Survivor 45 is not yet lost; after all, this is only the third episode. An episode with two challenges is always welcome, as are the developing interpersonal dynamics—which culminated this episode in a genuinely surprising Tribal Council vote.
But oh, did Survivor 45 wander away from the highs of the first two very strong episodes!
Episode three spent far too many of its 90 minutes for my taste meandering through the Forest of Enchanted Advantages.
That’s where the producers send the players to calm their own anxiety about the game not progressing without intervention.
That’s too bad, because what happened organically was compelling on its own: Lulu came back from the dead to decisively win a reward challenge! And then three-quarters of the tribe considered decimating itself again by voting out the player who basically won it for them!
Alas, despite developments like that, the forest-meandering kept up right to the end, when Sabiyah stood in the voting booth and read the novella the producers provided her with in lieu of a normal immunity idol.
At Lulu, Kaleb felt good about the new foursome, and Emily immediately figured out someone didn’t have a vote, accusing Sabiyah. Kaleb pointed out that this was “old Emily” picking a fight with Sabiyah.
At Belo, Jake fell over near the fire, apparently lightheaded from the smoke. I’m so glad we didn’t have another Skupin situation. And since Jake was okay, I felt okay laughing when he said, “I stahted seein’ stahz.”
Katurah, meanwhile, is still stoking the anti-Bruce flames: “any slight thing that they say about Bruce in a negative way I want to validate, highlight, emphasize, repeat over and over again, in order to make sure they feel comfortable voting Bruce out.” But Belo’s constant success mean Bruce is safe.
At Reba, Austin and Drew worked together to dig under the palm tree and find the idol, but literally as Dee and Julie were walking around talking about how close Austin and Drew are, they came upon Drew digging. LOL. Drew lied to them and said he was digging because Sifu was digging there.
Speaking of Sifu: We didn’t hear from him once. After two consecutive episodes of confessionals from every player, a bunch of players were ignored. Remember J. Maya?
At just 17 minutes into the episode, we were ready for a challenge appeared, and that meant our first reward challenge of the season.
Besides a prize of cut fruit that’d been sitting in the sun—yum!—the winning tribes won the ability to send someone to another camp for a raid and observation.
I have to admit: I thought the challenge would be yet another Lulu catastrophe. But! Lulu was actually ahead throughout the challenge, perhaps thanks to their newfound bond.
Reba—every time I type that, I think I’m writing Reba McEntire—caught up to them at one point. Lulu, however, won, thanks in no small part to Kaleb landing all three rings quickly.
When Probst asked who Lulu wanted to send on the tribe visit, Emily said Kaleb was “perfect for this type of job” as he was the “most social.”
When Kaleb was away, Sabiyah and Sean committed to each other—and Sabiyah proposed getting rid of Kaleb now, “an obvious threat out first” that might be easier before a merge, when it’s “our decision, and that’s that.”
I understand Sabiyah’s rationale here, but oh, isn’t having a close ally better than losing a close ally this early?
They talked to Emily, who I guess they trust now? But they also needed her vote to pull this off, since Sabiyah didn’t have one.
Emily observed that while “Kaleb is running the social game,” he’s “lacking a little of the perspective” about how threatening his game is. The student becomes the teacher! Okay, not really, but it’s fascinating that it’s suddenly his social game that’s made him vulnerable, after he helped her improve her social game and save herself from elimination.
I really could have used without the raid, which was simply the producers playing Survivor, and not trusting that something would happen without their intervention.
Not only did Kaleb get to 1) steal an item from another tribe’s camp and 2) hang out there, he also got 3) an advantage that he had to give away.
Why not just send Jeff Probst into camp with an advantage? During his time at Belo, Kaleb told us, “all I’m thinking to myself is how can I put this goodwill advantage to use.”
Kaleb ended up giving it to Drew, who told Austin, Julie, and Dee. Now that they’re all buddies, Drew and Austin later came clean about Austin’s Beware Advantage, and they all looked for the idol together.
