We are 39 seasons deep into Survivor, and somehow Wednesday night provided us with the two most unique hours in the show’s 20 year history. I thought it was odd that we had a two hour episode with little promotion. The “scenes for next week” at the end of last week’s episode didn’t mention a two-hour episode. The Survivor Twitter account wasn’t mentioning it. I personally didn’t see any CBS promos hyping up “an epic two hour episode” or anything like that. Well now we know why. It was best to address all this in a single two-hour episode, and it’s hard to hype up an episode that largely revolves such an uncomfortable topic.
When the show opened with this message, it became clear that we were not in for a typical episode of Survivor.
I’ll start off by doing a pretty standard recap of explaining everything that happened. I’ll then conclude with my thoughts on the situation.
Episode 1 (8:00-9:00)
The episode starts off normal enough. We join Lairo after the tribal council where Dean played Kellee’s idol to send Jack home. There were two votes for Jack. One from Dean and one from a mystery person (Noura). Jamal was leading the investigation to find out the second voter and Noura confessed, saying that she was advised to do this by someone else and gave up Kellee’s name. This upset Kellee and caused her to throw a little fit, crying to Jamal and Janet about how Noura is lying. This is why Kellee’s move last week didn’t make much sense. There was no reason to involve Noura in the vote. As Jamal said, you can’t play an underground game with Noura. It was also completely unnecessary. It should’ve been left as a secret between Kellee and Dean. It was becoming clear what a threat Kellee was in this game. Wanting to protect herself, she searched for an idol and found one.
With 13 people left, it was time for the merge. We saw the classic merge feast and then everyone scrambling trying to get in the majority. The first merge vote is usually the most unpredictable vote of the season and can really set the tone for the rest of the game. I’ll be honest, it is impossible to follow all the possible alliances. There was original Vokai vs. original Lairo, but Tommy and Lauren were debating joining old Lairo. They were highlighting Kellee as a threat. Then there were alliances formed from the swap. It was all just a jumbled mess and I was getting a headache trying to figure it out. This was all interrupted by the story of the night.
The Beginning Of The Dan Situation
This is what we’ll remember most from last night’s episode and unfortunately the entire season. This will be the dark cloud that hangs over Season 39 forever. We did have foreshadowing that this was coming. Throughout the season, there had been light chatter about Dan being a bit too touchy-feely with the women. Whether it was cuddling at night, running his hands through their hair, or giving massages, Dan basically found any excuse he could to touch the girls on his tribe. It wasn’t outright sexual assault or anything, but it was definitely enough to be noticeable, and it was extremely creepy and uncomfortable to watch.
With the merge, the whole situation came to a head as multiple girls came together and discussed how uncomfortable Dan made them. Kellee and Missy particularly bonded over it, and we were shown numerous clips to support their claims.
Kellee appeared to be the most uncomfortable with the situation. She was on the verge of tears in a confessional. It got so real that for the first time in Survivor history (that I can remember at least), we heard a producer speak from behind the camera. He said how production would step in and talk to Dan if this was really a legitimate issue. Kellee said she felt that wasn’t necessary since Janet was now around, who had a way of “taming” Dan, so to speak.
Things then took an ugly turn. Missy and Elizabeth devised a plan to “play up” the Dan situation and make him a target. The girls went to Janet, a motherly figure on the tribe, with their concerns. Janet was taken aback by this. She personally liked Dan and had no issues with him, but she felt the need to protect the younger girls from him by sending him home. This all set the stage for more fireworks that would come later.
There’s eventually an onscreen message saying, “Producers met with all the players, both as a group and individually. They were cautioned about personal boundaries and reminded that producers are available to them at all times. Based on the outcome of those discussions, the game continued. In addition, producers met privately with Dan, at which time he was issued a warning for his behavior. Producers continue to monitor the situation.”
