Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 46 recaps
Are idols broken?
By Damnbueno | Published: May 2, 2024
Survivor 46 Episode 10 recap/ analysis

Are idols broken?

Last week, we saw Hunter getting voted out when he had an Idol to protect him. He went against his instincts twice. First, he told people he had an Idol. Once he did that, all the other players were able to form a plan for removing Hunter, his Idol or both. Then second, after convincing himself he had to play his Idol, he changed his decision based on what others were saying at Tribal Council. Hunter got played. He fell victim to the plan he allowed others to create against him.

Earlier this season, we saw Jem getting voted out while she had an Idol. Jem was anxious to start playing the game and got bored when her tribe kept winning Immunity. She planted a phony Beware Advantage and laughed as her tribemates dug furiously for an Idol. However, Jem failed to do the necessary follow-up move to complete the deception. She didn’t plant a phony Idol for her tribe to find and attach it to the authentic Idol note. Her actions, while entertaining, created paranoia and distrust amongst her tribemates. Everyone suspected everyone else of leading them on a wild goose chase. Tim suspected Jem planted the phony Beware Advantage, and told his tribemates, including Maria. And even though Maria trusted Jem, she ultimately helped blindside Jem out of the game.

Tiffany found the Yanu Idol, and immediately told Kenzie and Q about it. They kept her secret for a while, but ultimately Q used the info to try and gain trust from Charlie and Maria so he could blindside Tiffany. Once the info became public, Tiffany was determined to play it for herself since she knew it had diminished value…until she found out Hunter also had an Idol.

All of this season’s Idol shenanigans led me to ponder this question. Has “new era Survivor” killed Idols? Has the accelerated game pace heightened the fear of Idols to the point where they’re ineffective? For insight, I took a look back at every Idol holder in the new era and how those Idols affected their game fate.

Naseer and his idol

Survivor 41 - Xander, Naseer and Shantel all found Idols. All three of them told others about their Idols. Naseer and Shantel both got voted out while still holding their Idols. Nobody cared that Xander had an Idol because unbeknownst to Xander, he was perceived as a goat.

Survivor 42 - Mike, Maryanne and Drea all held Idols, and thanks to the “goofy phrase” twist, all of the Idols were public knowledge. Lindsay also had an Amulet that became an Idol. Maryanne and Drea both played their Idols at final 9, but Drea was the only one to save herself, as she was the intended victim by the majority. Mike played his Idol for Maryanne at final 5, but she didn’t need it. Maryanne found a second Idol and used it to impress the jurors at Final Tribal Council, telling them she convinced Mike to burn his Idol on her when she had one for herself.

Jesse has two!

Survivor 43 - Cody, Gabler, Karla and Jeanine all held Idols, and they all told others about them. Jeanine gave hers to Dwight, and he gave it to Jesse. Both feared someone held the Knowledge Is Power Advantage and tried to protect themselves from it. Jesse played Cody’s Idol for Owen at final 6 and successfully flushed Karla’s Idol with it. Gabler’s Idol was only good for 2 Tribal Councils, and he never used it. Jesse played Jeanine’s Idol for himself at final 5 but didn’t need it.

Survivor 44 - Brandon, Danny, Carson, Joshua, Carolyn, Jaime and Heidi all held Idols. Only Carolyn and Heidi kept their Idols secret. Brandon saved himself with his Idol at final 17. Carolyn surprised many by playing one for Carson at final 7, but he didn’t need it. Carson, Jaime and Joshua’s Idols all expired when the tribes moved to the same beach. Carson and Jamie never had a chance to use theirs, but Joshua played his at final 14 canceling out a tie vote. Danny saved Frannie with his Idol at final 10, but didn’t secure her as a partner, and in fact, helped vote her out at final 8. Carolyn impressed many by playing her Idol for Carson at final 7, but it wasn’t enough to get her any jury votes. Heidi played hers at final 6, but she didn’t need it.

Sabiyah and the shortest-lived idol

Survivor 45 - Bruce, Jake, and Sabiyah all held Idols, and Austin held two of them. Bruce and Sabiyah got voted out while still holding their Idols. Jake played his for Katurah at final 5. Austin gave one of his Idols to Julie, who never returned it. Julie used that Idol to save herself at final 6. Austin played his other Idol for himself at final 6 but didn’t need it.

