Survivor: Island of the Idols

Episode 11 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not in week 10?

Photo: CBS

Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor Season 39 castaways into two categories, Hot or Not, based on who they think has potential longevity in the game. Hots are indicative of castaways who we think played well this week or who are setting themselves up for success; Nots are indicative of castaways who we think didn’t and aren’t. In order to avoid what Gus likes to call “hedging bets,” Nots cannot be given to more than half plus one of the castaways. For example, with twelve people remaining in the game, the maximum number of Nots that can be given out is seven.

Go ahead, hit us with your best shot. We’re probably wrong anyway, but that’s why it’s fun!

WARNING: This segment uses content from the “Next Time On” preview. If you are someone who doesn’t like watching those segments prior to the show, do not read further. You’ve been warned.



Lauren seems like she’s actually running the Tommy show right now. Her excellent read on the Immunity Challenge shows that her social game is actually in a really good spot. She correctly guessed nearly every single player who didn’t sit out of the Challenge. And she managed to sweet-talk half the tribe into eating. Although, I feel like anyone with enough time to plan it out ahead of time might have chosen to eat during that Challenge, as there would be no concern that your entire alliance would sit out and Karishma or Elizabeth get immunity entirely because they’re the only one playing. Even though Lauren wasted her idol, she opted to play it at a time when a LOT of idols were out flying, and when she’d already told Tommy about its existence. I really don’t think that it was such a bad idea.


Lauren is in a tight duo with Tommy, no one has discussed her as a threat, and she had a chance to show off her social awareness this week. Lauren was spot on in her assessment of who would compete the best in competitions (and who would feel motivated to compete). That kind of social intelligence is vital in the game of Survivor. Furthermore, Lauren talking up the breakfast in order to trick people into sitting out was hilarious. She was on fire this episode like I’ve never seen her, so it’s a Hot from me.



I’m really worried for Janet. Although she was right in her being able to sit out of this Challenge, and I’m sure the food helped her replenish her energy stores, I’m concerned for her gameplay going forward. Her closest ally appears to be Dan? I guess? Somehow? And beyond that, I’m sort of unsure as to what her game plan is. Karishma thew a vote her way during this Tribal as well, and I’m not entirely sure why—unless it was either to plant the idea that someone else voted for her or as a double-idol safety play should Elizabeth have also had an idol. I’m… really not sure. Regardless, I don’t have a solid read on Janet’s game at this point, and I don’t know where it goes from here.


Please don’t hate me. I feel like garbage for doing this. Janet has done such a fabulous job working her way back into the majority. That being said, she was used as a decoy vote this week. Typically, decoy votes are those in the majority that the others view as expendable. The others perceive correctly that Janet is a threat. If she can’t swim to a better position, she may just sink.



Yeah, I know I was wrong about Dean rallying the Goat Army, but I also don’t really care because I just wanted it to be true so badly. Dean’s got no idea what his place is in the game, He claims to be a physical threat, but then he sat out of the Challenge. I don’t know that he’s ever *won* a challenge. He seems concerned about goats, but, frankly, I’m pretty sure that he IS one. I did like what he did with his fake-fake advantage (goofy and silly as it was) and I think it was wise of him to hold on to the real fake advantage, but he’s still got to make it to Final 6 to even play the real fake advantage, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll make it that far. The only logic behind his doing that was in some sort of attempt to dupe people into thinking that he doesn’t have an advantage so that if his fake advantage is real, they won’t target him in advance of the time that he will use his real fake advantage… so… that he can… I’m not sure.

Regardless, though Dean is a hilarious and entertaining player, he’s not playing *well* by any means.


The funny thing about Dean is that he’s never off base with his assessments of why certain people need to stay in the game. However, when push comes to shove, his voice isn’t respected by the tribe. Dean lacks the awareness to realize his spot on the tribe and do something about it while he has the chance. The fact that he didn’t include himself in the goat army was… interesting, as Karishma and Noura have done far more to influence the game than he. 



I do so wish that I could give Karishma a Hot this week, but I just can’t. I mean, yes, she played the idol correctly. Yes, she freaked out Dan (but that’s not necessarily a good thing). Yes, she tried to form bonds with people… but she just seems dead in the water apart from that. I want Karishma to win—I really do. I think she’d be a hilarious winner and one of the perfect ways for this season to conclude. But her complete inability to perform in challenges, and the fact that the rest of her tribe seems to just not give a hoot about her, flies in the face of my desires.

Also, she voted for Janet? Why? I really don’t understand what happened there.


