Another Survivor Oz Top Ten is coming your way today as our Ozlet from the United Kingdom, James Pickering, takes a look back at the ten best Tribal Councils! There have been hundreds of Tribal Councils in Survivor history but for a variety of reasons, James believes these ten are the best we’ve seen. We are sure this is going to cause some debate so make sure you leave your thought about which Tribal Councils were unlucky to miss out and which ones were lucky to be included below!
10. Erik Reichenbach – Micronesia – Episode 12 – ‘If it smells like a rat, give it cheese’
It has gone down as one of the stupidest moves in Survivor history and it is probably one of the first Tribal Councils people would think of when deciphering a list such as this. Erik was the overawed and enthusiastic fan in Micronesia; something that made him endearing and coupled with his underdog status against the Black Widow brigade, probably resulted in many viewers rooting for him to succeed. Although he is now perhaps unfortunately remembered for this infamous blunder, Erik had displayed some decent game play up until this point in the season. He’d been the obvious boot at the Tribal Council just before the Merge, but managed to save himself by sucking up to the self-important Ozzy whilst throwing Ami under the bus. He had also proven himself to be extremely strong in challenges and had reached the Final Five on the back of several challenge wins, including three straight Immunity wins. Against four seemingly weaker players, he had an extremely good chance of continuing this Immunity run right to the end of the game and he’d started off this plan on the right path by confidently winning Immunity, thus seemingly confirming himself a place in the Final Four. Alas for Erik, the ability of attractive women to destroy a young boy’s mind reared its head for all to see and the mental manipulation of him by four very cunning women was almost unbelievable. Through guilt tripping, mind games and perhaps the odd flirtatious head wobble, the Black Widow brigade managed to convince Erik to do the unthinkable; give up his Individual Immunity to Natalie in the hope of redeeming his character in their eyes and supposedly in the eyes of the Jury. It was an outrageous idea, something so stupid that it is mind boggling that Erik actually fell for it. When he did however, we were treated to some pretty hilarious Jury reactions; open mouthed gapes from Eliza, a shaking head and smiles from Ozzy and outright laughter and exclamations from James. And we were then treated to what is still unique to this one Tribal Council; we saw every single person’s vote and confessional in which the women pronounced Erik the stupidest Survivor ever. To his credit, Erik left with a smile on his face and took it relatively well considering the mental tumble dryer he had just been subjected to by what is arguably the most dangerous alliance in Survivor history. He summed it up with his extremely poignant final remark, “You guys drive me crazy”. Jeff Probst summed it up better with the analysis of, “I think that’s what you call a life lesson”.
9. Randy Bailey – Gabon – Episode 9 – ‘Nothing Tastes Better than $500’
I love this Tribal Council as it’s hilarious, iconic and for the ridiculously petty story line that leads to its occurrence. Hell, the ridiculously petty story line that leads to this Tribal Council also ends up being the absolute deciding factor of who wins the million dollars at the end of the game: a fact that makes Gabon one of my favourite seasons. Yes, I’m talking about cookie gate. Basically, Sugar steals one of Randy’s cookies at the Auction and Randy gets annoyed enough to decide his plan is going to be one of ‘crashing and burning’. He’s basically going to be so cantankerous, so unpleasant around camp that the remaining tribe mates will get so sick of him they’ll vote him off. However, the ace up his sleeve is the fact Randy is banking on Bob to have the Hidden Immunity Idol, which he could play to blindside Susie, (voting her off isn’t enough, he wants to blindside her. Oh the irony!). Up until he puts his plan into effect it seems he was actually safe from the vote at the upcoming Tribal Council, (the majority alliance were discussing voting Bob before Randy), but his deliberate confrontational demeanor changes that so now Randy is going home next. Unfortunately for Randy though, the ace up his sleeve, (Bob), actually doesn’t have a real Hidden Immunity Idol, only a pretty convincing fake one. Also unfortunate for Randy is that Bob wants to gain brownie points with the ring leader of the majority, (Sugar), who happens to not only despise Randy but also has a strong desire to humiliate him. So Bob gives Randy his Fake Idol for no other reason but to make his inevitable exit more embarrassing, an act that Randy proclaims as one of the “most selfless acts he has ever seen”. At the Tribal, cookie-gate dominates the conversation, (I will always find serious conversations about cookies amusing), and Randy gets character assassinated by everybody, (something that he takes with a smile; in his mind he’s safe), and they get to the vote. We have some very memorable voting confessionals, (Sugar’s almost uncomfortably personal one about Randy; Randy’s ‘not strategic, strictly personal one’ about Susie), and then the classic Crystal Cox confessional where she screams it for everybody to hear. Then Jeff asks if anybody has an Idol to play; and Randy obviously does. Randy hops up to play his Idol and when Jeff breaks the news it isn’t real, the entire tribe bursts into laughter. It was cruel, but man its funny. And his final words, “To hell with these frickin people” sums up how I would feel if the same prank had just been pulled on me.
8. Edgardo Rivera – Fiji – Episode 10 – ‘It’s a Turtle?!’
This remains, in my opinion, the single funniest Tribal Council in Survivor history. It’s funnier than Erik being duped by attractive women, Randy being humiliated by team Sugar and any Tribal involving Coach. The facial expressions from the three horsemen upon realising their plans had been duped still make me laugh out loud whenever I see them. Plus, it also featured one of my favorite strategic moves of all time; rather than vote for the obvious target or even the second most obvious, let’s vote for the person nobody will be expecting! That way an Idol play is never going to have any impact on what we are trying to do. It also featured my favourite type of player; somebody who is so unpredictable, so reckless that he or she screws every single plan that people try to involve them with. Hell, they’re probably the worst type of player strategically, but man they make great television. Basically, the four horsemen alliance of Alex, Mookie, Edgardo and Dreamz were in the minority, but with a Hidden Idol nobody but them knew about they weren’t dead men walking yet; especially considering they had Dreamz getting information from the majority on who they were planning to vote for. There was a problem though; Dreamz struggled to keep anything secret, so within a few minutes of ‘playing both sides’, the majority were aware of the Horsemen’s Idol. This wasn’t an insurmountable problem however; Dreamz had found out the majority were planning on voting for Alex, so he informed the horsemen of this, and the Idol was transferred from Mookie to Alex. Once again, the horsemen looked good at this point. But unfortunately for the three other horsemen, Dreamz saw the exchange take place and ran off and told the majority, who then change their vote to Mookie. At this point, the scrambling and vote changing had reached fever pitch, as the horsemen are now voting for Cassandra as she’s less likely to have an Idol, (ironic, right?). Unfortunately for the horsemen, the other side has thought of this too, and now the vote had changed to Edgardo, for the exact reasons the horsemen’s vote changed for Cassandra. The strategic mind behind this decision by the way? Earl, Yau Man? Nope, the strategic powerhouse of Fiji came up with it; Stacy Kimball. You remember her right? Anyway, the other crucial thing that happens is they neglect to inform Dreamz of the change in plan. So they head off to Tribal and everybody votes. Alex plays the Idol and the horsemen look smug. Then they see the votes for Edgardo and their faces drop. It is fantastic television and worth a re-watch is you get the opportunity. The facial reactions of the horsemen alone get this Tribal a spot on this list!
7. Tyson Apostol – Heroes vs. Villains – Episode 6 – ‘Banana Etiquette’
I can count on one hand the amount of Tribal Councils I have been genuinely shocked at the outcome from around season eleven onwards. In earlier seasons, who was getting voted out was left pretty ambiguous by the editors, but as the show has progressed, giving the viewer a reason for why somebody got voted off seems to take precedent over genuinely shocking the audience; ala the John Carroll boot in Marquesas. I personally believe that blindsiding the audience along with the contestant always makes for great television and it’s probably why I like the Tyson boot so much in Heroes vs. Villains. Because, and lets make this clear, there is absolutely no way in the entire world that Tyson should have gone home. It was six versus three; there is no possible scenario where that doesn’t work if executed effectively. Russell or Parvati was going home; the outcome just depended on whether Russell played the Idol on himself or Parvati. So when Russell jumped up and played it on Parvati whilst citing “honour and integrity” for Coach’s benefit, I laughed at his stupidity and thought that was it. And then inexplicably, Tyson’s torch was getting snuffed. I remember watching it and having to press pause on the recording to figure out what exactly had happened; I was genuinely very confused. On a re-watch, it seems to be presented that Russell planted a ‘Russell seed’ in Tyson’s brain and that he was directly responsible for pulling his alliance of three out of a seemingly impossible situation. Whether I believe that to be the case or that Tyson was just a bloody idiot is neither here nor there, but it certainly made for entertaining television and as such it gets a place in the top ten Tribal’s for me.