So, if my math is correct (and please check it), this means entering this season, 25 Idols (or Amulets that became Idols) have been found in the new era. However, only two of the idol-finders (Drea and Brandon) actually saved themselves from certain expulsion. Danny also saved Frannie. Its hard for me to say Joshua saved himself because we can’t be certain he’d have been the one removed if there were a revote between he and Sarah. 3 saves out of 25 Idols isn’t an impressive ratio to me.

What’s the lesson here? I think the accelerated game pace, and Producer-forced twists (split Tribal Councils, half the tribe having Immunity etc.) have inhibited players from using Idols to save themselves. That basic Idol function has to a degree become boring to players, who’d prefer to use their Idols to impress the jurors. Hunter said himself “If I’m gonna play this game to win, I think an Idol has to be a tool I can use, not just to save myself to make another vote, but to use it to gain potential allies.” Recent players don’t seem to believe playing an Idol before, say, final 10 will produce results strong enough to get them to the finals, or win the game. With Idols usually expiring at final 5, and every member of the merged tribe not voting together until final 10, this means there are only 6 chances to make an impressive Idol maneuver.

Hunter faced a catch-22. He prioritized using his Idol to build an alliance over keeping himself in the game, but he killed his game by trying to build an alliance with it. Tiffany was convinced her Idol was worthless once everyone knew about it, but it remains to be seen if that was a clever ruse on her part. She seemed sincere to me. I think her mind changed when she found out about Hunter’s Idol, and decided she’d only play hers if Hunter played his.

Perhaps new era players think an Idol only has worth if it can secure loyal partners who’ll help you figure out how to use it. But they never consider that the person you tell will almost certainly use that info to gain trust from someone else. And in the 26-day new era, the time for earning trust is much shorter than in a 39-day season.

One could argue that saving an Idol for a late game shocker could help secure a win and could use Maryanne as a prime example. But Maryanne never actually played her Idol. And I could just as easily argue that Romeo was a goat and had no chance, and Mike fatally wounded himself when he claimed he’d never lied during the game. Maryanne had won the game long before she told anyone about her Idol.

So, I’ll be very curious to see what Tiffany will do with her Idol now. And if Producers insert a new Idol since Hunter’s left the game with him (which seems unlikely because only Idols that have been played have returned to the game), whoever finds it will have an interesting decision to make.

And away we go ....

In the “previously on” recap, Maria sure was grinning brightly when Hunter was voted out. I still think she hatched the plan.

Grinning Maria

Liz is upset about being left out of the previous vote. I’m thinking she should have had more pre-merge strategic conversations with her Nami tribemates. But much like Hunter did, she relied too much on Tevin to keep her informed.

Ben: “If he had an Idol, he should have played it.” My thoughts exactly.

Tiffany doesn’t sound like she was entirely in the know. “If Hunter did have an Idol I guess the smoke screen was so good, he didn’t play it.” I don’t think she’d say this if she were the integral part of the deception.

Tiffany confessional

Maria: “Q still has some fight in him ... I wanna keep him around.” She’s smart for keeping that line of communication alive. At a minimum, it might turn into a Jury vote for her. Is Maria emerging as this season’s best player?

Maria and Q

Q: “If I can win Immunity, I’m in control.” Uhh, not really. Your fate is already set. You’re either a juror, or a zero vote finalist.

Kenzie: “A huge check point is voting out your #1.” As Sandra would say “I don’t know about thaaaaaaaat.” It didn’t work out very well for Jesse when he voted out Cody, Cassidy when she voted out Karla, or Ricard when he voted out Shantel. It gets attention, and lets everyone know you’re a player, but it doesn’t necessarily help you win. At least not yet.

Even in pre new-era Survivor (old era Survivor?), few who’ve voted out their #1 have gone on to win the game. Tony voted out Trish in Cagayan, but Tony is a Survivor unicorn. Denise booted Malcolm in Philippines, but he tipped his hand and unwittingly let her know he was turning on her. I suppose you could also count Sandra helping vote out Courtney in Heroes vs Villains, but she knew either she or Courtney was leaving. Sandra’s was a move of self-preservation. That’s 3 winners in 40 seasons. Again, not a great ratio.

A challenge 10 minutes into the episode. Probst “You all look smaller.” Methinks he’s gonna offer rice again.

Probst: “You’re playing for the biggest Reward of the season.” Here come the loved ones letters.

Nope, it’s Applebee’s? Q shouldn’t get his hopes up. Nobody’s taking him along. Here comes the endless flow of plugs for the paid sponsor.

Look at Liz pulling a Sandra and kissing up to the paid sponsor. She could get a lot of free food, but I don’t think this will help her get the Sia money.

Wednesday night ritual

Ok Jeff, enough with the hard sell on Applebee’s. That’s got to be prop food. If it were real food, the flies would be all over it.

Normally I’d recommend throwing this challenge because you don’t want to be the person denying others a chance to eat, but Q has nothing to lose here.

Is Liz gonna pull a Noelle? Last one to the tossing, but ends up winning?

Liz for the win?

Nope, Q pulls it out. Who he takes with him might be revealing. If he picks Maria, she could come under suspicion.

Q picks Tiffany. Liz begs, but he still picks Maria. Liz will never give her jury vote to Q, even if he picks her next. So, then he picks Kenzie. If I were Liz, I’d cuss him out on the spot. Q didn’t have any jury votes in the first place, but it’s worse now. Life at camp will suck even more because Ben, Charlie and Venus all have to console Liz now because of Q.

Liz: I can't

Liz: “I’m pissed!” Atta girl!

Upset Liz, silent tribemates

Q: “But you voted for me last night.” Yo Q, so did your first choice Tiffany. Q is a dick.

This reminded me of when Kat denied Christina a chance to see her ailing father in One World because “I wanted to hang out with these two (Kim and Alicia). I’m about to get drunk!” Sabrina saw to it Kat got voted out next.

It’s interesting how Kenzie, Maria and Tiffany didn’t offer give their spot to Liz. I wonder if that will come back to bite any of them?

I can feel the Survivor audience shifting. Now a ton of people want Liz to win.

Charlie: Liz is a beast

Kenzie: “Liz was pissed.” Q: “I’ve dealt with that when firing people.” Does Q still think he’s the boss in this game? He’s one of the most delusional Survivor players ever.

Kenzie in confessional: “I don’t know how he (Q) could pick me over Liz. That was cold.” Yeah, Q is a dick.

Ok, who is gonna try and sneak their extra burger to Liz?

Burger time!

Maria, if you stick your neck out for Q, you’ll probably have it chopped off right after his.

If I’m Liz, I tell Q to his face there’s no way I’m ever voting for him to win. That gives him incentive to sit next to me in the finals. But I don’t tell anybody else because that gives them incentive to bring Q to the finals.

Tiffany commits a classic Survivor mistake — babbling on and on about the food you ate to people who didn’t get to eat. I remember how doing that helped sink Cyndi’s game in Guatemala.

Tiff talks food

Immunity Challenge. Probst “Winner gets a guaranteed spot in the final seven.” That’s “final several.”

I knew the rice would be back, I just picked the wrong challenge.

Ah shit, here we go again

Kenzie offers to step out, instantly telling everyone she thinks she’s safe. Liz groans, showing her cards worse than Jessica Lewis showed hers when facing a rock draw in Millennials vs Gen X.

In past seasons, some have done well by alternating between an overhand and underhand grip. But it looks like everyone is going overhand this time. I wonder if they were required to use that grip?

Nope, Maria is alternating.

Maria, alternating-handing it

This is why I’m enjoying Venus this season, even though she’s not playing a strong game.

Venus: Drop it

I loved the slo-mo shot of Q’s bucket falling.

It comes down to Charlie vs Tiffany. I’d say the Reward food made the difference in this challenge, but Charlie didn’t get any.

Liz disagrees with me.

Liz: She got fed

Tiffany drops from out of nowhere, just when I was thinking of typing “This challenge looks like one when the rock-solid looking player drops from out of nowhere.”

Props to Charlie for knowing how to practice for a challenge like this. No props to Survivor for recycling so many challenges the players know how to practice for so many of them.

Hmm ... this is a tough decision. It seems like the best move is splitting votes between Tiffany and Q, putting more votes on Tiffany. That way, either Tiffany or her Idol is gone. But after leaving Liz out of the last vote, I wonder how cooperative she’ll be? She’s obviously gonna vote for Q, but you have to wonder if she’ll tip off Tiffany if they decide to put more votes on her. That way, Liz could guarantee Q leaves. If they actually want Tiffany gone, they might have to leave Liz out of the loop again.

Tiffany wants Q gone, but does she realize the only way to guarantee that is by playing her Idol?

Don’t Kenzie and Tiffany realize how dangerous it is to talk strategy around Venus?

Kenzie, Tiff ... and Venus?

Ben, Maria, Charlie and Q are gunning for Tiffany, so the power falls to Liz. Does she listen to her heart or her head here? Depending on where everyone sits at Tribal, Liz could just whisper to Tiffany to play her Idol like Natalie Anderson did to Jon in San Juan Del Sur. That would not only guarantee Q leaves, but it could buy some trust from Tiffany and Kenzie.

In Millennials vs Gen X, Zeke said “Tribal Council is theater.” I really don’t care what anybody says before they vote tonight.

Probst “Q, Liz let you have it at the challenge.” Like I said in an earlier column, Denise blasted Abi-Maria, and Sandra blasted Russell and Jonny Fairplay. There’s value in standing up to/against the person everybody is angry with.

Liz is sitting too far away from Tiffany to tip her off.

Nuinui, Ep10 Tribal

I think there’s only one vote that matters tonight – Liz.

Maria smirks when Tiffany holds on to her Idol.

Smirking Maria

Kenzie’s expression just told the jury she wasn’t in on the plan. Venus was smart enough to keep a stone face, but the jury won’t think she planned this. Maria can own this one.

Poker-faced Venus; shocked Kenzie

Q writes “Yanu no more” on his vote. This dude really knows how to throw away Jury votes, doesn’t he?

So Tiffany joins the “blindsided with an Idol” list. If I’d known that would happen, I would have included Tiffany in this week’s intro.


So, Tevin blindsides Soda, takes credit for it, then gets blindsided himself. Liz blindsides Tevin, but thanks to Q’s shenanigans, the focus doesn’t go to her. Tiffany was a pivotal player in blindsiding Hunter, and now she’s been blindsided. I think Maria pulled this one off, but since Liz is so hungry to own a “big move,” she may try to take credit for it, or maybe remind everyone how she planned the Tevin boot. Does this mean Maria or Liz is a goner next week? I think that’s very likely. This seems to be the “new era” way of life. He/she who blindsides shall be blindsided next.

Yam Yam, Gabler, Maryanne, and Erika didn’t blindside anyone (well, maybe Maryanne blindsided Omar). But none of them stood up to take credit for any moves until very late into the game. Dee orchestrated several boots but didn’t blindside anyone. She hid her moves in the safety of a solid 4-person alliance. What do they all have in common? In the new era, sticking your head up is an invitation to getting it chopped off.

I can’t resist saying it. Hunter told people he had an Idol, and they used that info to get rid of him. Tiffany told people she had an Idol, and they used that info to get rid of her. Telling people you have an Idol is equal to screaming “Here’s info you can use against me!”

What do you think? Has the accelerated new era pace killed Idols? Is merely playing an Idol to save yourself become an ineffective move? After all, you can’t win the game if you don’t stay in the game. What value is it to secure a partner with an Idol if that partner will inevitably work against you? Let me know in the comments.

damnbuenoDamnbueno got his nickname in 8th grade Spanish class when his friend shouted out "You're pretty damn good at Spanish." The teacher insisted he say it in Spanish, so the friend said "Esto es damn bueno en Espanol." The nickname stuck. These days, when he's not forgetting his 8th grade Spanish, Damnbueno is indulging his obsession with all things Survivor. Reach him in the comments section here at True Dork Times.