Survivor: Island of the Idols

Episode 2 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not in week two?

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.


Dean_1GUS – NOT

You all may not know it, but Dean is running this entire game. He’s controlling his entire tribe, and he was even singlehandedly responsible for Molly’s boot. If you watch very carefully, during Lairo’s Immunity win celebration, Dean stands up very straight, turns around to Vokai, and says, “VOTE MOLLY OUT, ALL YOU MINIONS OF MINE.” I was surprised they left that in the episode.

Oh, wait, sorry, all of that was my fever dream.

Yeah, Dean did literally nothing this episode besides be good at challenges (I think) and not get confessionals. He seems neat, and I like him, but it also looks like Lairo is about to become Black Widow Brigate 2.0 version 55, and I think it might actually work this time? And though I don’t see Dean being the first one in line for execution, I think he might be up there.





The girls’ alliance seems to be going strong. And though we got VERY little Lairo this week (due to the Island of the Idols taking up a massive chunk of the episode), Karishma looks like she’s still positioned well for the next few episodes unless [NEXT-TIME-ON SPOILER!] she gashes her hand open and is medevac’d.


I didn’t see a lot of her this week. She was the person remaining who was closest to Aaron last week, and he may want to seek revenge against her. Also, she doesn’t look like she’s going to do too well in the previews for Wednesday. In all, I think it’s safe to say that she’s in trouble.



I guess Elizabeth’s lie worked? Because nobody said anything about it? And she’s going to have another player go to the Island of the Idols from her tribe, so she’ll probably bond with that person when they get back (assuming they don’t go full wildcard and expose Elizabeth as a liar)? So that bodes well? I don’t know, y’all. She didn’t have any content this week, but I think she’s in a good spot. Also, she’s publishing a book next year, which I think is pretty cool.


Not a ton of Elizabeth this episode, but it looks like she’s pretty firmly in the majority. I think the future looks bright for her right now.



Chelsea joins Janet as a fire-making Q.ueen. We saw almost no Lairo this week apart from Chelsea making fire and the girls’ alliance strengthening. All of that might be a pile of red herrings, but I’ve got a good feeling about it—especially considering that the guys are remaining disparate and apparently have no idea that the girls are working together.


This woman found an idol in the wild when it was dark. Her Survivor bucket list is slowly emptying. And it looks like she’s found herself in a solid majority alliance. It’s good to see that ten years of patience is paying off. She’s so on fire, she’s Hot.



Following up on her stint as the only person who actually matters in the episode, Elaine was completely invisible this week, and I really can’t think of a single thing she did, apart from navigating the post-Ronnie blindside very well. And to be fair, she did handle that VERY well. She gets a Hot by merit of being (apparently?) firmly with the numbers.


I really liked the way Elaine handled Aaron’s blindside. She essentially encouraged everyone to move forward. Even though Aaron didn’t buy into it (more his problem than hers), I think she put that very well. I also think that she’s riding enough good vibes from last week that I’m not going to give her a Not without provocation.



Unlike Elaine, Missy didn’t navigate the post-Ronnie blindside that well at all—at least, in my opinion. Her approach to Aaron seemed a little blunt and heavy-handed to me, and it seemed like a prime way to set her up for targeting by an anti-Girls’ Alliance counterattack. I always worry for the folks who throw themselves into leadership positions early in the game, and Missy is no exception.


I’m a little concerned that Aaron was so angry with everyone directly after Missy talked to him. She didn’t do a great job convincing him that he’s in good with everyone. I worry that this might come back to bite her. However, she is in a great women’s alliance, and there’s no real reason to suspect she’s in trouble other than a weird feeling. I really like Missy as a character, and I hope I’m wrong. For now, I’ll give her a Hot.



I’m going to contradict what I just said about Missy and give Tom a Hot despite the fact that he speaks about leadership a lot. Again, we saw very little of Tom this week, but what we did see seemed to indicate that he’s gelling fairly well with his tribe in spite of his being on the wrong side of the numbers. I see Aaron, Dean, and probably even Vince going before him, particularly because he was a major advocate for Elaine last week (according to Ronnie).


Tom has overcome being the older guy and has found himself some good allies. He seems pretty comfortable in the majority at the moment.



I don’t blame Aaron for how he reacted after Ronnie was voted out, but at the same time, he overreacted a bit. His complete refusal to work towards bonds with his tribemates bodes ill for him as the game moves forward, and I can’t help but think he’s an obvious next boot the next time Lairo goes to tribal. Of course, I said that Noura was an obvious boot this week and that Molly was one million percent safe, so, you know, don’t listen to me.


