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Hold Up, Jeff: Ranking the Survivor Idol Plays (30-21)


Steven Schultz ranks the best (and worst) Survivor idol plays of all time.

In the lead up to Survivor: Ghost Island, where the past advantages twist is sure to bring more idols into play, Inside Survivor is counting down the best (and worst) idol plays of all-time. I have ranked the idol plays based primarily on effectiveness of the move, rather than straight up entertainment value. I originally compiled the list by separating the idol plays into categories of The Best, Good Moves, Okay Moves, Last Night to Play It, and The Worst. Also, tribal councils that featured multiple idols plays have been combined into one entry.

You can check out rankings #50 – 31 here.

Let’s continue with the countdown!

#30 Jessica “Sugar” Kiper (played on Matty Whitmore) – Gabon – Episode 12

30Sugar

“Matty, take this cursed thing away,” said Sugar at the Final Six tribal council of Gabon, the last night the idol could be used. Sugar, working for what she deemed “the good guys,” handed over her idol to her ally Matty. Ultimately, Sugar’s grand gesture was unnecessary because they had the votes to get Crystal out of the game regardless. However, with only six people left, and two votes going to Matty, plus the fact it was the last time the idol could be played, the move made sense. The idol was used for the right person, and Sugar got to play with the “good guys” – although playing with the bad guys might have led her to $1 million.

#29 Chase Rice and Matthew “Sash” Lenahan – Nicaragua – Episode 14

29ChaseSash

One of the most awkward moments of Survivor occurred in this episode, where Chase and Sash told Jane that she was going home prior to tribal council. Upon learning the news, Jane went on a tirade, even spitefully putting out the campfire. I wonder if Jane still doesn’t want Chase to show his face in North Carolina considering his post-show success in country music. Despite Chase letting it slip that Dan and Fabio were next on the chopping block, the two men were fine going along with the plan and voting out Jane. Chase and Sash, who everyone knew had the idols, identified that fact and also knew that the votes weren’t going to land on their alliance member Holly. After considering all that, both guys just played their own idols – the last time to do so – and ensured they saw Day 37 no matter what.

P.S. watching this tribal frustrates me for the simple reason that NaOnka and Purple Kelly were on the jury despite quitting the game.

#28 Tyson Apostol (played on Gervase Peterson) – Blood v. Water – Episode 14

28Gervase

At the previous tribal council, Ciera and Hayden made a strong effort to persuade Monica Culpepper to join their side. However, Monica stuck with Tyson and Gervase and voted out Hayden. Heading into this next tribal, with Tina back in the game from Redemption Island and essentially taking the place of Hayden, the same events played out. Tina and Ciera made an effort to convince Monica to vote out Gervase, but again, it fell on deaf ears.

With this being the last tribal to play the idol, Tyson passed it to his close ally Gervase, negating the votes of Tina and Ciera. It didn’t change the outcome, but similar to Earl in Fiji, this move just added to Tyson’s strong resume on his way to victory at the FTC.

#27 Sandra Diaz-Twine – Heroes vs. Villains – Episode 13

27Sandra

Considering Sandra’s relationship with Russell and the fact that Russell (and Jerri for that matter) had voted with the two remaining Heroes at the last tribal council, this was a decent idol play by Sandra. She had kept the idol secret and surprised everybody when she reached into her bra to pull it out (the idol). But the Villains stuck together and the idol only negated the Heroes’ votes. But in an idol heavy season, this move showed that Sandra was just as capable as anybody else.

#26 Ben Driebergen – Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers – Episode 13

26Ben

After idol’ing out Lauren at the previous tribal council, Ben’s back was against the wall. His options were pretty much win immunity or find another idol. But before tribal, Chrissy brought up the possibility of taking out Ashely rather than Ben. But we never properly got to see which way that vote would have turned out because at tribal Ben pulled out his idol before the votes were cast. Ben was hoping to cause tension amongst the majority alliance and provoke them into turning on each other. However, Devon called Ben’s bluff and essentially forced Ben into playing the idol before the vote.

It was an interesting development, and Ben’s idea to cause cracks had potential, but by playing the idol early it took away his power. Rather than removing his named target, Mike, the majority took out Ashley.

#25 Rob Mariano – Redemption Island – Episode 14

25Rob

With five people left in the game, Boston Rob should have been vulnerable entering this tribal council. Ashley even said: “He is Boston Rob, who wouldn’t want to take him out?” To the viewing audience, we believed that nobody knew Rob had the idol and therefore thought it was stupid that nobody would try and vote Rob out at this point. It was later revealed at the reunion that Ashley and Natalie knew that Rob had the idol, so that’s why they did not vote him out.

