Jeff Pitman's Survivor 42 recaps
Standing and delivering
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 1, 2022
Survivor 42 Episode 9 recap/ analysis

Standing and delivering

Obviously, the biggest topic of this week's Survivor episode was both Drea and Maryanne speaking out about the added burdens, expectations, and difficulties of playing Survivor as Black women, and taking a stand (literally) to pre-play their immunity idols before the vote, thereby both preserving their places in the game, and preventing a third Black player from joining the jury at this episode's second Tribal Council.

The show did a solid job of presenting this deeply emotional discussion as fairly and straightforwardly as could be hoped. Drea was clearly shocked to see Rocksroy (as far as the show has told us, her closest ally) on the jury, and was further jarred by the realization that this meant the jury was entirely Black players so far, and that the plan she'd been told was to vote against another one. She took a few moments to process it, answering simply "I don't know" as Jeff Probst pressed her for comment on her visible reaction. Later, Maryanne also vocally backed out of the plan she'd been told — voting for Drea — which would also have put a third Black person on the jury.

As the words started to flow, both Drea and Maryanne provided a lot of necessary context: about Survivor historically having only a tiny number of BIPOC players per season, and how pleased they had been to see higher numbers of non-White players this time around. Drea talked about still having to code-switch to fit in. She and Maryanne both talked about representation, and wanting to use this opportunity to show other girls who looked like them that it was possible to play Survivor. In the end, that's exactly what they did.

One point that's important to remember here: It doesn't matter that neither Chanelle's nor Rocksroy's boot really had anything to do with their race. What mattered here, in this particular moment, was that when Drea and Maryanne showed up at this Tribal and saw the first two jurors were Black, they were reminded of their own race, and how that might matter in a game like Survivor. They didn't know why Rocksroy was voted out, and they couldn't ask him. So all they could do was guess, and in doing so, they were reminded of how they (Drea and Maryanne) might not fit in as well, and how they might face additional biases, even unconscious ones, that other players don't.

Brice Izyah addressed this perfectly on the Purple Pants Podcast this week: "I've seen what a lot of people are saying. And they're like, 'Ugh! We're bringing race into this again!' Well, I ... convenient for you to say, because we, I don't live in a world, a day, a second that I am not aware that I am a gay Black man."

Tori is free to pretend she's something other than a therapist while she's playing Survivor. Drea and Maryanne can't very well pretend not to be Black women. They didn't know if race was a factor in Rocksroy's boot. They didn't know if race was a factor in the plans they'd agreed to. What they did know was that there was something they could do about it.

Drea's specific stand, to play her idol, block a plot against her, and prevent herself from joining the jury just yet, was a logical move, and also a bold, aggressive one. Up to this point (as far as the edit has told us, anyway), Drea had been voting correctly, but had seemingly been following along with other people's plans. This move was entirely hers.

Similarly, Maryanne's dual principled stands of refusing to allow her vote to send another Black player to the jury at this point AND of not letting herself be that person either (by playing her idol) made a clear, affirmative statement. Knowing she was on the bottom of her tribe's power structure, Maryanne had also been just following along until she could find a crack, a strategic foothold. That passive play ended here.

It's unfortunate these two no longer have idols at their disposal going forward, but each of them managed to turn their plays into acts of strength, rather than something purely defensive. That's something that should be celebrated. Good for both of them.

Some audience members have complained about the show spending too much time talking about race, but that was clearly unavoidable here. Race was inextricably tied to what tipped Drea off that she was in danger and needed to act, and even if the show had *wanted* to edit the entire compelling, heartfelt discussion out, Drea and Maryanne still played their idols before the vote — and it was a voice vote! — so Tribal Council would have made no absolutely sense whatsoever if they'd cut it. So for all you people whining: boo-hoo, it must be *so* rough for you, having to spend 10 minutes or so listening to someone different from you talking about what their life is like. In a game where people from different walks of life build social bonds then vote each other out, that's likely to happen approximately ... almost every time. It's what makes the show worth watching.

The talk

On paper, the end result of Tori getting booted — Tori, who had just won two straight individual ICs, had been a target since the merge, and was finally not immune — was probably always going to happen. It was the most likely outcome in any five-person group she was in, especially one where the *other* challenge beast, Jonathan, was immune. Add two idols to that group, and the chances of a Tori boot skyrocket even higher.

While booting Tori was obviously not the plan going in, both the actual plan (blindside Drea) and the decoy plan (blindside Maryanne) were pitched in a spectacularly dumb manner by Jonathan, and should have set off alarm bells in both the targeted players' heads already, because Jonathan explicitly said it was to remove an idol from the game. (Drea did have a confessional about this, but we have no way of knowing if this confessional was actually recorded before this Tribal.) And Jonathan definitely knew that Maryanne had an idol when he told her that was his reason for targeting Drea! So if either one got weirded out about the idea of targeting someone because they had an idol, there was a good chance their idol would have been played. And if one idol was played in a five-person group, the other person should immediately follow suit, just as a basic defensive move, since they would otherwise have at minimum a 1-in-3 chance of being the collateral damage boot. Lindsay tried to get Jonathan to switch the decoy boot to Tori (the more obvious move), since Maryanne had already pledged to use her idol for Taku, but Jonathan refused to listen, so his dumb plan went forward.

So while Drea did feel safe coming into that Tribal, there's no guarantee it would have stayed that way, and she did have her idol (and three other items) burning a hole in her pocket. If at any point she felt unsure, this short-term small grouping was absolutely the right time to play an idol (as Naseer's boot last season demonstrated). And as soon Drea as plays her idol, that should be a clear signal to Maryanne to play hers. And then we'd be right back in the situation that actually happened, except with Tori probably leaving on a [0]-1 vote, instead of 4-0.

Four vs four? Or original tribes no more?

Four vs four

The Majority Seven alliance has now booted one of its own (and Jonathan tried to target another). The most obvious outlier target, Tori, is also gone. Does this mean there could be long-term impacts of this week's split Tribal Councils? It seems pretty likely, yes. But in what ways?

One possibility is that if Taku wants to stick together, they now have four of the remaining eight players, and just need to distract the other four somehow (stirring up the Hai/Romeo conflict again, perhaps) to achieve a 4-3-1 plurality vote and seize power. Or they could deploy Maryanne's extra vote, and make it 5-4.

Arguing against that scenario, there are some pretty deep cracks starting to emerge in the Taku alliance:

- Omar is already thinking about having to compete against Jonathan in a late-game immunity challenge, and doesn't seem thrilled about that idea. Once Omar hears the details about how inflexible the necklace-wearing Jonathan was in his plans for the blue team's Tribal, Omar may move Jonathan a few more notches up on his hit list, since that was his exact reason for wanting Rocksroy out.

- Lindsay was visibly frustrated with Jonathan this episode, and seemed to be drawing closer to Maryanne, who was the only Taku on the outside of the majority seven. She also made an empathy-filled statement in support of Maryanne and Drea. While the men's alliance imploded before it ever really existed, it would be cool to see Lindsay join up with Drea and Maryanne, and have the last three women start working together.

- Maryanne was understandably not pleased about being voluntold (by Jonathan) to be the decoy boot this week. She was already outside the majority seven, and still needs allies, especially now that she has just lost the one outsider who had frequently been talking to her (Tori). Now that she and Drea have had this powerful moment together, though, they may be able to work together going forward.

Unfortunately, despite all these growing intra-Taku fissures, this next Tribal will have an even number of contestants, so the most likely outcome is not some big, game-changing power shift, but rather a safe, pick-off-the-straggler vote, for someone like Romeo. Or if the non-Taku people are worried, a Maryanne. Those outcomes are boring, so let's hope not.

