Survivor: Island of the Idols

Episode 7 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not in week seven?

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.



We know from exit interviews that Missy and Aaron were big targets when Jason was sent packing. Now, Aaron is the alpha male in merge time, which is exactly where alpha males die in Survivor. One look at Aaron and everyone sees a challenge threat. It doesn’t help matters that tribal lines have stayed pretty consistent throughout the swap. 

As the first merge vote scramble commences, people will look for the comfort of familiar ties, sending them right back to the safety of their former tribes. Aaron’s side is down in the numbers, and Aaron’s a great candidate for elimination. 

To Aaron’s credit, he approached fellow alpha male, Tommy, in an effort to align with some meat shields. However, he didn’t endear himself to Tommy and co when he backstabbed them to eliminate Jason. Tommy may be looking for payback, and Aaron is a sitting duck.


Aaron has pissed off a lot of people across a lot of tribes. He’s been targeted or considered a possible target for several tribals, and he doesn’t even know it. With as pushy as his gameplay style has been in the pre-merge, and with modern Survivor’s tendency to dial-up gameplay at the merge, I could easily see Aaron going this week, particularly if the trend of booting a player who is considered to be irritating continues. As OG Vokai is also up in the numbers, I don’t think it’d be a stretch to see Aaron depart this week.



Byrd flew all the way to the merge, but this is where things get real. Missy’s relationship with Aaron may get her in trouble, and we know that she’s been looked at for being a major player. I truly believe that the vote will revolve around old tribe connections because it doesn’t make sense to relinquish the majority right away. As I said above, Aaron is a probable boot this week. Should Aaron win Immunity or should the other group suspect him of having an idol, they may settle for his lieutenant, and that would be Missy. We’ve seen this exact scenario play out many times. Aaron’s cold-blooded backstabbing of the majority put him in trouble, and Missy is guilty by association. 

Missy’s saving grace may be her relationship with Lauren. Time will tell if the two will go on to “win the game.”


I really have to hand it to Missy: she’s fixed most of her flaws. Her new relationship with Lauren seems like the kind of thing that could bear fruit and keep her safe from any imminent Lairo execution decisions. And her approach to that whole situation was massively better than her approach to a similar situation with Vince a few weeks ago. Combined with the fact that she didn’t piss off half of OG Vokai the same way Aaron did, and the fact that neither Elaine nor Elizabeth has said anything about Missy seeming untrustworthy since before the swap, I think she is in a really good place moving forward.



I’m sorry! But before anyone mounts my head on a pike (Gus), let’s look at past merge trends. Usually, merges stratify the sides, and everyone looks for an easy vote in the minority group (a la Elizabeth from David vs. Goliath). Everyone agrees that Elaine is a threat, so there’s no good reason to keep her around. Looking at the folks Elaine is up against, it’s not super likely that she will be able to win a challenge to defend herself. We’ve already seen that Elaine’s allies are willing to offer her up as a sacrificial lamb. All that being said, I fear it may be a bad week for Elaine.


I gotta be real, this is breaking my heart because I love Elaine, but we’re reaching the point in a season of Survivor where we start seeing those who people really like getting cut. Elaine has managed to dodge and weave so far, but I’m not sure she’ll have many places to hide after the merge. Unless somebody decides to proclaim themselves a huge physical threat, I worry for Elaine’s post-merge longevity.



Feely Dan strikes again. Has there been an episode where someone hasn’t waxed poetic about Dan’s touchiness? I can’t recall. 

Dan’s just not socially aware on the island, and it’s probably going to bite him in the butt. Usually, merge votes are someone that everyone can agree on, so Dan may be a great candidate for elimination. The women may be sick of him, and I don’t think anyone’s going to fall on the sword for Dan. 


There really isn’t very much that I have to say. We know nothing about the guy, and he creeps people out, apparently. He could easily get to the end as part of the goat brigade, but I really can’t see him winning or even leading any other players to a move.



