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Survivor 45 puts young love to the test

Survivor 45 puts young love to the test
Austin clings to ropes on his way to win the reward challenge, and probably lose Survivor 45 (Image from Survivor via CBS)

As this episode of Survivor 45 started, I realized I was just uninterested. Part of that was my eagerness to get to The Amazing Race 35’s finale, which has three strong final teams racing for $1 million.

Survivor 45? There is one strong player here, and no one else seems competitive at all.

Just look at the start of the episode, with the fallout from the previous night’s ridiculous Tribal Council. There was not really any fallout at all.

The players were basically like: wow. Not: Why were we so oblivious? Why didn’t we consider that Julie would play an idol? Why didn’t we split the votes?

Austin was clueless as to how Julie found out about the blindside plans, perhaps because all the blood flow to his brain is being redirected elsewhere.

Austin had his own idol played against him, and there was absolutely no discussion of that, nor of why he was unable to get it back.

Meanwhile, Julie’s like: they tried to blindside me! Drew’s like: My plan didn’t work! Um, hello? Look around! You’re on Survivor!

Drew talked about his “stomach and I swallow the rage of this blown-up plan,” but who is that rage directed at? Is there any self-reflection going on about how the plan was absurd?

Meanwhile, the look of absolute joy and glee on Dee’s face as she stifled a laugh while walking out of camp with Julie was well-earned. Dee is either walking away with this game and season, which probably means she’ll be voted off first during the finale and Gabler will win again.

In the last episode, Katurah talked about growing up in a cult and overcoming the obstacles that childhood put in her way in order to dedicate her life to helping others.

This episode, Austin talked about being chubby and having acne, and now he is hot and Dee likes him, tee hee. Congrats on making it through puberty, I guess?

Two people in a helicopter, wearing headsets, looking at eahc other and smiling while holding hands
Dee and Austin’s date in a chopper. Not pictured: third wheel Katurah (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Survivor 45 episode 12 did have one big surprise up its sleeve: A new challenge! And an actual reward!

The players got to compete in an individual reward challenge, for a reward that was not delivered at camp nor at The Sanctuary. Instead, it was for a helicopter ride to a sandbar for lunch.

Yes, lo and behold, it was a holiday miracle! The new challenge had a simple but fun design: After swimming or walking in to the beach from a floating platform, the players had to stand on a barrel, rolling it all the way to a slide puzzle using dangling ropes.

The best challenge in Survivor history? Nope. Good to see something new and fun? Yes!

Austin won, and chose Dee and Katurah to join him.

Naturally, we had to wait through a segment of The Jeff Probst Show about rejection before we actually got to the reward. “Nobody’s ever picked me,” Drew said. “I know the reasons for it, but there were reasons for it in middle school, too, and it sucks.”

The producers did take a handful of salt and grind it into Drew’s still-open wound. Back at camp, the three players there heard the sound of a helicopter.

“They’re doing a flyover? Just to say fuck you?” Drew said. In the chopper, which flew low right down the beach, Austin said, “Let’s kick ’em while they’re down!”

In the chopper, upon seeing the physical contact between Austin and Dee, Katurah realized: “Oh right, I’m a third wheel.”

“Do what y’all need to do,” she added. “I’m going to be over here thinking about how to win this million.”

Austin + Dee, his-hand-was-on-her-knee, did not escape the producers. “You’re acting like you’re a little bit smitten,” a producer told Dee during an interview.


Speaking of babies: Back at camp, Drew and Jake were supposed to watch Julie. So instead, Julie and Jake went looking for an idol. “I’m a fun babysitter, Julie,” Jake said, and told us: “I need to focus on me; I don’t care about Julie.”

Jake found it—well, first he found a clue, then he reminisced about performing on stage in his underwear while in college, and then stripped down to his underwear to search so it’d look like he was changing clothes. That’s one point for theatre kids, one point for underpants party.

A person wearing an elaborate necklace next to a person who's patting her on the back
Dee won immunity on Survivor 45 episode 12, getting her one step closer to winning it all (Image from Survivor via CBS)

The immunity challenge was another new challenge. “It’s a brand-new Survivor challenge,” Probst said during his non-stop babble. “You are the first to do it.”

Except it was not, and they were not. This is a challenge we’ve seen three times before. And of course, it was more balancing. Yippee.

It did change slightly: instead of balancing a breakable vase on a board, the Survivor 45 players had to balance a ball, holding the board steady with their foot. Still, same challenge.

Dee won immunity, putting her in the top five, with both of her number-ones still by her side. (I’m not a math guy, so don’t ask me how it’s possible to have two ones.)

Back at camp, Jake pitched a weird plan to get out Drew. He wanted Julie, Katurah, and Jake to vote for Drew, and just let Austin, Dee, and Drew vote for Julie. Jake was sure he could, after a tie vote, convince “get Dee or Austin to flip.”

Katurah was like: Let’s just get Dee. Jake was freaked out: “Dee can’t take credit for it,” he told Katurah. I suppose there’s some glimmer of strategy here in that Jake realizes how Dee has succeeded in getting everything to go her way.

It was also not lost on Jake that he’d had a similar discussion with Katurah before everyone blindsided both him and Kaleb. “Some people might think it’s ludicrous for me to rely on Katurah twice in a similar manner, but I believe our interests align,” Jake said, arguing that if this worked, “my winner potential goes up.”

“I don’t want her telling Dee,” Jake told us. Cut to Dee and Katurah jumping up and down and saying “Drew” at the same time. Yes, everyone tells Dee everything, and incredibly, the reverse is not true.

A person sits awkwardly on a small floating platform in the ocean
Drew, adrift at the start of the immunity challenge and on Survivor 45 (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Drew, meanwhile, got to spend the episode foreshadowing his own demise:

  • “I do think that if I was really in danger, Austin would play that amulet on me, and he would protect me.”
  • “Maybe that is tremendous complacency on my part.”
  • “He would protect me if push came to shove.”
  • “Maybe I’m counting my chickens before they hatch, at the same time, how could you not?”

Austin literally said that he and Drew are “the greatest duo in Survivor history,” and I could hear y’all laughing from your houses.

Drew compared them to “the greats” who “had each others’ backs,” including JT and Stephen, and Gervase and Tyson.

The single most-interesting thing about this episode and the vote strategy was that it was effectively the inverse of last week’s vote: the tribe wanted to blindside Julie, Dee’s ally, which was thwarted because Austin told Dee of the plan.

This time, the tribe wanted to blindside Drew, Austin’s ally, putting Dee in the same position: Should she tell Austin or not? If she did, he could use his idol to save Drew.

The editors didn’t share that with us, which made the moment of Austin playing his amulet (“I don’t think I need any souvenirs”) a little suspenseful. Well, until Probst had to be like, uh, Hello, are you using this to prevent a blindside or what?

Austin played it for himself, not repeating the events of the previous Tribal Council. And his amulet, now all-powerful and avenged for the loss of his sandwich, had no effect.

All votes, except Austin’s and Drew’s, went to Drew, who was voted out.

Austin playing his idol for himself—and the look on his face when the votes were read—made it clear that Dee told him nothing. And it proved that Dee is not playing emotionally, as she feared she would, but strategically.

That made it clear that Dee is without question this season’s best player. Everyone does what she wants, and she does what she wants. It is her game to lose.

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Happy discussing!

Cris Sullens

Saturday 16th of December 2023

Why can’t I find ponderosa Survivor? I have enjoyed seeing that as an extension of the survivor show. Please tell me how I can find that. Cris Sullens


Tuesday 19th of December 2023

@Andy Dehnart, yeap they spent the money on making the sanctuary even better cause tha'ts where the real good things happen


Tuesday 19th of December 2023

@Cris Sullens, ponderosa has no real effect anymore. the first juror is voted out on day 13? 15? just two weeks in.. what kind of reflecting can there truly be

Andy Dehnart

Saturday 16th of December 2023

CBS no longer produces Ponderosa content.


Saturday 16th of December 2023

I would love it if Jake won.


Friday 15th of December 2023

I'm hoping that on the next episode they all get back to the new camp and there's Caroline. Finally this season gets interesting... and a deserving winner emerges. Cut, Edit, roll credits.


Friday 15th of December 2023

@Kerri, I'll second that YES! YES YES!


Friday 15th of December 2023

@Kerri, YES!!


Friday 15th of December 2023

Watching Dee completely run this post-merge, I don't know how you can't root for her. She's won me over.


Thursday 14th of December 2023

I don't like Dee either. She seems fake to me.

That Drew is so full of himself. I'm glad he was voted off. He just reeks of male privilege.

My favorite part of the episode was when Jake shoved the idol in his crotch. That is going to be one FUNKY smelling idol! I think he should let everyone handle it before he uses it and then when all of his former tribe mates watch the show they'll all go in unison, "Ewww!"

Survivor should have a double eviction, like on that classy show Big Brother, and get out Dee and Austin back to back. THAT would be satisfying.


Friday 15th of December 2023

@Antonio, I would love it if your last sentence happened!