Episode five of Survivor 45 is in the books! Nerd haters get their time to run a victory lap. Let’s dive into what happened.
Sifu: Survivor’s Oddest Interrogator
Someone voted for Sifu, and Sifu was going to get to the bottom of that! After Sean torpedoed the last tribal council by quitting and then telling Sifu that he did not vote for him, Sifu became very suspicious of his fellow Reba triemates for trying to blindside. He’s right: the Reba women wanted to send Sifu home and they rightfully dragged Sean through the coals retrospectively for selfishly sabotaging their plan. Sifu’s response to this was very Sifu: ask a lot of obvious leading questions, make a passive aggressive tai-chi metaphor/threat, and openly bluff a fake idol.
The layers of the Reba hierarchy shown through due to this complication. J. Maya proposed a plan where she takes the fall for Sifu’s womanhunt, because all three women lied to his face and told him that Sean had to have casted the vote. That way, they can avoid a situation where Sifu uses an idol. Within that, Dee and Julie debate the merits of keeping J or Sifu around. Dee leaned towards blindsiding J while she was vulnerable, while Julie wanted to play conservatively and ensure a Sifu exit. All this stays unresolved entering the merge, so it will be interesting to see if this isolation of Sifu becomes poisonous to Reba, or if they can work around it.
This whole debacle felt like a bunch of smoke and mirrors to me. I don’t believe Sifu to be this secret mastermind and all these games he is playing are neutered by being so utterly powerless and at the mercy of the Reba women. Also, I’d have to go back and see where people were saying that they thought Sifu had an idol. Wouldn’t Dee and Julie know that the Reba idol is owned by Austin, therefore meaning that Sifu could not have their tribe’s idol? Are they only saying this when J Maya is around, since J doesn’t know the idol was found?
Katurah vs Bruce Boils Over while Kaleb Works in the Shadows
The benign tension in Reba is dwarfed by the unfriendly rivalry of Bruce and Katurah. Katurah has found herself in an uncomfortable isolated position in the game, made unbearable by the fact that Bruce is not in that position, and isn’t as funny as he thinks he is, and bosses everyone around, and thinks he’s hot shit, and hates my ideas. We are maybe an episode away from Katurah composing and performing a Stacey Powell “Benjamin” rant.
The fact that this is not solved going into the merge casts a dark cloud over original Belo, and opens a door for Kaleb. Kaleb is definitely getting what I’m dubbing the Carson “God’s Gift to Survivor” Garrett edit. He’s the young student of the game who is just DOMINATING the social game and getting EVERYONE to eat out of the palm of his hand. He’s befriended everyone on the tribe and has infinite options entering the merge, essentially having the pick of the litter when it comes to alliances moving forward. The downside is that he is with Belo, and Belo is not a unified front like Reba is right now. If I had to take a guess at what happens next, I think Katurah is going to pull a Gabler and force the merged tribe to either vote Bruce out or vote her out, especially since Belo is undermanned against Reba right now. If Kaleb had Emily’s position, then he could truly dictate how the game plays out.
Emily Picks a Side
Speaking of Emily, it was time for her to be the swing vote and it was made a lot sweatier than expected. Last episode, Emily made an alliance with Drew and Austin and it looked like they would ride it out together to the merge. But Brando had some fight in him, and he planted seeds of distrust between Emily and Drew. What’s crazy is this could have all been avoided if Drew played his hand smarter. Brando was not really aligned with Kendra before the tribe swap and wanted to align with Drew at first because they both love Pokemon Go (2023 is the year we get Pokemon catch odds talk in Survivor). But Drew felt he could not trust Brando, and he responded to Brando’s alliance offer by essentially spitting in his face. I have no idea why Drew did this… it makes a lot more sense to go along and agree to Brando’s offer to keep him satisfied, and then decide later whether to actually honor the agreement when you are faced with an actual decision. Instead, Drew pushed Brando to stick next to Kendra (who just assumed Brando was with her the whole time) and Brando sowed seeds of distrust within Emily about Drew. Brando’s whispers worked and Emily is a lot more wary of Drew, but Austin swooped in from the summit to reaffirm Emily’s loyalty and save the day.
Brando didn’t get much to do in Survivor 45, but at least he got a moment on TV to flex what could’ve been. If there wasn’t a tribe swap and Belo won out to the merge, Brando could’ve had a fantastic spot post-merge in the swing position with Kellie. But Survivor is unpredictable: Brando got dealt a bad hand with the tribe swap and now goes home to be forgotten by the greater Survivor community.
