Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Episode: “Stuck In The Middle” (Episode 10)
Broadcast Date: November 17, 2010
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Your eyes do not deceive you, dear reader. There is indeed a Survivor: Nicaragua episode on this list of best ever episodes. In compiling this countdown, the Inside Survivor team made an effort to have every season represented at least once. And so, in picking from Nicaragua, this post-merge episode is definitely the standout.
Despite Nicaragua‘s poor reputation, I’ll always have a soft spot for it. From the shoddy, low-budget vibes across the board to the wacky cast of real-life cartoon characters straight out of an SNL skit, the season borders on parody from start to finish. Strangely enough, there’s only one vaguely normal strategic episode in the entire season, and here it is: “Stuck in the Middle,” also known as the one episode where people wake up and start playing serious Survivor before lulling back into insanity.
Following Marty Piombo‘s elimination, Holly Hoffman realizes that Brenda Lowe and Sash Lenahan are the kingpins of the beach and need to be taken out. The remainder of the episode consists of Holly gradually recruiting allies to launch a coup against this power duo and take control of the game. First comes Jane Bright, free of her pledge to vote for Marty at every single Tribal Council, followed by king of the nicknames Benry Henry, Brenda’s friend NaOnka Mixon, who betrays her without hesitation, and the ever wishy-washy, plan-leaking, country-star-to-be, Chase Rice, who proceeds to muddle the move by being wishy-washy and leaking plans.
Meanwhile, NaOnka recruits Jud “Fabio” Birza on a volcano sledding reward, because of course that’s a thing they do this season. Dan Lembo joins in because he has nothing better to do. And Sash inevitably leaves his ride-or-die on the side of the road to save his hidden immunity idol. Left out of the vote is poor Purple Kelly “It’s Funny How I Don’t Talk Much” Shinn, who Holly viciously accuses of being helplessly up Brenda’s ass in the first five minutes of the episode before the editors continue pretending she doesn’t exist. And that’s what the board looks like.
This move is the biggest strategic hallmark of Nicaragua, capped off with Brenda learning about the plan to blindside her and… defiantly not doing anything to stop it because she’s above campaigning to stay? Yeah, I’ve lost the plot at this point too. It makes no sense, but whenever anyone on this season makes an illogical game move or just does something dumb that defies common sense, the reason is clear: it’s Nicaragua, a mystical land where logic goes to die in a fire because the cast is dumb enough to leave their wooden chests right next to the flames when they leave for a challenge. Wait a minute…
I almost forgot this episode is just as much of a flaming hot mess, literally in this case, as every other Nicaragua episode, even if it features some competent gameplay for once. The Libertad camp actually burns down mid-episode as the camera crew watches on, putting Butch Lockley’s Amazonian firewood disaster to shame and pushing NaOnka and Kelly that much closer to quitting an episode later. I take back what I said earlier. This episode isn’t “normal” at all. It’s still a trainwreck, but that’s what I love about it. As they always say, only in Nicaragua.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 99.