Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor 44 recaps
She's like a mix of Goofy and Cher
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: March 3, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 2 recap/ analysis

She's like a mix of Goofy and Cher

Imagine being a Survivor fan and not being in love with Carolyn. “Sorry for you,” as Probst would say. She gave me everything, but outside of her story, I’m not sure if this episode gave me much more than nothing. I can barely remember the other two tribes aside from their stories mostly being about less exciting idol searches. While idols etc. that took up almost half the episode, again, I’m at least glad the birdcage panned out exactly like I wanted it to on Tika. Carolyn to star in a movie as Jane Bond WHEN?


Et tu, Ratu?

Sucks to be Kane!

Brandon played it cool, but inside he was hot having to go back to camp knowing someone there tried to vote him out. I’d have about looked the same as Kane if I had an ex-NFL giant staring daggers at me. Matthew also confirmed to us that his Shot in the Dark was an intentional way to conceal where his allegiances lied, but he did say that he wanted Brandon to stay, so I expect them to still be working together. Nothing from Jaime on that, so whether it was a calculated move or not, the audience is left to assume she was just overly paranoid which probably doesn’t bode well for her chances.

Lauren also let the rest of her tribe know about her extra vote, so, effectively, everything was then out in the open at Ratu. Most of what we got from them this week was Kane conflict, so I expect that to be a driver of next week’s narrative too. With so little time at Ratu and Soka this week, I can only guess that the short stories we’re seeing are the ones most connected to their next votes.


Puppy love

Soka Day 4 opened with Matt talking about his recent ex-girlfriend and ex-dog, so the rest of Soka’s night was expectedly about the Matt and Frannie ... showmance? Matt certainly seems to hope that’s where it goes, but we didn’t get anything from Frannie other than how that relationship could affect her game – a great edit for Frannie, then, but a worrisome one for Matt who may just be thinking a little too much with his big, long rod ...

Frannie staring blankly

... of BAMBOO! You perverts.

This is really cute though, and I’d love for Fratt (Mannie?) to be a force in this game, but given this storyline is pretty much all we’ve seen of Soka, my gut says they’re here for a good time, not a long time – at least together. The rest of the tribe will see to that judging by some of those not-so-lovey eyes.

Claire grimacing

Instantly a Top 10 Survivor facial expression for me – the other 9 are from Carolyn this episode.

We saw Claire talking to Frannie about not getting too close to Matt, and Frannie acknowledged this too – already telling Matt they can’t spend so much time together – so my guess here is that Matt gets “dumped” again as soon as Soka goes to tribal council. He’ll sadly join Billy Garcia in the “could’ve been in a showmance” club.


Pandora's birdcage

I’ll preface this by saying that following Carolyn may have been the best idol hunt ever, but me being me, I still have some criticism over this being so much of the episode’s focus.

Outside of the Ratu and Soka scenes I just talked about above, the rest of the episode up until the immunity challenge was really all about these damn idols, and that took away from time that we could have spent seeing more of the cast build relationships with each other if it weren’t for a game within a game being played.

Therein lies an issue with modern Survivor. There exists so much other “stuff” in the game that the players don’t even have to play the way it was designed (perfectly) to be played. Instead of Kane clawing his way out of the bottom using social skills and strategy, what does he think instead? “I’ll just go look for the new idol at camp.” This puts so much less emphasis on the game with which we all fell in love, and granted, while these elements are certainly part of it, they take away from the show when their existence takes away from the people part of it. I want to see people work other people to stay alive and not just go find some trinket in the woods. I know this is old news, but if Survivor keeps recycling boring shit, then I’m allowed to keep recycling my bitching about it.

At Soka, we witnessed Danny digging up a key and unlocking the cage. Unlike Kane, we don’t even know if Danny was in danger, so why are we supposed to care? Where’s the emotional connection to this story? At least with Kane and Carolyn, there’s a reason to root for them since we know they’re kind of on the outs, but having next-to-nothing known about Soka, juxtaposed to Carolyn’s being one of the best idol finds, I found Danny’s to be completely forgettable. All we really know about Danny right now is that he has an idol. I have zero other investment his story, so thus I had zero interest in this idol search. I was just bored.

Bored Claire

Bored Carolyn


Naturally, Carolyn could be the one to save a Survivor idol hunt and make it something I actually care about, and for more than just the find itself, but the story and buildup to it. Sometimes Survivor sucks at storytelling, but with all the Carolyn content, it shows that there’s still some sign of life in the editing room.

