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: “I Promise…” (Episode 10)
Original Air Date: April 17, 2008
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At this point in Micronesia, things couldn’t be going better for Ozzy Lusth. He has a tight alliance and an idol. His former adversary Eliza Orlins was just voted out after playing the f***ing stick. And to top it all off, Eliza’s sole remaining ally, Jason Siska, is the clear next target. If things go as they did in Cook Islands, then Ozzy’s alliance will continue to take out all rivals and “honorably” battle it out until the Final Tribal Council.
Unfortunately for Ozzy, this isn’t Cook Islands, and he’s facing opposition that he isn’t even aware of. Before Eliza was voted off, she made sure to let everyone know that Ozzy had the real idol, an accusation that everyone laughed off at the time. Back at camp, Ozzy completely dismisses the idea that Eliza’s call-out could’ve hurt his game; that’s how confident he is in his position.
Enter the strategic powerhouse that is Cirie Fields, who confesses that she was genuinely nervous when Eliza attempted to play an idol. Thankfully, the idol was fake, and the status quo remained. Despite the comfortable position Cirie has created for herself in the dominant Favorites alliance, she slyly admits that Eliza being saved and Ozzy leaving wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.
For Jason, he knows he’s on borrowed time but has a glimmer of hope after beating Ozzy in the previous Immunity challenge. He proves himself again at the Reward challenge, where players compete in two teams formed from a schoolyard pick. Having not been selected for either team, Cirie is sent to Exile Island, while Jason’s team of himself, Ozzy, Amanda Kimmel, and Erik Reichenbach win a night away from camp. It’s a reward of excess, meaning it’s the perfect way to ignite the envy of all the other castaways who are currently starving and freezing to death.
On the opposite end, Cirie faces the worst possible conditions on Exile. It’s been pouring rain all night, leaving her with barely any time to explore. Not that it matters because with Ozzy having the idol, there’s nothing for her to gain there anyway. What Exile does give her is time to think, specifically about the idol holder himself. Ozzy is already a strong competitor, and he’s in a relatively safe position. The idol only makes him an even bigger threat. Cirie hints that she may have to get rid of Ozzy, again alluding to the plans she’s cooking up.
Meanwhile, tensions are rising back at camp. The difference in priorities between the women (Parvati Shallow, Natalie Bolton, and Alexis Jones) and James Clement irritates both sides. The disastrous weather only adds to this by confining them to the shelter. If you thought the challenge winners coming back from reward would help, you’d be wrong. For someone that should be laying low, Ozzy doesn’t help himself by going into every detail of their enviable reward, much to the tribe’s distaste.
Things pick up at the Immunity challenge, which Jason describes as pretty much life or death for his game. Various players reveal how comfortable they feel when temptations are offered mid-challenge. Cirie and Erik agree to split a bowl of candy. Alexis, James, and Natalie all lose focus in between offers and get nothing for their losses. While Ozzy drops for three chocolate donuts and Amanda asks to step down to use the bathroom. It’s both a tense and hilarious endurance challenge.
The last two standing, Jason and Parvati, are tempted with one final offer: a mixture of all the previous temptations, plus some extras. The first person to step down splits this with everyone already out. Parvati tells Jason to drop, teasing him that the food could help him make friends. Jason wants everyone’s guarantee that they won’t vote him off if he steps down. One by one, everyone agrees, some immediately (Natalie and Erik), others begrudgingly (James and Amanda), and some with their fingers crossed behind their back (Cirie and Alexis). Jason concedes, none the wiser to the blatant ill intents of his tribemates.
Jason knows that his decision either extended his life, or he just made the biggest mistake of the game (of course, how could he possibly know what was to come at the Final 5?). If you ask Ozzy, then not only did Jason make a mistake, he made one of the dumbest moves in Survivor history (again, the foreshadowing in this episode is excellent). Ozzy checks in with his alliance to ensure they’re all on board to go back on their deal, as they’re worried that Jason could go on an Immunity rampage.
With the stage set, Cirie is finally ready to take full advantage of the situation. She knows Ozzy is blinded by the idea of double-crossing Jason, so now is the perfect time to strike when he’s none the wiser and wouldn’t consider playing his idol. Numbers to pull off a blindside aren’t hard to find, as Alexis, Natalie, and Jason are immediately on board. The hardest sell is Parvati, who is stuck in between the dueling sides. She knows that Ozzy beats her if they both get to the end, but voting him out goes against her original alliance, the ones who protected her when she was almost voted out herself.
To his credit, Ozzy does contemplate the possibility of the women trying to flush out the idol. Not to his credit, he’s still playing like he’s a part of the underdog alliance rather than one of seasoned competitors. He understands that there is an advantage to being returning players, but he doesn’t realize this is all the more reason he should be wary. These players aren’t here to uplift friends; they want to increase their chances at the million-dollar prize.
Tribal covers all the major talking points; Cirie laments about the miseries of Exile, they all know about Ozzy’s idol, and everyone made Jason a promise that they may or may not stick to. Really, we just want to know if Ozzy will play his idol and if Parvati voted for him. Shockingly, Ozzy remains confident and keeps his idol. Jeff Probst reads two expected votes for Jason, then the votes for Ozzy start coming in. Soon enough, the votes are tied at 4-4, with only Parvati’s vote left. The vote has Ozzy’s name on it, blindsiding him with an idol in his pocket.
Side note: This episode also has the esteemed distinction of being the first episode with Eliza as a jury member, and her reactions are the gift that keeps on giving.
To summarize Cirie’s iconic voting confessional later in the season, you may not always beat someone with your muscles, but you can always beat someone with your brain (well, Cirie’s brain anyway). As is true with the best Survivor seasons, strategy wins the day, not brute strength. While some players were focused on taking out a potential challenge threat, Cirie, Parvati, Alexis, and Natalie took out the real one.
“I Promise…” delivers a shocking blindside of a popular contestant, continuing Micronesia‘s streak of surprise vote-offs. But it also serves as the catalyst for the Black Widow Brigade, the true stars of the season.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 33. You can check out the previous entries here.