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.
Season: Millennials vs. Gen-X
Episode: “Who’s The Sucker At The Table?” (Episode 4)
Broadcast Date: October 12, 2016
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Now, this is an action-packed episode of Survivor, especially for the pre-merge! A successful idol play, an emotional idol find, two great challenges, and an incredible single-episode story for the booted castaway, all wrapped up in a neat, single-hour of television. What more could you ask for as a Survivor fan?
Before this episode, Lucy Huang not yet received a confessional, keeping a low profile in the Gen-X tribe. Yet, all of a sudden, Lucy decides this is the moment to burst out of her shell and really start playing. Her tribe had just voted off Paul Wachter at the previous Tribal Council, leaving his main two allies, Chris Hammons and Bret LaBelle, in a bad spot. Lucy has an idea to bring the two guys in and make fellow tribemate Jessica Lewis the patsy for the Paul plan. In Lucy’s mind, this is simple. She and her best friend Sunday Burquest, plus Chris and Bret, plus the trio on the bottom of the tribe (Ciandre “CeCe” Taylor, Ken McNickle, and David Wright) can all come together to vote out Jessica easy-peasy.
Except, there are a couple of problems. One, Ken doesn’t like being told what to do and stubbornly acts of his own accord, spilling the beans to Jessica about Lucy’s plan. Unfortunately, Jessica is unwilling to believe that the tribe would turn on her at this point. The second wrench in Lucy’s plan is that David has a hidden immunity idol, leaving him with an important decision to make. Is now the time to step up and make a big play, using his idol to save Jessica, thereby earning her loyalty—but also drawing a line within the tribe? Or, should he sit on his idol and let Jessica go home, potentially losing out on a great ally in the process?
David steps up and takes the swing. To the surprise of his tribemates, he plays the idol for Jessica on Day 12, making it the second earliest idol play in Survivor history (Tom Westman in Heroes vs. Villains holds the record when he played his idol on Day 11, also in episode 4). Lucy is blasted out of the game; her flame extinguished just as she was getting started. This is a move that certainly upped David’s Survivor street cred. He had already established himself as one of the season’s star characters, thanks to his quirky sense of humor and openness about his various anxieties. But this is the moment that cements him as a big-time player and strategic force of the season.
As mentioned, this episode is buoyed by two awesome challenges. The Reward challenge is a good old fashioned physical wrestling showdown in the water—the one where Michaela Bradshaw declares, “They about to see some ta-tas today.” These kinds of challenges are becoming few and far between in recent seasons, but they’re always a crowd-pleaser. Plus, Jeff Probst almost gets taken out by a giant wave! The later Immunity challenge sees the debut of the Angry Chair, where several castaways are tied together as they raise and lower the chair to allow the seated player to grab numbered tiles. It’s one of the coolest challenge set pieces the show has ever put together and should absolutely come back.
Over on the Millennial tribe, there is more idol action when Adam Klein finds his own idol. It’s here Adam opens up about his mom’s health struggle for the first time, sharing with the audience a crucial part of his motivation for playing. Adam’s story is both tragic and hopeful; his drive to make it to the end for the sake of his family’s happiness is palpable through the screen. The fact he emerges victorious by season’s end and makes good on his mission, even though his mother is only there with him in spirit by the time of the finale, is one of the more incredible stories the show has had the privilege to tell. It’s an example of what sets Survivor apart from any other show on television.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 81. You can check out the previous entries here.