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Survivor 43 sets a record by repeating itself

Survivor 43 sets a record by repeating itself
Jeff Probst at the Survivor 43 episode 3 immunity challenge. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

The third episode of Survivor 41 focused nearly entirely on advantages, sidelining almost everything great about Survivor in exchange for focusing on producer manipulation. The message was clear: The cast is less-interesting than the wacky twists we created.

The third episode of Survivor 43 was oddly similar: almost every segment had an advantage at its center. That is still not my favorite! But at least this time the focus was more on the characters.

The best example was Karla, who went searching for an idol or advantage, and found one. “You never know,” she said, and then looked up and there it was, having been shown to us by the camera operator while Karla was looking the other direction.

But then she decided that losing her vote was not worth whatever annoying task she’d be asked to complete. “You don’t know what the task is,” she said. “What’s really there is the fear of jeopardizing kind of like a perfect game.” She tucked the advantage back into the tree, and I was so impressed by her rejection of Jeff Probst’s reindeer games.

After a commercial break, she had a change of heart. “What would my wife think that I left a freakin’ beware advantage? This game is all about overcoming fear,” she said. “That gave me the freakin’ confidence to say: Do it.

So she did! Karla managed to convince everyone to give her their beads, in part by bartering her earrings. Somehow, she made this suspicious task seem natural—and she didn’t need two of her tribemates to do all the negotiating for her, ahem, Cody.

Speaking of Cody, the episode opened by repeating what happened at and before last week’s Tribal Council with his Beware Advantage. “This is an idol, baby!” Cody said, and yowled. I think it was a yowl. But beyond that, this was not a recap; it was the new episode.

Tell me again why Survivor just can’t spare the time for the theme song and title sequence?

It’d also really be nice to see all the players’ names on the screen, considering that, three weeks into the season, CBS hasn’t been bothered to update the show’s website. (It still has season 42’s cast.)

Starting with the Cody talking about Karla finding the Beware Advantage; Karla taking the Beware Advantage; Karla convincing her tribe to give her beads; Gabler’s idol; Noelle, James, and Owen

Gabler and Sami talk about Gabler's idol on Survivor 43's third episode
Gabler and Sami talk about Gabler’s idol on Survivor 43’s third episode (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Over on yellow/Baka, Elie told us that “I’ve turned the table on my feelings toward Gabler, and I would like for him to go next.”

But she’s overplaying. Sami told us, “She thinks she’s running the show around here” and added, “We’ll see how that goes.”

He asked Gabler if he knew his idol was still good (Gabler did), and then told him that the others had looked in his bag, and Elie was coming for him.

I like this move from Sami; I don’t understand why he’s so insecure about being 19, or why he thinks fabricating three years makes him somehow immune to seeming young. He looks like he’s 19!

Gabler also knew what was going on: “They think I’m a little slow—which is fine,” he said, reminding us that he’s a heart valve specialist who works in ERs doing surgery. “I may not be a genius, but I’m not a dummy, either,” he said.

These two threads came together in a spectacular but brief scene, in which Elie (kind of clumsily) suggested making fake idols (why?) and told Gabler they could use his since it no longer worked.

Elie said she wanted to use its beads, and Gabler deferred in just a brilliant way. “I do want to give it to my daughter for graduation—it’s the ultimate souvenir,” he said.

Alas, Gabler vs. Elie will have to wait for another day, as they won the immunity challenge.

So, too, will the bloodbath on blue/Coco, which has not yet gone to Tribal Council, and sat around in bliss, celebrating James’ birthday. Cassidy told us, “it literally is like a community here, you know. We’re building it slowly—slowly until we slit each other’s throats.”

Those tribes won the immunity challenge, in no small part because red/Vesi blew another challenge, and at the puzzle stage, and with Nneka puzzling.

Jesse Lopez and Nneka Ejere screw up the puzzle and lose immunity as Jeff Probst watches and berates them on Survivor 43 episode 3. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

This “blown lead by Vesi,” as Jeff Probst put it, was curious because Jesse and Nneka just sort of seemed to freeze mid-puzzle.

Jesse explained at Tribal Council that puzzles are much harder on Survivor, because of the hunger and fatigue, but also “we’ve got people yelling at us, there’s you yelling at us,” he told Jeff Probst. “It just sort of slipped through our fingers.”

After the challenge, Noelle, James, and Owen went on a “journey,” removing Noelle from her camp for pre-Tribal Council.

That’s another thing that is not my favorite, especially with only five people on a tribe. Now there are just four around for the bulk of the strategizing afternoon.

Noelle Lambert jumps off a platform into the ocean during the Survivor 43 episode 3 challenge
Noelle Lambert jumps off a platform into the ocean during the Survivor 43 episode 3 challenge. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

“Y’all had the puzzle in your hands, and y’all weren’t able to clutch it out,” Dwight said. But Jesse and Nneka don’t need to do puzzles since they have what matters more on Survivor: a relationship.

Jesse told us that he has “a much stronger bond with Nneka” than with Noelle, which led to flashbacks about Jesse’s mom, and her work, and her death. “It feels like I’m voting out my mom,” he said. Earlier, he floated the idea of voting out Dwight.

