Survivor: Island of the Idols

Episode 5 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not in week five?

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.




I really waffled on where to put Janet this week. She’s solidly in the majority within her new tribe—the swap clearly treated her well. On the other hand, she did vote out someone she thought might be an ally. I don’t think the tribe is going to turn on Janet any time soon—it would be far more likely that they would finish off Dean and Karishma in the next two tribals—but I also don’t know if this week was hugely helpful for her. Overall, though, she merits a Hot from me.


Janet’s read about Tom was dead on. She liked Tom personally but knew that his inclination would always be loyalty to his original tribe. That would have been a liability down the road, and Janet was smart enough to know not to push for Tom to stay, even though he was in her corner. Her forward-thinking screams longevity to me. And I’m so encouraged that, despite Janet’s status as the “older woman,” no one ever looks to target her or discusses her challenge ability negatively. In fact, Tom’s willingness to discuss Karishma’s lack of challenge ability with Janet showcases that they don’t equate Janet and Karishma in that regard. If Janet weren’t good at challenges, Tom wouldn’t have discussed Karishma’s detrimental performance for fear of scaring Janet. Janet has bonded with people quickly and easily but is cold enough to cut them when they don’t serve her interests.



Kellee is my new winner pick. She’s still got her idol, according to what we learned about Noura’s lost vote disadvantage. All of her insights about Dean seemed pretty on the money, as well—he is, apparently, very likable. He may also not be the best bet for a tight alliance come a few weeks from now. It would certainly not be a good idea for Kellee to keep Dean past the merge. With Vokai firmly in the majority, though, Kellee doesn’t really have to worry about so much right now.


Kellee impresses me. In watching her, I noticed that she’s always able to adapt herself to any social setting, changing how she talks from person to person. That’s an incredible level of social intelligence on her part. Her reads about Dean were really interesting, and though she didn’t get her way, nothing is stopping her from getting him out next week if she chooses.

Every time there’s strategy talk, Kellee seems to be right there with the others. In addition, Kellee still has that idol in her pocket. I don’t know if it’s viable still (you’ll have to remind me in the comments), but we’ve seen a lot done with fake idols in the past, and I think Kellee is smart enough to know how to use it to her advantage. Lastly, Sandra is rooting for Kellee, and when the Queen roots for a queen, I have to give that gal a Hot.



Dean was on the wrong side of the vote, and even Karishma was in on this one. In spite of his close connection with Kellee (apparently), he wasn’t actually able to make a lasting alliance. With no close friends remaining, and with Karishma having already flipped like nobody’s business, I can’t imagine Dean surviving another tribal.


Detective Kowalski! Almost as adorable as Detective Pikachu!

Dean can’t seem to catch a break in this game. His showmance that wasn’t a showman is gone, he swapped onto a tribe where he’s in the minority, and when he managed to find a connection with Kellee, she got spooked that he was too good at bonding with people. Dean got the target off his back this week, but he could be cannon fodder next week. Time will tell if this detective becomes defective.



Jack lost his old buddy Tommy, but he’s still firmly in the majority. I can’t see any of his tribemates working against him in the near future.


Jack’s background social game really impressed me this week. How he listened as Karishma opened up to him about her marriage was amazing to watch. Behind Jack’s surfer bro persona, there’s a tenderness that really draws people in. I wish we got to see more of how he interacts with everyone, but I feel really good about him thus far. Now, my one concern is that Noura may be gunning for him and Jamal, but something tells me that both he and Jamal have far more social capital than Noura. So I’m going to take my chances and bet on him.


Karishma continues to be a terrific trainwreck of a Survivor player. Her lack of challenge prowess and reputation as a flipper can’t be a good thing, and I really do think her tribe would be wise to vote her out if only so as not to go to any more tribals. I certainly don’t agree with the people who argue that Lairo should throw a couple of challenges to get rid of Karishma and Dean, though, and I do believe that her tribe will hold on to her over Dean if the event comes to it—if only because Karishma is more likely to remain loyal than Dean after a swap.


Karishma managed to avoid elimination this week, but it’s no secret that she’s expendable on the tribe. Should her tribe go to tribal again, and that seems likely, Karishma is a viable candidate for elimination. However, Karishma seems to have nine lives in the game, and she’s only used five of them, so perhaps she’ll wiggle through again.


