It happened again. Survivor 45 has now had two players to quit the game, 50 percent of the people who’ve been voted out so far, and one-third of an entire tribe. And of the four players who exited the game so far, only one did so because they were playing the game.
Can we bring Sabiyah back, please, and while we’re at it, reevaluate the casting process?
Last week’s episode spent too much time on advantages for me, especially compared to the two strong opening episodes. But this tribe switch steered the season back.
This was yet another great 90-minute episode, spending considerable time at each tribe, showing the changing and unfolding dynamics after the tribe swap.
Whichever tribe ended up to Tribal Council, I would have felt like we’d had sufficient set-up to understand what was going to happen. (I imagine in a 60-minute episode, there would have been less time spent with the tribes that won immunity.)
“For the first time in the new era, we are switching tribes,” Probst told the players. Wait, what is this new era? I don’t think we’ve heard about this before? Maybe just one or two thousand times?
Probst even teed this up, asking, “So, Brando, where are we in the game?” and Brando asked, “Could there be some sort of mix-up in the tribes?” Probst answered, “Oddly, I do have a tray full of buffs.”
Then they all act shocked. How could they have known after showing up for a challenge and finding no challenge, just a mat to stand on while the host grandstanded?
Kaleb spit on his old Lulu buff—and then got a brand-new Lulu buff, along with four people from Belo: Bruce, Jake, Katurah, and Kellie.
Bruce was emotional at Lulu beach, because it was the same beach he was on during his previous experience. “I could see the spot where I was sitting when I was taken away,” he said.
That emotion didn’t change Katurah’s attitude toward him. Katurah told Kaleb that “the next out would be Bruce,” and then we got a hilarious montage of her ranting about Bruce in an interview, including, “you cracked your head, and we all got sad.”
What’s most interesting to me is that we keep seeing Bruce through Katurah’s eyes, not through another player who’s enamored with his performance. But it’s now clear Bruce knows about her skepticism. When Kaleb told the story about the journey, Katurah signaled to Bruce to shut up and let Kaleb tell it, and Bruce said her gesture was the “final straw” and “the foot you put in your own ass.” But the editing is making him look an ass, so I’m not so sure.
Kellie (who?!) told us “I have to work with what I have, and what I have right now is Jake and Bruce,” and meanwhile Bruce wants to work with Kaleb and also told Kellie (who?) she’s his number one.
Jake, meanwhile, saw an opportunity in Kaleb. He’s not “Belo strong,” he said. “I gotta be ready to jump ship, and thank god I’m a good swimmer.” Then he laughed maniacally at his own joke for several seconds.
The new Belo was split two Reba, two Belo, one Lulu: Austin, Brando, Drew, Emily, and Kendra. That put Emily in either a power position or the easy-out position.
Emily told her new tribe everything. “I want the tribe to perceive me as genuine, honest, and truthful,” she said. Drew was shocked that Emily was not a “mean, cruel, browbeating lady.” Was that the takeaway from the barge? Or did she exude that at challenges, too?
Drew said that he and Austin would “fight tooth and nail over Emily as the swing vote” to “take control.” Austin said it’s “absolutely critical we win Emily over” because “she truly will decide who takes charge moving into the merge.”
Emily has already had an incredible arc, and if she goes from likely first boot to swing vote and then power player? Wow. But I may be getting ahead of the game.
Finally, the new Reba was old Reba—Sifu, Dee, Julie, and J. Maya—plus Sean.
The episode began with Sean, blindsided by the Sabiyah vote, saying, “Every day is a new day in this game,” followed by a montage of his ass-kissing and lots of him talking about being on the bottom.
He told us the “only chance of saving myself right now” was a pre-merge swap, and he got his wish. J. Maya was “ecstatic” over Sean, saying, “maybe he will prove to be a really loyal ally” and “someone to add to our merge numbers.”
The other players didn’t trust Sean as much; Sifu, Dee, and Julie went through Sean’s bag to check for an idol, leading to an extended scene about the knot he’d tied. That convinced them he had something to hide, so they learned how he tied the bag by tying one of their own the same way. They found nothing.
Sean was the vote the three women needed to vote out Sifu, who they think will abandon them come the merge. A plan was formed, and Sean said, there’s “definitely hope for me here on the Reba tribe.” Oh is there?
At the challenge, the new tribes had to carry a bamboo cage from the water, and then shoot baskets from inside it.
Probst told them, “as a penalty for losing, I will take your flint—sorry for you.” (If you haven’t read it yet, here’s Chanelle Howell’s fascinating theory why fire no longer matters on Survivor.)
“Every step takes effort,” Narrator McExposition helpfully told us. “You never know when it’ll come down to a few seconds. Those seconds matter right here.”
Kaleb and his new tribemates were ahead, and ended up winning, thanks in no small part to Kaleb swiftly landing three baskets, with only a few misses.
Probst reminded us that “Lulu has not won an immunity challenge this season. Will a new set of tribe members change history?” That is dumb. Lulu is not the same Lulu, unless we think beaches and buff colors are somehow cursed. Our narrator eventually acknowledged this: “Kaleb, I’m not sure it’s apples to apples, because it’s not the same tribe members, but it is the same tribe color.”
Both Belo and Reba were close, tied up at one point, but Belo pulled out the win, sending Reba to Tribal Council. Thanks to the 90-minute episode, though, we got a fun scene at Lulu where Bruce pretended to not have the flint. Cut to Katurah in an interview just shaking her head in frustration. Perfect.
A baffling Tribal Council
J. Maya wanted to “convince the girls to blindside Sifu and get him out tonight.”
Sifu, to his credit, knew that it was him if it wasn’t Sean, and swung the machete around while asking Julie, “he didn’t get to you?” Yikes.
With so little development of Sifu over the past few episodes, and Sean saying, “I felt like I had new life in the game,” it looked like we were in for our second blindside in a row.
After some conversation about the four being Reba strong—which Julie told Sean they’d do at Tribal Council to convince Sifu that Sean was the target—Jeff Probst teed up a talk show question because there wasn’t anything else to talk about.
“What has Survivor been for you? What’d you get out of it if this is it?” Probst asked, and Sean literally took us back to elementary school.
“Failure is good, it helps us grow, it teaches us what we need to know,” he said. After I gathered my eyes up from the floor, since they’d rolled right out of my head, Sean shared more about his life.
“Growing up in a very conservative world,” he said, “I tried everything, everything, to live a straight, faithful Mormon lifestyle.”
I appreciate both him sharing that story and the struggle itself, but he lost me when he said, “Survivor was for me an opportunity to reclaim that lost time.” That turned into: “My true adventure of a lifetime is back home with my husband, Matt.”
That’s fantastic, and a great revelation, but why can’t you also play Survivor for a few more days?
Then Sean said, “I know how bad that all four of you really want this. I don’t want to take your dream away from you because this—it’s not mine, and I’m at peace with that, because my dream’s at home. So respectfully, I would kindly ask that when you vote tonight, you write my name down on the parchment.”
Was this part of the blindside act? “Really and truly, write my name down,” he insisted.
Unlike the first episode, when Probst allowed the tribe to just send Hannah home without a vote—something I think should never happen on Survivor, because the secret vote is a key part of the game—they actually voted.
Before they went to vote, though, Probst was like, “Maybe they weren’t, and you didn’t change their mind. That’s what we’re going to find out.” That was code for YOU CAN STILL BLINDSIDE SIFU.
Clearly, a Sifu blindside was the plan, because his tribemates didn’t know how to vote. Dee ended up voting for Sifu, while Sean voted for “D.” (“Did you vote for me?” Sifu asked Sean while hugging him goodbye. “No,” Sean confirmed.)
Let me try to recap this: Sean spent just over one week on Survivor, learned a lesson that he also learned in first grade, was convinced he could win, and then decided quitting to sit in a hotel room was a better option than staying in the game. Sure, Jan.
By the way, while Sean will go to Ponderosa, Survivor no longer sends its pre-jury cast on vacation for the rest of the filming time; to save money, they just send them all home now. That started with Survivor 41.
Sean’s exit was frustrating for so many reasons. Hannah’s episode-one quit was not a blindside for us as viewers. It’d been developed throughout the episode; she had a meltdown at camp, and repeatedly expressed how uncomfortable and out of her element she was. And we didn’t even see the torrential rain they experienced.
Sean’s decision to quit, however, came completely out of left field. His exit interview could have provided clarity. Maybe he panicked, thinking that Jeff Probst’s question meant he was going to be blindsided, so he thought he’d quit instead?
But no, his exit interview was just a delusion deluge. “I have no doubt that I could have got [to the end] if I wanted to,” Sean said. “I was coming out here to win a million dollars. I quit on my own terms.”
Honestly, someone choosing to quit Survivor does not irritate me as it once may have. Whether someone exits the game because they made a bad move, or had a concussion, or were perceived as a threat, or got screwed by the numbers after a tribe swap, or just couldn’t handle it—that’s all part of the Survivor experience.
I do, however, want to understand. Perhaps Sean’s exit interviews today will provide some clarity, but given 90 minutes to make it make sense, Survivor’s story producers and editors either could not (because they, too, were blindsided) or did not (because they wanted us to be surprised). That’s a frustrating end to an otherwise strong episode, and a pattern I really hope does not continue this season.