Did David make the right move? Let's debate.
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S33 E4
  • TV Show
  • CBS

Tis the season of debates! Debates that very well could shape the future of our country. Debates that show democracy — not to mention creepy stage pacing — in action. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought we could start off this week by debating the highly controversial game move that closed episode 4 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.

To recap, David used his hidden immunity idol to save Jessica and kick self-proclaimed tiger mom and despised family member Lucy off the island. But was it the right strategic move? Time to look at the pros and cons. But first, a list of things you will not find in this debate. There will be no mentions of pussy (cats). Email server discussion will be hereby deleted from this particular debate. Nobody will be called the devil. You will find no split-screens, nor people flooding the stage after the debate carrying disposable cameras brought in courtesy of a time machine from the year 1993. Ken Bone will not be making an appearance. No one will be forced to awkwardly say anything nice about each other after smashing each other to bits for 90 minutes. And, above all, you will not under any circumstances at any time hear the phrase “How about a little hug for the Bushy?”

Okay, let’s get to the Pros and Cons of the move before submitting a verdict.


If David does not play the idol, he’s still sitting near the bottom of the alliance, and you can only play from the bottom for so long. It’s time for a game-changing move that can redraw the tribe alliance map and David saw an opportunity to use the idol to do just that. He gained an appreciative ally in Jessica and can now form a majority Gen X alliance with Ken, Jessica, and CeCe to put them in control as opposed to sitting back and waiting to be picked off.

Plus, the move has the added benefit of early game résumé-building. Using an idol not to save yourself, but rather another player, in a big picture move is bound to be respected by the jury should you make it to the end. It’s an aggressive play that puts David more in control of his own fate rather than just being passive and letting the game pass you by.


There are definitely times to play idols for other people — namely, when you need to control the numbers or need to save an alliance partner that will ultimately help you get further in the game. This was not one of those times. Here’s why. First off, David did not save a rock-solid ally. Jessica has already shown a penchant for flipping on alliance partners, tossing aside Paul once she did not like his answer about a possible male alliance. So loyalty here to anyone is, at best, a question mark. David did not necessarily buy her allegiance with this move.

That’s okay, however, if the move at the very least took David from the minority alliance to the majority one. But did it even do that? Is there a majority alliance on this tribe? I suppose the thought is that Ken, Jessica, CeCe, and David form the new foursome with power over Chris, Bret, and Sunday. But look closer: Jessica just squealed on Ken, Ken just tried to vote Jessica out, and Jessica just tried to vote CeCe out even though CeCe was voting to keep Jessica around. So at best this would be an alliance with people already gunning for one another, and at worst it would not be an alliance at all because nobody can seem to get on the same page. Is that really worth using your get-out-of-jail-free card for?

But here’s another damning argument against using the idol. We are at prime tribe-swap time. We’re four episodes in and look like we could be experiencing the second coming of Survivor: Nicaragua (when the younger tribe mopped the floor with the old fogeys). This has tribe swap written all over it. So by using that idol now, you run the risk of burning it to maintain tribe numbers that do not matter in the least, and now potentially go into a new tribe without the security blanket of a safety net in the form of a hidden immunity idol.


You can probably tell by the way I wrote much more on the topic of why it was a bad move over a good one as to how I feel about what David did. Look, David may very well go on to win this season, but that still does not necessarily mean he did the right thing here. Playing idols is a tricky thing. You have to play the mathematical percentages in terms of timing and likely events to occur, while also feeling out your tribemates to see how the ramifications will play out as a result of the move.

With very unstable tribe dynamics (even within the hoped-for alliance of people that just screwed each other) and a high likelihood of a tribe swap just around the corner, David’s move was a bad strategic play.

All that said, from a viewer’s standpoint, HOW AWESOME WAS THAT?!?!? It was like when Malcolm used two immunities to save the Three Amigos and send the Specialist home. Was that a smart strategic move? Of course not! Malcolm went home three days later because he had no more immunities to play. But it was glorious to watch. So thank you, David, for putting viewers’ interests above your own. Now good luck getting Ken, Jessica, and CeCe to kiss and make-up (if they are even all on your tribe a day from now). Okay, let’s go recap the rest of this bad boy from the very top.

NEXT: The hunt — for animals and idols — begins!

We begin at the Gen X camp right after the Paul blindside. Jessica wants to explain to Chris the reasoning behind the vote, but he doesn’t want to hear it, saying he doesn’t want to talk about it tonight. But then, when Jessica honors his wishes and instead goes to chat with Bret, Chris freaks out and tells them to stop whispering and instead do it all out in the open — THE EXACT THING HE JUST ASKED THEM NOT TO DO! Make up your mind, dude!

The next morning, some woman I have never seen on the show before starts talking about how she feels like she cheated on somebody. Apparently her name is Lucy and she is so upset about having no air time in the first three episodes that she is determined to make up for it, even if it means telling America how much her own husband and children do not like her.

Lucy says she does not like Jessica because Jessica “implanted” things in her head. If this is true, they are certainly far from the first implants to appear on Survivor, but that is neither here nor there. Lucy wants to get rid of her fellow female and this is music to the ears of the blindsided Chris and Bret. “Next Tribal, you gotta zap her ass,” says Chris, in what I can only assume is a nod to the 1982 Scott Baio & Willie Aames horndog classic, Zapped!

And by the way, if the only Zapped you know is the 2014 Disney Channel movie starring Zendaya, then you may want to consider taking two minutes out of your day to watch the following. After all, it stars a flying dummy and “a half-naked cast of thousands.” Enjoy.

Meanwhile, over at the Millennials beach, the kids are hungry. I don’t know if it’s the starvation or not, but Jay seems downright confused. He attempts to illustrate what makes them different from the Gen Xers by launching into some sort of ill-advised impersonation that sounds like a cross between Ed Grimley and Urkel. Is he saying all Gen Xers all nerds? Is that a thing? Can an entire decade’s (or two, according to this show) worth of people all be super geeks? Is that why Mari could never get her freaks and geeks alliance together — because all the geeks were over on the Gen X beach? If Jay says so, it must be true, even if I’m pretty sure Chris and Bret sound nothing like that whatsoever.

Anyway, Jay and the others decide they are going to hunt a pig! Only it’s actually a goat. So they’ll hunt that instead! (Apparently, only nerds know the difference between pig and goat tracks.) While that group is hunting, Adam goes searching for a hidden immunity idol. And the search proves fruitful as he discovers a clue to the idol’s location. Later in the episode, Adam will use that clue to locate the idol in a shell. And after several Fishbachian unsuccessful attempts to open said shell, Adam finally splits it and retrieves his idol… almost getting busted by Hannah in the process.

Then, apparently determining that the 3,274 boxes of tissues TV viewers have gone through watching This is Us are simply not enough, Adam dedicates the idol to his Survivor super-fan mother, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. “It’s been such a nightmare,” says Adam in between tears. “It’s been the worst thing you could possibly imagine.” He goes on to talk about how difficult it has been to have his biggest dream and nightmare happening at the same time and dammit, now he’s going to make me cry. And I never cry! But it truly is touching.

NEXT: An NC-17 reward challenge

Let’s head over to the reward challenge. The WHAT?!? Yes, a reward challenge. Our first of the season. Producers tend to ditch these segments early in the season, preferring to use the time to let you meet the contestants. Now that they realize we are already sick of 70 percent of them, time to bust out the reward challenges! And this one is a doozy. In each round, each tribe will send two people out in the water to get a ring off a pole, and then try to race it back to their flagpole, while the other tribe tries to bring the same ring back to their pole. First team to touch the pole and ring at the same time gets a point. Three points wins. Winners get steak, sausages, veggies, and spices.

Look, I could get into all the back and forth and who won what round, but it’s all about Michaela. That’s right, it’s all about Michaela… and her tribe did not even win! With her tribe down 2-1, Michaela and Hannah are taking on Jessica and Lucy. Lucy goes hardcore and holds both women while Jessica goes for the ring. Seemingly unable to free herself from Lucy’s tiger mom claws, Michaela goes to Plan B — removing her top to get away. You think some stupid bikini top is going to get in her way? Hell. To. The. No.

By the time she gets to Jessica, the ring is almost at the Gen X flagpole, but then — not unlike Coach slowly moving Colby inch by inch over to the Villains mat at the first Heroes vs. Villains challenge — Michaela imposes her will, dragging the entire group and the ring over to the Millennials side. It is awesome to watch. And not in some pervy way, but in a doing-whatever-it-takes-to-win way.

She has relative strangers all around her, not to mention scores of cameras filming all of her exploits for a national audience, and did she let her lack of clothing stop her? Nope. The bikini top got in the way, so Michaela got rid of it. The other players got in the way of Michaela winning, so she tossed them aside as well. “You can either lose or let your bathing suit get ripped off and win,” she explains later. “So I was like, ‘They about to see some ta-tas today.’”

This hereby marks the second best topless moment in Survivor history. The first being after Sugar’s top was pulled off in that same first Heroes vs. Villains challenge and she responded after her victory with a special double finger salute. (All the worst topless Survivor moments involve Phillip Sheppard in his pink undies.)

By the way, I totally lied when I said this challenge was all about Michaela. It’s also all about Jeff Probst getting pulverized by a giant wave. Listen, Jeff Probst is a great host. He is a master interrogator. We watched him professionally diffuse a tense racial situation between Phillip and Steve on the Redemption Island season. We watched him snap the entire crew into action when three players dropped in a Kaoh Rong challenge. But I’m not sure we’ve ever seen him better than how he handled that wave. How the hell did the man stay on his feet? The dude was completely nailed! And how perfect was that timing? It happened right as he was declaring the winner. He didn’t even see the wave coming so had no time to plant his feet (which is hard to do in itself, mind you, with the water current and unstable sand footing).


So Gen X wins the grub, but there is still trouble in (tropical) paradise. Lucy is still on her anti-Jessica crusade, and she wants to pull in David and Ken to make it happen, but only on her terms. And her terms are ridiculous. First, she informs them that she is not going to tell them who she’s spoken to. Then she says Jessica will go, but “I don’t want to see you talking to anybody else. If I do, I’m going to get upset. That’s it.” This is somewhat ironic seeing as how we have not seen Lucy talking to anybody else all season until tonight, but okay. Not surprisingly, Ken Doll is not down with being spoken down to like that. Just because he is plastic and has no penis, that is simply no excuse!

NEXT: Why Jessica blew it

But before he can do anything about it, we need to head to the immunity challenge to see how urgent the matter really is. You know it’s a cool-ass challenge when Probst is busting out the orange hat, and this one does not disappoint as members of each tribe must race through obstacles to a chair and then get lifted up into the air by the rest of their tribe to retrieve 30 numbered bags.

It’s a cool challenge and very epic looking. But it’s all window dressing. As I said a few weeks back when the Gen Xers made the mistake of taking two advantages that added 20 extra pieces, any challenge with a puzzle is all about the puzzle. The other stuff looks cool and may get you 30 seconds or a minute advantage here or there, but more often than not that makes absolutely no difference as to which team actually wins, and here’s another perfect example.

As cool as it is watching people go up and down in their little chairs, and as funny as it is to watch Probst say that David high steps through the tires “just like high school football” — because I am relatively confident that David has never played a day of football at any level in his life — it ultimately doesn’t matter. That becomes abundantly clear once we pass the 45-minute mark of the 30-letter word puzzle, as both sides struggle to get the winning phrase of “Somebody Loses Their Flame Tonight”… which sounds vaguely like a reference to someone losing their virginity. Or maybe that’s when they get their flame. I have no idea. It was a long time ago. I don’t remember.

In any event, David and the Gen Xers keep moving letters around hoping that eventually the law of averages will give them a correct answer at some point, while the Millennials try and work it all out… in their miiiiiiiiiinds. And somehow, someway, it works. At least for the Millennials, who finally put it together and win.

So back to the Gen X beach we go, where Lucy is in the middle of telling us how much her family hates her. It seems Lucy is a “tiger mom,” and that’s the way she likes it. “I mean, my husband and kids dislike me a lot of times because I’m making all the decisions,” she explains. “But somebody has to do it. So it’s successful back home, it should be successful here.” Really? Is it successful back home? Are we absolutely sure about that? Is it possible to poll the aforementioned husband and kids to get their take on the situation?

Regardless, Lucy felt justified giving orders to Ken and David, but with apologies to Hall and Oates, Ken can’t go for that (no can do). He blatantly disobeys orders and tells Jessica everything. Tells her that Lucy wants her gone. Tells her that Lucy forbade him to talk to anybody, but he is risking everything to do the right thing and let her know. And how does Jessica repay this kindness? By selling Ken out back to the very person who wants her gone.


When someone comes and tells you something like this, you have to analyze three things and ask yourself the following questions. 1) Is the source reliable? 2) Does the information sound credible? And 3.) What is the benefit to the person telling me this if I do what he/she says? In this case, Ken seems about reliable as they come. He may possibly be stubborn and overly-sensitive, but he does not come off as a con artist in the least. If anything, he appears to be too honest. So the source seems reliable.

