Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

“The first cut is the deepest,” as one contestant learned on this week’s episode of Survivor. But at least that cut was able to be bandaged. Another blow received in the game – a backstab – was a bit more of a fatal wound, and it severed yet another likable player from the game.

As I do at the beginning of every recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols. If you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap. It is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.


Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

Lots to discuss! But yes, it was fun-lovin’ Vince Moua, the game’s first-ever castaway of Hmong descent, that saw his torch snuffed in the worst-possible way imaginable: With an unused Immunity Idol resting in his pocket. It’s every survivor’s worst nightmare, to leave the game knowing that you had a sure-fire way (OK, sans an “Idol Nullifyer being played…) to remain in the competition. But wait a minute, I thought that our resident Idols Boston Rob and Sandra Diaz-Twine just bestowed upon Vince the valuable Survivor-wisdom-nugget that you must remain calm under pressure, and you must not panic or give in to paranoia. Vince trusted his gut – and the women’s alliance in which he appeared to be solid with through the first seven days in the game – and it ultimately got him voted-out.

Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

More than in recent seasons, it seems, tribes are once again valuing a player’s physicality when it comes to winning tribe challenges this early in the game. That of course, is traditional Survivor-thinking, that you must get rid of the “weak” physical players pre-merge, when winning in group challenges is the surest way to get ahead in the game. But in the more strategic, cutthroat, “voting bloc” era of the game, this hasn’t always been the first measure. That’s good news for Aaron and Dean, both of whom are strong, physical guys who apparently still have value to the all-girls alliance in that they can hopefully help them win a few more challenges. But getting rid of Vince seems like a short-sighted move for them, as those “physical threats” like Aaron (and Dean), if allowed to stick around into the later part of the game, are often the biggest threats and the most dangerous.

RELATED: Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 2 Recap: The Need For Speed

Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

The Vince blindside is especially worrisome when they had another, “weaker” physical option in front of them, with Karishma. She got a nasty cut on her hand (and how disappointing was it to watch her suffer with no one coming to help her) and she struggled mightily in the challenges thus far. She seemed an easy, obvious vote, no? I guess the women in the group are just solely betting on the fact that she is also female? But wouldn’t it have been a much better move to have voted out Karishma, a woman, just to prove to everyone on the outside that there was not, in fact, an all-girls alliance?

Vince‘s fate is, of course, his won fault. He seemed to be an interesting threat from a social-game perspective, but he obviously didn’t have what it takes on a strategy level. In getting chosen (randomly, so we’re told…although wouldn’t it be best to show the audience who is getting randomly selected to go to the Island of the Idols, so it doesn’t appear fishy?) to go to the Island of the Idols, Vince had a target on his back, but then he did score an Idol. Because it could only be used at one of the next two Tribal Councils, it seemed to me to be a no-brainer that he should use it here…like, why not? What wasn’t shown on TV – and I’d be curious to find out – is if he told anyone not only about his Idol, but about his experience at the Island of the Idols.

Remember Elizabeth on his tribe has already been there…did there stories match-up? Did they talk to one another about it? Was Elizabeth wanting him gone for that very reason, so that he wouldn’t spoil her Island of the Idols story? There was a lot that was left out of last night’s episode, and it honestly was a bit frustrating to watch it all unfold…or not unfold.

RELATED: Survivor: Island of the Idols Premiere Recap: Season 39 Starts Off On Fire!

Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

As for the Island of the Idols twist itself, I’m officially hanging on by a string…I’m going to give it one more week before I officially go one way or the other on my opinion of it, but as of right now I want to think I am leaning towards calling it a big bust. Yes, Rob and Sandra and the King and Queen of Survivor, deservedly so, and I’m a HUGE fan of them both. But as we know, they’re living out there too now, and just nine days into the game, they too look as tired as the players in the game.

They were definitely less witty this episode, and had almost nothing to say in their Tribal “spy shack” like they had in previous episodes. I did finally like that the Island of the Idols challenge DIDN’T involve having to go up against one of them in a competition, and it was sort of an interesting diversion to see Vince have to sneak into his opponent’s camp. But the overlying problem is with these little “lessons.”

RELATED: Cast Of Survivor Season 39 – Island Of The Idols – Revealed!

The main lesson of all Survivor lessons is that the game is constantly evolving and players are forced to constantly adapt…and there isn’t one rule book or one  “boot camp” that is going to layout a blueprint for someone to win the game. That’s the flow with the Island of the Idols twist. This episode’s lesson was DISASTROUS, in that it gave Vince bad advice given his specific situation. Vince had just earlier gotten on Karishma‘s case for NOT making more of a stink when she was on the presumed “bottom” of the tribe, and yet he didn’t end up taking his own advice when his name was starting to come up. And who knows for sure (damn I miss my exit interviews…), but Vince may have very well kept his Idol to himself because in the back of his head, he was hearing Rob and Sandra tell him to just relax, and to remain calm. Oh well.

Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

Episode Take-Away: This all being said, I’m still enjoying the season as a whole, in spite of the fact that I’m going to give the Island of the Idols twist one more week to really try to win me over. We also got Dean‘s first confessional of the season, and it was almost his last, when he made a public blunder about splitting-votes in front of the whole tribe. Oops! Be careful what we wish for I guess when it comes to Dean? I’m still liking Missy a bunch, I still want to see more of Lauren, and now that we’re getting to know these players, I think I’m getting ready for a tribe swap to happen in the near future.

Voted out this week: Vince (with an Idol in his pocket, poor guy!)

Won Immunity: Purple Tribe

Vote: No advantages or Idols were played. 5 – Vince (Elizabeth, Missy, Karishma, Elaine, Chelsea), 3 – Karishma (Dean, Tom, Aaron), 1 – Tom (Vince)

Survivor: Island of the Idols Episode 3 Recap: Lessons Learned?

Next Week’s Episode: A budding romance between Chelsea and Dean? I’m intrigued.

Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic, and I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews as I am the film critic and Executive Producer of the TV show, “Movie Show Plus,” the #1-rated local program in my Detroit-market (episodes are also available online at the website, As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell