Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

Survivor 45’s delightful auction proves classic Survivor still works

Survivor 45’s delightful auction proves classic Survivor still works
At Survivor 45's auction, the first in 15 seasons, Julie and Jake look at the cake they're about to eat with their hands (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

During the more than 30 minutes of Survivor 45 spent on the return of the auction after 15 seasons, I thought: Survivor hasn’t been this fun for so long.

The “new era”—and I use the scare quotes because it’s not all that new, just doubling-down on the direction Survivor had been going—has brought moments of levity and laughter before. Nothing, though, has offered such a sustained, joyful diversion from the game.

To get that from a classic challenge that made its first appearance in season two proves that many of those original elements and ideas still work.

Next, let’s do actual rewards (not the freakin’ sanctuary) and challenges (not an obstacle course or hold-a-thing).

The actual game play in Survivor 45 episode eight was less fun. We opened with talk of a women’s alliance—they outnumber the men six to four—turned into voting off a woman who was punished for being followed around by a man everyone is annoyed by.

The reality, though, is that there’s no actual women’s alliance. Instead, there’s still original Reba (Austin, Dee, Drew, Julie) versus original Belo (Bruce, Katurah, Kellie, Kendra, Jake), with Emily as a swing vote. More on that in a moment. First: the auction!

The auction returns, with new twists

A man wearing a baseball cap smiles
Jeff Probst starts Survivor’s first auction in eight years (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

The auction’s return was revealed to the players in a surprising way: a boat arrived carrying several crew members, who unloaded a two-tier table onto the beach.

That table had bowls affixed to it, and a silent crew member placed name tags on them before handing over a note that said, “Who’s ready for a blast from the past. The Survivor auction…”

That sentence was interrupted by screaming, and I’m sure I would have joined had I not known this was coming, both from last week’s preview and other pre-season coverage.

Before the auction, the players had to search for cash to spend. For 10 players, there were 40 bamboo tubes hidden throughout the jungle, each with a different amount of cash. (When did the crew hide all that money?)

Everyone took off running, except Bruce, who decided his “senior intuition” would help him. It didn’t. He continually missed money, even when the camera was pointing right at it.

As Bruce lumbered by, demonstrating his work ethic, others would dart in and grab what he just missed. In the best moment of this very fun sequence, Bruce was complaining about that and walked right by money in a tree. Drew stepped into frame, grabbed it, and gave a silent Jim Halpert look to the camera.

Most players ended up with a few hundred dollars, while Bruce had just $80, and Austin $700 and Dee $800.

I love the variability of cash, and that there’s both luck and effort involved.

A person holds a beer and pretzels in one hand, and raises their other arm in the air, holding an envelope that says KENDRA
Kendra won the first item in the return of Survivor’s auction: beer and pretzels (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Once they arrived at the auction itself, they learned it was was entirely food, no advantages, which is exactly the change it needed—and we sure don’t need more advantages in the game.

Also, the producers made another great change by randomizing the number of items that’d be up for bid. Only five were guaranteed; Probst drew a number (from six to 15) and kept it hidden from the players. That indicated how many items there would be, and gave Jeff Probst the chance to keep faking them out.

I could have done without the fake chewing noises—especially Austin’s squishy bite into the fish eye—and the final change: the lost vote.

I don’t mind the producers adding an element of risk, though the auction already has built-in, albeit low-key, risk with its zonks. (I did like that there was just one zonk.)

But taking away a vote? That’s too much, especially for something that has a lot of randomness involved: the amount of money, the number of items. This should be a reward challenge, not a Big Brother punishment.

A person smiles while looking at two large gelatinous eyes on a plate
Katurah examines what she bought in the Survivor auction: two large snapper eyes (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

That aside, when Probst said, “Come on in and let’s have some fun,” he was not kidding. It was a euphoric time, from Emily’s happy dance at not being zonked to the players’ reaction to Austin eating a large snapper eyeball.

