Ultimate Survivor Tribal Council Bracket – Theatrics Division Round One

What makes a great tribal council? Is it when a tribal does something historic? When it features great strategy? When it has an epic blindside? How about when a tribal is just, for lack of a better word, theatrical?  These are the tribal councils that are just made for TV. Whether it is someone making an epic error in judgment, someone losing their grip on sanity so that others feared him, or Jeff Probst teaching us all a little something about race, these tribal councils have moments that are memorable because they depart from the game and just tell some wild and crazy stories. These are the theatrical tribal councils, they made you laugh, they made you shake your head in pity, but they were all memorable.

Click to see the full-size graphic.

Voting criteria:

  • You decide what makes a Tribal worthy of your vote. Was it your favourite? The best? Most memorable? Most dramatic? It’s up to you. We’ve organized them by theme, but you’re under no obligation to pick the most theatric tribal to represent the Theatrics bracket.
  • Tribal Council is defined as everything that happened in episode from when the tribe gets to Tribal Council through to the Final Words of the eliminated contestant. Things that didn’t make the air were out of bounds for consideration when putting the list together.
  • For Final Tribal Councils, the reveal of the winner is out of bounds (except for the first Final Tribal). This takes place at a different time and place and is aired on a different episode.

Voting ends on Tuesday, March 15th.

This post was co-written by Matt and John.

1. Erik Gives Away Immunity vs 16. Jeff Probst’s Very Special Seminar on the Sensitive Issue of Race


Erik gives away immunity – Micronesia, episode 13 “If It Smells Like a Rat, Give It Cheese”

It’s easy to judge young Erik for the mistake he made on national TV when the charming, attractive women convinced him to do something stupid- and I love when things are easy, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. Erik had individual immunity, and the Black Widows (Cirie, Parvati, Amanda, and The Other One) were going to have to feast on one of their own. That is, until they convinced Erik to willingly hand over that immunity to “build goodwill”. And sure, you can say it doesn’t matter much because he wouldn’t have won anyway, but you never know. He could have won another key immunity or two and gone on to be another Chris Daugherty-esque hapless idiot for hipster Survivor fans to champion as one of the greats. Instead, the women promptly voted him out, and we all had a good laugh.


Jeff Probst’s Very Special Seminar on the Sensitive Issue of Race – Redemption Island, episode 10 “Rice Wars”

Navigating the cultural minefield of American race relations is not for the faint of heart (I don’t know if you international readers have heard, but…tensions still exist here). So what happens when a wacky guy wearing a self-made feather headband takes a seemingly insignificant and unrelated event and turns it into a discussion about a very real and very serious issue? The answer, on Survivor at least, is that you get Jeff Probst’s Very Special Seminar on the Sensitive Issue of Race. Phillip feels attacked by the very forgettable man raising his hand in the above photo, and Phillip thinks the root cause is racism. Forgettable Old White Man disagrees. And look at the other faces in that picture- do you see how excited they are to discuss the issue of race? To his credit, Probst manages to diffuse some of the tension while also noting that the nutjob with the feather headband may still be making a valid point about a larger societal issue. It’s fascinating, uncomfortable, and easily forgettable on the way to Boston Rob’s coronation.

1. Erik gives away his idol vs. 16. Jeff Probst's Very Special Seminar on the Sensitive Issue of Race

  • 1. Erik gives away his idol (95% Votes)
  • 16. Jeff Probst's Very Special Seminar on the Sensitive Issue of Race (5% Votes)

Total Voters: 311

Loading ... Loading ...

8. Eliza Plays the “Fucking Stick” vs 9. Jaime Plays a Not-Idol


Eliza plays the “fucking stick” – Micronesia, episode 9 “I’m in Such a Hot Pickle!”

