Survivor: Island of the Idols
Episode 1: I Vote You Out, and That’s It
By Kim Hollis & David Mumpower
September 26, 2019

I bet he lost.

Previously on Survivor, Sandra Diaz-Twine and “Boston” Rob Mariano became two of the most successful and memorable players in the history of the game. After many years of attempts, the producers of the show have finally lured them back, but there were conditions. This season, the two will appear as “advisors” during Island of the Idols. Next season, they will compete during a season that will include some players from this year. Yes, Survivor is letting the two of them build an alliance a season early, on top of all of the preexisting relationships they bring with them.

Okay, Lex and Russell Hantz wouldn’t ally with Rob, and Hantz certainly wouldn’t cut a deal with a woman who embarrassed him on live television. Everyone else in the Survivor community reveres Rob and Sandra, as do viewers. Not coincidentally, the entire marketing campaign for Season 39 has fixated on the duo.

Yes, there are 20 new contestants this year, yet all we want to talk about is Sandra and Rob. Get used to it.

Now that we’ve been honest about it in advance, we’re recapping this season of Survivor because Edge of Extinction sucked out Jim Van Nest’s soul. Don’t worry, Jim. It could always be worse. We’ve recapped seasons where John Cochran and Tyson Apostal won the title of Sole Survivor. No matter how bad you think you have it, Survivor can always throw under your lowest expectations.

By the way, before we get started, let’s remember the first rule of Survivor premieres. The person whose face you see a lot is either the plucky underdog who will frame the story for many, many episodes, or a faceless loser who’s about to be eliminated. In some instances, their memory will live on. Never forget Dolly the Sheep Farmer.

Also, the over/under on the first shot of Rob and Sandra is one minute.

(It was the under.)

Less than five minutes into the episode and the ringers are already revealing themselves. There’s a former NHL player, a former college basketball player, and an Olympic swimmer. The caption under Elizabeth’s name says, “Olympic Medalist,” not “Olympic Gold Medalist.” So, she lost. It was to Missy Franklin, though, so perhaps we’re being overly harsh. Most importantly, she was in the 2012 Olympic Swim Team “Call Me Maybe” video.

Missy, the former college basketball player, reveals that she was forced to drop out of the military when she developed a brain tumor, which nearly killed her. Her tumor is now gone, and she’s thrilled to find some happiness on Survivor.

Over at the other tribe (Vokai), all of the young people are happy to be there, but get annoyed when the older tribe members want to do some work. Our first strong contestant for quickest vote out is Janet, a chief lifeguard. She says she’s not bossy even as she bosses her tribemates around. As we tease her about trying way too hard, she calls her start by saying she’ll start a fire and then starting fire. To her credit, she says other tribemates strongly contributed, too. (They didn’t.)

Another person who garners a lot of acclaim in short order is Vince, the first ever Hmong contestant in Survivor history. A member of the Lairo tribe, he wields a hatchet like Michael Myers. Former NHL player Tom Laidlaw, the first ever Canadian player on the show, immediately expresses admiration for Vince’s outstanding work ethic. When a hockey defenseman praises you, you’re a legit badass.

Tom also connects with Elaine, who is conveniently wearing a Boston Red Sox hat. She’s not a Boston native, though, as she’s a factory worker from Kentucky. The three of them form an instant alliance, which causes concern for the young, athletic players who aren’t doing any work whatsoever.

“Those three immediately painted a target on their back,” says Aaron, a gym owner.

Now, we cut back over to Vokai, which is where the real story is. Survivor has cast Jason, *a personal injury lawyer***. This seems like the ultimate fox in the henhouse scenario. The show has nothing but personal injuries.

Wait, we spoke too soon. Jason is off searching for an idol. People have noticed. Jason’s in trouble. Maybe they can give him a call if they get hurt on the show, though.

Who points out the mistake? Quick, what’s a job that’s even lower on the scumbag scale than personal injury lawyer? Yes, Dan the ***Hollywood talent scout*** frames Jason for the murder, although to be fair, Jason also committed the murder. We don’t think Dan would care whether he was guilty, though.

After these two professions, we half expect the next person to be a satanic cultist and/or Brexit political operative.

Nothing unifies people like group bullying. Seven people from the Vokai tribe decide that Jason is slimy and icky. Noura tells him about this discussion, because he apparently reminds her of an ex-boyfriend. Ooookay.

Lairo, however, is all about girl power. Missy tells Elaine that she is a target along with Tom and Vince. Missy is hoping to convince Elaine and the other girls to join forces.

Kellee is having a #MeToo moment with Dan, which is fitting since he’s the Hollywood talent scout. Dan tends to touch her and lay on her and rub her whether she says yes or not. Is there some rule that if you’re a creepy pervert, you work in Hollywood?

