At the start of Survivor 43, Jesse said, “we’re a hot mess.” Considering his tribe, Vesi/red, keeps losing and has just four players now, that was pretty accurate.
But the pendulum swung to the other side this week, as Vesi won not only the reward challenge, but also the immunity challenge.
And it was previously undefeated Coco/blue that lost—after Vesi helped Baka/yellow. Coco’s first trip to Tribal Council quickly became interesting, as cockiness and paranoia worked against two players.
Altogether, this was an immensely satisfying episode of Survivor, in part because it had:
- no idols, advantages, or twists (!)
- no bio backstories (!!)
- two challenges (!!!)
- two new challenges—or at least new elements (!!!!)
This episode made Survivor 43 one of only three Survivor seasons to start with four women being voted out first.
The reward challenge—the first real reward challenge of the season, not counting the season-opening challenge and its at-camp punishments—came early in the episode.
While it involved some similar elements as past challenges (knocking objects off pedestals with sandbags, landing sandbags on pedestals), they added a fun new element where one player had to walk across sand on two cubes, only using their feet, kicking one cube forward at a time.
I’d guess it’s a budgetary thing that’s kept Survivor using the same challenges season after season, year after year, but it was just so nice to see something new and different.
The winning tribe, Vesi, won both fresh fish and the ability to steal an item from another tribe’s camp.
While discussing what they might steal with Jeff Probst, suddenly revealed a new element to rewards that I’ve never even seen mentioned anywhere, ever:
“You can always trade for a previous reward,” Probst told them. Always? Since when?
They ended up trading their fish for a basket of fruit and tool kit. Could they have traded the fish for an even earlier reward, like the Charmin-stocked toilet from Survivor Tocantins, or the night on a yacht from Survivor All-Stars? What about a hot air balloon ride in Kenya?
Cody was elected to go to Coco, because you always want your least-unpredictable player to represent you in such an important transaction.
After Coco gently mocked Cody’s tribe for having to eat sashimi fish, they balked when they learned he wanted to take their machete to basically make their life suck.
Instead, they offered two days of food, which I thought would tempt Cody. But he was actually a good negotiator, which makes sense since he’s in sales! “We don’t have fire right now,” he said. “We need something that’ll give us a longer life cycle.” They gave him some food and fishing gear.
“It’s a win-win. I got more than what I went for,” he told us. While Karla mocked his use of Hawaiian words (“bro, you’re from Idaho, calm down”), she also said “I think Cody played us.”
The immunity challenge also had similar elements—climbing a rope net, crawling through sand, giant puzzle pieces—but arranged them in a new way, and had a fun twist of using the same puzzle pieces twice. (Maybe it’s been so long that I’m forgetting this challenge?)
The players had to knock over sandbags and climb over hurdles, and then crawl underneath nets while carrying massive bags with huge puzzle pieces. Those had to be arranged into a square, and then carried up to a platform and rearranged into a triangle.
Jeff Probst gave Dwight shit for not untying his bag fast enough for Probst’s taste, and said, wonderfully, “Thank you, Jeffrey.”
The sass did not stop there, including the use of the word. “Thank you professor. Any suggestions?” Sami or Owen said to Gabler during the triangle puzzle. Cue Elie: “Do not get sassy!” Oh no, please get more sassy! Because that’s great.
By the way, Baka/yellow seems to be regretting have Gabler around, especially after he started involuntarily covering people while they slept with palm frond blankets (“a detriment not only to our game, but our camp life as well,” Elie said), but they are stuck with him for now. Maybe that Morriah vote about “strength” wasn’t such a great idea?
Coco was so far behind they were still working on the square as the others were doing the triangle, but they caught up, as the others were struggling.
The absolute best—and most unexpected—part of the immunity challenge came after Vesi’s win. While Dwight immediately knocked their puzzle over so the other teams couldn’t use it, they soon decided to help Baka.
“What the…” James asked as Noelle started giving instructions, doing her best to help send Coco to Tribal Council. I love that; It’s clearly in the underdog tribes’ interest for Coco to be weakened, especially when it comes time for a tribe swap or merge.
“They’re uniting together as the losers,” Cassidy told Jeff Probst, and yes, yes they were. Except in this challenge, they were the winners.
When Baka finished, they celebrated, but maybe tone that down a little bit, since it’s a little like coming in second place in a foot race after someone gave you a bicycle.
Since Coco has been hanging out, partying, not really playing the game, they sort of lurched into strategizing, or at least that’s how the edit looked.
Geo told us he was “kind of excited about Tribal Council” and insisted “I feel like I’m just calling the shots right now,” deciding that the tribe should target Cassidy. I cannot wait to hear what he says when he finds out he’s the only person who voted for Cassidy.
While there was a brief moment of Geo mansplaining cutting to Cassidy, the animosity there wasn’t really well-developed, and neither was his sudden confidence and/or leadership.
Cassidy, meanwhile, told the other women “he’s being sassy at everybody” and then used the word “sassy” yet again: “I’ve seen him be sassy to multiple people.”
The women talked to James, who was down to voting for Geo. Done deal, right? “It’s the easiest vote,” Karla said.
I appreciate that the editing actually showed us what happened next: Lindsay got absurdly paranoid for no reason. “Something’s just not adding up,” she told us. “It’s never as easy at it seems.”
While that is true, and many players have been blindsided in such moments, she also couldn’t pinpoint the reason for her paranoia (“I don’t know why”). But everything kept making her paranoid: “I don’t understand why we have to keeping go off if the plan’s already in place,” she said.
While James and Karla tried to talk her down, Karla had a new thought: “If she’s this paranoid…?”
James talked to Lindsay—again, another conversation I’m glad we saw. “You are not the target. What you can’t do is sketch out the people that are voting with you,” he said. But then also seemed resigned: “if you don’t want to believe the truth…”
I am curious if the target switched from Geo to Lindsay because of Lindsay’s paranoia, which is the version presented to us, or if Lindsay was a target for another reason.
At Tribal Council, Lindsay talked about her paranoia, and the tribe was open about their conflicts, which was interesting, though didn’t seem to really change anything.
And in an episode of welcome moments and changes, we even had Jeff Probst admitting two things on camera.
During a fun exchange with Geo, Probst ended up saying “I’m the fun-killer,” which—Yes! Yes you are sometimes! But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can change!
“Of course Survivor’s a game, we all know that,” Probst also told the tribe, “but I’m always the one that’s sort of preaching” OH WOW FINALLY! Admitting you have a problem is the first step.
Okay, technically, he ended that sentence with “…that it’s the adventure you make it as well,” but I’m not going to let that get in the way of real progress.