Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor 44 recaps
Top five, baby!
By Brent Sullivan | Published: May 22, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 12 Recap/ analysis

Top five, baby!

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.

Final Five Baby! We made it. We only have a few more days left until we find out who is crowned the winner of the 44th season of Survivor. I feel like this season started out sort of slowly and then really picked up after the merge. Lots and lots of letting the players play the game with very little “interference” from production. I like that there are still idol(s) left (maybe), but it’s not swaying a portion of the episode. Overall, it was the cast that made this season amazing. The Survivor casting has been at the top of its game in this new era, and I have really enjoyed seeing these characters grow and learn through their respective seasons.

However, I’m a little disappointed in the ending to Jaime’s story arc. She was set up with this really great spirit and fun-loving attitude, plus the whole thing with her fake idol, and both of those stories just sort of ended without much fanfare. I love watching people like Jaime play this game. She was having so much fun and honestly enjoyed the whole experience ... that’s sort of how I see myself playing if I ever get the chance. I would probably be just as naïve about idols and alliances as well. Ok, so five players left, which makes it easy for this week’s “Top Five Baby!”

1. Carson


So, I’m going to go in the order in which I think each of them has the best chance of winning the game if they are sitting in the end. This isn’t the order I think they will finish in, this is just based on their chance to win if they make it that far. I went back and forth between Carson and Yam Yam here. Honestly, we could see a Ghost Island situation here and have them tie if they are both sitting in the final tribal council together. The reason I’m giving Carson the slight edge is his relationship with the Ratu members on the jury.

They have both played a really great game and they both have a really great social game, but I believe that Carson has the slightly better social game just because of his ties to the other side. While he was with Ratu for a few days, he had a chance to bond with Kane and Lauren (who may or may not also be on the jury at that time). Plus, he was working well with Danny, Heidi, and Jaime. Heck, if Carolyn is on the jury, she may even throw a vote his way if Yam Yam is the reason she is sitting there.

Overall, I think Carson has played a really solid game and can even talk about how he won an individual immunity challenge at one point. I don’t even think his age hurts him with this cast, they enjoy him so much, I don’t think it would be a factor for them. The only thing he has against him is a lot of his game has been played silently. So, he will have to do an amazing job of explaining it to everyone while pointing out exact moments if they are to award him the win.

2. Yam Yam

Yam Yam

As I said with Carson, I could have very easily chosen him as my number-one pick. But the only reason I gave the edge to Carson was his relationships with the Jury. Now, Yam Yam also has some great relationships that he has built throughout this season. It seems that everyone who meets him just loves to hang out with him and they want to keep him around because they like him so much. I’m honestly surprised he was able to make it this far based on that fact alone. In Survivor, it’s tough to be so loved!

Not only does he have a great social game, but (like Carson), he can also talk about his immunity challenge win. Where I think he loses some points, however, is he keeps mentioning that anyone who writes his name down gets voted out. Even though he is pretty much saying it in a joking way, I think it comes across as a threat to some people. Plus, if he is sitting in the end against Carson or Carolyn, I think he may lose some votes to either one of them. But overall, he has a great chance to be crowned the Sole Survivor based on what we have seen from him.

3. Heidi


I don’t think this is going to be a popular choice amongst any Survivor fan but hear me out on these next two. The reason I put Heidi above Carolyn is because of the type of game that she has played and who is on the jury. She has very quietly put together a strong game. From finding multiple idols to being the last remaining original Soka member, to having ties to people on the jury, she could sneak in and pull out a victory. Plus, if she is sitting in the end, that means she did something to help take out one of the three Tika members or won the final four immunity challenge. Either way, that helps her out.

No matter how she got there, it would still be an uphill battle for her, but she would be a fun winner if she could figure out a way to pull it off.

4. Carolyn


As I said above, I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I think Carolyn is a great and fun character to watch on Survivor, I’m not sure how much she’s actually done to win the money. Granted if she makes it to the end with Heidi and Lauren, she will stand a way better chance. At that point, I think she is all but guaranteed Yam Yam and Carson’s votes. But there were several votes that she was completely left out of and there were also many times when she didn’t look like she knew what was going on.

Granted, she did have a shocking idol play a few weeks ago that got a big jury reaction, but ultimately it didn’t matter. You also have to look at the jury. I don’t think either Danny or Brandon would vote for her and if she is up against Yam Yam or Carson, I think she is losing votes to them as well. Overall, she had a great season, and it was fun to watch her somehow make it to the last episode of the season, but she has a big hill to climb to pull out a win.

5. Lauren


Finally, we have Lauren. I don’t think I’m alone here in thinking she probably has the least chance of winning just based on everything that we’ve seen of her. She does have two individual immunity challenge wins under her belt and a Ratu-heavy jury, but that isn’t going to be nearly enough. She and Jaime have been tied together for the better half of the post-merge and not really driving any of the votes. On top of that, we just haven’t seen her involved in much strategy talk throughout the season. Don’t get me wrong, I think she would make a great winner and it sounds like it could really do her and her family some good, but there are just too many other big gamers in the final five with her this season.

My official prediction for the finale is this:

Yam Yam and Carson work together to finally take out Carolyn at five because Heidi is safe, and they want Lauren at the end with them.

Yam Yam wins the final immunity and sends Carson to make fire against Heidi where he wins, and Heidi is out.

Carson, Yam Yam, and Lauren are in the final three and finish in that order. Carson wins the season 5-3-0!

So, there you have it for the twelfth episode. Only one more episode left in the season, then we start the long Survivor offseason as we wait on 45 to start up. Of the last remaining five, who is your pick to win? Will all three Tika members end up in the final three? What’s your overall opinion of this season without knowing the winner yet? 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