Jeff Pitman's Survivor 43 recaps
Reduced twists in the first half, increased conflict in the second?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 23, 2022
Survivor 43 Episode 5 recap/ analysis

Reduced twists in the first half, increased conflict in the second?

On the whole through the pre-merge, Survivor 43 has felt like a remake of Survivor 41, just with a different cast, and some slight refinements structurally. Survivor 42 felt much the same way, albeit somehow bigger. So far, 43 feels smaller. But that feels like it's about to change.

If Survivor 42 was 41's wild child with amplified twists and characters, this season has been the quieter, more well-behaved offspring, despite Cody's best efforts. 42 had all of 41's same twists, plus the three-way Advantage Amulets. (Plus Omar's unshown idol nullifier, yikes.) Survivor 43, in contrast, has had the hourglass and Do or Die taken out of circulation (yay!), a slight modification to the Dilemma journeys such that it's always three people, and a Beware idol overhaul that has vastly simplified the activation process.

These modest changes and 43's overall trend toward relative simplicity, however, could have paradoxically worked to the game's benefit. A lot of the people who seemingly held "power" in the pre-merge are about to become victims of their prior success, and the merge is about to get very messy. On paper, at least.

That's because whereas just about everyone in 41 and 42 knew about the Beware idols because the holder(s) had to keep saying the dumb phrases before an IC, there was at least the initial appearance of secrecy in 43. But secrets don't last long in a game where information is currency, and that will be true here. In theory, Dwight and Noelle don't know about Cody's idol. As far as Jeanine knows (to the extent we've been shown), Gabler is in the dark about hers. And most alarmingly, Karla may think her Coco Beware idol is completely secret. This will all change as soon as the tribes mix, whether or not it's truly a "merge."

So while Knowledge is Power has correctly left the game with Geo (at least for now), there will still be a lot of knowledge about idols and advantages that can be turned into power over these first few post-merge votes. For example, the non-idol-holding people who know about the idol bracelets can use that info to drive a wedge between the bracelet holders and their tribemates who don't know about them. There's also intel from the Dilemma journeys that can be deployed to undermine certain players. Most interestingly for the game, a lot of this is intertwined, and it could get complicated really quickly.

For example: Once Sami told Gabler about Jeanine's idol bracelet, Gabler was clearly highly irritated with Jeanine. He's already mad at Elie (and Jeanine) for going through his bag. He's itching for a chance to vote against them.

But Gabler has an idol. All of Baka knows about it. And even if they collectively pledge to keep this a secret amongst themselves, there are four more who know he got *something* in the premiere — all of Vesi knows this, since Dwight shared his "no vote" fate with them (and the fact that Gabler also risked his vote, meaning he got something). All it will take is one of them (Jesse?) asking someone on Baka (Jeanine?) what Gabler has, and the word will be out.

Similarly, James and Owen gave Noelle a risk-free advantage on their trip, as she promised to "take out a big player" with it. As soon as they ask someone on Vesi what happened at the Ep3 Tribal, they'll be suspicious of Noelle for not playing her advantage, and Jesse and Cody will know she lied to them.

And then there's Karla, who didn't risk her vote at the Dilemma, but has an idol she hasn't told James or Cassidy (or Ryan) about. An idol that anyone on Baka will immediately know she has, when they ask a Coco person about beads. All of a sudden, the Coco "cool customers" could get transformed into paranoid players when this leaks.

This is something that didn't really happen on 41 and 42, perhaps because of the shared burden the Beware idol holders felt. In 41, Naseer assured Xander at the merge that he would look out for him. Drea and Mike did the same for each other in 42. Even if those pledges didn't last all that long, it was more of a bonding mechanism than a strategic cudgel. Even the people who knew about the Beware idol rules, and thus could identify the holders (all of Yase and Ricard in 41; all of Taku and Vati in 42), didn't really do anything with that knowledge during those two seasons.

Here, the information disparity seems much more likely to boil over into conflict. It helps that at least two of the current tribes (Gabler, Sami vs. Elie, Jeanine on Baka; Ryan vs. Karla, James, Cassidy on Coco) have deep divisions. It could even be all three, since we haven't had to revisit the intra-Vesi split between Cody/Jesse and Dwight/Noelle since Episode 3.

It makes some intuitive sense that we might get stronger, more individual gameplay — and less reliance on original tribe lines — in a season where the general level of uncertainty has been tamped down a bit. When *everything* about the game is different, as it felt to the 41 and 42 casts, there's a tendency to play more cautiously, more defensively, and rely more on the people you've been with the longest.

In contrast, a lot of the "new era" changes are now familiar to the 43 contestants, despite Lindsay's claim as Karla left for the Ep1 journey that she had "no idea what's going to happen." They all know that Dilemmas are a thing, that Beware idols exist, that vote steals and idol nullifiers and two-Tribal idols are possibilities. That "no votes" are commonplace, and you should count votes at Tribal whenever possible. That the Shot in the Dark could come into play. While there's still some uncertainty, with that foundation there's a greater understanding of the confines of the game, and room to push back against those boundaries with creative strategic play.

That's the hope, anyway. Whether that actually pays off remains to be seen, but if you're getting the "Yeah, yeah, I saw this in 41 and 42" feeling, don't give up on this season just yet. The real game could be (should be?) about to start. Unless production decides to smother it all with more new twists that stifle gameplay like the hourglass and Do or Die, of course.

Postcards from the future

Postcards from the future

Survivor has always had to use confessionals from after events happened, purely due to logistics — you can't interview all 16-20 contestants before/during every major event, or there would be nobody there in camp to do anything.

So generally, most contestants give one or two confessional interviews that span the events of an entire episode cycle, and talk about the past day or three, except for a select handful of "tonight at Tribal Council, we're going to do this ..." in-the-moment ones. In some cases, this can mean things have changed a lot in the game since the events being described happened.

For example, if there's a swap or a merge the day after a Tribal Council, the people recounting the events leading up to and/or after the vote are sometimes already on a new tribe when giving their interviews. Since the contestants generally wear their buffs 24/7, that can create continuity problems.

Traditionally, the show has fixed that by using Ye Olde "Buff-o-matic" (likely painstaking, frame-by-frame work in the olden days) to recolor the new tribe's buff to look like that of their prior tribe. As a viewer, this is often painfully obvious once you've seen it a few times. It's not clear exactly when that stopped happening (Tony had a memorable one in Cagayan, Michele had one in Kaoh Rong, last noted in HvHvH, below), but it seems like Survivor has finally solved this problem of their own making: Just have the contestants take off their new buffs when talking about their old tribes.

The evidence of that is all over this episode. Jeanine is in her Baka buff when describing her idol find, but when talking about her no-vote dilemma journey, she's buff-less (and in a jacket, the same confessional pose as in the "scenes from our next episode" when she's talking about the tribes merging). Sami also has a buff when talking Jeanine's newly activated bracelet, but is in a different pose with no visible buff when talking about Jeanine's journey.

Similarly, Karla has her Coco buff on when talking about the Ep4 Tribal, but is buff-free when talking about Geo having the Knowledge is Power advantage (above). The handful of other confessionals in the teaser for next week (Cody, Sami, Cassidy, Noelle) are all sans buff.

Why does this matter? It doesn't, really, but a sharp-eyed viewer might take note of who has buffless confessionals and conclude that those contestants are safe for rest of the episode, potentially ruining the suspense of Tribal. Luckily, it seemed that both Geo's and Cassidy's in-episode confessionals this week were all pre-Tribal (or at least in Coco buffs).

It's certainly possible that this is not actually by design, and that as "earn the merge" is still in effect this season, everyone simply has no buffs when giving confessionals on Day 12, after having dropped them prior to the Ep6 RC/IC. (Although then these would all be people on the losing team, whoops.)

Still, it would be nice to think that Survivor has finally learned something! (Even if SurvivorNZ was already using this solution way back in 2017.)

This tribe pulled together the best? Really?

This tribe pulled together the best? Really?

Baka was the first visitor to Tribal Council this season, but as the early episodes aired, it looked like it was Vesi who was doomed, as they had to vote out people in two of the first three episodes. Somehow, Vesi righted their ship, and since then, it's been all Coco voting people out.

So now we hit the "merge" with Baka as the tribe that surprisingly has the most people left, with just that one Tribal visit. As noted a few weeks back, that makes Baka the tribe that is most likely to produce this season's winner, if the recent trend holds.

That said, it's really difficult to imagine Baka, of all tribes, banding together and redirecting votes away from each other the way that Taku did last season. If anything, they seem much more likely to be recruiting allies to *finally* vote each other out.

So which will it be? Yellow Tribe Strong, or a two- (or even three-) way split? Please choose chaos, Baka. Thank you in advance (six months after it happened).

Shorter takes

Shorter takes

- Into the drink: First Geo tumbled into the ocean at Dilemma Island (and was voted out), then we saw Jesse do the same as he returned to Vesi. That probably means he's out of the running as a potential winner. Fire is life, and people getting dunked in the water is never a good long-term sign (see also Josh Canfield in San Juan del Sur). Which sucks, because Jesse has been playing a great game to this point.

- Three different prizes? A listener brought this up on RHAP's "Know-It-Alls" this week: Is it possible that each pouch at the Dilemma has a different prize? We've seen one, two, and three people risk their votes this season, and the in-game value of the associated prizes (vote steal, two-Tribal idol, KIP, respectively) was roughly in line with the risk involved. (KIP being the obvious outlier.) Is it possible if only Geo had risked this week, he would also have received a vote steal? If so, that's a sensible design, and well done, Survivor.

- At the last minute? Again? Shocking: The last two seasons, when the Beware idols had to be activated before the Ep5 RC/IC or they were dead, someone on the last tribe (Naseer, Drea) "miraculously" found them right before that happened. This season, when it's easier to turn them into a real idol? Same thing, more or less. On the plus side, they did show Elie passing the Baka idol a while ago. But it sure *appears* like Elie and Jeanine were nudged to look there.

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