'Survivor' Recap: Two Idols — and a Shocking Blindside

"What was it about him that made everyone constantly want to eliminate him?"

Appearances Are Deceiving
Photo: David M. Russell/CBS

Stephen Fishbach has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. He is the host of the podcast Paraphrase, where he interviews writers about the openings to their novels. Follow him on Twitter at @stephenfishbach.

“In this game or out of this game, that’s all I’ve got, is who I am.” – Rupert Boneham, Survivor: All Stars

Why was Christian such a target this season?

What did he do?

“He’s the heart of the Davids,” Angelina said at the merge. After that, the lovable roboticist was a default target at almost every tribal council, and the actual target at four of them. Somehow, he kept dodging the votes — two immunity idols, a vote steal, and an idol nullifier all were sacrificed for the sake of keeping Christian in the game.

But why did people want him out so bad?

He wasn’t particularly devious or schemey. Before the merge, Christian had only attended one tribal council, when his tribe voted off Jessica.

He wasn’t particularly dominant in the challenges. Yes, he had his slide puzzle victory on day one. And there was his epic endurance win against Alec. But you wouldn’t realistically worry that Christian would win his way to the end.

Until last week, Christian hadn’t even played an advantage — unlike Davie and Nick and Carl.

So what was it about him that made everyone constantly want to eliminate him?

Christian Hubicki. CBS via Getty

There’s no question that Christian is kind. Could his epic charmpocalypse have claimed him as its ultimate victim?

Maybe it was the arbitrary nature of Survivor. “Once you’ve been identified as a threat, it’s harder to stay off of people’s hit list,” said Alison. Partially it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy — you are a threat simply because you’ve been called a threat. And partially, as you dodge more bullets, you actually become the person you were said to be.

I think it was the season’s theme itself that sealed Christian’s fate. If Christian had been cast on a Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty season, or a White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar season, people wouldn’t have been as threatened by the nerdy robotics scientist. But in a season that is literally based around the underdog overcoming obstacles, you’d have to be a moron to let him get to the end. Even on day one, Christian was identified as the Davidest David.


Christian has been compared to Cochran a lot. After all, they’re both nerdy with glasses. But I actually think another iconic Survivor is the better comparison — Rupert.

Okay, granted, Christian has no great bristly beard. He doesn’t wear tie-dye.

But just like Rupert perfectly encapsulated the pirate-based theme of Pearl Islands, Christian is the embodiment of this season. They both went out around the same time — Rupert was 8th, while Christian is 7th. They were both inspiring and kind. And while Rupert’s 60 times playing the game have diluted his impact, he actually was a strategic force his first time out — and the center of the Drake alliance that eventually won the game.

Most of all, both of them resonated with a viewership hungry for a new Survivor hero.

We’ll definitely see Christian again. I think in a different season, he could win it all.

And that’s especially true if there’s another fan vote, like Rupert won for his million dollar prize.

Davie and Nick

Christian leaving the game gives an opportunity for two other strategic forces to step out of his shadow.

I’ve actually felt somewhat bad for Nick and Davie. In any other non-Christian season, the two would be the standout bromantic rivalry. They may actually have pulled as many brilliant, innovative moves this season as Wendell and Domenick did in Ghost Island.

Just think of some of their brilliant innovations: Davie taking Nick on reward, in order to better blindside him. Have we ever seen that before? “This reward is like Goodfellas,” David said. “If you’re going to take ’em out, you’re going to treat ’em really well and then slit their throats in the end.”

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Nick may be the first person to have the idea to split the minority group’s vote, when the Davids voted out Dan. And last episode, Nick had the brilliant plot to stack two Goliath votes onto Gabby.

Davie’s idol play for Christian shifted the course of the entire season. So did Nick’s vote steal.

I absolutely loved the start of this week’s episode, where Nick “found” his existing idol in order to stop other people from looking for a new advantage. Granted, the move blew up in his face, as people started to worry that he had two idols. But only Davie was clever enough to realize that Nick was bluffing.

I could watch an entire season of these two working against each other. But on a season as incredible as David vs. Goliath, it’s just one small part of an epic cast.


The Fishy of course goes to Mike White, for finally accomplishing what nobody else was able to do, and eliminating Christian. Mike uses the leverage of his immunity win to make his big play.

After the chaos of the episode — where Davie was targeting Nick; Nick was targeting Alison; then Davie targeted Alison, and Nick targeted Davie — it seemed a mystery where the votes would land. Mike’s attempt to rally the against the real target seemed to be doomed to failure.

Mike himself voted for David. I always assume that the Survivors plan and re-plan everything, so I’m assuming it was a carefully orchestrated split vote. But who knows? Did Mike go along with Nick’s plan, while Nick went along with Mike’s?

You can tell that Mike himself could barely believe it himself, as Christian’s torch was snuffed. All the competitors looked shocked, and Mike chuckled nervously to himself.

I loved the way the camera lingered on Christian’s torch and the elegiac music. It wasn’t heavy handed. Just a tiny moment to say: This one was special.

Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.

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