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’m In Such A Hot Pickle!” (Episode 9)
Original Air Date: April 10, 2008
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Comedy and tragedy are the two pillars that all entertainment rests upon; Survivor often incorporates both into its storytelling. This episode of Survivor: Micronesia is a rare comedic tragedy. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion that ends with everyone involved confused and covered in whipped cream. And yet, you can’t take your eyes off it.
The episode opens with Erik Reichenbach baffled that he’s still in the game—the Favorites chose to keep a Fan for the first time in the previous episode, instead voting out Ami Cusack. Due to this change in fortune, Erik swears his loyalty to Ozzy Lusth, showing his gratitude for being spared and promising he will not flip back to the Fans. In a humorous confessional, Erik compares his relationship with Ozzy to that of a monkey and a zookeeper, with Erik being the monkey.
In contrast, Eliza Orlins feels shunted aside by her fellow Favorites, with Jason Siska essentially being her closest ally at this point. Jason gives Eliza some hope when he tells her that he has a hidden immunity idol and can use it to save themselves. Eliza is obviously ecstatic with this news. However, the audience knows that Jason does not have the real idol and, in fact, is merely carrying a stick with a smiley face carved into it by Ozzy. And so the comedic tragedy of Eliza and Jason begins.
The merge arrives (with Erik setting off the trend of players naming the merged tribe something that actually means nothing), and there are some interesting dynamics at play. Parvati Shallow realizes she might be in a “hot pickle” due to being in two different alliances, one with her original Favorites and one with some of the Fans from her post-swap tribe, namely Alexis Jones and Natalie Bolton. She wants to navigate things as cleanly as possible, but she recognizes that there are many obstacles in her way.
One of the first obstacles is the drama between Amanda Kimmel and Alexis, both members of Parvati’s alliances. Alexis sees how blurred the lines between Fan and Fave have become and decides to eliminate the line altogether by snuggling up with Ozzy. This sets Amanda on an anti-Alexis path, as Amanda and Ozzy had been in a flirtmance early on. Things only get stickier when Parvati informs Amanda that she’s brought Alexis (and Natalie) into their alliance. Amanda isn’t happy as she feels like she’s losing control. “Here’s our pickle, and we’re in it,” says Parvati.
While all this is happening, the tragedy of Eliza and Jason continues. Ozzy is pretty sure that Jason has his fake idol and relishes the moment, calling it poetry in the making (he’s not wrong). Meanwhile, Eliza tries getting in with Parvati, despite having beef with each other all season. Parvati finds it laughable that Eliza tries to sell herself as loyal, so things do not look good for the underdogs. But, no need to panic, Jason promises Eliza that if he wins Immunity, he will give her his idol. A relieved Eliza feels like she made an alliance with the right person. Oh boy.
True to his word, Jason comes through, besting Ozzy to win Immunity and giving Eliza the idol. But as Eliza reaches into Jason’s bag to retrieve the idol, what she finds isn’t quite what she was expecting. She storms across the beach to find Jason, infuriated that he’s trying to play her. Eliza is too heated and too smart to realize that Jason genuinely thought this was the idol. It takes him being emphatic about it being the idol for Eliza to deliver the classic line, “That’s not the idol … it’s a f***ing stick!” Poor Jason looks confused. “But there’s a face on it,” he reasons.
The show tries to present an Alexis blindside as a potential option, but there is nothing in the world that can save Eliza at this point. She asks for a miracle in her voting confessional—as if this crappy stick will suddenly magic itself into being effective (Ghost Island style). But, Jeff Probst tells her it’s fake, as she well knows. Eliza takes this moment to out Ozzy as having the real idol before Jeff throws the stick into the fire. “Jeff, come on, that took hours to make,” Ozzy laughs, getting one last dunk on Jason.
This episode is an all-time great comedy of errors, with a beautifully absurd build-up and a highly memorable ending. The editors throw in every possible moment of Eliza and Jason looking foolish to really hammer the point home, resulting in one of Survivor‘s funniest episodes ever.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 48. You can check out the previous entries here.