Survivor 35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers recaps

The big three


After two episodes, the narrative structure of Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers appears to be taking shape, as the editorial focus has started to coalesce around a few key players. For all the time constraint-related deficiencies in the first episode, the second seemed to revel in the expanded expository space, giving almost everyone some time in the spotlight, unless they were Healers tribe women not named Jessica.


So in what direction(s) are the signposts for this season pointing? Already, after just two episodes, some of the contestants seem to be pulling ahead of the others in their apparent importance to the season. Three of them, in fact, seem to be early contenders for the fabled Winner's Edit™ laurels, with perhaps one other close to the podium. With that in mind, it feels like we're way overdue for some over-extrapolation based on limited sample sizes. Hooray!


Contender #1 - Chrissy



The True Dork Times writers' consensus top pick heading into the season, Chrissy emerged from a potentially problematic premiere not only intact, but now with a valuable (newly fake, still quasi-Super) immunity idol. This episode wasted no time in reassuring us that she intends to put it to good use at some point in the future. Even if that doesn't result in a full-season win, it should least produce entertaining TV, so that's a welcome development. Furthermore, the editors also saw fit to include an Everyone Wants to Align with Chrissy montage, similar to Jeremy's (albeit in San Juan del Sur, not Cambodia), as she interviewed potential power duo partners (not JP, unsure about Ashley, not unreliable Alan) before finally finding the right fit with Ben. As Catherine Lucas pointed out at the RHAP blogs, it's not unlike the early-season path Tina Wesson took a mere 33 seasons ago. And we all know how that turned out. (Probably. Feel free to look it up if you must.)


Contender #2 - Ryan



Ryan has also increasingly looked like a potential winner. While he and Devon are ostensibly a power couple (and Devon is no know-nothing recruit), almost all of the strategy talk has come from Ryan's perspective. It's Ryan who's consulting with Ali about the boot. It's Ryan who pulls Devon in to talk about the idol in the premiere. It's Ryan with whom Devon is most pleased to be talking strategy in camp. Ryan also had a confessional at the start of the IC, in which he hoped to learn more about the fate of the idol he sent to Chrissy. That's a great sign that both of them will eventually meet up, be it at a swap or a merge. From Simone's exit interviews, in-camp Ryan is also a consummate jokester, keeping his tribe entertained, which would give him a potent blend of strategic acumen masked by humor, similar to the combination that Tyson rode to victory in Blood vs. Water. Or that Rob Cesternino almost did in The Amazon. It's unclear whether Ryan or Ali is actually calling the shots in Hustlers camp, but Ryan has certainly made a case that he plans to be doing so.


Contender #3 - Ali



While Ryan has the down-the-line potential connection to Chrissy, which was mentioned in this episode, Ali has actual, current connections to almost everyone on the Hustlers tribe. Lauren wants to work with her, Ryan considers seriously her suggestion to keep the more controllable Simone over unpredictable Patrick. Patrick, obviously, has a tight connection with her. Only Devon was not shown directly interacting with her. She's still walking a bit of a tightrope over Patrick, though. While she didn't seem to directly go to bat for him this episode, she may be forced to shed him as a number should the Hustlers lose another immunity challenge. If she can pull that off without burning any bridges (or better yet, save him without expending social capital to do so), she might truly be the ultimate power broker in that tribe.


Contender #4 - Ben



Perhaps slightly less prominently, at least as a narrative focus in this episode, the other potential winner contender would be Ben. Ben continues to come across as the calm, centered voice of reason at the occasionally chaotic Heroes camp. He's the one shown reassuring Ashley that he believes she's not hiding idols with JP. He's the one describing his tribe as full of cracks, then plotting a course to rise above the fray. After his initial ally, Alan, made a first-episode spectacle of himself, Ben opts for the more stealthy, intelligent partnership with Chrissy. Ben doesn't have the additional (gift idol) connection Chrissy has with Ryan, but if that pair joins forces with the Ryan-Devon pair at the swap or merge, maybe we'll finally have the cross-tribal alliance Tocantins promised, and then who knows where that could lead?


The other big three: A triangular shootout on the Healers

Cole and Joe


Despite their challenge dominance (or perhaps because of it), the yellow tribe (Healers) has begun taking on a worrisome, Tandang-esque air, as cracks appear to be developing, especially between the three men. Each of them has some winner potential (due to outsized editorial attention), but as time passes, they're also all making targets of each other. And with no Tribal Council on the horizon as an outlet to defuse that tension, the eventual explosion could wreak havoc on the tribe's collective chances. While the men have been the focus, the three Healers women have largely been ignored, unless they interact with one of the guys (Jessica was shown only to talk about Cole). Of the three, there's something of an order to their chances:


Sub-contender #1 - Mike

Surprisingly, Mike has thus far been the challenge savior for the Healers. His steady hands on the table maze, and his swift thinking on the crossroads puzzle have now twice catapulted the Healers from a last-place position in the physical portion of an immunity challenge to a first-place finish. He seems to get along well enough with most of his tribemates in the limited camp scenes we've been shown, but his primary intra-tribal interaction thus far has been as Joe's #1 target. For his part, Mike also wants to target Joe, in retaliation for Joe's Episode 1 idol strong-arm tactics. That was reinforced this week, at least until Cole stepped into Joe's target sights.