I can’t believe that I’m giving Noura a Hot, but I am THRILLED that I am. Her performance this week was tremendously entertaining—having a great deal of control over who goes home while not even having a vote. Combined with her majority and Karishma and Dean’s being on her tribe, and her apparently newfound social capital, Noura is in a shockingly good spot.


Not much to say that’s new. Noura’s a great character, but not a great Survivor player.


Jamal had the line “all the fixin’s,” which was real fun. He also kept himself in the majority and still has his idol. He’s in a very good spot.


Jamal gained the most from the swap. Now, the man has options and an idol in his pocket. If he wants to, he could align himself with the former Lairo folks, or stick with Vokai. There’s a lot of wiggle room for him right now. Again, Noura might be gunning for him, but since she could barely contain her dancing during the Molly blindside, I feel like, without Jason to reign her in, she might make her intentions really obvious. Jamal won’t be fooled by Noura twice, and in a standoff between the two of them, I think that Jamal would definitely gain the upper hand.




She didn’t really do anything this week, but she also didn’t really lose anything, and I think Jason is still on her team.


Lauren’s in the majority on her tribe. She hasn’t been showcased much in a while, but I think she’s got the social prowess to go the distance. I don’t see a reason for her tribe to get rid of her yet, and I have a feeling Lairo will lose again.



This Not is really just because I think Missy and Aaron are much more prone to flip than Elizabeth and Elaine, and I think Elizabeth could easily become a compromise casualty because of it. I think Elaine might be the more likely vote, but, hey. It could be Elizabeth.


Elizabeth runs the risk of getting thrown under the bus in the coming weeks should Vokai ever go to tribal. Unlike Elaine, Elizabeth has a distinct advantage in challenges (I mean, I love Elaine, and Elaine is plenty athletic, but she’s not an Olympic swimmer). I also worry because Elizabeth has a certain naivete that may come into play as the game gets more cutthroat. For now, I’m afraid that Elizabeth may be toward the bottom of this tribe.



Missy just keeps overplaying. From her comment about how Dean shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds him, to her apparent immediate willingness to cut ties with her old tribe, she’s playing about ten days ahead of where she should be. I really think she’s gonna get herself into trouble VERY soon.


Missy is another one who is ready to jump ship, and it’s definitely the right move for her. I do wonder if constantly flipping on her allies is going to work out for her once they realize she has no real loyalties. But one could argue that Missy is executing the game that Sandra is most famous for: “anybody but me.” 

What I can definitely say about Missy is that she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. I’ve been impressed by how calculating she’s been during this game. Sometimes, it feels that Missy will make moves for movement’s sake. But this week, I definitely agree with her putting old tribal lines aside.



Jason’s in a good spot, and I really don’t see him flipping on his tribe. I also don’t see his tribe flipping on him, though I suppose the Aaron/Tommy alliance (?) might theoretically work against him in the mid-run if Aaron wanted to get rid of a Vokai. I can’t see Tommy going along with it, but if it were to be anyone killed off as a sacrifice, I think it would be Jason (or Dan).


Jason made a full recovery from his early messiness. He now enjoys the distinction of being a part of the majority alliance on the tribe. And, I have to think that without Noura, Jason has gotten even more palatable to his fellow tribemates. 



Just like Missy, Aaron seems to be doing a fair bit of overplaying. Not as much as Missy, I would say, but still a good deal of it. It’s very smart to make inroads with the other tribe, sure, but I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to be so very closely aligned or to be so willing to flip on your original tribe. Where Missy appears to be overplaying for the sake of overplaying, though, Aaron appears to be making moves for the sake of chaos and infiltration. I think it should pan out better for him than it will for her.


Aaron is doing everything one should when they’re in the minority on their tribe. He’s making himself an appealing ally to the majority alliance, and, like Dean this week, it will most likely result in him staying. He’s doing all the right things, and he’s an asset in the challenges. Aaron was also dead-on when he spoke about how people will keep him around if they like him. Using his socks to bond with people was a great move, and the socks are freaking adorable. 

As long as Aaron keeps helping his tribe win challenges, he should be sticking around a while. And Aaron was right on the money when he told Tommy that they need each other once the merge hits. It’s that level of game awareness that puts Aaron in the next league.



