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Survivor 45 ties up its players by taking away their votes

Survivor 45 ties up its players by taking away their votes
Kendra works her way through one of the stages of Survivor 45 episode 9's immunity challenge (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Just as I was basking in the glow of Survivor returning to its roots with an auction and actual rewards, along comes Survivor 45, episode 9. After turning a challenge into a vote-revoking punishment, it offered a reward of a cooked chicken on an empty table, forcing people to tear into it with their bare hands, which I guess is what will be happening in a lot of our homes in the States today.

I loathe this new era vote-revoking nonsense, because it’s the producers constantly meddling in the game, trying to create imbalance.

The outcome was perhaps the same as it would have been otherwise—another original Belo, off to the jury—and ended up echoing last week’s episode, with Bruce immune yet again.

A person standing in front of tall grasses and plants raises their left hand in the air and shouts
Jeff Probst starts the three-stage Survivor 45 immunity and reward challenge (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Bruce and Julie “dominated the last two challenges,” Jeff Probst said at Tribal Council, and they did indeed.

The last two challenges have been effectively the same: hold a thing with a straight arm until your arm gives out.

That makes their wins impressive (since their bodies were capable of that in back-to-back challenges) and the challenge design annoying (Survivor really needs some new ideas, or to look back in its playbook and reuse some old ideas).

Survivor does not need to continue with its new idea of taking away players’ votes, creating an artificial imbalance of power. A player’s vote should be a fundamental, core part of the game. As Emily said, taking a vote away leaves a player “totally useless.”

A person's eyes are visible while the lower part of their face is covered by a bandana
Bruce started Survivor 45 episode 9 pouting after learning what Kellie actually thought of him (Image from Survivor via CBS)

There was fallout from Kellie’s exit. Kendra was sad about the loss of her first Survivor BFF. “Cheers, Kel,” she said, sitting alone on the beach, sipping out of her flask. Meanwhile, everyone else was laughing.

In the time since Tribal Council, Jake went from “Whoa” to “Wow,” and told us, “Hi, I’m Jake, I’m still on Survivor,” and said “I was not aware how bad I was reading people” and “I wasn’t even left in the same dimension.”

Based on the preview alone for next week’s episode, which shows Jake and Drew snapping at each other, I am so glad he’s still here.

In a curious move, Dee told Bruce that Kellie found him to be “overbearing.” Of course, it is not just Kellie!

This rattled Bruce to such a degree that he walked around like blanket-wrapped Audrey on Big Brother 17, with his head wrapped with his buff.

Drew said Bruce has “been playing an imaginary game of Survivor” and now has the choice to “confront the reality of the situation, which is pretty bleak.”

In an interview, Bruce said, “What the hell?” but then did confront the reality. He turned inward instead of lashing out. “She felt like I was overbearing, that sucks,” Bruce said, and “that’s not my personality.”

“That doesn’t feel good. That sucks. And it’s weird because I have my daughter back home, and I don’t treat them any different than I treat her.” He told us, after Survivor, he will ask his wife and daughter if he’s overbearing, and if so, “I will make the changes that are necessary.”

Three things:

  1. This is an impressive amount of self-reflection and willingness to change, especially in the middle of a game while being deprived of food and sleep
  2. Kellie is not his daughter
  3. After nine episodes of watching Bruce, can you not see him asking his wife and daughter that question in an overbearing way?
A person with long hair and wearing a red headband looks down and smiles
Austin on Survivor 45 episode 9, during which his shared advantage became a full idol (Image from Survivor via CBS)

When the players got Tree Mail telling them to divide into small groups of three, they feared exactly what I did: a Tribal Council of three, with the challenge winner choosing among the other two.

Austin even gave one of his idols to Julie, that’s how worried they were. (He now has a second complete idol, thanks to Kellie’s exit.)

While I once again rolled my eyes at post-merge challenge done in tribes, I did LOL at Drew suggesting they divide up with a strong man, a strong woman, and “one of the weaklings left over.” They ended up with:

  • Dee, Drew, Jake
  • Austin, Emily, Katurah
  • Bruce, Julie, Kendra

The one great thing about the challenge was the drone work at the beginning, diving and zooming around the obstacles.

I found the challenge especially insufferable thanks to Probst’s babble, some of which I’ll repeat here to be especially insufferable myself: “you’re looking for three rope rungs at four stations, which means one will not have one.” Wow, is that how three out of four works? And it continued: “only one of you will have this necklace … now you’re competing against each other.”

Narrator McExposition ran out of things to say and became Advice McToxic: “you hang in until your arms go numb!”

In a big surprise, he did offer an actual fact! In the final stage, when the winning team competed for individual immunity, he said, “We’ve only done this challenge two times. It has never been won by a man.”

(Correction, 11.24.23: As BadMitten points out in the comments, and Survivor Wiki confirms, a man actually won this challenge the first time: Kyle Jason won it in Kaôh Rōng.)

Now it has again, as Bruce was once again immune. Emily, Austin, and Katurah lost their votes.

All three could earn their votes back. Their non-journey journey had them split up, and each had three minutes to complete a logic puzzle, adding three pluses and one minus to this equation to make it work: 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 100. The answer: 98-76+54+3+21

Their timer was an hourglass, and when I saw an hourglass as the “Easter egg” image in the opening credits, I panicked a little, because of all we’ve been through.