I’ve written about the lead-up to this before. Jason had what he thought was an immunity idol. He gave it to an Eliza, who instantly knew it was not an immunity idol. Do you know why she knew that? Because look at that thing- IT’S A FUCKING STICK. And yeah, I know, it has a face on it. But it’s just a stick. Still, to Ozzy’s delight, Eliza decides to play it at tribal council. When Jeff announces it’s not an immunity idol- again, it’s just a fucking stick- Eliza uses the opportunity to inform everyone else that Ozzy has the actual immunity idol. And it’s the last chance Eliza will have to talk to the other players until they reach Ponderosa, because they promptly vote her out (which is why she thought it worthwhile to try playing the fucking stick as an idol).


Jaime plays a not-idol – China, episode 7 “I’m not as dumb as I look”

Similarly to Eliza, Jaime had something that was not an immunity idol. Still, to James’ delight, Jaime decides to play it at tribal council. When Jeff announces it’s not an immunity idol, Jean Robert breathes a sigh of relief. Why? Because what Jaime handed to Probst actually looked like a fucking immunity idol. But much like Eliza, Jaime is promptly voted out (which is why she thought it worthwhile to try playing the fake idol).

8. Eliza plays the fucking stick vs. 9. Jaime plays a not-idol

  • 8. Eliza plays the fucking stick (73% Votes)
  • 9. Jaime plays a not-idol (27% Votes)

Total Voters: 310

Loading ... Loading ...

4. Cochran Flips vs 13. Caramoan’s Incredibly Angry Final Tribal


Cochran flips – Caramoan, episode 8 “Double Agent”

With the tribes at equal numbers at the merge, the two sides come in ready to draw rocks. But after the first vote is a tie, Cochran flips to the other side. The shock value of this tribal comes from the fact that nobody could have seen it coming. Who could have known that constantly belittling an intelligent, anxiety-plagued John Cochran might cause him to turn on you? You know who inexplicably knew? Coach and Brandon Fucking Hantz! Consider that for a moment: Cochran’s situation in his tribe was such that jumping over to an alliance with Coach and Brandon Hantz seemed like a good idea.


Caramoan’s incredibly angry final tribal – Caramoan, episode 14 “Last Push”

Behold, the power of editing! Invisi-Brenda, who you may have forgotten from such previous disasters as Survivor: Nicaragua and every other episode of Caramoan preceding this one, steps up to confront Dawn. You see, Brenda had helped Dawn retrieve her lost dental implant. And Dawn- evil, evil Dawn- decided to continue playing Survivor after that and voted Brenda out. So as revenge, Brenda makes Dawn take out her dental implant. Seems fair, right? Even if Dawn had lost those teeth in a mugging. But hey, Dawn is the evil one here. Dawn, mother of multiple adopted children. Dawn, baker of bread. She’s the worst. Which is why even after Dawn relents and removes her teeth, Brenda still votes for Cochran- just like everyone else. Then Brenda nearly wins the fan favorite voting.

4. Cochran flips vs. 13. Caramoan's incredibly angry final tribal

  • 4. Cochran flips (68% Votes)
  • 13. Caramoan's incredibly angry final tribal (32% Votes)

Total Voters: 311

Loading ... Loading ...

5. Bad Sportsmanships Have Aaaay Deeee Deeee vs 12. Denise Eviscerates Abi-Maria


Bad Sportsmanships Have Aaaay Deeee Deeee – Guatemala, episode 6 “Big Balls, Big Mouth, Big Trouble”