Tommy has made, surprise surprise, yet another friend. His friendliness knows no bounds. Not only that, but he also had Applebees. What a landmark week for Tommy. Sorry, I really don’t know why Tommy bugs me. Ali says that I always root against the frontrunner, and that’s… usually true. I just don’t see what Tommy has done to deserve his front runner spot.


The camera loves Tommy, and so do the fans. It seems like everyone wants to work with Tommy, and almost everything that happens needs to come with a check-in to see what Tommy thinks of it all. Tommy certainly has a lot of winner potential, though I wonder if Survivor might be doing the old bait and switch, where they focus on one person with a “winner’s edit” only to have another person emerge victorious. A big part of me feels like Tommy could be too interested in his shark bowl to see the sharks in the water around him, and it could lead to his demise.

Essentially, Tommy is a bright beacon in this game at the moment, but will the other players recognize that and try to snuff it out? Regardless of my fears, Tommy is Hot right now.



Good for Dan not being voted out pre-swap. His swap might have been the “doomsday scenario” for him—a 4 to 4 split—but with Missy and Aaron on his tribe ready to Chaos things up, I think he should be sailing fairly safely for the next little while.


Dan seems to have fully recovered from his early bumps in the road. Now, he’s on a tribe where they probably will not go to tribal, and, if they do, a member of old Lairo will probably go. He’s in a good position, but he’s got to stop doing things like obviously counting the other people on the tribe to see if he’s in the majority the moment he hits the swap mat. Should he manage to refrain from tanking his own game through thoughtlessness, he should be in the clear.



Missy seems to have decided that she hates Elaine because Elaine is fun and people like her. Apparently, in addition to constantly being ten days ahead of the curve, Missy is also constantly two weeks behind the curve, because that’s why people disliked Elaine on day *one*. I worry for Elaine’s longevity. All of her talk about her being lucky and unlucky makes me worry that she might find herself on the receiving end of some very bad geological luck. But her gameplay, while not extremely visible, has been solid. 


Elaine has dominated the wrestling game on the island, but I worry about her future in the Survivor game. After Missy backstabbed Chelsea, I truly believe the woman is willing to do anything it takes to get ahead. It seems that Missy has gotten really close to Aaron and that the two of them might be making headway with the old Vokai members. This leaves Elaine potentially in the dust, especially since Elaine seemed wary about jumping in bed with the old Vokai herself. If the other members of the tribe sense this from her, that could spell trouble.

However, Elaine’s saving grace is that she’s on a tribe I truly don’t think is going to tribal this week. Plus, she’s so darn likable, and like Aaron pointed out, if she’s likable, people will want to keep her around.


ALI: Let’s first address the Canadian elephant in the room. Tom went home last week, and both of us had him as a Hot.

GUS: We’re 1 for 4 on predicting the boot. Molly, Chelsea, and Tom all got Hots from BOTH of us before they went home.

ALI: If I may come to Gus and my defense for a moment, I would argue that we are usually much higher performing than we have been this season. 

GUS: Statistically, yes, that’s true. This is by far our worst season for predictions. By FAR. But it’s also a really swing-y, blindside happy cast, which makes prediction REALLY hard.

ALI: Yeah, I think that this cast has been pretty erratic in their gameplay, making predictions rather difficult. And yet, we soldier on and do our best. 

All this being said, I think we are going to fight about Missy every week. So let’s get to it. Her willingness to throw her tribe under the bus is strategy. She knows that old Lairo is a sinking ship and that she’s got to start making connections with the other side. If you’re going to give Aaron a Hot, you should give her one too. I know you’re still bitter about the Chelsea boot, but I can’t hate on Missy for doing what she needs so that she can make the merge.

GUS: Making connections with the other side isn’t the same thing as napalming all of your bridges on the side that already exists. First off, she blasts Dean in the face for having the barefaced audacity and sheer unmitigated gall to ask her about the Chelsea boot. Then she talks about how he’s “biting the hand that feeds him.” Then she gets swapped to a perfectly even tribe, and rather than attempt to preserve even a semblance of her existing numbers, she pretty much immediately decides it’s time to destroy all of her old alliances (except for I guess Aaron?) and align with the numbers. That’s a real good way to make yourself tenth in the inevitable nine-person Vokai alliance that will come out of the merge.

