Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

Will Survivor’s hidden immunity idols soon be worthless?

Will Survivor’s hidden immunity idols soon be worthless?
Josh Wilder, Matt Blankinship, Danny Massa, and Frannie Marin during the Survivor 44 episode 3 immunity challenge (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Survivor 44 episode 3 is laying the groundwork for some immunity idol related drama, which is perhaps why about half the episode was spent on idol searches, real idols, and fake idols.

The actual vote and strategizing was almost an afterthought. The vote itself was so predictable that even the person being voted out knew it was coming.

Claire was so resigned she played her shot in the dark. Like every player in seasons 41, 42, and 43 to play the shot in the dark, she was voted out.

Claire even turned to Heidi—her one chance at flipping the vote—at Tribal Council and just outright asked, “Have you thought at all more? Are you still at the place you were before?” Heidi said she was, i.e. she wasn’t going to go against the tribe.

Soka ended up at Tribal Council having lost their first immunity challenge, breaking their “undefeated” streak, if winning two challenges merits being declared “undefeated.”

Then they had to figure out who to vote out. Would it be the couple who everyone insists is a threat, Frannie and Matt? Would it be the member of that couple, Matt, who found a (fake) idol and then lied about it and then everyone found out anyway?

Nope. Faced with going to Tribal Council for the first time, Claire’s tribe decided to take the same path as so many before them. The thin rationale had to do with the lack of “camaraderie” they had with her, as Danny said, because she was such a team player she agreed to sit out the three immunity challenges so far.

Frannie even argued Claire just didn’t know what it was like “to get dirty and exhausted.” On no, she’s not as dirty as you are!

Considering how Claire used her first time on the sit-out bench to get/share intel, I was excited to see what other creative game play she had to offer. Alas.

Two people sitting on a log laughing
Matt Blankinship and Claire Rafson in happier times, before Matt helped vote her out. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

At the challenge, Narrator McExposition was in fine form—and if you haven’t yet heard what Jeff Probst thinks of criticism of his narration, his answer is very fascinating.

After pushing a massive cube through shallow water to retrieve a key, the tribes all ended up at the puzzle: stacking blocks so that only one of each color appeared on each side.

“We have done version of this puzzle for years on Survivor. Has anybody studied this one?” Narrator McExposition asked no one in particular. “These are puzzles you are sure you can solve at home. You get out here and they are so much more difficult.”

After Ratu pulled ahead and won, Carson told Yam Yam to go over and look (if you want to cheat, go do it yourself, Carson!), but then Matthew’s tribe encouraged him to go over, so he went to look, and Carson and Yam Yam followed.

So it became a game of Who Can Copy This Faster, and Narrator McExposition told us, “Never seen this before. Now it’s just copycat.” We’ve totally seen this before. Many, many times! If you’re going to serve us up some McExposition, can’t it at least be fresh?

Before the challenge, when the tribes determined who’d sit out to make their numbers even, Probst called out Claire for sitting out all three so far, which is when she said she was glad to help her team.

By the way: How was Claire able to sit out back to back challenges, like two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine and Courtney Yates before her?

The prohibition of sitting out back-to-back challenges only applies to certain episodes: those with both a reward and immunity challenge. So when episodes have combined reward/immunity challenges, a player can sit each one of those out.

Earlier in the episode, we learned Carson is very excited at “pulling off a blindside at my first Tribal,” while his attempts to mend his relationship with Sarah were too transparent. She calls him “the most dangerous player right now by a landslide” and also a “cute little nerd” who everyone loves.

Brandon’s extended backstory showed us “there’s so much more to me than being an athlete,” he said, like fishing, piano playing, drumming, snowboarding, cooking, and magic. It was also a reminder at how blissfully few of these extended expository segments there have been this season—or at least, that’s my impression of how this season compares to the past few.

A fake idol or real idol? Who can say!

A person with their hands on their hips, with a large Survivor logo behind them
Survivor 44 host and showrunner Jeff Probst during episode 3 (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Let’s talk about idols, and some really clever game play on the the part of the players, and mischievous choices on the part of the producers, and where this might lead.

While there just wasn’t enough time to hear the Survivor theme song, there was plenty of time for the editors to show us Danny finding the idol again.

That was to set up what he did next, which is what I’ve been waiting to see: Danny wrapped up the fake idol he’d been given in the real idol note, and re-hid the key.

Matt found Danny’s re-hidden key, and handled that with epic grace and secrecy. “I swear I didn’t find anything,” he told Danny and Josh. Then he told Danny, “I did find it. Don’t tell Josh.” Then he told Josh, “I did find something.” Then Danny told Heidi, so now everyone knows.

Over on Ratu, Matthew did a version of the same thing. Suspecting, correctly, that the producers would hide another idol after Bruce played the birdcage one, he found an idol. Then, he used beads from the set design to create a fake idol, which he wrapped in the real idol note, and hid at the water well.

That was all revealed in flashback after “plant lady” Jaime and “plant daddy” Matthew went looking for worms, and Jaime, about to dig in the mud at the base of the well, found what she thought was the re-hidden idol. So now Matthew’s #1 ally has his fake idol.

Tangent and PSA: Searching Twitter for “plant daddy” turns up a surprising number of penises.

What sharper eyes may have picked up earlier is that the fake idols provided by the producers in the bird cage are actually versions of the real idols on other beaches: a medallion, some beads, and a coin.

For example, Carolyn’s coin idol is real while Danny’s coin is the fake idol.

This is some evil genius production design. Can you imagine what happens when we get to the merge and these idols are left in the game? Depending upon who sees what, they might think a real idol is fake, or a fake idol is real.

