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Survivor 45’s players finally merged! Time to separate into two tribes!

Survivor 45’s players finally merged! Time to separate into two tribes!
I was crying—not laughing like Katurah and Sifu were—when Jeff Probst made Survivor's players split up into two tribes. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

After merging the players into one tribe, but not really, we have finally arrived, for real this time: the players are actually merged, and they are playing an individual game.

“Everybody looks good merged,” Jeff Probst said as they arrived at a challenge arena for their “first individual immunity challenge.”

But context clues—and by that, I mean massive poles—told us otherwise. Half of the telephone poles the players had to hug were painted blue and the other half red. For a fleeting moment, I thought/hoped this was just a reward challenge, dividing in half to compete for a pile of hot bologna or something.

Yes, the merge was the perfect time to separate them into two groups and send the players to Tribal Council separately.

A line of people standing in the sand, with telephone poles painted red behind them
The Survivor 45 merged tribe, before it was split into two tribes! From left to right: Kellie Nalbandian, Dee Valladares, Julie Alley, Emily Flippen, Katurah Topps, Nicholas “Sifu” Alsup, Bruce Perreault, Kendra McQuarrie, Jake O’Kane, Austin Li Coon, Kaleb Gebrewold, and Drew Basile. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

I know this twist has happened before, and I should have expected it. This is better than last season, when the winning tribe just watched Tribal Council but did not participate.

Neither of those makes it any less stupid.

I’d have loved to be in that meeting: At the merge, we’ll tell them it’s not the merge! Then they’ll have to earn the merge. Then we’ll divide them into tribes again! Doesn’t anyone speak up and say something like, maybe: What the actual fuck are you thinking, you drunk squirrels?

After watching this play out, I’m convinced that it interrupted the merged, individual game that was developing for the worst.

I’ll even blame this twist on ending Kaleb’s game. Had the tribe stayed merged and voted as one, I’m not convinced he would have been the target yet again. So, nice work there, Jeff Probst!

At the first Tribal Council, Jeff Probst said, “For me, that is the pivot point in this new era: You are either glass half empty: Oh no, another twist. Or you’re glass half full: Oh boy, another opportunity.”

I’m: Smash your glass full of random tribes, bring back the Survivor merge!

The merged tribe is called Dakuwaqa, a Fijian shark deity, and they were still reeling from Kaleb’s luck.

“I just appreciate the way you guys handled it. I know it’s 12 votes,” he told then, but then he told us: “Every single person on this tribe voted against me. … Ultimately, I don’t need friends here.”

Bruce, being the subtle and supportive player he is, decided to confront Katurah—who voted for Kaleb— about being hesitant about voting for Kaleb. He said something to us about “the narrative that I’m trying to push right now,” and I think may have called her “Katori”? I thought he said “Tori” and I was confused for a moment.

Katurah, of course, wanted to get rid of “the thorn in my thumb.” Others were annoyed, too, including Kellie, though she said both that she was “having a hard time getting through to him” but that Bruce “does have a lot of trust with me.”

There was a lot of Kellie being conflicted about Bruce throughout the episode, but in a way that just repeated it without taking it anywhere. I sensed that the editors were struggling to fill these 90 minutes, given what transpired.

Kaleb had his own issues with Bruce, who pulled Kaleb aside for a lecture, saying word such as, “you stumbled, you landed on your ass” and “your fight was your fight at that moment in time.” Such insight.

“It’s taking everything inside of me to try to work with this guy,” Kaleb said. Based on Kaleb’s facial expression while listening to Bruce, I thought it was taking everything inside him to not throw sand in Bruce’s mouth to shut him up for a few seconds.

Emily told Kaleb “you have the numbers now,” but told us “I resigned myself to letting Kaleb go.” That’s quite the turn—and perhaps foreshadowing of Kaleb’s still bottom-rung place in the game.

A laughing person reaches into a bag held by a person wearing a baseball cap; another person looks on and smiles
Kellie and Dee, who coincidentally were the two players who won immunity, picking teams for Survivor 45 episode 7’s challenge (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

At the challenge, everyone grabbed onto poles after learning that they’d play in groups, and that the winner’s group would win tacos and the right to go to Tribal Council second. That mattered because the first group’s evicted player would not make the jury.

