Recap: Survivor 43 Ep. 10

I’ve said it before and I think a fair complaint about this season has been the lack of big moves to get out prominent players. Sure, there’s been blindsides but it felt like last week was really the first time we saw a top dog get knocked out when James was booted. This week delivered the second.

Kicking things off there were two Tribal fallouts to get the episode started. First, we got to see the tribe’s reaction to James’ blindside. Karla was concerned that it was the first time she wasn’t in control of the vote but luckily she was on the right side of the numbers thanks to Sami filling her in on the plan. Sami’s actions annoyed Noelle and Owen as it really represented the first time in a while that people have brought up Sami in an unfavorable light. It felt like a questionable move at the time and Noelle even expressed several of the same points that I made about how they still had the majority without Karla. However, the move worked out so it’s hard to criticize. The second return from Tribal was far less dramatic as nobody was really surprised to see Ryan go but Karla in particular was happy to see Cassidy back at camp.

We cut straight from Tribal fallout to a reward challenge which had the players do a standard, though still fresh, spin-around-get-dizzy-fall-on-a-balance-beam-and-throw-something challenge. Most of the cast had no problem with the early part of the challenge though Noelle particularly struggled with the balance beam portion of the challenge. The edit kept focusing on her struggles and it felt like we were primed for another episode like the one where she got stuck in the rope obstacle course where Jeff was forcing a cheap emotional moment by exploiting Noelle’s disability. But what was looking like one of the more eye-rolling moments of the season quickly turned into one of the season’s highlights as Noelle was somehow able to come from behind and hit the throwing target before the other seven people in the tribe. She immediately broke down crying and what started off as what felt like forced sympathy quickly evolved into legitimate excitement for someone.

Though rewards aren’t always as great as they appear. Noelle won a night at the Survivor Sanctuary, which included pizza, beer, a good night’s sleep, and letters from home. After winning Jeff told her she had to pick three people (or half the tribe including her) to go on the reward with her. She elected to take Sami, Jesse, and Owen. On the surface none of her picks felt out of place and nobody seemed to be too upset about not going on the reward. I believe that when I’m on the show one day when Jeff says the reward includes loved ones in anyway I’m just going to sit it out because there is no easier way to isolate yourself then picking who and who doesn’t get to receive love from home.

At the reward Owen and Jesse both had emotional confessionals talking about what their families mean to them but we heard almost nothing from Sami and Noelle in regards to their families. Jesse’s story truly is incredible. To me he feels a lot like the character the show wish Shan became back in Survivor 41. They have similar gang-related backgrounds and have managed to turn their life around and both quickly emerged as strategic threats but Jesse seems to have much more social awareness than her and its hard to argue that anyone else, sans maybe Noelle, would have a better personal story than him should he make it to the end. After the sob stories the four got to talking strategy where they came up with a plan to split votes between Cassidy and Karla with the latter being the target in a tiebreaker.

Back at camp with Cassidy, Cody, Gabler, and Karla we started to see rumblings about how nobody wanted to go against Noelle at the end. While the show hasn’t directly addressed it, in part because she’s evolved into a really good player, it’s obvious that nobody would want to sit next to her at the end because they can’t compete with her personal background story.

At the Immunity Challenge we got another classic balance-a-bunch-of-tiles-while-building-a-tower-up-to-a-fixed-point challenge. The show did a funny bit of editing focusing on everyone’s struggles while trying to build up their towers. Eventually it became a race between Cassidy, Karla, and Sami but Cassidy was able to pull it off and win immunity. I’m starting to fear that the reality of Cassidy becoming a late-bloomer winner like Erika in 41 is becoming more and more of a real possibility. Not only is she winning challenges now, but the rest of the tribe is starting to acknowledge how dangerous she is.

Back at camp the initial plan to split between Cassidy and Karla was dead. Several people, notably Jesse, used this as an opportunity to go after Noelle. Production even went to the extent of having Jesse explain all the ingredients that go into pulling off a blindside. Including have a cover story, blame the fall guy, and have a backup plan. This is nothing new to players but to have it spelt out like Martha Stewart showing you how to properly baste a Thanksgiving turkey was a notable piece of editing. Anywho, Jesse managed to convince Noelle that she was safe, keep the target on Karla, and draw attention to Sami. It wasn’t until he told Gabler that him and Cody were going with Noelle that we realized the first crack in his plan. Gabler went along with the plan after being convinced why Noelle was the right vote, but he immediately went to Karla and pointed out how dangerous Jesse and Cody were becoming. It didn’t ultimately have any impact on the episode though it felt like a side character appearing in an MCU movie knowing that their own spin-off series is coming soon.

