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: “Secrets, Lies and an Idol Surprise” (Episode 9)
Broadcast Date: November 10, 2005
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While Survivor: Guatemala isn’t a cream of the crop season, it has moments that stand out high and above the rest. This episode does that for two reasons, the comedy and the historical significance, making it one of the best episodes of the season.
The episode begins at the Final 9 with tension between Jamie Newton and Bobby Jon Drinkard, which has been going on basically all season. Bobby Jon called Jamie out at the previous Tribal Council for having no class, which weighs on Jamie for much of this episode. Jamie thinks Bobby Jon’s attack was too personal and is a little concerned about his place on the tribe, while on the flipside, Rafe Judkins thinks that Jamie is taking it too personally. As you can see, it’s a bit of a mess.
Judd Sergeant, on the other hand, is feeling quite comfortable. He feels like he has the numbers and the trust that he needs to navigate this game. This highlights one of the best parts of this episode (and the ones surrounding it): the players in power sitting high up on the Mayan temple, looking down at the people who are on the chopping block. It’s a great piece of subtle camera work that pushes the story along, especially when all of the people sitting on the temple get their comeuppance at some point in the season.
The comedy of this episode begins after a Reward challenge that sees each castaway rewarded based on their placement. Jamie, hoping to make amends, requests to be in last place. Meanwhile, Judd, getting first place, wins steak and lobster as well as cigars and an open bar. Judd also gets to invite two people to join him at the King’s table and asks Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon. The three of them enjoy a wonderful meal, sipping alcohol and laughing to their heart’s desire, all while Gary Hogeboom (and others) sit there in jealousy, nibbling on one slice of pizza. Judd doesn’t really like Gary staring at them eating, but it doesn’t seem to stop him from ordering double and triple vodkas for the table.
When they get back to camp, Judd and Bobby Jon are absolutely drunk. Judd can barely walk but manages to keep his cigar in hand. Bobby Jon attempts to bring a stump over to the fire in the pitch black; it’s actually a 30-foot tree. It’s hilarious. The next morning we find out from Judd that he was unable to hold his liquor and that he had to run out of the shelter to vomit. Everyone else points out that he didn’t make it out of the shelter and instead vomited right on the side of it—gross, but once again, hilarious.
Judd’s final reward for placing first in the challenge is a clue to the hidden immunity idol. This was the first season with the hidden immunity idol, and the castaways had all just been made aware of its existence in the previous episode. While Judd’s clue very clearly states that the idol is NOT on the ground, he ends up telling everyone that the idol is most definitely ON the ground, which is surely not an obvious lie at all.
Jamie staves off potential elimination when he wins the Immunity challenge, meaning Stephenie and Rafe are forced to listen to him and settle on Gary as the boot for this round. However, Gary is astute and picks up that he’s in serious danger and decides to go looking for the idol. This is a great punchline to the set-up Judd gave the audience earlier. Gary notices Judd looking for the idol up in the trees, most definitely not on the ground, and is able to put two and two together very quickly.
While we don’t see Gary find the idol, we do see him play it. In this first iteration, the idol was more of an emergency Immunity necklace that could be played before the votes were even cast. When Gary plays the idol, the votes turn to Bobby Jon, and he is eliminated from the game in a 6-2-1 vote, capping off an entertaining episode of reward-related comedy and idol hijinx.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 97. You can check out the previous entries here.