Episode eleven of Survivor 45 is in the books! Things are starting to get serious! Let’s dive into what happened.
The Endgame Has Officially Started
With Bruce out of the game, it really feels like the endgame began in this episode. By far we got the most final three talk in this hour and a half than we had all season. The coach speak was flowing amongst the whole cast as buzzwords like “fourth quarter” and “resume” and “#BIGMOVEZ” were uttered constantly as castaways look towards the end of the season.
With people planning out their path to a million dollars, we got to look behind the curtain at the dynamics of the Reba Four more than ever, especially in the context of which among them has the best chance of winning. For the whole season, the four person alliance formed on day one on the Reba beach had been a homogenized strategic force. Sure, we got to see the personalities and quirks of the individual castaways, but from a strategic standpoint they worked as a unit and had not done a ton to separate themselves from each other. Now that Reba can control the game all the way to the end with a four to three majority, real consideration was made by the individual on how to navigate the last few votes so that they come out the sole Survivor.
Despite Reba having a pow-wow and celebrating their dominance to this point of the game, the general consensus was that someone in the group would have to get cut out of their spot. Drew was the most aggressive in making plans for a blindside, specifically against Julie or Dee. Drew went out of his way to strategize with Belo remnants Jake and Katurah (even though he just fought with Jake a day or two ago). Drew also put a lot more stock into the side alliance he and Austin had with Emily, going out of way in Reba conversations to downplay the threat level of an ally he saw as vital to his game. On the other end of the spectrum, Dee was the most enthusiastic about Reba strong to the end. With two unbreakable alliances with Julie and Austin, Dee’s final three looked to be locked up in her head. That dream final three certainly got challenged by the events of this episode, but regardless of the damage it could do to her own game, Dee stuck with the two people she trusts the most. Austin finds himself in the middle of the group and debating how to navigate the cutthroat strategy of a million dollar game and his own personal love story. It turns out that over the course of twenty days, the two young attractive people of the Reba tribe developed a bit of a love connection. Austin and Dee went as far as blasphemously comparing themselves to Boston Rob and Amber, which is the Survivor equivalent of telling someone that “I am in love with you”. (Sidenote: it’s interesting, but maybe overanalysis, that Survivor chose to lean into the comparison when this love story was hardly developed and the only parallel is that they could sit next to each other in the final tribal council. Does this mean we should expect these two in the end, or that they get married? I won’t believe it until Dee wears an “I Heart Austin” shirt during the reunion.)
Julie Jumps off the Top Rope
Then we get to Julie, the formerly forgotten but now incredibly important fourth member of the Reba alliance. From what we’ve seen of Julie, she’s spent the whole game being a loyal cog in the Reba machine, offering the audience tidbits of her strategic thinking throughout the season. She’s certainly come off as a smart andcompetent player, but the perception on the island appears to elevate Julie’s skill as a player a lot more than the edit does. Whether by merit or late-game groupthink, Julie has become the most dangerous player to sit next to in the final tribal council because she is the most likable castaway remaining, so a shoo-in to win jury votes. And as plans go around for who needs to be to go home next, the Belo outcasts plus the Drew-Austin-Emily trio agree that it is Julie’s time to be voted out.
The problem is there are two variables that will make this plan go horribly wrong. One is the re-emergence of a throwaway game move that turned out to be incredibly important. Two episodes ago, when the merged tribe learned that they would split into three teams for a high stakes immunity challenge, Austin gave Julie one of his idols just in case there was a split vote and she needed it against opposing numbers. Apparently after that vote, Julie pulled a “Captain Phillips” move and just claimed the idol as her own.
Austin didn’t want to rustle (ruffle) feathers and never demanded it back, I guess hoping that Julie would be a nice alliance member and return it out of courtesy. But alas, “our idol” became “my idol” and Julie assumed ownership. Therefore, any blindside of Julie needed to be done cleanly and quietly.
I was a bit surprised that Julie didn’t play nice a couple episodes ago and returned it, because claiming an idol like that seems like a risky social move to make when you are trying to appease someone who could be on the jury. Advantage swapping has been a common move in the past few seasons and how to play it has differed depending on the situation. JD let Shan hold his advantage as a trust-building move and Shan voted him out. Mike let Omar hold his idol to protect from Drea’s Knowledge is Power and Omar gave it back. Jeanine (poor girl) gave Dwight her idol to protect from Knowledge is Power and Dwight got voted out with it in his pocket. So there’s no one right way to play a situation like this. Austin probably should have just been blunt and asked for it back and let Julie look like the bad girl. I guess he didn’t expect Julie to be so cutthroat… but then again, neither did I since Julie has been a secondary/tertiary character this whole season.
The other dilemma revolves around Austin again. He’s okay with blindsiding Julie with the majority, but his island lover Dee is emotionally attached to Julie as a human being. Austin can’t surprise the most important person in his life he met twenty days ago with the blindside of her bestest friend, so he tells Dee that it is likely Julie going home in the upcoming vote. Now Dee is faced with a game-altering decision: let the flow of the game swallow Julie up, or reveal to Julie that she is being voted out so she plays the idol. Dee chooses the latter, prioritizing heart over head and jeopardizing everything the Reba worked for, though maybe she didn’t expect such an aggressive response from Julie. Upon hearing the news Julie immediately flips on the Reba guys and originally wants to use her idol and vote against Austin. It takes Dee getting on her knees and begging relentless to convince Julie to hold off on what would be a chaos causing move.
