The hidden immunity idol has become a staple on Survivor. Every player covets one because of the protection it offers. However, it’s also risky to search for it in the first place. Many players have been voted out for taking the time to look for idols. It’s also become common for tribes to target someone early in order to “flush” a potential idol.
There is some criticism that players have relied too heavily on immunity idols in more recent years, or that there are far too many idols in the game. Former castaway Carl Bilancione from Survivor: Africa is one of those critics. He recently told Entertainment Weekly that if he could change any aspect of Survivor, it would be to “Get rid of the IDOLS!”
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Jeff Probst Has Defended the Use of Immunity Idols
The Survivor producers have said they’re adding a lot more risk to the next season. CBS has promoted season 41 as “more intense and more dangerous” than ever before.
One of the key changes they’ve teased is that players will have to work harder to earn advantages in the game. In a news release, the show teases that advantages “could significantly help their game or, just as easily, extinguish their torch.”
It’s unclear whether that means idols will be more challenging to find or use. But it’s safe to assume that idols will remain a part of the new season, as long as host Jeff Probst has a say in the matter. In January 2020, before season 40 aired, EW asked him whether there were too many immunity idols involved in the game. Probst dismissed that criticism and insisted that they enhanced the gameplay:
What doesn’t go through my head is, ‘Oh, there’s going to be too many twists. Oh, there’s going to be too many idols.’ I still don’t get that criticism. Some of our best seasons have hovered around last-minute idol finds or betrayals at Tribal because of an idol or ‘I’m blocking your vote, well, I’ve got an extra vote,’ the idol nullifier. You have to have this in the game.
Men Have Found More Immunity Idols Than Women
The men on the show have had a lot more luck with immunity idols than the women. Reality Blurred reported in 2019 that up until that point, men had found 83% of the idols. Out of 98 hidden idols, women had found only 17 of them.
CBS says the record for most immunity idols found in a single season by a single player is three. That record has been reached by three men: Tai Trang on Survivor: Game Changers, Tony Vlachos on Survivor: Cagayan and Ben Driebergen on Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
EW spoke with former women castaways who said that within tribes, it’s common for the men to leave the camp to gather supplies. This gives them the opportunity to search for idols. Vince Moua from Island of the Idols commented on how this dynamic played out on his season:
The first day that we got onto the beach and we are going to make the shelter — one of the first things that Aaron did was, he started dictating and saying, ‘Okay, the guys are all gonna go gather stuff and the women are gonna stay here and you can prepare this and that.’ And I cut it immediately and said, ‘Nah, like the women can go get the things that they want to gather. Ladies, if you want to gather things, go for it. There’s no need for us to put the gender expectations on people, and the guys can also stay here and clean.’