ALI: She said that in a private confessional, not to Dean’s face. Since when is it bad gameplay to vent frustrations to the camera? If anything, I feel that Dean came on a little too strong during that interaction, and she managed to keep pretty calm. And by “don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” I think she felt slighted because she kept him around, and then he immediately went on the offensive. It’s typically not a great plan to get visibly angry at the majority alliance leaders right after an ally goes home. We dinged Aaron for doing the same weeks ago. 

Did she take it well? No. But I understand her feelings, and she kept it decently cool when she was actually talking to Dean.

As for her jumping ship, she isn’t destroying her relationships with her side. She merely vocalized that she doesn’t want to go to rocks (which is fair). And that she doesn’t feel the old tribal lines should matter in this new tribe (which I think is a decent pitch). Dean did the same thing when he was on his tribe, and we didn’t ding him for it. Okay, rant over.

GUS: OK, sure. Dean didn’t handle that very well. But knowing a swap was coming, it was just as much on her to navigate that relationship as it was on him. They BOTH misplayed it. Notice that I also gave Dean a Not this week.

Dean was down in the numbers 3-5. He had to try to make inroads to that degree. Missy is on an even tribe. Rather than trying to find cracks in Vokai, she saw four other people and said, “forget MY existing tribe, I’ll betray them ANY TIME, ANYWHERE!” which is not really a great thing? If she voluntarily flips on Elizabeth and Elaine, Lairo is dead. She’s lost the trust of all of the remaining members of that tribe. Karishma doesn’t trust her, Dean doesn’t trust her, and whichever remains of Elizabeth or Elaine won’t trust her. Aaron might trust her, but with their respective track records, he might also hop away from her at a moment’s notice. If she goes to rocks, there’s a ¾ chance that the rock draw won’t hurt her—if Elaine or Elizabeth or a Vokai draws the bad rock, Missy is fine. If she or Aaron draws the bad rock, well, less good. She didn’t even TRY to convince a Vokai to vote one of their own out—for all she knows, she’s got the next Alec Merlino sitting on that beach with her.

ALI: Here’s my criticism of Missy. I think she has some decent instincts, but she is trigger happy, and her delivery could use some work. 

GUS: She’s the opposite of Tommy. No friendship, all gameplay.

ALI: She has the ingredients to make a good Survivor player… But she needs what my mom used to call “the velvet hammer.” I talked about this with Angelina last year. When you’re a person on Survivor, especially if you’re a woman, you have to really watch how you force your agenda. Missy can’t help but come in hot every time. In practice, being willing to cater to the majority and not stick with a sinking ship is a good idea, but Missy takes that and then basically goes scorched earth with it. If she can find a middle ground, I think she’d be a great player. And I think that’s why you and I are going to argue about her every week.

GUS: That’s fine with me. I’m happy to fight about Missy until she inevitably goes home. Shall we move on to your indefensible attack on the glory that is Noura?

ALI: Noura is drawing dead at this point. She won’t win. And she doesn’t have any sway over her allies socially. So if she gets it into her head to go after someone, she just doesn’t have the capital to make things go her way. I love watching her, but she’s a damn mess.

GUS: But suddenly she’s actually playing the game? Sort of? And having some level of influence over who goes home? And she ISN’T BEING TARGETED AT ALL?!

ALI: Because she’s a goat. Who would send her home when they could sit next to her at the final? That’s why Karishma is still here too (love her though I do). Also, if she’s “sort of” playing the game, that does not suddenly earn her a Hot.

GUS: Ok, we said that Wendy was going to the end as a goat too. That didn’t happen at all. If Noura makes the merge and her trajectory continues the way it has been, she might actually escalate from “sort of” playing the game to ACTUALLY playing the game, and she might go from being a goat to being The GOAT*.

*I don’t actually think she’s going to become The GOAT.

ALI: And if that happens, I’ll give her the Hot when I think she’s earned it. So far, no dice. Alright, who is going home?

For me…

Lairo: Karishma 

Vokai: Elizabeth


Lairo: Dean

Vokai: Elaine

ALI: And who is safe?

GUS: You mean, who’s actually going home because we’re always wrong?

ALI: Yeah.


Lairo: Kellee

Vokai: Jason


Lairo: Janet

Vokai: Lauren

And my winner pick is Kellee.

GUS: That’s my winner pick!

ALI: We’ll see you next week, everyone!

GUS: Bye!

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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