Sandra Diaz-Twine and Boston Rob Mariano are terrible mentors on Survivor: Island of the Idols, but their shtick is hilarious. It was around the time that Sandra positioned herself behind a giant palm frond as she advised Vince Moua how to harness his stealth mode that it clicked: this may be the most ridiculous twist Survivor has ever attempted in its 39 seasons, but goshdarnit if it isn't thoroughly entertaining.
The Island of the Idols cameo in the premiere fell as flat as Elizabeth Beisel's fire. It wasn't compelling television and it sucked precious minutes that could have been devoted to character development. Each episode, however, the Rob and Sandra scenes have become more fun, from softball trivia questions in week two to sneaking into the other camp in week three. As the season has unfolded, it's become evident that Sandra and Rob are not there at all to offer sound advice, but rather to create a leisurely respite from the doldrums of camp life.
This week, Vince was the lucky (unlucky?) soul randomly - at least we are told it's random - chosen to join Rob and Sandra on the Island of the Idols. He cried before Rob could tell him what his task was. This led to Rob, both cruelly and amusingly, asking an emotional Vince, "You don't know where you're from?" His breakdown perfectly set the stage for Sandra and Rob to tell Vince that they were going to teach him how to stay calm under pressure. The sequence started out normally, with Rob taking out a map and showing Vince the best way to sneak into the Vokai camp in the middle of the night to light a torch without being noticed.
Then, the scene devolved into pure comedy. Rob held up a stick as Sandra and Vince army crawled along the beach. Sandra hid behind a palm frond, as if a lesson in hide-and-seek were going to allow Vince to coast to the million dollars. Then Vince began his "impossible mission," which never had a chance because it had been raining. With no fire to steal, he gathered some ashes in his water bottle and sprinted away, à la Tom Cruise. When he returned to Sandra and Rob, he told them about the predicament and Rob still awarded him an immunity idol to be used at one of the next two tribal councils. They forgot to teach him about how and when to play an immunity idol, and Vince was voted out later in the episode with the idol in his canteen.
The Island of the Idols is getting both more absurd and more captivating each week. While we don't need to know the age of Sandra's children or hear Rob boast about how influential he has been to current Survivors, it's become an interesting deep-dive into the character of whoever is picked to visit the statue-lined snug. The mentorship of the two Survivor luminaries has largely been useless. But from the reaction memes they produce at tribal council to the out-of-context chiropractor talk, it's impossible to deny their utility during a chunk of time that would normally be dedicated to a forgettable reward challenge. Some may even say it's mission impossible.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.