Advertisements for the most recent episode of Survivor: Fans Vs. Favorites 2 – Stealth R Us or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Look For An Idol included fan-turned-favorite Cochran announcing that the tribal council (TC) we were about to see would be the greatest TC in the all-time history of TCs (that’s not verbatim, mind you, but heavily implied). From Cochran’s perspective, it certainly was because he was in the moment. From the fan perspective, it seems the reaction is mixed but favorable. From my perspective, it was good, but not worthy of a Top 5 slot, because Survivor history runs deep. Deeper than sacrificing a pair of idols to oust a figurehead. It will definitely be one of the season’s highlights and be a prominent trivia question in Survivor lore, but in my “expert” opinion it doesn’t quite compare to some things we’ve seen in the past.
5) Season: Guatemala | Judd doesn’t have ADD!
I have no idea why Survivor: Guatemala doesn’t get more love. When people talk about blindsides caused by hidden immunity idols, all of it can be traced back to an episode where fan favorite Bobby Jon got voted off for the first time in his Survivor career after Gary used the first ever hidden immunity idol. Certainly not as epic as future blindsides, but noteworthy.
The most memorable TC from Guatemala didn’t involve a blindside, however. It involved a steamroller. A steamroller named Judd, with a victim named Margaret.
Judd was a beast, but he was typically a cute, somewhat goofy beast. Other times, he was a beast with a temper. Once, he was a beast that decided tribal council would be a good time to have a therapy session, so he cleaned his closet out all over his nemesis right before sending her home.
Judd would later get taken out in another memorable TC (containing one of the Top 5 most memorable exit lines – Scumbags!), but his star really shone here whether it was seen as being a bully, a clown or just a fed up dude that needed to get it out in the open.
From an entertainment perspective, this TC wasn’t gold – it was platinum. I can almost guarantee Judd still gets “Do you have A!D!D!” jokes at least semi-regularly from fans. He enunciated exclamation points after every letter, after all.
From a game perspective, it showed that being the loudest guy in the room can sometimes work to your advantage. He was loud, obnoxious, overbearing, and in many people’s opinions (including some that were there with him) right. He was also so angry that he forgot how to use words (and makes Margaret forget how a little, too), and the result is something worth watching more than once.
Judd not having attention deficit disorder resulted in one of the most purely entertaining TCs ever, and for that reason alone it made my list.
4) Season: Heroes Vs. Villains (HvV) | Tyson destroys Boston Rob’s game
Boston Rob takes a lot of heat for going out so early on HvV, but that heat typically comes from people that think he’s overhyped (haters gonna hate) or statisticians that think ranking means all (he didn’t even make the jury!!!1!ZOMG!BBQ).
Going into this TC, the course of the game was pretty clear – either Parvati or her evil troll sidekick was going home. At the end of the TC, the evil troll had produced an immunity necklace, used it to save somebody else!, and sent home the strongest link his enemy had with Coach and Jerry.
And nobody saw it coming. Nobody. Not even Parvati. Playing that idol in that way at that time completely redirected the entire story, put both Russell and Parvati in the history books even more solidly than ever and was one of the most memorable moments in a season so full of memorable moments it proved that even after 20 seasons, Survivor still had more to offer than almost any show on television.
3) Season: Marquesas | The solitary appearance of the dreaded purple rock
In the early years of Survivor, back before there were double blindsides and multiple hidden immunity idols and special islands to add special twists and all kinds of other little tricks that add drama to an already dramatic circumstance, genuine surprises dominated the discussion.
When Paschal English, the one man nobody thought was even close to being in danger of going home, drew a purple rock and had his torch snuffed quite ceremonially, a precedent was set that would forever color the game’s landscape.
Years and seasons later, Paschal’s exit would be lesson enough that the purple rock would never be seen again. Contestants in Thailand, Vanuatu, Guatemala and more would leverage the very threat of having to draw a purple rock to cause more swings in game dynamics than even hidden immunity idols.
Looking back on the almost 30 seasons of Survivor that have provided hundreds of TCs, it was this few minutes that helped decide the fate of the season it aired, it shaped the landscape of nearly every single season to follow it and for that alone it deserves a spot in my Top 5.
2) Season: Micronesia (Fans Vs. Favorites) – Erik gives away immunity
Erik having the opportunity to be on both FvF seasons affords him the luxury of playing with the old school players and the new school players, as well as being involved in a lot of great TCs, including the two most recent. The greatest has to be his last TC of his first season.
Survivor is a social game. Erik did pretty well in challenges. People liked him. And then he started thinking with his lusty bits. Erik got beat by a social game he was dominating physically.
Erik was a fan of the game. Returning players were not yet a thing. The black widow brigade used that to their advantage and blindsided him by causing one of the single most boneheaded moves in the history of the game. A move that he had even said earlier in the episode he wouldn’t even consider. A move that nobody should ever consider.
After a string of blindsides, Erik won an individual immunity necklace that he desperately needed to stay in the game. He was then told a yarn about integrity and honor that must have made him feel like Ian from Palau, but ended up making him look like Erik from Micronesia – singularly stupid.
Brandon Hantz would go on to replicate this nonsense for different reasons and to lesser effect later, but the only lesson there was some people don’t learn. The lesson here – don’t trust Parvati or anyone she hangs out with. And don’t think with your lusty bits when you’re playing Survivor.
1) Season: HvV – Parvati uses two idols, neither to save herself.
Maybe I just have too much respect for people that use their idols to save other people. If that were the case, the current season TC involving Reynold giving his idol to Malcolm should be on here right? Nope – the reason why the two examples on here made the list was their sheer brilliant effectiveness.
The reason Parvati is considered one of the game’s greatest players is also the reason she appears in three of the entries on this list – girl’s got game. Taking a page out of Russell’s handbook, Parvati passed out two hidden immunity idols to Sandra and Jerry, completely ignoring her own pending doom that everyone was warning her about repeatedly, and secured her spot in the final four (along with the eventual winner, the original she-devil and her pet troll).
In the end, the simple truth is that Parvati caused JT to go home by playing an idol he at one time had control of to save someone other than herself. It not only took huge guts to pull off, but pretty solid deduction skills figuring out where the other votes were going.
It’s easy to armchair quarterback the decision, but I don’t think most people would have taken that chance if they were in the same position.
There are tons of memorable tribal councils and every fan has their favorite. Honorable mentions certainly go to James leaving with a pair of idols in his pocket, Randy playing a fake idol, Edgardo going away, and Ozzy’s blindside in FvF, which were all contenders. Give me your own Top 5 in the comments, if’n yer so inclined. Don’t feel like you have to go into as much detail, though.
Unless you want to.