Three straight weeks, three straight surprises at Tribal Council: How the immunity idol factored into a shocking show marked by injuries to James and Alexis -- and Amanda's astonishing acting

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 28, 2015 at 03:48 AM EST
Monty Brinton


S16 E12
  • TV Show

I’m back! Had a lovely vacation last week. It started with a road trip down to see my mom in Washington, D.C. I was a little tired from the drive and was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I glanced over by the shower. And what do I see hanging from the shower head but a hidden immunity idol! It was awesome! The next morning when mom asked me to go out and grab some bagels, I whipped it out and yelled, ”In your face, old woman!” There was nothing she could do except get her keys and go get her own damn bagel. And mine. (I prefer everything ones, by the way.)

Then, a few days later, we’re chillin’ in Colonial Williamsburg. We’re listening to some speech on how the Declaration of Independence has just been signed and some dude dressed up as Patrick Henry nudges me in the ribs and then points over to the town jail (which they spell ”Gaol” for some odd reason). I’m worried he has mistaken me for Benedict Arnold and is going to have me locked up, but I check it out anyway. And what do I find? Hidden immunity idol! So a few hours later when the wife tells me she thinks it would be cute if I dressed up in colonial garb — kablamo! — I bust out the idol and shout, ”In your dreams, m’lady!” She was stunned for a second, but knew the rules dictated that she was now the one who had to go over to costume services to get fitted to look like a moron. Hell, I found hidden immunity idols everywhere on my vacation: 1,000 feet underground in Luray Caverns, in a garden maze, at the Molly Pitcher rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike…. At least I’m pretty sure they were all hidden immunity idols. Although you can’t blame me for at least thinking they were everywhere, can you? After all, we’ve only seen about 312 of them this season on Survivor. I would be sick to death of them — if they didn’t keep yielding such blatantly awesome results.

But let’s take it from the top. This episode started with James hanging out in a Survivor medical services boat, being warned that if the cut on his finger did not improve he would have to be taken out of the game. Unfortunately, thanks to Jeff Probst revealing in recent interviews that someone else was going to be forced from the game, we already knew how this was going to play out. (Jeff is usually vary savvy about giving out teases on the show without actually ruining the suspense on anything, but that intel coupled with last episode’s voice over instruction for James to have ”medical look at your finger” made it all too obvious a week ago what was going to happen, making the whole thing pretty anticlimactic.)

James wasn’t the only one hurting, however. Alexis was looking gimpy back at camp after cutting her knee. Could this all be an ingenious fake out! Could Alexis, rather than James, be the one who has to leave due to injury?!? Uhhhhhh…no. So off to the reward challenge we went. Producers decided to combine two of their old standbys, the F-You challenge (where contestants are forced to reveal how they truly feel about one another through a series of questions, and then reveal some sort of pecking order in how they kick people out of the game) and the loved-ones visit together. They merged them into something I like to call: ”F-You Loved Ones!” What did we learn from the loved ones who visited? Well, Parvati and her mom love to tell each other how good they look and fabulous they smell, Natalie’s mom must have a thing for arm pit hair, and James’ dad had perhaps the least conducive clothing on for a tropical environment that I’ve ever seen in my life. What, was the tux at the cleaners or something? You taking a business meeting over at Jellyfish Lake later? Imagine if he had actually been performing in the challenge with that stuff on, as has happened in seasons past. Instead, all he had to do was sit on the sideline mumbling, ”Wait until I get back home, we’re gonna talk about her,” after Alexis eliminated James from the challenge. And I believe that conversation would go a little something like this:

NEXT PAGE: How that conversation would go

”James, I don’t like the way that girl knocked you out of the game.”

”What? [chew chew] What did you say? [munch munch] I can’t hear you because I’m too busy eating a bowl of bats.”

”Son, you didn’t have to eat that there and you don’t have to eat that here. What the hell is the deal with you and those bats?”

”I don’t know, but Ozzy sells cheesy T-shirts of himself on his website, so I thought I could make ones too and call myself Batman. That name’s not trademarked or anything yet, is it?”

”Son, put down the bats and go iron my shirt and slacks so I can put them on and go ride around on my ATV in the mud pit out back. I simply can’t ride without them. And then we’re gonna talk about that Alexis.”

Of course, James had bigger problems than being kicked out of the challenge, because he was about to be kicked out of the entire game. Dr. Carolyn Sein pulled him out, citing the risk of infection spreading to his joints. James went and gave a hug goodbye to Parvati, who started crying. ”It’s just not fair,” she wailed. ”It’s just not right for him to go out like that.” You mean as opposed to voting his ass out, which is exactly what you would have done at the next Tribal Council had he stayed?

