Survivor 43’s episode title was “Hiding in Plain Sight,” which is something Gabler said about his game, but also applies to the advantage that was literally hanging on a tree in front of everyone as they searched the jungle.
Yes, just as we were getting some strategy, and a moment of bonding as everyone watched the sun rise together, the Jeff Probst Advantage Express pulled up and sent everyone on a hunt for a new advantage, because there weren’t already enough in the game to make something happen.
That advantage—plus an incredible immunity challenge, the return of a true classic—had the potential to create “absolute madness” at Tribal Council, as Owen said.
There are already three immunity idols, and this episode introduced three more, two by design and one unintentionally. We literally could have had another Tribal Council where everyone was advantage safe except one player.
Update/correction, thanks to Patrick: With the three hidden idols, plus the three immunities, plus the shot in the dark, it was possible that everyone could have been immune! That’s nuts and should never happen, though I do wish it did just to see what would have happened. A rock draw?
Thankfully, it was just three people immune, and by the standards of this oddly boring season, both the challenge and Tribal Council provided more drama than usual.
The jungle advantage search was so comedic that scoring it to “Yakety Sax” and playing at 2x speed would not have added much more comedy.
The Jeff Probst Advantage Express’s clue said “There’s one hidden in your jungle. Go.”
The advantage was literally hanging from a tree at eye level, but no one saw it. At first this was just people getting close—Sami digging nearby, Cassidy walking right by the tree, Owen hovering feet from it.
“They hid the crap out of this one,” Gabler said while he and Owen were standing feet from it. Then Gabler made everyone get in a line and search saying: “This is how they did it in Vietnam.” (I don’t even know where to begin with that comparison.)
Cody literally leaned against the tree, and finally noticed it, subtly grabbing it so no one else would see.
His advantage: betting on who’d win immunity. If he was right, he also would be immune, so it was basically a one-in-six chance at immunity.
Last Gasp returns to Survivor
The immunity challenge was Last Gasp, which has not appeared on Survivor since Survivor Caramoan in 2013.
At long last, a classic challenge! An immunity challenge that isn’t about balancing and holding! Have we been heard?!
The challenge is simple but terrifying: try to breathe through a fixed grate as the tide rises and waves come by.
“This is unique every time we run it,” Jeff Probst said, which is true, and also sounds like they do this as often as a puzzle, rather than three previous times in the past 22 years.
This time, though, the players had the additional challenge of Exposition Eddie standing there and filling every second of air time. Almost exactly when I was wondering if the water prevented them from having to hear everything he was saying, the editing cut to an underwater shot, and the sound of Probst’s voice muffled but still audible.
The waves seemed to present the biggest challenge this time, even more than the tide—though the challenge lasted for almost three hours, and the tide definitely went up during that time, it seemed like the waves kept them under water for a longer periods of time.
The challenge is incredibly dramatic, and this time was no different, even with no stakes at all for the actual episode. Players would be submerged, unable to breathe and unsure when the wave might subside. Cody almost bailed twice, but stick with it, at least for a while.
Karla and Owen were there so long the tide actually started to go down, which meant they’d soon just be hanging on the gate, breathing normally until the tide came back.
That’s when Jeff Probst announced “an unprecedented decision to end this challenge,” because “we’ve never had players outlast the challenge”: Karla and Owen both won immunity.
Without taking anything away from their phenomenal performance, I’m going to be this person and ask: Would old-school, Before Times Survivor have stopped the challenge? Or would they have just waited for hours and hours for the tide to come back, or for one of them to fall numb or asleep or something?
I’m not suggesting that the producers ended the challenge so the crew could go have dinner and a beer, but with Tribal Council coming that night, and an abbreviated schedule to keep for this season, did they have time to let the challenge continue?
Either way, there were now two people definitely immune, and the possibility of a third with Cody, who did correctly predict Owen would win, thereby securing immunity for himself. But did that even matter? Was he at risk?
Earlier, upon returning from Tribal Council, Sami at first lied about who he voted for, until he finally confessed. “This is the first vote I’ve been left out of, all game,” he told us. “I got burned pretty bad last night.”
We knew the episode was going to be Sami focused as soon as there was an extended sequence about how he “was really worried about coming out here and failing,” and wants desperately to impress and be recognized by his family. “Mom, doing this one for you,” he said.
Sami had one final move, and at first it seemed surprisingly effective. After patching things up with Karla, Sami immediately lied to Karla, saying that Cassidy was plotting against her. If we must have cAsSiDy iS A ThReAt every episode, this is a more-interesting version of that.
Cassidy, to her incredible credit, anticipated this, telling Karla Sami would try to “sow some mistrust between us.” Karla worried that she couldn’t trust Cassidy, and I have no idea if this was a complete misdirect because she saw through Sami’s lie immediately, or if his lie will reverberate.
Did she really worry, or was just something she was prompted to say in an interview? Did Karla tell Sami they were going to vote for Cassidy just to mislead him while she and everyone else planned to vote Sami out?
This is one way in which the editing is failing these players’ games yet again: Withholding some key details to make a Tribal Council dramatic is fine, but as we’ve seen many times, that can be done while still showing us all the dots that are about to be connected.
We did see a conversation between Jesse and Owen, in which Jesse suggested misleading Karla into voting for Cassidy, but still voting Sami out, so that next episode Cassidy will be pissed at Karla, and vice-versa, and we can talk more about how cAsSiDy iS A ThReAt.
But 1) Owen was skeptical of this, because Jesse lies a lot, and 2) everyone ended up voting for Sami, so what was the point of this conversation, other than to remind us that Jesse really wants all of the women gone?
At Tribal Council, the most-interesting thing that’s happened in recent memory was Sami announcing he’d play his shot in the dark advantage, which meant he wouldn’t vote and would have a shot at immunity.
Captain of the Good Ship Obvious Jeff Probst pointed out that Sami could be lying. This led to a few worried-looking faces, which turned out to be the editing just suggesting something might happen.
But Sami was not lying. And everyone stuck with their plan.
Sami’s shot in the dark did not help him, so he was at risk, and because he did not cast a vote, received every single vote cast. No one else played an idol.
That meant only 42 percent of the players were immune, and meant that Sami was voted out unanimously. In the episode’s most-shocking moment, Sami did not announce his actual age, which—spoiler alert!!—is 19. He saved that earthquake for some other time.
Sami did tell us in his final exit that “I’ve started to like Teslas a lot, and my mom doesn’t really like electric cars, so I think this works out better for us both,” which is the juvenile thing he’s said all season.
How did the Sami vote come together? Eh, there was no time for that!
At the start of Tribal Council, Jeff Probst used the immunity challenge as a metaphor: “The thing about tides is they’re never the same.” Alas, with Survivor 43, no matter how many times the tides come in and go out, creating a few waves, the season seems to stay at the same level.