10 Best Immunity Idol Plays in ‘Survivor’


Survivor is one of the rare reality shows that continues to deliver incredible TV moments, iconic players, challenges, twists and turns at every corner, staying fresh and exciting all while providing the same concept each season.

Something people really love – and Survivor contestants, too, undoubtedly – are the Hidden Immunity Idols that help players who find them ensure a longer stay in the competition. Their purpose is to save the person holding them from getting voted out, although some players use them to control their game.

This advantage makes people excited to see how certain players perceive and play the game, with some Immunity Idol plays remaining memorable even after decades. Whether successful or not, some are just too good to not enter a sort of Immunity Idol Hall of Fame.

Survivor
Release Date
May 31, 2000
Cast
Jeff Probst
Seasons
44
Studio
CBS

10 Malcolm Getting Reynold to Give Him His Idol

Season 24: Caramoan (Fans vs. Favorites)

This Immunity Idol play wasn’t really successful, but it’s immensely entertaining. From Reynold Toepher‘s point of view, it’s certainly one of the worst Survivor moves ever, but there’s something so genius about it, from Malcolm Freberg‘s side, anyway. This moment is so iconic that it prompted a LEGO recreation video on YouTube.

The Idol play in question happened after Malcolm started putting two and two together during Phillip Sheppard‘s Tribal Council monologue (something Phillip was quite known for). Malcolm had doubts that Phillip’s alliance, craftily named Stealth R Us, would vote him out that evening; that’s why, when Jeff Probst asked if anyone wanted to play their Hidden Immunity Idol and Reynold went to play it for himself, Malcolm stopped him by saying: “Hold up, bro, they all voted for me.”

Malcolm instantly convinced Reynold to give him the Idol because Phillip made it seem like they’re voting him out. He really was the target that day, but Andrea Boehlke swayed Stealth R Us to vote differently minutes before the Tribal Council. There were in total zero votes for Malcolm, and Michael Snow got blindsided instead. This move is one of the best Idol plays because Malcolm already had a Hidden Immunity Idol in his pocket at the moment of asking Reynold for his. Also, he was the only person that evening who voted against Reynold, the very man whose Idol he took. Crazy? Sure, but also – fantastic.

9 Rick Devens Playing an Expired Advantage and an Immunity Idol

Season 38: Edge of Extinction

Often thought to be one of Jeff Probst’s favorite players, and a massive favorite among longtime fans, Rick Devens played in Survivor 38: Edge of Extinction. He most recently joined Jeff as co-host for his official Survivor podcast, On Fire With Jeff Probst. Survivor: Edge of Extinction was the first genuinely confusing season for fans. Players that were voted out could pick going home or to an isolated island called Edge of Extinction; the survival aspect was tougher there due to isolation, but those players could still return without participating in the tribe dynamics. This is why many find Chris Underwood the worst Survivor winner.

Rick Devens was first voted out on day 11, but decided to go to Edge of Extinction. He returned to the game on day 17 after winning the first return challenge. He then found several Hidden Immunity Idols and won Individual Immunity Challenges, making him a player to watch out for. After getting into conflict with Ron Clark, Ron gave him a Hidden Advantage to mend their relationship. During the Tribal Council in episode 11, Devens decided to play that advantage. However, Jeff called it for what it was – expired. Devens went on to berate Ron, getting annoyed for being lied to, then turned around and played a Hidden Immunity Idol. The one who was voted out and blindsided was actually Ron, giving Devens and his fans much needed joy.

8 Tai Trang Playing Two Idols and Starting a Chain Reaction

Season 34: Game Changers

Survivor: Game Changers was composed of 20 former players. Some of the best thus far participated in a star-packed season, including Cirie Fields, Sarah Lacina, Troyzan Roberts, and Tai Trang. With great players, great gameplay was expected, but this season, though good, was unusual for many things (including Jeff Varner blatantly outing Zeke Smith during one Tribal Council).

One of the surrealest Survivor moments happened when Tai Trang played two Idols. After the voting happened on day 36, with six people left in the game, he gave Jeff two Immunity Idols, playing one for himself and one for Aubry Bracco. This started a chain reaction among other players – Sarah played a Legacy Advantage, and Troyzan played his Immunity Idol. Brad Culpepper had the Immunity Necklace, so the only person left without any advantages or idols was Cirie.

This was a historic event in Survivor, even according to Jeff Probst, because the votes that were written down didn’t matter, and it was the most Immunity Idols played in one Tribal Council, as well. This event basically forced Cirie Fields out of the game, which seemed unfair, as Cirie is one of the Survivor favorites that never won the game. The question remains – did the producers realize there were too many advantages in the game, or was this chain of events what drove them to keep innovating with the rules? Either way, Tai Trang’s two-idol play was genius, as he was able to hold onto two Idols unnoticed, which is why he’s such a great player overall.

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The tribe has spoken.

