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: South Pacific
Episode: “Then There Were Five” (Episode 14)
Broadcast Date: December 14, 2011
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This episode of Survivor: South Pacific dives into some of the straight-up darkest stuff the show has ever seen, exploring new lengths some will go to win this game, even if they have to evoke the power of God to do it. And yet, it is also one of the most fascinatingly complex and human episodes of Survivor ever, which makes it worthy of featuring on this Best Episodes countdown.
After wiping out the opposing Savaii alliance, the Upolu alliance has reached the Final 5 and now have to finally turn on each other, with the target setting squarely on Brandon Hantz’s back. Despite all of the sudden outbursts and volatile mood swings, several of the Upolus, namely eventual winner Sophie Clarke, see the vulnerable and sweet kid that lies beneath Brandon’s hard exterior, which makes him a serious jury threat and therefore someone that needs to be taken out.
However, after pulling out a clutch victory at the next Immunity challenge, Brandon appears to have staved off elimination. Now, it’s Brandon’s best buddy Albert Destrade in the crosshairs. Not wanting to see his pal go, however, Brandon announces to both Albert and his in-game mentor, Coach Benjamin Wade, his intentions to give up his Immunity necklace to Albert, fully believing his two closest allies will have his back.
What follows is a dubious yet captivating sequence, as Coach reasons and pleads with the Lord Above about providing him with a name to write down other than Brandon’s in the event the young Hantz does give up his Immunity necklace. As he looks for divine intervention, Coach claims he only sees one name over and over again: Brandon.
When the tribe sits down for Tribal Council, Brandon immediately gives up Immunity to Albert. The proceeding Q&A remains one of the best Tribal sessions Jeff Probst has ever conducted. Brandon opens up about his history being both a member of a gang and the Hantz clan (is there a difference?) and how he would do just about anything to gain love and acceptance from those groups, and just how hard it’s been for him to achieve those things. While all of this is going down, the audience is left wondering whether Coach is really going to pull the trigger on young, naïve Brandon—and he does.
In one of the most chilling moments in Survivor history, Coach evokes the name of God as justification for voting out Brandon and tells him on his way out, “It’s God’s will, go win Redemption.” It’s perhaps the most dramatic act of Coach’s Survivor career, including his epic trip to Exile. It also cements Brandon as one of the most tragic Survivor figures. This young kid desperately wants to feel like he belongs to his Survivor family but ends up getting taking advantage of instead. It’s a defining moment for both this season and in the Hantz family legacy on Survivor.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 87. You can check out the previous entries here.