Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor 44 recaps
One with the lobster
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: May 12, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 11 recap/ analysis

One with the lobster

I watched this week’s episode while visiting the Mile High City and how appropriate that was with this probably being the highest episode of the season for me. Carolyn and Tika were once again stars but everything else about the episode shined as well. We finally had a rivalry with some narrative payoff that felt intentional, we got a rare “off” day in the game to watch the players interact more at camp, and Carolyn boosted her résumé with a Big Move™ to top it off at tribal council. This episode felt like one giant Carolyn Corner:

Carolyn corner

Made just for me!

This is all bullshit

After the Brandon blindside a few weeks ago resulting in just congratulatory handshakes and high-fives, I was glad to see someone PISSED about being left out of the vote. Yam Yam and Carson knew what they’d be doing in voting out Frannie without Carolyn knowing, and luckily for us all, they were correct.

I loved how Carolyn said she’d “never” do anything like this to Yam Yam, but he immediately reminded her she did this exact same thing to him with the Sarah vote, so she quickly changed her defense to a reluctantly admitted, “once.” That made their argument a little juvenile but in a funny way.

While Tika was trying not to tear itself apart, Danny, too, wanted to know who wrote his name down. I had totally forgotten it was Heidi because we didn’t even see what led to her doing that alone – I guess she was the only one to stick to the margarita moms plan? Danny didn’t have the same kind of mental breakdown, but it reminded me of when Lex went on a witch hunt in Africa, and we got this cute, little, innocent admission from T-Bird:

T-Bird: It was me

Almost everyone had their name written down by now – except Carson which Danny later pointed out – but I was happy to see some spiciness post-tribal for once in what’s felt like a long time. No more of that Camp Kumbaya crap!

Camp Kumbaya

Oh ... well, crap.

s I mentioned, Day 20 was a rare “off” day without a challenge or a vote (or a journey) so, go figure, it resulted in a good day. One small complaint here in an otherwise strong episode was, once again, the editors were telling us rather than showing us what was going on here at the beach.

It looked like the tribe was emotional over having just swapped some heartfelt stories and personal moments with each other, but rather than being brought into those stories, the audience was only told about them through a confessional from Jaime. Why was everyone crying? We just know it was an “emotional” moment – like, no shit. I wouldn’t take tears for lack of emotion, but it was all surface stuff with little depth. We did, at least, get a short story from Heidi about what had led her to where she was in life and all the success she’s had to work very hard for – this kind of special moment had me worried for Heidi as this sudden happy tune can sometimes be the start of a swan song.

Carolyn and Carson

Speaking of the “end,” Tika formally talked final three plans, and Carolyn jokingly told Carson, “you’re not in it,” which made me audibly guffaw – my favorite moment of the episode aside from her move at tribal council. Ironically, though she intended that to be a joke, I think that was also a subtle joke from the editors telling us Carson would, in fact, be left out of the final three. More of my thoughts on that later.

Tika was just one vote away from making up half the tribe which was an obvious red flag to the other four Va Va voters, so Tika had to continue sowing chaos in order to make sure this wasn’t the vote that Ratu and Soka finally woke the fuck up and voted for Tika.

Yam Yam ended up telling Danny that Heidi wrote his name down which was smart, in theory, but while that was true, it seemed a little “late” to me and Yam Yam’s deliberate intention of stirring the pot was ultimately what Danny took away more than who actually voted for him, so it kind of backfired and I think ended up making Yam Yam even more of a target than he already was with Danny and Heidi.

Dozing Yam Yam

“The betrayal!”

Ratu and Soka later talked about this and decided that the best move for their games, regardless of their past differences, needed to be to take out a Tika before they just control half the tribe – this should’ve happened sooner than final seven, but better late than never, right?

They all agreed that everyone loved Yam Yam, but for that same reason, he needed to be the name written down – an easy, obvious vote, so thus, none of us should’ve believed that’s what we’d end up seeing since that’s often not how the show works. This excited me because it meant that somehow this shit would get turned upside down and the most obvious way I saw that happening was something with Carolyn and her idol.

The only thing that excited me more than that was this:

Clawed Carolyn

Carolyn and her nineteen-inch nail ... courtesy of a dead lobster. They sacrificed themselves for her, as we all should be prepared to do one day.

This is the exact kind of stuff we miss with the game being crammed into 26 days – just silly, light-hearted interactions between the players sprinkled with some fun, goofy confessionals. We’ve had several fun deleted scenes this season that give me a sliver of hope that this is the content we’ll see in the officially-announced 90-minute episodes next season, but I’m still a little skeptical. The show will be longer, but the game won’t, so these “just for fun” days won’t return until we get the return of 39 days which I don’t ever see unless the show moves on without Jeff.

Carolyn needs to put that lobster piece on her middle finger and give Jeff the big one he deserves.

