Recap: Survivor 43 Ep. 9

It’s taken nine episodes but we finally got our first truly big move of the season.

This week featured one of my favorite newer trends in the game: the 5-on-5 double elimination episode. One Tribal led to biggest out of the season while the other laid groundwork for several key storylines to watch as the season winds down.

Diving into it, the episode begins with Owen irate about the result of the previous Tribal Council. To summarize, James told Owen and Sami that the vote was going toward Ryan just before they left for Tribal. Gabler told Owen he was misinformed and that the vote was Jeanine. Owen and Sami ended up flipping their votes to Jeanine but Owen was still upset with James for trying to leave him out of the vote. James and Owen’s budding rivalry feels like something the show has been lacking for a while: two guys gunning for each other who straight up just don’t like each other. More on that later.

At the challenge Jeff runs the tribe through the scenario. The ten of them are being split into two groups of five and there will be two Tribal Councils. Each group is competing for individual immunity but whichever group can last longer in the challenge, a standard ‘hold on to this for as long as you can’ challenge, will win reward and the advantage of going to Tribal second, seeing the result of the first one. Personally, I love that they’re keeping this in the game. The separate Tribal angle makes for a lot of interesting gameplay and is often a good table-setter for the home stretch of the season. Back to the challenge, the two groups were Cassidy, Cody, Gabler, Jesse, and Ryan vs. James, Karla, Noelle, Owen, and Sami. It was a huge moment for Karla, who managed to beat out Sami despite her finger injury. She also had made a comment after Gabler said something about how the big guys are competing and she responded by saying something to effect of “what about the big girls” and the smile on her face had winner’s montage written all over it. On the other side, Cody and Ryan duked it out but Cody, after coming in second the last two weeks, finally got redemption for his high school wrestling season and won immunity in addition to getting his group to go to Tribal second.

Back at camp, the winner’s group (Cassidy, Cody, Gabler, Jesse, and Ryan) had an interesting decision to make. Do they go with Ryan, the challenge threat with no social/strategic game, or Cassidy, Karla and James’ ally who seems to be a strong social player. I’ve joked throughout the season that every week we need to be reminded that Cassidy is in the game but now she’s firmly planted herself as a character this year. We got to see a background story on her where she dived into the recent death of her sister and how they grew up watching the show together and we wears her sister’s ashes in her necklace. At the moment I had two thoughts. Either she’s going home tonight or she’s gonna go on a run. Jesse and Cody were the swing votes and they concocted a plan to vote for Cassidy if James were to get voted out at the prior Tribal or Ryan if Owen were to get voted out. Jesse has been a strong player all season but he really is starting to separate himself as a tier one threat to win this season. Cody was able to rope in Gabler to their plan and rather than shaking on it they did a full-on forearm grab like they were brothers reuniting after a medieval battle.

With the other tribe we had a few more fireworks. Owen and Cody’s rivalry reached a boiling point where Owen grew frustrated that James flat out refused to work with him. James was bitter about Owen previously voting for him twice but Owen had grown tired with the mafioso way he felt James was treating him. This was amazing to watch as it’s a nice change of pace for all the people that love to bitch about how to players are too nice nowadays. What made the whole thing strange to me was the spin zone that James was testing Owen by giving him the wrong name and Owen was furious he was out of the vote even though he correctly voted for Jeanine. This led to a heated exchange at camp while Sami, Karla, and Noelle watched on. Noelle gave us some of the best reaction shots of the season as she was clearly uncomfortable with where she was supposed to stand for the cameras while the fight played out. And to think she just wanted some papaya.

After the dust settled it was obvious the choices were either Owen or James. Noelle convinced James that she was going to use her steal-a-vote advantage on Owen so that they could vote him out unanimously, which he ate up. HOWEVUH, Noelle was really scheming to use Owen’s stolen vote on James so that he wouldn’t feel he needed to play his Knowledge is Power advantage before realizing the votes were on him. Sami, also in on Noelle’s plan, pulled Karla aside and tried to point to all the reasons why she should make a move on James, including how Owen has no advantages and James is a bigger social/strategic threat. It was a gamble from Sami because they technically didn’t need Karla’s vote and she was James’ number one ally so it could have blown up the whole operation.

At the first Tribal we saw the loser’s group. James and Owen’s disagreement was still lingering over the tribe as most of their conversation revolved around that conflict. Before they went to vote, Noelle played her advantage on Owen just as she said she would. If Owen was trying to act surprised or disappointed he did a HORRIBLE job as it was obvious to everybody except James that he was fully expecting this and not about to be facing imminent doom. He had nothing to worry about however as James was voted out 4-1, including Karla’s vote. Clearly blindsided, James tried to play it cool but made a crack about how far everyone else is going to go in the game. I think they made this vote a little more complicated than it needed to be as Noelle, Owen, and Sami could have just voted him out without using her advantage though perhaps she did it so that James couldn’t use his Knowledge is Power advantage on her or that he wouldn’t use his Shot in the Dark, which really just needs to be removed at this point.

