Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor 44 recaps
Low moments, a big move, and tribal parity
By Brent Sullivan | Published: April 24, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 8 Recap/ analysis

Low moments, a big move, and tribal parity

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.

This is the point in most Survivor seasons when pre-merge alliances and tribes begin to break apart. This is also about the time I start to question how any two certain players (it varies every season) became so close that they are willing to cut their old tribe loose so quickly. However, season 44 seems to be breaking the mold a little bit here. I will talk about this a lot more down below, but this time around players seem to be tied pretty tightly to their original starting tribes. This even includes Carson and Jaime who swapped tribes a few weeks ago. With Brandon voted out now, this is going to make some interesting gameplay upcoming with Soka, Ratu, and Tika all with three players each left.

Another comment about this episode that may not be as popular, but I think until they expand to 90-minute episodes (if they do), I don’t like them spending so much time on one challenge. Now, I love these types of big challenges, but I just don’t think there is enough precious time per episode to spare to use so much of it at one challenge. Just my opinion. Ok, now on to this week’s “Top Five Baby!”

1. Frannie feels alone

Frannie feels alone

Love ... true love. Ok, maybe not exactly true love yet, but clearly there is something between Matt and Frannie that was starting to blossom in those first 13 or 14 days on the island. You could just see the smile on both of their faces when she walked into tribal council. I seriously doubt that she would ever want to purposely leave the game just to spend time with him, but she is definitely feeling all alone now even though everyone is on the beach together.

I am curious to see if this affects her gameplay moving forward. She seems like a smart enough player to not let it bother her, but those first few days will probably be tough. The other side of this is the effect of having Matt sit on the jury. If Frannie makes it to the end, he is going to 100% vote for her no matter who else is sitting there with her. In the next few weeks as the numbers start to wind down, I am sure that will be a factor for some of the remaining players. On a side note, he may have some pull with the other jury members as well.

2. Carson is sick

Carson is sick

Survivor is a tough game. For some players, the lack of food, sleep, and shelter will get the best of them. Right now, Carson seems to be having some troubles of his own. I’m not sure if it was something he ate, if he is just not getting enough nutrients, or if something else entirely is going on. No matter what it is, he is having a tough time right now. Before the challenge, he said that he had gotten sick in the middle of the night at least eight times. Doing that in your own home is bad enough, but having to deal with it while playing a game like Survivor has to be extremely hard. It’s not like you can wash up and go crawl back into bed.

In the short term, it affected his game because no one wanted to be his partner during the immunity challenge. He got sort of lucky during that challenge when Carolyn got stuck in the net because then, he didn’t have to do much of it before they got eliminated. The long term may not be good for him either if he can’t get his strength up, then he will struggle at all the challenges. Hopefully, he will start feeling better and is able to compete fully, it’s never fun when anyone has to leave the game due to an illness.

3. Heidi tells a secret

Heidi tells a secret

Heidi got extremely lucky this week. Danny had this plan to play his hidden immunity idol to save Frannie, and therefore save all the original Soka tribe from being picked off one by one. The plan was good and honestly only a handful of people needed to know about it, but for some reason, Heidi decided to tell the plan to Yam Yam and Carson. Where she got lucky was, they decided not to say anything to the Ratu members so they could play the middle (more on that in a minute). That plan could have really blown up in her face, but instead, it all worked out the way Danny wanted it to. The big issue here is that Carson told Danny about how the Tika members knew about his plan. So, Heidi got thrown under the bus and Danny was upset that they would switch their vote to him, and he would waste the idol play on Frannie.

Even though everything worked out in his favor, now Danny has to wonder how close of an ally Heidi is to him. She is going to have to work to prove her trust to him again and with nine players left in the game, there isn’t much time left for her to do that. I’m curious to see how they handle each other in the next episode.

4. Tika's in the middle ... still

Tika's in the middle ... still

It seems like every week I’m saying the same thing here. Through everything that’s happened since the merge/"earn the merge" section of the game, Tika has been in the middle of it all. As the original Soka and Ratu members slowly start to get voted out one by one, somehow Yam Yam, Carson, and Carolyn have been right in the middle of it all. Not only that, but Carson seems to be involved in all the conversations about voting as well. I mentioned a few weeks ago how he was playing a great social game; well, it definitely seems to be paying off now as he has both tribes in his ear telling them their individual plans. So, vote after vote, they constantly know what is going on and none of their names come up as a potential vote except for Yam Yam last week, but that seemed like it was Matt all the way really.

So, as I mentioned above, all three of the original tribes have three members left. That leaves Danny, Frannie, and Heidi on one side, Kane, Lauren, and Jaime on the other side with Carson, Yam Yam, and Carolyn truly in the exact middle. So, the two big questions here are will they side with either Soka or Ratu to help continue taking them out or is there a possibility of Soka and Ratu working together to remove Tika from the middle? Personally, I can’t wait to see how it comes out.

5. Danny's big move

Danny's big move

Everyone always wants to make a big flashy move in front of the jury during tribal council. It’s hard to pull off a big move at just the right time and it’s even harder to know exactly what the other side is going to do to counteract it (if possible). Danny was able to navigate his big move even though he thought some information might be leaked to the opposition. The bold part of this move was that he played his hidden immunity idol for someone else ... and did it successfully. That is a move that isn’t often pulled off in Survivor, old school or new school, people just rarely play the idol for other players.

So, the question is: since Danny was able to pull this off, is he now one of the biggest threats to win the game? He is already building his Survivor résumé and has been playing the game hard this whole time. Personally, I think it will come back to haunt him. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that big moves too early will get you voted out early. He is certainly a fun player to watch, so let’s see how he handles these next few votes.

So, there you have it for the eighth episode. The season just keeps on rolling by and we only have half of our starting cast left now. I really can’t wait to see how this three vs. three vs. three breaks down in the coming weeks. How fun would it be if we ended the season with one from each sitting at the end? What are your thoughts on Danny’s idol play? How much was Tika aware of Danny’s plan to play his idol on Frannie? Who’s playing the best game so far? 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