Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Survivor recap: Let's Make a Deal

A challenge stalemate leads to a unique trade between the two tribes, and not everyone is happy about it

Posted on

Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS


TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Jeff Probst
Current Status:
In Season

Some trades you know are dumb the moment they occur. My hometown basketball team, the Washington Wizards, made a series of less-than-magical deals in the 1990s as they insisted on trading young and big players (Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace) for old and small players (Mitch Richmond, Rod Strickland). That’s just not smart. Sometimes you have trades that are so lopsided you can’t help but laugh (or cry). And there has been a lot of laughing and crying for Wizards fans. Other times, there are trades that actually end up benefiting both teams, my personal favorite being when sportscaster Al Michaels was traded from ABC to NBC for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. (Seriously. Look it up. The dude was traded for a cartoon rabbit.) And then there is the reward challenge food-for-rice swap that went down last night on Survivor. I have made like my man Clint Eastwood and gone over this one every which way but loose, and I still can’t tell who got the better end of it. Maybe I should go ask an empty chair.

Tandang took the sure thing — more rice. They were super low on the crispy stuff and doubling their amount (even if they thought they were getting more) allowed them to increase their rations and stay more consistently fed. Kalabaw, on the other hand, decided to roll the dice. They went all in to acquire a giant feast to fatten up on, while also notching the psychological victory of an afternoon getaway complete with letters from loved ones back home. But at the same, they were gambling that a merge is happening soon (and judging from previews for the next episode, they are probably correct in this assumption). If a merge is not coming, however, and they are stuck with no rice and a few fish the size of my toenail, they are in a heap of trouble.

What would you do in that position: Make the safe long-term play and take the rice, or play for now and take the feast? In most situations, I would take the known quantity and go for the rice, but in this instance I would have probably played the percentages and gone feast. With only 11 players left now, it would be shocking if there were not a merge coming up in the next day or two. Then again, do I want to be hungry as hell for even a day or two after my feast? See! I can’t decide! Although I will say I thought it was quite savvy of Tandang to trade the power of speech to Carter and Katie in exchange for a protective magic spell that would keep Mike Skupin from injuring himself during any and all challenges for one episode. While we’re at it, here are a few other Survivor trades I’d like to make:

* Trade out the Final 3 for the old school Final 2. As I’ve written a million times before, A vs. B is inherently more dramatic than “pick one of the above.”

* Trade out immunity idols hidden at camp for immunity idols hidden at challenges so tribe members in trouble have to decide whether to compete for their team (by helping in the challenge) or for themselves (by, say, using that time to dig and find an idol that is buried in a sand pit next to the challenge). Choices! Drama!

* Trade out the boring final Tribal Council vote delivery to the United States for another wacky jet skiing, skydiving, motorcycling, subway riding adventure. (There is seriously nothing I miss more when it comes to this show.)

* Trade out Jeff Probst’s baseball hats for whatever the hell it was he was wearing on his head in Guatemala. (We all need a good laugh once in a while.)

* Trade out every new contestant for a member of the Hantz family. (KIDDING!)

Okay, the trade deadline has now officially passed, so let’s take it from the very top of the episode. It’s night 13, and after returning from Tribal Council, Katie says she feels like she’s at the bottom of the totem pole now that her two female alliance partners are gone. The next day, on day 14, Katie keeps going on and on about how Penner has the hidden immunity idol and needs to go.  But before she can say much more, it’s already day 15 and we are now over on the Tandang beach. What is this, Super Speed Round Survivor? We just did 3 days in 3 minutes! Was day 14 really that boring?

NEXT: Penner gets up close and personal with Lil’ Skupin