I’m worried for Elizabeth, but I can only give out so many Nots… 

Elizabeth has the ability to win challenges, no one has looked at her as a target thus far, and she has good relationships with everyone at this point. Even this week, we saw that Elizabeth didn’t take any of the fallout for Jason’s elimination. The ones under fire were Aaron and Missy, while Elizabeth was able to scrape by unscathed. I think Elizabeth has the best chance of staying under the radar enough to stay this week.


Elizabeth hasn’t pissed off any other players, she’s still good at challenges (but not too good), and she’s held onto what social bonds she’s had from the start. I’m worried that she hasn’t made a ton of cross-tribal alliances, but that’s something that she can hopefully work on this coming week. If I weren’t maxed out on Nots, this might be a different discussion, but all things considered, I don’t really see her going home this week.



Tom Hanks once said, “there’s no crying in baseball.” There’s also no crying in Survivor, particularly when one has just been blindsided. Time and time again, we have seen explosive reactions after blindsides come back to haunt people, and I worry that Lauren’s emotions may get the better of her down the road. Lauren hasn’t shown herself capable of handling things when the game doesn’t go her way, and that happens in spades when the merge hits. 

A point in Lauren’s favor is the fact that she has great relationships with quite a few people. She also is in the majority going into the merge. I don’t think that this will be Lauren’s week to go, but I’m not super confident in her longevity.


I do think that Lauren’s game has been looking up the past week or so, but it’s less because of anything that she’s done and more because Missy decided that she liked her and wanted to take her under her wing. This opens up a lot of opportunities for Lauren, but it also puts her in peril: if Vokai discovers that she’s tight with Lairo, they might look at her as a target in the future. Alternatively, she might form a tight bond with Missy and dominate the post-merge. Her future could be hot, and it could be not. It depends on what she does with it, and more importantly, whether or not she gets there. 



Tommy’s an alpha male, so I would normally be worried about him early in the merge. However, Tommy’s in the majority at present, so he should be safe for this week. Frankly, the merge couldn’t have come at a better time for him, as he was in a really bad position on his swap tribe. If Tommy can keep Aaron and Dean around as shields, he will most likely have some longevity in the game. If not, he will follow them out the door. The game is in his hands.


Tommy has plenty of relationships, he’s got a vendetta, he’s got challenge prowess, and he’s got a majority. I really don’t see him going home this week short of another completely shocking blindside. Although, in retrospect, with this season being what it is, that means that Tommy is almost certainly going home this week.



I just love her. Like Kellyn Bechtold in Ghost Island, Janet showed remarkable restraint when she turned down a game that wouldn’t benefit her in the long run. Then, at Tribal, Janet was able to concisely and eloquently illustrate the negative reactions toward women’s alliances and the broader sexism that may be at play. Janet’s thoughtfulness and avoidance of risk will serve her well in the long run.

In addition, I’ve often said that Janet just needs to make the merge, and then she will be golden. Well, look who just made the merge!


What did Janet do this week? Well, she crushed an IOI visit, made the correct decision to NOT play the IOI game, she DIDN’T get targeted upon returning from IOI, and she MADE THE MERGE. I don’t see anybody cutting Janet in the near future either since they’ll most likely prioritize challenge threats and social butterflies. Though Janet is well-liked and good at challenges, I don’t think she qualifies as either of those two things—meaning she should be sailing smoothly for the near future.



I have to say, I identified with Karishma so hard during that voting confessional. I’ve often thought myself quite the badass, only to fall headfirst into crap a moment later. Karishma is pretty much fighting Noura and Dan for the goat spot, which isn’t a great place to be. I’m hoping the merge might spark something in her, but only time will tell.


I really worry for Karishma with the merge having come. I think she’s just a vote for hire, which can be a good thing and a bad thing… and for her, I think it’s a bad thing. Karishma has very little actual loyalty. She failed to eliminate Dean (who, frankly, hardly counts as having “come for her head” or whatever), she’s got a tremendous grudge against Lairo, which I still don’t fully understand, and she’s yet to really do anything in a challenge. Will she go deep? Possibly. Will she win? I very much doubt it.



