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: “Medical Emergency” (Episode 11)
Originally Aired: April 20, 2006
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Panama is far from a conventional season of Survivor. As one of the franchise’s more explicitly character-driven seasons, Panama shines its brightest when those characters and their clashing personalities are on full display. The season has its share of strong strategic gameplay—Cirie Fields’ 3-2-1 play at the Final 6 will forever be one of Survivor’s defining moves, but the season’s messy social politics are the real selling point.
No episode better captures the chaotic spirit of Panama than the eleventh episode, “Medical Emergency.” It’s about as unconventional an episode as you can get: there’s a dramatic medevac, no Immunity challenge, no Tribal Council, and a whole lot of interpersonal conflict. Simply put: it’s an episode that only Panama could give us.
By the time the Final 7 rolls around in “Medical Emergency,” the Casaya alliance has almost completely devoured the remains of La Mina. After the successive vote-outs of Nick Stanbury, Austin Carty, and Sally Schumann, Terry Dietz is the last La Mina man standing, safe thus far only because of his impressive Immunity wins. Also, everyone knows Terry has a hidden immunity idol (one that can be played after the votes are read), further complicating the issue of booting him.
Being unable to boot Terry is far from the Casaya alliance’s only problem, though. The Casaya 6—Cirie, Aras Baskauskas, Danielle DiLorenzo, Courtney Marit, Shane Powers, and Bruce Kanegai—have stayed strong through the merge, but they’re almost always at odds. Everyone hates Courtney’s guts, and Shane’s grip on reality loosens with every cycle. But a new, unexpected problem emerges for the Casaya alliance in this episode: Bruce can’t poop.
It’s not just that Bruce hasn’t pooped in a couple of days: he hasn’t pooped since the Panamanian village reward in the pre-merge. Bruce reveals at the top of the episode that he has not only been unable to poop for over a week, but he’s also in a great deal of pain. But Bruce powers through the pain to participate in the classic Touchy Subjects challenge for an overnight reward.
Predictably, Terry gets knocked out of the challenge almost immediately by Casaya. Courtney is the answer to almost every single negative question—including the hilarious “who is the biggest poser?”—and seems genuinely shocked to learn that she’s so disliked by her tribemates. Cirie wins the challenge, sends Terry back to Exile for the third time, and picks Aras and Danielle to join her on the reward. Shane, predictably, doesn’t take not being chosen for the reward well.
While Cirie, Danielle, and Aras enjoy their overnight reward and Terry savors his time away from Casaya at Exile, Bruce, Courtney, and Shane hold down the fort back at camp. Shane is still reeling from Cirie choosing Danielle over him for the reward, and Courtney is still reeling from the realization that everyone in the game thinks she’s annoying. And then there’s Bruce, rolling on the ground in pain.
Night falls, Bruce’s condition worsens, and he finally asks for medical to come in. Courtney sings to Bruce in an attempt to comfort him. Bruce, writhing in pain, begs her to stop. Medical arrives and determines that Bruce needs to be evacuated for further treatment and observation. They need to load Bruce onto a stretcher to carry him over to the boat and ask for help from Courtney and Shane, who are probably the last two people that you’d want helping you in an emergency situation. Shane takes off his pants and gets completely naked to help load Bruce onto the boat… because of course he does.
The next morning, Shane and Courtney convene around the fire while they wait for Aras, Cirie, and Danielle to return from the reward. The two discuss a potential alliance together despite literally never getting along. The uneasy truce doesn’t last for more than .5 seconds when Shane immediately threatens to kill Courtney in her “shitty little apartment” if she ever screws him over and proceeds to tell her that she’s taking his threat too personally. So, just another day in the paradise that is Casaya, basically.
Aras, Cirie, and Danielle return to camp to discover that Bruce has been medevaced, while Shane continues to lose his mind and begins plotting against Danielle. Cirie patches things up with Shane after not choosing him for the reward, and the two swear on their kids to go to the Final 4 together. Meanwhile, Courtney takes it upon herself to write “Luv U Bruce” in Bruce’s beloved rock garden.
Jeff Probst himself lands at the beach with Terry in tow. Jeff reveals that Bruce is okay but will indeed not be returning to the game, meaning that the planned Immunity challenge and Tribal Council have been canceled. The episode comes to an abrupt end with Jeff riding off into the sunset while Terry waxes poetic about Bruce’s status as a “master Sensei.”
There’s a certain surreal energy to the back half of “Medical Emergency” that’s hard to describe. Bruce’s tragic medevac is one of the most emotional moments of the season, but his evacuation and its aftermath are both completely overshadowed by the Casaya alliance’s internal dysfunction. Between the Touchy Subjects drama, Courtney’s singing, Shane’s nakedness, the shitty apartment fight, and Shane’s paranoid scrambling, “Medical Emergency” delivers a slew of iconic moments and perfectly sets up the impending implosion of the Casaya alliance in the following episode.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 71. You can check out the previous entries here.