6. Leann Slaby – Vanuatu – Episode 11 – ‘Surprise… and Surprise again!’
One of the most underrated seasons produced one of the most epic blindsides in Survivor history. For the three episodes leading up to this Tribal Council there had been a dominant female alliance, which seemed hell bent on proving women are indeed the superior sex by systematically eliminating the men. With Ami as their charismatic leader, they had succeeded in sticking together until only one man remained, and that one man had just lost the crucial Immunity Challenge. It seemed cut and dry, until the women took pity on said man, (eventual winner Chris Daugherty), and decided that they should eliminate one of their own instead, the notoriously annoying Eliza Orlins. But instead of accepting this bit of luck, Chris used this to his advantage, (admittedly after a bit of prompting from Twila Tanner), by approaching Eliza with this information and with an offer to vote for Leann with himself, Scout and Twila. By doing this, they would succeed in voting out the second in command of the female alliance, but it would also set up an incredibly unlikely new power alliance of Scout, Chris, Twila and Eliza; thus destroying Ami’s seemingly easy run to the finals and also aligning three people, (Eliza, Scout and Twila), who have grated on each other from the very beginning of the game and who couldn’t stand each other. It seemed an incredibly unlikely scenario to occur, but it is exactly what happened. What makes this Tribal all the sweeter is that Leann stated at Tribal Council that she saw the Immunity Challenge she had just lost as “not life or death for me”, and that when the first vote was pulled out for Eliza, (thus confirming to Eliza what Chris had told her was true), Ami looked at Eliza in the eyes and just nodded her head sadly, as if to confirm Eliza’s inevitable departure. It was just so downright cocky and self-assured, so to see it backfire was one of the most satisfying votes I’ve ever seen. It was a massive power shift, there was no way you would have predicted it even at the half way point of the episode and thus it makes the top ten for me.
5. Gretchen Cordy – Borneo – Episode 7 – ‘The Merger’
This vote, although not as flashy as some of the Tribal Councils we have seen in recent seasons, was the moment that both the members of the Pagong tribe and the viewer at home saw how brutally unfair a game like Survivor can be. It was the first major blindside of the series and it also fundamentally changed the game of Survivor forever; people could now be voted out not for something they have done wrong, but for purely strategic reasons. Hell, people could now be voted out for being too strong, which seemed like a ridiculous concept before this vote took place. Gretchen was the leader and mother hen of the beloved Pagong tribe. She was a hard worker, well liked, great in the outdoors; basically the blueprint of what the audience thought a winner of a show like Survivor would produce. Alliances were seen as cheating, so when the Tagi four voted off Gretchen purely because she was too much of a threat and she muttered the immortal, “it’s me”, everybody was blindsided, (including the audience). Add in the fact that we were introduced to Sean’s infamous alphabet strategy and the voting breakdown was a truly unique four-one-one-one-one-one-one, (something that will never happen again), and Gretchen’s vote off deserves a spot on this list.
4. John Carroll – Marquesas – Episode 8 – ‘Jury’s Out’
Again, this is a Tribal that doesn’t have the flashy Idol plays of recent times, but it will always be the first Tribal where the game was switched around and the bottom feeders teamed up to dethrone the power alliance. This seems like such a standard move these days that fans get genuinely angry when contestants don’t do it, so much so that people are often accused of ‘not playing the game’ or perhaps more bluntly have their intelligence questioned. But at the time, this was unprecedented and a massive blindside of not only John Carroll, but the Survivor audience as well. In fact, the thought of John being sent home even with twenty minutes to go in the episode seemed impossible; Paschal and Neleh had spent the first twenty reiterating their desire to stay strong with the remaining Rotu members. The die seemed cast; Sean Rector was going home and the Rotu Four were going to dominate the game, led by their cocky leader John Carroll. It seemed so unfair when the nature of the Immunity Challenge was announced; a coconut chop challenge meant Sean had literally no chance of winning, thus sealing his ticket home. But then the magic happened; the Rotu Four eliminated the remaining contestants in order they were going to be eliminated in the game. It was so blatant, so transparent that even Paschal and Neleh opened their eyes with Sean’s prophetic “this is the order, how it’s going to go”. But even after the challenge, it still seemed like we were losing Sean. There was nothing really in the edit to suggest that the game had been flipped upside down. The questions at Tribal seemed innocent enough and we then moved on to what seemed to be a straightforward vote. And then we got blindsided. Sean’s voting confessional remains one of my favorites of all time, purely because I was so shocked how cocky and self-assured he had ‘check-mated’ John. Then the votes were read and John went home and cried in his final words. Survivor changed irrevocably after that vote; as I said before, flipping the game upside down is par for the course now. But this was the first time it had happened, the first time it had been thought of and achieved. I can’t stress enough how important this Tribal Council is in Survivor history. I also love how blindsided I felt after watching it. It without a doubt deserves a place on this list.