We had our first individual immunity challenge of the season. It was an endurance challenge that involved keeping three balls balanced on a platform. Aaron won immunity after a long battle with Jamal. Things seem to be set up as Kellee and Missy targeting each other (the top two players in my rankings last week), with the cloud of the Dan situation still hanging over everything.
Missy, Tommy, and Lauren were leading the charge to take Kellee out, viewing her as a big threat in the game. They had the backing of much of the original Lairo tribe too, who were outnumbered 7-6 and looking to even things up. Kellee wanted original Vokai to vote out Missy, stressing how big of a threat she is to win the game.
But the Dan situation fizzled back up again. Jamal and Noura wanted to target Dan for being such a creep, thinking it could be an easy vote. Janet and Kellee were very on board. Janet told Elizabeth the vote was now for Dan. Janet again wanted to protect the younger girls and thought she was making the moral move by taking Dan out. Elizabeth thought this was a decoy plan. She thought Janet was lying to her and that they were actually voting Missy. Elizabeth never personally felt uncomfortable with Dan so saw no reason to target him. She even admitted that would “play up that card in whatever way possible.” She also added, “Honestly, I’ve felt safe this entire time and if I had felt uncomfortable I would have said, ‘Please stop.’”
Dan hears about Janet targeting him and is furious, calling it “reprehensible.” The irony of him calling anyone else’s actions “reprehensible” was incredible. While all this is happening, Kellee found another hidden immunity idol, her second of the episode. It’s crazy that nobody else thought to look for the “merge idol.” She thought Dan seemed too comfortable so wanted further protection.
Jamal let Tommy know about the Dan plan, so going into tribal, it was basically Tommy and Lauren as the deciding votes to who was heading home: Kellee or Dan.
We see Jack walk in as the first member of the jury. There was a big abstract conversation at tribal about the differences between trust and deception. Eventually, it was time to vote. Jeff asked if anyone wanted to play an idol. Kellee seemed to consider it, but ultimately to decided to keep both idols in her pocket and was sent home because of it with an 8-5 vote. Noura, Karishma, Jamal, Kellee, and Janet voted for Dan. The eight votes for Kellee came from Missy, Dan, Elizabeth, Aaron, Elaine, Lauren, Tommy, and Dean. Kind of a savage move from Dean, but I don’t totally blame him. Just because someone does something good for you in the game doesn’t mean you owe them anything. Kellee made her own decision to give Dean the idol and had to live with the consequences. Kellee joined Chelsea and Vince as players to go home this season with an idol in her pocket. Two idols, in fact, which reminds us all of the famous James blunder in Survivor: China.
This was an obvious mistake by Kellee. She sensed something up which is why she looked for the idol, so you have to play it. I know it’s easy to say from our couches when we know the results, but the first merge vote is so unpredictable that I think I’d automatically play an idol with even the slightest thought it could be me, especially if I had two.
Hour 2 (9:00-10:00)
The Dan Situation Fallout
Back at camp, Jamal, Noura, Karishma, and Janet were stunned at the results of the vote. Janet was especially angry because she thought she was taking a moral stand to protect the young girls of the tribe, when in reality the young girls voted against Janet and with the man that they said was making them uncomfortable. Janet told Dan why she voted against him, citing the claims of Missy, Elizabeth, and Kellee.
Dan had a talk with Missy and Elizabeth on the beach where he apologized for making them uncomfortable. What followed was a disgusting display from the two girls. They denied that Dan ever made them uncomfortable and basically tried to turn it all on Janet.
It was shocking to watch. Elizabeth was pretty upfront from the start about how she was using the Dan situation to her advantage, which is disgraceful. Missy did have legitimate complaints about Dan though, which makes her walking it back so confusing. Lauren was also somewhat involved in all this to a lesser extent, but said she didn’t feel like making a strategic decision based on the Dan stuff.
