To eat or to compete, that is the question
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S33 E9
  • TV Show
  • CBS

Jeff Spicoli is dead. For if Taylor on this season of Survivor was the real-life embodiment of Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s resident stoner, then last night was Mr. Hand ruining all the fun by intercepting Spicoli’s pizza delivered to history class. No, that’s not right. This is one instance in which Taylor was actually one step ahead of Spicoli. He would have been much cagier than that, having the delivery guy stuff the pizza in a locker so he could retrieve it one slice at a time while on make-believe runs to the bathroom.

I guess it’s more like Mr. Hand showing up at Spicoli’s house on prom night to go through an entire year’s worth of U.S. history (especially since Taylor talked openly about not caring about things, like who was president). In any event, the party is finally over. Because I’m pretty sure that’s how Taylor saw this entire season — and it’s most likely how Taylor sees his entire life — as one big party. In a way, I’m envious of that outlook. I wish I could be so carefree and not spend 94 percent of my existence stressing about various things that aren’t worth stressing about. I wish I could just chuckle at pretty much anything anyone — including myself — says. But I’m way too neurotic for that.

So I don’t begrudge Taylor and his “chill-bro” vibe. But as a viewer… Holy crap, it was frustrating watching him play this game. Strike that from the record, actually, because technically, I don’t think Taylor actually played this game for even a single second. He was too busy mouthing to Figgy how hot she was.

Even his island girlfriend said Taylor was incapable of making any strategic decisions whatsoever. And even his biggest bro-lliance member, Jay, drew a pretty direct distinction between the two of them at Tribal Council. “I have dreams and goals. I’m not a regular, dumb surfer,” said Jay, to which Taylor replied, “I’m not a dumb surfer.” Yeah, Jay! Take that back! He’s not a dumb surfer! He’s a dumb snowboarder! Get your facts straight, man. The most illuminating part of that exchange is actually what came after, when Jay said “No offense, dude” and Taylor just laughed.

However, in Taylor’s defense, he did go out fighting. Now, granted, he kinda walked into Tribal Council with a suicide vest on, blowing himself up in the hopes of also taking out Adam. And only time will tell if it was enough to take out his second target. But at least he had a strategy — any strategy. And now he doesn’t have to worry about burying mason jars in the sand, as he can eat all the food he wants at Ponderosa. Plus, he has his whole future with Figgy to ponder! “I got a girlfriend and hopefully we’re gonna buy a sailboat and go have some adventure together, so I’m pretty stoked about that,” he said after being voted out.

Only problem is that “adventure” appears to have included another woman Taylor impregnated back home before the game. At least, that’s judging by Figgy’s comments to me: “There was a real-life situation that I found out after the game and it led to Taylor and I not being together.” And that’s also judging by a since-deleted Twitter post by Taylor that he was “stoked to be a snowboard instructor/DAD this winter!” with a big “Adventure Begins November” photo. But his adventure here is over. Now let us chronicle the episode from top to bottom to see how it all went down.

We begin on night 23 at Vinaka after the blindsiding of Michelle. Jay says Adam was a “freakin’ idiot” for siding with Gen X, even though not siding with Gen X means he would have just been voted out, so I’m not sure how that makes sense. “How did this happen?” Jay asks Taylor, who responds there are only so many people you can trust in the game, and when they’re gone, you’re in trouble. Oh, you mean like…MICHAELA?!?!

This is why I argued Jay should have taken the post-merge tribe temperature before he started cutting loyal allies. But the only thing more annoying than a bad game move is a dude rubbing in what a bad game move you made, so I’ll shut up now. Besides, it looks like Adam and Taylor are having another meeting of the Super-Secret Keeper’s Club. Each have damaging intel on the other — Adam knows Taylor stole the food because he caught him doing it, while Taylor knows about Adam’s reward steal because Adam decided to tell him. Whoops!

So they agree to keep each other’s secrets, and then Taylor goes and meticulously plots out his next 12 strategic moves that can get him out of this predicament and to the end of the game — while also keeping himself in everyone’s good graces so they will vote for him to win the million dollars. Nah, I’m just screwing with you. In actuality, he goes and digs up his stolen food again and proclaims “This is my best idea ever!” The saddest part is, I believe him.

NEXT: Bret gets wasted, while Adam wastes an opportunity

At least Jay’s working hard to change his status in the game. He does some damage control with Hannah, who explains why she switched sides and how she would have been a goat had she stuck with Kappa Kappa Survivor. All of a sudden, we get this soaring piano music as she talks excitedly to us about playing the game and making a move.

Holy smokes, is my episode 1 pick to win it all actually getting a bit of a winner’s edit here? I’ve been regretting my pick ever since I made it. I actually, at times, have wished I selected my other possible pick of Mari…even though she was already out of the game! That’s how bad I felt about picking Hannah. But maybe she’s turning a corner. Maybe she will manage to make it through one Tribal Council without hyperventilating. We can only hope. Or, at least, I can only hope. You probably don’t give a crap since you have no such reputation riding on a respectable Hannah finish.

