Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 44 recaps/ analysis
Episode 1: Island of No Secrets
By Damnbueno | Published: March 2, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 1 recap/ analysis

Episode 1: Island of No Secrets

Ok, I think I’ve finally sifted through all the info, and figured out a lot of things that make sense. I know this has been on a lot of people’s minds. My head was spinning for a while, that’s for sure.

Owen eliminated himself. He spent way too much time telling people how frustrated he was at being left out of the votes. The entire Jury knew his game wasn’t going the way he wanted it to.

Gabler got Cody’s vote purely out of likability.

Cody toasts Gabler

Sami was annoyed by Gabler early on, but came to like him as the “loopy old guy.” Ryan voted for his fishing buddy. His vote was based on friendship/likability too. That’s 3 votes right there.

Karla and Jesse never saw Cassidy as the one pulling the strings. They both saw themselves in that role, and saw Cassidy as a passive follower. This impression was driven home for the whole Jury when Jesse and Cody disputed Cassidy’s clam that she did the manipulating to remove Ryan (even though we saw Cassidy pitching that plan to Cody and Jesse before they made their own plan). Karla was also bitter at being outplayed by Cassidy – but that’s in part due to Jesse’s brilliant plan to turn Karla and Cassidy against each other.

That’s 5 votes right there. That’s enough to win. On top of that, Gabler made the jury laugh regularly...

Gabler entertains the jury

...but Cassidy didn’t

Not amused by Cassidy

Gabler never stated it was part of his strategy to take people out. Jesse and Noelle said it for him, and he was smart enough to agree with them. Some jurors may have seen that as Gabler having more agency than Cassidy.

I think Noelle and Jeanine were in Owen’s camp as FTC started, but got swayed by Gabler’s charm, and Cassidy being corrected about the Ryan vote. Ultimately, James was the only juror who really knew how strong Cassidy’s game was, and that she’d played much better than Gabler did. Cassidy’s game didn’t stand out enough, and she was unable to own it convincingly at the end. Jesse’s subtle game was pure Survivor brilliance. If he could have won the last Immunity Challenge, or built a fire faster, his game might have become the gold standard.

So with that being said, I’m ready to write my “Why Gabler won” column.

Why Gabler won

Oh crap. The new season starts tonight? It took longer to figure out this Jury’s decision than I thought. This isn’t exactly timely is it? Oh well, I’ll just stick with the short recap above.

And since February is Black (Survivor) History month, let’s take a moment to celebrate the greatness of winners Vecepia, Earl, Jeremy, Wendell and Maryanne, even though nobody will read this until March.

Vecepia Towery
Earl Cole
Jeremy Collins
Wendell Holland
Maryanne Oketch


One thing season 43 was sorely missing was that one uncontrollable “crazy” person who specializes in throwing monkey wrenches into everyone’s plans at random. Players like Shane (Panama), Lisi (Fiji), NaOnka (Nicaragua), Brandon (South Pacific), Debbie (Kaoh Rong), and Noura (Island of the Idols) often present the biggest challenge to any winner.


If preseason indicators are accurate, season 44 will more than make up for the Survivor 43 deficiency. Carolyn and Yamil alone look like they could supply enough crazy for two casts. Maybe they can make up for the unfulfilled promise shown by Morriah and Gabler last season. Every Survivor season deserves a little crazy, doesn’t it?

And away we go ....

Have I ever told you how much I love 2-hour episodes?

Wow, we finally get to hear the on-site producers interviewing players for their confessionals. Carolyn is already having trouble with the first one. I’m loving this season already.

Jaime is saying “Bing” all over the place. That’s Carl’s catch phrase from David vs Goliath. I wonder if he was smart enough to trademark it? We might have another crazy person here.

Jaime bing-ing

Yam Yam wants barf bags. Crazy person #2 is delivering too.

Frannie has spoken 3 times in the first 3 minutes. Does that mean she’s this season’s best narrator, or she’s the first one out?

The smart person stays away from the ring toss part of this challenge. You don’t want to be the one person everyone is watching early in the game. If you kill it, you’ll be labeled a challenge beast. If you choke, you could find yourself on the first chopping block.