Dan then went to Janet to say that Missy and Elizabeth denied everything. Janet, smartly, called everyone together to get to the bottom of it. She confronted the girls until they admitted that they did in fact tell Janet Dan made them uncomfortable with inappropriate touching. Janet says in a confessional that she thinks using claims of sexual harassment to advance your game has no place in Survivor, and she’s absolutely right. I’m all for “Survivor is just a game. Do what you gotta do.” But even I find this out of bounds. This has the potential to ruin people’s real lives outside the game, and it’s obviously a super sensitive issue today.
Janet was so upset by this that she slept on the beach, away from the rest of the tribe. Due to this, she saw Aaron and Missy searching for an idol early in the morning. Janet decided to join the hunt and found an idol. Great moment for this season’s hero.
Island Of The Idols
Jamal and Karishma, both on the wrong side of the last vote, went looking for some kind of advantage. They found a random note hanging at camp and Jamal grabbed it, sending him to the Island of the Idols.
Jamal arrived and was shocked to see Boston Rob and Sandra, just like everyone else has been. His lesson was about “sabotage.” Just for taking that note, Jamal lost his vote at the next tribal. They lectured him that if something was too good to be true, then it was. This was pretty stupid, and the dumbest thing at the Island Of The Idols all season. There’s advantages everywhere in Survivor nowadays. To think Jamal was supposed to see the note and think “This is too obvious. I should just leave it” is CRAZY. The “advantage” Jamal did get is that he could sabotage someone else. He was handed a blank note and a pencil and told he could do whatever he wants.
He decided to write a fake legacy advantage for Dean. He got back to the island, and it was story time. He told everyone that he won an advantage but had to give it to someone else and was choosing Dean because it was his birthday. Dean and others were very weary of this, especially when seeing the handwriting. It was less of an advantage and more putting a target on Dean. I’m still amazed that nobody has been honest about the Island Of The Idols. I don’t see the downside it. It makes me think the producers really want people to make up stories to keep the mystery alive.
Two immunity necklaces were up for grabs, one for the last man standing and one for the last woman standing. Jeff was an absolute masochist, taking pleasure in torturing the contestants. Aaron and Missy were the eventual winners, the second straight individual immunity won by Aaron.
Back at camp, it was clear that Jamal, Karishma, and Janet were on the bottom. They realized this and knew their best moves were “please not me.” The remaining 9 basically just had to decide how to split the vote. They decided to do guys on Jamal and girls on Karishma. Janet was debating playing her idol. Tommy assured her that she wasn’t getting votes, but Janet wasn’t sure if she could believe him despite their good relationship.
The Dan stuff really seemed to reach a boiling point at tribal, as we saw an over 10-minute conversation on everything, longer than most tribals we see. Aaron had a very tough moment where he said that Janet was just playing the victim over all this and doubted the claims were that bad because he “would’ve heard about it.” This was just not the situation at all and was a really bad look for Aaron. Jamal gave a good speech about how part of the problem in the real world with women’s sexual harassment/assault claims is that men often think “If it was a real issue, I would have heard about it” which diminishes what actually happened. Aaron did seem to realize he put his foot in his mouth.
The discussion went on, much to Dan’s annoyance. He asked twice “So we’re not gonna drop this?” Jeff finally was like “No we’re not going to drop this.” I obviously get why Dan wanted to move on from the narrative, but it was definitely a tough look for him. All of this ended up being very upsetting for Janet, who briefly debated if she should leave the game. But everyone showed her support and she decided to stay in.
It was time to vote. Janet ended up playing her idol, although it was unnecessary. Jamal went home with a 6-3-2 vote. 6 votes on Jamal. 3 votes went to Karishma. 2 votes on Janet. Jamal couldn’t vote. And we’re down to 11.
My Thoughts On Everything
That was definitely the most unique episode I’ve ever seen of Survivor. You couldn’t help but walk away feeling uncomfortable after it. CBS was in a tough spot, but I think compiling it into a two-hour episode and then trying to move forward (hopefully assuming there’s no other troubles this season) is the way to go. A lot of people are trashing Survivor and CBS, but I don’t know what they were supposed to do. I don’t think Dan needed to be outright kicked out of the game, even Kellee said it wasn’t necessary. They had something unprecedented for the show happen and had to adjust on the fly. This is a story that needed to be told too. You can make an argument that Survivor went a little overboard the previous two weeks with trying to talk about big society issues, but this wasn’t the case. This is a huge society issue, but it was also obviously a significant part of the game this season so it couldn’t be ignored.
