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Survivor 45 takes a Journey™ into overplaying, lying, and lying low

Survivor 45 takes a Journey™ into overplaying, lying, and lying low
On Survivor 45 episode 5, Austin fires sandbags for Belo, but not quickly enough; they lost the immunity challenge (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Survivor 45 opened with the ripples of Sean’s apparently sudden decision to quit the game. It’s a particularly specific example of how one person’s actions in the game can cascade, affecting other people.

Dee, J. Maya, and Julie all went to Tribal Council last week thinking they were blindsiding Sifu (Jeff Probst said he thought that, too, based on camp interviews). Instead, Sean blindsided them with his dumb exit.

I really do wish they’d ignored Sean and voted Sifu, especially since Sean said—one of the few substantive things in his exit interviews—that he would have not just walked off had that happened.

A person crawls on hands and knees through dirt under a red structure
Sifu during Survivor 45 episode 5’s immunity challenge, which he helped win for Reba (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Dee told us, “it should have been Sifu going home,” and said, “we had the perfect plan.” Plan disrupted, she lied to Sifu: “I wrote Sean, too.” Julie did too, “I’m guessing Sean wrote Sifu,” and when Sifu said Sean told him he didn’t cast that vote, Julie replied, “He said that to you? I feel sick.”

In an interview, Julie said, “What, is he trying to throw a grenade on us?” It’s a good question: Sean blew up the blindside, and on his way out stabbed the people in the back who he was working with. Heck of an impact for someone who decided sitting at Ponderosa would be better than continuing to play.

Sifu said all this is “suspicious,” and said if they’re lying, “these ladies deserve an Oscar.” And indeed, this lie was plausible. Sifu, though, took his lying a few steps too far.

He shared with us that he made a fake idol by taking stuff off the tribe sign. Okay, fine. But then, out of nowhere, he just announced it to the others. “You already know my insurance plan,” he told Dee.

Why play that pretend hand now? But Sifu wasn’t done—he decided vague threats would be helpful! Out of the blue, he told J. Maya a metaphor about tai chi and pushing people when they push him.

“What was the point of that? Was he trying to intimidate me? It’s going to take a lot more than that,” she said.

What was remarkable was what that led to. J. Maya told us that, because of the possibility of Sifu actually having an idol, “my only lifeline” is to convince him that she voted for him “make myself the decoy.” That’s a fascinating plan—but then Dee threw in another wrinkle. “Maybe the smart move is to flat-out vote J,” she said. Wow.

Alas, Reba won the immunity challenge, so we didn’t get to see these possibilities play out, and the merge is here next episode. What did pay off, however, was Emily’s new role on Belo.

A person gazes off in the distance; the Survivor 45 logo is blurry in the background
Emily Flippen ponders whether she can win her tribe’s trust or not on Survivor 45, episode 2 (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Previously on Survivor, Emily knew she was either the first easy vote or a swing vote—remarkable considering how she began the game, which was not well.

Tonight, she became the swing vote; no one even floated her name, at least not as far as we saw. Well, Jeff Probst did, but that’s because he has to hear himself talk.

At camp, Brando proposed a nerd alliance with Drew and Emily. Drew basically gave Brando the finger, kicked dirty in his face, threw him into a locker, and said, Haha, you do that, nerd!

Drew told us, “I think it is garbage” because “I don’t want six original Belos” post-merge. More on that later.

Brando declared that meant he’d “have to work against” Drew. He declared Emily was with Drew and Austin. I am curious: Was the Drew/Austin/Emily alliance solid by this point, despite all the interviews of Emily saying she didn’t know what to do?

So Brando approached the person who’d just rejected him and offered to give Drew his shot in the dark in order to save himself and vote out Kendra. Drew said, “there’s no need” to Brando, which in retrospect apparently meant, Whatever you’re trying, it doesn’t matter.

He revealed to us that he didn’t buy it, because Brando was playing too hard here. “Immediately he says let it be Kendra,” Drew said. “My suspicions are raised.”

Then Brando overplayed his hand yet again, lying to Emily by claiming Drew floated voting for Kendra. Brando told us, “I’m going to lie to people in order to get to day 12.” But too many lies might not get you to day 12, friend! Why not just tell Emily the truth? I threw out Kendra’s name as a decoy so we can blindside Drew. The obvious lie, which she’s obviously going to talk to Drew about, made no sense.

