Survivor 43 — The Merge Episode Reaction

jfish
7 min readNov 2, 2022

Another episode of Survivor 43 is in the books, and there’s things to talk about. Hope you had an excellent Halloween weekend! Let’s dive in.

Survivor 43’s Merge — Addition by Subtraction

I think everyone was wondering what Survivor production was going to do with the merge after the highly controversial hourglass twist was introduced and retired in seasons 41 and 42. What they decided to do was keep what they wanted to do in 41 and 42, but remove all the shenanigans. The merge was in concept the same as last season: there’s a challenge that will grant the winning team “entrance” into the merge, and the losing team will be vulnerable to the upcoming vote. No gimmicks beyond that. No exile island. No time travel. Just some basic Survivor action. I’m glad that the show realized they didn’t need to go so over the top with the twist here, as the whole “earning the merge” change is enough in itself. Let the players bring the entertainment.

A Grand Mess of Advantages as No Clear Lines Form

The one thing that I felt we didn’t get enough of this episode were the tribe dynamics as the merge was occurring. All the tribes got to meet each other on the Baka beach before heading over to the “earn the merge” challenge, and everyone was excited to mingle. Castaways start to make new connections and share little tidbits of info, preparing for the chaos that comes with the individual game. Owen also gives us a cute rundown of what’s going on with advantages: there are seven out there in circulation right now, a big number since no one has used anything so far this season. There was another funny interaction with Noelle where she was retelling the story of Cody’s palm frond bead hat with Elie, unknowingly telling Elie that Cody has an idol in his possession. This game state gives me hope for one huge advantage dump in a tense tribal council that can be a shining highlight for the season. In terms of what the numbers were looking like, it seems that people were content to stick to the tribal lines early: maybe because only half the group would actually be up for elimination at the next tribal council. Even after the episode ended it is pretty difficult to tell how the merged tribe is going to shake out.

Elie Orchestrates Her Own Exit

One player dove head first into the strategy of the newly merged tribe, and it directly led to her downfall. Elie had already shown she was out here to play an aggressive and confident game, and she is quick to start setting up the upcoming vote. She believes that Baka and Vesi will want to work together at the merge to vote out Coco, so after the challenge she sets up a split vote to get James out while keeping Cassidy as a backup if James has an idol. But Elie doesn’t stop there: she also goes to Coco and sets up a decoy plan to keep James and his tribe unaware, targeting Cody. In hindsight, it seems like an impossible task to cleanly dictate the votes of twelve Survivor superfans without anyone knowing any better. You would have to be the best Survivor player on Earth, and while Elie is certainly smart she was not capable of such a tough task. Firstly, Gabler broke ranks from Baka and openly gunned for Elie to go home since she had previously gone through his bags and neglected to tell him about Jeanine’s idol. Elie and Gabler get into it a bit about the details of Elie’s deception and don’t really come to a truce. And with that ball rolling, the plans Elie set up began to fall apart as everyone else began talking with each other. Coco learns Elie was lying to James about voting Cody. And Vesi learns that Elie was using Cody as a meat shield for Coco. Jeanine’s idol even gets exposed as Gabler’s strategy seemed to be telling everyone who had ears the dirt in Baka, angering his own allies Sami and Owen. Jeanine had the opportunity to save Elie with her idol but she chose not to be so generous, and Elie gets left out of the merge and the jury.

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The L I V I N Award: Gabler

What an episode for Gabler, who went after his target in the most Gabler way possible. In an era of Survivor where doing things behind people’s backs is the way to go, Gabler bucked the trend and made his intentions very clear: I don’t trust Elie, I don’t really like Elie, I’m going to vote Elie. It was such a blatant play that it took everyone aback: honest intentions in MY Survivor??? And how did Gabler explain his move? He just wants to vote her out, tribal lines be damned. No sneakiness, no nuance. And he got it done.

The Hai Giang’s Face Blemish Award (Most Unfortunate Physical Condition): James’s Voice

Jeanine had been sweeping the award so far this season with her messed up chin, but I had to give a shout out to James losing his voice from yelling at the challenge and sounding like a robot during all the strategizing. Sorry Carla’s finger, maybe next time.

Best Rivalry: Gabler vs Elie

Yes, more Gabler vs. Elie talk as their dislike boiled over when Elie learned Gabler threw her under the bus, spreading “lies” that she was snooping in his bag for advantages. We get the closest we will ever get to a real fight in modern day Survivor with the Gabler and Elie confrontation. I’m trying to remember if Elie actually did the snooping (or was it Jeanine), but that’s besides the point. Elie had been dismissing Gabler as a bad player all pre-merge, and Gabler felt that Elie had been dismissing him as a bad player which leads to them finally having it out. We really don’t see them go at it in tribal council beyond some shady comment from Elie which is a little disappointing, probably because Elie was trying to keep composure and hope her plan would work.

MVP of the Episode: Gabler

It wasn’t pretty, but Gabler called his shot and got his way. And without a clear frontrunner rising out of the merge, why not give it to the old guy?

Goat of the Episode: Elie

I feel I need to say it again: Elie’s plan entering the merge was to completely control a thirteen-person vote. She joins a growing list of castaways whose confidence in their gameplay did not match what was actually going on on the beach.

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PLAYER TIER LIST:

OUT OF THE GAME

18. Morriah (Participation Trophy Queen)

17. Justine

16. Nneka

15. Lindsay

14. Gio

13. Elie

BOTTOM OF THE TOTEM POLE

12. Ryan

His master plan to gain power in the merge? Propose a new 7-man hodge podge alliance with the earn the merge challenge victors during the feast, which was universally shot down. Ryan is looking like the worst strategist remaining on the beach.

11. Jeanine

From what we saw on screen, Jeanine did not do enough to split away from the Elie disaster. Because she didn’t have a vote we don’t really know if Jeanine was out on the strategy, but given her reaction to Elie going home my guess is she thought Elie was safe and their plan was good. She’s floating now with no other real strategic relationship to latch onto given she was so close with her best friend she met twelve days ago. Her saving grace is an idol, which can buy her a few more days.

NOT A GOOD SITUATION

10. Gabler

Once again, the cost of Gabler’s sloppy gameplay is telling me to stay away. He got his way but he was so public with it and his lips were so loose with knowledge that I don’t see people wanting to work with him

IN A PLACE RIGHT NOW

9. Owen

8. Sami

Baka is breaking apart and Owen and Sami are in a good position to slot into a new alliance, as they were in the best place to properly distance themselves from Elie (Gabler improperly distanced himself). Owen voted along with Elie while Sami voted Elie out. Regardless, now is not a good time to be a Baka.

7. Noelle

Three people cast their vote with Elie’s doomed split instead of voting her out. Noelle was one of them it seems, throwing a vote at Cassidy. Maybe she isn’t so close with the rest of Vesi? Best case scenario, she was burning a vote on a possible idol or shot in the dark. But I worry that is not the case. I just have a bad feeling about her.

6. Dwight

5. Cassidy

4. Jesse

3. Cody

2. James

1. Carla

This Vesi and Coco conglomerate seem like the best bet right now to ride in the power seats through the second-third of the game. Maybe it’s together, maybe it’s apart. But these two groups are the only real alliances left in the game for now. And with so many people lurking around, groups are stronger than the individual.

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

I’m not really sure anyone’s in the driver’s seat yet. There’s twelve people on this tribe: it’s way too hard from a couple minutes of non-Elie focused tape to figure out who’s in control. Add onto that the tribal lines seem to be on the menu still, and tribes sit at 4–4–4. We need next week’s episode to clear up what’s going on in Fiji.

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jfish

Reality TV connoisseur writing about the shows I like, especially Survivor. I also watch the Challenge, the Bachelor, Love is Blind, and more.