One key factor working in favor of a more interesting vote: Drea's newfound fire, spurring her to start playing hard and using some of the tools in her arsenal. She does have an extra vote, and this is a good spot to use it, if it's otherwise a 4-4 tie. Knowledge is Power has just two targets (Mike's idol and Maryanne's extra vote), unless one of the two just-played idols re-enters the game, which is quite possible. Alternatively, if Drea wanted to take out a power player like Hai, she should easily be able to pull in Romeo, and maybe also Maryanne, so she'd need just one more person (Mike? Omar? Lindsay?) to join them, at which point her extra vote makes five. (Combining her extra vote with Maryanne's in a trio of those two plus Romeo doesn't work, because that just makes it 5-5.)

Whatever happens, it looks like the seeds of more-fluid gameplay could finally be starting to sprout. Hopefully production holds off on the "Do or Die" twist for another week, as they did in 41. While that means the poor Do or Die victim's exit could potentially replace the F7 vote — because production always makes the dumbest decisions possible — it would still be nice to not see it at F8. Or at all, ideally.

Fiji: Land of the rising maple leaf?

Land of the rising maple leaf

(As seen on twitter.)

Last season, a Canadian won U.S. Survivor for the first time, in essentially the first season where Canadians were eligible to apply. (Technically, Tom Laidlaw of S39: Island of the Idols was the official first Canadian player/in the first season eligible, but he lives in New York. If we're being technical, Kel Gleason from The Australian Outback was even more technically the first, since he grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and had spent the majority of his life there.)

This season, we're two-thirds of the way through eliminating people (10 out so far, out of what will eventually be 15), and all three Canadians (Omar, Maryanne, Drea) are still in it, raising the possibility of an all-Canadian final three. Obviously, if the jury can only choose a Canadian to win, that would mean back-to-back Canadian winners.

Just throwing that possibility out there. We're sure it wouldn't cause an international incident or anything if it were to actually happen. (Just the permanent banning of Canadians from playing in future seasons, most likely.)

Shorter takes

Shorter takes

- Nobody could have seen this coming: How many of the players were *actually* surprised that, at final 10, they were split into two teams of five? From the reactions at the start of the IC, it felt like quite a few had anticipated this, which would not be surprising, since this was the fourth time in the last seven seasons it's been done. This two-teams-at-F10 twist itself is okay: It does have the benefit of shaking things up temporarily. But why not tweak it a bit? For instance, instead of a random draw for teams, play around with the format a bit. Have a random draw for captains, and have a schoolyard pick, to emphasize who's on the bottom. Or have a schoolyard pick, then have the two last-picked people immediately draft new teams, where they take turns picking all the players. Or ideally, merge at 13, and do this at F11, leaving the F9 round as a regular Tribal, where an odd-numbered power shift could happen. Do something different, at least!

- Less talk? Less rocking on the ocean, then: The challenge department feels like it's really taken this season off. We're 2/3 of the way through, and there haven't even been any challenge *elements* that were new so far, let alone entirely new challenges. Several episodes have had exactly the same challenges, in exactly the same spots, as Survivor 41. There was just one challenge this episode, it was 100% a rehash of one already used multiple times, and because for whatever reason the show insisted on going forward with it despite ludicrously rough waters, it lasted about two minutes. Even with extensive pre- and post-challenge chatter from Probst, the IC took up just over 5 minutes in a 42-minute show. If the loudest people in the audience are upset the show has so much *talking* (about important social issues), maybe they should direct their ire in John Kirhoffer's direction, rather than the contestants, who are just trying to deal with what's in front of them.

- There are too many states nowadays. Please remove three: While this old man is ranting to the clouds about the challenge department: In the name of all that is good and holy, can you please retire buoy basketball? It's been in every newbie season since at least Cagayan. It was briefly exciting for approximately the four shots Omar made (last episode), and then immediately grating again after that. The only time we need to see this challenge element again is when you have a former NBA player who was historically bad at free throws as a contestant (and even then, meh). Conceptually, a skill test (like this) is the right idea, because it allows a team that's behind to catch up and pass, as we saw last week. But please, just mix in ring toss/sandbags/whatever more often. Give us more Wardog tossing stuff and spinning the screw-thingy in the wrong direction!

Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes