'Survivor: Island of the Idols' recap: Jack Nichting voted out after Kellee Kim secretly saves Dean Kowalski with an idol
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/07/2019
Survivor: Island of the Idols featured the new Lairo tribe voting out Jack Nichting after Kellee Kim secretly gave Dean Kowalski, the tribe's original unanimous target, a hidden Immunity Idol to play at Tribal Council during Wednesday night's Season 39 episode on CBS.
Jack, a 23-year-old graduate student from Newport News, VA, who currently resides in Harrisonburg, VA, was voted out by his new Lairo tribe on Night 19 of the game in a 5-2 vote instead of Dean, a 28-year-old tech salesman from Westfield, NJ, who currently resides in New York, NY, thanks to a brilliant plan orchestrated by Kellee, a 29-year-old MBA student from Costa Mesa, CA, who currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.
"I'm really sad I'm out of the game. Maybe Dean sees me as a threat, which is kind of cool. But everyone that was there tonight wanted me to be there, except for one or two people," Jack said in his final words.
"Overall, this was way freaking harder than I thought it was going to be, but I'm happy with how I did. I think I was able to show my true colors, and I'm freaking pumped to be on the jury!"
The Survivor broadcast began at the Vokai tribe on Night 16. Elaine Stott, a 41-year-old factory worker from Woodbine, KY, who currently resides in Rockholds, KY, had blocked Jason Linden's vote, and Jason went home.
Elaine knew old Vokai would be "sour grapes" and "bitter" since they no longer had the majority in numbers, but Elaine felt great about the move she had made.
In addition to Elaine, the new Vokai tribe was also comprised of Dan Spilo, a 48-year-old talent manager from New York, NY, who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA; Tommy Sheehan, a 26-year-old 4th grade teacher from Bayville, NY, who currently resides in Long Beach, NY; Lauren Beck, a 28-year-old nanny from Bakersfield, CA, and Rochester Hills, MI, who currently resides in Glendale, CA; Elizabeth Beisel, a 26-year-old Olympic medalist from Saunderstown, RI; Missy Byrd, a 24-year-old Air Force veteran from Decatur, GA, who currently resides in Tacoma, WA; and Aaron Meredith, a 36-year-old gym owner from Uncasville, CT, who currently resides in Warwick, RI.
Tommy, Dan and Lauren were completely left out of the vote, and Lauren cried to Missy about how she felt so betrayed by her given they had built such a strong connection.
Missy told Lauren the tribe needed her because she was the only connection they had to the women on the other side. Missy also pointed out a female hadn't been sent packing since the swap.
Lauren wanted to believe Missy, but she wasn't sure she could. She said she needed to determine what would be best for her game.
Aaron said the former Vokai members were going to scramble and be at their mercy now that former Lairo was in control.
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Meanwhile, the new Lairo tribe was braving the elements as it poured heavily upon them and their fire went out.
In addition to Jack, Dean and Kellee, the new Lairo tribe was made up of Jamal Shipman, a 33-year-old college administrator from Jersey City, NJ, who currently resides in Providence, RI; Noura Salman, a 36-year-old entrepreneur from London, UK and Bethesda, MD who currently resides in North Potomac, MD; Janet Carbin, a 59-year-old chief lifeguard from Neptune, NJ, who currently resides in Palm Bay, FL; and Karishma Patel, a 37-year-old personal injury lawyer from Philadelphia, PA, who currently resides in Houston, TX.
Jamal was trying to start a fire the next morning but was failing. Kellee therefore attempted to step in and help, but he basically sent her away. Kellee was annoyed by Jamal's "my way or the highway" attitude and acknowledged he was "a tough person to work with."
Jamal then called Noura out for seemingly having a larger portion of rice than everyone else. Noura was completely fed up with his "oppressive" remarks. She was hoping to break away and "cut [Jamal's] throat off."
Noura talked to Janet about taking Jamal out right away and having an all-female alliance, but Janet told Noura they shouldn't make that move before the merge -- before telling the cameras an all-female alliance wasn't going to happen.
Janet told Boston Rob and Sandra that he tribe trusted her and she was in a good spot, but Boston Rob pointed out "the better players think two or three moves ahead."
"That's what I'm trying to do," Janet noted.
Rob then explained she'd be receiving a lesson, and this lesson was about calculative risk.
"In Survivor, there are countless opportunities to apply this calculative risk. You don't make moves in this game without knowing why you're doing them," Rob told the cameras.
"The minute you stop analyzing different situations is the minute you fall asleep at the wheel and you're gone."
Rob told Janet if her back is against the wall, she might have to pull a move she normally wouldn't do.