Did Probst just call him “Jam Jam?” That’s like two Michael Jackson songs.

Tika got a little screwed in this challenge. They’ve got to run farther to get their puzzle pieces.

No, I guess not. Their puzzle pieces are close to the mud pit than the other two tribe’s.

We’ve got blood in the first obstacle. Is Bruce this season’s Jeanine?

I guess its pretty dangerous to be named Bruce on Survivor. The last one got medevaced from Panama - Exile Island.

Bruce getting oxygen

Carolyn is doing the ring toss? This should be fun.

That’s it Carolyn, the pants were the problem. Now would be a good time to swap out.

Carolyn Carolyning

Soka had the advantage of being in the middle. Claire is smart to look at Tika’s finished puzzle.

I keep a list of the “Worst Survivor Tribes Ever.” I think Tika is an instant candidate, and they haven’t even reached camp yet. But it’ll be tough to unseat my #1: the Aria tribe of fans from Micronesia. Only 4 of the 10 of them made it to the merge, and 6 of them got blindsided. I have Ulong from Palau at #2.

If everybody knows about the thingy in the birdcage, the smart person won’t touch it, but will want to be close to the person who takes it. I might just take the cage and put it in the middle of the camp. That way, everyone will know if someone got the prize.

Are there any Monty Python fans reading this? I wonder if there’s an ex-parrot in that cage?

The cage

Given the choice I’d pick sweat too since you don’t know what the puzzle is. But I’d make sure I’m not one of the guys dragging the net.

Carson in confessional: “I didn’t want to be the guy volunteering to do the puzzles.” So what does he do? He puts himself on the first two puzzles.

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something I like about Sarah.


Heidi, never brag about your abilities. Telling people you can make fire can backfire. My first thought would be “Remove her before the final 4 fire challenge.”

Frannie is a mix of Kellyn from Ghost Island and Hannah from Millennials vs Gen X.


Ok, guys named Bruce are 2-for-2 in medevacs. I wonder how this screwed up the challenge schedule? Do they skip the first Immunity Challenge, or do we lose two people in the first 3 days?

I wonder how many times I’m gonna have to correct myself when I type “Rotu” instead of “Ratu” this season. So far its 4.

Matthew and Lauren just passed the spot where Cody lost his Idol last season.

Where Cody lost his idol?

And just like Cody, Matt is climbing the rocks.

Guys named Matt have had about as much luck on Survivor as guys named Bruce.

The agony of de feet

Were you as pissed off as I was when Kane and Maddy didn’t even move when Matthew fell? I hope the editors were using a shot from before he fell. I’d hate to think they were that apathetic.

At this rate, we’re gonna have a 16-day season.

I’m a strategy junkie, and so far there hasn’t been much, but I don’t mind because these are fun people.

Helen looks like Carolyn is scaring the crap out of her.


I say it every time – “Don’t get on the boat!”

Brandon: “And I see this little package.” I’m having a Beavis and Butt-Head moment.

Brandon finds the key

Brandon tells Maddy. Bad idea, even if you think she saw you. When will players learn to keep their mouths shut when they find something? At a minimum, you hold on to the key and never open the cage. That way you know nobody else has whatever is inside. Or maybe you open the cage, take what’s inside, put the bag back, and throw the key in the ocean. If everyone thinks the key is still out there, nobody will suspect you’ve got what was inside.

A 2 out of 3 chance to lose your vote? Ok, so nobody will get on the boat next season.

Facing the bag

The Inheritance Advantage seems pretty powerful if you can play it AFTER people make their moves. It seems like its more challenging if they have to play it before the votes are read. Can Sarah play it secretly, or will everyone know she just got a bunch of trinkets?

The “Bank Your Vote” Advantage seems dangerous on a tribe of only 6 people.

I wonder if Lauren could have grabbed a 2nd time, and shown her tribe the lose your vote note? Would Production have stopped her from reaching in after she got her Advantage?

I think Tika would have a hard time in this Immunity Challenge even if they had Bruce with them.

