This Season’s ‘Survivor’ Castaways Set an Embarrassing Record

CBS Broadcasting, Inc
CBS Broadcasting, Inc

In Survivor, finding a hidden immunity idol used to be a good thing. It used to mean leverage in the game: Not only did it give a player the chance to save themselves at one tribal council, but the person who found the fateful beaded necklace could also use it to sway the rest of camp. “Don’t vote for me,” they’d warn. “I’ve got an idol. And I’m playing it tonight.” And then, because the rest of the camp knew that voting them out was a lost cause, the player would be safe for another week.

But there’s an important facet of idols that the Season 46 cast of Survivor seems to have forgotten: You do, eventually, have to actually play the damn thing.

(Warning: Spoilers for the penultimate episode of Survivor Season 46, “Mama Bear,” follow.)

Before we get into the most recent Survivor, we’re going to go back to last week’s episode, in which Venus was sent home—which made me quite sad, because Venus was a fascinating player who made for marvelous TV. (Bring her back!) Venus had a target on her back for her entire time in the game, thanks to her persistent strategic conversations. So it was no surprise that, just two episodes out from the finale, she was in talks to go home.

And then, a miracle happened: Venus found the idol buried in the bushes. As a fan of Venus, I rejoiced, pleased to know that she’d be safe for another week. Wait, she would be safe for another week, right? Here, though, Venus made a silly mistake: She hinted at Charlie that she had an idol, saying that, if he kept her around for another week, she’d use it to their advantage. Silly, silly move—of course Charlie was going to tell everyone at camp to target Venus even harder.

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As tribal played out, I grew more and more nervous that Venus wouldn’t play her idol. And, sure enough, as soon as Jeff Probst called for any advantages or idols—Venus kept quiet with her hands in her lap. “They’re going to vote you out, Venus!” I shouted at my television. They did, and Venus went home with an idol in her pocket, setting a new record for Survivor. She became the fourth person to go home with an idol on Survivor 46, following Jem, Tiff, and Hunter, making this the season with the most idol flushes ever.

Which brings us to this week: Q finds an idol. Alright, Q’s performance in this game hasn’t been all that great—he begged to go home at one tribal council and failed—but maybe he’ll realize he has to play the idol, like, today. But almost immediately, he offers to play the idol for another player, Maria—a huge threat and his only ally—who is chuffed. Q, come on. Play it for yourself! Why are you being so foolish?

Well, Maria wins immunity anyways, so there’s no chance for Q to play his idol for his ally. One would think he’d play it on himself but…naturally, he doesn’t. You already know who’s going home. Say it with me now: the twelfth person voted out and sixth member of our jury, Q. So, in two episodes, Season 46 set a new Survivor record, and then broke that record right after. FIVE players have left with an idol, which is nothing more than a worthless string of beads in the real world.

I fail to understand the strategy here. Clearly, this Survivor cast is one of the most cutthroat ever—as soon as they hear talk of an idol, they waste no time in blindsiding its holder to flush it out of the game. That’s smart. But as soon if Venus and Q had seen this happen more than once, they should have been prepared to play their idol as soon as they found it—or, in fact, perhaps they shouldn’t have gone poking around for idols in the first place.

A new era of Survivor is upon us—one where, apparently, an idol is a curse instead of an asset. These castaways need to realize how foolish it is to hold onto an idol for longer than an episode. Find it, use it in strategy, and play it. Alas, there’s one vote left where the castaways can find and play idols. Will this season of Survivor break its record one more time? I wouldn’t be shocked.

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