The 50 Best Survivor Episodes (No. 30)

“Zipping Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”

Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites, Episode 10 (Air Date: April 17 2013)
by Ian Walker

Tribal council was looming, and Malcolm Freberg was in trouble.

Having just pulled off the big “Hold Up, Bro” spectacle at the last tribal council, Malcolm was still down in the numbers. He needed a new plan, or else he and his fellow amigos would be wiped out. Luckily, he had some things already playing in his favor: one of his buddies, Reynold Toepfer, had won the immunity necklace heading into this next tribal and Malcolm himself had a hidden immunity idol. Only the third amigo, Eddie Fox, was left unprotected and therefore the only real target left for the enemy Stealth R Us coalition.

Having already displayed a Hantzian-like quality of finding hidden idols, Malcolm decides to embark on another hunt to try to get his buddy out of a tight spot. This time, however, the other players are hip to Malcolm’s idol finding ways and are not letting him out of their sight. But, at the right time Malcolm activates his superpower and plucks another idol out of the nearest tree, in front of the main alliance members Andrea Boehlke and Dawn Meehan, who immediately spill the intel to the rest of their alliance. Now equipped with another idol, it was time for Malcolm to make some magic happen.

Later that night, the Three Amigos take tribal council hostage, as Malcolm proudly declares all three of them safe from the vote, boldly flashing their hidden immunity ammunition to the other players. From the moment he passes the second idol to Eddie, the rest of the episode shifts into hyperdrive. All of the remaining players are sent into a frenzied state of panic and paranoia, desperately attempting to shake the target off of themselves and onto anybody else.

This tribal council becomes iconic because it’s one of the rare moments in Survivor history where strategy discussions and voting plans are being discussed and changed at tribal, as John Cochran excitedly points out, and it makes for thrilling television. Even Jeff is excited, expressing his desire for an “individual pause button” so he can keep track of all of the craziness going on.

While the Three Amigos may have command of the room at this moment, they don’t handle the vote as well as they could have. Openly declaring “fun sponge” Phillip Sheppard as the target in front of the entire group wasn’t the wisest game move. The Amigos were hoping that taking out the CEO of Stealth R Us would free up the other alliance members to play with them in the rounds to come. However, like a conniving board of directors looking to oust their corporate leader, the rest of Stealth R Us allowed the outside party of the Amigos to take out Phillip, absolving them all of the need to deal with the matter of voting out Phillip later in the game.


It was, however, the best move to win the hearts of the all of the fans at home, as Phillip willingly fell on his sword and was dealt the first torch snuffing of his Survivor career. Ultimately, Malcolm’s hail mary doesn’t change anything, and he’s swiftly voted out the next episode. However, even in defeat, Malcolm is a conquering hero for having successfully sniped the Specialist out of the game, earning the adoration of the fans for ending the Stealth R Us reign of terror.

Not to be forgotten, this is also the episode where Dawn accidentally drops her retainer, which has her bottom teeth on it, into the water, and has somewhat of a nervous breakdown. She even considers quitting the game if she can’t retrieve her dentures. Thankfully, Brenda Lowe comes to the rescue and swims down to retrieve the retainer and returns it to Dawn who is eternally grateful. The reason this event is significant is that it comes back in a major way at the Final Tribal Council.


[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.

  • Ishay

    I honestly don’t know how you can find 29 better episodes than this one

    • José Zepeda

      I only find the “2 idols play by Parvati at s20” being more good.
      Besides that one, I don’t stand any other episode either.

      • Zypker124

        Erik giving up immunity was epic, in my opinion. “If It Smells Like A Rat, Give It Cheese”

    • Tommy

      Almost every episode of Cagayan

    • Erin

      Seriously? There are plenty! This was definitely a great episode. It was absolutely hilarious to see everyone other than the 3 Amigos scrambling, and right in front of each other, and loudly to boot! Agree that they should have targeted someone else, probably. No matter when it was, Phillip was definitely going at some point, he was never making it to FTC.

  • Red

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the finale’s of Fiji, Borneo or Cambodia. And like you said JT’s ouster, Erik giving up immunity. Maybe Jerri leaving in All-Stars, Brandon’s melt down, Steph being the last left, Ozzy’s blindside in fvF. And for the wrong reasons the double quit

  • hoodieNation

    This was one of the most satisfying episodes ever. I’m loving this countdown reminding me of all these.

  • Ota

    As much as I understand the Three amigos wanting to get rid of Phillip, as you said, they shouldn’t have said who they were voting for. It would be epic to see who the others voted. It is possible they would all choose Phillip too but just to see some votes being cast against someone else would probably change the course of the game.

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