Either way, it made sense for Rob to play the idol given it was the last night to do so, even though it only negated Andrea’s vote against him. It was just further proof that this was Rob’s season and the rest of the castaways were merely observers.

#24 Abi-Maria Gomes – Philippines – Episode 10

24Abi

With eight castaways left in the game, Abi and Pete were on the outside looking in after a blindside of their closest ally, Artis, at the last tribal council. The majority of five (Malcolm, Skupin, Penner, Carter, and Denise), plus Lisa, decided that splitting the votes between Abi and Pete (thus creating a 3-3-2 vote) was the safest option to counteract the possibility of an idol being played.

At tribal, Denise, Skupin, and Lisa voted for Abi while Malcolm, Penner, and Carter voted for Pete. A tearful Abi, who had taken a few shots during the questioning, played the idol for herself and Pete was sent to the jury. Pete was likely to get the votes on the re-vote, so Abi probably could have saved the idol for another day. However, she was able to make it to three more tribal councils following this vote.

#23 Tony Vlachos – Cagayan – Episode 12

23Tony

With two idols in his pocket, including a Super Idol that could be played after the votes were read, Tony was never in danger of going home at this tribal council. Nevertheless, he played it fantastically by wearing one of his idols around his neck and holding the second in his hand, creating an air of mystery about it as he refused to disclose information. The theater at this tribal council with the idols cleared the way for Tony to make it to the end, allowing him to avoid votes in not only this tribal but the next one too. Tony’s mastery of the “bag of tricks” is one of the big reasons why he won 8-1 in the end.

#22 Ben Driebergen – Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers – Episode 14

22Ben

Coming off of two straight idol plays, Ben spent all night looking for a third, without the guarantee that another one would be rehidden in the game. The majority alliance of Chrissy, Mike, Devon, and Ryan even tried to convince Ben that they had found the idol, using Chrissy’s dead Super Idol as a decoy. However, Ben had already found the real idol. The ex-Marine played the part of a defeated man well, but not quite well enough to fool Devon, who felt something wasn’t quite right.

At tribal council, three of the four in the majority alliance voted for Ben and he once again dropped a “Ben Bomb,” negating their votes by an idol play. But Devon voted for the person for whom he had the worst relationship, Mike. Therefore, Ben’s vote, which was for Devon, was not the sole vote cast. There was a tie between Devon and Mike, and on the re-vote, Mike became the next player to join the jury. While Ben saved himself from certain execution, he once again failed to get out his exact target, so he loses a couple of points.

#21 Jeremy Collins (played on Stephen Fishbach) – Cambodia – Episode 10

21Jeremy

In the previous episode, Stephen was able to convince two of his closest allies, Spencer and Jeremy, to join the minority alliance to take a shot at the biggest challenge threat, Joe. But with Joe wearing the immunity necklace, they weren’t able to vote for him, so instead took out his closest ally, Kelly Wiglesworth. The battle between Joe and Stephen continued throughout the next few days. Stephen, being a “know it all,” definitely rubbed people the wrong way and/or scared them because of his strategic capabilities. There was one person that trusted him, Jeremy, who also saw Stephen as a strategic-meat-shield for him. Jeremy didn’t want to see the Witches Coven (Wentworth, Ciera, and Abi) go any further in the game, but his other allies were ready to ditch Stephen, with Spencer feeling closer to Joe than he did the former Tocantins runner-up.

The plan was for Spencer, Joe, Tasha, Keith, Abi, and Jeremy to vote for Stephen, while Ciera and Wentworth would put two votes on Kimmi. That would leave Stephen and Kimmi voting for Ciera. If Stephen played an idol, then on the revote between Ciera and Kimmi, the former Australian Outback pre-merger would go home. The problem with that plan was that Jeremy decided to play his idol for Stephen while also switching his vote to Ciera, sending her to the jury. It was a bold move from Jeremy, who was the only person who truly knew what was about to go down at that tribal council. However, it didn’t help Stephen in the long run, who was taken out by Spencer and the minority alliance at the next vote. But the gesture may have played a big part in getting Stephen’s vote at FTC.

Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as we continue Ranking the Survivor Idol Plays throughout the week!


Steven Schultz is a native of the great city Sacramento, CA. Steven works as a lobbyist for a fantastic non-profit. He is a proud Survivor super fan who has watched every season. You can find him tweeting about Survivor, history and Newcastle FC at @StevenWSchultz.