Sub-contender #2 - Joe

Joe's had a lot of screen time and now has an idol, but he's also clearly taken on the mantle of the Healers' villain. With limited results at this point, it remains to be seen whether he'll be an overplaying, self-destructive villain like Russell Hantz, or a measured, effective villain, like Sarah Lacina or Tony Vlachos. Either way, he now has a hidden immunity idol with which to create some chaos. Unfortunately, he's also decided to target both Cole and Mike. You can only vote out one guy at a time, Joe! Although, sure, you could vote out one then idol the other, we suppose. At this point in Cagayan, things looked similarly unlikely for Tony. So Joe's not out of contention yet.


Sub-contender #3 - Cole

Cole has been a workhorse in challenges, a provider in camp, and has displayed an aptitude for the game, such as by destroying the idol clue after Joe found the idol. And yet, all those positives could be swiftly washed away by his being distracted by "super cute" Jessica. On a season in which Alan made such a fuss about JP and Ashley's imaginary power coupling, it's hard to imagine this showmance is going to turn out any better than Figtayls did (ship name Jessicole? Colica?). Even worse, Joe now wants to cover his own idol-finding tracks by removing the evidence Cole is shown blowing Joe's cover on the idol front in this week's preview, raising the possibility of a blindside.


The wild banshee in the room

Patrick and Ali


As time moves on, the show's refusal to acknowledge Ali and Patrick's pre-existing relationship has become more and more frustrating. This week, that pre-game acquaintance was at least part of the calculus in deciding Simone's fate, and it still hasn't been mentioned on the show. Simone had Lauren on board in booting Patrick. She almost had Ryan convinced. Ali at least considered the option, then decided against it. That the show declines to fully explain the reasons why (presumably because doing so would make the game seem unfair, which it clearly is) is confounding. With each passing week, this is starting to verge on negligence, or at least a cover-up. What did Survivor know, and when did they know it?


It's inconceivable that this didn't come up during casting. Ali and Patrick both graduated from Auburn in the same year. That's some of the most basic biographical info, which is near the top of the front page on the application. They had to at least have been a teensy bit curious about that. But assuming they somehow managed to overlook this obvious potential connection and didn't pursue the matter further, it came up again pre-game. Ali openly fretted about knowing Patrick during her pre-game interviews with Josh Wigler. So without a doubt, the show knew about this before the game started.


Thus the more important question is: Why didn't they do something about it? Why is it okay for two people on a six-person tribe to be one person away from a majority before the game even begins, especially on a season where those initial tribes are likely to last four full episodes? Sure, Patrick doesn't really fit on the other two tribes, but why not at least shuffle Ali onto a different tribe? Does Desi really need to be a Healer? Couldn't she be considered a Hustler, due to her pageant background (considering that's the standard excuse for casting someone with a Miss USA background)? Doen't Ali also act as something of a Healer by addressing her YouTuber boss's ever-changing needs? Obviously, they can't change the theme the day before filming begins, but even in the unlikely event that the Ali-Patrick connection was discovered on Day Zero, it seems like production's Hustle level here was fairly low. To then continue to pretend, months later, that this oversight doesn't even exist, even though it's starting to affect the outcome of the game? That's just maddening. Moreso than being stuck on a tribe with Patrick, even.


As a side note, we question the decision to keep Patrick based solely on his physical game. (Stephen Fishbach's argument for keeping Patrick simply because he stands out does make sense, though.) Ryan said "If we vote out Pat, we'll probably lose every single time." This is funny, because the Hustlers have almost done that already, having lost two out of three times, and only barely finishing second the third time. To wit, here's a run-down of Patrick's challenge prowess thus far:

  • Ep1 RC: Patrick was last to the boat (possibly next-to-last), Hustlers were completely unable to row in the correct direction.
  • Ep1 IC: Patrick neither hauled the rope to pull the table maze up, nor participated in the table maze.
  • Ep2 RC/IC: Dove for zero puzzle pieces, as Devon got them all himself; Patrick then did not work on the puzzle.


It's true that his bulk probably helped with some of the heavy lifting in the Ep1 IC, and that Simone certainly didn't do anything to suggest she might be a challenge asset. Even so, while Simone may not have solved the puzzle, at least she stepped up to try. Yes, Patrick is tall and has muscles, but so far, he hasn't done much with them.


The idol power couple - in defense of Cole

Joint idol find


Several pundits (Rob Cesternino on KIA, Rob and Stephen on the RHAP recap podcast) have objected to Cole helping Joe interpret the idol clue, then retrieve the idol. This sounds like results-oriented thinking. Consider the alternatives: If Cole hadn't helped Joe, Joe would suspect Cole already had the idol, and it would incumbent on Cole to find the clue on his own, and then the idol itself, all before being voted out. As it played out, however, Cole quickly found himself digging with Joe in the exact spot where the idol was hidden, and they each had a 50-50 shot at finding it. Joe just happened to find it first. Again, consider the alternative: If Cole had found it, he'd probably be the target of a Joe blindside (but would at least have the idol). Instead, Joe found it, and now Cole is... the potential target of a Joe blindside. There's really no optimal play here. Cole had his best shot at success with the path he chose, he just ended up on the wrong end of a 50% chance.


Furthermore, historically, it doesn't seem as though joint idol finds have worked out all that terribly, have they? Think about it, how have other "shared" or jointly discovered idols worked out? Here's a non-exhaustive* list. Times in which the idol resulted in one of the finders/people with knowledge of the idol getting blindsided by their collaborator(s) in bold:


  • Yau-Man and Earl, S14 - Earl assisted Yau-Man's discovery by distracting the tribe, and they stuck together (although Earl later voted out Yau-Man at F4, after he had played the idol).
  • James, Amanda, and Todd, S15 - Bringing James into the idol-finding loop worked for a while, at least getting James far enough past the merge to finally become expendable.
  • Taj and Stephen (and JT), S18 - The idol was never played, then JT and Stephen voted out Taj at F4, after the idol expired. Still, it worked to hold their alliance together until then.
  • JT and the Heroes, S20 - They gave it away. This... did not work out well. But nobody from the Heroes tried to blindside JT in the meantime, so at least the initial sharing worked as expected, right?
  • Jill and Marty, S21 - Marty ended up giving their idol away to Sash, which didn't work, but Marty and Jill remained allies through Jill's boot.
  • NaOnka and Brenda, S21 - NaOnka quickly grabbed the idol when she and Brenda found it, later voted out Brenda, then gave the idol away to Chase and quit. That's not very nice sharing, NaOnka.
  • Coach and Upolu, S23 - Coach's idol find served its purpose of holding the Upolu alliance together.
  • Sabrina and Colton, S24 - Sabrina had to hand the idol to someone; they never had the opportunity to turn on each other.
  • Kim and Chelsea, S24 - Kim used the idol to cement her alliance with Chelsea; they never turned on each other.
  • Malcolm and Denise, S25 - Never turned on each other, at least while the idol was active.
  • Pete and Abi, S25 - Never turned on each other, although Abi did in effect idol out Pete by saving herself.
  • Malcolm and Corinne, S26 - Never turned on each other.
  • Erik and Andrea, S26 - Andrea was memorably blindsided, including by Erik, although it was not his idea.
  • Natalie and Baylor, S29 - Natalie famously blindsided Baylor by playing her idol for Jaclyn at the last possible opportunity, idoling out co-finder Baylor.
  • Scot and Jason (and Tai), S32 - Scot and Jason never turned on each other, but Tai famously declined to Super-ize his own idol. Kind of a special case.
  • Will and Jay, S33 - Didn't quite turn on each other, although Will made a crucial miscalculation in telling Zeke about the idol, who then told everyone else. Still, Will and Jay reunited and worked together for Will's final three episodes.
  • Tai and new Mana, S34 - Rallied the tribe together, and Tai promptly played his idol for Sierra, saving her.
  • Tai and Aubry (and Brad & Troyzan), S34 - Tai played his pair of idols for himself and Aubry, as promised, but not for Troyzan (who already had one) or Brad (who didn't need one).

(*as many as we could be bothered to think through without coffee)


By our count, that's just four instances of joint idols leading to betrayal, out of 18 total chances, and one of those was a bit of a stretch (Erik in Caramoan). So the vast majority of the time, joint idol discovery/ knowledge has led to people working together, not targeting each other. As audience members, we're privy to Joe's being paranoid that Cole knows he has the idol, so we judge Cole's decision more harshly. But from Cole's perspective, there was no reason to think it was a terrible play.




But enough list-making and counting. Let's get to the vidcaps! (You'll be sorry, actually.)


Ep.2 - Power number: 2
Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers — Episode 2 vidcap gallery

Other HvHvH Episode 2 recaps and analysis


Exit interviews - Simone Nguyen

  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter (10/5/17): "How the Second One Out Faced an Ocean of Nightmares"
  • Dalton Ross at (10/5/17): "Simone says Ali and Patrick knew each other before the game"
  • Gordon Holmes at (10/5/17): "Simone - 'I Thought that Ryan Was the Biggest Threat'"
  • Mike Bloom at (10/5/17): "Simone Nguyen Gets Dumped By Her Tribe"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP (10/5/17): "Exit Interview #2: Second Boot from Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers"