Survivor 45 — Episode 12 Reaction

jfish
9 min readDec 18, 2023

Episode twelve of Survivor 45 is in the books! We are now set up for a thrilling finale! Let’s dive into what happened.

The Art of Babysitting

Leaving the last tribal council where Emily went home and Julie went rogue, there was a feeling on the surface that the remaining Reba players just had to make sure no one did anything crazy and they would be home free. Austin laid out the plan of attack: keep the focus on Julie as a threat to win and steer the vote in that direction with the remaining Belo outcasts. If his trio of Reba players can stifle any divergent strategy that pops up, then they can cruise to the finish line and the best man or woman will win. Austin and Drew lead the charge, keeping Katurah in check for idol searching early on, and keeping Drew out of a big reward so he can keep “babysit” Julie and Jake back at camp.

All good and fair, but we soon realize Austin and Drew aren’t actually in as much power as they believe they are. In fact, they are at the mercy of the tribemate who is really in power: Dee. Julie felt like because Dee had thrown her a bone and informed her to play Austin’s idol at the last tribal council, so she commits to Dee as a “secret” ally for the upcoming vote. While Dee maintains to Austin and Drew that Julie has to be voted out in the next tribal council, Dee is actually still tightly aligned with her friend she has been aligned with all season. Since Jake and Katurah will vote for anyone who isn’t them, this means Dee held all the cards at this final six vote, contrary to what Drew and Austin believed.

The hubris really got to Austin and Drew this episode. They were as blind as moles strategically on this vote. Even if they have a solid three (in their eyes) with Dee, I don’t get why they thought that Jake and Katurah would just submit to whatever they wanted when you have to be wary that if those two players want a chance at winning, they have to take out a big dog in the game.

Dee and Austin’s Connection Grows…

Survivor 45’s love story has been a bit of a late bloomer. In the second to last episode, we finally got the fleshed out story and dynamics as to why Dee and Austin have become this inseparable pair. A slow burn infatuation between two people who probably would never interact if they were at the same party in the real world has reached the point where they relegate Katurah to third wheel on the helicopter reward.

While them comparing their Survivor story to Boston Rob and Amber was heresy, I do enjoy the Dee and Austin story for what it is. The competitive banter especially during this episode’s immunity challenge was cute and showed off their dynamic well.

…But Dee Chooses the Winner Moment, Like She Has All Season

But for Dee, reality TV love is not worth a million dollars. The vote this episode was yet another simple one. Drew and Austin believed that the tribe would finish the job for last week and vote out Julie. But what was really going to happen was that Jake, Katurah, Julie, and Dee were going to blindside Drew at tribal council. Drew has been a key strategic cog for the dominant Reba alliance, and castaways painted Drew as a strong talker and a threat to win over the jury with his words if he makes it to the end. Thus we are faced with a fantastic bit of role reversal: Dee has to decide whether she will return the favor to Austin or leave him in the dark. Austin decided in the last vote that his relationship with Dee was too important to blindside with the Julie vote, so he informed her what was going to happen. Dee used that information to blow up the blindside plan and get Julie to play her idol. Now Dee, in the Austin position, has to decide whether to inform Austin that his partner in crime Drew is cooked at the risk of Austin using his amulet idol to protect him. It’s quite literally the same conundrum. But unlike nice guy Austin, Dee played to win and did not let Austin know that his game was about to be sunk. Austin played his amulet for himself unaware that Drew really needed it.

This was the big move Dee needed to give her a strong case to win. The Reba four had been dominant all game but as a result none of the individual players had done much to separate themselves as more deserving than their allies. With the first blindside of a core member of the power group, Dee has enshrined herself into the “signature move“ club. There is however a definite risk to taking out Drew in this vote. It seemed clear that Drew was set on riding out the Reba alliance to the end, so this final five vote becomes a little more complicated. Dee must believe that Julie won’t flip on her in the next vote and that she has a definite three-person voting block, or else she is really leaving herself vulnerable for a blindside.

Drew ended up becoming a bit of a polarizing personality among the Survivor fandom. He was a cocky player and his gamebotty attitude to strategy plus his love of metaphors in tribal council represents a lot of what people don’t like about new school Survivor players. I think people need to at least respect what Drew did for the season. He did put together a strong strategy based game that made him a threat to win, but he also leaned into being more confrontational throughout his time on the season. I’d prefer to watch someone who might annoy me at times but isn’t afraid to play an entertaining style of gameplay than someone who is likable but uninteresting.

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Oddest Post-Tribal Greeting: Julie’s Football Tackle

Julie’s odd aggressive greeting to Drew would get a fifteen yard penalty in the NFL. Possibly a $50,000 fine .

Biggest Sidequest: Jake’s Idol Search (in his Undies)

Amongst the lovebirds and the Reba betrayals, resident down-on-his-luck gamer Jake had something good actually happen to him. Jake found the clue and subsequently the hidden immunity idol, all while not getting caught on his search for advantages. It might be exactly what he needs to, dare I say…. No wait, I’ll hold off on my theory for later.

