Survivor 45 — Episode 7 Reaction

jfish
9 min readNov 10, 2023

Episode seven of Survivor 45 is in the books! It was split tribal council week. Did your favorite get screwed over? Let’s dive into what happened.

The Bruce-Sized Meteor Hanging Over Belo

The original Belo tribe is the definition of a tribe eating itself from the inside because they didn’t get to vote out someone early. After we got the post-tribal council recap and cope session from Kaleb about surviving with shot in the dark, the episode became the Bruce show. He is a true sphere of influence, so unbendable that he drives his own allies to insanity. Those who don’t trust him want him out ASAP, and those who actually do trust him are ready to let him go because of how insufferable he is. Today we learned Bruce is a football parent, and Sifu and Kaleb got unsolicited advice on how the game can make them a better tai-chi master… and a better Survivor player. Suffice to say, Kaleb was not having it. It was, in fact, the worst Survivor conversation of his life. And while all this drama happens, the Reba foursome plus Emily can just sit back and watch as their biggest rival alliance implodes on itself.

Bruce, as polarizing as he is, quite possibly became the most interesting character of the season. There’s something about Bruce’s cult of personality he’s built around himself that blurs the line of self-awareness in a way I love. He’s a hard-headed, “my way or the highway” dad and it has caused Kendra, Kaleb, and Katurah to want to vote him out. But the thing is, Bruce’s read on that situation is spot on. Bruce knows those three people want to vote him out and he’s built his contingency against it. He can say he is playing an honest game because he makes no bones about who he wants to work with, and he doesn’t act out the modern day lie-to-your-face niceties that a lot of castaways will simply perform to hide intentions. Bruce has put his strategic chips into the Kellie basket, constantly affirming his alliance with her. But Bruce doesn’t realize Kellie is about ready to vote him out too, because he doesn’t fully understand how his ornery personality has disrupted his original tribe’s alliance and stifles the people he wants on his side.

I wonder how long Bruce will last and I really don’t know how his Survivor story is going to end. Will he get blindsided in dramatic fashion, go out with a whimper, or somehow overcome all the resistance he has created for himself?

When You Miss Out on Your Dream to Be on the Jury

The big twist this week has become an every season twist in the new era: the split tribal council. The group of twelve was split in half at the challenge, and two tribal councils were held based on the random split with no cross-contamination of the pre-tribal scramble. Because this twist was enacted at twelve instead of ten, that meant one of Drew, Sifu, Bruce, Kendra, Kellie, and Emily weren’t going to be on the jury. A little harsh, but but sure I guess.

A lot of buzz was made in this group about blindsiding Bruce, most notably from Kendra who enacted the plan within the first thirty minutes of arriving on the old Lulu beach. Things were in place, but Kellie interjected and convinced Kendra to scrap the blindside. While Kellie’s patience is wearing very thin with Bruce’s rigid strategy, she sees the benefit of having someone around who wants to work with her. Add into the mix that Bruce has an idol and is already suspicious of Kendra’s intentions, it just makes more sense to play safe in such a crucial vote.

Sifu was still around and he’s a name that both Belo members and Reba members could agree to vote out without any surprises or drama. The reason people want to vote him out? He’s…. THE ULTIMATE WILDCARD! What that actually means, we aren’t privy to know exactly. From the context clues, it seems like Sifu was super aggressive looking for advantages and that put him on Reba’s bad side on day one. From there, Sifu wasn’t able to build any strategic connections in his entire time on the beach, which makes me think he was difficult to talk game with. This makes him a wildcard because no one actually knew what his plan was. Add to that his physical strength to paint him as a challenge threat and it equals out into a sad but predictable mid game exit for the tai-chi master.

Kaleb Didn’t Learn Enough in the Last 24 Hours

The other half of the tribe had a clean 3v3 split between the Reba contingent and the Belo contingent. Austin, Dee, and Julie all are part of the super tight Reba foursome, and they are pitted against Jake, Katurah, and Kaleb, who on the surface level aren’t super connected but behind the scenes all wanted to work with each other. The Reba group felt the vote was quite simple: everyone voted for Kaleb last week so everyone will vote for Kaleb again. They didn’t really involve themselves in the strategy much further, and they probably believed that Jake and Katurah were on board with the plan heading into tribal council. But as we all know, Kaleb is “God’s Gift to Survivor” and he has concocted a master plan to get out a member of Reba. All the non-Reba members have to do is unite together and vote Julie, forcing rocks. Because Austin is a paranoid player (I guess?), he will flip to their side on the revote and Dee’s right hand woman will be voted out. It’s genius! Because Kaleb has the best social game (but he’s not actually a big threat guys, trust me) he can count on his developed relationship with Katurah and Jake to support him. To give Kaleb credit, he does actually have good connections with these two castaways so getting them to commit to forcing rocks against Reba could happen with this group.

Jake is all in on this. He tells us with his thousand-yard stare and Boston drawl that he has been itching to make a big move and take control of the game. There is no better time to do that than when half the tribe is on another beach, and you don’t actually have the numbers to guarantee victory. Katurah, on the other hand, is a little wary. She has just learned that Bruce has an idol, and that she was the only person on Belo that didn’t know. She realizes that she wasn’t as in with her alliance as she thought, so when it came down to the voting at tribal council she chose not to risk rocks and cut bait with Kaleb, a person she genuinely did want to work with.