You know what? I had some reasons to give Karishma a Not, and I almost did. She’s on the bottom, and she’s consistently been there the entire game. Her chances of winning are slim, and she could very well go next episode. However, how can I deny her fantastic idol play? How can I ignore the fact that she wisely put a vote on Janet to get back on the majority’s good side? Do I love that she voted for Janet? Absolutely not. But when Janet comes to Karishma and asks why her name was written down, Karishma will be able to honestly tell her that Dan threw her under the bus. That could ultimately shake up the game should Janet decide to jump ship. Karishma’s on the bottom, yes, but she’s playing the bottom like a dang champ. Something tells me she’s going to squeak through another week, so let’s fight, Gus.



I really don’t know what’s going on with Noura’s rankings. She was a complete space cadet wild card earlier in the game, but all of a sudden, she’s become this legitimate player who seems to actually be well-liked by her tribemates? Combine this with her Immunity win, and all of a sudden, Noura seems like a real player. I mean, yes, she was completely wrong about Karishma having an idol or advantage, and yes, she’s still a complete wild card, but with only eight people left in the game, it’s looking more and more likely that we’re going to have wild cards sitting at the end. I really think Noura could easily make it there. Could she win? Probably not, but I think actually sort of maybe? She seems to have bonds with people, and she’s wacky enough that she might be able to charm other votes away from… honestly, only Karishma and Dan, but, still.


Noura is playing Angelina’s goat game, but better. Everyone is sleeping on Noura, but she’s making herself into a threat. She’s winning challenges, sacrificing herself for the good of the tribe, and despite Dean’s fears of a goat army, no one looked at her for elimination this week. I don’t think Noura will win, but she’s got an argument to win, and that’s more than I can say for several people left in the game (*cough* Dean).



Hey everybody, look! Tommy is continuing to play a strong social game! He’s got a strong ally in Lauren, and he’s beginning to take credit for moves that weren’t his own (Missy boot)! He’s well-liked and considered to be a threat, but nobody’s voting against him! Wow! Never seen that before! I don’t mean to be rude, honestly. Tommy’s probably a great guy in real life. I just have nothing to say for him in this write-up except ‘he is playing a very good and by the books game of Survivor.’ Let’s move on.


Tommy is in the majority, and it appears everyone is coming to him, wanting to work with him. At this point, he’s reminding me of Wendell from Ghost Island. Everyone seems to be willing to lay their games down for an obvious threat, but I can’t fault him for taking advantage of everyone else. Clearly, Tommy is doing something right. There are enough decoy threats in front of him that I think we very well could see Tommy in the final.



Dan played fine, he’s not a target, nobody’s looking at him, but I’m not gonna give him a Hot because he’s not gonna win and he’s still Feely Dan™. He’s upset with Karishma. So is everybody.


I’m surprised that Dan wasn’t mentioned when Dean spoke about the goat army. I’m interested to hear just how liked or disliked Dan was on the island. The way that Dan spoke to Karishma when she was in the hammock was very confrontational and rather condescending. He then threw Janet under the bus to Karishma, and a part of me feels that was a mistake. Karishma has nothing to lose and may immediately go to Janet and let her know. Add this to the fact that Dan’s overall game has been abysmal, and you have the recipe for a big ol’ Not.



Again, I have no idea what’s happening with alliances this season, because apparently Elaine is part of a Tight Four, and I don’t fully understand where that came from. But, then again, I got really turned upside-down at the merge and lost sight of a lot of the gameplay threads of this season. Regardless, Elaine voted for Karishma just like everyone else. She’s got some allies in I think Tommy and Lauren, which is good because Tommy seems like he’s destined to cruise to the end unimpeded. Still, in the meantime, I think Elaine is playing a fine game insofar as remaining loyal, not stirring the pot, not being a target, and being up in the numbers (maybe). If she’s able to flip on Tommy early enough, I think she might win, but I’m a little worried for her in the long run.


I have this weird instinct that Elaine is the next to go. Don’t come after me about using a feeling about justifying why Elaine deserves a Not. I have my reasons. It’s not that Elaine is doing anything poorly, but as I watch the tribe dynamics, I feel like Elaine is going to get backed into a corner rather soon. Elaine has aligned herself tightly with Tommy, but it seems that her loyalty hasn’t been repaid. Rather, Elaine puts herself on the line to keep Tommy in the game, but Tommy will ultimately be loyal to Lauren (a person who has marked Elaine as a threat and has already tried to eliminate her). Why Elaine insists on being so loyal to the likes of Tommy and Dan, I don’t really understand. In addition, there has been a constant undercurrent about Elaine’s threat level. If Elaine is truly loyal to people who will not hesitate to stab her in the back, I fear that she may not be long for the game.


GUS: Interestingly enough, Karishma and Elaine are two whose rankings I almost switched myself.

ALI: There are definitely arguments for both, but I think that Karishma has the advantage of knowing where she stands in the tribe. Elaine isn’t playing to get to the end, but she doesn’t know that.

