Survivor 45 — Episode 9 Reaction

jfish
8 min readNov 28, 2023

Episode nine of Survivor 45 is in the books! I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. Let’s dive into what happened.

Extra Long Challenge with Extra Big Stakes (for a Third of the Challenge)

It seems that it has become a new era tradition to hold the “extra long challenge” episode at some point in the post-merge. As someone who comes to Survivor for strategy and drama, I often turn my brain off when challenges come on so to make one episode put the immunity challenge in the spotlight like this consistently underwhelms me. While Survivor tried to up the stakes by infusing a risky twist into the proceedings, I don’t think it did much to spice up the challenge. There’s probably a larger conversation to be had about challenges in modern Survivor that I won’t really dive into. But I’ll say that if Survivor wants to have challenges take a central role in an episode like this, they have to make them more engaging and entertaining. Repeated use of the same obstacles and just mashing them together in various ways to form longer immunities just isn’t exciting enough to carry the action.

This episode’s challenge didn’t carry the action. After the first part of the challenge determined who fell victim to the twist it became too easy to tune out until we found out who won. I can only watch Kendra’s arms wiggle for so long and hear Jeff yell for the twentieth time to dig deep before my zoomer brain gets bored and scrolls through Instagram.

Did Tonight’s “Lost Vote Journey” Stifle the Strategy?

The big new twist in this week’s episode involved the use of another mini challenge in a lost-vote scenario (similar to the summit journey from episode 2). The tribe had to split into three groups before the immunity challenge. Whichever group lost the first part of the challenge lost their vote on the spot. Pretty harsh! But, each victim would get a chance to redeem themselves. The trio of Austin, Katurah, and Emily went on a summit journey, were split up, and ended up at a brainteaser. If a castaway could solve the mathematical logic puzzle in three minutes, then their vote would be reinstated.

Tribal council tonight could have anywhere from six to nine people voting. It’s an interesting way to inject a little chaos into what could possibly be a straightforward vote. It also now makes it yet another episode without a true traditional vote. Since the tribes came together on one beach when thirteen people remained, we’ve gotten the merge vote where half the tribe was safe, the split tribal council where castaways voted in two different groups, the tribal council where someone lost a vote at the auction, and this episode’s tribal council where three people could have lost a vote. It’s something that we should come to expect in the new era. Packing twists into the game is the new norm. But this episode felt like one where the format could have been just left alone. We were on the heels of a major blindside where five people became the majority and four people were left scrambling. The dust had not settled and there could have been real room for someone to flip the numbers and get out a big threat.

Emily was the poster child for this. She looked to be ready to make a big play by splitting up the Reba Four and sending Dee home, and she could have recruited the people to do it if she wanted to. It was on her mind so much that she felt comfortable enough to bring it up to Drew and Austin, who have been aligned with Dee since the start of the game. But because she was on the team in the challenge that didn’t dig up a piece of rope, she lost her vote and couldn’t regain it. Therefore, Emily had to sit and watch this vote instead of being a major player in the result.

There’s also a scenario where the Belo outcasts rally together and convince someone to flip on their allies. But the twist format also left people super split up from the challenge all the way to right before it was time to vote. It’s hard to make a plan when you can’t pull certain people aside until the last second. Also factor in that (if I heard correctly) that we are not even 24 hours removed from the last vote, making it even harder to get a new plan off the ground. The speed of the game doesn’t allow for much time for deeper strategic plans and blindsides to form and make an impact.

It continues to validate my theory that Survivor doesn’t trust its own players to make risky moves, so they inject twists into the game to keep people on their feet. I don’t think that is a good philosophy to run the game of Survivor with.