Then, does the information sound credible? While Lucy flipping must come as a surprise, it should come as no shock that there would be a movement against Jessica after she sent Chris and Bret’s island BFF home, putting her into a position of power. The point is, the vote against her would not be coming out of nowhere. And then to the third point: What is the benefit to Ken for Jessica to vote against Lucy? Sure, obviously, he could be worried he is the target so he is shifting it to someone else, but it did not appear anyone was even considering getting rid of Ken, especially after he had performed well in challenges for his tribe. So why would he construct this elaborate ruse, especially if we have already deemed him reliable and the information completely plausible?

So, to recap: You have a reliable source with no obvious personal gain to be had giving you credible information. That’s the type of intel you immediately move on, not report back to the enemy. Although you can’t completely fault her for wanting to suss out the situation a bit more, Jessica blew it on this one.

NEXT: Does Lucy equate women with weakness? (Plus, an exclusive deleted scene and special announcement)

Naturally, this causes Lucy to turn on Ken, calling him “so emotional, like a girl,” which I’m sure endears her to women everywhere. Continuing with this unfortunate theme, she later explains to Probst at Tribal Council that “I can be blunt, but a lot of time when I speak to men, they can handle bluntness.” Why does Lucy hate women so much? Can we retroactively go back and put her on the Worlds Apart season so she can go hang out with Dan, Will, and Rodney and start hashtagging Dirty30 all over the place?

While Lucy is pissed at Ken, Ken is upset that the woman he attempted to save did not trust him. “Was I supposed to believe 100 percent what you told me other people said about me today?” asks Jessica. “Yeah,” answers Ken, which is followed by one of the most deliciously awkward pauses in Tribal Council history.

And we all know what happens next. Jessica gets the majority of votes (five) but is saved when David — clearly going for a big Survivor TV moment — stands and addresses the tribe to explain that he is playing his idol for Jessica. Interesting sidenote here: Did you notice how the first five votes were all for Jessica? That shows that David had tipped off the producers that he was going to use the idol, because otherwise the votes would have been ordered differently to build the tension with votes for Lucy and CeCe.

Let me be crystal clear about something. I’m not implying there was any funny business going on — just that at some point during his confessional interview with producers before Tribal, David must have mentioned that he was going to use his idol. Since they always stack the votes in the most dramatic way possible, they then counted on that when they put all the Jessica votes up top so we could hear Jeff repeat those three magic words — “does not count” — over and over.

So Jessica — who thanks David on the way out of Tribal — lives to play another day. And we, as viewers, have to be feeling pretty good about the season so far. Even with the blindside, last week’s episode was a bit underwhelming, but with two great challenges, a topless performance for the ages, an almost drowned host, ultimatums, a found idol, and a used idol, this was a really nice bounce-back installment.

Before we wrap things up and get to all the important programming notes, however, a very special announcement. Some of you super fans may have caught this on my live Periscope reveal or in subsequent tweets since then, but we have a super crazy cool opportunity for super crazy cool Survivor fans, and trust me, you do not want to miss out.

We are staging an EW convention called PopFest out in Los Angeles on Oct 29-30. There’s massive stuff happening there, like exclusive advance looks at things like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the new Gilmore Girls, and The Dark Tower, and a premiere screening of Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Famous people like Jennifer Aniston, Eddie Redmayne, and James Corden are going to be hanging out. Nick Jonas is performing. You can see the entire list of events and appearances at ewpopfest.com. But here’s where you come in. If you have ever dreamed of taking part in a real Survivor challenge, then your dreams are about to become a reality. We are going to have several actual Survivor challenges from the show on site at the convention and you can compete in them against both your friends and former contestants.

The challenges will be open all day on both days, and on Saturday, Oct. 29 we will also have a panel with host Jeff Probst that will include something else that has never been done before as we will present an extensive sneak peek of the next Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X episode. So you not only have the opportunity to compete in a Survivor challenge against actual Survivors while being cheered on and/or mocked by Jeff Probst, but you can be one of the first people in the world to get a nice, long look at the next episode before anyone else.

As someone who has partaken in over 15 challenge run-throughs while on location, I can attest that it is as fun and as incredible as it looks and I highly encourage all of you to get yourselves to Los Angeles to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You can get tickets by going to ewpopfest.com, and I hope to see you there.

Okay, let’s finish up with some general housekeeping. Make sure to get all the behind-the-scenes insight by reading our weekly Q&A with the Hostmaster General himself, Jeff Probst. We also have an exclusive deleted scene from the episode in the video player below, and you can hear from the ousted Lucy on Thursday at 9:40 a.m. ET on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105). And for all the Survivor scoop sent directly to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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  • 41
  • CBS
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