Last week Carolyn was introduced to us as the oddball and after losing Bruce, she seemed to be the obvious odd woman out on Tika, so for that reason, and for her wild and wonderful personality, WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR HER! Seriously, everyone I have talked to loved her – even those that typically don’t like her “type” like I do. Scratch that – I don’t think she has a type. Carolyn’s 100% one of a kind.

Not-bored Carolyn

You know that after a total flop of a find at Ratu and dull Danny finding the Soka idol, the camera people had to have been screaming over Carolyn being the one to finally find the Tika idol. I screamed when she screamed, but it turned out she was only screaming about a snake in the tree that she climbed (I’d have screamed at that too). Luckily, she had reason to scream again when she dug up that birdcage key like it was her son’s tooth – a graphic story that I will now never forget, for better or for worse…probably for worse.

It could’ve been crafty editing to build tension and, in reality, the tribe was nowhere near discovering her, but I don’t care – I was also all-in on watching Carolyn, now with key-in hand, having to sneak her way to an unwatched cage to unlock its secrets. This was me with my heart pounding out of my chest hoping she wouldn’t get caught:

Worried Carolyn

Her play-by-play commentary was perfection. There’s not a single person who could’ve been watching Carolyn experience this and thought, “this is boring.” I can’t imagine a more perfect person to be the payoff of the birdcage idol twist. Unlike other idols before this one, the fun wasn’t even over once it was found. The next obstacle became what to do about the cage once Carolyn realized that she couldn’t just leave it empty, so she ran back and quickly tried to reset the bag so that her discovery went undetected. And guess what? IT DID.

Confused Tikas

Detective Carson set out to crack the case, and with his extensive FBI-level expertise on how to read body language he deduced – aha! – it was Helen who had opened the cage and tampered with the bag! Surely it couldn’t have been the one person who had been left alone for an indeterminate amount of time and would likely leave the bag in a much messier position than before they found it – no! It had to be Helen because her arms were crossed!

Sigh...what was going on in that boy’s head?

It's fucking empty

Rocket scientist my ass.

Part of me wonders if there was no way Carson was going to let himself believe that Carolyn outsmarted him, so he blamed who he perceived to be the second smartest person on the tribe instead, creating what he hoped would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but nah. He just got shafted by the shit-searcher.

Carolyn and her idol

Even more interesting about this idol is that its unique to each tribe. I had to pay close attention on my rewatch because it confused me at first, but for Carolyn, the coin was the real idol and the beads were fake, but for Danny, the coin was the fraud idol and his pretty, green medallion was the idol. For Brandon, the beads were the Ratu idol, so I assume he had an orange medallion that was the fraud. That’s pretty neat because if people compare notes, no one’s going to know which “idols” are real and which ones are a ruse.

I’d love for Carolyn to get votes at the merge, play her coin as an idol, watch the tribe snicker thinking the “crazy” lady was playing a fake but then immediately go stone-cold silent when Jeff says the idol’s real and all votes for Carolyn will not count. “Carolyn ... will not count” has a nice ring to it.

Wentworth ... does not count


Immunity: Snake

Remind me, why are supposed to care about challenges that are so repetitive that players can literally practice them at home before going on the show? About the only thing I cared about in this one was Yam Yam’s epic slide formation.

Sliding Yam Yam

Good thinking by Matthew to build the snake challenge in his backyard, but why does that continue surprising Jeff so much? When the show uses the same puzzles season after season, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think to start building some and practicing before flying out to Fiji. That’s one of the many things I miss most about older seasons – the uniqueness challenges. You wouldn’t have anyone bragging, “Yeah, I practiced ripping meat off a roasted pig and carrying it across my lawn with my teeth.”

Upolu gnawing pig

Well, you’d have Coach bragging about that, but he’s the only one.


Split personalities

In line with the new era school of thought, Yam Yam and Carson were off-limit names at Tika as they faced tribal council because the tribe needed to keep its strength. Honestly, Maddy was such a game changer in going after the biggest, strongest guy at the first vote. We need more of that energy.

As Carolyn walked off all by herself for ... reasons ... the other four Tikas came to the consensus that she was the easy, obvious boot. It was expected, but still devastating to me. She had her idol, so I knew not all hope was lost, but I still wanted someone to be Carolyn’s friend and go running to tell her, “You’re in danger, girl.”

Yam Yam: Carolyn!

