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Survivor Was One Fleur-de-Lis Away From the Most Chaotic Tribal Council Ever

A desperate play from a desperate player very nearly put this episode in the hall of fame.
  • Adam Klein in Survivor. (CBS)
    Adam Klein in Survivor. (CBS)

    SPOILERS for the outcome of Wednesday night's episode of Survivor ahead.

    Certain episodes of Survivor have become iconic; the ones that all the superfans know by heart. The one where Johnny Fairplay lied about his grandma dying. The merge episode where Parvati played two idols to oust JT. That chaotic "live" tribal council on Game Changers where Malcolm got voted out. Tonight's episode of Winners at War will likely be remembered, but if only one thing had gone differently, it would've been legendary.

    Up through the Immunity Challenge, it was a pretty standard episode of Survivor, though not without its interesting angles. Parvati found a hidden advantage on the Edge of Extinction and decided to a) share it with the whole EOE family, and b) sell it to Michele for fire tokens that she plans to spend on peanut butter for everybody, and honestly, this is why Well-Adjusted Mom Parvati will never be able to best Ruthless Black Widow Parvati. Also Sarah's team won the reward challenge, and she made the absolute rookie move of giving up her reward to Nick "because it's his birthday," which only served to remind everybody that she's a huge threat, and by all rights it should've gotten her voted out this week. But it didn't. Because Adam Klein is a psychopath.

    Adam won his original season, Millennials vs. Gen-X, by being something of a scrambling busybody who was able to hop from alliance to alliance to get to the end, mostly because he was playing in a game full of people who were playing the exact same way. This season, with 20 winners trying to feel each other out and consolidate their power, Adam hasn't been able to adjust his game, and as a result, he's come across like a hyperactive little teenager all hopped up on sugar and incredibly paranoid about every single vote. Not that he hasn't had reason to be paranoid, as he's come up as a possibility to be voted off pretty much every week he's gone to tribal council. But on a merged tribe of eleven, he's certainly been making it very easy for the rest of the group to take a week off from strategizing and just vote off the hyperactive child making everybody miserable.

    And so Adam entered Tribal Council with a huge target on his back. But he had a plan: having recognized a wooden fleur-de-lis shaped pendant on the podium where Jeff Probst stands to read the votes and connected that symbol to the one on the immunity idol that Denise found on Day 1, Adam got it into his head that the pendant was another immunity idol, and if he made a grab for it at Tribal, he could use it. Now, this is on its face an insane notion. Even though immunity idols have occasionally been hidden in plain sight before, there are clues that are given that point to their existence. And to procure said idol would require Adam to walk up to Probst just before the votes are to be read, grab at the fleur-de-lis pendant on the podium, and try to pry it loose, all while Jeff Probst looks on in utter bemusement.

    And that… is exactly what happened. And it was insane. Adam fruitlessly trying to jiggle that little pendant loose, looking for all the world like a yappy little puppy humping the leg of a complete stranger while its owner looks on, helpless and mortified. (The role of the owner, in this case, was taken up by everybody else on the tribe and the jury looking on.) It of course, was not an immunity idol, as Jeff Probst finally, mercifully informed Adam. And moments later, Adam was voted to the Edge of Extinction by an 8-2-1 vote.

    While this was probably the funniest thing to happen on Survivor in AGES, it's worth noting that Adam wasn't acting quite so crazy. For one thing, even though the show would have issued a clue pointing to the tribal idol's location, maybe somebody else found it. For another, just because they've never hidden an idol at Tribal before doesn't mean that the big all-winners 40th season wouldn't be the perfect occasion to do that. You can bet Jeff Probst went back to his little island bungalow and tossed and turned all night, tormented by the fact that he didn't think of the idea first. Third of all, Adam had correctly intuited, after the epic scrum at Tribal — where he and Ben argued for ages about whether either of them had been scheming behind the other's back, all while everybody else whispered and conspired about who the vote would be — that he was indeed going to be the target. He basically got his confirmation when he asked the tribe for re-assurance and they all looked straight down at their shoes. So he was on the way out anyway; might as well try a Hail Mary pass.

    Here's the thing, though: for a split second while he was fiddling with the fleur-de-lis, trying to pry it loose, the thought flitted across my brain: what if he's right? What is this crazy notion that we all just spent the better part of an hour dismissing as lunacy actually turned out to be right? We'd have first off all collectively lost our minds, as would every single person at that Tribal Council. It would have immediately become a top-five iconic Survivor moment. And it would have instantly turned Adam from this season's goat to one of its more unlikely heroes.

    Honestly, we were this close!

    As for the rest of this week's happenings…

    Winner of the Week: Sarah Lacina. By all rights Sarah's amateur-hour theatrics after the reward challenge should have made her an obvious boot. This isn't Season 10; giving up your reward only looks like a blatant play to curry favor, and since the rest of the players are so wise to the tactic, they want to get rid of you all the more quickly. Even, as we saw with Nick tonight, the very person you were so generous to. Sarah was lucky to escape with merely one vote at Tribal, though the fact that she did may well point to her having the stuff to go VERY far this season.

    Sub-Winner(s) of the Week: Denise seemed to be everybody's target last week until she won the immunity challenge, yet this week her name didn't come up once, despite a pre-Tribal scramble where nearly everybody was floated as a vote-out possibility.

    War of the Week: Adam versus Ben, whose season-long close-quarters animosity finally came bubbling over at Tribal Council, and before that, in a tense confrontation in the woods where Ben accused Adam of rallying others against his and Sarah's alliance. (Adam was, but more to get Sarah out.) Ben continues to come across like a giant bully, even more so than he did in his original season, when production seemed to fall in love with him and throw immunity idols and late-game twists at his feet to help him win. With Adam gone, he'll probably need to find another weaker person to pick on.

    Alliance Report: Michele and Nick added Adam to their "shunned by the rest of the group" alliance and then booted him just as quickly, so it's back to square one there. The Big Bad Boys alliance of Ben, Jeremy, Tony, and Tyson appears to be doing just fine at the moment. It still feels like there is some kind of Silent Majority going on among Sophie, Sarah, Denise, and Kim, but we haven't seen proof of it yet.

    Dispatches from the Edge of Extinction: First of all, can we cast a little shade on the producers for having an entire EOE scavenger hunt for an advantage where the clue boils down to "Uhhhh, it's where we hid it last time"? Also, way to make it obvious to even the casual viewers that you film on the same island every season now. Meanwhile, Natalie gets her first real screen time in WEEKS as she decides Yul and Wendell haven't suffered on EOE for long enough and so she sends them on a wild goose chase for the advantage.

    Advantage Report: Okay, let's see …

    • Sophie has the Yara idol.
    • Kim has the Dakal idol.
    • Jeremy holds an advantage that will allow him to leave tribal council and return to camp before a vote is held (essentially immunity but you don't get to vote).
    • Sarah holds a Steal-a-Vote advantage.
    • Michele now holds a dubiously helpful 50/50 advantage that she spent 4 fire tokens on even though it is a literal coin flip as to whether it will help her or not. On a game where players consistently try to avoid a deadlocked vote so they won't have to draw rocks (where the odds are much better than a 50/50 coin flip!), this seemed like a steep price to pay for an advantage.
    • Both Rob and Natalie's idols that they purchased in advance of last week's EOE competition apparently dissolved into dust after they didn't win.

    Fire Token Report: After this week's wheelings and dealings …

    • Denise inherits Adam's lone token, bringing her total up to three.
    • Nick got a third token upon Wendell's exit.
    • Jeremy won his second fire token at last week's immunity challenge.
    • Sophie has two tokens, after inheriting one from Yul.
    • Ben, Kim, Sarah, and Tony each have one token apiece.
    • Tyson and Michele have zero tokens, as do all the Edge of Extinction players, assuming Parvati spent her fire tokens on community peanut butter

    War of the Weeks Ahead: Everybody seems to be targeting the Sarah/Sophie alliance, which would be a huge bummer.

    People are talking about this week's Survivor in our forums. Join the conversation.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Survivor, CBS, Adam Klein, Ben Driebergen, Parvati Shallow, Sarah Lacina, Reality TV