The Persevering King Award: Jake
After all these quits, it was refreshing to hear Jake so determined to fight through physical adversity and commit to dying on the beach before quitting. Jake’s story actually kinda hit my heartstrings… it made me actually feel ok about getting the overproduced sappy flashback montage that has been fairly absent this season. He’s someone I didn’t think I’d like as much as I do.
Biggest Libra Moment: Halfheartedly Eating a Worm
I wonder what Kendra thinks about her unflatteringly weird character edit. The main entree was obviously Kendra trying and failing to eat a worm… hilariously after everyone talked about how Kendra should eat the worm and then had left camp and forgotten about the whole thing. But the “Weird Kendra” appetizers are simply odd… she just does a lot of spontaneous burping and cat/dog noises while sitting around camp. I don’t know how to feel about that.
Pre-Merge Vibe Check
Since the next on preview indicates a merge coming, I’ll run through the current status of the game with alliances and advantages.
Original Reba has a tight-knit alliance of four consisting of two duos: Drew and Austin, Julie and Dee. Drew has a “Safety without Power” advantage and Austin has an immunity idol that can be used at the merge unless he sacrifices his vote (which then becomes a normal immunity idol). Austin also has the “Advantage Amulet” along with J. Maya and Kellie. J. Maya is a part of the greater Reba alliance (specifically with the girls) but is not part of the majority group and is essentially a number for them right now. Sifu is on the outs in Reba and it is unknown if he will return to align with Reba again or flip to someone else.
Emily, the Lulu transplant, has voted with Austin and Drew and is theoretically with them at the merge. Emily had an alliance with Kaleb while on Lulu that may rekindle at the merge. Kaleb is still on Lulu and has found himself in a great social position with all the original Belo members he is on the beach with. Belo has a split between Bruce and Katurah that has not been solved yet. There was an initial girls alliance between Kendra, Katurah and Kellie but nothing had been formalized yet. Katurah is the one least connected in the Belo tribe, while Kellie is the most connected and holds the “Advantage Amulet”. Jake was also on original Belo; he had formed separate bonds with Bruce and Kendra and had opened an alliance with Kaleb.
MVP of the Episode: Austin
Comedically, I thought his desire for sandwiches and his disappointment in getting an advantage he thought was more of a disadvantage was quite funny. More seriously, it was his collected presence that kept Emily on his side and allowed him to keep his immunity idol active.
Goat of the Episode: Sifu
He’s fighting for his life in the game. Meanwhile, his tribe is metaphorically keeping all the small things out of reach from the toddler so he doesn’t eat an inedible object. He’s so dead in the water this whole episode, only to be possibly saved by Dee getting a case of blindside fever.
PLAYER TIER LIST:
OUT OF THE GAME
BOTTOM OF THE TOTEM POLE
IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE POSITION
11. Katurah, Noted Bruce-Hater
I feel at the merge this first vote just might have to resolve the Bruce-Katurah rivalry before the game can move forward. A merge gives Katurah the advantage because she can just flip to the Reba numbers. Bruce is going to have to put in some work to defend against the all-out attack I expect from his number one hater.
10. J Maya
She’s a strategist but she does not have an inkling that Reba is prepared to cut her out at any moment.
She’s not a strategist and I don’t know where she goes if Belo falls apart. The one thing going for her is that she is non-threatening, so others will get targeted before her.
IN A GOOD PLACE FOR NOW
Jake and Kellie are cursed by being on the original Belo tribe that no longer has numbers. But of the five, these two have the most options.
I don’t feel as comfortable about the long term success of the Reba foursome anymore. Drew has a weak social game that will inevitably make him an easy player to target. Dee is itching to blindside someone and that is not a good mentality to get stuck in. Julie is trying to be the glue in Reba, but she just hasn’t factored into the season enough so far to make me think she will be an important character in the future.
He’s the Survivor 45 wonderkid. I would be shocked if he didn’t find himself in the right alliance at the merge, whoever that is with.
IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
I love Austin’s game right now. He’s playing the dumb jock role to perfection to hide his secretly strategic gameplay. He actually can get people to fully trust him. And he has an idol and information to get a second idol through the amulets.
She feels like the main character of the season, and she’s in a fantastic position as a part of Reba alliance through Austin and Drew, but also available to flip through Kaleb.
Merge up next… What twists will we get and who comes out on top in the next episode?