Aaron needs to reign in his feelings and really focus on how to move forward. If he stays angry, he’s going to be the next to go. The best way to avenge Ronnie is for Aaron to go full Natalie Anderson, work his way into the majority alliance and then screw them over and win. Based on this week, it doesn’t look like Aaron is going to be able to do that, but I hope he surprises me.

Vince copy


Seeing your name come up at Tribal is certainly scary, but the response is not to lose your s**t when the only people who voted for you are 1) out of the game or 2) pretty much totally boned. Vince needs to slow his roll, or he might freak out his tribemates enough that they decide they don’t need him after all.


Vince, you told yourself not to do it, and yet you couldn’t stop yourself from yelling at everyone. Aaron is allowed to be upset. He was just blindsided. Vince’s booty got saved by the majority, so he has nothing to complain about. Vince’s inability to keep his feelings in check spells trouble down the road. It’s not enough to know that something is wrong if you can’t keep things contained.




I think the big takeaway for Jack (and Jamal, and, in a post-mortem sense, Molly) is: don’t let your small alliance gain so much visibility in the early pre-merge. Jack seemed to be making a lot of headway on his personal growth journey (or whatever) during his Nouga session on the beach, and it seemed like he might have been able to have used that to connect with Noura and make stronger alliances across the tribe… but he didn’t do that at all. He just let it fizzle out. Losing Molly is undoubtedly a blow to his game, and though I doubt whether Vokai will now just target Jack and Jamal, he’s certainly in a worse place now than he was last week.


Got labeled a popular kid, and people considered taking him out this episode. The only thing that appeared to save Jack from elimination was a combination of Jack’s relationship with Tommy and Noura’s strange hatred of Molly. Good on Jack for having a good enough relationship with Tommy that he was kept around, which speaks to his social game. On the other hand, Jack failed to ensure that Tommy wouldn’t turn on him (let alone clue him in on the vote), and his game suffered for it.

Do I think that Jack and co were being “the popular kids” and exhibiting the nastiness that entails? Absolutely not. But, as I’ve said many times, in Survivor, perception is reality. If people thought that Jack was being cliquey, that probably didn’t come out of nowhere. Intentionally or not, that group of three made themselves into a target by appearing too close, and they paid the price.

Jack was left out of the vote, and that’s a bad sign moving forward. If the majority established this vote holds, Jack and Jamal are on the chopping block. Which brings me to Jamal…



Poor guy. Jamal shouldn’t have let his alliance get so visible, and that’s that. I don’t blame him too much for expecting Noura to be an easy vote, but maybe he should have been more active in checking in with everybody. Clearly, he had a lot of people thinking he wasn’t on their side (for instance, his conversation with Noura being sort of a “pitch your safety to me or die”).


Boy, this was whiplash from last week. In the last episode, Jamal was pretty universally loved. This week, he’s taking a nap, playing from first gear, and getting blindsided.

Before the season started, I heard Jamal say in the Josh Wigler interviews that he was offended that Survivor didn’t pick him in previous seasons, especially when they picked so many boring players (I’m obviously paraphrasing). This statement pricked my ears, and I thought there may be a chance that Jamal’s ego would be a problem. I think that my inkling in the preseason came to fruition here. Jamal got too comfortable, and he paid the price.

Unlike Jack, Jamal hasn’t forged a tight relationship with anyone in particular. I think that there’s time for things to turn around for him, and I hope they do. However, that will require him to skip nap time and get into fourth gear.



Molly going home was bad for almost everybody, but Lauren, and honestly, even for Lauren, it seems like too much too soon. Clearly, Molly wasn’t as dominant a player and didn’t have as much sway as Lauren and Janet appeared to think, since, you know, they pulled off a 7-2-1 blindside against her which everyone but Joe and Jamal was in on. That’s not the sign of a dominant player. At that point, it was probably too soon to go back on the plan to blindside Molly. I’m not comparing Lauren to Angelina here, but the move reminded me of the Jeremy blindside: a big move that won’t hold water in the long run, and will really serve only to shake up a tribe that Lauren already had a decent foothold on.

I’m giving her a Hot because she’s got more power than she did before, but I think this was a somewhat foolish move on everybody’s part.


Lauren really led that vote and got out her target. Now, the alliance of three that were potentially leading the tribe was brought down. Lauren is now leading the majority alliance, and the ball is in her court. My one concern about Lauren is that she might be putting herself out there too soon. Those that lead the charge too early can be the next to go because they’ve made their threat level too clear. Ultimately, I think it’s good for her that the tribe was willing to go where she wanted, so I’m going to give her a Hot this week with some reservations.



I really hope that Hair Idols supersede Crotch Idols. It’s much more entertaining. Kellee did a great job at IOTI, though her challenge was laughably easy in comparison to Elizabeth’s, and she didn’t even have to negotiate before Rob upped her reward and lowered her risk. With an Idol in her hair and no target anywhere near her (apparently?), she looks to be sitting pretty.


That hair bit was hilarious. I was super concerned that someone was going to give that bun a squeeze (looking at you, Dan), and the jig would be up, but everything ended up great! Now, I feel really good about Kellee. She’s a great character, she has an idol, and she voted correctly. Everything’s coming up Kellee!



The Molly blindside may actually have also been a decent move for Janet. When you’re the older woman in the tribe, and you know that you can be an easy vote-off, you want chaos in the camp. Molly going home and the power structure getting shaken up (and Noura likely getting cocky as a result) is a good situation for Janet to be in.


Janet is playing beautifully at the moment. She’s been plotting with Lauren et al, but she’s not the leader of the strategy talk. She’s aware that as an older woman, she needs to contribute in big ways both in challenges and at camp. Nailed it.

Janet had to make herself stand out early on so that she could convince her tribe to keep her. I think it was telling that, even though Janet is the oldest woman in the tribe, her name never came up this episode. That alone is a huge victory right now. Provided Janet can now sink back into the shadows, I think she’s got definite longevity potential.



Noura, stop talking about the “cool kids.” You’re not in high school. Survivor can be like high school sometimes, sure, but this isn’t that. You willingly tied yourself to the person who was the clear target, and now you’re complaining that people might want to vote you out? Seriously?
Noura’s giddiness over Molly’s blindside was really discomfiting. It benefitted her game in the short term because, you know, she’s still in the game. Still, I don’t see her having a ton of viability in the long term—especially because she seems determined to pigeonhole herself as a ‘nerd’ and an ‘outsider.’

I feel like if you’re able to lead your entire tribe in morning yoga (Nouga), and at least one of them (Jack) looks back on it in such a way as to say “this was a major moment in my life that confirms/reconfirms what I believe I want out of life”, you’re not as much of an outcast as you think you are. Also, Noura didn’t actually DO anything to get Molly out. She happened to be one of the targets when Molly went home. Stop celebrating. You just got saved. Go play better.


Oh Noura. The entire rant about Molly all sounded like a Noura problem. I’m sure Noura is lovely, and I am always down for a big character on my screen. However, there are women in the world who can’t get along with other pretty women, and I fear Noura may be one of them. Noura’s tirade against Molly was ultimately about Molly’s appearance and social capital, and, in my view, had very little to do with Molly’s work ethic. Molly is in law school. Molly was a teacher to over four hundred students. There’s nothing wrong with Molly’s work ethic.

Noura was jealous of Molly. Plain and simple. And when an adult woman refers to their life in high school analogies, perhaps the issue is not with the “popular girl,” rather the issue is you keep thinking of life in those terms.



We didn’t see a ton from Dan this week, but I enjoyed very much the fact that his hands nearly revealed Kellee’s Hair idol. He’s only getting a Not because I can’t see any way that he’s improved his situation from last week.


Okay, just when I thought that maybe Dan recovered from the “Handsy Dansy” moment of the premiere, Kellee walks up to him, and he kisses her forehead. Listen, I should say that I have no problem with touchy people. I do theater, so most of the people I know are touchy. But Kellee literally asked Dan days ago not to be too touchy with her.

Now, I really believe that Dan is genuinely not trying to creep on any of the women on the tribe. He seems like a great guy. However, there’s just a disconnect with him and not touching people. I really worry that this quality will bite him if he can’t reign it in, and he hasn’t shown me he can.



Jason is playing a better game than Noura, except that he’s now got Noura on his side, which likely will act as an anchor around his neck. If I were Jason, I would try to find new allies STAT, because, as he’s survived the first vote, he’s now in a position to be able to rebuild trust and confidence and get away from the perception that he’s an idol-hungry rat. Staying tight with Noura will only hurt him.


The opposite kind of turnaround from Jamal. Jason managed to keep himself safe and find himself in the majority. However, I don’t think Jason is out of the woods yet. He was a huge topic of conversation when it came to the vote. Everyone chose to save Jason because they thought Molly was a bigger threat, not because they wanted to save him. There’s no guarantee that he won’t be an easy vote for everyone down the road.