We may not have to wait until the merge, because both Danny and Matthew wrapped their fake idols in real idol clues. Absolutely the best move, because the lack of a note has become a clue that an idol is fake.

A fake idol—whether meticulously crafted by a player or just a fucking stick—was a thing of ingenuity. It emerged organically from the presence of real hidden immunity idols.

Now we have the producers not just making something like that possible, but doing the work for the players. Stephen Fishbach tweeted that this “removes strategy/ agency from the players,” and I agree.

Imagine playing a card game in a casino, and the dealer just sticks some additional aces in the deck, and you play it and then the dealer is like, Haha no, that’s a fake ace, you lose! That’s what Jeff Probst and his producers have done.

We’re now at a point where no one can trust if an idol is fake or an idol is real. If production is manufacturing both types, and they look the same, they quickly become meaningless. If there are no rules about re-using real idol notes with fake idols, no one can trust the real ones.

Imagine Survivor 45 players, watching at home right now, before they head out to Fiji. Will any of them trust a single idol they find? Why would they? They’d know the producers cannot be trusted, having given other players the tools to commit very realistic fraud.

Maybe the result is that we’ll see the implosion of hidden idols and advantages. Maybe someone will find an idol and toss it in the ocean and go on with their day. Maybe that’s exactly what Survivor needs.

That’s another season away at least, though. What will almost certainly happen during Survivor 44 is that one or more people will play a fake idol, and they’ll be shocked and duped and confused, and Survivor’s producers will get the moment they manufactured.

Survivor’s producers, alas, are under the delusion that what the game needs is more of their intervention. That’s not my interpretation, but literally what Jeff Probst and producer Brittany Crapper said when asked if there will ever be a season without idols or advantages. I find myself wishing that answer, too, was a fake.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!


Saturday 18th of March 2023

I have applied to Survivor in the past, and I'm due for another go, but honestly, the game in its current format is not one I want to play in. Far too many advantages, and perhaps worse, decoy advantages. If production essentially lies to contestants with fake idols and other misdirects, sooner or later all rules fall apart and the game totally crumbles.

As it is, with so many bonuses and penalties, you can't even interpret the votes and vote count anymore. There's almost no point in strategizing.

Scott Hardie

Friday 17th of March 2023

Speaking of producers manipulating the game, I resented Jeff Probst asking Claire in front of everyone whether she worries that sitting out every challenge will make her a target, thus making her a target. The players would have considered her sit-outs anyway, but once it becomes Something That Jeff Probst Pointed Out, it carries extra weight.


Friday 17th of March 2023

@Scott Hardie, yes it can be calliner her out on it, but Sandra was also called out by Jeff every time she sat out and won survivor. Claire should have done more to keep the heat off her if she was okay with sitting out that much.

It's Time to Vote

Thursday 16th of March 2023

Claire was quite possibly the worst Survivor player of all time.


Thursday 16th of March 2023

You know me very well Andy, and I thank you for your articles because I finally....after 20+ years of fandom, just can't anymore with this show. I am a fan, not a Probst sycophant, and the game is no longer the game. It's an hour of watching some rich, arrogant (confirmed from the article you mentioned above) idiot impose his will and his will alone on the show. It's just honestly not fun anymore. I will continue to read your awesome articles, but can't invest an hour a week in this tripe. At least your wrap-ups are a quick, informative, and entertaining read, and I have yet to feel bad that I haven't watched an episode. LOL. Best wishes to you. You are awesome!


Thursday 16th of March 2023

@Molelinkluck, i find myself waiting to stream it at 9pm. and then fast-fwd through episode parts just to watch the challenge or tribal. i will go back to watch tribe interaction if something catches my eye in the 15 second skip fwds


Thursday 16th of March 2023

I'd really love it if they'd do one season, ONE! of old school Survivor. No idols, Jeff shuts his trap at challenges (all new challenges though), they bring back the gross eating and the auction.

I am kind of liking all the idol chaos this season though. It makes it fun to watch, but I do agree that it makes it so the players can't trust the game at all.


Thursday 23rd of March 2023

@Melissa, I agree, it would be a welcome change. While they are at it, have them do the 'social' part. I liked it when they all had to answer questions on how well they knew their fellow contestants. And possible bring back the bad luck 'you win a car'!


Friday 17th of March 2023

@Melissa, YES!!!! That would make for some chaos and great TV in terms of no idols.


Thursday 16th of March 2023

@Robert Karp, Ooh, I like the idea of an individual game from the start! I also wish they'd go back to a final 2, but I think Probst really likes the fire making and final 3, so I doubt they'll go back to it.


Thursday 16th of March 2023

@Robert Karp, i agree i like the everyone for themself to start and then split them into tribes after day 5.. after 2 votes...since everyone wants to make alliances day 1.. this is a way to throw that on its head.

i myself am against the 3 tribe split.. just do 2 tribes and thats it

Robert Karp

Thursday 16th of March 2023

@Melissa, I'm with you Melissa. I've stopped watching the entire show each episode, it's too predictable. Another "classic" challenge is the chopping the rope with the coconuts which actually changed the outcome of the game way back in a very early season. A variation of this challenge was used multiple times.

How about something really simple go back to two tribes of 9 or 10. This three tribes play is not that interesting. Or how about no tribes and individual immunity from day 1 and then split into two tribes after two or three tribal councils?

Lots of possibilities without immunity idols and advantages which make the game to random for my taste and interest.

Also and I've said this many times on here, why do they do 3 at final tribal council? Going to two from three makes for a really difficult vote and along those lines, get rid of the fire making challenge which again makes it easier to move responsibility off of someone.