Perhaps the best part of Brando’s failed plan was when Kendra heard her name floated: She made both dog growling and and cat hissing noises, and this sentence does not do her performance justice.

One person crouching on the jungle floor watching while another slices open a green object using a large machete
Brando and Kendra, who needed Emily’s swing vote to blindside Drew (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

One B-story this week was about how hungry everyone is. “Can Jeff pull up on a boat with a fruit platter?” Emily asked, and I imagine a producer radioing that to Jeff Probst, who cackled while loading up his plate with food at the production’s catering area.

Kendra spotted a worm and tried to eat it; Brando told her it’s “70 percent protein, 30 percent poop,” which sounds like the composition of the protein drinks that some influencers hawk on Instagram.

Meanwhile, Jake fell over again, this time without smoke. Kellie called it a “very similar episode” where he “lost consciousness,” though she reassured Jake by telling him it was just his blood pressure dropping when he stood up too fast. Jake did not look good sitting there.

That’s when the Survivor flashbacks came back in full force. Alas. (One later focused on Dee and her parents.)

Jake told us about “what I’ve done to my body in the past few years,” which is losing weight after having “a serious binge-eating problem.”

Does that mean he had a serious eating disorder? I’m glad he was able to find his way through that.

Alas, what the editors included was not him discussing this as a disorder, but as a product of willpower: “working my ass off,” as Jake called it, saying doing Survivor at a lower body weight was a “celebration of all my hard work.”

One issue with presenting this as exposition was that it suggested an eating disorder can be cured by diet, which is not at all helpful. And, as we know, just losing weight is not about willpower; that’s one of the myths about fat people. (Of course, other reality shows have done far more to reinforce those ideas, like NBC’s toxic Biggest Loser.)

A person wearing a blue shirt and yellow bandana headband smiles
Survivor 45’s Jake, apparently at a moment when he was not feeling light-headed or passing out (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Jake’s primary concerned was being pulled out of the game by medical, but we saw no doctor’s visit, and Jeff Probst didn’t arrive on a boat to kneel over Jake’s unconscious body and talk about blood pressure.

Katurah is still shit-talking about Bruce (“Is anyone hearing the crap this man spews?”) and the fact that we’re getting so much of this means it must pay off spectacularly, right?

But Katurah was the one caught in a lie. While she was looking for an idol, the group came upon her, and she lied, badly. Kellie told us “Katurah is a hot mess out here” and “we all caught her”

Bruce was his usual self: When someone floated the idea of not eating that day, he said, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” and declared, “we can’t not eat anything.” To his credit, he said, “If I’m coming across aggressive, I do apologize.”

Not to his credit, Bruce told us, “people my age, we don’t debate things.” I’m a few years younger than Bruce, but I volunteer to debate him about that. Oh wait, he doesn’t debate.

The episode was sure to show us Kaleb’s keen strategy, pointing out that he was acting as Bruce’s lackey to earn trust that he can betray later: “I want Bruce to know that I’ll do anything he says,” Kaleb said.

At the challenge—combined reward and immunity—players climbed a three-level tower to collect three bags. One had a key that would release sandbags, and they then slingshotted those at targets.

Winners won 10 fresh fish, which were already cooking in the sun; second place received five fresh fish. Question: Even if those fish were props, what would a tribe of five people do with 10 fresh fish, other than eat them all immediately? Were they also provided a cooler and ice to keep them fresh?

Kaleb was the first through with all of his keys, continuing to demonstrate how he’s quite the social and physical threat. Will his social game be enough to protect him post-merge? I wonder and worry.

Sifu hit the final target for Reba, saving himself. And then Lulu pulled out the win, sending Belo to Tribal Council.

BUT FIRST. “There is one more twist today,” Probst said. “We’re going to take a journey.” Ugh.

Reba chose J. Maya via rock-paper-scissors over Dee, and then chose Kellie from Lulu because she had to sit out of the challenge. They also removed Austin from Belo’s pre-Tribal Council scramble.

