Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

On Survivor, a cascade of lies ends in a brutal backstab of a blindside

On Survivor, a cascade of lies ends in a brutal backstab of a blindside
Survivor 43's final six at the reward challenge: Mike Gabler, Cody Assenmacher, Owen Knight, Jesse Lopez, Karla Cruz Godoy, and Cassidy Clark (Image from Survivor via CBS)

With six Survivor 43 players left and multiple idols left in the game, either this week’s or the first finale Tribal Council had the potential to be one controlled by immunity, just like last week.

Instead, one player used immunity to craft a plan that resulted in the biggest blindside of the season—which ironically was predicted earlier by Cody, the person blindsided.

In this episode, that star player, Jesse, managed to:

  1. blindside his number-one ally in the game
  2. convince Cody to had over his idol for no reason
  3. waste Cody’s idol
  4. get Karla to play her idol for no reason, so she won’t have an automatic spot in the final four
  5. make it clear to the jury that he was responsible

So going into next week’s finale, it is very clear that this is Jesse’s game to lose. His game has been accelerating while Karla’s has been tumbling, with her physical and strategic injuries mounting.

Without those idols in play—LOL of course Jeff Probst will probably dump a pile of advantages on them—next week’s individual immunity challenge will likely be very decisive.

For a season that has really failed to get off the ground, delivering a slog through many Tribal Councils and a surprising amount of inert game play, we may actually have a dramatic conclusion next week.

Jesse, Karla, and Cassidy sitting on the ground during Survivor 43 episode 12, perhaps contemplating the lies they are telling each other
Jesse, Karla, and Cassidy on Survivor 43 episode 12, perhaps contemplating the lies they are telling each other (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Survivor 43 episode 12 opened with a discussion of the unanimous vote against Sami, which wasn’t going to be unanimous until Karla flipped her vote from Cassidy to Sami, at least according to Owen.

But Owen—who wants to “keep the boys safe,” eye roll—told us the plan is still to try to get Cassidy and Karla to turn on each other because “Karla is dangerous, she’s astute, and she needs to go.”

Cassidy doubted Owen’s story but still brought it up: “I think I would be naive not to question it.”

That’s when Karla brazenly lied to Cassidy and put on a show that gave the episode its name, “Telenovela.”

“I think that’s crazy. I’ve been voting with you since day one,” Karla told Cassidy, insisting she hadn’t gone after Cassidy—and then, in a hilarious and quick confessional interview, told us, “No I wasn’t; yes I was.”

“I never said your name, Cass,” Karla lied, and explained to us: “the only thing I could think of at that moment was cry. But if this has to become a soap opera, I’m ready for it—let’s make it a telenovela tonight.”

Some soft guitar music accompanied her performance. “I just think I’ve been so loyal to you,” she cried. “I’ve saved you twice.”

This was brilliant—except for some reason Karla told Jesse about it, and literally called it a “performance.”

Why does everyone on this season tell everyone everything else? It’s amazing and baffling.

Jesse, of course, immediately told Cassidy, because, he told us, “I want that rift; I want that pay-per-view match.”

So we have a telenovela and a pay-per-view fight. But first: giant balls.

Cody, Owen, and Karla during the Survivor 43, episode 12 reward challenge, which they ended up winning
Cody, Owen, and Karla during the Survivor 43, episode 12 reward challenge, which they ended up winning. (Image from Survivor via CBS)

The reward challenge brought the return of Roll with It, which first appeared in Samoa but didn’t actual finish because it led to Russell Swan’s medical evacuation. It appeared two more times, and then disappeared, like so many past challenges.

To earn a trip to the Sanctuary, the six players split in half, with one strapped inside a large ball. The other two were blindfolded, and pushed their person (Owen or Cassidy) through an obstacle course, and then had to complete a ball maze while still blindfolded, with help from the ball person.

It’s such a great challenge, in that it’s a very physical but also relies on communication. There’s also the additional challenge of trying to hear over Jeff Probst shouting about the weather.

Owen was exceptionally good at communicating, which is incredible considering that he was constantly being flipped upside down and sideways. Cody and Karla were pushing him, while Jesse and Gabler pushed Cassidy.

Tangent: I guess Gabler is still on this season, and will 100 percent be the person who makes the final three who no one votes for. Gabler said “I’m hiding in plain sight,” either again or the same time and they just showed it again. But it is painfully obvious that no one cares.

Jesse and Gabler pushed her into the bushes, but they eventually caught up, though they left Cassidy lying sideways to guide them, and it came down to the ball maze, with the balls almost in the exact same place.

Owen, Cody, and Karla won a reward of coffee and pastries at the Sanctuary, which Jeff Probst described as “the Sanctuary, where good things happen,” and now I’m convinced it is actually operated by a cult.

At the Sanctuary, Karla tried to convince them, with fake tears, that the perception of her idol has “been ruining my game since the merge.” Alas, it didn’t work.

At the immunity challenge—obstacles, puzzle, et cetera—Karla came from behind and caught up with everyone else, despite having a numb hand that eventually prevented her from even placing pieces.

