As much as I despised last week’s episode I think this season has actually been really good post-merge. My complaints early on were that no big threats or characters were being targeted but the benefit to that is that they’re all here at the final six which makes the stakes at every vote that much higher. This right here was the biggest boot of the season and was done so by a strategic masterclass.
For once we actually don’t start off in the aftermath of the previous vote. The episode begins with Owen explaining how Sami’s boot was bitter sweet because Karla ended up voting with the majority when the plan was originally to have her vote Cassidy to drive a divide between the two allies. While the vote didn’t go as plan, the result was there as Cassidy and Karla seemed to be at odds after Owen filled Cassidy in on the botched plan. Karla was able to conjure up some tears for Cassidy and explain that she’s been looking out for her the whole game and how much she values her in the game. She thought her act worked but Cassidy wasn’t buying it.
That took us to the reward challenge and all I have to say to production is bravo. For the first time in a long time it looks like production actually came up with some new ideas for challenges this season and while they often fall within a familiar concept, the execution has been different than what we saw the past few seasons, especially since 41 and 42 essentially mirrored one another. This looked like the most fun challenge of the season. The tribe was split into two teams (Cody, Karla, and Owen vs. Cassidy, Gaber, and Jesse) where one member was strapped inside a giant ball while the others were blindfolded and had to push them around and obstacle course ultimately ending with a maze they had to execute blindfolded. Cody, Karla and Owen got off to a big lead early which allowed them to take their time with the final maze. However they may have had too much time as Cassidy led a late push on the maze which drove the challenge down to the final seconds before Cody, Karla, and Owen pulled it out. As a reward, they got to go to the Survivor sanctuary to enjoy pastries and caffeine.
At the sanctuary Karla tried to convince Cody and Owen that she doesn’t have an idol even though there is a rumor that she does. We all know she really does but for the short term she was able to convince Cody and Owen. After she stepped away for a moment Cody and Owen agreed that they were down to have the guys go after Karla or Cassidy if they didn’t win immunity. Back at camp, Cassidy outed Karla’s idol to Jesse and Gabler. With that, Jesse became the only person to know the location of all three idols in the game with him possessing Cody’s as a favor from a few votes back and Jeanine’s that he swiped from Dwight before he was voted out, though as far as we know he hasn’t told anyone about that one so most players assume there’s only two in play. Gabler also had a confessional about how he’s hiding in plain sight and that his camo must have been working. I was starting to believe in Gabler, and there’s still a path for him to win, but at this point he has to do something. A few weeks back he was the one who pointed out to others that Cody and Jesse were running the game and while it seemed like foreshadowing at the time we haven’t seen him act on that despite having multiple chances. After the winning trio returned to camp, Jesse told Cody about Karla’s idol and solidified that plan to go after Cassidy or Karla depending on the results of the immunity challenge.
At the challenge, the tribe had to make its way through a standard rope course, collect puzzle pieces, and climb a wall, and solve the puzzle. Jesse surprisingly had a decent lead at one point, winning a challenge has been the only milestone he hasn’t accomplished at this point, but it quickly dissolved as by the time all six players were on the puzzle it was anyone’s game. Cassidy, Cody, and Karla separated themselves from the pack and Karla looked like she had the lead until she got a hand cramp and couldn’t pick up the pieces. I believe that what she was going through was real but boy did she milk that. Karla’s fragility in challenges has been low key one of the more entertaining subplots of the season. Her “injury” opened the door for Cassidy to gain the lead and she even thought she solved the puzzle but Jeff told her she was wrong. This allowed Cody to close the gap, allowing for another photo finish between him and Cassidy but it was Cassidy who got it on her second try. I’m not sure what the record is for most times finishing second in an immunity challenge is in a single season but I’m sure Cody is near the top of the list.
I will also say this about Cassidy. She’s gone from someone I was joking was barely on the show to being a legit front runner. Part of me has rooted against her because she felt like an Erika edit from 41 where she did nothing for the first two thirds of the game and started making moves at final six and the jury felt that was enough. As a viewer it was annoying because Erika wasn’t even in the edit until the producers were forced to give her more screen time and Cassidy felt very much like that was the path she was going down. Since James’ elimination a few weeks back I believe Cassidy has certainly emerged as a legit threat though I still don’t feel like we know much about her as a character.
Back at camp it was the classic scramble after “anyone but this person could have won immunity but this person but they won immunity” storyline. Karla and Cody were both open about the fact that they were playing their idols. This meant that Cassidy, Cody, and Karla were all presumably safe leaving Gabler, Jesse, and Owen vulnerable. Cody came out of the gates hot with a pair of great plans:
- Cody told Karla that they should tell everyone they’re going to play their idols and team up with Jesse and Cassidy to get either Owen or Gabler out. He also added that when push came to shove they hold onto their idols so that they’re safe at five. Jesse and Karla were both on board with this.
