“Is now the time people are going to start taking shots?” Julie asked during Survivor 45 episode 11. Yes, episode 11, and just now they’re thinking about taking shots.
The answer was yes—and yet those shots were inexplicably dumb.
To all of their credit, watching this messy, emotional game play was quite entertaining, even if it wasn’t smart.
I mean, just this exchange alone is amazing:
Drew: “Do you want to do something tricky with your idol?”
The biggest shot was fired at Julie from her own alliance. And Julie took her shot, playing her Austin idol and single-handedly deciding who would join the jury.
And Julie chose Emily. She did that because of Emily’s biggest game mistake.
At the start of the episode, after last week’s Tribal Council, Emily told everyone that it was she who convinced Bruce to cast a vote for Julie, and explained how. Julie called it “a genius move, and she came up with the whole plan.” So Emily painted a big ol’ target on her Survivor back.
Julie also decided upon Emily despite Dee telling Julie, to her face, that Austin was Dee’s number-one in the game.
“Why don’t I just write Austin?” Julie asked. “If I take out Austin, Drew’s weak.” Julie is so right! Yet I don’t know why she didn’t just write Austin.
Dee, meanwhile, has been keeping her alliance intact and focused. But that was a ridiculous decision on Dee’s part to save her not-a-showmance showmance Austin by explicitly identifying that she was less invested in Julie.
And speaking of Austin: Not getting that sandwich really turned Austin into a bad player!
After giving his more-powerful idol to Julie for safekeeping, he’s been unable to get it back. Has he asked and she refused? Is he too scared to ask? Why?!
That led us to Austin getting on board with the blindside Julie plan: “I need to vote her out and flush my own freakin’ idol out of this game.”
So you need to destroy your own solid alliance in order to undo a mistake you made? LOL
Austin wrestled with whether to tell Dee about this plan; he worried that either telling her or not telling her would shatter their everlasting devotion.
He told her, and Dee immediately realized how screwed they were. But Dee found a way to protect herself: by telling Julie to play her idol, and telling her Dee would vote for Julie, and that they’d be in a pretend fight afterward. If only she didn’t also decide to confess that Julie was not her strongest ally.
And finally, let us not forget how the episode opened with the Reba four alliance celebrating their victory. “We dismantled them,” Austin said. Drew said, “I didn’t think they’d let us take the majority.”
And what did he want to do with that majority? Bring it back to 50/50 odds.
Yet because of Julie’s decision, the Reba four is still intact after trying to oust her. With Emily’s exit to the jury, they basically ended up in the same spot they would have been had they just continued their Pagonging.
Let’s pour one out for Emily. She had one of the most surprising and satisfying Survivor arcs in recent memory: from an easy first vote, oblivious to her behavior’s effect on others, to someone who truly seemed to have learned and grown in just three weeks.
“This has been the most amazing experience of my life,” Emily said in her final words. “I was so pleased that I was given so many extra days here to really change myself, pivot my strategy, and learn a lot along the way.”
Emily also exited in an episode when she basically gave the middle finger to the producers’ attempts to play the game. A boat showed up to give one of them a random advantage (sigh), and Emily drew the rock that sent her on the journey.
Emily characterized this as yet another shitty thing that happened to her in the game. Yep, the players know these twists are not good for them.
Even better, Emily declined to participate in Jeff Probst’s reindeer games because, at the final seven, it was too much of a risk to lose her vote, which of course it is. It’s too much of a risk almost ever, and should not be part of Survivor.
With Emily gone, Katurah is now the only player I want to win. There are many reasons for that, but she completely won my Survivor heart when, while practicing making fire with Jake, she said this:
“It’s exhausting. Why can’t we just vote somebody out at four? Why does there need to be all this, Jeff?”
Put that on a banner and fly the plane around base camp so Jeff Probst has to look at it every day.
Katurah got a moment of celebration at the start of the episode: “the unimaginable happened,” she said of Bruce’s exit. “I can hear silence. You hear the silence? It’s Bruce not lecturing me, not micromanaging everybody.”
She also gave us my favorite voting confessional line: “If this doesn’t work, I blame Austin and his stupid, emotional heart.”
Earlier, sitting on the beach, chatting with Jake, Katurah kept up the charade that she’s not an attorney, prompting Jake to say she reminded him of people he worked with.
Katurah told Jake and Julie—and us—the story of her family joining a cult, taking her out of school as a kid and making her work “three, four jobs.” Then, at 13, when the cult’s leader wanted her as a child bride, her family finally left.
“It isn’t a sad story; it’s a story of redemption, it’s a story of resilience,” she told us.
And then she capped that story with a simultaneously hilarious and sharp observation: “I just got, you know, shuffled back into the world again. And then I realized I was Black, and I was poor, and I was a woman, and I was gay. And that is when, at, like, 14, I said, I’m going to become a lawyer who advocates for Black people.”
While I have not been a fan of Survivor’s new era decision to just launch off into backstory, this was organic, springing from a conversation she was having with her fellow players.
And I’d so prefer that to having to watch Jake talk with his mouth full, or listen to more of the post-production team’s chewing sound effects, which are just too much now.
We had to suffer through that after Drew won immunity and a “do-it-yourself barbecue back at camp,” and had Jake and Austin join him for “all the fixins.”
On the one hand, they didn’t have to go to The Sanctuary™, Where Nothing Interesting Happens. On the other hand, they had to make their own reward, and we had to listen to it.
And I’d so much rather Katurah tell us about her life and work than see Dee and Austin talk about trying to find their love on Survivor (“maybe I’ll find my Amber on the island”; “my friends are always like, maybe you’ll find your husband out there”). Please don’t let this season end with a Tribal Council proposal.