Very bad move for Tommy to go along with the Molly blindside. He’s lost his friendship in Jack and Jamal, and I don’t know that he’s gained anything for it. I think it would have been a much better move for him to solidify trust in the Molly/Jamal/Jack group, and try to bring one more person over to their side—such as Kellee—to pin the votes back on Jason and Noura. As it is, he looks weak and has set himself adrift without strong alliances.


Tommy voted correctly, which counts for something. Unfortunately, I think this is a little early to be making this kind of move. Molly wasn’t an immediate threat. This move divides the tribe and puts them into some danger in the event of a swap. Lastly, this is specifically a bad scenario for Tommy. As Tommy said in the episode, Jamal and Molly were with him, and he had Jack in his back pocket. Tommy screwed over three people who were with him.

Granted, Tommy might have had to go where the rest of the group was going, but it’s still not a great situation for him overall.


GUS: I deserve whatever you throw at me.

ALI: Okay, so I did have Molly as a Hot. Theoretically, we could both be dragged. BUT, you had Molly as a “definitely not going home” pick. So…

GUS: I deserve to be dragged.

ALI: I hope you’re not as wrong about Karishma as you were about Molly. Our draft team can’t take the heat.

GUS: Well, I don’t think Karishma is totally definitely safe, but I don’t think she’s likely to go home this week, and that’s why I gave her a Hot. You’re reading a little too much into the preview.

ALI: It’s not only that. She was really close to Aaron, and then she screwed him over. If he’s going to be bitter at anyone, it’s her. And I don’t think they’re going to get rid of his muscle any time soon. He may target her, and people might want to appease him. If they get swapped together, he’ll have no problem throwing her under the bus.

GUS: Was she as close to Aaron as all that? I thought they were just sort of allied according to Ronnie. Did we ever see them actually speak?

ALI: We saw that they were aligned. They seemed the tightest out of everyone, and she was seen specifically struggling with which alliance to go with. The show made it seem like it came down to her and Elizabeth.

GUS: Did any of that come up in this episode, though? I don’t remember her even having a conversation with Aaron this episode.

ALI: It was more that Aaron was going pretty scorched earth on everyone, and I think that Karishma might be a victim of that since, optically, she was the closest to him, and she betrayed him.

GUS: But isn’t that sort of predicated on him having any level of power? I think it’s more likely he’d go after Missy than after Karishma. Missy made a bunch of poor overtures to him and completely failed to actually connect with him, and I feel like he might be upset about that.

ALI: I don’t think that anything she did was a particular failure. He didn’t mention her failures in particular. Rather, he said everyone was saying the wrong thing, but we only saw him talking about it after talking to Missy. That was largely editing, not a particular failing on just Missy’s part.

GUS: Sure, I suppose. But at the same time, we saw Missy talking about how confident she was that she would be able to swing Aaron into a state that would be useful to her, and then Aaron immediately said: “people are failing entirely at saying the right thing.” And I think of all the people that Aaron might be able to swing the vote onto, Missy’s top of the list because really he just needs to confide in everybody else that Missy came to him and tried to make an alliance. All of a sudden, Missy becomes the dangerous one.

ALI: I just feel like the women’s alliance will last beyond three episodes. They’ve set it up to be this big thing. Why would it fall apart so fast?

GUS: I could ask you the same thing. Why would Karishma go home?

ALI: … the preview? I don’t know. Something just gave me a bad feeling. I felt like she would be the victim if Aaron gets an upper hand. So I guess it comes down to a disagreement about who would be in more trouble in that instance, Missy or Karishma. I hope neither and Aaron goes, to be honest.

GUS: Sure, but the preview this past week had Noura annoying literally everybody. She was safe. I don’t think that Missy is going home, but I don’t think Karishma is going home either. They were honestly both close calls for me.

ALI: Yeah, it’s a toss-up. But you’re wrong, just like you were wrong about Molly. Who’s going this week?

GUS: Ehh… From Lairo, I think Vince? And from Vokai, I think Jason.

ALI: I think… from Lairo… Aaron. And from Vokai… Noura.

GUS: All safe bets. Who’s absolutely safe? I’m gonna say, Molly. Oh, wait.

ALI: Dead. I’m going to say… from Lairo… Chelseat. But she’s not Chelseat because she’s a Walker. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

GUS: That’s some niche-ass humor.

ALI: And from Vokai… Kellee.

GUS: I’m thinking Elaine from Lairo… and Vokai… Janet. I’m going all-in on over 40s women.

ALI: That’s all from us, folks!

GUS: 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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