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: “My Wheels Are Spinning” (Episode 11)
Broadcast Date: November 25, 2015
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One of the more compelling story threads in the Second Chance season of Survivor is the saga of Stephen Fishbach. As somebody who had spent his time since his first season building a reputation as an expert writer and podcaster about the show, the fans that voted Stephen in expected him to be the Survivor “Know It All.” What most fans didn’t expect was the troubled past Stephen would bring with him into the game.
Everybody has personal demons from the first time they played. But the level to which Stephen is scarred by his failure to close the deal in Survivor: Tocantins—beautifully brought to life by an emotionally raw and honest confessional in an earlier episode—is palpable and sets him up to right the wrongs of his past. And then he almost gets voted out.
How did The Wizard almost get struck down? A few rounds earlier, Stephen had been bold enough to drop out of an Immunity challenge to grab a mystery advantage, which in turn put a big target on his back. Then, using the “newfound” strategy of voting blocs, he took out subtle social threat Kelly Wiglesworth, destabilizing the structure of the game and leaving himself with the task of picking up the pieces faster than anybody else.
Unfortunately, due to one of the worst Survivor storms ever and #gastrointestinaldistress, Stephen couldn’t move fast enough and left himself vulnerable to a counter-attack. It looked like Stephen’s torch was about to be snuffed in the episode before this one. But then, in the ultimate act of friendship, his best buddy Jeremy Collins busted out a hidden immunity idol and saved him, sending pesky “witch” Ciera Eastin out instead.
After being out of the loop and meeting the island Grim Reaper for the first time in his Survivor career, Stephen heads into this episode determined to make his next move. He gets his chance to lay the groundwork by playing in the ultimate throwback challenge, Survivor Folklore. Seeing this challenge come back as a nod to classic Survivor is such a treat, and doing the challenge at night, with the castaways running through the jungle with only their torchlight to guide them, is a great touch.
Narrowly beating out Spencer Bledsoe and performing the best Jedi mind trick on Abi-Maria Gomes, Stephen wins the reward. He then takes close allies Tasha Fox and Jeremy for a nice lunch to shore up his plan. Meanwhile, he leaves the rest of the players back at camp to plot his demise.
Also, back at camp, Kelley Wentworth performs her second tension-filled idol search of the season. This time, she has to locate and untie the idol from underneath the shelter, in broad daylight, while her tribemates are just a few feet away. With some stealthy waddling and expert Abi-Maria dodging, Wentworth successfully snags her second Cambodian idol.
Fast forward to the vote, and all sides think they have the numbers. After waiting round after round, Stephen’s “Golden Boy” target, Joe Anglim, has finally lost an Immunity challenge and is vulnerable to the vote. Having lost to a perceived “Golden Boy” in James “JT” Thomas in Tocantins, Stephen doesn’t want to take that chance again. So, armed with his vote steal advantage, Stephen thinks he has the numbers to take Joe out. Unbeknownst to him, Spencer has defected to the Wentworth insurgency and is on board to vote Stephen out.
When it comes time to put pen to parchment, Stephen casts his stealing spell, using Joe’s own vote against him. But Spencer, Wentworth, Abi-Maria, and Keith Nale manage to sidestep the wily Wizard and vote the Know It All out of the game. Showing tremendous sportsmanship, Stephen congratulates his fellow competitors on the “great blindside” as Jeff Probst snuffs his torch, leaving Cambodia with a smile on his face.
The countdown will continue with number 82 on Monday after the Christmas break. Inside Survivor would like to wish everybody a happy holidays!
You can check out the previous entries here.