On top of that, while putting the puzzle together, she twisted her ankle, which coincidentally was what I was trying to do in my living room to make the pain of hearing Jeff Probst. “Our puzzle designers know what they’re doing—they know how to make puzzles complicated, even though they look simple.” YES JEFF WE KNOW WE ARE WATCHING.

In the end, it was Cassidy who won immunity, so of course at Tribal Council Jeff Probst asked Cody what it was like to lose immunity. A woman wins, Probst focuses on the men who lose, sigh.

But before that, we had the most interesting pre-vote scramble of the season.

Jesse, Karla, and Cassidy sitting on the ground during Survivor 43 episode 12, perhaps contemplating the lies they are telling each other
Jesse, Karla, and Cassidy on Survivor 43 episode 12, perhaps contemplating the lies they are telling each other (Image from Survivor via CBS)

The scramble began with Cody proposing to Karla that they both play idols, and work with Jesse, meaning they send home Owen or Gabler.

The twist: “Neither one of us play our idols,” Cody said. Karla was down with this plan to “threaten people that we’re going to use our idols,” and said, “Cody, Jesse, and I ultimately decide who goes home.”

And then. And then Karla said: “It’s foolproof.” Oh no, oh no! “As long as this works out, you’ll see me at the final four.” OH NO KARLA STOP.

“I’m lying to Karla,” Cody told us, “so I can blindside the hell out of her.” He called his own plan “genius” and gave himself nicknames: “Wild Thing, Killer Cody, Cowboy Cody, call me whatever you want.”

That twist on the plan had another wrinkle: Jesse realizing he’d just be seen as Cody’s #2, and likely couldn’t beat him.

And then Jesse actually cried, though in a confessional, pointing out that many of the players are mostly happy about the experience. “For me, like, no, the experience is great, but for me, I need to secure my family’s future. I’ll do anything to do that,” he said. “If I’ve gotta switch it up and be more brutal, I will.”

And brutal he was. Karla wanted to see Cody’s idol, and Jesse “had to give it back so he could trust me,” he explained.

But somehow—and I’ll guess we’ll see this during the finale in a flashback—Jesse managed to convince Cody to give the idol back, so he could then play it for Owen, scare Karla into playing her idol for no reason, and then vote out the Wild Thing Killer Cowboy himself.

The jury immediately gave credit: “Jesse did that.” And then Jesse stood up to hug Cody, giving himself even more of a spotlight. Survivor 43 is now Jesse’s game to lose, and there is now just one episode remaining.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More from reality blurred

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

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!


Friday 9th of December 2022

I wanted "Livin!!" to win but I understand why Jesse turned on him. I hope Jesse wins now. Gabler's face looks like it was sculpted. His face should be on a statue in a museum.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

I have some issues with Jesse but being the most adorable Survivor ever isn't one of them.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

My respect for the move aside, I do think we've found an answer to the question you asked a few weeks ago, "Is Survivor setting up an obvious winner?" Jesse's only way of going out now is losing the fire-making challenge. I don't think he loses to any of the remaining finalists, so he might want to target the best firemaker (Gabler?) for the F5 boot.

It does feel like all out of nowhere, they showed Karla playing a sloppy game after having showed her more-or less succeeding up to this point.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

Maybe I have it wrong... but I think Jesse had 2 idols. He was holding Cody's and he had the one Janine gave him to hold before she got voted out. So when he gave Cody's back to him, Jesse still had one, while Cody held on to his. And stupidly didn't play it. I'm glad he didn't because that was AWESOME! I really hope Jesse wins.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

@Melissa, Yep, I had it wrong! :) I guess Jesse did play Cody's idol and still has the other one. He better win!


Thursday 8th of December 2022

@Melissa, I was thinking like you - that Jesse played Jeanine's idol that no one knew he had. I'm sure we will see next week whether Cody did give his idol back to Jesse before Tribal Council. If so, then Jesse now has that one.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

I agree with everything here but your assessment that it is “NOW” Jesse’s game to lose. I commented weeks ago how dumbfounding it is that no one has made an attempt to oust Jesse, especially following the tribal where Nicole was voted off and he proclaimed for all to hear that if the vote went the way he was expecting it to go (meaning Nicole being voted out) that it sets him up for the rest of his game… and no one batted an eye or even dared to discuss targeting him after that proclamation. He’s been the anointed one all season and that, at least to me, is partly why this season has been a huge snooze fest.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

@Andy Dehnart,

Of course who knows how much of this has been crafted by editing? They hinted at a coupe by Gabler a few weeks ago and we've seen nothing of the sort until last night when he made some obtuse mention of a plan that, surprise, was never followed up on - at least editing wise. I feel like they, meaning the editors, are more leading than Jeff on a double espresso day. So we will truly never know if anyone actually attempted to hatch an ouster plan against Jesse or not, or if Gabler is truly hiding in plain sight or simply delusional.

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 8th of December 2022

Excellent points! He's also openly backstabbed people and no one has bothered to do anything about it. I guess I was waiting for someone to do something—but this episode with his tearful confessional made me think there's definitely no way anyone's voting him out at this point.