Last episode Kaleb got incredibly lucky with a twist, but this episode he got unlucky. I think Kaleb had a much better chance of survival if this vote was done as one big group and he could’ve just laid low and let Bruce dig his own grave like he was already doing. But the split tribal council reinvigorated Kaleb to try to do too much and take charge with Jake as a hype man. The damage he did last episode when he was scrambling bit him in the butt today. He had leaked to Reba that Bruce had an idol in a fit of desperation, so he felt obligated to tell Katurah the secret all of Belo had hidden from her to beat Austin to the punch. It was the revelation of that secret that pushed Katurah away from the alliance. All in all, Kaleb put up quite a fight and gets to be the first member of the jury (poor Sifu). His athleticism, good strategic mind, and ability to make a good first impression made him a fantastic pre-merge player. All that soured at the post-merge, where the skills that benefited him poisoned his reputation, and he became a very easy target. He’s the first castaway out that would get consideration for a returner season as the one competent player of the disastrous Lulu tribe, and if given a second chance I think he would adapt his game to be more subtle. He played like San Juan del Sur Jeremy, if Jeremy was a gamebot and emotionally detached.

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Best Challenge Performance: Dee

Who doesn’t love a callback to toes? Even if they didn’t really help too much in the challenge. The classic pole-holding challenge destroyed these malnourished castaways except for Dee, who seemed to have no trouble outlasting Kellie and the rest of the contenders. She had this koala hold on the pole that looked incredibly uncomfortable if you forced me to hang like that, but looked easy for Dee.

Worst (But Because of That, the Best) Use of a Metaphor: Dee

Unfortunately, Dee was asked to open her mouth and share what she was feeling in the moment of her win, and decided to compare holding onto the pole in the challenge to holding onto… the American Dream. Because, if you didn’t know, she’s Cuban and the daughter of immigrants and producers probably coached her to make sure and mention that at every possible opportunity. Dee pulled out the classic move equivalent to Gabler in Survivor 43 dedicating his performance to the states of Idaho and Alaska during a challenge. She could’ve just stopped at saying she was thinking of how her parents overcame a lot, but the young entrepreneur/influencer decided to inject a little capitalism into the equation. It was laugh out loud funny.

MVP of the Episode: Bruce

But wait, didn’t Bruce torpedo his game even more this week? I mean, his number one ally literally called him an anchor to her game. No, this is a narrative MVP. Bruce was a dominant storyline of the episode whenever he was on screen.

Goat of the Episode: Jake

Jake chose the worst possible time and the worst possible allies to try to make a big move with. He’s gonna pay the price for that.

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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

BOTTOM OF THE TOTEM POLE

10. Bruce

Ironically, for all the bad mouthing Kaleb gave Bruce’s archaic views on Survivor strategy, the fun uncle outlasted the plucky upstart. Don’t worry Kaleb, you remind Bruce of how he was at 30, and you’ll grow to be a wiser gentleman in due time.

IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE POSITION

9. Jake

IN A GOOD PLACE

8. Kendra

It’s very Libra of Kendra to only talk with people when she has strategic use for them. Brando had brought it up after the tribe swap that Kendra had never tried talking strategy with him. Bruce brought it up today. She seems to have basically put all her chips in this Belo women’s alliance, and right now Belo is not looking too hot. She’s clearly the weakest player of that trio.

7. Katurah, Noted Bruce-Hater

Katurah’s game got a lot more interesting. Does she flip to Reba now that she knows Belo was keeping her at arm’s length? Does she force the issue with Kellie and try to get her to commit to a more tight-knit alliance? Does she stay quiet about the whole thing and waits to see where the chips fall? Does she just revert back to solely hating Bruce?

6. Kellie

Who can Kellie count on? She has thousand yard stare Jake, wannabe football coach and annoyance Bruce, Bruce-Hater Katurah, and a Libra. The glue girl of her alliance might have to jump ship soon (or a Bruce would tell you, call an audible at the line of scrimmage) if she was to avoid being the victim of Austin’s sandwich revenge tour as the true leader of the misfit Belo alliance.

5. Julie

4. Drew

Let’s be real: given the edit, Julie just doesn’t matter that much. She is in a good spot because Reba is united, but she’s gotten the least focus of the group so I’m not expecting big things from her. Drew matters more, but I think his Survivor skill is a step below the top three in my power rankings.

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

3. Dee

Dee has a lot of control, but I can see Jake starting the “Dee’s a threat” campaign and you don’t want anyone to put a target like that on your back when there’s still a lot of days left.

2. Emily

A sad conclusion to the Lulu duo. Emily reassured Kaleb that they were still working together, but then she came clean with the camera and told us she was leading him on and she was really aligned with the Drew-Austin duo. Moving forward, Emily can hide in the shadows a bit as Reba and Belo castaways take shots at each other.

1. Austin

All hail the sandwich king!

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Will Reba and Belo finally square off next week, or will the strategy take a left turn? Who will Bruce mansplain next? Find out next week!

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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.