Ranking of the best episodes – N ° 4 – “If it smells like a rat, give it cheese”
Over the next few months, Inside Survivor will embark on its biggest roster yet, as we count down the 100 best Survivor episodes of all time. As always with these type of lists, it’s entirely subjective and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply the Inside Survivor ranking. Join us every day of the week for a new entry.
Episode: “If it smells like a rat, give it cheese” (Episode 13)
Original air date: May 8, 2008
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In a given season of Survivor, players are bound to make mistakes. There’s only one winner, and sometimes they even goof or two (or three or four) along the way. The story of Survivor is littered with blunders and failures from the castaways of the past, their quest to earn a million dollars exploded by poorly managed conversation or a bad vibe they gave off.
Often the worst mistakes make for the best TV. There is something almost cathartic about watching a player explode their game in spectacular fashion. The public can revel in poor decision making. We yell at the TV, claiming we would have made a better call in the same position, ridiculing on-screen players from the comfort of our couches.
Most of the time, however, it’s not really fair to criticize the castaways for these mistakes; they operate with limited knowledge, when we can see the whole story and have the foresight to know when a player is going wrong. However, every once in a while a player comes along who makes such a disastrous mistake that the audience is completely justified in their ridicule. No time Survivor better fits this description than Erik Reichenbach giving up immunity.
Erik offering the Immunity necklace during the final 5 of Survivor: Micronesia maybe not the dumbest move Survivor the story (although it’s certainly in the conversation), but it’s the one that strikes the hardest. Indeed, before that moment, it seemed unfathomable that anyone would drop an Immunity Necklace when their butt would be on the line otherwise.
But, Erik does, all because he is the victim of one of the greatest crooks in history, perpetrated by one of the deadliest alliances of all time, the Black Widow Brigade. This sneaky, intelligent group of women know exactly the right buttons to push with Erik, playing on his guilt and insecurities to make him do something that is unquestionably not in his best interest. Their game is remarkable to watch and results in something like Survivor really never seen it before.
The seeds of Erik’s downfall are sewn up during the previous Tribal Council in Finale 6, where it looks like Amanda Kimmel is going to be taken out. However, she surprises the whole tribe by taking down an idol of hidden immunity and protecting herself. Only her best friend Parvati Shallow stands by her side, their two votes kicking Alexis Jones out of the match and putting Erik in the squad that voted against Amanda.
Until then, Erik and Amanda had had a pretty good relationship in the game, but now Erik is in the doghouse with Amanda after writing her name. This development is important because it is representative of Erik’s play throughout the episode, ping-pong between the four women, desperate to gain their approval as he attempts to strengthen his position before the end of the match.
Erik tries to come to terms with Amanda by promising to take the reward away from her, except that there is one major problem: he has already promised the same to his other good friend Natalie Bolton. It’s safe to say things would be pretty hairy for Erik if he won the next reward challenge. So what happens? Of course, Erik ends up winning the challenge (beating the ladies of Survivor anecdotes and cement his superfan status).
When faced with the decision of who to take with him for the award, Erik selects Amanda, sending an enraged Natalie back to camp. Erik immediately recognizes that he messed up with Natalie but tries to focus on his next one-on-one meeting with Amanda, hoping that he will be able to work things out with Natalie when he returns to camp.
Unfortunately for him, Natalie is sent back to camp with Cirie Fields, who spends the afternoon stoking Natalie’s anger towards Erik. And it works; when Erik returns to camp, Natalie listens to his apologies but is not at all convinced by him. Natalie even shares notes with Amanda, which makes them even angrier that Erik has told them the same. After this little gabfest, the mission becomes clearer than ever: Erik had to go, and the only way to do that was to gain Immunity.
Fast forward to the immunity challenge, and Erik does it again, earning his third consecutive individual immunity. With Erik now protected from the vote, the four women return to camp completely devastated as they begin to understand that one of them had to be sent home. They sit on the beach and reveal all of Erik’s shenanigans to Parvati, who had been away on Exile Island.
Parvati laments, stating, “It sucks he’s gained immunity.” If he didn’t have this necklace, he would have left. A beat passes, then Cirie comes up with one of the most devious suggestions ever made. Survivor: “I wonder if he would give his necklace to Nat.” This idea provokes various reactions. Parvati and Amanda are excited about the possibility, prompting Natalie to give it a try. Natalie is much more skeptical, openly dismissing the idea because of the sheer madness involved.
The girls are persistent, however, as they expose all the intricacies of the plan. By relinquishing immunity, they argue, Erik would redeem himself in their eyes and, more importantly, in the eyes of the jury, who will make the final decision on the winner. Natalie eventually succumbs to the absurd idea, and the wheels are in motion for one of the most incredible stretches of Survivor never produced.
Natalie walks up to Erik and starts spinning his web, telling him he needs to give him the Immunity necklace to score some major brownie points with the jury. Erik immediately doubts this proposal, but Natalie continues to point out how beautiful it would be in front of the jury. With Natalie’s words flashing through his head, Erik decides to do something he really shouldn’t have done – he’s going to talk to Cirie.
Proving her phenomenal talent for the game, Cirie makes her part of the web run flawlessly, echoing Natalie’s statements as Erik chews on the idea more and more. If there is any doubt how hard and slyly these black widows are working to get Erik to do the unthinkable, Cirie lays him down in a gleaming confessional. “If Erik took off that necklace tonight his torch would be extinguished so quickly, I don’t even think he might have time to blink,” she said.
Erik spends his last hours before Tribal Council walking the beach, the thought of dropping the Immunity necklace consuming more and more of his thoughts. This leaves audiences on the edge of their seats as we wait to see if Erik would be really stupid to fall for the Black Widow ploy.
That night at Tribal, the women continue their excellent masquerade, berating Erik for how much he had burnt all their confidence and reiterating the one thing he could do that could regain some of that confidence. At this point, Erik is completely trapped in their web, admitting his mistakes and his desire to be forgiven at Tribal. When the time comes for Jeff Probst to ask the most important question, Erik makes a breathtaking decision.
“Uh, Jeff,” Erik stutters. “It’s a very difficult decision for me for a number of reasons. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the past few days, and I know actions speak louder than words. There is a sense of tension that builds as the jury members and the audience realize what Erik is about to do. “I want to give Natalie individual immunity,” he says.
As Erik removes the necklace and hands it to Natalie, expressions of absolute shock have spread to the players and jury members, and with good reason. Erik’s decision is shocking, and the show treats her with the respect she deserves. For the only time Survivor history, all voting confessionals are shown, leaving little doubt about the importance of this Tribal.
As the women deliver their wild voting comments, Erik sits with his fingers crossed and a worried expression on his face, knowing that he may have just made the biggest blunder this game has ever seen. And, in the end, his fears turned out to be correct. Erik is rejected, leaving the Black Widows with the perfect farewell words of “You drive me crazy” as they burst into smiles and laughter.
To his credit, Erik is very positive in his final words, expressing his gratitude for his experience and illustrating why this moment is working so well. In a doubled season Fans vs favorites, Erik was the ultimate fan, a young child whose exuberance for Survivor was contagious. While it is easy for someone at home to laugh or shake their head, the fact that Erik could endure such a humiliating curse and come out the other side with a smile on his face should also make viewers smile. .
Erik may have made one of the worst mistakes of his life; it also created one of the most iconic moments in the history of Survivor, and it’s an honor few other fans can claim.
Check back tomorrow when we reveal which episode placed at number 3. You can check out previous entries here.