Alright, alright, Noura earned her first Hot from me this week. This is partially because I ran out of Nots to give and because I think Noura exceeded my expectations this week. I didn’t think she did too badly at Tribal. I mean, she failed to convince Jamal that she wasn’t targeting him, but she also got him to play an idol? Now that Noura’s hit the merge, she’s got staying power, and I can’t say the same about everyone.


Goofball though she is, Noura is not a game player. She got hoodwinked by Kellee into voting for Jack, which is bound to irritate her Vokai teammates. She openly admitted to having targeted Jamal TO HIS FACE, and then he played an idol for her anyway. Clearly, he doesn’t view her as a threat. Her game is considered to be a joke, and all she’s got for her is that she’s ridiculous.



Detective Dean got his butt saved this week, and that is partially due to his ability to connect with Kellee in a way that Jamal and Jack couldn’t. I worry for Dean going forward, but I can only give so many Nots (dang it, Gus). However, I think that no matter how the vote shakes out, Dean has some bigger threats in front of him and Kellee in his corner.


Dean could certainly go home this week, but with Kellee giving him her idol and the surprising amount of leverage that gives him over Kellee, I could certainly see him working something out. Beyond that, with Vokai and Lairo merging, Dean might find himself no longer the tip target— possibly Elaine might supplant him there—meaning that he might not even HAVE to work that hard to avoid being voted out. Conversely, he’s far MORE likely to just be voted out, so… he gets a Not.



Man, Jamal is getting quite the complex edit this season. He’s gone from napping and Tribal cockiness to justly speaking about microaggressions to blatantly disrespecting the women on his tribe. Jamal needs to figure out how to interact with the women left in the game, there’s eight of them, and if he makes them angry enough, he could easily be the next boot. Add that to the fact that Jamal just got majorly blindsided and lost his best buddy in the game, and that’s a recipe for a Not.


Jamal blundered his idol so badly this week that I would imagine Magnus Carlsen could sense it. He also trusted Noura for whatever reason, and he lost his closest ally in Jack. Going into the merge, he’s got a somewhat questionable legacy, and he’s thin on close allies. I’m a bit concerned for him going forward.



I went back and forth about Kellee’s move this week. On the one hand, I’m worried that everyone’s going to find out that Kellee was involved in Jack’s elimination. I don’t really believe that Dean and Noura will be able to keep that to themselves. I also wonder if Dean is really worth keeping around and if he will be beneficial enough to Kellee’s game to justify her sticking her neck out to save it. 

But there’s another part of me that feels Kellee would not have been able to move forward in the game with Jamal and Jack in the same way. Jack was already telling Kellee that he would eventually target her. It behooves Kellee to look forward in the game and decide who she wants to play with, and apparently, that’s Dean. Dean now owes Kellee for saving him, and a loyal ally in the game is worth two semi allies. Ultimately, I think Kellee made the right move, and boy was it fun to watch!


I love Kellee. Her move, though apparently controversial, I thought, was fantastic. It certainly could backfire on her in the long run, but I think for the time being, she’s pretty safe. She’s going into the merge with a low-key resume, a number of strong allies across both tribes, and a good shield in Dean. I think Kellee is my new winner pick.


GUS: What is with us and Missy? We keep ping-ponging back and forth about whether she’s playing a good game.

ALI: Before we get to that, we have to address the Jack in the room. We both ranked him as a Hot, though I was very close to being right about Dean getting eliminated. And I would have been right if this season weren’t a season of surprise big moves. But after last week, who in their right minds would have given Jack a Not? I rest my case.

GUS: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And we did both give Jack a Hot. Again. For the sixth time this season, I think. We’re a collective disaster…. JUST LIKE NOURA (check out my segue).

ALI: Okay, let’s talk about Noura. I thought she played better this week than she has been. Now that she’s at the merge, there’s no reason to get rid of her.

GUS: She takes up a seat at the end. That’s reason enough, I would say. Plus, the longer they keep the Goat Brigade (Dan, Noura, Karishma), the more likely it is that we get multiple Goats at the end. I don’t think the good players will want to risk multiple Goats, particularly with Noura being both volatile and liable to do really stupid things (like admit openly to targeting Jamal during Tribal Council. That was a terrible move).

ALI: I love the term “the Goat Brigade.” I don’t know if we’ve ever seen this many goats in the merge, have we?

GUS: Worlds Apart? I guess?

ALI: That may be. I would love to do an informal poll on other seasons with a lot of goats. Readers, leave a comment if you think you have another season with a Goat Brigade.

Back to Noura, I think you may be right that people will want to get rid of a few goats before the end (though how hilariously iconic would it be if The Goat Brigade were all sitting at the end?). However, I don’t think Noura will be the one to go. Dan has the touch factor that will make people eager to get rid of him, and Karishma is from the minority tribe, which is reason enough to be rid of her. I think that Noura, while an emotional player, is strangely predictable in her motivations. Jamal played an idol for her rather than let her go home. That says a lot to me about her standing. People want to keep Noura around, even when she’s actively targeting them.

GUS: Jamal wants to keep Noura around. I don’t know if people want to keep Jamal around. If Noura is Jamal’s shield, if either of them goes (which is really possible), the other one may well be in trouble. Besides which, Noura has no real win equity at this point. Do you really see her pulling off a strategic move that might realistically garner the respect of the jury? She’s considered a downright goof, which pretty much automatically garners her a Not from me. I mean, she got played like a fiddle by Kellee.

ALI: Noura hasn’t had win equity in a while. Didn’t stop you from giving her a Hot last week. And I think out of the Goat Brigade she has the highest win equity.

GUS: Sure. But this week she made a lot of really horrible decisions, and she got saved for them anyway. Which in my eyes, just shows that she’s not seen as a real player.

ALI: Listen, I’m not going to fall on my sword for Noura (love her though I do). I’ve been saying for weeks that the odds of her winning are slim. But I think she will have longevity where the other goats have none. Also, I only had so many Nots to give out, and I think others are in more immediate danger than her. I would give almost everyone Nots if I could! Merge episodes are clusterf**ks.

GUS: Good point. How about Missy? Why must she suffer?

ALI: Aaron made himself a great target right before the merge, and if they can’t get him, they’ll get the person closest to him. Missy is a Not by proxy.

GUS: She didn’t make herself a target, though. And she’s actively bonded with the other side (by way of Lauren). That’s a whole lot better than what Aaron did.

ALI: Does Lauren have enough pull to save Missy? And there hasn’t been an inherent sign that Lauren has forgiven Missy for her betrayal. All we’ve gotten is Missy’s reassurances, but has she really convinced Lauren of her loyalty? Will Lauren want revenge for making her look like a fool at the merge? I think you’re relying very heavily on a relationship that, at the moment, seems pretty one-sided. And I think that Missy showed Lauren that her loyalty will ultimately be with Aaron.

GUS: I’m not saying that Lauren is going to save Missy, but I do think if push came to shove, Lauren would argue for Missy over Aaron. And that might be enough with such a tight split to save Missy. Besides which, I think there’s still bad blood between Tommy and Aaron, where there is less between Tommy and Missy.

ALI: That would definitely be true, but if Aaron wins Immunity, I can’t help but think Missy might receive the brunt of the revenge.

GUS: Or they’ll just pile votes on Elaine or Karishma. There are plenty of other folks who aren’t Missy. Missy’s decreased her threat level enough that I really don’t see her going this week.

ALI: If blindsiding allies in an epic vote two Tribals ago with being one of the strongest women out there counts as lowering your threat level, then yes, she certainly has.

GUS: They were allies of convenience!

ALI: Time will tell. Alright, who is going home? It’s probably a double boot this week, so we should say two people. I’m going with Aaron first, and Dan follows.

GUS: Who’s getting booted? I’ll go with Jamal and Karishma. For people who are safe, I think Kellee.

ALI: In terms of who is safe, I think Janet is going to be fine.

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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