- Cody then told Owen about his plan with Karla but that he wasn’t going to play his idol. This would spook Karla at Tribal, force her to paly it, then Cody, Jesse, Owen, and Cassidy would all vote Gabler, washing out Karla’s idol and leaving her vulnerable at five.
- Jesse realized what Cody was doing and saw that him taking out Karla, the perceived biggest threat in the game, would be a huge resume move for him. At this point he acknowledged for the first time that it was possible he and Cody would be perceived as a pair and since Cody’s the louder personality he would do a better job of making it look like he was in the driver’s seat the whole time.
Cody and Karla started getting comfortable, he even went far as to make a walking staff for Karla to take to Tribal. Before they left Jesse tried to conjure up one last plan where he told Owen that he had Cody’s idol so he didn’t have to give it back to him. This created a plan to flip on Cody with the remaining four players but the plan was swindled when Karla asked Cody to see his idol. Jesse had to give it back to him to make things look less suspicious though he told Cassidy he would get it back before Tribal.
Tribal started off with Jesse openly acknowledging that Cody and Karla are using their idols which led Cody to have a very cocky performance. The jury kept making remarks to each other about how neither of them will even play their advantages. Another funny moment occurred when Karla limped up the stairs to vote and Noelle joked that she looked like her. I actually laughed out loud at this. Before the votes were read Cody and Karla were staying silent as planned but Jesse broke the tension when he walked up and played what was presumably Cody’s idol for Owen. Cody and the jury were shocked by this and it triggered Karla to play her own idol. Karla and Owen each received a vote that didn’t count, leaving Cody with the remaining four votes. After he was voted out Jesse apologized and told him he’ll explain later before Cody, clearly annoyed but understanding, gave him a big handshake a la Ricky Bobby telling Cal Naughton Jr. that it’s Magic Man and El Diablo.
I’m going to miss Cody. He really feels like the best combination of personality, watchability, and game competence out of anyone on the show this season. Sure, Jesse’s a master strategist and Karla has a fun personality but Cody felt like the only person who has been able to do everything well all season long. This surprised me as the whole surfer guy from Iowa schtick seemed like it wouldn’t bode well for him early but he eventually emerged into a true social, physical, and strategic threat. If he were on the show 15 years ago he would have been one of the all-time characters. That being said…WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR IMMUNITY IDOL BACK TO JESSE!?!?!? An all-time bad move that I’m sure we’ll see some clarity on next week in an early flashback with Jesse but that’s just unbelievable that he played so well for as long as he did just to literally give his idol back to Jesse. Nobody should know how dangerous Jesse is better than Cody.
Next week I’m going to post an extensive preview for the finale but until then let’s check in on the Survivor Stock Market:
Stock Up: Jesse, Cassidy
I mean, what else can be said about Jesse’s gameplay at this point? Now that he’s separated himself from Cody with another idol in his pocket he’s at least guaranteed himself a spot in the final four. If we wins immunity at four, something he still hasn’t done, he’ll win. If he wins at making fire, he’ll win. He’s the only player who controls his own fate at this point and the only way he won’t win is if he loses in fire. I’m also up on Cassidy because she’s been a late bloomer and if there’s a scenario where Karla goes at five and Jesse loses fire and she’s in the finals with Gabler and Owen it’s hard not to see her winning.
Stock Down: Karla, Gabler
Again, Gabler just has to do something. He thinks he’s doing the right thing by staying in the middle, and he’s voted correctly all but once this season, but that’s not enough. Out of everyone remaining he only has a stronger resume than Owen but can you see this guy convincing a jury that he played better than any of the other four players? Now with Karla she has the biggest uphill battle to get to the end. She’s the obvious target at five, Jesse has his idol, and she’s falling apart so relying on her to win immunity, which at final five is usually one of the most grueling of the season, is a long shot. If she gets through that she then has to win immunity again or else she goes to fire where she’ll have to beat Jesse to have any shot at making to the end. If she gets to end without Jesse she’ll win, but she needs a lot of things to fall her way.
Who’s Next?: At five we know Jesse is safe because of his idol. We know there’s going to be some type of an advantage for the challenge waiting for them at camp during the next episode. With Cody gone I’d say that all the real obvious physical threats are gone but Owen, Karla, and Cassidy have all won immunity twice but Karla is starting to break down physically and I just can’t see her getting past five without immunity. I’m going Karla and changing my winner pick in the process.
Winner Pick: Jesse. We know he’s safe at five and more than anything in the world I want to see Gabler win immunity at four just to see Jesse convince him to take him without going to fire. It would be the funniest moment in the history of Survivor. Again, he’s a master strategist but he needs to either win immunity or win at fire to make it to the end but if he can do that he’ll win unanimously.
Now the most useless graphic of the week:
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