Survivor – The Relationship Between A Winning Game and the Hidden Immunity Idol

In Survivor’s sixteen year history, the Hidden Immunity Idol has proved to be it’s most important twist. After the introduction of the hidden immunity idol in Season 11, we have seen it used to produce great TV moments and also some masterful game-play moves. From Yul using the idol to flip Jonathan Penner, to Russell using the idol to save Parvati and eliminate Tyson, the idol has been an incredibly integral part of Survivor since it was introduced. But how much does the idol actually impact a winning game of Survivor? In this article I take a look at the winners and how much of an impact the hidden immunity idol had on their winning game to determine how important having the idol truly is.

In my analysis, I discovered that seventeen out of the twenty-two winners since the idol was introduced, either did not have an idol, or had the idol but did not need it to win. An important thing to note is that the latest season of players in this category besides Season 32’s winner, Aubry Braco was Season 26’s Jon Cochran, so it’s possible that the idol is becoming more important to winning the modern game.

Did Not Need Idol To Win (17/22): Danni, Aras, Earl, Todd, Parvati, Bob, JT, Natalie W., Sandra, Fabio, Rob, Sophie, Denise, Kim, Cochran, Tyson, Michele

Out of the players listed above, only four of them eliminated potential roadblocks in their way by eliminating a person with the idol. JT eliminated Brandon, Todd eliminated James, Parvati eliminated Ozzy and Michele eliminated Scott. Arguably though, none of these moves contributed to them actually winning the game. JT was always going to be used as a swing vote at the start of the merge and could have still won Tocantins without eliminating Brandon, James would have been tough to get out but it wouldn’t have been absolutely detrimental to Todd’s game had he not removed James, Parvati’s women’s alliance was always likely to take control with or without Ozzy in the game, and Michele eliminating Scott was the most logical choice for her at that particular stage in the game but did not need to be done for her to win.

Moreover, out of these 17 winners, five of them had an idol but didn’t need it to win. These five players (Earl, Sandra, Rob, Kim and Tyson), either carried their idols all the way to the finals or used their idols even though they didn’t need to.

So That Brings Us To Our Winners Who Needed the Idol To Win: Yul, Tony, Natalie A., Mike and Jeremy. With the exception of Mike, these are considered to be some of the greatest players to ever win the game and their ability to know how and when to use the idol certainly contributed to their wins.

Won The Game or Saved Themselves By Using The Hidden Immunity Idol (5/22): Yul, Tony, Natalie A., Mike, Jeremy

Yul has the best use of the hidden immunity idol ever, when he decreases his 5-4 numbers disadvantage by using his idol to flip Jonathan Penner on to his side. But Tony, Natalie and Jeremy, and Mike’s plays should not go unnoticed. Tony used his idol to scare everyone against voting for him. He made it well known that he had a “super idol” which had special powers that he could use to get whoever he wanted out. Nobody knew exactly what his idol could do, but everyone was still scared to vote against him until he walked right into the final three. Natalie meanwhile, used her idol to eliminate Baylor, which was a player from the last remaining loved one duo of her season. It’s questionable about whether it needed to be done to win as Natlaie, Baylor and Missy would have still gone to final three and Natalie might have swept all eight votes, but I will argue that it absolutely needed to be done to win her the game because by doing this she was able to use the idol in an effective way right in front of the jury’s eyes, which gave them just one more reason why she should ultimately win. Then in Mike and Jeremy’s cases, they were able to use the idol to save themselves from elimination. Mike used it to save himself and eliminate Tyler, while Jeremy used two idols to perfection, saving his best ally Stephen at final ten and saving himself at final six.

So overall since the hidden immunity idol was introduced in Survivor Season 11, Guatemala, only 5 out of 23 players actually needed their hidden immunity idol to win. It is possible that the idol is becoming more and more important to a winning game, as 4 out of the 5 from the “Needed Idol To Win” category came from Seasons 28, 29, 30 and 31. However, this is still not strong enough data to suggest that the idol actually contributes to a winning game and although incredibly helpful, it does seem to be more likely to make you a bigger target than make you a contender to win.

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