Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor 44 recaps
Setting up the endgame
By Brent Sullivan | Published: May 14, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 11 Recap/ analysis

Setting up the endgame

Welcome to “Top Five Baby!” where after each episode of Survivor, Brent Sullivan will try to break apart and find the top five moments that made a lasting impact on the season or moments that could at least affect the next few episodes. Sometimes the moments are obvious and other times ... not so much, but after years of watching and analyzing this show to myself, I like to share the ones that I think stand out the most.

First of all, I hope everyone has a Happy Mother’s Day. It's always fun watching the jury react to events happening during tribal council. The jury members have been pretty docile this season compared to others, but Carolyn’s idol play definitely sparked a few reactions. Now granted the play ended up not being necessary, but it got the attention of the jury and gave us an entertaining moment, to say the least.

Now for some final words about Danny. Just as players like Yam Yam and Carolyn are classified as characters, I look at Danny the same way. He was one of the biggest characters this season ... only for different reasons. Early in the game, he was doing more around camp than anyone and he was absolutely playing the game at top speed the whole time he was out there. It didn’t win him many friends, but I think it could have worked if he was sitting in the end. That didn’t work out for him so let’s move on and see what else went down in this week’s “Top Five Baby!”

1. Carolyn's mad, then she isn't

Carolyn's mad, then she isn't

I have to be honest; I am a little disappointed. I honestly thought after Carson and Yam Yam left her out of the vote when they voted Frannie out of the game, that she would be mad. I mean like blazing mad. Enough to burn down the whole camp with those two still in it kind of mad. However, it went more like this ... when they got back from tribal council, she was noticeably upset at both. They had to pull her to the side, explain everything, and try to console her. After what I thought was going to be the start of a downward spiral against them, she wakes up in the morning and all is forgotten. I know that she is smart enough to know that it’s just a game and they did a smart game move for them, but we definitely haven’t seen her portrayed as that type of player this year.

So, just like that, the three original members of Tika are back together and ready to make a move against whomever they want. Now, the big question for these three is, are they all willing to make it to the end together? Do all three of them think they stand a chance of winning against the other two? I can’t wait to see how they come out of the gate next week now the numbers (in theory) are equal with three on each side.

At the very least, Danny has been another fun character to watch and one that we don’t get to see a whole lot of on Survivor.

2. Last Soka standing

Last Soka standing

With Danny’s departure, that officially leaves Heidi as the last standing member of the original Soka tribe. So, what does that mean for her? Well, unless something else gets introduced into the game next week, (which is possible by the way) Heidi now has the only idol or advantage in the game. Thankfully for her, no one else knows about it.

As I mentioned above, there is a good chance that it’s a three vs. three vote coming up if Heidi can team up with Lauren and Jaime to try and take down the Tika members. Personally, I think this will be a great time for her to use the idol. Yes, there is only a 33% chance of her picking the right person who’s getting the votes, but there is also the chance of one of them winning immunity which would make her decision a little easier. Or maybe she decides to not help either one of them and chooses to just use the idol to save herself next week to guarantee her spot in the final five!

3. Yam Yam wins

Yam Yam wins

No ... don’t read too much into this yet. I don’t mean I think Yam Yam wins the game; this is a reference to him winning the immunity challenge. That is huge for him. Yam Yam has already been seen as a very likable player throughout the entire game. Players who had just merged with him were already wanting to keep him around because they thought he was fun and wanted to be around him. Also, after the merge, he and his original Tika tribemates have been running most of the votes.

Now that it’s super late in the game, the others now see that. So, if you mix his gameplay with his likability, and now add an immunity win into the mix, in his own words, he makes for a pretty juicy target. The question here is will Carson and Carolyn still take him to the end with them or will they wise up and try to cut him before that?

4. Ratu's decision

Ratu's decision

Here is one that I am still struggling with. By now, we all know that even if Jaime and Lauren had swapped their vote and tried to vote out Carson, it wouldn’t have worked because of Carolyn’s idol play. However, I still can’t wrap my head around why they thought it was a better idea to keep all three Tika members around and put their votes on Danny.

I know since the merge happened, both Soka and Ratu have been coming at each other and systematically voting each other out (with Tika’s help), but at some point, you would think any of them could have stopped and looked at the big picture. Had they tried to take out Carson, all three of the original tribes would have had two players each remaining and that would have put Ratu right in the power position in the middle. Now they are stuck and will have to hope Heidi wants to try to make a move with them. Otherwise, they are out of luck, and they don’t have any idols or advantages left to play.

5. An idol is played

An idol is played

I mention this for two reasons. First, now that Carolyn has finally played her long-kept secret idol, that only leaves one more idol left in the game, the one that Heidi found two episodes back. That gives her a lot of power. The second reason I bring this up is that Carolyn, playing her idol to save Carson (who did receive two votes) was done in front of a bigger jury and it got a reaction out of them. Even though the move ultimately didn’t matter, I think it did a lot for Carolyn’s position in the end.

For most of the season, she hasn’t been seen as any sort of a threat and as almost just clueless. But with her and Carson and Yam Yam running the last few votes and her playing the idol, I really think it elevates her higher in the eyes of the jury and makes her a real possibility to win at the end. I’m curious to see how she ends the season and if it changes her standing at the end of the game.

So, there you have it for the eleventh episode. This one was short and sweet this week as we ramp up for the endgame. I can’t believe we are almost done with this season. Only two more episodes left, and we find out who wins. Is it a foregone conclusion one of the three from Tika is taking home the trophy? Will any of the other three be able to make a move against them? What do you think will happen next week? I want to hear from you, let me know if I missed any moments or if you think I was correct in my thinking, the interaction is part of what makes this so fun!

Please catch more of me here next week where I will try to bring you more fun top five!


Brent Sullivan - Top Five, Baby!Brent Sullivan is a long-time fanatic of Survivor and has been writing about it for years. When he is not writing, talking about, or applying to be on the show, he spends his time with family, doing nerdy IT stuff, and watching movies. Follow him on twitter: @BSully_13