Narrator McExposition’s narration was particularly insufferable, despite all the possibility with people wrapping themselves around giant phalli.

“Sifu’s down!” Yeah, no shit: he’s lying in the sand.

“It hurts the minute you start,” Probst said, which is coincidentally what I said to my TV as the challenge narration began.

Kellie won immunity, while Kaleb, Katurah, and Dee remained on the red team until Dee won—and then beat Kellie to win reward for her team, too.

Tribal Council

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)

In the not-a-tribe tribe of Bruce, Drew, Emily, Kellie, Kendra, and Sifu, Kellie told us that, by not holding on, she was upset about “killing someone’s dream”

The only person we heard talking about his dream was Sifu. “Making the jury is a dream of mine, so it does break my heart,” he said, realizing he was a target. That pretty clearly telegraphed he was done—that, and his relative absence and lack of character development so far.

There was a lot of hitting the same note: Kellie is conflicted about Bruce.

Drew wanted to dump Bruce, too, but as Kendra said, Sifu is an easy target.

At Tribal Council, Probst went to tally the votes and then the show went to commercial—a reminder that Survivor’s editing usually doesn’t have to resort to such cheap tricks except in these awkwardly structured episodes.

All the votes went Sifu—well, also to “Se Fu” and “Seafu”—except Sifu’s vote for Bruce.

I don’t need another episode with Bruce’s babble, but I do hope this means Katurah gets the chance to blindside him and end that feud.

Tribal Council

A person wearing yellow and holding a yellow bag walks out of the ocean smiling
Earlier this season, Kaleb went on a visit and raid as one of Lulu’s prizes for winning the reward challenge (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

The not-a-tribe tribe of Austin, Dee, Jake, Julie, Kaleb, and Katurah went second.

The easy vote seemed to be Kaleb, but not for Jake. “I need to take control of the game,” he said. “I want to play Survivor and win Survivor.”

In a fascinating editing choice, Jake told us, “The plan is…” and the editing flash forwarded to show us Tribal Council with elements of what he was describing, including Probst revealing votes.

Jake’s plan was that there’d be three votes for Julie, three votes for Kaleb, and then a revote. After that, they’d draw rocks if they couldn’t come to a decision, and Jake said, “I think I can convince Austin we don’t have to go to rocks,” because Austin is playing a fearful game.

Before that, Kaleb wanted to ensure Katurah was on their side by telling her about Bruce’s idol before Austin had the chance. Katurah appeared to be in, though she seemed especially shocked and hurt to learn from Jake about how he lied about looking for his ring to get Bruce’s idol.

Once Tribal Council rolled around, it played out as usual—though not as expected! Yes, the flash forward was not of a tie vote at all.

There were three votes for Kaleb, two for Julie, and then Probst said those words that indicated Kaleb was out: “The eighth person…”

Katurah voted against him. Earlier, Kaleb thought he had a strong alliance with her and Jake. “If you show that type of loyalty, then you will get it in return,” Kaleb said.

But I wonder if Jake’s revelation that everyone lied to her about the idol made her distrust them both. Now she doesn’t have Kaleb as an anti-Bruce ally, and I am worried about how much more of Bruce we’ll have to endure.

Next week—when I will not be able to watch live or recap, alas!—the Survivor auction returns. Let’s hope the true individual game does, too.

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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!


Friday 10th of November 2023

All of that handwringing over Bruce and it didn't even pay off for anything! I hope he's out soon. He's start to work my last nerve, too.

Andy, do you watch sports on mute? How do you deal with the play-by-play announcers if Jeff's challenge narration drives you this crazy?


Friday 10th of November 2023

@Andy Dehnart, Maybe Jeff's on commission and gets paid by the word?

Andy Dehnart

Friday 10th of November 2023

Well, I don't watch that many live sports! But when I do, I cannot recall anything close to this level of just saying exactly what's happening. Are they really equivalent for you?