Those are cool Immunity Idols.

The idols

Matt, Helen and Jaime are taking a risk in being the caller on the puzzle.

I LOVE that Claire and Matthew shared information on the sit out benches. SMART move by Claire.

Claire and Matthew chat

Now Brandon is down? This season is shaping up to be like Kaoh Rong.

Probst called Tika’s Immunity win before they returned to their mat.

Yam Yam REALLY reminds me of Naseer from Survivor 41. He’s just bubbling over with enthusiasm.

If I’m on Ratu, I vote out Boston Rob. That guy has just played too many times.

Maddy just told Lauren that Brandon is “The Godfather.” To me, she just labeled Brandon a “leader.” Most who get labeled that way usually finish around 10th.

Maddy talks to Lauren

And now Lauren is telling Jaime that Brandon is running things.

If I’m Kane, I warn Brandon about Maddy’s plans, and get rid of Maddy. I might even be able to flush Brandon’s Idol too. Maddy is playing too hard, too soon. You won’t be able to influence how she votes in the future. She’s pretty headstrong. But you might be able to influence how Brandon votes.

Jaime is giving me a slightly crazy vibe – a little like Wendy from Nicaragua. She looks like she’s about to explode.

Jaime, waiting to talk

And just like that, Jaime announces she’s playing her Shot In The Dark. It’s the arrival of the She-Gabler!

Lauren banks her vote even though she knows Jaime isn’t voting? As Sandra would say, “I don’t know about thaaaat.”

Matt played his too? So, 3 out of 6 people didn’t vote? I think Maddy is in trouble.

Jaime is safe? Maddy is in big trouble. Jaime is the first to make this work.

Jaime is safe

Brandon is playing his Idol? Bye bye, Maddy.

Probst just said Maddy is the 2nd person voted out. He’s made this mistake before. Bruce wasn’t voted out. If I’m Bruce, I’m throwing something at the screen.

So now, Brandon has a 50/50 shot at figuring out who voted for him between Lauren and Kane. I think he’s more likely to believe Kane, so if I’m Kane, I just deny, deny and deny. Then I deny again.


Yeah, Maddy totally played herself out of the game. She was way too aggressive. She should have done all she could to convince Brandon she was cool with whatever he wanted to do when he found that key. Let HIM suggest the plan instead of trying to nudge him towards your plan. Its too early. She had no idea if she could trust him.

I don’t recall seeing Danny speak once in the entire episode.

I’m thinking Jaime played her Shot In The Dark because she felt responsible for causing the Immunity loss. She took the spotlight role as the caller and didn’t come through.

Props to Brandon on saving himself. This is the earliest we’ve ever seen an Idol played. The question now is will that Idol return? If so, how soon? There’s no guarantee it will show up in the cage again.

And speaking of the cage, what if they put something very bad inside the cage this time? Doing that would keep the players guessing for the rest of the game. Like I said before, the best move might be to find the key and just sit on it. That way, you don’t get burned if there’s something bad inside, and you prevent anyone else from getting it if its something good. Producers would hate that, but its probably the best move for the player.

There was a lot to process in this episode. I think the Casting Dept. did another great job. But of course, there’s always the cloud of Producer intervention that could kill some entertainment value. I really hope they let the players play, but my gut says they’ll be forced into making moves they normally wouldn’t.

What do you think? Is Frannie the second coming of Kellyn? Was Lauren smart for banking her vote so soon? Will Brandon still trust Kane? Will Matt realize he can milk his shoulder injury like Tyson did in Blood vs Water? Will we get a Carolyn/Jaime/Yam Yam all crazy final 3? Let me know in the comments.

damnbuenoDamnbueno got his nickname in 8th grade Spanish class when his friend shouted out "You're pretty damn good at Spanish." The teacher insisted he say it in Spanish, so the friend said "Esto es damn bueno en Espanol." The nickname stuck. These days, when he's not forgetting his 8th grade Spanish, Damnbueno is indulging his obsession with all things Survivor. Reach him in the comments section here at True Dork Times.