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.
Season: San Juan del Sur
Episode: “This Is Where We Build Trust” (Episode 10)
Original Air Date: November 26, 2014
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San Juan del Sur stands out for how its storyline is framed. While usually, a few players receive the coveted ‘winner’s edit,’ both of the season’s early candidates for this distinction, Josh Canfield and Jeremy Collins, are voted out back-to-back, right at the beginning of merge. Despite a season full of blindsides, no idols have been played yet, so there are still three left in the game. Jon Misch has one, Keith Nale has another, and the last one has yet to be found. This all changes here.
Jon is feeling confident coming back from Jeremy’s blindside. His problem is that he now stands out as the biggest threat to win, and many people are aware of it. The trio of Keith, his son Wes Nale, and Alec Christy are currently on the outs, but the real point of contention, especially for Jon, is Natalie Anderson. The majority alliance completely blindsided her by taking out Jeremy, her closest ally, and did so despite Natalie being part of this supposed alliance.
Natalie had always been honest with the alliance from the start, so now she’s feeling very betrayed. In an effort to gain back her trust, Jon tells her about his idol. Natalie pretends this is enough to keep her at bay, but she is already plotting her revenge in the back of her mind. She wants to give Jon a taste of his own medicine, and she starts by getting to work that night, hoping to find the last hidden idol.
Reed Kelly is also thinking long-term. He was in on the Jeremy vote, but he isn’t sure which way he needs to go from here. He could stick with Jon’s alliance and pick off the other three guys, or he can join the underdogs in going after Jon. Reed makes his decision following the Reward challenge, where he gives up his spot to Missy Payne. While it’s a nice gesture, what Reed really wants is to use the time at camp to get the ball rolling on a possible Jon blindside.
There are some sweet moments at the reward, where the winners serve as Survivor ambassadors to deliver baseball equipment to children in a nearby village. Missy reflects on her time as a single mother, and Jaclyn Schultz opens up about her struggles with MRKH syndrome and desire to have a family with Jon. It’s a touching reward all around and a lovely bit of insight into the players’ personal lives. But in the meantime, the real strategy is happening back at camp.
With Wes away at Exile Island, Reed sits down with Keith to explain his plan. The other alliance wants to split the vote next Tribal between Keith and Wes in order to flush out their idol. This will only work if Alec and Reed both vote against the Nales. Instead, Reed and Alec will vote with Keith and Wes to take out Jon. Keith admits it’s a good plan, but whether or not he understands the intricacies of the game is another matter entirely, one that Reed is struggling with.
The other two at camp, Natalie and Baylor Wilson, use the time to go on an idol hunt. Going off of Baylor’s clue, Natalie finally finds the idol, the third one in the game. This also solidifies her trust in Baylor, who she considers her new number one ally. Now that she has an edge in the game, Natalie wants to take another guy out before Jon to minimize the chances that the remaining guys will pick all the women off. Their target for the next vote is Reed, the most likely challenge threat out of the men left.
As expected, the Immunity challenge complicates matters. It’s a test of endurance where players have to balance their feet on a narrow perch while holding a handle above their heads. Soon enough, the temptations start to come out. Jon drops early on after candy and chocolate are offered, and Missy follows suit not long after. Baylor and Jaclyn agree to split chocolate chip cookies and milk, and Wes ends his shot for wings and beer.
Might I add that Wes on the sideline is an underrated gem? He lets Jeff Probst know that he loved his cameo appearance on Two and a Half Men. And did you know that Wes once ate 58 chicken nuggets in 5 minutes? Well, now you do, whether you like it or not.
Things start to heat up once four players are remaining, starting with Keith calling out Natalie’s alliance for dropping so early and leaving her alone. He’s not wrong, but what’s done is done, and it’s not changing the status quo just yet. Keith and Alec eventually drop as well, leaving it between Natalie and Reed. Natalie, after accidentally spitting on herself, asks Jeff if there are any extra temptations. As if he was waiting for someone to ask, Jeff brings out a mix of everything that had already been offered. Natalie gets her food, and Reed gets Immunity.
With the challenge now over, Reed can’t help but notice Jon stepped down seven minutes into the challenge. It’s always telling when players voluntarily step down in a challenge; only someone completely comfortable would risk it. Reed and Alec decide to take their shot here and plan to vote with the Nales while the other side splits their votes. It’s a good plan, if not an easy one to figure out. Jon doesn’t believe Alec and Reed will vote with them, but Missy still thinks that splitting the votes is the best way to get rid of the idol.
Jon knows going into Tribal that he’s really putting faith in his alliance. As of now, it’d be a waste to play his idol unless he was 100% positive that he needed it. Jeff brings up the topic of idols at Tribal and how they haven’t seen any played yet. Keith thinks it’s because people are too comfortable, as the Immunity challenge had shown. But here is where everything breaks down into a big old mess.
Reed brings up the possibility of Wes and Keith sharing an idol in an attempt to throw off the other side. Keith doesn’t catch on to his intentions and drops his infamous “stick to the plan” line while looking directly at Reed. Reed tries to recover by accusing Keith of feeding into the paranoia, but the damage is done. Before the votes are read, Natalie pushes Jon to play his idol, which saves him. Keith and Wes go back and forth about where to play Keith’s idol, and Wes gives his dad the okay to play it for himself. When the votes are read, 4 votes for Jon and 3 for Keith are negated, leaving just 2 valid votes, both for Wes.
With Wes officially voted out, Jon’s confidence shows once more. He’s overtly boastful about how happy he is to have played that idol, failing to mention that Natalie was the one that convinced him to play it. And while things may be going well for Jon, Natalie is the one positioning herself for the end game.
Despite the episode title, “This Is Where We Build Trust,” being said from Jon to Alec, it’s Natalie who builds trust with her alliance members fresh off of a blindside of her closest ally. Now she’s in a secure spot socially, on top of having the last idol left in the game. She’ll go on to pull off one of the most impressive endgames ever, but this is where she truly begins to set herself up for success.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 40. You can check out the previous entries here.