Ahhh! All my prayers were answered this episode. Carolyn had an idol, she had Yam Yam, and somehow she had Carson? I thought there was no way Carson would flip on Helen and Sara, but I guess he must’ve been stuck on the scent of Helen and her alleged hidden immunity idol, or just being a Survivor fan, he knew he would get more airtime if he played the game with Carolyn and Yam Yam instead. I don’t know that he exactly fits in with their “crazy” as much as he described with his split personalities, but this week I won’t be as harsh on Carson because he made the move I wanted him to make. (Except low key I was hoping the tribe would still vote for Carolyn and she’d idol Carson out with one vote, but I’ll accept what happened as the second best thing ... or third, because I’d have wanted Sara to leave over Helen.)


Living in my own delusion

That was such stiff-looking consoling from Helen, but it’s the thought that counts.

I loved Carolyn being vulnerable there and Yam Yam saying that her being open with her emotional side was what made her cool. D’awwww.

In that sweet moment, however, I was still sweating. Was Tika voting for Carolyn, and if they were, would she know to play her idol? I wasn’t sure, so when she kept it in her pocket before Jeff read the votes, I stopped breathing. Then the second and third votes for Helen were read and my face went un-blue. Carolyn not only made it out of tribal but she made it out with her idol – a nervous night for me, but one that left me smiling and laughing after tribal council almost as much as Carolyn and Yam Yam!

Carolyn and Yam Yam

Snuffed Helen

Damn. Okay maybe not laughing, exactly, as Helen leaving left a small hole in my heart – just not as big as a Carolyn-sized one would’ve been. I’m like Sandra except saying, “anyone but Carolyn” but this one hurt too. Helen had a lot of potential as a player but perhaps should’ve just hid her puzzle prowess a little more as to not tip off Tika that she was such a smartie. She quickly set herself up in what I thought would be a tight alliance, but when one of your allies can’t vote and the other wants to jam with the Yam and the ham, what can you do? I hope Helen at least gave Carson a classic Helen death glare next time she saw him.

Helen Glover death stare


Kane, swording

The only thing new in the preview looked to be Kane thinking he’s ... a jedi? Otherwise, it looks like more of the Matt and Frannie “whatever,” and Danny doing parkour(?) in the woods. Either time has just been frozen at Soka or Danny lives in the woods. All I know is that Yam Yam’s death drop(?) better not be literal because we don’t need any more injuries after last week.

Yam Yam, horizontal

Players of the week


Carolyn – Another exciting episode of The Carolyn Show! She got me excited about finding an idol which is something exceptionally rare for the show. Credit to Carson for keeping her safe, but credit to Carolyn for just being her incredible, inspiring, charismatic, and charming self to win him over. I’m probably a big hypocrite for being so hyped about someone getting so much airtime on their own but I feel like I am LONG overdue for this because usually the people I love most get the least love (see Survivor 41). Carolyn was THE story this week and while I’m OPEN to others getting attention, I imagine it’s a hard job to be an editor this season and decide which clips of Carolyn to CUT from the hour. I literally could not. I would just like all 26 days (that’s 624 hours) of the Carolyn content, please.

Carson – I didn’t hate Carson this week, and that I consider a compliment. He tiptoed into troubled waters as he wavered on whether or not to vote for Carolyn, but in the end, he made the right move. For himself? Who knows, who cares. For me? Absolutely. Kudos to Carson though for being the safest person on his tribe and obviously knowing what he’s doing socially, but he still speaks a little too highly of himself and all the prep-work he did before coming out to Survivor, so I think his ego will one day get the best of him with a #SurvivorBlindside. But for as long as he sticks with Carolyn and Yam Yam, I’ll try my best to lay off the “dumb rocket scientist” jokes.

Yam Yam – I did not expect to like Yam Yam a lot, but he definitely was another star this week, especially when he literally ran to save Carolyn. Everything or everyone Carolyn touches turns to gold, I guess. He has Carolyn-esque qualities about him, but he can dial them back to blend in a little better than she can. I worry that he could be seen as the “alpha” of Tika come the merge, but boy would I love him and Carolyn to ride this all the way to the end. This would be me on that amusement ride:

Yam Yam impersonating Carolyn

Carolyn Corner

Have I left anything out? I don’t think so, as most of this episode was the Carolyn Corner. She continues just to kill it and be her beautiful, bold self, living her best life and blessing us with getting to live it with her. Jeff here would hate me if I asked him to upload all 100 screenshots of the 100 different faces Carolyn made this episode that made me howl, so I won’t. The funniest imagery, though, was definitely Yam Yam calling Carolyn a mix of Goofy and Cher. I don’t know if he meant Goofy like the Disney character or just a “goofy” Cher, but I prefer the former. It makes more sense with my fantasy.


If I could turn back time, though, I’d have stopped Carolyn from sharing that tooth fairy story. “Hyuck!” to that.

Carolyn hiding

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