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: “High School Friend Contest” (Episode 8)
Originally Aired: November 8, 2007
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Survivor: China is a highly regarded season for a good reason: it’s just plain fun. The cast is an excellent mix of players who provide comedy and gameplay in equal measure. The unique location offers an exciting theme, giving off an ancient historical vibe that no other season has. Lastly, the season’s winner, Todd Herzog, plays one of the most impressive games in history, capped off by an iconic Final Tribal Council performance. All of those elements come together beautifully in this episode.
Courtney Yates, the ultimate snark queen of Survivor, has one of her shining moments of the season by winning this episode’s Immunity challenge. It’s a simple competition: sit on a drum barrel that’s leaking water and don’t fall off. Luckily, the challenge is a perfect match for Courtney, whose smaller frame proves to be advantageous—as well as her affinity for sitting still and doing nothing. “Courtney hasn’t moved in 32 minutes,” Jeff Probst comments from the sidelines. “I am lazy,” Courtney quips back.
There are more wisecracks in this episode from lovable gravedigger James Clement. Across the hour, there are several moments where James gets to participate in his favorite activity: mocking Jean-Robert Bellande. Seriously, count how many times the “bad boy of poker” whines about something and James calls him a dumbass or something similar. There’s a brilliant moment at the start of the episode when Jean-Robert moans about getting votes at the previous Tribal. James fires back with a simple yet perfect response: “You want a hug?” James is often remembered for his double idol blunder, but it shouldn’t be forgotten just how funny a character he was.
Side-note: The noises James makes as he struggles to stay on the drum barrel in the Immunity challenge are also hilarious.
Speaking of Jean-Robert, he displays some deliciously oafish behavior in this episode that leads to his demise. Having deduced that the hidden immunity idol (or should that be “American Immunity Idol?”) has already been found (after hours looking for it), Jean-Robert is shocked to learn his buddy James has not one, but two idols. You can see the “oh s**t” look take over Jean-Robert’s face when Erik Huffman tells him about James’s idols. The poker pro then proceeds to walk around camp, telling people that he figured this out all on his own. It’s classic Jean-Robert cringe comedy.
The Notorious JRB then attempts to initiate a plan to vote James out by bringing the idea to his main strategy sounding board, Todd. This moment allows Todd’s own game to shine. The cunning flight attendant had actually been contemplating voting James out himself at this juncture of the game, having broached the idea with Amanda Kimmel and Michael “Frosti” Zernow earlier in the episode. But as soon as Jean-Robert starts running his own plans past him, that doesn’t jive with Todd’s strategy to be the one calling the shots.
Todd decides to make like Sun-Tzu and make Jean-Robert a casualty of war, eliminating a “big threat” to his game. He brings up his new plan to his alliance, which is music to Courtney’s ears. Having beefed with Jean-Robert since Day 1 and yet never being able to get rid of him, she thought this day would never come, leading to a classic confessional. “It’s a widely-known fact that Jean-Robert and I have hated each other since Day 1,” says Courtney. “So if everyone’s finally willing to vote him out, then great. But he’s become the Susan Lucci of Tribal Council. Like, his name is always up there, but he never quite gets voted out.”
However, this time the vote sticks, with Jean-Robert having no clue his game is about to come to an end. He talks at Tribal about how the old Zhan Hu members got dealt a bad hand and there is nothing they can do to change it. Little does Jean-Robert know that the cards have been reshuffled, sending him to the jury in a 5-3-1 vote.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 68. You can check out the previous entries here.
Also, speaking of Survivor: China, we are currently rewatching that season with the Inside Survivor Patrons every Wednesday night on the Inside Survivor Discord. If you would like to join in and chat while we watch-along, sign up for the Inside Survivor Patreon today.