Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor 43 recaps
Top five, baby!
By Brent Sullivan | Published: December 12, 2022
Survivor 43 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.

I just re-watched this episode for a second time, and I still can’t believe what happened. First of all, that was really a great plan by Cody. For both he and Karla to not play their idols, then turn around and vote her off was a pretty genius move. But then to have the tables turned on him was an even bigger and better move. So, we fantastically lose Cody and are left with Top Five Baby of season 43.

This will be the last normal week since I normally do a recap after the finale, and I think the best way to tackle this week is by covering each person who is left in the game since the numbers work out that way. I will go in the order in which I think they have the best chances of winning. So, without further ado, let’s get to the top five and the final regular “Top Five Baby!”

1. Jesse


I think this is no surprise here in the top spot. Jesse has by far played the best game in the entire season. He has worked with Cody most of the time and promptly cut him when the time was right as well. That takes away any doubt about them two sharing the spotlight at the end. Somehow Jesse has kept making moves without getting in the crossfire of anyone. Other than a few mentions here and there, he has made it through being entirely clean. In fact, both he and Gabler are the only two players this season without any votes against them.

If all of that isn’t enough, he is still sitting on Jeanine’s idol that he was holding for Dwight which no one knows about. That absolutely guarantees him a spot in the final four. After this big move he just made to get Cody out, I think he will 100 percent play it next week as well. The only thing he has standing in his way is the final four immunity challenge or the fire-making challenge to get to the final three.

However, the way this season is going for Jesse, I can see him pulling out a victory at the final four challenge, and at that point, it doesn't matter whom he brings with him. The win will be in the bag!

2. Gabler


This is where you will start to think that I am crazy. But if Jesse loses the final four fire-making challenge, I really do think that Gabler has a serious shot at winning. Let me tell you why.

First, if Jesse is gone, I think he easily beats Owen and there is a good chance that the Cassidy/Karla duo could split some votes giving Gabler the majority. Secondly, it really appeared that most people in the game liked or respected Gabler, especially after Elie was gone. Whenever someone was voted out, he was always right there to tell them how great they were and that they played a great game.

Third, in my opinion, he has had a really positive edit up until now. I’m not saying I use the edit to determine the winner necessarily, what I mean is for someone in his shoes, he hasn’t been shown as someone on the outside or acting like a fool. Most of what we see of him is his strategic talks with the people on the top of the alliances. Finally, he is playing a decent game. He has won an immunity necklace, he has made some moves to get people out, he has hidden behind the scenes when needed, and has been planting lots of seeds to the other players on whom to get out when he sees players getting too strong. Now, not all those talks work out, but you always see him playing hard.

So, don’t be surprised if, at the end of the next episode, you see Mike Gabler wearing a Survivor champion hat.

3. Cassidy


Honestly, I could almost flip-flop Cassidy and Karla here, but I went with Cassidy mostly because Karla has looked so bad in the last few episodes. Even though she has been tied to Karla for most of her game, she has done a few things on her own as well. She has won two individual immunity challenges, she won her battle with Ryan when they were going for each other, and she honestly seems likable to the remaining castaways.

Obviously, if she is up against Jesse in the end, she doesn’t stand a chance, but I think she can out-duel her Coco tribemate in a final tribal council as well as easily take down Owen. Quite a bit can happen for her to pull off the victory, but I can see a case where she comes out on top here.

4. Karla


I must tell you that I even surprised myself when I was making out this list. In the first half (or even the first two-thirds) of the season, I think Karla could have beaten anyone in a landslide victory as Survivor champ. However, the way these last few episodes have gone, I really think her stock is falling. Not only has she been left out of votes or told how to vote in the final minutes before tribal council, but she is also being seen as a liar now with the way she handled her having the hidden immunity idol.

The other big thing that she has against her going into the final episode is she had a hand in voting out lots of the early jury members like James and they could be holding a grudge against her for that. Finally, if all of that isn’t enough, she is hurting right now with both her hands and her ankle. I’m not sure what the final challenge will be, but she won’t be able to handle a big obstacle or something similar and if her hands are hurting, she won’t be able to make fire either.

So, Karla still has a chance, but she has to have a big final episode for something to happen for her.

5. Owen


Finally, we are down to Owen. I mean everyone loves the underdog, right? Poor Owen has been on the outside of so many votes this season. He literally went weeks without ever voting for the right person. I guess that’s good as far as the jury being bitter toward him, but the fact that he never knew what was going on will be a tough sell for him. The beauty of the season is I can see a situation where he sits in the final with Cassidy and Karla and the jury likes him better, or perhaps, he and Gabler are there at the end and he is able to out-talk him, but as of right now, not only is he an underdog, but he is also a long shot.

o, there you have it for the twelfth episode and this week’s “Top Five Baby”. There are still lots of moves that could happen and you never know if Survivor throws another twist in before the end. Is Jesse the clear-cut favorite to win the whole thing? Will Karla’s injury impact her standing in the game? 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