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: “Apple in the Garden of Eden” (Episode 7)
Original Air Date: November 6, 2008
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In a crazy season like Survivor: Gabon, it’s hard to pick just one standout episode that captures how bizarre the 39-day journey is. Ironically, my pick for the craziest episode of the bunch, “Apple in the Garden of Eden,” is also the most strategy-fueled hour of the entire season and flips the whole game on its head out of nowhere.
The dominant Onion alliance, led by equally dominant front-runner Marcus Lehman, had bulldozed the ragtag group of misfits on the Fang tribe all season up until this point. It seemed the story of the season was set in stone: the Fangs would keep failing miserably, and the Onions would be the victors, ultimately giving Marcus a comfortable win at the Final Tribal Council. Well… this episode had other plans.
There is a twist in this episode that is fittingly bizarre for Gabon. Both tribes are invited down to the beach for a “merge” feast and are given a chance to mingle and find a “merge tribe” idol (which they collectively decide to throw in the ocean because… Gabon). The tribes are then blindsided with a second swap. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a little unfair given the Immunity challenge in this episode is clearly meant for individuals rather than tribes, indicating the swap was a last-minute twist on production’s behalf. But it’s Gabon, a magical season where logic randomly decides to jump out the window whenever it pleases, so we roll with it!
Following the tribe swap, the Onions are finally vulnerable on the new Kota, with unlikely allies Ken Hoang and Crystal Cox on one side and Bob Crowley and Marcus locked in on the other. In the middle of these two pairings? Susie Smith, who was virtually unseen until she inexplicably said she wanted to vote Corinne Kaplan out to her face, was targeted in a split vote plan and was left feeling burned by the Onions in the previous episode.
Of course, Susie makes the rational and almost game-winning move by flipping, giving the Fangs some real power for the first time. But what makes this epic downfall worthy of this list? The fact that Marcus threw a free idol in the ocean in the same episode, bragged about how perfect it was for his game to do so, and said he didn’t need it after the swap because his relationships were just too good to fail him. Plus, he had a connection with Crystal’s cousin outside the game, an advantage most players could only dream of, and had a numerical advantage on his new tribe as long as Susie didn’t flip.
Yet Marcus still manages to be voted out by the most unlikely group of power players the game has ever seen, all thanks to a deus ex machina of a tribe swap. Counting the “tribal” immunity challenge, Marcus had four lifelines to fall back on, and they all fell down like dominoes one after another in glorious fashion. It also must be noted that Marcus’s blindside leads to the greatest Survivor GIF of all-time in the following episode.
This episode also has some of that classic Gabon comedy. Randy Bailey is obviously a stand out with his beach-side confessionals where he’s literally drunk with power. Crystal lasting one second in a “stand still and don’t move” challenge is another one for the record books of hilarious challenge fails, and her voting confessional against “The Kota God” is amazing. Corinne using her airtime to complain about Susie and worry about Marcus is the perfect set up for the next episode’s aforementioned reaction GIF. Matty’s amazing laugh during the challenge is amusing. And it’s just satisfying to watch all the Onions’ smug faces drop when the second swap is revealed and their hopes of a continued steamroll are put on ice.
It’s just a near-perfect episode all around. You’ve got dynamic gameplay from people you wouldn’t expect, great one-liners flying left and right, pay off for long-running stories that feel earned, funny moments par for Gabon‘s course, and a satisfying blindside that significantly changes the season for the better by shifting the power towards the chaotic underdogs.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 79. You can check out the previous entries here.