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: “Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back” (Episode 12)
Original Air Date: May 14, 2014
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Cagayan is regarded as one of the best seasons in Survivor history and for good reason. The central concept of dividing contestants into “brawn,” “brains,” and “beauty” sounded silly and potentially unsuccessful on paper. Yet, against all odds, it worked, and remarkably at that. Early on, the Brawn tribe dominates the physical aspect of the game, though not without internal drama. The Beauty tribe—marked for their supposed “social prowess”—is quickly divided by their scheming. And, well, the Brains tribe should be demolishing everyone with their intellectual superiority but are marred by chaotic self-implosions.
In the season’s home-stretch, it’s only the Brawns and Brains remaining, with Tony Vlachos, Kass McQuillen, Trish Hegarty, and Woo Hwang seemingly in control. There is only perpetual underdog Spencer Bledsoe left to contend with. However, in true Survivor fashion, plans are hindered when the underdog wins Immunity. What follows is an episode that epitomizes the most entertaining qualities of these remaining players. Tony makes promises and alliances with everything and everyone around him. Chaos Kass stirs the pot. Trish shows an unwavering sense of loyalty. Spencer saves himself at the last second. And Woo shows off his masterful dude-talking abilities.
While looking like terracotta warriors following a muddy Reward challenge, Tony chooses Trish to share in his reward. This serves to further cement their bond while also making their game and personal connection blatantly obvious to Spencer, Kass, and Woo, who consider splitting up the Tony & Trish pair. However, the real fun starts after this messy picnic for two, as information starts circulating throughout the camp. Everyone starts blaming anybody else for the ensuing mess, with Kass referring to Trish as a “goat,” which Trish overhears. Insults and llama-talk are thrown around, with Tony announcing the latter as the only practical and plausible way of communication between him and Kass.
The fireworks continue at Tribal Council, where Kass calls Trish a “wild skeleton blue-eyed banshee,” or something along those lines that she can’t recall, but she’s sure it had been accurate, and Tony demonstrating his newfound llama-banter to the jury, which leaves Jeff Probst only being able to muster a “wow” in response. Then, in an effort to remove the target from his back, Tony dives into his infamous bag of tricks and reveals both his idols. He falsely claims the special idol can still be played at the next Tribal while using the regular idol on himself that night. Then in one of the most cutthroat votes of the season, Tony joins the others in voting out his tightest ally Trish. To add insult to injury, Kass signals off Trish with a poignant middle-finger.
This episode highlights everything that worked so well in Survivor: Cagayan—active and engaging gameplay, larger-than-life personalities, underdogs winning challenges, crazy camp shenanigans, and a memorable blindside. Being the penultimate episode of the season, it paved the way for an unforgettable final four and one of the most epic finales in Survivor history.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 73. You can check out the previous entries here.