Two-thirds of a tribe looking for an idol! This did produce a great scene: Their digging failed, but then Dee found a rope under the palm tree, and pulled it, following it to a package.
In it was a hammer and a note saying it could be used during a full moon to smash one fellow player’s skull. Kidding, kidding!
They gave the hammer to Austin. Why? Dee explained, “at this point, good alliances, that’s what’s going to get me further in the game.” A fair point—and perhaps one that Sabiyah should have considered.
Austin went with Drew to the water well and smashed rocks until they found the idol. “The greatest moment of all time,” Austin said.
Then he realized, “this has a lot of text.” Yes, not only were there a few dozen steps to find the idol, but the idol itself wasn’t a real idol. “This idol is only good for one Tribal Council,” Austin read.
But there were more twists, because why not! Austin had the option of giving up his next vote or two, and extending the idol’s life proportionally, though eventually it’d expire at the faux merge.
Compared to just hanging idols off of trees for players to pluck off, I don’t mind limited idols and complicating their discovery. I do mind when that becomes players’ singular focus, and eats up so much time in an episode.
The immunity challenge was—and you’re not going to believe this—an obstacle course and a puzzle!
While the producers have, we just learned, retired some puzzles thanks to Carson’s 3D printer practice, these two challenges didn’t stand out in any way for being new. The immunity challenge was the take-apart cart and large cube puzzle.
Midway through, my local CBS affiliate broke in for a weather alert and accompanying advertisement, which would normally make me scream. But I just missed a minute of the construction of the cube puzzles, and it did not seem like I actually missed anything.
Lulu was not having success, and ended up taking theirs apart. Reba finished first, with Belo finishing second.
The music ended the challenge not with the usual triumphant score, but with sad music underscoring Lulu’s third consecutive loss and their accompanying despair, which our narrator pointed out in case we couldn’t tell by the sad faces.
Emily knew what might be coming: She called herself the “easy vote” and said, “Realistically, I know I’m at the bottom of this tribe.”
I thought that would be the outcome, because would Saibyah and Sean really be unrealistic and try to vote out Kaleb? Apparently, yes! Saibyah said, “it’s gotta be Kaleb tonight.”
Rather brilliantly, Sabiyah told Kaleb that, to prevent Emily from playing her shot in the dark, Sabiyah would tell Emily they were voting for Kaleb.
Emily, though, repaid Kaleb for his earlier generosity by telling him, “they’re voting you out tonight.” This actually aligned with what Sabiyah told him, of course, so he didn’t seem all that suspicious.
Meanwhile, Sabiyah declared that she planned to melt her idol in the Tribal Council fire, just like we were wondering if she could do. “I need my vote to be reactivated tonight,” she told us.
Fun fact: The Tribal Council fire is fueled by natural gas, and a considerable amount of the flame flickering comes from lighting under the fire pit, not the fire itself. I was curious if that’d be enough heat to melt the candle.
Jeff let her do that, leading to Sabiyah repeatedly going back and forth from her seat to the fire. It was hot enough, and the candle wax caused the fire to flare up. “Sabiyah’s on the grill,” Kaleb said as shuffled coals around the melting candle.
With the help of water from Sean’s canteen to cool it down, Sabiyah eventually had her idol in her pocket. In the voting booth, though, she learned that it was only good for one Tribal Council. Unless, of course, she gave up her vote. “If I don’t vote, I get the idol until the merge, which is huge,” she told the camera.
Once she returned to her seat, which I assume was after several hours of reading the idol’s rules, Sabiyah calmly said to Kaleb and Sean, “You all good?” They nodded.
Jeff Probst read only three votes—and the third was for Sabiyah, who was voted out, newly activated idol in her pocket.
That Kaleb decided to trust Emily more than his early ally Sabiyah is remarkable, and I’d honestly like to know more about what happened to Kaleb and Sabiyah’s relationship, if anything, or at least about how Kaleb decided to trust Emily over Sabiyah.
Clearly, Sabiyah overplayed too fast, but thanks to the candle barbecue and the surprise, made an entertaining exit.
Next week: The producers shuffle the tribes.