“We’re on a Journey, guys” Kellie said, and the show’s subtitles capitalized “Journey.”

Their Journey™ did, I will admit, introduce something interesting: a choice of sandwiches or the amulet advantages. The three amulets had to all be played at the same time to have any power: three at once create an extra vote, two a steal-a-vote, and one equals a regular idol.

Austin thought it’d make them all targets. J. was “pro-amulet,” putting Kellie in the middle. Meanwhile, the sandwiches sat in the sun, warming up the lettuce. Yummy.

Of course, the real problem with the amulets is not that they’d make themselves targets to other players, but that the smart thing to do with the amulets is to target each other.

Austin probably couldn’t make that argument to them—if you choose this I’ll use it against you!—so he caved. But he told us, “this is absolutely a symbol of war” and said “I need to be the first to strike to take them out.”

And in my favorite line of the episode, Austin said, “They’re going to get my revenge for getting in between me and that freakin’ sandwiches.” That is hilarious, smart strategy, and a war I want to see play out.

Also, it’s noteworthy that I think the two players in the strongest position already, Austin and Kaleb, are both keeping their true feelings and plans close to them—they’re not running around using them as threats like the players who will probably lose this game. We’re only halfway through the game, and I’d love to see an Austin/Kaleb final.

The Journey™ ended with a hilarious cut between J. Maya calling this her best day and Austin saying it was the worst.

Back at Belo, Emily said, “I want this Tribal Council to go away” and told us “I’m scared: the sun is going down, and I still don’t know.” Brando or Drew? Numbers or gut? She was worried if she went after Drew, Belo would target her.

At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst gave some behind-the-scenes details. “Part of the design of the new era,” Probst said, “is to constantly fuck with your game to amuse ourselves because we don’t trust you all to play.” Okay, he didn’t say the second half.

Drew had the most interesting things to say. He illustrated a key part of Survivor’s brilliance as a format: “I’m not betraying a chess piece,” he said. But then he also signaled how he was already thinking several steps ahead, pointing out his real concern was “surviving this coming onslaught” after the merge.

At one point, Jeff Probst asked, “Emily, are you in the middle of this?” Oh, thank you for that insight, Captain TimeFiller!

In the voting booth, Austin sacrificed his vote to extend his idol’s advantage, but then used his goodwill advantage to get his vote back, and also resurrected Imhotep while he was at it.

Votes went to Brando and Drew, with the swing vote read last: Brando. Emily reached over and said “I’m sorry” to Kendra, who seemed truly shocked. But never fear, Kendra. The new era’s Pre-Merge Feats of Strength are next, so you’re not the odd person out for long.

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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.

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Happy discussing!


Sunday 29th of October 2023

They could smoke fish if they wanted to try to preserve them

It's Time to Vote

Friday 27th of October 2023

"with the swing vote read last"

Isn't it routine at this point to edit the sequence of vote counting to drag it out the reveal?

We're lucky they haven't thought of going to commercial right before reading the last vote.


Sunday 29th of October 2023

@It's Time to Vote, oh commercial between votes would be so Gordon Ramsay


Thursday 26th of October 2023

Great recap!

I thought it was interesting that last week someone quit and this week we've got someone passing out for the second time, but still desperately not wanting to be pulled from the game.

I'm with Austin on Team Sandwich. Those amulets were confusing and stupid.

This was the first episode where it really felt like 90 minutes. I LOVE that we're getting the opening sequence, and Jake's backstory was interesting, but it just felt a little drawn out to me. I'll still take 90 over 60 though.


Friday 27th of October 2023

@AK, Right! We didn't even get to see either of the tribes enjoying their rewards.


Friday 27th of October 2023

@Melissa, I like the 90 minutes overall, and I enjoyed seeing so much of camp life and strategy. But this episode desperately needed a separate reward challenge!


Thursday 26th of October 2023

"Alas, what the editors included was not him discussing this as a disorder, but as a product of willpower:" I noticed this also. The complications w/ eating disorders must be very difficult to explain. I just wished they had not included..."willpower". I enjoy your write ups and article. Thanks

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 26th of October 2023

Thanks, Donna. I do worry that someone watching might take away the idea that an eating disorder can be cured by going to the gym.