He’s also been a little too touchy feely with Molly, which is a problem. Molly is a law student. Has a person ever been fired from their real-life job because of Survivor? We know the answer is yes, but a LOT of women are talking about Dan. This is how it started for Harvey Weinstein.

Also, Dan, we can’t stress this enough. It’s hot and sticky. Why are you touching people, anyway? We get the feeling that social media will be ablaze with stories from Dan’s former clients in a few days.

Poker player Ronnie has decided that Elaine is just WAY too likable, which makes her a target in his eyes. So, he decides to befriend her and trick her into thinking he wants to ally with her. She doesn’t buy it for a second, even though she tells him to his face that she trusts him 100 percent.

PROBST. Finally. Though he’s perhaps irrelevant with special guest hosts Rob and Sandra.

Fortunately, it’s an Immunity Challenge. Like all such challenges in recent seasons, it involves an obstacle course and a puzzle.

Since we don’t know most of their names, we’ll disperse with the challenge recap. Vokai teams up nicely in the early going , but soon Lairo catches them and matches them with their cooperation.

When it comes to the puzzle, though, Vokai gets off to a fast lead. It’s actually exhausting work, as the pieces are quite heavy. Soon, Lairo hits a standstill as they struggle to understand what they’ve done wrong with their puzzle.

Probst taunts that it’s one of the biggest blowouts ever to occur in the first challenge. They take their flint, even though they don’t need it. He throws a twist at Lairo. One person – determined by random draw – will go to the Island of the Idols. She will return in time for the vote. Elizabeth is freaked out about this, worrying that she’s missing important strategy.

Then, when she arrives and sees the giant Rob and Sandra statues, she’s super thrilled. Rob and Sandra reveal themselves, and Elizabeth is downright giddy. She learns that they are there to mentor her, not compete with her.

First things first. Rob teaches Elizabeth how to make fire, since she and her fellow Lairo contestants will receive flint after Tribal Council. It really clicks for her when Sandra shows her some tactics.

When she and Sandra return to Rob, he offers her an opportunity. She can use what she just learned to try to beat him in a fire building contest. If she wins, she gets an Immunity Idol good for the next TWO Tribal Councils. If she fails, she loses her vote.

Back at Lairo camp, we’re sure seeing an awful lot of Elaine. She’s trying to work with several others to vote out Ronnie. Meanwhile Ronnie is trying to vote out Elaine. Vince joins them for the conversation, so he’s playing both sides. He tells her everything that they said about her, but it really appears that it’s going to come down to the other women. If Elizabeth loses to Rob, it might just be one less vote to worry about.

Elizabeth takes Rob’s offer, and he admits it wasn’t the only offer he had in his pocket. Sandra basically says that Elizabeth doesn’t have the first shot in hell, but still tries to help the young apprentice.

“What were you thinking going against me?” Rob asks. “If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Before she goes, Elizabeth gets to draw a name for the first member of the Vokai tribe who will visit Island of the Idols. She goes back to camp one vote lighter.

Elaine approaches everyone. She’s in freakout mode, and says that she’ll vote for anyone. The muscle boys tell her that she instantly developed relationships with everyone, so they feel like she’s super threatening. Aaron tells Elaine they’ll vote for Vince instead, and she acts like she agrees, but that seems HIGHLY unlikely.

Elizabeth decides to lie about Island of the Idols. She tells her tribemates that she went down a path and threw a rock at some urns, but didn’t win anything. She’s now the most popular girl at camp, because they all want her nonexistent vote.


At Tribal Council, Rob and Sandra watch the proceedings, where the conversation pretty much leans toward Elaine from the get-go. She cries in her devastation, feeling like the show has torn her down rather than build her up.

Ronnie takes a moment to list his many, many, many jobs in his life experience. It sounds something like this:

“You know, I've had a lot of jobs: boxer, mascot, astronaut, imitation Krusty, baby proofer, trucker, hippie, plow driver, food critic, conceptual artist, grease salesman, carny, mayor, drifter, bodyguard for the mayor, country western manager, garbage commissioner, mountain climber, farmer, inventor, Smithers, Poochie, celebrity assistant, power plant worker, fortune cookie writer, beer baron, Kwik-E-Mart clerk, homophobe and missionary -- but protecting Springfield, that gives me the best feeling of all.”

That’s actually a Homer Simpson quote from an Episode titled “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge,” but it’s not that much of an exaggeration.

One profession Ronnie will NOT be listing on his resume is successful Survivor player, though. He is the first person voted out of Survivor: Island of the Idols. You might say that this poker player... overplayed his hand.