At Tribal Jeff led off with fluffing up Noelle and her comeback victory at the reward challenge. Any seasoned viewer of the show knows this is the kiss of death for someone. Honestly I zoned out the rest of Jeff’s Q&A because at that point I knew it was Noelle. And wouldn’t you know, I was right. Noelle ended up going home 5-2-1 against Karla and Sami. She received votes from Cassidy, Cody, Gabler, Jesse, and Karla.

It’s not unheard of but its rare to see the show build up a character in such a positive light like Noelle in one episode only to see her go home. It’s probably the most emotional send off this season though as much as I didn’t want to see her go there’s no denying they made the right move. Nobody aside from maybe Jesse was going to beat Noelle at the end. And who realized that? Jesse.

Now I don’t know Noelle personally but I used to work at the school she attended when she suffered her accident so I was very familiar with her story and background when it was announced she would be in the cast. It’s probably the first time I’ve had a second degree of separation with a cast member before they were on the show and while it’s not like I knew her or anything I can honestly say I was rooting for her all season even if the realist in me knew there was no way she would make it to the end.

The good thing about all the boring/bad players getting picked off early this season is that the show has set itself up for a strong finish. At this point I’d say there’s one clear favorite from production (Jesse), a pair of likeable underdogs (Cassidy and Owen), two very smart yet not flashy players (Cody and Karla), the goober whose always on the right side of the vote (Gabler), and the valiant attempt to get young people interested in the show (Sami). At this point in the season we finally have a good idea of who everybody is and how they could realistically get to the end.

Now let’s get to the Survivor Stock Market

Stock Up: Jesse, Cassidy, Gabler

Let’s face it, Jesse is the best player this season. Do I think he’ll win? Probably not because it’d be too obvious but if he does he’ll go down as one of the all-time great strategists in the game. Not only are he and Cody running the game, he’s doing so with practically no heat coming his way. Plus he has two idols, though one kinda belongs to Cody but at this point what’s the point in giving it back? Cassidy is coming on strong late in the season which I hate only because out of the seven remaining castaways it feels like we know the least about her game and her personality. As you’ll see on the graphic at the bottom of the blog, we’ve seen the least of her this season though everyone seems to be convinced she’s a huge threat but (Segway alert) thanks to Gabler her threat level is going down as Jesse and Cody’s goes up. Speaking of Gabler, could he be this season’s Maryanne? The annoying/goofball castaway that gets dragged to the end only for us to realize that he was making all the right moves the entire time. I still don’t think this will happen because he was SO bad at the beginning and its hard to believe anyone taking him seriously but his edit as gotten less and less goofy as time as gone on.

Stock Down: Sami, Cody

I never really believed Sami was in any danger tonight, mostly because he didn’t have any confessionals and that goes against all edgic to think someone getting booted wouldn’t talk at all during the episode. Regardless, his name was brought up, he got a vote, and people seem to be growing onto to his flip floppiness. Cody is one half of the two-head monster that is Jody but Jesse is dominating the narrative of the season. While we know Cody is way smarter than he’s leading on to the rest of the cast, I think that that could be his downfall. Realistically I can’t see him winning because he feels like someone that will be viewed in Jesse’s shadow.

Who’s Next?: I am officially heating up. I had Noelle last week and James the week before so at this point I can’t be stopped. Earlier I mentioned how Gabler telling Karla that Jesse and Cody are getting too powerful felt like foreshadowing feels like its leading up to something next week. Here’s my bold prediction: lead by Karla, votes are going to be split 3-2-2 between Jesse, Cody, and Karla (from Cody and Jesse). Jesse’s going to use his idol, Cody’s going to use his idol, and…Karla’s going to use her idol. That’s right, I’m calling all three idols get used which will leave Cassidy, Gabler, Owen, and Sami will have to re-vote and Cassidy gets the boot.

Winner Pick: Ever since Dwight got booted I’ve been riding with Sami and tonight was a big crack in that logic. I think a similar player you can compare him to is Xander from Survivor 41. I think he’s young and legitimately believes he’s winning the game at the moment but I think the other players aren’t respecting his game right now. There’s a reason he’s made it this far without being targeted despite going to Tribal so often. Despite what the show wants you to think, the viewers aren’t the ones on that island and I just feel like he isn’t winning over the jury at this point. So I’m jumping ship and boarding the S.S. Karla.

And now, the most pointless graphic I put too much stock in:

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