Entertainment Weekly

THE ULTIMATE BLINDSIDE: A SURVIVOR ORAL HISTORY

EW looks back at an iconic moment from season 16 of the CBS reality competition, when contestant Erik Reichenbach was persuaded to give away his immunity necklace—and his chance at the $1 million prize.
Tribal Council

“OUR FEELING WAS THIS ICE CREAM SCOOPER, THIS YOUNG KID, WAS going to win Survivor,” says Jeff Probst. It didn’t turn out that way.

For its 16th season, Probst’s CBS reality competition staged a brand-new concept: one tribe made up entirely of fans, and another of favorite returning players. Survivor: Micronesia—Fans vs. Favorites quickly established itself as one of the best seasons of Survivor ever, with a group of women forming an alliance known as the Black Widow Brigade, mowing down unsuspecting male victims along the way.

But the defining moment occurred in the season’s penultimate episode, airing on May 8, 2008. It centered around naive 22-year-old Erik Reichenbach from Pinckney, Mich. On day 36 of the game, Erik made a seemingly inexplicable decision that changed his life forever: He relinquished his individual immunity and was promptly voted out. Why did it happen? What was he thinking? And how were four women—Parvati Shallow, Amanda Kimmel, Cirie Fields, and Natalie Bolton—able to pull off the impossible?

We spoke to the people who were there to get the full inside story of the greatest Survivor blindside ever.

After Erik won the immunity challenge, the remaining women went back to camp dejected. They sat by the water, confirming that Natalie would be the next to go and commiserating about what could’ve been. “If he didn’t have that necklace, he’d be gone,” said Parvati.

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