Grading the Fake Idols of Survivor

Since the premiere of Survivor: Healers vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, there has been talk and anticipation about how Chrissy would use what amounts to a professional fake idol to her advantage. “Excellent,” I thought to myself. “That will give me an opportunity to write about the fake idols of seasons past.” And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

And then Ben made one instead, so here we are. There have been several instances of fake idols since hidden immunity idols were introduced, and I’m going to judge them all. The criteria are craftsmanship (or how realistic the idol is), effectiveness (or how much it changed the game), and entertainment value (or how much joy it brought).

Note: Jaime Dugan playing a non-idol is delightful, for sure. But as it’s not so much a fake idol as it was a mistaken idol, and thus will not be included here. However, it was, in fact, hilarious and gets an honorable mention for being the first time Probst threw a false idol in the fire.

Survivor: Fiji – It’s Not a Turtle

It has a face on it.

Craftsmanship: C
This may seem high for a painted coconut with a few holes, but Yau-Man gets bonus points for being the first person to make a fake idol.
Effectiveness: F
Nothing actually happened with the idol, and we’re in the land of results-oriented thinking today.
Entertainment Value: C+
You never forget your first, no matter how subpar.

Survivor: Micronesia – It’s a Fucking Stick

It also has a face on it. Kind of.

Craftsmanship: F
I mean, it’s a fucking stick.
Effectiveness: D
While Jason was fooled by the idol, ultimately this hurt Ozzy’s game when Eliza played it and exposed him for having the idol.
Entertainment Value: A+
From Jason thinking the idol was real, to Eliza’s reaction to finally seeing it, to James and Ozzy at Tribal Council after Eliza played it, this was the gift that keeps on giving.

Survivor: Gabon – The Art of Trolling

Now THAT’S a face.

Craftsmanship: A-
At last, someone put some real effort into their fake idol, allowing non-idiots to fall for it.
Effectiveness: B
It’s not like Randy was going to be tough to vote out, but this did endear Bob to people like Sugar and Crystal, which helped him to get to the end and ultimately win.
Entertainment Value: A+
In addition to the schadenfreude of seeing Randy and Corinne get some comeuppance (rewatch the clip and see how smug she looks), watching Sugar and Crystal barely be able to contain their laughter before the reveal shows how satisfying trolling your enemies can be.

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains – It’s a Fucking Rock

It doesn’t even have a face on it!

Craftsmanship: F
It’s literally just a rock in his pocket.
Effectiveness: A
And yet, that rock spooked Russell and the Villains enough that they split the vote, allowing Colby and Rupert to piggyback and get revenge on Candice.
Entertainment Value: C
Look, he put a rock in his pocket.

Survivor: Worlds Apart – Joey is Amazing

I bet it would have worked if there was a face.

Craftsmanship: B+
Joe put his jeweler skills to the test and made a lovely idol, but the centerpiece being a carved piece of wood is likely to drive suspicion.
Effectiveness: C+
Once he was talked into handing it over to Mike, the fake idol basically lost all value for Joe. But Mike did manage to use it with his real idol, which spooked Tyler and Will into voting Dan, revealing some cracks in the Axis of Evil.
Entertainment Value: C-
Maybe if it had actually saved Shirin it would score higher, but by sheer virtue of being a moment from Worlds Apart makes it tough to get even a passing grade.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X – Jay is Going Home

Jay and Adam are shocked, despite the fake idol not having a face.

Craftsmanship: B+
The idol itself isn’t particularly special, but David’s ability to get it inside a seemingly sealed coconut with (the wrong color) paint helped it look more realistic. It even had the note!
Effectiveness: A-
The goal was to have Jay find this fake idol so he would stop looking and thus, not find the real one. That certainly happened! Sure, David got lucky that Jay stumbled across that path first, before seeing the real idol. But again, we’re results-oriented right now.
Entertainment Value: A
It may not be as splashy as the Micronesia or Gabon fake idol plays, but it does highlight how delightful of a Survivor character Jay is. He takes out the idol, bursting in confidence and playfully proclaiming that he’s not going home, while everyone but David freaks out. Then, Jeff reveals the idol is fake. Jay takes a beat to process, and then quickly shifts gears to “You got me!” and leaves the game smiling. “Go ahead Jeffery, snuff my torch.” I tweeted this the night of the finale, but it bears repeating: If that exit doesn’t make you want to see Jay come back, I don’t know what to tell you.


Someone put together a compilation of every time a fake (or mistaken… looking at you Jaime) idol played at a tribal council.