Austin completed the equation, but Katurah and Emily did not. Did their lost votes affect the game? Probably not, especially with Kendra being voted out unanimously.

The most-interesting part of this whole twist to me was Austin lying about losing his vote, but telling us, “I always come clean to my alliance of four.” Generally, lying about twists doesn’t help, because others soon discover the lie, especially with a vote. His loyalty, though, demonstrates how tight that group is.

The plan was to flush Bruce’s idol, and then vote out Kendra or Jake. That was, of course, interrupted by Bruce’s immunity. So it was Kendra or Jake.

While Jake floated Kendra’s name to Drew—trying to save his own butt, of course—the real push came from Dee. “I have to take Kendra out,” she said.

Drew was arguing for Jake, which Dee said “seems like such an easy vote … I don’t want that … I want Kendra out, and that’s what I’m going to push for.”

If there was truly a push to get Jake out instead, and this was not just editing for our sake, Dee won that argument, which indicates a level of power—in addition to how others identify her as a likely winner because everyone likes her.

At Tribal Council, my second-favorite part was jury member Kaleb and Kellie’s expressions. Kellie still looked stunned. “Bruce has been safe for 16 out of 17 days,” Kaleb whispered.

When Kendra said, “literally, Kellie is my first friend on Survivor, literally,” Kellie looked down and gripped Kaleb’s hand. She looked upset/annoyed the whole time, though at least now she will have her first Survivor friend with her on the jury?

The worst part was when Jeff Probst asked Jake, “What was happening emotionally?” when Kellie was voted out instead of him. Whoa! I now question whether Probst has seen ever Tribal Council, as he reminded us, because literally everyone saw Jake’s emotional reaction, literally.

My favorite part was when Probst said “we don’t know” if the three players lost their votes actually still don’t have them, suggesting someone could be lying. While I normally hate him meddling in the game like that, it was worth it for Kendra’s reaction. She looked around, and said, “Did y’all really lose your votes, or…?”

Probst said, “Kendra, you didn’t think about the fact that…” and Kendra said, “…people could be lying.” She had not. Whoa, Kendra! I will look forward to her facial expressions from the jury box.

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Sunday 26th of November 2023

Whose name did drew write down? It looked like Jake.


Saturday 25th of November 2023

Because Bruce showed some self-reflection and everyone dislikes him he's starting to grow on me. I don't want him to win but I would like him to continue in the game because they all dislike him. At least there would be some fun in that.

Not a fan of Dee at all. Getting out Kendra was crappy game play. She should be trying to take out Austin or Drew before they turn on her. But Dee doesn't think big she think's small. Drew's another one I don't like. He thinks he's Don Corleone, but he's just condescending.

The only ones I like are Jake, Emily and maybe Julie.


Saturday 25th of November 2023

@Antonio, Agree 100%. Anytime a player gets shortsighted by personal vendettas (cough, cough, Katurah) it stunts their game and usually ends up biting them. I sure wish it would have been the same for Austin and his sandwich vendetta, but, alas, he's this season's recipient of the Golden Advantage Vending Machine. However, he doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar - why he's not is baffling to me - but barring a REAL blindside, he's going to cruise into the final three thanks to those.

I usually find myself cheering for the underdog every season, and personality aside, I'm kind of rooting for Bruce because he's a constant thorn in the side of this cast of monotone youngsters. I'd like to root for Julie as another older player who has managed to dodge the codger bullet thus far, and is proving to be a challenge threat, but I'm waiting for her to do something other than enjoy the shadow of the alliance of 4.

It also annoys me to no end that all these non power alliance members aren't banding together to weaken that alliance and are, instead, cannibalizing themselves, in the process weakening there chances of doing just that very thing! They're like those ants that get zombie-ized by a fungus and do it's every biding. Pure frustration. I find that seasons that are dominated by a power alliance are, overall, a snoozefest, and I rate this one ZZZZ on a scale of ZZZZZ (still guardedly hopeful that someone does something, ANYTHING!).

Bad Mitten

Friday 24th of November 2023

“ In a big surprise, he did offer an actual fact! In the final stage, when the winning team competed for individual immunity, he said, “We’ve only done this challenge two times. It has never been won by a man.” “

- You are going to like this… Turns out Probst got this fun fact WRONG! This challenge has in fact been one by a man already, Kyle Jason on Koah Rong.

- Also on an unrelated note, I’m in agreement with most that the vote loss twist sucked. Just let the players play the dang game for a change. Can we not have a normal vote during the merge anymore?

Bad Mitten

Saturday 25th of November 2023

@Andy Dehnart, fair of you to assume that probst wouldnt take away credit from a man

Andy Dehnart

Friday 24th of November 2023

The one time I don’t fact-check Probst! 😭😭


Thursday 23rd of November 2023

The challenge I'd love to see them bring back is anything where they get to take others out. I remember breaking tiles or something.

I do not like Dee. I do not like her at all. I hope she gets voted out right before the Final 3.

I laughed out loud when Bruce was self reflecting about being overbearing. Perhaps it's the edit he's getting, but he's one of the most overbearing players in recent memory.


Thursday 23rd of November 2023

It's a grim show. At this point I would vote for Bruce over Dee and Austin if I were on the jury and they were the final.