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.
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.
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.
And then Tribal starts…
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…
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.
The Heroes quickly go from this:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
What Else Made the List?
You can view all our 30 from 30 content by clicking here.
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 David vs Goliath.