Survivor 44 began with Frannie telling us that the other players “didn’t loop me in” and “every single person on the beach lied to me” about the Kane vote.
It ended with Carolyn in the same position. Between then, though, we had a glimpse of a Carolyn-Frannie friendship and potential alliance, and I wish we’d gotten several episodes of that instead of the lopsided Matt-Frannie thing.
I also wish everyone had listened to Carolyn and voted out Danny. Alas!
As Frannie said, though, “it’s simple Survivor strategy: take out the person who, in theory, could win every challenge.” And that’s what they did.
On the way to that relatively simple vote, Survivor 44 gave us two challenges (!), a reward (!), and lots of relationship and game talk (!).
Yet for an episode that gave us a lot of strategizing and shifting relationships, the outcome was still pretty baffling.
Why, for example, did Danny go from saving Frannie with his idol to leaving her out of a vote, and then voting her out? That happened over just four days! I can think of reasons, but for the show to not even address that all is just strange.
Meanwhile, Carson, Yam Yam, and Carolyn should be a tight three. But Carson and Yam Yam are worried about Carolyn’s burgeoning relationship with Frannie—and Yam Yam is worried about leaving Carolyn out of a vote. Yet they do that anyway. Why? Hopefully we’ll get some answers to these questions next episode.
The episode opened almost immediately with the reward challenge. Terrific to have a reward challenge; even more terrific if “the biggest reward of the season” didn’t involve having some fly-covered tacos in a lean-to.
Jeff Probst explained that they’d also have margaritas—or “virgin margaritas if anyone’s under 21.” This was “the biggest reward of the season,” as it included spending the night at the Sanctuary, which I have always been convinced is the cover for some kind of cult, which was just reinforced when Probst said, “The Sanctuary: Where Good Things Happen.”
To win, players had to spin and then cross a net and balance beam while dizzy, followed by landing some balls on a beam above.
Carolyn screaming during challenges—this time from trying to walk while being dizzy—is one of my favorite things about Survivor 44. Also high comedy: Lauren walking sideways instead of forward.
Throughout the challenge, Frannie was in the lead, followed by Danny then Heidi. Frannie won her third individual challenge, and then realized it came with punishment.
Narrator McExposition explained that the reward was not just fly-covered tacos and a night on a bed, but included letters from home. He described this as “food, shelter, and love,” and thank god Jeff Probst only said “love” only once because the way he says it makes my stomach heave more than the thought of eating tacos covered in fly feces.
I am very grateful we no longer sit through Probst narrating and orchestrating “love” among players and their family members. Watching him demand kisses and such was just nauseating. But is it just me or is it a little mean to deny all the sobbing players their letters, too?
All the letters are just sitting there, on the island! Yam Yam basically said this: “The fact that I know that my letter is in Jeff’s hands and I’m not going to be able to read it, it’s heartbreaking.”
I guess the same was true when they flew family all the way to Fiji for a hug and then sent them away. And again, thank the Survivor gods we don’t have to watch that.
Frannie chose Carolyn, then Lauren, then Heidi, the three moms to join the taco-and-fly feast. There, they all cried and laughed—and strategized.
At one point, Carolyn pretended to mishear and said, “I thought you said vote Danny out.” And then she asked Heidi, “When are you ready to let go of Danny?” Using humor to broach the subject but then asking direct questions is a great strategy. Too bad it did not work!
Meanwhile, Frannie told us, “I don’t always feel like I fit in and she is so unabashedly herself, it’s inspiring to me.”
Back at camp, all the players who on Carson, meanwhile, told us “tides have shifted” and Frannie was now in the crosshairs.
Jaime decided to come clean about her idol (fake, but not to her knowledge) was flushed with Kane’s exit. “I’m finally free,” she said, adding that “lying and keeping secrets is the name of the game, but it’s a lot of weight on your chest.”
What was so incredible/sad/amazing/hilarious is that no one believed her even though she was telling the actual truth! In fact, that made them more suspicious of her. For a moment it seemed like she could be voted out for telling the truth, which would have been absolutely incredible.
The immunity challenge opened with a slow-motion sequence that took up time in the episode that could have been used for the friggin’ Survivor theme song, especially since that shot was followed by Narrator McExposition telling the cast, “If you only knew how good you looked.” Well they can watch themselves on TV, can’t they?
To win the idol, the players had to slither or flop through sand with their hands and feet tied together, dragging a buoy in their mouths, which sounds like a producer’s fetish come to life.
As they flopped around, Narrator McExposition explained, “The faster you get through that obstacle, the faster you get to your puzzle.” Oh, so that’s how challenges work! After 44 seasons, I was really lost about that.
While the constant narration, which Jeff Probst knows we don’t like, gets on my nerves, I am all for some occasional—I said occasional!!—Probst sass.
“Danny was first here but has made absolutely zero progress on the puzzle,” he said, and I laughed. I also laughed when Carolyn, stuck at trying to get her buoy through the rope, said, “oh my, who did this?”
Carson was one piece away from getting the puzzle, but it wasn’t right—but then he got it, winning immunity. I was surprised he did not then explain that he’d 3D printed the puzzle and recreated the beach on a soundstage with 3D printed sand to practice flopping.
Back at camp, Danny said, “We have an opportunity now to strike, let’s strike,” referring to idol-free Frannie.
Frannie, meanwhile was invigorated by her lack of safety. “I haven’t yet had a chance yet to put my social strategy to the test,” she said.
While Carson was earlier on board with the Frannie plan, he suggested a 3-3 split of votes on Danny and Jaime, voting Jaime out at the revote. But then Carson told Yam Yam that he was worried about Frannie’s relationship with Carolyn.
Danny, meanwhile, told Heidi, “we don’t even need you as a number,” which is oddly similar to what the editors told her: we don’t even need you as a character for the first few episodes.
Seriously, though, why tell her that? Isn’t it pointlessly antagonistic? Why tell his number-one ally that?
Even though he had actually said that to Heidi, Carolyn said, “He would never say that to Heidi. Something doesn’t make sense.”
Despite someone once again perceiving truth as a lie, Carolyn was correctly on to the fact that she was being left out of the vote plans, so she turned toward Heidi as a target.
As she explained to Carson: “Me, Frannie, you, Lauren, Jaime vote Heidi.” As it turned out, only Frannie and Carolyn did that—the two who were left out.
Carson told us, “I’m in full chaotic mode,” which is the kind of thing that his unassuming voice and demeanor makes sound innocent. Now, though, it’s tipping toward quiet sociopath for me, since Carson told us earlier, “I love being able to make up lies about people who aren’t in this game to defend themselves.”
Tribal Council was more of the usual non-talk talk, and then Jeff Probst told the tribe, “That’s the only way to play Survivor is full tilt boogie.” That gave the episode its title, and I honestly just don’t even know where to start with that except to slap my palm against my face repeatedly until I am unconscious.
Heidi earlier told us she was bringing her idol, but she didn’t play it.
Votes went to Frannie (5), Danny (1), and Heidi (2).
Before getting her torch, Frannie, being an amazing person, said, “Carolyn, I’m wearing your belt,” and took it off, bringing Survivor full circle from this moment.
I loved the Carolyn/Frannie alliance, and I wish it had succeeded in voting Danny off. But Frannie is thrilled about her new role, too.
“Being a jury member is like the most exciting thing—it’s a front row seat for my favorite show,” she said. “What more could I ask for?” A better season? Oh, I kid Survivor 44! Sure, it’s a mess, but that’s the new status quo.