There’s no telling where the Reba four go from here. I think there’s a nonzero chance that the crew will just reconcile and take the easy road of voting out Jake and Katurah. But it’s more likely that Julie stokes the fires of conflict like she already has, especially with Drew who isn’t the forgiving type, and a decision on Mama J has to be made before the game can move forward. I’m sure Jake and Katurah will be more than happy to follow any plan that doesn’t involve them going home and with six people left it only takes one dissenting Reba castaway to force a tie.
Did Emily Fumble the Bag?
Julie plays her idol, Austin takes a risk by holding onto his idol (probably because he was reassured by Dee that Julie would not take him out) and the victim of all this chaos is the person that they probably should’ve voted out in the first place. Everyone voted for Julie except for Julie, who placed her single vote on Emily. Everyone’s favorite curmudgeon went through a journey of growth during her time in the game, going from the shoo-in first vote to secret mastermind, all while opening herself to a more positive outlook of life.
But we keep it real here on the blog. This was a major bag fumble by Emily. Leaving the Bruce vote Emily’s resume was the best among the remaining castaways, all while the focus was still trained on the Reba alliance instead her. But Emily took a risk by owning up to how she manipulated Bruce in camp after the big vote, earning her street cred as a big player but trading away the under the radar tag she was holding. The next day, the discussion around camp became how Emily is a threat to win now and should be voted out and that was caused directly by Emily’s move.
Then we get to the summit… ohhhh the summit. Survivor basically introduced a watered down version of the Do or Die twist to Survivor 45. One person among the seven was chosen in a rock draw to travel to the summit island. There Emily was faced with a challenge (specifically the savvy challenge from day one which no one solved) and a decision. Do the challenge and succeed and you earn immunity in the next vote. Do the challenge and fail and you lose your vote in the next vote. Certainly a big risk with a wonderful reward or dire consequences. Unfortunately, Emily got into her own head and made the wrong decision. Having already lost a vote due to a game like this, and convincing herself that her singular vote is more powerful than complete immunity, she passes on the game. This makes sense if Emily was the swing vote in the upcoming tribal council. Her vote would have had incredible power in deciding who went home next. That’s the problem: her vote didn’t have a lot of power. She is, in theory, in a three person alliance with Drew and Austin which is part of the Reba majority over two outcasts from the minority alliance. If things went chalk, it would probably be Katurah or Jake next as Reba holds the game in their hand and Emily, because of her alliance trio, would be protected in that case. Drew certainly wanted to protect her, given he was the one that pitched voting Julie and pretty much took Emily’s name off the table. And there’s that variable too: Emily’s name was being thrown out as this week’s vote. What’s one vote going to do if everyone writes her name down at tribal council! In retrospect it looks even worse given that the vote was unanimous against Julie, meaning that the vote Emily deemed too valuable to give up was in fact, useless.
In the New Era of Survivor, you have to be open to taking risks. This was a risk Emily had to take and she didn’t. Immunity is more valuable than one vote amongst many. It cost her dearly.
Most Tragic Backstory: Katurah
I gained a ton of respect for Katurah for achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer despite the massive failures of her parents. While I am usually critical of Survivor shoehorning sad backstories into these episodes, there probably isn’t a natural way to bring up being the victim of a cult in your childhood in a competition reality TV show.
Biggest Brain Fog Moment of the Episode: Austin’s Puzzle
It just didn’t click for my guy that the puzzle had two sides. But to be fair, this looked to be quite a difficult puzzle. Even Drew, who ended up winning the challenge, had a few failed attempts where the backside just looked like alphabet soup. Honestly, the sheer amount of pitfalls in this challenge made for a surprisingly engaging immunity challenge, after we’ve had so many strength based endurance tasks. From the chicken game with the rope to the risk of throwing your sandbag where you can’t get it to the aforementioned puzzle, I think it all came together for the best challenge of the season.
MVP of the Episode: Julie
That idol play looks mighty impressive to a jury who isn’t privy to the inner workings of how the vote went down. If Julie can somehow make it to the end, she is likely to win.
Goat of the Episode: True Love
We have Boston Rob and Amber at home, they said. Until Dee or Austin make a million dollar betrayal for their crush, quit entertaining the comparisons. Dee basically did the opposite by telling Julie she was being blindsided.
PLAYER TIER LIST:
OUT OF THE GAME
13. J Maya, Unaware Queen
12. Sifu, Wildcard
THE RICK DEVENS ZONE
The Rick Devens Zone: reserved for people who will likely win in the end, but have to overcome insurmountable odds to get there. Julie joins a boys club with the likes of winners such as Ben Dreibergen and Mike Holloway. Congrats for shattering the glass ceiling! But given that Julie has been a minor character all season, I’m not betting on her chances of actually pulling it off.
IN A GOOD PLACE
4. Katurah, Victor over Bruce
With Julie going rogue, fate smiles upon two castaways who need a lot of things to still break their way to win. If they can control the narrative in the last two votes, maybe make a big move, maybe win firemaking against a big threat, then sure, why not give them a million dollars? This jury has a lot of Belo tribemates sitting and stewing over letting Reba steamroll them… maybe some bitter feelings?
IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
The actions of these three castaways likely determine how the end of the game plays out. They have to succeed in either pushing Julie as the odds-on favorite and convincing Jake or Katurah to vote her out, or say sorry to Julie for just this vote and ensure the majority remains with Reba.
I finally feel like the game is truly up in the air after this vote. How will things be resolved next week?