On the sixth episode after the dissolution of Survivor 45 tribes, Jeff Probst gave to us an episode without a single stupid twist. The players got to play like individuals! There were no fake tribes!
There were two boring challenges, and the game play proceeded in the same direction it has been: The Reba alliance continuing to Pagong the others, with the help of the other players.
I actually don’t blame the players. First, there’s a solid four—Austin, Dee, Drew, and Julie—and they have no incentive to go after each other.
During this episode, Julie said, “At some point, we’ve got to turn on each other. I almost can’t even go there. How do you vote them out?” But I suspect that, even despite the preview for next week’s episode, they will not do that until they have no other option.
The others certainly do, yet Bruce, Jake, and Katurah could not figure out how to work together. This is not unknown. Emily said exactly that: “four Reba members that are kind of picking off people” and the others “don’t know how to work together at all.”
Katurah did suggest “Julie to be the back-up” vote, telling us, “I love Julie so deeply that I would give Julie a million dollars.” She also told Julie, “this is such a sick, twisted, disgusting ridiculously delicious enjoyable terrifying game.” Yet it is not playing out that way.
Meanwhile, Emily thinks she’s tightly aligned with two of the alliance of four, so she doesn’t have an incentive to go after them.
The baffling move this episode was Emily’s perfectly successful gambit to convince Bruce they were turning on Julie. But the net effect of Bruce’s exit that is to reduce a 4-4 game to a 3-4 game, and now that alliance is unstoppable. And a player who could not win is out of the game and on the jury.
While Survivor 45 is not as boring as Survivor 43 was last fall, thanks in part to the extra time we’re getting at camp, I think my theory about that season might also apply now. The constant “danger” in the form of producer meddling makes the players less likely to think strategically, because they’re waiting for something to interrupt their plans.
The other BiG mOvE of the episode was Bruce’s “diabolical plan” to convince everyone he was a perfect target. Yeah. He told Katurah he gave his idol to Kellie, who got voted out with it.
“It’s in my pocket,” he told us, so “I tested out my first really big lie.” He asked Katurah, “What’d you think about my acting?” and said, “that’s our hook to get one of the Rebas out of here.” Bruce called himself “my own TMZ right now.” Yep, annoying and delusional about your own power.
Cut to Katurah: “Bruce’s plan is ridiculous” and “I don’t believe anything he ever says to me.” She added, “no one’s going to believe this.”
Oh, but Austin, Drew, and Jake did—unless they were pretending?
Katurah told Dee, Emily, and Julie about “this half-brained plan” because “I have no loyalty to Bruce,” she told us.
‘The biggest reward of the season’
The first of two challenges was an individual reward challenge for what Jeff Probst repeatedly insisted was “the biggest reward of the season,” and that illustrates just how bad rewards have gotten.
Their big reward was a return to The Sanctuary for Thanksgiving dinner. The big bonus, besides silverware, was that they got to stay overnight. Remember when that was a default for rewards? And that it was actually interesting and fun to watch?
The other addition was letters from home, which caused everyone to start crying. They’ve been playing for 18 days. I’ve spent more time away from my husband on a Target run.
Emily won the ball puzzle, and looked stunned at her own victory. She chose Julie, Katurah, and Dee. “Let’s make it a ladies’ night,” she said.
Emily did have a glass of wine or sangria—in a glass, not her hands!—during an interview, so I guess it really was the best reward of the season.
The actual worst part of this reward was that Katurah got a letter from her mom, despite the fact that, as she told us, “I went no contact with my mom a year ago.” That’s deeply unfair to Katurah in the middle of a game, never mind just wrong.
How did that letter get to her? Did the producers know this? Did they request that letter, or decide to include it? Did someone in Katurah’s family slip the letter in with others and the producers missed it? Whatever happened, it was not okay. That’s a decision for Katurah to make, not for someone to make for her.
Meanwhile, back at camp, the editors had a terrific amount of fun with the boys’ night. The male players’ antics were set to an actual song, “Playing with the Boys” by Kenny Loggins, perhaps best known from Top Gun as the soundtrack to one of the most homoerotic scenes in film history.
Instead of shirtless, sweaty volleyball, though, we got literal farting and burping, plus actual hilarity like skinny drew flexing and Bruce hurling a coconut into the water.
This was “guys being dudes,” Jake said, who added, “it’s nice to just be the guys sometimes, you haven’t gotten that in 18 days.” (The men are not okay.)
Drew found all of this kind of awkward, which was on the verge of being interesting, had there been more reflection about what he actually meant by calling it “locker room stuff, I guess” and “stuff the girls don’t want to talk about.”
Meanwhile, Austin spent time “enjoying all this wildlife” by stabbing it with a spear.
This was all contrasted with the civilized night the women were having. The real contrast, though, was with how dumb the men are. Katurah immediately saw through Bruce’s lie; after Bruce told Jake that he didn’t have an idol, Drew and Austin believed it and danced with joy.
There was an epic fight teased in the preview for this episode:
Jake: “I think our conversation is done.”
Drew: “Ours is?”
Drew: “All right, mobster. Go have fun with it.”
Jake: “Dude, I’m on the bottom. How am I the mobster?”
I hope medical was able to treat them for those burns.
The immunity challenge was held in the middle of the ocean—another spectacular location for another spectacularly boring challenge.
It was yet another hold-onto-a-thing. This time, they were lying on a ramp and trying not to slide into the ocean while awkwardly holding grips on the side of the ramp.
Could someone please wake up the challenge department, or at least wake me up after these challenges? The Challenge: USA 2 had far better challenges than Survivor! That’s upside-down world there.
“It is dead quiet,” Probst said, of course preventing it from actually being quiet.
Several people slid off, and Jake, Austin, and Bruce were the final three. As Jake started sliding, you could see the strap holding his mic pack, for those interested in how the players wear mics.
The most-interesting part of immunity was 1) Bruce almost winning for a third time, though being bested by Austin, and 2) Katurah’s panic. She became terrified of sliding into the water.
Probst, to his credit, was supportive. “Katurah, if you’d like to let go, we’ve got you,” Probst said. “Drop and start swimming toward me immediately.” But he also told her, “water’s not a part of the test,” so she just jumped off onto the platform. Katurah said, “I don’t know why I panicked” as Emily and Probst comforted her.
After the challenge ended, Katurah jumped in the water and swam to the boat with the tribe was, which she described as “really beautiful, and I deeply appreciated it.”
“Another epic showdown,” Probst said. It was another something, that’s for sure.
Tribal Council was another thing that happened. The big question was whether Bruce would play his idol. Incredibly, he did not!
Makes up a story about someone getting voted out with his idol in his pocket, actually gets voted out with his idol in his pocket.
My favorite part was watching the jury react to the votes. At one point, Kaleb said, “wait wait wait!” and then came the votes for Bruce. He was sent to the jury and was truly very gracious about it, both before his torch was snuffed and in his exit interview.
Bruce may not have been the best player, and whether he grew and changed during those 18 days is something I can’t judge, but to his credit, he exited in a very different way than he lived on the island.