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Is Survivor 43 setting up an obvious winner?

Is Survivor 43 setting up an obvious winner?
Noelle breaks down after winning the individual reward challenge on Survivor 43 episode 10 (Image from Survivor via CBS)

At this point in the season, Survivor 43 appears to be Jesse’s to win. He’s so in charge of the vote that the editing devoted a considerable amount of time to him laying out a rather simple blindside.

Another possibility, of course, is that the editing is foreshadowing his downfall, as the rest of the tribe realizes what’s going on and blindsides him, leading to the emergence of a new hero.

LOL as if anyone would do anything on Survivor 43! Far too often this season, there’s been a conversation like the one Gabler and Karla had, where Gabler says Jesse and Cody are “running the show” and need to be taken out as the “power couple.” Cue no one doing anything.

At Tribal Council, which has gone from one of the most riveting parts of the show to the part of the hour where I can catch a quick nap, Noelle pointed out why everyone is playing so cautiously: the freakin’ advantages. “We don’t know what’s out there,” she said. Yes, exactly!

I am still clinging to hope that the editing is setting Jesse and Cody up for a downfall. “I feel good about where things are,” he said, and then also said, “I feel great about where I’m at.” If the editing is including someone saying the same thing twice, it’s either to foreshadow or because they’re out of material.

While Jesse got a lot of attention, the episode’s arc belonged to Noelle, who fought from behind to inspire Jeff Probst win the only individual reward challenge so far this season, only to be blindsided by one of the people she took on that very reward.

Noelle Lambert, Jesse Lopez, Karla Cruz Godoy, Mike Gabler, Sami Layadi, and Cody Assenmacher head to Tribal Council on Survivor 43. (Image from Survivor via CBS)

The reward challenge started almost immediately—well, after Karla complemented Jeff Probst’s shirt (“Loving the black”), leading him to pose, a fun little moment.

Jeff Probst announced that it was a “big reward, could change the entire game for one player.”

It’s also our first (and only? 😭) individual reward challenge so far this season. Survivor 2.0 also dropped individual reward challenges, and maybe we can bring those back before the show disappears into a void of its own creation?

The prize: a trip to “The Sanctuary,” which had food such as pizza, beer, and wine, plus pillows and blankets—and letters from home.

That last part gave Jeff Probst a chance to say the word “love” in a way that sends shivers down my spine and bile up my esophagus, but at least we don’t have to see him say it over and over while commanding people to kiss and hug.

Thankfully, Probst quickly moved on to offering some behind-the-scenes insight, such as explaining to the audience that when “you’re dizzy, it’s hard to run.”

After spinning and crossing a net, the players had to cross a balance beam, kneel down and untie a bag, and then continue across. That was a struggle for many of them, and Noelle really struggled.

“I have no fucking idea how I’m going to do this,” she said, as everyone else passed her. But she did eventually make it across, and threw her bean bag, missing. As her leg started to lose suction and slip off, she threw again, and landed it, winning reward and coming far from behind. A truly incredible win.

Noelle later said, “in a blink of an eye, your life can change in this game,” which, alas, was true for her.

She chose Sami, Jesse, and Owen to join her on the reward, and they went to “The Sanctuary” which is an almost laughable term for what, in an earlier season, would have been Exile Island—without the pillows and food, of course.

Cassidy builds her house of cards on her way to immunity on Survivor 43 episode 10
Cassidy builds her house of cards on her way to immunity on Survivor 43 episode 10. (Image from Survivor via CBS)

The immunity challenge was yet again standing and holding—this time, while building a house of cards. The editors fast-forwarded through this with an extended montage of card stacks falling. Eventually, Cassidy prevailed, saving herself.

Noelle explained that the plan was to split the vote between Cassidy and Karla, and since she was the only other woman left, the plan became Noelle and Karla.

Jesse decided to blindside Noelle, who’s “one of the best players out here” and will “always find a way to fight through and make things happen.”

The editors, also bored and trying desperately to make something happen, turned the conversation into a list of “how to blindside somebody,” narrated by Jesse. The on-screen text:

  1. Have a Cover Story
  2. Throw the Fall Guy Under the Bus
  3. Have a Backup Plan

“That’s how to blindside somebody,” he said, calling it a “beautiful plan” and saying he’d just “sit back and watch it play out.” Jesse’s framework did not include an explanation of why women seem to be his only targets, all the way back from early Vesi.

Sami was the Fall Guy; Gabler was the back-up plan. Jesse told Noelle, getting her to split votes, and told Karla, who suspected this plan would result in a 4-4 tie, because she’s again out of the loop for the actual vote.

Tribal Council was more of, well, nothing. Jeff Probst tried hard—when Gabler pointed, Probst said, “you pointed at somebody—who?!” And Gabler just demurred and said he meant everyone.

“It will lay the foundation for the rest of my game,” Jesse said of the impending vote. The question is whether that’s a solid foundation. Will Survivor 43 play out with such an obvious conclusion?

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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.

Discussion: your turn

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Happy discussing!


Monday 12th of December 2022

I think you should take a step back and consider the privilege and optics of your statements. And an obvious "Latino-presenting male" winner should not be a disappointment at all, considering the larger trend of winners in the show's 43 season history. It's something to be celebrated, not scoffed at.

For you it might seem "boring," but for viewers of color, it is a HUGE FREAKIN DEAL.


Andy Dehnart

Monday 12th of December 2022

You're absolutely right that the representation matters. Nowhere in this story (which was written after episode 10) or any others do I call Jesse or his potential win "boring." What's boring, as I wrote about in a different story, is both the game play and storytelling/editing, which are not the fault of the cast, but of the production.

Last fall, Erika—the first winner of Filipino descent, and the first Canadian winner, and the first woman to win in years—was totally screwed by the editing, which significantly under-edited her and downplayed her role, and made casual fans think of her as an undeserving winner. If Survivor is doing the opposite this season, making Jesse like the obvious winner, that's an improvement, although what any winner deserves is a fair, accurate, and also complex edit, making sure viewers understand how much work went into what they accomplished.


Sunday 27th of November 2022

I always thought Nicolle had a chip on her shoulder so I didn't really like her but during that reward challenge I began to think, "Somebody needs to win quick to end this." The "this" being Nicolle's repeated attempts that were just sad to watch. When she finally got across and won I thought, "Wow! Good for her!"

I hope Jesse or Cody wins or Karla or Gabler or Owen.

The only two I don't like are Sami and Cassidy.


Thursday 24th of November 2022

The last 2 or 3 episodes has me wondering if Owen is going to win based on the editing he has been giving. But I've always been terrible at predicting who will win this game.


Friday 25th of November 2022

@A1Keith, He's been out of the loop on basically every vote! If he wins, it's going to be for, like, one epic move that sways the jury.


Thursday 24th of November 2022

I really like Jesse, so I hope he wins. Although I can't imagine that he does after the edit he got.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 24th of November 2022

Happy Thanksgiving to you too!