I get it that no one likes to go out of the game this way (well, except Chet and that dude from the Palau season who complained about rolling his foot on a coconut, who both asked to be voted out after ”injuries”), but Parvati’s tears seemed odd. After all, every time someone else leaves you’re one step closer to the million dollars. Plus, you don’t actually have to piss them off by voting them off. As viewers, we certainly don’t like to see good contestants go this way, unless it prevents double eliminations where winning tribes are forced to oust one of their own, in which case, bring on the infections!

In any event, Alexis won the challenge and picked Cirie and Natalie (and accompanying loved ones) to join her and her bro at Jellyfish Lake — a place I was lucky enough to go to, and let me assure you, it’s even more incredible than what you saw on TV. Of course, had Survivor not waited until season 17 to film in HD perhaps that would not be the case, but I digress. The most important thing that came out of the whole challenge was Amanda’s volunteering to go to Exile Island. Why no one has wanted to go to this place the last two weeks is beyond me. Remember the days when hidden immunity idols were hard to find? Yeah, well, those days are long gone. Seriously, at this point why not just have the first clue be: ”Look to your left, look to you right, then look to your left again. If there are no cars coming, you may cross the beach safely and we’ll hand you the damn thing.” I love the consequences of the idol being found (and played or not played) the past few weeks as much as the next guy, but it shouldn’t be thateasy to find. Next thing you know, Paula Abdul is going to show up and inform the contestants they have found the idol before they have even begun searching for it. (What, weirder things have occurred recently involving Abdul and the word ”Idol.”) So Amanda located the series of clues without much trouble and discovered that Idol 3.0 was, in fact, buried back at camp under the tribe flag.

NEXT PAGE: Amanda acts like a loser

Eventually everyone convened back at the immunity challenge. I didn’t think it was possible in any time or dimension for me not to be into a challenge involving sake bottles and a huge-ass rifle. After all, if anything goes together, it’s booze and guns. You just never know what kind of hilarity will erupt when those two things are around. But I’m in general not a huge fan of challenges in which people take turns aiming at something. Erik won immunity and resisted the urge to fire a few celebratory shots into the air before everyone went back to camp and Amanda made her second smart move of the episode by emptying out her bag completely so people could see she had not found the idol…yet.

This led to a series of events where everyone told Amanda right to her face that they were voting her out. Amanda tried to guilt Erik into saving her, noting that she saved him when he asked for her help, to which I kept wishing he would reply, ”Yeah, well, your mistake!” But he didn’t. Because he’s Erik. And he was still probably too busy daydreaming about Ozzy and how they’re going to have a beautiful life together when this is all over, climbing trees and scooping betel nut ice cream side by side back in Michigan.

Any doubts as to whether Amanda had dug deep enough to find the idol were dashed as soon as she started brilliantly overacting at Tribal Council. She did it all — eye rolls, an admission of defeat, mock slashing her own throat. I wanted to yell at the TV ”Tone it down, woman!” But more than that, I wanted another beer, so I got one and watched our third straight blindside play out to perfection. I thought Jeff Probst was going to have to wheel out a few more IVs by the looks of death on the faces of the contestants when Amanda hopped up with her hidden immunity idol. (By the way, how cool did James look with that thing? I’m telling you, IVs should replace ascots and adopted foreign babies as the new celebrity accessory du jour.)

So Alexis was left to hobble down the cold blue pathway of death. In fact, judging by her pace, I’m still not sure she’s made it all the way yet. Too bad. She was my episode 1 ”Fan” pick to win, but honestly, I thought from my interview with her before the game that she would be more of an engaging character than what we saw on screen. (I call this the ”Bob Dawg Effect.”) At least my ”Favorite” pick of Cirie is still looming large and keeps my hopes alive of running my streak of episode 1 picks to a whopping four straight seasons. One other thing I have to assume we won’t be seeing any more of is the hidden immunity idol — ones either fake or real. It was nice knowing you guys. You gave us four straight weeks of straight up hilarity. Hopefully they’ll save you a spot in the finale during the ”Fallen Comrades” tribute. Lord knows you’ve earned it.

Which of the last four hidden-immunity-idol flavored Tribal Councils was your favorite? And who’s in control of the game now? Post away, and check out our Survivor Talk interview with James and Alexis below. C ya!

[Sorry, video not available]

Episode Recaps


Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

  • TV Show
  • 40
stream service