Ah, Judd. What can you say about everyone’s favorite doorman? Well, if you are Margaret you might say that he has ADD.  Wait, excuse me, let me say that as Judd would say that- he has “Aaaaay Deeee Deeee”! Judd at tribal was like a little kid with anger issues. He is impatient, he interrupts, he talks over people, and he is loud. He also has no knowledge of the English language. Also he raises his hand when he wants to speak, but just talks anyway. Just remember, even before the ADD moment, he had this to say: “I don’t know what the heck Margaret is talking about. I mean it’s not like we’re being bad sportsmanships at all, we just go out there and give it 120 damn percent man, whatever it takes we’ll give, and that’s what I did today and everybody ate good so no matter what I do I’m givin’ it my damn all, man.” Just marvel at that sentence of weird sports logic jammed together with the hyperactive Judd. After this, he is getting so worked up that Jaime, sitting next to him, starts doing the Jeff Probst patented “shoulder rub of calmness” to restrain him. But this is when the tribal council gets great. Because Judd- well, Judd has to win, man. He has to win at everything. So when Margaret keeps coming at him, he decides to appeal to everyone else to see if they think he listens to them. This results in a hilarious sequence where he asks everyone, one by one, whether he listens to them- and then proceeds to interrupt every single one after they say yes.  And then we get to the crowning moment: Steph says Judd is high strung and Judd (interrupting her of course) lays out this doozy: “When I first walked into camp, Margaret’s telling me that I have Aaaaay Deeee Deeee. That’s how you approach me? That’s what you like to say? She comes to camp…  You have Aaaaay Deeee Deeee. Do you know that? When you first meet somebody, is that something nice to say? Is that a compliment? I have Aaaaay Deeee Deeee?”  The funny thing is that Margaret never said he had ADD- that was someone else and Judd got it mixed up. But did Judd care? Hell no, man! It’s Judd! He knows what he knows and he knows that he doesn’t have Aaaaay Deeee Deeee, man!


Denise Eviscerates Abi-Maria – Philippines, episode 10 “Whiners are Wieners”

This tribal took place shortly after everyone turned on Tandang, and Pete and Abi were in trouble. They were trying to get people to vote for Malcolm, and Malcolm begins tribal on the defensive. And then Abi starts to apologize for her behavior in the prior tribal, and blaming her reputation and perception on the fact that English wasn’t her first language and that her attitude may be perceived as not the most gentle. And this is where the fireworks kick off. Denise cannot stifle laughter. She audibly snorts/laughs in response (others are choking it back with a bit more luck). And Denise gets right to the point, she says she has plenty of experience with people who don’t speak English as a first language and they are helpful and kind. And Abi starts defending herself and turns it around to blame Lisa who won’t forgive Abi, because Abi didn’t trust her. That is some twisted logic right there. And Lisa is like, Abi it’s not about forgiveness, it’s about trust, and you don’t trust me. And then Abi does the appeal for sympathy, she says she is about to cry, no one understands her, etc. Then Denise goes in for the kill when talking about taking Abi to the end: “We see that season after season where people take the dead weight, the unlikable person…”  Abi interrupts to say, “Wow, I didn’t know I was unlikable.” And Denise tries to move forward, but Jeff comes in and asks, “Abi, you didn’t grasp that you were seen as unlikable?” Consider everything else that happened before and marvel at how she didn’t grasp this. Eventually we come back to Denise, who again likens bringing Abi to the end to being like bringing someone to a poker game who has never played poker just so you could steal their money. And this is where Denise’s very calm, very methodical takedown of Abi has broken her. She cuts off Denise with “you don’t need to say anymore” and then says she has never had this much hatred towards her. Denise again goes in: “It’s not hatred, it’s frustration”. And when Abi starts trying to shut her down, starts defending herself again, Denise does her best therapist moves, saying stuff like “Can I finish?”, “Can you pause?”, etc. Eventually even Denise, the trained therapist, gives up. Abi is unreachable.

5. Bad sportsmanships have Aaaaay Deeee Deeee vs. 12. Denise eviscerates Abi-Maria

  • 5. Bad sportsmanships have Aaaaay Deeee Deeee (50% Votes)
  • 12. Denise eviscerates Abi-Maria (50% Votes)

Total Voters: 303

Loading ... Loading ...

2. Randy Plays Bob’s Fake Idol vs 15. The Brandon Hantz Incident


Randy Plays Bob’s Fake Idol – Gabon, episode 9 “Nothing Tastes Better than Five Hundred Dollars”

I typically rail against stupid social gameplay that ruins your chances at winning jury votes. But not this time. This time, I didn’t care at all if clowning Randy lost Sugar, Crystal, et al Randy’s jury vote. Or those of Randy’s friends on the jury or soon to be on the jury. Because it was the most glorious example of trolling in the history of the show and you have to respect that. They not only punked him just to do it and gain some level of revenge after he spent his time actively trying to make their time miserable, they made their feelings toward him abundently clear while casting those votes, to the degree that he could hear Crystal call him out from the voting booth. Then when he thinks Bob’s well crafted fake idol is his salvation? DELICIOUS.


The Brandon Hantz Incident – Caramoan, episode 5 “Persona Non Grata”

This is the one tribal that wasn’t a tribal. (Well, the second tribal that wasn’t a tribal after Palau‘s final three also wasn’t a tribal.) But whereas that was an afterthought to what came before, this was the entirety of the drama. Brandon Hantz was a problem. He had been a problem all game, but his problematic nature was growing to the point where it could not be ignored. While the target of Brandon’s wrath had been Philip at camp, everyone on the Favorites tribe had been growing worried at his erratic behavior that culminated in him dumping the rice and beans out and threatening much worse. When they arrived at the challenge, Brandon first announces he is going to help the Fans (and watch Reynold’s face here, the dude is ecstatic at this gift), and then Corinne says that they are giving up immunity. This is when the drama hits. Brandon loses his already tenuous hold on his sanity and starts exploding, until Jeff Probst calls him over to his side and calms him by giving him the greatest shoulder massage in reality TV history. The Favorites publicly voice-voted on the spot, and Brandon was sent home. It is hard to overstate how unique this situation was. You may not like when Survivor places people like Brandon on the show, but you cannot dispute that the tribal council we saw in this episode was one of a kind.

2. Randy plays Bob's fake idol vs. 15. The Brandon Hantz incident

  • 2. Randy plays Bob's fake idol (77% Votes)
  • 15. The Brandon Hantz incident (23% Votes)

Total Voters: 311

Loading ... Loading ...

7. Billy Garcia Confesses His Love vs 10. Pygmy Storytime With Coach


Billy Garcia Confesses His Love – Cook Islands, episode 2 “Dire Strengths and Dead Weight”

Sometimes Survivor gives us a moment so damn weird that we have to marvel at it. Billy Garcia confessing his love in the second episode of Cook Islands is one of those moments. To remind you of what happened, Billy was a competitor on the Aitutaki tribe and after his tribe lost the challenge he turned to Candice and disclosed his vulnerable position on the tribe. And Candice said “we love you.” Hey, why not give the guy a good moment before he is voted out? But Billy didn’t hear her right, and Billy of course thought she said “I love you.” And at tribal Billy is more than happy to tell Jeff Probst and the rest of his tribe about this wonderful silver lining. After all, Billy might be going home, but at least he found love. Of course, once again the highlight to this statement is the amazing reactions not just from the people on Billy’s tribe, but also from Probst. If there is anything I have learned over the years, it is that the best Probst face is the utterly surprised and confounded face. And the one he makes here is great.


Pygmy Storytime With Coach – Tocantins, episode 9 “The Biggest Fraud in the Game”

Coach is probably the most ridiculous person who has ever been on Survivor. His incredible, delusional belief in his ability to do anything and everything, coupled with his belief that he already has done everything (“I have”), combines to create a person with no filter who believes everything they say, no matter how absurd. And it got to its most absurd in this tribal council.  So here is the thing, the full pygmy story was told earlier in the day. Coach was trying to cheer his tribe up and decided the only way to do that was to tell them a story of how he was kayaking down the Amazon River, got kidnapped by Pygmys and beaten. Then, of course, he escaped by wearing through the rope, dipping the kayak into the water and paddling until his hands bled. But all of this is preamble. At tribal, Jeff asks who tells the best campfire stories, and of course it is Coach after that whopper. Jeff asks what is the best Coach story, and Taj relays the Pygmy story. Jeff- after a moment of shocked disbelief- asks if it is true. And Coach says: “I tried actually to tone it down” and goes on to say that he gave the PG-13 version of the story to spare everybody from knowing that the tribe was eyeing his ass up real good. And that is Coach’s crazy Amazon adventure.

7. Billy Garcia confesses his love vs. 10. Pygmy storytime with Coach

  • 7. Billy Garcia confesses his love (62% Votes)
  • 10. Pygmy storytime with Coach (38% Votes)

Total Voters: 301

Loading ... Loading ...