Off to the reward challenge we go, where two teams of six must race through a series of obstacles, retrieve a key, unlock a box, drag the box underneath a net, open the box, get bolos, and then land all five bolos on a target. There’s a schoolyard pick to divide the teams, with the winners getting taken to a resort to lounge poolside while dining on cheeseburgers and fries and sucking down cocktails. It’s a cool-looking challenge, but the impact and drama is unfortunately somewhat muted as the purple team dominates in our first blowout challenge of the season. It’s actually amazing there aren’t more runaway victories. I realize challenges are often designed so teams can catch up — especially when puzzles are involved — but it’s still remarkable how close they can end up being or how often we see dramatic comebacks. This, however, is not one of those times.

So the winners go to enjoy their spoils. Contestants often get really sick after reward meals because their bodies cannot adjust from fasting to feasting so suddenly, but Taylor doesn’t have to worry about that, thanks to his secret stash. And Bret doesn’t have to worry about eating too much because Bret has opted for the liquid-lunch option — which, to be clear, is not a reference to diarrhea. I mean, maybe it is and he’s also suffering from #SevereGastrointestinalDistress, but I have no inside knowledge of that nor do I want to. Instead it seems Bret made a pledge to himself to take it easy if he ever got drinks on a reward — however, he changes his tune once the free drinks start flowing. “Keep these coming ‘til I drop,” he instructs his horrified server.


While I had high hopes for some old-school drunken Survivor shenanigans on the level of Tom Westman, Jonny Fairplay, or Jan from Thailand, we unfortunately don’t see Bret make a complete ass of himself. A shame. Total missed opportunity. Meanwhile, back at camp, Jay is trying to mend fences with Adam, who appears to have all the bedside manner of Nurse Ratched at a mental hospital. Adam openly confirms to Jay he’s on the bottom.

Adam is merely stating the obvious, but it’s still a bonehead move. First off, it upsets Jay, who says Adam is being “a huge jerk” by rubbing his nose in it. Secondly, as Zeke points out, you always want the opposition to feel comfortable. When you tell people they’re on the bottom, you’re inviting them to scramble and blow things up. A placated contestant is a lazy contestant, while a desperate player is a dangerous player. Adam could have easily acted like the alliances were still in flux and he was still open to working with Jay. And who knows? Maybe he did. But Jay clearly left that conversation with the wrong impression.

NEXT: The age-old Survivor dilemma: to eat or compete?

However, Jay does have a window of opportunity — and that window comes courtesy of Sunday, who doesn’t trust Jessica. She wants to move on the Gen Xer before Jessica moves on her first, so Sunday tells Jay she’ll push to make her the target instead. It’s a faint glimmer of hope, but a glimmer nonetheless.

Of course, Jay does a have an idol, and winning immunity will make him safe for two votes. But he has to win it first to make that happen. This week’s immunity challenge is a recent Survivor standby, where players must stand on a narrow beam while balancing a ball on a wooden bow.

Ah, but what is behind door no. 2? Because Jeff Probst offers them a fiendish deal: Anyone can opt to sit out and not compete — and in return enjoy grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches, salty potato chips, and either ice-cold beer or soft drinks, depending on age or if you have a really good fake ID. Zeke and Will both take up Jeff on his offer, and this is the part in the recap where I usually rail on and on for pages and pages about how unconscionable it is people take food over a chance at immunity. And with good reason: There have been numerous times in the past where people didn’t compete because they considered themselves safe, only to get blindsided later that night.

However, I will allow for this: Will says he took the food because he knew there was no way he could possibly win this challenge, so he figured why not take the food to refuel so he stands a better chance in the next challenge? I understand this logic. If there is something — like a challenge with footholds and you wear a size 12 shoe, or a challenge in the water and you don’t swim — you stand no chance of winning, so why go out there and make yourself weaker for no reason when you can make yourself stronger with food?

I get it, if it’s solely a strategic thing. But to that I say this: When you sit up there at the final Tribal Council and want to convince others why you deserve the million dollars, do you want to be seen as the person who fought with everything you had in the face of overwhelming odds against you, or do you want to be seen as the person who didn’t even try and instead went for the easy out with the food?

Plus, this is Survivor! You came out there to compete. So compete! I recognize this is very easy for me to say after just having scarfed down an entire bag of leftover Halloween candy (Three Musketeers) while sitting on my couch in my climate-controlled living room, but if you signed up for Survivor you presumably wanted to test yourself, so do it! That is my somewhat restrained rant against sitting out challenges for food. I still hate it and would still argue against it, but I understand — if don’t agree with — the logic behind doing so in certain circumstances. It’s an evolution!

Eventually, it comes down to Taylor and Ken — and not even Taylor’s freaky alien-toe shoes can save him as Ken Doll wins immunity. Back at camp, David says it’s either or Jay or Taylor, so they decide to split the vote to protect against a hidden immunity idol (which is smart, because Jay indeed has one).

