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: “Perilous Scramble” (Episode 12)
Original Air Date: April 27, 2006
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Survivor: Panama is a season best remembered for its wonderfully weird and wacky cast members, particularly on the ramshackle Casaya tribe, one of the funniest and most entertaining tribes of all-time. But one should not forget that Panama also features one of Survivor‘s greatest players ever, a top-tier strategist who is often regarded as the best player never to win.
It takes a special kind of player to have any long-lasting impact on the game, especially past the show’s early days. You have the originators, like Richard Hatch, Sue Hawk, Tina Wesson, Jerri Manthey, Colby Donaldson, to name a few. Sean Rector and Vecepia Towery showed that a majority could be toppled. Then the likes of Rob Cesternino and Jonny Fairplay came along a couple of seasons later to shake things up. While the show continued to deliver memorable characters post-All-Stars, the number of historically impactful players, who actively changed the game, became less common.
Cirie Fields, however, is one of those players.
Showing couch potatoes everywhere that they can get off the sofa to play Survivor, Cirie establishes herself in Panama as a legitimate player with a natural skill for the game, in addition to having a very vibrant and likable personality. She’d already had some stand-out moments earlier in the season, but it’s here, in this episode, where Cirie leaves a significant strategic mark on the game, with her famous 3-2-1 voting plan at the Final 6.
Knowing full well that she’s not the kind of player who can rely on winning the final Immunity challenge, Cirie figures she has to be brought to the Final Tribal Council by another player. However, standing in her way is Courtney Marit, the “poser” that almost everybody else wants to take to the end as a goat. Because Courtney currently occupies the role that Cirie covets, the future Survivor all-star sets about creating a plan that will allow her to snatch that spot for herself.
First, Cirie rounds up her troops, pulling Danielle DiLorenzo and Aras Baskauskas to her side to vote off Courtney. Next, she lets Danielle play along with Courtney and Terry Dietz, both of whom believed they had just formed a new alliance with Danielle to take out Aras. Shane Powers—the last part of the equation—is left alone on his thinking chair with his intention to vote for Danielle.
Coordinating all of these moving parts of the plan could easily flummox most players, but Cirie isn’t most players. She is the woman who, back in the first episode, convinced her little tribe of four to keep her—a person with a self-diagnosed phobia of leaves—over the “lumberjack lady.” From the very beginning, Cirie knew that the key to the game was the building of strong social relationships.
Cirie proves so good at forming deep bonds with her fellow players that everybody in the game trusts her by the time of this Final 6 round. Through all of this subtle manipulation, making sure all of the parts are perfectly in place, Cirie’s 3-2-1 plan goes off without a hitch, sending Courtney home and putting Cirie, Aras, and Danielle in the driver’s seat as the game heads into the final stretch.
It should be noted that while Cirie is busy building her strategic legacy this episode, Shane adds to his Survivor legacy in a much different way. Having already proven to be one of the most outrageous characters the show had ever seen, Shane decides to take it up a notch with his kookiest moment so far, the infamous wooden Blackberry.
Simply put, Shane finds a piece of wood that is shaped like a Blackberry and uses it to “call” and “email” his son back home. While a way of humanizing Shane, showing his desire to communicate with his son, it also shows just how “A.D.D. Psycho Boy” Shane had become over the course of the season, as he crazily admits to “communicating with people not on this island.”
Spotlighting these two characters in such an integral way pushes this episode to be the season’s very best, displaying the kookiness of Panama‘s brilliant cast alongside the strategic complexity of Cirie’s game.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 28. You can check out the previous entries here.