3. Micronesia Final Tribal vs 14. Thanks Obama


Micronesia Final Tribal – Micronesia, episode 14 “Stir the Pot”

You know what I love at final tribal councils? Questions that are so awkward no one knows how to answer them. But before we get to Micronesia‘s entry into this category, lets do a quick rerun of what else we saw. First, this is the second annual Amanda Kimmel meltdown, which is a form of performance art so awkward and heartbreaking you want to look away but you just can’t. Second, we ended the questioning with Ozzy awkwardly confessing his love to Amanda (they were broken up soon after the reunion). But the highlight was Natalie Bolton just deciding that now was the time to make a move on Parvati. You know she was thinking about doing this for a long time, but she must have just figured, “Hey, this is my last chance. Let’s go for it!” And Parvati on national TV had to figure out how to a question about how her flirting translated into the bedroom. And it doesn’t even matter what Parvati answered, that question and the initial reaction was everything.


Thanks Obama – Philippines, episode 8 “Dead Man Walking”

This was actually a really good tribal council that people only remember because Jeff Kent actually didn’t say “Thanks Obama!” He actually said: “You know what pisses me off?  I think I made about 60 million dollars playing baseball and I want this freaking million dollars in this game. And it’s not even a million bucks, it’s 600 grand by the time Obama takes it. I’m a game 7 World Series loser. I’ve played in the biggest games in the world and the worst games in the world, but this just sucks.”  But even before we got to this epic and hilarious goodbye speech we had Malcolm threaten to play his idol (he didn’t), followed by Abi pulling out her hidden idol and also refusing to play it! Then Tandang votes for Jeff and Kalabaw-Matsing votes for Pete… except Penner keeps his vote on Abi preventing the tie. It was a really fun post-merge tribal, but all you remember is Jeff Kent’s apocryphal goodbye speech.

3. Micronesia Final Tribal vs. 14. Thanks Obama

  • 14. Thanks Obama (55% Votes)
  • 3. Micronesia Final Tribal (45% Votes)

Total Voters: 305

Loading ... Loading ...

6. The Amazon Finale vs 11. Beauty is a Handicap


The Amazon Finale – Amazon, episode 14 “And Then There Were Four”

Look this final tribal was fine, there were some fun moments, but there is really only reason it stands out: Heidi’s insanely awkward question. Just to remind you what that was like, Heidi asked both Jenna and Matthew if there was someone more deserving of being in their position. And they both answered honestly… Rob. And this is where the magic is. Because that was not the answer Heidi was expecting. So she asks the followup:  is that the only person? And this is the great moment. Rob is on the jury so embarrassed he can’t look at her, Matthew and Jenna are just confused and offer no other names, and before Heidi can get even more blatant, Jeff cuts her off with “I think they answered the question.” They sure did.


Beauty is a Handicap – Amazon, episode 12 “Sour Grapes”

You probably remember this moment as the time Jenna and Heidi made your eyes roll out of your head.  It was at the final 6, Jenna had won immunity and Jeff asked them at tribal if they had to work harder to be respected. And Jenna says that her and Heidi’s beauty was a handicap. Which is offensive because of course they were sitting right next to Christy who had an honest to goodness actual handicap. As eye roll worthy as Jenna and Heidi’s comment was, Rob of course took the chance to make a joke: “Jeff, I was lucky in this game that I’m not handsome. So I didn’t have any handicaps like the girls found.” And then the two girls handicapped by their good looks, voted out Christy, the girl with the actual handicap. If you love awkward humor this tribal was right up your alley. (Also for some reason Jenna gave immunity to Heidi… this never made any sense and made no difference anyway).

Read more about this moment in our 30 from 30 series.

6. The Amazon finale vs. 11. Beauty is a handicap

  • 11. Beauty is a handicap (54% Votes)
  • 6. The Amazon finale (46% Votes)

Total Voters: 287

Loading ... Loading ...

The Rest of the Bracket

Click to see the full-size graphic.

Blindside Bracket

Strategic Bracket

Historic Bracket