3. Katie Collins – Blood vs. Water – Episode 12 – ‘Rustle Feathers’
I might be accused of recency bias with this choice but I don’t particularly care; this Tribal was an absolute doozy. Leading up to it, we as the audience were praying for something interesting to happen but we didn’t hold much hope; there seemed to be a strong alliance of four out of six, Ciera seemed blinded to the fact she was the fourth in that alliance and nothing game changing typically happens at even numbered Tribal Councils; big moves are usually saved for when there are an odd number of people left in the game as it avoids the possibility of a tie and thus the dreaded purple, (black), rock. Hayden was obviously the next in line and he knew it. So he threw caution to the wind, decided to go out on a bang and call out power players in a seemingly vain attempt to shake things up. So he called out Tyson as the man in charge and then capitalized on Gervase and Monica accidentally calling Ciera “number four” by pushing Ciera hard into flipping into a guaranteed Final Three alliance. Tyson jumped up in an attempt to stop the increasingly worrying turn of events from getting worse by stating he did not believe Ciera was number four and at this point Ciera was being spoken to by everybody in an attempt to persuade her to either stick with her alliance, (Tyson, Gervase and Monica) or flip on them and vote for Monica with Hayden and Katie. It was all very entertaining and the amusing “rustle feathers” conversation provided some light comic relief, but precedent would show that this was just Survivor editors leading us to believe something might change. I mean rocks hadn’t been drawn in twenty-three seasons, so why would Ciera flip? But to my astonishment and joy, she took a risk and flipped; thus there was a three-three tie and the possibility of seeing a rock draw was now tantalisingly close. After a re-vote and no change in proceedings, the players were given the opportunity to discuss it as a group in an attempt to break the deadlock, or rocks would be drawn. To my delight, no agreement was reached and we would now see something that I genuinely believe would never happen again in Survivor history; the notoriously unfair ‘purple’ rock, which had dyed its hair since 2002 and was now sporting a jet-black color. There was also now the very real possibility that Tyson, the man who had run the game from the very beginning could now be sent to Redemption Island with an Idol in his pocket. It was almost an orgasmic thought. But the rocks were drawn and Katie went home in an anti-climactic outcome. Tyson then got cocky and told Katie her seat was on the Jury, and Katie got her torch snuffed and went off to see Mum on Redemption Island. Although the outcome of the rock draw was anti-climactic in the fact that Katie drew the rock, it was still exhilarating television and thoroughly deserves a spot on this list. If Tyson had have drawn the rock and gone home with an Idol in his pocket after dominating the game for so long, I would have definitely put it higher.
2. Paschal English – Marquesas – Episode 13 – ‘The Sole Survivor’
All the Tribal Councils on this list are memorable, entertaining and unique in there own right. However, not many have fundamentally changed the game forever since its occurrence. This one certainly did and it remains controversial twelve years later. Leading up to it, Sean Rector had just been voted off, meaning that Vecepia was in trouble and needed to win Immunity in order to save herself from being the next one voted out. Lo and behold, she pulled it off which meant that fan favourite, Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien, was now on the chopping block. Due to the Immunity Challenge being the fallen comrades challenge it was held at Tribal Council, which left Kathy with no time to try and make any moves in order to save herself. In a last ditch effort, she offered Vecepia a Final Two deal if she voted with her against the resolutely strong alliance of Neleh and Paschal, as there was no way that those two would vote against each other. This type of talk, (stuff that would alter the course of the game so significantly), had never occurred so matter-of-factly in a Tribal Council setting before; usually these types of strategic talks occur at camp. To then see Vecepia accept the deal on the basis that Kathy “take the heat” from whatever the tiebreaker scenario, (she assumes questions like in Africa… She wishes…), makes this Tribal fantastic already before what happens next. Kathy had just pulled herself from the surefire boot to now a tied vote and as we’ve seen in twenty-seven seasons of Survivor, votes don’t change at Tribal Council very often. At this point Kathy even tries to call a time out from Tribal Council, so she can go down to the beach with Vecepia to discuss who they vote for. Can you imagine Probst in Survivor twenty-seven if somebody tried to call a time out?! He points out, (very politely when compared to what he would say today), that the discussion up until this point has taken place in the public forum of Tribal Council, (let’s not forget, the entire Jury are witnessing this take place), and as such should finish there. So Kathy and Vecepia quickly come to the consensus they’ll vote for Neleh. Fast forward five minutes we have a two-two tie between Kathy and Neleh. At this point, Jeff introduces the infamous purple rock, we have the iconic closed fist reveal shot, and the rest is history. What makes the end result so ultimately satisfying? The fact Paschal goes home. When you think about it that was just so deliciously perfect as an introduction to the purple rock tiebreaker. It is a fundamentally unfair, unpredictable and undesirable way to decide who goes home, that it is exactly why it was introduced in the first place; to force people to flip in order to avoid it. So the fact the one guy who didn’t receive any votes went home was just perfect; and it’s probably why we didn’t see it again in twenty-three seasons. There is no way to describe the Final Four Marquesas Tribal Council as anything other than fantastic and groundbreaking. It was always going to deserve a spot on this list.
1. Final Tribal Council – Borneo – Season Finale
Can there be any other at the top of this list? It was the first, it was the corniest (complete with a crate of cash and a gong), and it was the only one where the winner was not revealed live in New York or Los Angeles. But it was and will remain the best. Maybe I’m sentimental, but I don’t think I am. The ‘rats and snakes’ speech still remains to this day the most iconic Jury speech and arguably Survivor moment of all time. Jeff’s soliloquy at the beginning where he is so complimentary about everybody and the way they played is touching and the soft emotional music as a backdrop to it is great. I mean it’s the American Beauty music! Who doesn’t love that?! Then there is the fact that we have two completely contrasting games on display for the Jury to judge; we have Richard’s strictly strategic game where he says the best player should win and Kelly’s more physical game where she wants the best person to win. The difference in approach between Richard and Kelly couldn’t have been underlined more when Richard answered Gervase’s Jury question of, “what was his biggest regret in the game”, to be “I found myself becoming too trusting at the times”, compared to Kelly’s answer of, “I wouldn’t have been part of the alliance”. We had a few generic Jury questions which at the time weren’t generic; the “who would you put in your place” and “what qualities got you to the Final Two” might now be standard Jury questions after twenty-seven seasons, but at the time these were original and interesting. Hell, that might be why they’re generic questions today! We have Rudy’s fantastic Jury speech, where he stands up and proclaims his stupidity, (whilst this occurs, the music stops to heighten the comic effect of his statement; just one of the many touches that make this Tribal Council fantastic). We have jungle music when Greg asks the two finalists to pick a number between one and ten, subtly underlining Jeff’s “character is character” quote after Greg sits down. Then we have the ‘Snakes and Rats’ speech. A lot has probably been written about this so I’ll let it speak for itself. It’s fantastic, although one part that I find great is just before Tribal where Sue has a confessional on what she is going to say. Re-watch it if you get the chance, its fabulously foreshadowing of how epic her snakes and rat speech is. The brilliant way the show would have gone to an advert immediately after the speech is pretty appropriate as well; it was and is remains a pretty large talking point! We then have the votes, where Gervase gives his classic voting confessional, (again the music stops to not distract us from what he’s saying. Calling Sue a sore loser and asking Kelly to “stuff it in Sue’s face” if she wins, is one of my favorite underrated moments in this Tribal). What is also interesting about this Tribal Council is that the voting confessionals are extremely long compared to other seasons; people are given the ability to articulate exactly why they deserve to win and the music stops every time they start to talk to emphasise just how important these votes are. We have Colleen who changed her vote and almost expressed her disdain for the game with her prophetic, “this is awful” voting confessional, which is appropriate considering how much she has distanced herself from the show since it was aired. We have Rudy ‘fulfilling his obligation’ to his alliance with Richard and Greg sniffing the pen when he’s casting the deciding vote. We then have the reveal and Richard win’s in a four-three vote without a live crowd going ballistic; just an overwhelmed, “wow” and his head falling into his hands. It feels strangely anti-climatic but perfect at the same time. It is my favourite Tribal Council, and I don’t see how that will ever, ever change.
Honourable Mentions: Mitchell Olsen – Australian Outback, Burton Roberts – Pearl Islands, Richard Hatch – All-Stars, Janu Tornell – Palau, J.T. – Heroes vs. Villains, Jeff Kent – Philippines.
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!