Blurred Carolyn

Like the one Jeff gave to whoever fucked up this immunity challenge last season:

Carson: I tested this in my bathtub

It’s good to know Carson’s in on this running gag – I still don’t think Jeff is.

The challenge team didn’t fuck up and misread the tide charts this time – that’s to say, Last Gasp worked out as intended. The players either have to hold their breath or they drown – there should be no “outlasting the tide” if this one is set up correctly.

I’m glad I wasn’t watching this episode solo because that’s when I can get called out for having wildly wrong predictions – this week enabled me to put my foot in my mouth by saying that given how scared Yam Yam seemed and that his face is a little wider in structure that the women’s, I was betting against his odds of winning more than anyone else’s. Looking at Last Gasp, you’d just assume someone with a smaller frame could shove themselves through the grate to last longer. So, what happened next?

Celebrating Yam Yam

Ryan buried his face in embarrassing shame.

This made sense narratively since Yam Yam was the only established target prior to the challenge, so for the show to give us the most suspense in the episode’s final act, that name had to come off the chopping block. Yam Yam then laid out the exact logic Ratu and Soka should’ve stuck to – if Tika survived the vote, they’d have the numbers to simply take everyone else out and go to the end. Initially, they had the right idea which was to finally put some votes on this kid:

Gasping Carson

“My perfect game ruined!”

What it wouldn’t take anyone with a brain to decide was that being the plan, but Carolyn had a true genius moment in going about confirming that was indeed the Ratu/Soka plan. She approached Danny and, knowing everyone saw her hot and bothered from the vote before, she used the perceived Tika tiff to try and get Danny to tell her the “real plan” vs. the “fake plan.” Danny isn’t a total idiot, so he didn’t divulge what she wanted him to, but I still thought Carolyn’s approach here was brilliant, as brilliant as she is, always, with her telling Danny she was open to voting for Carson if that was what he wanted to do. Carolyn’s labeled “emotional” as a criticism sometimes, but she knows exactly when and how to play up “being emotional” to both “investigate” and lower her threat level which otherwise would be off the charts.

Her reads are so dead-on even though they’re often discredited. Even Yam Yam didn’t seem worried since if Ratu and Soka flipped on them, the boot would be Carson which was better than Yam Yam or Carolyn leaving, but Carolyn wanted to fight for Carson, considering how crucial this vote was for Tika. She wasn’t going to just let Carson go while her archnemesis remained in the game yet again.

Danny and eyerolling Carolyn

With so much at stake, it was time for Carolyn to come clean to Carson about having the Tika idol and that she was prepared to play it for him if she thought votes were coming his way. I loved this exchange because it felt almost like a mom protecting her son which I imagine wasn’t totally unrelatable to how Carolyn felt about Carson. You come for her (Car)son and you’re in for a world of hurt.


It dawned on Carolyn, though, and then me, that if she played her idol for Carson and Tika put its votes on Danny, then if Danny played an idol out of self-defense, we could’ve ended up with either a split vote sending Carolyn home or a “no votes” situation in which case Carolyn would’ve also left on the re-vote, so Carolyn’s plan hinged on all of Danny, Heidi, Jaime, and Lauren voting for Carson. If even one didn’t, Carolyn herself would need to figure out a way to do a vote split of her own, potentially. It was also the last night to play Shot in the Dark, so trying to figure out where numbers would land was a bit of a wild shot itself.

The numbers were spinning in my head, so I can only imagine what they were doing in Carolyn’s with a million dollars on the line.

Mathing Carolyn

Something like that.

Thinking Carolyn

And that.

Spinning Carolyn

And finally, that.

Tribal Council was also a rare one this season – correction: this era – that didn’t bore me to death. Once again, Carolyn being someone who’s open to expressing her true feelings made another “annoyed” session with Jeff not only tolerable but enjoyable.

Her eye rolls every time Danny spoke had me rolling myself and few are bold enough to give Jeff sass (Jonathan and Courtney are the only ones who immediately come to mind) so I was also ecstatic to see Carolyn join that list when Jeff asked, “Are you mad at me now?” and she just responded, “Yes.”

Glaring Carolyn


This is what I meant when I said weeks ago that I didn’t want Carolyn to be at tribal council but I wanted to see her there. I’ll let you try and make your own sense of that sentence, but basically, I don’t like it when Carolyn is vulnerable at a vote but she needs to always attend tribal because she will always deliver. This night was a reminder of precisely why we need more wild cards to be cast instead of just a bunch of superfans who think they know how the game “should” be played. Carolyn knows the game as much if not better than other superfans but she’s willing to push the boundaries of it in a way that fits her specific playstyle for success. That’s the type of ingenuity that keeps the game fresh after 40+ seasons, not the stupid shit Jeff thinks he needs to add with twists and advantages.

Idol-playing Carolyn

Idols can stay though because they make for boss bitch moves like this one. I mean, were we not ALL Frannie when Carolyn cut Jeff off to play that thing?

