The 50 Best Survivor Episodes (No. 29)

“High School Friend Contest”

China, Episode 8 (Air Date: November 8 2007)
by Ian Walker

Survivor: China is one of the higher regarded seasons of the show, and with good reason: the season is just plain fun. The cast is super strong, with a great mix of players who can spout hilarious one-liners and be likable underdogs. China itself is a cool, unique location that provides a great theme, giving off an ancient historical vibe that no other season really has. Lastly, the season’s winner, Todd Herzog, plays one of the most impressive games in history, capped off by a legendary Final Tribal Council performance. All of those great elements come together nicely in this episode, offering the best of what this season has to offer.

Courtney Yates, the ultimate snark queen of Survivor, has one of her shining moments of the season by winning this episode’s immunity challenge. It was a simple competition: sit on a drum barrel that’s leaking water and don’t fall off. Luckily, the challenge was a perfect match for Courtney, whose small body proved to be advantageous, as well as her affinity for sitting still and doing nothing. What was she going to do? Her only other option was to fall off into the mud, and she hates mud.

Probst: “Courtney hasn’t moved in 32 minutes!”
Courtney: “I am lazy.”


Courtney doesn’t hoard all of the hilarity, as this episode features plenty of wisecracks from the lovable gravedigger, James Clement. In this hour, there are several moments where James gets to participate in one of his favorite activities: mocking Jean-Robert Bellande. Seriously, count how many times the bad-boy of poker whines about something and James calls him a dumbass or some other name because of it. There’s a particularly great moment right at the beginning, as the players return from camp and Jean-Robert immediately starts pouting that he got votes at the previous tribal council, and James fires back with a simple, perfect response “You want a hug?” James often gets remembered for foolishly getting voted out with two idols in his pocket, but it should not be forgotten just how funny the guy was.

Side-note: The noises James makes as he struggles to stay on the drum barrel in the immunity challenge are hilarious.

Jean-Robert gets voted out this episode and displays some deliciously oafish behavior that leads to his demise. Having deduced that the hidden immunity idol (or should that be “American Immunity Idol”?), has already been found, after spending hours looking for it, Jean-Robert is shocked to learn that his best bro James has not one, but two. The moment when Erik Huffman tells him that James has the idols is fantastic; you can see the “oh s**t” look take over JR’s entire face. He then proceeds to walk around camp telling people that he figured it out all on his own. Eventually, the Notorious JRB talks to his main strategy buddy, Todd, to initiate a plan to vote James out.

This moment allows Todd’s own game to shine. He had actually been contemplating voting James out at this juncture in the game. But as soon as Jean-Robert started running his own plans past him, that didn’t jive with Todd’s own plans for scheming. Todd decides to make like Sun-Tzu and make Jean-Robert a casualty of war, eliminating a “big threat” his game and setting himself up for a nice run to the end of the season.

Courtney: “Jean-Robert has become the Susan Lucci of tribal council, his name’s always up there but he never quite gets voted out.”


[Credit to for GIFS]

Ian, from Chicago, Illinois, graduated with a Communications major and an English minor and is now navigating adult life the best he can. He has been a fan of Survivor since Pearl Islands aired when he was 11 years old, back when liking Rupert was actually cool.

  • Zachary Chong

    This is one of the top five episodes of allllll tiiiiiime!

  • Darren

    The Susan Lucci of tribal council <3 What a great season. Way to redeem the series after the CI/Fiji slump!

  • jacolmom

    The upside to the top 50 series is I am watching the Survivor’s I have not watched. This season was pretty good!

  • Erin

    Awesome season! I always feel a bit sad for Phei Gee and Denise. Great pick, China was never dull! Todd was a master strategist and like you mentioned, overall a great group of people, and culture.