Here’s how it played out:

  1. Kendra paid $360 for pretzels and beer
  2. Kellie paid $500 for fries, ketchup, and watery cola
  3. Emily paid $440 for a mystery item: wine and a charcuterie board, which caused her to dance with joy. “This is real Emily, when she’s well-fed,” she said.
  4. Dee: $900 for a chocolate milkshake
  5. Katurah: $480 for a mystery item—or the option to trade. She stuck with the original: giant fish eyes
    • Austin: $100 for the fish eyes “it’s like sashimi,” he said
  6. Drew paid $520 for the option Katurah didn’t choose, which was a bowl of candy
  7. Austin paid $600 for a slice of pepperoni pizza
  8. Julie paid $420 for mouthwash and a toothbrush
  9. Jake paid $340 for a chocolate cake to share with two people that they had to eat with their hands. He chose Julie and Bruce (!)
  10. Kellie paid $200, for a margarita, PB&J, and potato chips. Both she and Emily predicted it: “I could use a margarita,” Kellie said, and Emily said: “It’s a 100 percent chance it’s a margarita.”

At the end, Bruce never spent his $80, and ended up having the most money, meaning he lost his vote. Though I don’t love the twist, it was a delicious conclusion to Bruce’s boneheadedness.

Altogether, the auction’s return was a smashing success: solid entertainment and actual rewards for the many of the players.

An idea from 2000 (when Survivor Australia filmed) still works well, and I hope Survivor will keep reaching back to its extensive history for inspiration.

A less-interesting challenge

A person holds up an elaborate, large necklace and laughs
Bruce won immunity, saving him from possible elimination (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

The reward challenge, if the auction counts as a challenge, was far better television than the immunity challenge.

Immunity, alas, was yet another stand and hold a thing. They had to hold one-third of their pre-game body weight with a rope. At least it was truly individual—no teams, no temporary tribes.

Because everything must be overcomplicated, Probst offered a large bag of rice if four people dropped out. Dee and Emily agreed—and then Probst pulled out a large knife, stabbed the bag dramatically, and rice started pouring out. That’s one way to speed up the deliberations. Drew dropped, followed by Katurah.

The only part of this that I really minded was the promo for applying to Survivor that came during the commercial break, in which Jeff Probst said, “We’ve had an auction and a rice negotiation in two days.” Let’s not equate these two things; one is not the other!

As the players held ropes, Narrator McExposition said, “It’s as heavy as it can get, and it’s heavy.”

It’s also as boring as it can get. Shouting at them doesn’t make it any more interesting, either. I wish someone at CBS would give Survivor a note about how boring these stand-and-hold challenges are when they happen again and again, challenge after challenge, season after season.

Julie and Bruce were the final two, and Bruce won, erasing the possibility he’d go home after losing his vote. Cut to Katurah saying, “Oh my god.” Indeed.

As much as I like Bruce as a low-key villain, I am getting a little weary of the talk about taking out Bruce without anything happening. Of course, his immunity win thwarted a possible vote against him, but I’m not convinced they’ll actually do that.

Do they have no intent of doing that, and the producers are just asking them to talk through hypotheticals to create that tension? It seems increasingly likely Bruce will just hang around being annoying until the final three, where he’ll get zero votes but get paid for being so annoying.

Kendra said that the 6-4 women-men split “could be our opportunity for the six badass women to start taking out some guys. She imagined they were talking about this very thing, and the editing cut to someone saying “tell me about tacos” and then men talking about tacos.

Julie said “I’d really like to start picking them off” and Emily said this is “conceptually great,” but both are aligned with Drew and Austin.

Jake told us he was frustrated by the “following the herd” mentality, though he also acknowledged, “I’m kinda sucking at Survivor right now. Hopefully I stop sucking.” Alas, he seemed to be the obvious target after Bruce, though.

There was some moderate worry among this group that Jake would find an idol, even with Katurah babysitting him. Then Drew said, “What if we avoid the Jake question altogether?” He suggested Kellie.

At Tribal Council, Jake seemed forlorn, as if he was definitely being voted out. He fumbled his way through answers that didn’t make sense, and then asked Probst, “Do you mind if I make a pitch?”

He couldn’t really make one, at least not then, though he eventually said: “If it’s united, like eight votes on me, someone’s making the wrong move.” He also said, “I feel like people are lying to me.”

And in the best moment, he said, “if I pull out my i—if I pull out…. If I pull out an idol tonight, or I decide to play a shot in the dark, you’re gone.” Was that a slip or a clever move?