Rob then explained to Janet she'd be playing a risk vs. reward game. He said just like in Survivor, the greater the reward, the higher the risk. If Janet won, she would win a "safety without power advantage."
"This advantage protects you from being voted out at one Tribal Council. You will leave Tribal Council before the vote and return to camp so you can't be voted out. The last time you can use it is when there are seven players left in the game," Rob told Janet.
"But if you lose the game, you lose your vote at the next Tribal Council. It's your choice. Do you want to play the game or do you want to play it safe and return to camp?"
Janet wondered if she walked away from Tribal Council safe whether that would put a target on her back for the next Tribal Council because she might end up screwing her alliance by not getting out the person they had agreed upon.
Janet didn't want to get voted out either, so she decided not to play the game on the Island of the Idols.
Rob said Janet really understood her lesson and he was really happy. Rob said Janet weighed the risks and made a decision that was best for herself, and Sandra was impressed she didn't just jump at the opportunity like most of her fellow castaways had.
Sandra noted that Janet had wisdom and age in her favor and so she had "the makings of a winner." Sandra hoped an older person would win this season, and she predicted the winner would be a female.
On Day 17, Janet returned from the Island of the Idols. She flashed her entire tribe her breasts to prove she didn't have any type of idol or advantage on her.
Janet told her tribe that she opted out of playing a game of 50/50 chance that would have presented her with a consequence had she lost. The tribe said they respected her decision, but obviously Kelley and Noura knew the real deal since they had also been to the Island of the Idols.
On Day 18, the girls joked about how Dan tried to snuggle up to all of them in the middle of the night and he behaved a bit oddly. Lauren said her No. 1 ally was Tommy, and she was all about keeping the both of them safe since Dan was an easy target.
Neither Tommy or Lauren wanted to go home before the merge, but Lauren comforted him and told him not to be scared. The pair was prepared to "lie, cheat and steal."
Tommy set out to make Dan look like a very sneaky player in order to turn the rest of the tribe's attention on Dan instead of himself.
Tommy therefore told his tribemates Dan had pitched taking out Aaron, but Missy saw right through their plan and didn't like how close Lauren and Tommy seemed to be.
Missy found their connection "dangerous" and told Elizabeth if they took Tommy away from Lauren, Lauren's comfort blanket would be gone and she wouldn't know what to do with herself. Elizabeth loved the idea, but they didn't set the plan into motion just yet.
On Day 19, both tribes gathered to meet Survivor host Jeff Probst for the season's next Immunity Challenge.
Jeff explained each tribe must race to shoot coconuts into a basket, and once the basket became heavy enough, it would trigger puzzle pieces to drop. The players must then use those pieces to solve a very large and heavy puzzle.
The winning tribe would receive immunity and be safe from the vote, but the losing tribe would have to vote out the seventh person from Survivor: Island of the Idols.
The challenge was an extremely close call, but in the end, Vokai won immunity by only one puzzle piece. Lairo was seconds away from winning, so they were pretty devastated.
Lauren cried in Missy's arms, and Missy said now their next step would be to win the game.
Kellee complained Lairo sucked and acknowledged her hidden Immunity Idol was only good for one more Tribal Council. She figured if old Vokai stayed strong, she wouldn't need the idol, but she also hated the idea of it going to waste.
On Day 19, Jamal and Jack discussed voting out Dean with everyone because he was smart and a bit smarmy. Jamal got the whole tribe onboard with the Dean vote and thought the vote would be unanimous.
Jamal pointed out Noura would have been an easy vote but it wouldn't be smart to vote emotionally since everyone assumed the merge was coming up.
"I don't see how it makes sense for anyone in this tribe to deviate from this plan," Jamal said in a confessional.
But Kellee proved she had a mind of her own and was thinking for herself and her own game.
Dean assumed either Noura or himself was the target, but Dean felt pretty comfortable. Dean wondered if his tribemates had great poker faces and he was being played, but that's not how he was feeling.
Kellee told the cameras she really liked Dean and wanted to work with him going forward. She also said they had a mutual friend, who just so happens to be Dean's ex-girlfriend.
Kellee suddenly had "a moment of inspiration." She told the cameras she could give Dean her idol.
"The question is, can I trust Dean enough with this idol and he actually write down a name that I want to go home? And in my mind, there are essentially two options -- either Jack or Jamal," Kellee said in a confessional.
"Jack is extremely good with people, very empathic, super fun, and I know that I can trust him. But it's just not really that smart to keep him in the game when he's connected to so many people."
Kellee then reasoned that she trusted Jamal less and Jamal didn't seem to want to go to the end with her.
Kellee wanted to use her idol without anyone knowing she had an idol because she didn't want to be accused of lying about her experience on the Island of the Idols or lying about her experience in general.
Kellee said her plan was to give Dean her idol before Tribal Council, but the risk was that Dean could write her name down and she'd be sent packing as one of the biggest suckers in Survivor history.
"However, if I convince Noura that Dean has an idol and she's going home, I could get Noura to write down Jack or Jamal's name and I'm a lot safer. Ugh, that would be so brilliant!" Kellee said.
Kellee then approached Dean on the beach before Tribal and warned him that he was the target for everybody -- 1,000 percent. Kellee asked Dean if he had an idol, and when he replied, "No," Kellee shared that she would give Dean her idol.
Kellee knew Dean would be loyal to her, at least for a while, because she had been willing to make a big move for him. Kellee said she was about to set off a huge string of Dominoes.
On Night 19, Lairo attended Tribal Council with Jeff, and Noura admitted she didn't know whether she could trust Dean or Jamal.
Dean announced Noura had targeted Jamal before -- which worried Jamal -- but Noura insisted she had a family bond with all of the members of her tribe, even though she hated some of them sometimes. Noura said Jamal could trust she's open and speaks her mind.
Jack then said Noura benefited his game because of her honesty and so he wanted to keep her around.
Jamal wasn't sure he was safe after all, and then he opened up about his fears, which sparked a conversation about social politics.
"I am very fearful of an all-girls alliance right now. Look, Jeff, I work an at all-girls school, okay? I know the power of women when they get together and they understand their collective power," Jamal confessed.
"And in this tribe, 4-3, we're outnumbered. So I'm actually not sure if it's gotten into these girls' heads that I'm the one who needs to go home and they're the team that they want to take."
Kellee immediately appeared bothered and annoyed by Jamal's comment.
"I find this idea of a women's alliance so sexist. I'm sorry, I know you didn't mean it that way. But it's really offensive to be like, 'Oh, the women outnumber the men. They can just take over.' The amount of fear in Survivor about a women's alliance outpaces the number of times there's actually been a women's alliance," Kellee complained.
"Not to mention, we don't talk about men's alliances. We don't fear men's alliances. And yet three men have been sitting at the very end. And that's not a thing. For some reason, it would be a thing for three women to be sitting at the very end. We are splitting this arbitrarily by gender. Why is that?! Sorry, I feel really strongly about this."
Jamal said he backed Kellee's speech 100 percent, but he said he didn't think the situation was arbitrary.
"I would love for you to ask Noura if she's ever considered an all women's alliance," Jamal noted.
Jeff asked Noura to answer that question, and then Noura admitted, "It felt cool! Why not! Yeah! Of course I have. We all think about many things. I would be a dumb player if I didn't think about it at some point. I believe in confident women."
She added, "I like women that are making things happen in the world, and I respect it. If you were a woman, you'd band with us too."
Jamal therefore replied, "I'm not, and so I'm afraid. That's all."
The tribe then seemed to agree the "Me Too" movement and women feeling empowered this past year gave rise to this cultural discussion about gender in Survivor.
Janet, with her wisdom, then chimed in, "To assume women are going to bond based on their gender is very negative. That's putting women down. That's saying women don't have a brain to say, 'Maybe Jamal has something to offer me.'"
Janet added that women cannot be powerful unless they have women and men backing them. She said women need to earn their respect, their dignity and their position.
Kellee, who complimented Janet's beautiful words, said it's important to take the individual and really humanize each person.
"That's what the theme should be about. I think that's how game winners get to the end," Kellee said, getting emotional.
Jamal said he was proud of the women in his tribe and enjoyed listening to them speak their minds and voice their opinions.
After everyone cast their votes, Dean played an idol for himself.
"Why wouldn't he have played it last time?" Noura asked.
"I don't know," Kellee replied, appearing shocked and bewildered by Dean's move.
Since Dean ensured his safety, Jamal decided to also play a hidden Immunity Idol -- and he played it for Noura.
"What just happened?" Kellee asked her tribemates, playing dumb.
Jeff then read the votes aloud in the following order: Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Jack, and Jack.
"I'm so sorry Jack," Jamal told him. "I tried, buddy."
Jamal appeared deflated, and the Noura apologized to Jamal for having wasted his idol on her.
The episode's closing credits later showed that Dean and Noura voted for Jack, while everyone else voted to oust Dean from Survivor -- including Kellee so she could put up a united front with her tribe and not get blamed for Dean playing an idol.
Kellee wanted her tribe to believe that she didn't betray them, and Dean did not betray Kellee by exposing her.