Nneka was equally emotional. “I will not leave Cody, Jesse,” Nneka told Dwight, and cried about thus having to vote out Noelle. “That girl inspires the heck out of me,” she said, tipping the episode into inspiration porn territory, especially after the editors gave quite a bit of attention to Noelle removing her prosthesis before the challenge.

In case all of that wasn’t clear enough to Survivor’s viewers, Cody told Jesse Noelle was “was just as good as anybody” (Why wouldn’t she be? She’s an athlete!) and Cody told us, “The doubt of her having one leg is kinda gone.” (Whose doubt is that?)

Meanwhile, on her journey with James and Owen, Noelle had a very similar moment as Karla did. “I want to play this frickin’ game. I want to stop playing scared,” she told us.

That meant forming an alliance with James and Owen, and sharing with them how she was on the outs of the last vote.

When it was time to risk a vote, she risked—though it wasn’t as much of a risk, since Owen told her, “It sounds like you need [the advantage].” He and James did not, so Noelle received a steal-a-vote advantage.

Alas, like Elie and Gabler’s showdown, that advantage will have to wait, too. While Noelle told us, “I have a frickin’ lot more game left, I have a lot more leg jokes,” she did not play it.

In a funny exchange at Trbial Council, Probst polled people about their confidence, and only Noelle expressed a lack of confidence—curious since she had a lot of power. Was she bluffing or actually unsure how the vote would go?

There was no surprise: the entire tribe voted for Nneka except, of course, Nneka.

This brings us to the history-making moment: As Rob’s Fact Checker tweeted, “Survivor 43 is the first season ever to have three women of color be the first three players voted off.”

That is not good.

Of course, as I’ve written about before, individual votes are individual votes. Nneka sucked at the puzzles, yet kept volunteering for them. Even she acknowledged that. It was time for her to go.

What matters to me are patterns—things that keep happening, episode after episode, season after season, show after show.

Survivor has a history of people of color being targeted early in the game—and since the cast was mostly white people, that left mostly white people in the game.

CBS addressed this primarily by increasing the racial diversity of Survivor’s cast. Of course, having a broader range of players means there are more people of color who will be voted out throughout the course of the game.

At the same time, to go from two seasons won by women of color to the most women of color voted out in a row? That’s not a great turn, and one to keep an eye on—especially when the first vote just did not make sense.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Happy discussing!


Friday 7th of October 2022

The USA version should bring an All Stars cast from Australia version.

None of the USA version last few seasons besides Brad have had interesting personalities and even though they had a larger cast with more Alphas it was easier for Australia to distinguish them.


Friday 7th of October 2022

This is a really stupid article, through and through.


Thursday 6th of October 2022

Justine was the second voted out last week and unless my eyes deceive me, she is caucasian and not a woman of color.

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 6th of October 2022

She is not white, and is a person of color: her parents are from the Philippines.


Thursday 6th of October 2022

"CBS addressed this primarily by increasing the racial diversity of Survivor’s cast. Of course, having a broader range of players means there are more people of color who will be voted out throughout the course of the game."

"At the same time, to go from two seasons won by women of color to the most women of color voted out in a row? That’s not a great turn, and one to keep an eye on"

Make this make sense... So the diversity initiative has resulted in two women of color winning the past two seasons, but that is somehow being superseded by three women of color going out in the first three boots this season? I really think you are missing the forest through the trees on this one


Tuesday 11th of October 2022

@Andy Dehnart, I dont understand how we are going to blame implicit bias when these votes involve BIPOC players voting each other out. Like they aren't the minority numbers wise on these 6 person tribes... Generally this just seems like a really weird complaint given BIPOC members have won every season of Survivor/Big Brother since the diversity initiative was implemented.


Tuesday 11th of October 2022

@raphael, exactly!


Thursday 6th of October 2022

@Andy Dehnart,

edit is a big factor, and with Morriah, they considered her weak, but who knows how she was around camp building the shelter, and getting food the first few days.

it is also important to note, that although women of color have been sequentially voted out, there have been other people of color voting them out too. not just a racial divide. So perception may say 3 women of color were voted out in a row, but i think in this case its more coincidence than intentional. Justine would not have been voted out if she wasn't as up front and blunt saying she was a good liar.

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 6th of October 2022

I just think implicit bias needs to be in the conversation when the only two Black women are voted out first—and one of them for reasons that did not make any sense, at least in the edit. To be clear: Nneka, yes, that made sense! If not for Morriah's episode-one exit, I wouldn't have even noticed or commented on Nneka being voted out in episode two or three.


Thursday 6th of October 2022

@BadMitten, AGREED! It sucks that three women of color went out first, but I truly don't believe they were voted out BECAUSE they were women of color. Very little room to hide on a tribe of 6. If you do poorly in a challenge, there is a good chance you'll be going home.


Thursday 6th of October 2022

This focus on how AMAZING it is that Noelle can play "Survivor" is extra weird considering that she's not even the first contestant to go out there with a prosthetic. If I remember correctly, there have been two before her.

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 6th of October 2022

Excellent point! And yes, I recall Chad Crittenden in Vanuatu and Kelly Bruno in Nicaragua.