Jake did not have an idol, so he played his shot in the dark. While handing it to Probst, he said, “Can we have Kaleb blow on it or something first?”

Jake also asked, “Does lightning strike twice?” No, it does not; he was not safe.

But it did not matter, as most votes were not on him, but on Kellie. “What the hell, guys?” Kellie said. The hell is that Austin, Dee, Drew, Emily, and Julie are a solid alliance, and Katurah, Kendra, and Kellie are not part of it.

Did they actually vote her out because of her relationship with Bruce? I hope not, because that’d be shitty.

Speaking of shitty: during the next episode, three people lose their votes, apparently? Ugh. I will try to bask in the glow of the auction until then.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More from reality blurred

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.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!


Wednesday 22nd of November 2023

Did anyone notice that they used a plus size actor to demonstrate the immunity challenge? I was so excited, I pointed it out to my daughter and even replayed it for her. Imagine my disappointment when they revealed that the challenge was based on body weight! Ugh! Sometimes I really hate this show.

Bad Mitten

Wednesday 22nd of November 2023

I enjoyed the return of the auction, but did not like the lose your vote element since it just resulted in everyone making their max bid every time to get rid of their money. I think they'll need to tweak that element if they continue this into future seasons because there really was very little outbidding someone after the first 5 items.

As far as your comments about it being shitty to vote out Kellie because of her affiliation with Bruce, I mean cmon now you do realize we are watching Survivor here right? This certainly wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last time, that the players vote out somebody who is closely aligned with the actual person they want out (who so happens to be immune).

Andy Dehnart

Wednesday 22nd of November 2023

Too true! The editing's narrative arc really called attention to it, though, from the women's alliance to voting out one of the women instead of Jake.


Monday 20th of November 2023

I thought the auction was good and I loved the jungle run part of it. The only thing I didn't like was that after the first 6 items were sold, it became simply the next item automatically goes to whoever had the most money. There was no bidding, no suspense. If they didn't punish the one with the most money with losing a vote, this wouldn't happen. Or, if they had advantages, food and zonks and kept everything covered, there would still be the question of whether to bid or not to bid.


Tuesday 21st of November 2023

@raph, Ooh, I like the idea of voting first thing!


Tuesday 21st of November 2023

@Melissa, im not against the punishment as long as its not a lose a vote.. maybe a penalty for the immunity challenge.

also im okay with advantage at the auction... but it has to be randomized in the auction it cant just be the last item, or a hold your money until it comes up situation.

The advantage can also be a zonk hahaha like the food items. you bid for this but you incur this penalty, or you are able to vote at tribal council, but it will be at the start before deliberations.... so if things change while the convos are happening your vote has already been set.


Tuesday 21st of November 2023

@Yvette, I agree as well. It would have been more interesting towards the end if there had been more bidding against each other.


Tuesday 21st of November 2023

@Yvette, yes I didn't like that stuff just went for each player's whole roll, no interest in bidding for something now while keeping $$ for something later

Andy Dehnart

Tuesday 21st of November 2023

That’s a really good point. I noticed it but didn’t mind as much, perhaps because it was new. But you’re right that this is the way it’ll go in the future; I hope they readjust by removing that punishment!


Monday 20th of November 2023

Is it just me or is anyone else worried about Jake’s health? Besides near fainting twice, in previous eps, he really struggled with answering questions at tribal. Perhaps it was editing but that made me a bit worried about him.


Monday 20th of November 2023

The auction was great! I loved that they had to find money and they all had varying amounts, and I loved that it was almost all reward, no advantages!

The one thing that annoyed me is a horrible reality TV trope that I can't remember ever seeing on Survivor before... cutting to a commercial at a dramatic moment (Austin biting into the fish eye) and then showing me what I just watched again on the other side of the commercial. Ugh! Survivor is better than that.

I do agree it's not really fair to vote out Kellie because of her affiliation with Bruce, but it was still an epic blindside and fun to watch.


Tuesday 21st of November 2023


I *hate* that cliffhanger-before-commercial/rerun-after-commercial thing. I think it's just a time killer, shortens the show by 2 minutes for each instance, maybe it makes sense with stretching the episodes to 90 minutes. Argh!