MVP of the Episode: Dee

I think it has been a long time since we’ve gotten a “Black Widow” type of character. The Survivor archetype made famous by old school legends like Jerri and Parvati represents strong social or strategic female players who use their, for lack of a better term, womanly charm to get ahead in the game. I don’t believe that Dee is faking or dishonest in her pursuit of Austin. But holy crap, she has taken advantage of my guy by foiling his last two strategies and neutering the momentum Austin had going into the endgame. And the crazy thing is, I think Austin is too nice and smitten to flip against her at this point, even with his Day 1 partner in crime being sent home by her own hand. Which is what makes her a perfect fit for the Black Widow moniker.

Goat of the Episode: Drew

Getting blindsided in a key vote is bad enough. Getting blindsided when the camera caught you essentially saying that you are running the show and that you think you are going to win is a whole lot worse.

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PLAYER TIER LIST:

QUITTER PURGATORY

18. Hannah

15. Sean

OUT OF THE GAME

17. Brandon

16. Sabiyah

14. Brando

13. J Maya, Unaware Queen

12. Sifu, Wildcard

11. Kaleb

10. Kellie

9. Kendra

8. Bruce

7. Emily

6. Drew

SO YOUR SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE?

5. Katurah, Victor over Bruce

Unfortunately it’s too little, too late. While she hasn’t been a bad player and has worked well within the game to make it this far in the post merge, she has essentially no resume and no power to stand out over anyone else as deserving of the million dollar prize..

LONG SHOT TO WIN

4. Jake

The longer I’ve stewed over how the season finale will go, the more I’ve started to convince myself that Jake is potentially the winner of Survivor 45. Firstly, he has to use his idol to major effect for a #BIGMOVE in the final five. If he can get the majority to vote for him and he negates those votes with the idol and blindsides Dee, then that’s the kind of juice that would get him in the door for a successful final tribal council. Secondly, this move would have to parlay into the rest of the tribe believing he has to be knocked out in firemaking. If he can win firemaking then that momentum can carry into the final tribal council. Since Survivor 44 foreshadowed Heidi and Carson’s inclusion in firemaking throughout the season, I noted when a few episodes ago the show included a scene with Jake and Katurah practicing fire at camp. Could that be a preview of the matchup we get in this finale? Even with these two things happening, Jake probably wouldn’t be favored over Reba alliance members, as their whole-game domination looks better than Jake being a fool for 23 days and turning it on in the end. So thirdly, Jake has to bank on taking advantage of a little anti-Reba bitterness on the jury. I would not be surprised if people like Kaleb and Kellie had spent 10 days in Ponderosa circle jerking eachother about how they would have dominated this fraud Reba alliance if stupid Bruce didn’t get in their way. Add Bruce who was Jake’s friend and Kendra who wanted to align with Jake after seeing him have a seizure, that gives a resurgent Jake four jury votes… he would only have to sway one other person to his side to win the million dollars… and in a scenario where Jake beats Katurah in firemaking, wouldn’t Katurah be willing to throw her lawyer buddy she’s been lying to about her profession all game long and surviving on the bottom of the totem pole with a bone?

Oh crap, I’m convincing myself even more now. I still think this is a long shot scenario because it takes a lot of things going right for Jake, but wouldn’t this be an unexpectedly fitting conclusion for a surprise winner’s edit? Jake had bemoaned being unable to make his mark on the game. What if his one big signature move is what wins him the million dollars?

REALISTIC CHANCE OF WINNING (IF THINGS GO THEIR WAY)

3. Austin

Austin stock is taking an all-time tumble after this vote because he looks like a fool and the person who made him look like a fool is the one person he can’t bring himself to vote out. If Austin wants to win Dee can’t be sitting in the end, and because he probably won’t vote her out it means he has to beat her in firemaking. I still think Austin can bank on likability and being the glue guy of the Reba alliance, but Dee has passed him on the pecking order and there are a lot less final three combinations that he would be the favorite to win in now.

2. Julie

The odds on favorite to win two episodes ago (only in the castaways’ opinion) doesn’t have quite the same juice as before, but can still control her fate to the end. She has to blindside Dee at five, but the question arises if Julie will actually do it or will she be too loyal, like with Austin. Julie can theoretically play swing vote here and if she does put 20 day friendships to the side for a game move, then she can try to get Jake out at final four and go into the tribal council as a favorite over Austin and Katurah.

FAVORITE TO WIN

1. Dee

This felt like the beginning of a coronation for Dee, and with two pretty strong allies she can control her way to the end with the best resume. She just can’t get sniped by a Jake idol play or taken out in fire. The good thing with Dee is that she is solid in challenges. If the final challenges are a balanced based endurance type task like this past episode’s then she is a lock to win that, making her path to the end smooth. If she can’t win the next two challenges then she will have to sweat it out.

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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.