudge against her and suddenly feels indebted – and took out a goat everyone would want to sit with at the end. Sure, Natalie would have won unanimously against Missy and Baylor, but she had an easier path to the end with one of them gone. Plus, MAJOR style points in front of the jury.

3. Russell Hantz Saves Parvati Shallow – Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

Russell plays idol for Parvati

Whether he convinced Tyson to switch his vote or just took a chance, Russell took control of the tribe by playing the idol on Parvati. If Tyson does the right thing, this sends Russell home, but instead he is able to bring Coach and Jerri on his side and completely change the direction of the game in one move.

4. Jeremy Collins Saves Stephen Fishbach – Survivor: Cambodia


Would Jeremy have won without making this move? It’s not out of the question. But by playing one of his two idols for Stephen, Jeremy is able to save his ally (for three days, but whatever), vote out a known troublemaker in Ciera, and put on a display of loyalty in front of the jury. Telling Spencer he would have done the same for him is just the finishing touch.

5. Malcolm Freberg Protects the Three Amigos – Survivor: Caramoan


We all know it wasn’t the perfect move, but it wasn’t all that terrible either. In a season with looser alliances, they may have been able to do more than just get rid of Phillip. Being able to protect your entire alliance at one tribal council is still pretty cool though.

6. Tony Vlachos Protects LJ McKanas – Survivor: Cagayan


The Aparri alliance outthought him with this one, by targeting Jefra instead, but pulling out the idol before the vote and then playing it for LJ was a strong move for Tony. He just guessed wrong. Of course, with Kass flipping it all worked out for him in the end anyway.

7. Ozzy Lusth Protects Whitney Duncan – Survivor: South Pacific


Ozzy actually had the right idea here, but didn’t properly anticipate that his and his tribe’s treatment of Cochran would come back to haunt them. It was easy enough to Upolu to dodge the idol when they knew exactly who it would be played for.

8 . Ralph Kiser Protects Mike Chisel – Survivor: Redemption Island

Note: David is not speaking of Ralph.
Note: David is not speaking of Ralph.

It’s the pivotal merge vote and the Zapatera tribe’s hopes rest on Matt Elrod deciding to flip. It makes sense to choose to play an idol on one of your tribe’s biggest threats, but not only did Ralph guess wrong, he also didn’t count on Rob the Godfather to simply kill the (potential) flipper instead.

9. Tyson Apostol Protects Gervase Peterson – Survivor: Blood vs. Water


It was the last tribal council and Tyson was immune. Why not give it to his fellow Coconut Bandit? Well, it kind of pissed Monica off, but when you bring her to the end, that doesn’t matter.

10. Sugar Kiper Protects Matty Whitmore – Survivor: Gabon


Again, it was the final tribal council where it could be played, and Sugar felt guilty about saying she was going to use it to save herself, so she gives it to Matty instead. The votes didn’t go to him anyway, and she didn’t even earn his jury vote at the end.

11. Malcolm Freberg Tricks Reynold Toepfer – Survivor: Caramoan


It was an absolute gangster move by Malcolm, but not so great by Reynold. Sure, there’s no way he knew Malcolm already had an idol but man, it didn’t take a lot to convince him did it? Turns out it was Michael Snow who really needed it anyway. Which is good for Reynold, since Malcoln voted for him.

12. LJ McKanas Protects Tony Vlachos – Survivor: Cagayan

Cagayan- LJ plays immunity idol tribal

LJ, dude. I know you felt guilty because Tony played an idol on you when you had one for yourself, but  clearly Tony felt safe, or he wouldn’t have played the idol on you! And it’s not like it bought Tony’s loyalty either… not that anyone could have predicted that.

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Emma is the token chick of the Purple Rock Podcast. She has watched the show continuously since the second episode and is pretty sure she's never seen the pilot.

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
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22 thoughts on “Ranking Hidden Immunity Idols Played for Others in Survivor

        1. Hmmm, it’s not quite “This is the greatest listicle I have ever read or ever will read,” but I’ll allow it.

          1. It reminded me to go watch Hold Up, Bro again, which is all I really want from a Survivor listicle.

  1. So including this season, idol plays on others have a success rate (using the simple definition of “success” as saving a person from going home) of 6/14 (or 6/15 if you count both Parvati’s idols)

    I know some of these are debatable about not being successful (Adam’s, Tyson’s, Sugar’s) but that still seems an awfully low ratio of success.

    1. Of the 30 times someone has played an idol for themself, only 15 times did it save that person from a vote that was going against them (this includes Gary’s original idol, which could ONLY be played “correctly” in that it protected the user from being voted for at all).

      So no matter who you play an idol for, it seems like it only works half the time.

      1. Interesting. So either a) people generally aren’t good at playing idols or b) idol plays are just generally a total crapshoot

        1. I actually choose to believe that it means that the strength of an idol is properly calibrated. If the success rate was higher, it would make an idol holder too powerful.

          (Note: these stats can’t include the people who never had to play an idol, some of whom enjoyed near-blanket immunity as a result. Which shows that it can be really powerful in some instances. Some of those instances involved a more powerful idol).

          1. It can be two things!
            The success rate is also slightly artificially low because of those “might as well” plays at the last tribal its eligible.
            But yeah, its hard to measure total success because of situations like you mention. One of the bests use of the idol is using it to make sure you don’t have to play it

          2. It may be impossible to do, but any fair count of successful idol plays would have to include situations where you kept the idol in your pocket even though there was plenty of reason to use it (like Jay recently).

  2. Poor LJ. Also, good rankings! Not sure where this season’s would rank, maybe Jay will make it four played for others. Somehow I doubt it there, though.

  3. So if I’m reading the open right, Will goes first, then Jay plays his idol to eliminate Bret.

  4. This is the greatest listicle I have ever or will ever read!

    Also, my phone tried to turn listicle into “lipstick”, which would have been a funny autocorrect if I hadn’t caught it.

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