The Reba Four Reigned Supreme

In theory, three people had lost their votes due to the twist, so there could have been an opportunity for the Belo castaways to tie the vote against Reba and force a rock draw. Obviously that did not happen, as Kendra was unanimously voted out. There seems to be two reasons for this. One is that Austin was lying about losing his vote, because he actually completed the logic puzzle and got his power back. This put all the power in the Reba Four alliance’s hands. The episode then broke down into a power struggle into the alliance about who would get their way. Some people like Julie and Emily wanted to vote out Jake as a way to appease the minority Belo outcasts and keep them compliant within the Reba dominance while eliminating a willing strategist. Others like Dee, Drew, and Austin believed that Kendra was logically the next to go as she was a #wildcard and continuing to strategize against the Reba four, namely Dee. In the end, Dee’s voice rang the loudest and she got her way.

The other reason the vote became so unanimous is that the Belo tribe chose to eat themselves rather than band together as a voting block. Kellie really was the glue girl of the tribe because she was the link that connected Kendra/Katurah and Bruce/Jake. With Kellie gone, Belo castaways went their own ways in search of self-preservation. Bruce, Jake, and Katurah all buddied up to Reba in varying degrees in hopes that they could stay under the radar and be available to help when Reba decides to turn on each other. Kendra was the only one who didn’t do that, and it made it easy for everyone to write her name. The passionate Libra, while willing to play the game, just wasn’t a charismatic enough strategist to hold any power in the game. Once her ally Kellie (who in retrospect wore the pants of that alliance) was gone, Kendra could do nothing to change her fate.

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Lowest Effort Moment of the Episode: The Chicken Reward

The producers of this episode really just went to the closest Fijian grocery store, bought a cooked rotisserie chicken, and plopped it on the Sanctuary table with no plates, silverware, or decor. I know they’ve scaled down rewards as a way to #savemoney, but this felt like a low. We will likely never get the elaborate rewards from the old seasons, but they could do more than this.

Biggest Scene-Stealer: Kellie

Somehow Kellie ended up featuring more in an episode after being voted out than some episodes from when she was still in the game. If you needed a sign to tell you how important the blindside of Kellie was for the game, just peek at how often she was the central talking point of the tribal council. We also got plenty of reaction shots from her when people said things at tribal council, and especially when Bruce talked, because she found that incredibly annoying.

MVP of the Episode: Austin

He’s not just a dumb jock! He beat that logic puzzle and regained his vote, then smartly lied about the outcome to everyone but his alliance.

Goat of the Episode: Kendra

She went out sad. Kendra led a one woman crusade against Dee which got her voted out. And she got egg on her face at tribal council when Jeff brought up the idea that people could lie about not being able to vote, which came as a surprise to Kendra who is playing a game that involves a lot of lying.

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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

BOTTOM OF THE TOTEM POLE

8. Bruce

Bruce worked through an existential crisis this episode. He wondered if everyone in his life, including his family, thinks he is an overbearing personality because of Kellie’s not so secret betrayal of him. He also probably realized that the jury may be too bitter to award him a million dollars at the very end.

7. Jake

The Boston boy says he’s going to lay low and lick some Reba boots to get further in the game, but I have a feeling he might not be capable of that.

IN A GOOD PLACE

6. Katurah, Noted Bruce-Hater

I don’t know where Katurah’s game goes from here. She’s the most set among the Belo players to go far, but it’s likely because no one sees her as a threat. If she tries to make a big move now, will it just get her voted out?

5. Dee

Among the Reba four, Dee has played the most aggressive at this point in the game, and I think it’s going to make it too easy for everyone to agree to vote her out. This episode really painted Dee’s strategic aggression in a negative light and is setting her up as the big domino to fall for whoever is going to win this game.

4. Julie

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

3. Drew

He’s been doing all the right things, but as a winner I’m not as convinced he will win the hearts of the jury compared to his other two allies.

2. Emily

1. Austin

For a second last week I was nervous that Austin wasn’t going to win the season… it just seemed that Emily’s story was too undeniable to be beaten in the end. But this week Austin continued to prove himself smarter than people give him credit for, while Emily bemoaned her inability to make anything strategic go her way. If there’s a storyline that could weave its way all the way to the very end, it’s this one. Maybe Emily can never get anything off the ground and when compared to Austin, who has held together his alliance with his two idols, she can’t win over him? Food for thought.

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Will we get our next huge blindside soon? 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.