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: Island of the Idols
Episode: “I Was Born At Night, But Not Last Night” (Episode 7)
Broadcast Date: November 6, 2019
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As the final episode before the Island of the Idols merge, “I Was Born At Night, But Not Last Night” could (and should) have been the kickstart to one of the best second halves in Survivor history. Unfortunately, ugliness followed with the Dan Spilo incidents and production’s terrible mishandling of the situation. Nothing that came after could match this episode in terms of just straight-up Survivor entertainment.
This episode has a bit of everything. There is Janet Carbin’s emotional visit to the Island of the Idols, where she becomes the first person to turn down an offer from Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine. We also see Tommy Sheehan and Lauren Beck reacting under pressure as they find themselves on the back-foot for the first time. But the episode stands out for its perfect blend of empowering human conversations and big, bold, advantage-fuelled blindsides.
In terms of Survivor‘s ability to hold up a microscope to society, there is a thoughtful discussion at Tribal Council after Jamal Shipman brings up fears of the dreaded “Women’s Alliance.” The tribe openly and honestly discusses gender biases within the game of Survivor and how it reflects the real world. Kellee Kim, Janet Carbin, Karishma Patel, and Noura Salman each share their perspectives, and Jamal, despite his assumptions birthing the discussion, listens intently and shares his support. This is topped off by Janet’s heartfelt speech, where she calls for allyship amongst men and women.
That is Survivor with its social politics on full display, but this episode also features exciting, inventive gameplay, namely from Kellee, who pretty much single-handedly puppeteers the vote. Not wanting her idol to expire, Kellee has a flash of inspiration mid-confessional and decides to hand the idol to target number one, Dean Kowalski. Hoping to solidify a bond with Dean, Kellee tells him to play the idol and vote for Jack Nichting. Meanwhile, she covers herself by still voting against Dean and convincing Noura to vote for Jack as a safety measure.
It’s gameplay with a lot of moving pieces but constructed beautifully by one of the most promising players of the season. And in an episode where gender dynamics are a big topic, seeing a woman highlighted as such a strategic force is very refreshing. Kellee’s plan goes off perfectly at Tribal Council and even has the added bonus of flushing an idol when Jamal wastes his power on his sworn enemy Noura. While the move ends up coming back to haunt Kellee just one episode later, it doesn’t take away from the skill and thrill of her play in the moment.
Check back on Monday when we reveal which episode placed at number 91. You can check out the previous entries here.