I was an early fan of Jeff's addition of snarky commentary, and when I rewatched Borneo, I was amazed at how quiet challenges were. But it's just too much for me now, just non-stop and not useful. Even Jeff acknowledged how annoying it is to many of us.


Thursday 9th of November 2023

Agree with your review. I hope Bruce is blindsided soon, because he's insufferable.

I've been thinking about the rewards. The Sanctuary is bullshit. Remember when they used to get to do cool shit? I can't remember specific seasons, but I distinctly remember people being taken to the top of a volcano, or swimming in a jellyfish lake, or getting to take a shower and then spend the night in a bed and use a toilet! Those are real rewards. I'm sure the food is great for them out there, especially since they're not getting rice, but it sure is boring to watch.

I'm looking forward to the return of the auction next week, but I'm not optimistic that it will be good.


Saturday 11th of November 2023

@Melissa, Jeff said in podcast it was a great idea to make the sanctuary better using resources from other potential ideas for rewards.


Friday 10th of November 2023

@Kerri, I'm already tired of The Sanctuary. But you're right, that's the New Era!


Friday 10th of November 2023

@Melissa, And all the great cultural tie-ins, but I suppose now that they're grounded in Fiji, there's only so much you can exploit until we the viewers get tired of it, or the Fijian government kicks them to the curb. Either way, you're right - those rewards were not only great for the participants, but the viewers as well!

I think in their quest to streamline the show, less days spent as a castaway, staying in one location, recycled puzzle challenges and no more strange food challenges (costly resultant medical care anyone?) that they've become more lazy about rewards, challenges and such. It's become a case of swap part A out for part B or C and repeat ad nauseum. Hey, but it's the New Era!


Thursday 9th of November 2023

When we made it nearly half way through the episode and Julie was nowhere to be seen, I thought either I'd missed an episode, she'd been medically evacuated and the producers decided in the "new era" we didn't really need to know, or, perhaps, she'd fallen through a Survivor wormhole and was off smashing an hour glass somewhere. This episode was sloppy in not just that way, but how everyone was talking like the massive 12 votes thrown at Kaleb had never happened and the fog of Kumbaya had wafted over the island. Uber frustrating.

I for one am relieved to see Kaleb gone, not that he doesn't seem to be a very friendly guy, but now maybe we can see the rest of the players actually step up and do some game play. Or maybe from here on out we'll get "back at Ponderosa with Kaleb" episodes as he conjectures about what is going on back in the game.


Thursday 9th of November 2023

Not that I especially cared who got voted out, but it was particularly frustrating seeing Katurah, who I had generally liked, vote out Kaleb. She had no prior relationship with anyone else on that "tribe," and going forward, where does she stand? She burned her relationship with Jake, and Kaleb literally had nowhere else to turn, so he was likely a solid ally for her, and she just dumped him without getting any benefit in return. I get that she was hurt by being lied to before, but it seems strange to take that out on Kaleb given that she had previously betrayed him by trying to vote him out, and he's the one who told her the truth. And it's not as though she hurt her previous tribe as a group by doing this given that everyone else also tried to vote him out, too. It might have made some vague sense if she had worked with the others to vote Jake out, but it made no sense to vote out Kaleb. I can't respect that move.


Friday 10th of November 2023

@Michael, Katurah didn't have much of a relationship with Jake to burn. Of the remaining members of old Belo, Jake is the one who most wants to continue to work with Bruce (at least of what we've seen). If she is going to enact any plan to get rid of Bruce as she hopes, Katurah is not going to be relying on Jake. She wasn't trying to hurt old Belo as a whole, but definitely trying to hurt Jake. Based on his position in the merged tribe, it's not like Katurah could really rely on Kaleb for much help, so considering voting with him would have put her at risk, it wouldn't have made sense for her to vote any other way.


Thursday 9th of November 2023

Guess they should have told Katurah about Bruce's idol a long time ago. Why didn't they, any way? Sorry to see Kaleb go.

Couldn't agree more about Jeff's challenge commentary. He just gets worse and worse.