Shocked Frannie

No one in the game, except Carson (and maybe Yam Yam if he was clued in too), knew where the Tika idol was and I’m sure every non-Tika member assumed it was definitely not with Carolyn, so I could not have been happier when she shocked the hell out of them all. However, after Jeff read only two Carson votes, my heart dropped and I feared that scary split vote alternative was going to send Carolyn home instead. Thankfully, it did not, and Danny still bit the dust, so I was able to celebrate this night as Carolyn’s night. She made a big, flashy move that modern juries are obsessed with and she knocked out her long-time rival.

Snuffed Danny

Funny – Danny’s “De Niro” face looks exactly like an “I just farted” face.

While the move was great, what should’ve made it perfect was all of Ratu and Soka voting for Carson. Carolyn’s idol ended up non-critical since Jaime and Lauren voted for Heidi, but literally why???? At no point did we see Jaime and Lauren discuss voting for Heidi. Lauren talked about not trusting Danny as much as she trusted Carson, so we are once more left to try and fill in the blanks. I suppose that sentiment ultimately made Lauren (and by default, Jaime) stick with Tika but the five collectively decided to split their votes on Soka which meant Lauren and Jaime voting for Heidi.

In the same night as one of the best moves of the season was one of the dumbest. You absolutely cannot let a locked-in alliance of three make up half the final six. I don’t know what happened here and I hope we get a solid explanation because I think many of us are lost. Carson’s the one with what seems like the closest relationship to Jaime and Lauren (I use the word “seems” a lot nowadays because we’re given so little to go off) so I’d probably lean toward crediting him for keeping his name off their parchments. Obviously I’m glad that there wasn’t a split vote on Carolyn, but kudos to Carolyn on another A+ read, realizing that Ratu wasn’t going to do what they probably should have done.

I hate that we didn’t get an explanation for their votes but I hate more how it kind of ruined the epicness of Carolyn’s move. Yeah, she protected her ally with an idol, and I still think it’ll look good on her résumé, but imagine if there were 4 votes on Carson and 3 on Danny and how much more of a “Frannie face” moment that would’ve been. We just can’t have that level of perfection in the new era, I guess.

All that aside, I surprisingly liked Danny a lot this season after he was near the bottom of my list before the premiere. He was funny, he was a fighter, and most of all, he was a farter. It kills me to no end that that will be Danny’s legacy in this franchise. Maybe they’ll rename this week’s immunity challenge to “Last Gas” in his honor.


Next time

Oh shit, everyone finally sees what I see in a Carolyn – a major threat to win! This preview makes me worry less for her, though, as we rarely see the actual boot being teased in the preview. Instead, my prediction is that Tika will end up just adopting Heidi next week and voting out Lauren and Jaime. Jaime’s had a bigger edit, so she’d make more sense as the first boot in the finale which means Lauren goes next week. At final four, I’m going to guess that Yam Yam wins final immunity and takes Carolyn to the final three, sending Carson and Heidi to face off in fire which feels foretold with the excessive amount of flames shown in the frames of Carson’s glasses as well as Heidi’s own tie to “fire” (it was her one moment from the first episode and we got another clip of her making it at home this week).

I said earlier how I think we’ve been given the hint that the final three won’t be all Tika, and this is how. I predict Heidi to beat Carson which would be cool since she’d be the first woman to win since fire-making became the “thing” at final four. Women have won it as a tiebreaker before against a man, but the last was Carolyn (the first) in Worlds Apart. Plus, Carson on the jury means just another vote for Carolyn, I hope, so that gives me more reason to want this outcome!

Players of the week


Carolyn – I mean ... she’s MY player EVERY week, but this one was objectively HER week. A 10/10 performance is a standard delivery from Carolyn, but this was at least a 13/10. Her reads were as impressive and spot-on as ever and even more, her boldness, her Jeff-sassing, her pretending to be the Little Mermaid and wanting to be “one with the lobster” – all of it. I could watch this “Carolyn Corner” episode on repeat. I tried capturing all of her amazing facial expressions too but Jeff Pitman would kill me if I asked him to upload so many screenshots into one recap for me, so I conveniently (and kindly) but just one together that captures all the Carolyn glory from the week:

Carolyn montage

Carson – What would Carolyn have done this week without the one she was doing it all for? I love their relationship and it’s the exact one I’d be looking to find if I were on the show (a mom with a margarita, alcoholic or non-). It’s impressive that it took Carson this long to have his name written down and even more impressive that he still didn’t receive enough votes to send him to the jury. I remain confident with my read that his ability to build such strong relationships with Ratu kept their votes off of him and put them on Heidi, for reasons TBD until next time (or not). This is very much Tika’s season and that’s in no small part thanks to Carson and his social skills. Tika is like a mighty Triforce!

Tika triforce

A big episode for Carolyn and Tika and a big game release for Zelda fans – what a winsome week!

Ryan KaiserRyan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser