Survivor: Ghost Island

Historical Perspectives: Idolizing Idiots

Andy Pfeiffer travels back into Survivor history to look the ideal time to play an idol.

One Bad Decision Can Haunt You Forever
The Noble One learned, much to Dom’s pleasure
He looked like a dolt, just sittin’ on his idol
And Jiffy Pop snuffed his torch at that night’s Tribal

Despite an equal inability to rap, this week’s Historical Perspectives will look at what Chris Noble should have learned when weighing whether or not to play his idol. Chris knows a surprising amount of Survivor history and reminisced pre-game about Joel dragging Chet like a ragdoll in Micronesia. He can follow.


For some inexplicably stupid reason, Chris Noble didn’t play his idol once his intended target played one. This logic makes no sense to anyone watching, and there’s no doubt Chris merits a Survivor Darwin Award for how he went out. At the very least, he did not leave his idol behind at camp like a certain moron did the year before, unforgivably presuming his safety despite his blatant and open betrayal of Queen Sandra’s alliance the Tribal Council prior. J.T. Thomas legit thought he was safe and justified this thought with his laziness. All he should have been concerned with was three more days in Game Changers – three more days that would have presented him with a swap. An idol with him in a 4-1 hole, with Aubry switching to make it 3-2, would have saved his life and given him feet to land on. Instead, he looked like a massive dumbass for the second time in his Survivor career. Embarrassing for someone who once won the game!

Chris Noble may be high on himself, but at least he knew better and brought it to Tribal Council. For some reason, even though Domenick had played the Legacy Advantage, he sat on his despite having only two opportunities to play it. He joins a list of eleven people – if Lauren Rimmer is to be given a separate category for her negligent donation (a category also shared with J.T.) – to leave the U.S. Survivor with an idol on hand. He is the dumbest after James Clement, who had two idols for three rounds (67% safety), since Chris had guaranteed safety in one of two rounds (50%). The merge vote is by FAR the better time of the two to play it, simply because the loyalties of the new tribe have not been fully established yet. Better safe than sorry! Chris chose to be sorry. He had never been to Tribal Council, so how could he trust anyone else in the game? He’d never known if anyone could be trusted, except for his friend Angela and enemies Domenick and Wendell.


Even though Chris appeared to have gotten away with his Ghost Island tryst in the night, he was still a threat without public knowledge of his possession of an idol. Had he been spotted, his target would have expounded and he’d have been unable to do anything after saving himself with the idol. He also would have had to explain that he didn’t have a vote, which would have made him even easier prey. The best option was to not press his luck any more than once – since the odds of successfully calling five coin flips in a row is 1 in 32. Keep your vote, take immunity for the first merge vote, and use it to establish a loyal alliance and attempt to get out one of your rivals. Of course, Domenick and Wendell had three idols between them, so Libby would have gone no matter what, and Chris loses a potential Mrs. Smith.


Chris Noble is the first to leave at the merge with an idol in his pocket in a season in which a swap occurred; the two examples without a swap are Brendan Synnott in Tocantins and Erik Cardona in Samoa. What makes these two blindsides more akin to Ghost Island were that both Brendan and Erik were cannibalized by members of their own tribe, the one in the majority, utilizing the minority as pawns – a minority that would later usurp control from them. Like Timbira and Galu had no reason to know who from Jalapão and Foa Foa respectively could be trusted, Chris had yet to vote with anyone from either tribe, so he went in with twelve clean slates. This is a good time to play an idol if you’ve only got two chances.

Brendan in Tocantins thought he had control, thinking his friends Taj Johnson-George and Stephen Fishbach would side with him because of their Exile Alliance. However, Brendan did not take into account that other players don’t have telekinetic powers and therefore can’t read his mind. Like his negligence had led him to forget informing his friend Sierra Reed about the alliance in the first place, it led to him forgetting that not checking in with either Taj or Stephen would naturally get them to think his grasses were greener with Timbira. Meanwhile, Brendan’s rival Tyson Apostol fostered relationships with the Jalapão Three, allowing him to turn them against the negligent Brendan. To avoid his Day 24 snuffing, Brendan should have recognized the need to check in with Stephen and Taj to ensure their loyalty and that, since he didn’t, they felt that he was disloyal and blindsided him.


Chris is just as unaware of other players as Brendan was. He missed that Donathan had a working relationship with Domenick. And he certainly had the wrong idea holding a house meeting at the well. He says everyone followed him there and the plan was to address only Des and Angela, but why did he tell everyone everything and not expect that at least one of them would inform Domenick? And by shooting down Wendell’s proposition of a truce for a round or two to remove a Malolo threat, he ensured that both Domenick and Wendell were against him. Never say no to an offer, even if you don’t intend to entertain it. It’s more entertaining to say yes, then mock it all in confessional.

Erik Cardona was a victim of a tribe overeager to cannibalize itself. Galu had only voted someone out at Tribal Council once when the obnoxious Yasmin Giles was taken out. Erik found himself caught in the Galu crossfire and by making the mistake of trying to recruit Natalie White to vote out Monica Padilla like John Fincher had suggested, he sealed his own fate since Natalie used that to rally the Galu women against him. That one bad decision has haunted Erik forever. Chris Noble made the same kind of gaffe in giving Wendell a reason to target him by shooting down the proposition of a truce. He also was just as unaware of how others perceived him – some had hated him since pre-game when they saw how he smiled at his abs, one at a time. And like Erik should have recognized that Laura Morett and Monica were hostile toward him and played his idol, Chris knew he was getting two votes and should have played his. When others could take advantage of a split to piggyback off of the minority and you have two rounds to play it, why not?


A notorious example referenced multiple times this season was that of James Clement in China, who had two idols for three rounds and played neither, trusting his alliance a little too much. Unlike Chris, however, James did not have the same level of warning signs nor did he make other major mistakes. He simply should have used the fact that both of his idols were public knowledge and decided to play one – especially since, if Peih-Gee and Erik Huffman were voting for him, it would only take two to flip to get him the four votes he needed to leave. When you know you’re getting votes, and the idol’s expiration is not far off, play the dang thing. Or, when you’re already a major threat like Ozzy Lusth the next season and are publicly outed as having it due to the failure of the F***ing Stick, play it! Like James and Ozzy, Chris was a strong physical competitor even in a state of delirium, so he could have won challenges.

Jason Siska in Micronesia looked like a dumbass for sitting on his idol because Natalie Bolton had told him right before the Immunity Challenge that there was no need for him to win it. This is something that anyone with a brain would find alarming, since why would she go up to him right as he returned from Exile to say that if he wasn’t the actual target? This isn’t much different than Domenick announcing he was voting for Chris! Scot Pollard in Kaoh Rong sat on his buddy Kyle Jason’s idol and expected Tai to come through with a paired-up Super Idol, but Tai shook his head in one of the most beautiful moments in the history of television. Like Scot and Kyle Jason had ostracized Tai enough for Aubry to pounce, Chris did not manage everyone in the game well – and it only made his target bigger than Domenick’s or Wendell’s. Middlemen like Tai were more willing to drift to that side and, once the numbers were there, the holdouts like Libby, Jenna, and Sebastian were willing to let the Noble One walk.

"I'm Not Here to Make Good Friends" -- Scot Pollard at Tribal Council during the tenth episode of SURVIVOR: KAOH RONG -- Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty. The show airs, Wednesday, April 20 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Screen Grab /CBS Entertainment �©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights. Reserved.


A “wasted” idol is defined as one played when the vote does not necessitate it while offering no benefits to the one playing it. It is not one played at the final opportunity to do so, it is not one used on someone else to secure their loyalty in a vote with unknown variables (like Adam playing his on Hannah in Millennials vs. Gen X), nor is it one played on the incorrect person in a minority alliance when someone from that alliance is snuffed. Less forgivable exceptions include Malcolm’s double bluff in Caramoan, which was an intimidation tactic that led to someone else flipping but with the idol being played nonetheless. The reverse is true in Cagayan, when Chaos Kass already intended to flip before Tony started intimidating people with his idol.

Chris was for some reason more afraid of preemptively wasting his idol than he was being blindsided by Domenick and Wendell while sitting on it. This is hard to understand. It’s not unlike Michael earlier in the season, knowing that one of his foursome was about to be voted out. Michael needed to play that idol. Chris needed to play his because he knew he was getting votes. A comparable incident is Kristina Kell on Day 6 of Redemption Island, who was absolutely convinced that the Robfather was voting her out and while she did get two votes, Rob piled all the others on a nimrod then named Matt Elrod instead because he knew about the idol.


Another comparison is in One World, when Troyzan was convinced he was being voted out. One problem: he didn’t realize that his closest ally, Jay Byars, was dumber than a pile of bricks and had ratted out the plan to Kim Spradlin, because Jay always trusts a pretty lady. Kim promptly changed the target to Jay, leading Troy to waste his idol. Similar to Troy was Nick Iadanza, who was caught looking for the idol in Australian Survivor 2016 at the merge tribe of 13 but continued anyway, leading his eventual find to become public knowledge. He promptly burned it at 12, knowing they all thought of him as a snake and were targeting him, though oddly he didn’t receive the majority of the votes. Chris’s idol was a secret, but like these three, he knew he was definitely getting votes. He just thought that he had more on his side, perhaps using incidents like Kristina and Troy as precedent. But their idols had longevity – his didn’t, which is why he looked more like Matt and Jay instead. Had his idol been good until final five, it wouldn’t have been so dumb for him to take the chance and hold onto it.


It’s hard to fathom what Chris Noble was thinking. He could have earned himself two more days in the game had he played that idol, and there’s no guarantee that if he played it that he’d be rapping at Ponderosa after the next vote. When you’re 100% sure you’re getting votes – Domenick announcing it certainly is noticeable – it’s probably best to play it. Don’t look like John Rocker in San Juan Del Sur and tell paranoid people about it. Don’t look like Reynold Toepfer in Caramoan and play it when you only get one vote. Your paranoia needs to be at a healthy level. Chris wasn’t paranoid at all. He was cocky in thinking everyone would do what he said. They all voted him out instead.


In an era of Survivor littered with twists and advantages, it’s easy to learn from Chris Noble. Play your advantage if you’re even slightly paranoid shortly before its expiration. Domenick did the right thing in playing his Legacy Advantage knowing Chris was voting for him, though Chris’ vote was actually nonexistent. That advantage was only good one of two rounds. Chris’s idol was exactly the same. The reason Domenick won the Naviti Civil War was because he has a game awareness that Chris never will. Future players looking back at The Noble One will think he was an idiot for not following his rival’s lead and playing his two-round idol out of healthy paranoia and, in a similar situation, will go ahead and give the thing to Jeff. Even if they didn’t get the majority of votes, at least they guaranteed themselves more time in the game – more time that could allow them to change the tide.


Written by

Andy Pfeiffer

Andy is a 30-year-old from Wisconsin, having an English major from UW-Whitewater. He has watched Survivor from the very first episode and can't go a day without running Survivor-related thoughts in his head. When he's not entranced by a computer at home or work, he's probably playing a video game or out and about somewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @IAmAndyPfeiffer.

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