At the second Tribal the five were surprised to see James sitting on the jury. Cassidy received more screen time this Tribal than she has all season and Ryan kept going on about how he snuck 30 lbs of clams into his bag so if they vote him out he’s taking their food with him. Ransom feels like a bold choice to avoid getting voted out but go for it. The segment felt very drawn out as there really was no drama to discuss at camp though when it came time to read the votes it ended up being 4-1 Ryan vs. Cassidy. This was interesting as we were led to believe that if James went Cody, Jesse, and Gabler would be voting Cassidy in order to isolate Karla. However, they went with taking out Ryan instead. This felt like a vote that is hard to understand unless we were on the island. On paper, Ryan is a challenge threat so it makes sense to get him out while he’s vulnerable. On the other hand, which Jesse pointed out in the episode, Ryan is not a threat both strategically or socially. We don’t know much about Cassidy prior to this episode so the fact that people view her as a social threat felt like news to me. By voting out Ryan, Cody just lost his meat shield and even if he won challenges all the way to the end there was no way Ryan would win. So why take him out if Cassidy is such a social threat? What felt like a straight forward vote feels like it wasn’t framed properly by the edit.

Blindsiding James is without a doubt the biggest out of the season. It’s not the first blindside, but it’s the first time it feels like someone on the top was taken out. His exit leaves Karla with some explaining to do to her allies, makes Sami looks real good for flipping Karla, gives Noelle a signature move for her resume, and Owen took a step up the tribal latter. With Ryan gone that makes Cody the biggest remaining physical threat. Sami and Gabler are still around and Karla and Owen have both won immunities, but that meat shield for Cody is gone. The most interesting fallout from all this is what it means for Cassidy. In the preview for next week’s episode it looks like Cassidy is going to have some more key moments. Plus, and I really hope this isn’t the case, her edit is starting to look a lot like Erika from Season 41. That ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ edit that follows a quiet player, keeps them consistently in the edit but always in the background, and manages to finagle their way to the end to make a late move or two that can cement their resume against a goat (Xander) and someone who isn’t well liked by the jury (Deshawn). I don’t see the path yet for who she can beat other than Gabler, but there’s four more votes and a fire making challenge between now and then.

Overall, really really good episode. I love making the game smaller at this point in the season. There’s nowhere to hide and it feels like a fair way to change the game dynamic without completely leaving it up to chance. I don’t love all the moves but I love how it sets up the final eight.

Now let’s get to the Survivor Stock Market:

Stock Up: Karla, Jesse, Noelle, Cassidy

Karla got the best edit this week. Not only did she win the challenge with that signature look and one-liner but she’s also separated herself from a top dog without making herself look like she made the big move. Jesse on the other hand, is making lots of big moves. It started with the Dwight vote but him and Cody are running the show right now. James is great at making Cody feel like he’s the one in control while passively pushing his agenda. It shouldn’t be a surprise given how he works in politics but Jesse is the best player at getting the right person out without putting a target on his back. Plus he has two idols (one of which technically is Cody’s but I could see him holding onto it if the moment called for it) with four Tribals remaining. Noelle orchestrated the takeout of James tonight by making him feel safe and using her advantage for good. Noelle has made the final eight and the reality is if she can make it to the end, she could win. I’m up on Cassidy because by simply surviving tonight’s vote and the classic ‘we gotta squeeze enough content out this person to make her look like a threat before she gets voted out even though we’ve ignored her for more than half the season’ edit its looking like she’s going to go on a run at some point.

Stock Down: Cody

Simply by removing Ryan, Cody is now the biggest physical threat in the game. I think him and Jesse made the wrong move by voting out Cassidy but I feel the rest of the tribe is going to look at that pair and feel Jesse was calling the shots. It may not be a fair assessment as the edit has presented Jesse this way and Cody as this season’s goofball, but he’s shown plenty of times there’s more than meets the eye with him. But if Jesse and Cody are going to start getting targeted, Cody is probably the bigger physical and social threat than Jesse.

Who’s Next?: So I only picked one person last week because it’s impossible to predict who was going to be at which Tribal. However, I got my first W of the season by correctly predicting James, putting me at 1-2 since I started doing these recaps. Please hold your applause until the end of the blog. Ironically by Karla flipping on James it kind of muddies whose on the top and whose on the bottom. The big threats right now have got to be Karla, Jesse, and Cody. The only person who should feel safe at this point is probably Gabler though for as goofy an edit he received this season he’s voted correctly all but one time. At this point, it’s a toss up so without a great reason I’m just going to say Noelle. She made a big move but Sami may have tipped off that move to Karla who might be able to round up Cassidy, Cody, Jesse, and one more to throw some votes on her.

Winner Pick: I still like Sami here. I feel like his gameplay has said much more about him than his confessionals this season. It really feels like he interacts well with everyone, can recover when he needs to, and his name never comes up. Someone like Karla or Jesse is too easy a pick in a season like this because Jesse’s profile is getting a little too high and one of the more telling moments of the episode was when Karla won immunity EVERYBODY was genuinely excited for her. You don’t think people will look at that and realize that and think they can beat her in the finals? Sami feels like he’s been the most under-the-radar good player this season.

Once again, here’s something I put way too much stock in even though I know it’s silly.

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