Parvati Shallow Breaks Down 'Survivor': "Two Idols" Aren't Better Than None

The 'Survivor' champ analyzes season 29 for THR
Timothy Kuratek/CBS
The immunity challenge.

Parvati Shallow is a Survivor champ and three-time competitor on the show. The OG Miss Survivor and Survivor Hall of Famer now covers health and wellness for CBS News in New York City. Find her on Twitter @parvatishallow.

Does anyone else feel like you just witnessed the Jeff Probst Survivor family therapy hour? This season is less about playing the game and more about playing out relationship drama.

Once Nadiya enters the arena and sees her "twinnie" was the first casualty of the game, she bursts into tears — something she hasn’t done in ten years. Interviewing these people before the game, I realized they had no idea how real this experience was going to get. Pre-game, the twins were probably the most lighthearted out of all the contestants. Underneath that happy go lucky exterior, however, I sense Nadiya has some real power. Now that her twin sister is out of the game, she’s less of a threat to the other competitors and can become a force to be reckoned with. Maybe she’ll take Kelley, the farmer’s daughter, as a surrogate twinsicle.

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Alright, let’s get straight to our latest family face off. Giant John Rocker wins rock paper scissors and volunteers himself to compete against his sweet little girlfriend, Julie McGee. Is this a strategy move from Rocker or just a play to get some more challenge time on the books?

If Rocker is intentionally trying to lose, it doesn’t look like it. While he unravels, Julie uses zenlike focus and yogic deep breathing to inch her way to the win.

As the winner, Julie picks Jeremy to join John at Exile Island. If I were in her platform wedges, I’d jump at the chance to send myself to join my man on a romantic exile getaway. Julie chooses Jeremy to go along for the adventure, and the boys skip off to bromance island.

Now, we have one last item of business in the arena.

Hunapu has lost their flint, and they need a new one. The appointed team captain, Reed, brings up the possibility of a trade — their tribe’s supply of beans, in exchange for flint. Sounds fair to me.

Probst does not like this one bit. As the host of Survivor, he’s witnessed manipulation in every form. When contestants manipulate each other, it’s all good. But, when they try to work their magic on Mr. Probst, there will be blood.

Probst’s head nearly pops off his body when he realizes Reed is trying to pull a fast one on him. He insists they pay more dearly for their lost flint and sacrifice their newly won fishing gear. After much back and forth, the tribe makes the deal with the devil. Bummer for us, we won’t be seeing any of those epic underwater fishing shots!

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Well, at least we have a sumo challenge to get excited about. I’m into these brute force head to head grudge matches. This one brings back memories of the first Blood vs. Water when Aras cried after beating his brother Vytas. The stakes are set high, kids. Let’s see what you’ve got.

A huge shocker right out the gates — Rocker takes a hard knock and loses his first match up to Jon, Jaclyn’s boyfriend. Unreal. The former MLB player is absolutely enormous. He looks like he could demolish anyone that gets in his way, but he hasn’t been performing well in these challenges. First, he loses to his tiny girlfriend, then he goes down hard in the sumo challenge. My guess: the dehydration and malnourishment are taking a heavy toll.

When Missy meets her daughter in the ring, I expect another Laura/Ciera moment where Mom beats daughter and then cries about it. Right away, Baylor gets knocked in the mouth. As blood trickles down her lip, she shoots her mother the most heart breaking, puppy dog look. That’s all it takes. A Mom can’t crush her daughter after that.

Next, we have the final grudge match between Jaclyn and Kelley, the farmer’s daughter.

It’s a tangle of legs and breasts, until finally, Kelley manhandles Jaclyn off the platform, winning immunity for her tribe.

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That means Rocker’s tribe is making another trip out to tribal council tonight. I’m not too concerned about any epic strategic moves happening here, as it seems most of these contestants don’t quite understand the way the game works.

For instance, why is Val insisting that she has two idols when she truly has none? In no way is this a good idea. Saying you have an idol puts a massive target on your back. Val has Rocker’s protection, thanks to her husband Jeremy’s good work at Exile Island. Rocker has a real idol. All Val has to do to save herself is fess up to Rocker that she was lying about the idols.

So, why does she stick with her lie all the way through tribal until she eventually gets voted off?

My theory is, contestants sometimes play too hard too fast. They get scared, and then they don’t see clearly. Val is one of these people. She’s overthinking it. She believes she needs to stage some huge, elaborate stunt to save herself, when in reality, she would be better off telling the truth.

Let this be a lesson to you all: Honesty is typically the best path to self-preservation.

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