-A lot of people are getting mad at Elizabeth, Missy, and somewhat Lauren, but it’s important to remember that the party most at fault is Dan for starting all this with his wandering hands. Totally creepy and unacceptable. However, I also don’t think he should be made out as a Harvey Weinstein rapist. He shouldn’t be like thrown in prison, but what he did was definitely over the line, and he deserves a ton of shame for it.
-Missy and Elizabeth also come off terribly. I get it’s a game, but this crossed way too much into a real world issue. If Dan wasn’t as bad as they said, then you risk ruining his life over a hyper-sensitive issue. If they were uncomfortable, then walking it back and trying somehow pin it on Janet (???) is crazy. As Kellee and others have said, stuff like this makes it hard for actual sexual assault victims to come forward. Here are their apologies.
-Janet obviously comes off the best in all this and will be the fan favorite for the rest of the season. She handled everything great and is a lock for a future Heroes vs. Villains season if there ever is one.
-Aaron really put his foot in his mouth at tribal with that comment, but appeared to not be fully aware of the situation and released a heartfelt apology on Twitter yesterday. Seemed genuine, and the video really helps. He also wasn’t even close to being the most guilty party.
-Tommy and Lauren also didn’t come off great, but I think they come off way better than Missy or Elizabeth and obviously Dan. I don’t have a problem with really either of them. Here are their apologies.
-One more point I’d like to make is that we shouldn’t be mad at anyone for voting for Kellee instead of Dan. That’s where people are going too far. I don’t expect Tommy/Lauren/Elaine etc. to vote out Dan and keep Kellee if they think that hurts their game. I don’t blame people at all for voting in a way that suited their best interests. The problem was playing up the Dan issue for their games and then walking it back and trying to victim blame.
-Kellee did get a raw deal. She had the most legitimate issues with Dan, was upfront about it, gets voted out, and then couldn’t defend herself. While Missy/Elizabeth/Lauren were all saying how they didn’t have a real problem with Dan, Kellee did. It was not gameplay for her at all.
-Lastly, we shouldn’t ruin lives because of this. I’m sure everyone involved regrets their actions, but it doesn’t make them awful people that need to be cancelled forever. It’s Reality TV, and we only see a small sliver of what actually happens. People will learn from their mistakes I’m sure. Tweeting harassment and hate at Elizabeth/Missy/Aaron/etc. accomplishes nothing.
Janet said it best
This is a running list I’ll keep all season long. This is NOT who will last the longest. Don’t look at the person ranked last as the person likely to go home next. Look at them as the person with the least chance to win. That person could very easily get dragged to FTC as a goat, but won’t win. This is ranking people based on their chance to actually win the game.
Well this took a very interesting turn. My favorite to win (Kellee) is gone, and there are now so many people with a soured edit, so we have to keep that in mind. I’d break it up like this.
Elizabeth, Karishma, Noura, and Dan just will not win. Karishma and Noura are bad players and goats, Elizabeth was not really a threat and came off really bad last episode. There’s just no chance Dan is winning.
Missy and Aaron are good players, BUT I think it’d be tough to parade either of them as the winner after the edits in the last episode, although it’s still possible.
Tommy and Lauren are catching some heat, but I still think they kind of had protected edits. I’m starting to really think one of them will be our winners.
Janet has the best hero edit of all, but is she too obvious? I felt the same way about Elaine for awhile, but now maybe its Janet who slides into that role.
Dean comes out pretty unscathed, but I haven’t seen a ton of winner edit in him.
So I’d break it up like this.
And that’s a wrap on the craziest two hours of Survivor I can remember. See you guys next week.