7 Amanda Kimmel Playing Her Idol on Herself

Season 16: Micronesia (Fans vs. Favorites)

The first Survivor season that pinned fans against favorites was Survivor: Micronesia. This season had one of the greatest women’s alliances in the game, the Black Widow Brigade, who voted out all the men from the game (apart from James Clement, who got injured). In this season, the Brigade convinced Erik Reichenbach to give Natalie Bolton his Immunity Necklace during Tribal Council, resulting in them voting him out immediately.

Although that was one of the dumbest moves in Survivor history by Erik, this season had one of its best Immunity Idol plays by Amanda Kimmel on day 33. After losing the Reward Challenge, Amanda volunteered to go to Exile Island, where she learned that the Immunity Idol is under the tribal flag; she joined forces with Parvati and retrieved it. Amanda’s charm and savvy were perceived as a threat, so in episode 12, there were four out of five votes against her. Amanda saved herself by being clever and having the right idea to volunteer for Exile Island and look for an Idol.

6 Ben Driebergen’s Multiple Idol Plays

Season 31: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers

Ben Driebergen is one of Survivor’s most divisive players – many consider him winning season 31 a set-up, considering how many Hidden Immunity Idols he found over the course of the game. However, many others disagree with this and consider Ben a worthy winner and the most resourceful player of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. He saved himself three consecutive times with Hidden Immunity Idols.

The first time was in episode 11, when he brandished a fake Immunity Idol around his neck. The rest of the tribe didn’t think he had a real one, so they voted for him. However, Ben had a real Idol hidden in his belongings, played it and saved himself from a unanimous vote, sending home Lauren Rimmer with only his own vote. The second time was in the very next episode, when no one tried to stop him from Idol-searching because they believed he wouldn’t find anything. However, the rule is that whenever an Immunity Idol is played, another one’s back in circulation. Ben once again blindsided everyone and saved himself, and a member of his alliance, Ashley Nolan, walked out.

The final time Ben Driebergen successfully played his Immunity Idol was probably the most surprising for the entire tribe. This was during the Final Five, when no one thought he had another Idol; it seemed like three were too many by now. In an explosive reveal, Ben broke out another Idol and gave it to Jeff, saving himself from getting voted out, again and securing a place in the Final Four. No matter what anyone says, Ben really did beat the odds that were stacked against him; his gameplay consisted of being a double agent and searching for Idols, with strategy and luck on his side.

5 Kelley Wentworth Playing Her Idol Post-Merge

Season 31: Cambodia (Second Chance)

Season 31 set an unusual precedent in Survivor; the cast was entirely chosen by fans, who voted for people they believed should return for a second chance. One of the all-time favorites, Jeremy Collins, won this season, but it produced another highly beloved strategist – Kelley Wentworth. She was in the minority alliance with Ciera Eastin and Abi-Maria Gomes from basically day one, which made her pushing through to the final four all the more impressive. She was sabotaged by the majority alliance until the very end, forcing them to recognize her immense strength.

A crucial moment for Wentworth, which also proved her savvy, was when she found the Hidden Immunity Idol in the first episode and held onto it until the second Tribal Council post-Merge in episode 8. A lot of scrambling went on, but it was obvious Wentworth was in a three-person alliance (out of 12). She tried to get information from Joe Anglim, who was in the majority, but felt unsafe because he didn’t give her a straight answer. Besides having an Idol, Wentworth and her two allies spotted cracks in the majority, who later opted not to split the votes, thinking someone would surely change their minds.

Wentworth gave Jeff her Immunity Idol, to the absolute shock of everyone in the tribe. There were nine votes against her, which was the most votes canceled out by an Immunity Idol at the time. Wentworth’s three-women alliance voted out Andrew Savage, who flipped his middle finger to the tribe while exiting. The three girls proceeded to feel out the majority’s pulse to the end, while the majority scrambled to remove Idols out of Wentworth’s reach.

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4 Jesse Lopez Playing Jeanine’s Immunity Idol

Season 43

Survivor seasons of the 2020s have players that beat the odds, staying in the game longer than they were originally expected to. However, there’s one player that was so good at the game but had the win slip his fingers by a small margin – Jesse Lopez from season 43. Though Mike Gabler came out as the Sole Survivor, Jesse would likely have won if he defeated Gabler in the fire-making challenge to enter the Final Three.

Jesse had an incredible run all season (and afterward) – he read the game well the entire time, put himself in a swing vote position with Cody Assenmacher where they decided who went home most of the time, and was awarded $100,000 by Sia after the game. The moment that set Jesse on the list of the best players to never win was pulling out an Immunity Idol after being called out by Karla Cruz Godoy for being a strong player. This wouldn’t have been so special had the Idol not initially belonged to Jeanine Zheng, who was watching from the Jury bench.

The Idol ended up with Jesse when James Jones found an advantage by which he was able to steal someone’s advantage; the tribe scrambled around, giving each other their advantages, so James would play his falsely if he ever decided to do it. Jeanine gave her idol to Dwight Moore, and without her knowledge, Dwight gave it to Jesse. No one knew this, and Jesse used it in the Final Five Tribal Council, causing every jaw in the Jury and the Tribe to drop. This didn’t sway the game in any way, because Karla was the only one to vote against him. This did make Jesse a member of a unique club of players who had only one vote against them throughout the entire game.

3 Natalie Anderson Playing Her Idol For Jaclyn

Season 29: San Juan Del Sur (Blood vs. Water)

Natalie Anderson, an underrated powerhouse of a player, pulled a strong move in one of Survivor‘s best episodes to date. In the season that introduced the concept of Blood vs. Water audiences saw Natalie and her twin sister Nadiya play in separate tribes. Nadiya was voted out first, mainly due to Baylor Wilson turning on her. When Natalie learned her sister was gone, she went through emotional turmoil since that was the longest time they were separated.

The most amazing thing about Natalie’s Immunity Idol play during the final five Tribal Council was that she convinced Jaclyn Shultz to vote with her for Baylor Wilson. If this hadn’t worked, the entire game would have been massively different. The tribe found out about Natalie’s Idol and decided to vote for Jaclyn that evening. Missy Payne and her daughter Baylor, together with Keith Nale, felt very secure about this decision. So much so that Missy and Baylor looked quite smug, according to many fans, which is why they’re heavily disliked.

Natalie took her Idol out but before handing it over to Jeff Probst, she publicly asked Jaclyn: “Did you vote for who I told you to vote for?” Natalie proved her strategic dominance in this way, most likely swaying the jury to make her the Sole Survivor. Jaclyn was saved from getting voted out, and Baylor was blindsided with two votes against her in what can only be described as a stroke of genius.

2 Russell Hantz Playing His Idol on Parvati Shallow

Season 20: Heroes vs Villains

Something most Survivor fans agree with is that Russell Hantz is equal parts entertaining and terrible. As much as he is one of the best to ever play, he was never really loved for who he is. That’s why in Heroes vs. Villains, the season that remains the best installment thus far, he was part of the Villain tribe. He’s also one of the best Survivor villains that ever played. Interestingly, those who were deemed Heroes – like Cirie Fields, James Clement, or J.T. Thomas – couldn’t make it far, so the Final Three was occupied by the three of the sneakiest Villains – Parvati Shallow, Russell Hantz, and Sandra Diaz-Twine.

Though Russell didn’t win, he pulled one of the greatest moves by blindsiding Tyson Apostol during the Tribal Council on day 15. This play was so forethought that it requires a dive into the events prior to this Tribal Council. Boston Rob had swayed the majority alliance to his side (something he was always excellent at), including Tyson. On the outs were Russell, Parvati and Danielle DiLorenzo. Rob’s alliance of six decided to split the votes between Russell and Parvati equally, so they could flush out the Immunity Idol from Russell. However, Russell scrambled and got into Tyson’s head, convincing him that the two of them together should also be voting for Parvati.

Later, at the Tribal Council, where the majority expected an Immunity Idol play, Russell offered his to Parvati. Everyone was surprised he didn’t play it on himself, but were still expecting the split vote to happen. However, with Tyson changing his mind, four votes went to Parvati and two to Russell; with the three people on the outs voting for Tyson, he was taken out of the game. This move propelled Russell Hantz to Survivor legend; it’s fantastic gameplay and a straightforward depiction of the sway he had on people.

1 Parvati Shallow Playing Two Idols On Jerri Manthey and Sandra Diaz-Twine

Season 20: Heroes vs. Villains

Though Russell Hantz’s move of getting Tyson out is considered the best by many, there is one that holds more iconic points, and it was pulled by Parvati Shallow in the same season, Heroes vs. Villains. Right after the merge, there were five Villains and five Heroes, with Russell Hantz being the only man left in the Villains tribe. He tried to sway the Heroes into believing he wanted Parvati out, but they couldn’t trust him enough; that’s why they told him they were going to vote for her but actually go for Jerri Manthey.

His plan was to sway them to vote for Parvati, so he could give her the Idol that J.T. Thomas sent him just before the merge, and they could blindside one of the Heroes. However, unbeknownst to Russell, Parvati found an Immunity Idol of her own at the merge feast; since she didn’t say anything, she accepted Russell’s offer, now having two Idols in her bag. Come Tribal Council, the Heroes enacted their plan of voting for Jerri, but when Jeff Probst asked if anyone had a Hidden Immunity Idol, Parvati gave both of the Idols in her possession away – one to Jerri and the other to Sandra.

Russell realized his plan of swaying the Heroes to vote for Parvati was unsuccessful, and Parvati proved she had fantastic intuition. The Heroes’ votes for Jerri were annulled, and J.T. Thomas left after losing to his own Idol. This is a masterclass in taking risks and making bold moves, something Parvati Shallow is very well-known for. She can be seen demonstrating that savvy in The Traitors at the moment.

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