GUS: Sure, but doesn’t that mean that Karishma will have to Driebergen her way to the end? Elaine might get blindsided, that’s true, but Karishma KNOWS she’s almost always either target number one or viewed as inconsequential by the rest of her tribe. 

ALI: Not necessarily. There’s going to be a point where the big hitters are going to start turning on each other (and it looks like they are this week in the Next Time On). Karishma will get picked up in that event, and no one will be looking at her. At this point, Karishma has the better chance of going to the end because she’s going to be able to hide behind bigger threats. Will she win at the end? Probably not. But she can get there. No one is going to let Elaine get to the end.

GUS: We also agreed that Angelina would probably make it to the end, but that she’d never win, and we gave her Nots almost every week. If we’re writing Karishma off as being all but dead in the water insofar as winning potential goes, I struggle to see why we’d make her a Hot. That was a big part of my ranking for her this week: unless she goes completely bonkertown insane with gameplay in the next few episodes, I don’t see how she can possibly swing a jury. Elaine has enough social capital that she might get saved when Tommy inevitably tries to come for her.

Also, I don’t think Karishma is going to win an Immunity. Elaine might. Elaine has. So, Karishma will be completely dependent on idols and luck to make it to the end. 

ALI: Angelina was drawing dead at this point. Karishma is not. She has a legitimate argument for why she should win. She’s the underdog. She had a flashy idol play. She has managed to survive week to week despite enormous odds. Karishma has a chance at getting in with people once they start to turn on each other, which could really turn her game around. AND, Karishma has a compelling story. Angelina gave up Immunity for rice. There’s no comparison between the two.

Elaine is aligned with people who will turn on her. It could very well happen this episode. Sadly, she’s playing for 7th. If she doesn’t shake things up soon, she’s toast, and from what I’m seeing, she’s too comfortable to shake things up. And why is that? She owes these people no loyalty (they’ve already tried to get her out), and yet she gives it freely. I worry that Elaine lacks the killer instinct to go much farther.

GUS: Possibly. And that’s part of why I nearly gave her a Not. For me, I think both Elaine and Karishma are on thin ice, but I think Elaine has a slightly wider avenue into the winner slot than Karishma does. Karishma’s playing for 3rd, and it’s much easier to play for 3rd than it is to play for 7th. All you have to do is grab a life vest.

And I’m not suggesting that Karishma grabbed a life vest. Karishma is actively fighting for her life in the game and has been for a long time. BUT, as evidenced by that great shot of her crying on the bench while everybody else ate pancakes, nobody even gives her the time of day anymore. Even if she did pull off a string of Immunities, I have to think the jury would just write her off.

ALI: Stephen Fishbach said in a recent podcast that he’d rather play for zero vote finalist than 7th place, and I think there’s some merit to that. At least Karishma has a better chance of pleading her case to the jury. She will possibly have a shot at the money. Elaine will most likely get a stipend, a jury seat, and a great time at Ponderosa. And it feels that, while Karishma is playing for herself (by necessity), Elaine is playing the game for others. It’s a great way to be in life, but not in Survivor. When trying to figure out who to give a Not to between them, I thought that ultimately, Karishma’s game has been more impressive (if messier), and that she actually has a better argument at the end coupled with a better chance of getting there. And I can’t discount the jury’s reaction to that idol play. 

GUS: In fairness, Stephen Fishbach has some experience playing for zero vote finalist. I agree that Karishma’s game has been more impressive. And I agree that she’s likely to get further than Elaine. I was about halfway through Elaine’s writeup when I realized that I was writing it like it was a Not writeup. But, regardless, I have to stick to my guns: Elaine is in a better spot, she might be able to leverage it; Karishma could be a goodwill boot in the next few weeks, or she could make it to the end.

Alright, who’s safe this week? I’m going with Janet.

ALI: I’m going with Tommy. As for the chopping block… I’m going to go with Elaine, though it breaks my heart.

GUS: I’ll go with Karishma, just to continue the fight.

ALI: I would expect nothing less. Alright, y’all! Join us next week to see us fight some more over Elaine and Karishma because that’s what this season has become.

GUS: Unless one of them goes home this week. Later!

Written by

Alexandra Shields

Alexandra “Ali” Shields is a sketch writer and playwright from Chicago and a graduate from Northwestern University. Alexandra has published humor articles with The Second City Network and Alexandra’s play, Twelve, won first place in the Jackie White National Memorial Playwriting Contest in 2018. Ali writes Inside Survivor’s weekly Hot or Not feature with her fiancé Gus.

Gus Schlanbusch

Gus is a Chicago-based theater artist and Survivor fan. He and his fiancée Ali also co-run a small theater company and produce a podcast about The Wheel of Time called “Wheel Takes.” When he’s not busy with all of that, he’s probably playing board games. Gus writes Inside Survivor’s weekly Hot or Not feature with Ali.

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