Knowing their necks are on the line, Taylor and Jay decide to stuff their faces courtesy of Taylor’s secret stash. Not only does Taylor tell Jay about the hidden bunker of food, but he squeals about Adam’s advantage as well. “If you steal the loved one’s visit, those people hate you,” says Taylor, which is precisely the reason I have stated Adam would be Looney Tunes to ever use it. All of a sudden the soaring inspirational music kicks in, which is kind of odd because not only is it playing over Taylor talking about going back on his promise to someone, but it’s also Taylor talking about going back on his promise to someone in the hopes of avenging the loss of his showmance girlfriend, who now is no longer seeing him because he impregnated another woman back home.

I mean, it doesn’t get more inspirational than that! It’s like Rocky meets Hoosiers meets that woman from the 1984 Olympics who looked like she was going to pass out and die while she stumbled her way through the end of a marathon meets a young kid fighting gallantly against a terminal illness meets an old Kodak commercial where an old man finds some old photos of his now-estranged son whom he then calls up because he’s been so moved by the images of happier times meets every Lassie movie meets Corky from Life Goes On meets every televised spelling bee meets the Chariots of Fire theme song meets the teenage girl who had her arm bitten off by a shark…AND KEPT SURFING!!!

NEXT: Taylor blows up Adam’s game — and his own

Whatever. Let’s all put down the Puffs and head to Tribal Council and see how nice Michelle cleaned up. We all know what happens here as Taylor admits to burying the two jars full of food. How selfless! Not really. He has to do this because he’s planning to backstab Adam by outing his advantage, and therefore has to come clean himself before Adam retaliates. But Taylor does do something smart here. No, seriously, he does! I’m not being sarcastic, I swear! I’m actually a bit impressed! He embellishes the truth by insinuating Adam was just as culpable in the deception by telling the others Adam helped him bury the jar.

Is that true? Not really, but so the hell what? At this point, just straight-up lie! Honestly, I would have gone even further. I would have said Adam ate so many pretzels he went and barfed it all up…and then came back and ate some more! Why not? It’s just a case of he said/he said, and since everyone views Adam as untrustworthy anyway, you may come out of it okay.

At this point, Adam starts vehemently protesting, which leads Hannah to once again start hyperventilating and hiding under her jacket. And then the other shoe drops as Taylor calls out Adam’s advantage of being able to steal someone’s reward. See, here’s another example where he should have just made some stuff up. In reality, the reward steal is not a big advantage at all. As I’ve argued, I think it’s actually self-destructive and self-defeating and should never be used. As Adam himself says, “If the advantage I got is so terrible, then vote me out.”

Which is why Taylor should have made the advantage seem super terrible. Don’t tell the tribe it’s a reward steal, tell them it’s a vote steal or a Super Duper Immunity Idol that allows him to not only vote out three people on the spot, but also forces Jeff Probst to perform the Macarena while he reads the epic votes of doom. Whatever, just make it something of actual consequence that will make the other players think twice about keeping Adam around. Will it work? Probably not. But if you’re the one who’s going home, what do you have to lose? However, Taylor doesn’t do this. Instead, he tells the tribe “If I know I can get ahead by eating more food than these guys, then I’m going to do it.” Ugh. Have you learned nothing, Taylor? That is probably the worst thing to tell people right before they start voting.

So after some hilarious back-and-forth between Adam and Jay (“You ate the food! I did not!”), everyone goes to vote, with the majority alliance splitting votes between Taylor and Jay and sending Taylor to the jury. But what’s interesting is how Kappa Kappa Survivor votes. Taylor puts his revenge vote on Adam, but Will votes for Jay and Jay votes for Taylor. Jay’s vote makes sense if he feels every vote may count, so better to load up Taylor (since his idol is no real help here, because if he had given Taylor the idol Jay himself would have been eliminated on the revote), but what is up with Will voting for Jay? I thought they were bros! Would love to know the thinking behind that vote.

Off goes Taylor to Ponderosa, where perhaps he can fall in love with Michelle now that Figgy is gone. And Jay, even with his idol, would seem to be in a bit of trouble — unless Sunday and Bret finally mobilize to make a move on Jessica. Or if the others decide Adam (who also has an idol) is too untrustworthy to keep around any longer. Those would seem to be the biggest cracks in the majority, so there are still a few different ways this could go.

And there are still a few different things for you to check out before you go. Like our exclusive deleted scene from the episode below. And our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And our exit interview with Taylor, which can be heard Thursday at 9:40 a.m. EST on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Oh, and hey, did you notice the old message boards are back? Scream! Rejoice! Tell your friends! Enjoy sounding off with your thoughts below, because why should I be the only one rambling on endlessly about minutiae like the color of Jeff Probst’s hat? And yes, I will back next week with a special scoop of Thanksgiving crispy (which I will then steal, stuff in mason jars, and bury in my background).

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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!"

  • TV Show
  • 41
  • CBS
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