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: “All Hell Breaks Loose” (Episode 8)
Originally Aired: November 5, 2009
Get exclusive content and features by supporting Inside Survivor on Patreon.
Survivor merge episodes come in all sorts of flavors, some more tastier than others. But the merge episode of Survivor: Samoa comes in the most delicious flavor of all: crazy and unpredictable. From the outset, though, it doesn’t appear that way, and that’s what makes the surprising turn of events in this episode so mouth-watering.
The dominant Galu tribe comes into the merge with eight people against the lowly Foa Foa 4, so it seems like a Pagonging is in order for the little tribe that really couldn’t. However, instability abounds within the Galu group. Having only attended Tribal Council once during the pre-merge, the Galu tribe comes into the merge with guns cocked and ready to fire. However, it’s the tribe’s own itchy trigger finger that causes them to shoot themselves in the foot.
In the middle of all the action is California bartender Erik Cardona, the man who will see his torch snuffed by the episode’s end. This is where the crazy of the episode comes in, as Erik’s demise is caused by some of the most break-neck, last-minute scrambling in the game’s history, constituted by several factors, the first of which coming from Erik himself.
Erik had already been a mightily cocky guy before the merge occurred, and his behavior hasn’t gotten any better since. That brazen attitude comes back to bite him as he bosses around the former Foa Foas by telling them who to vote for, which they do not take kindly to at all and just makes them want to vote him out even more. But it’s Erik’s off-putting attitude that gets the wheels turning in the heads of the Foa Foa alliance, leading to some savvy gameplay from the underdogs.
Natalie White, the season’s eventual winner, in particular, seizes the opportunity. She scurries around camp, talking to any Galus she can find, painting Erik as the rotten apple of the tribe who betrayed them all and needs to go as soon as possible. Natalie’s subtle but persuasive suggestion catches like wildfire, and before you know it, everybody not named Erik (save for poor Shannon “Shambo” Waters) is planning on writing down Erik’s name at Tribal.
The most ironic part of all this is that Russell Hantz—who had been flashing his precious immunity idol to anybody with eyes in hopes of grabbing some new allies—has nothing at all to do with the plan. In fact, Russell even wastes his idol at Tribal Council, playing it unnecessarily despite not receiving a single vote (though it’s hard to blame him for playing it cautiously). Instead, the Erik vote is mostly all Natalie, a key point on her resume for the eventual Final Tribal Council.
While Erik’s attitude can certainly be blamed for his ouster, he also falls victim to some genuine miscommunication. John Fincher, Erik’s closest ally and the most trigger happy of the Galus, is the one who initially floats the idea of a potential hit on a fellow Galu member after listening to one of Russell’s crazy-eyed pitches. Erik is reluctant to go along with the plan, but he signs off on it to appease his alliance mate, thereby setting the first domino that would eventually collapse and lead to his own demise.
Erik exits the game bleeding Galu purple, unfairly painted with the disloyalty brush, despite being a company man with unwavering loyalty to his tribemates. His blindside is a true gut-punch, especially as he leaves the game with an idol in his pocket. But Erik’s elimination kicks-off a wild post-merge game and is the first step in the tragic downfall of the Galu tribe at the hands of the mighty Foa Foa 4.
Check back on Monday when we reveal which episode placed at number 57. You can check out the previous entries here.