Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 44 recaps/ analysis
A race to a great finish
By Damnbueno | Published: May 18, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 12 recap/ analysis

A race to a great finish

This season has made me pretty happy.

No, its not because of the players. Even though Carolyn, Yam, Yam, Jaime, Danny, Frannie and Matt B. have provided great entertainment all season long.

It's not because I prefer unpredictable seasons, and this one has been very hard to predict.

It's not because the Producers haven't intervened as much down the stretch as they have in recent seasons.

I'm happy because of something that has NOT been happening.

I kept myself pretty spoiler free entering this season. I didn't listen to or read preseason player interviews or articles. I didn't know much about this season's players at all at episode 1.

I'm happy because I haven't seen any discussion about race this season - from the players, fans or analysts.

In seasons 41 and 42, race was very top of mind, mostly because it was brought up during the game multiple times by Drea, Maryanne, Shantel and Liana. The reaction to their comments inspired me to write a two-part column on Race in Survivor, during the off season. My hope was that one day soon, there wouldn't be any talk about race, and instead, fans and analysts would focus on how each person in seasons 43 and 44 was playing the game.

Is it possible that day has already arrived? Or have I just missed the discussions?

There was some chatter about this during season 43 when minorities Morriah, Justine and Nneka were the first 3 voted out. But this season, I don't recall any such talk.

Bruce left first overall of course when he was medevaced. But after he was gone, the first person voted out of each tribe (Maddy, Helen and Claire) was a minority. All 3 Ratu women are minorities, but that tribe did have the option of booting Kane or Matt G. I was nervously expecting to see accusations like "Claire was voted out because she's black," but was pleasantly surprised when most comments cited her tendency to sit out of challenges instead.

The hard physicality of the early challenges partly explains why the early votes all went against women, but I didn't see so much as a tiny hint that any of the votes were based on race at all. And I'm particularly happy that fans largely didn't notice either.

It seems like for this season, fans are focusing on game play as opposed to race. And that makes me very happy because that's how I think it should be. It's much more pleasurable for me to discuss each player's strategy as opposed to debunking speculation that X was voted out because of their race or gender. I hope this trend continues.

As for this season, they've rounded the last turn and are heading for the wire. The 3 Ratu appear to be sticking together, but if there was a "best" time for one of them to make a move against the other two, now would be the time to take an ally by surprise. Heidi still has an Idol nobody knows about, but I'm thinking that secret will be exposed in this episode.

And away we go ....

Carolyn telling people how she fooled everyone with her Birdcage trick is smart ... if she's doing it in front of the Jury. Doing it in front of the people who can vote you out is not smart.

Carolyn talks

And just like that, Yam Yam knows he's got to get rid of Carolyn ...

...and so does Jaime.

If Heidi is leaving camp early to convince people she doesn't have an Idol, that's a smart idea ... if she's gonna try and draw votes her way, then play her Idol at the next TC. If she's doing it because she wants to actually find the Idol, that's not so smart. She could end up making everyone think she found an Idol. Then they'll vote for someone else, and she could waste her Idol.

Heidi sneaks off

Lauren: "Carolyn plays like she doesn't know what's going on. She's confusing but loveable. Its scaring me." Carolyn's lack of subtlety is hurting her.

Lauren: "She shouldn't have told us that story." Is there an echo in here?

Ratus and Tikas

Carson: "Lauren, Jaime, Yam Yam and I have worked together for the last two Tribals." I guess that confirms that Carson convinced those ladies to vote for Heidi at the last vote.

Probst said "Reward Challenge." Don't win this one! I repeat, DON'T win this one!

Carson is in the cage and will dictate the puzzle moves. I think he's trying to win this one.

How can Jaime not see she has lost Carolyn? How does she not tell Heidi to stop pushing?

Carolyn trailing

I remember last season Cassidy did this one pretty much in a horizontal position. Her team lost to Owen's in part because he was vertical and could see better.

Carson takes the Cassidy pose.

Horizontal Carson

Jaime's directions suck. "Can we get past this box?" How is that gonna help blindfolded players? Jaime's team took half the jungle with them.

Jungle purple

Carson's team wins in a blowout. Lauren's reactions when she wins are awesome.

This is a great chance for Carolyn to recruit Jaime and Heidi into helping her boot either Carson or Yam Yam - either at this vote or the next one.

Ok, the foot massages look nice. I was suspecting the winners would get to take one more person with them. But since its only the winning team, maybe it was ok to win this one.

Foot massages

Hmm ... what if Yam Yam wants Carolyn gone, but Carson doesn't? Who wins that battle?

Even if Jaime's pitch makes sense, she should think Carolyn agreeing so quickly is BS. But it looks like Jaime is buying it.

Back at camp

Carolyn to Jaime: "I may be emotional, but I'm not dumb." If she puts Jaime on the Jury, then ends up sitting next to Carson at the end, this statement could cost Carolyn a vote from Jaime.

Heidi knows Lauren and Jaime voted for her, but she should look past that for this vote, and set something up for the next one. That way she might not have to use her Idol tonight. If Heidi says her ideal final 3 is her, Carolyn and Yam Yam, she should be taking dead aim at Carson now. He's got a better chance of winning than Lauren or Jaime.

Carolyn to Yam Yam: "Can you burp in my mouth?" That spontaneous quirkiness is endearing, but will this jury mind losing the million to someone like this? I don't know.

Burping Yam Yam

If Carson thinks Lauren and Jaime are trying to split up the Tika 3, he should be recruiting Heidi.

Yam Yam to Jaime: "Everybody who wrote my name down is on the jury." Jaime: "I have not written your name down." Jaime might remember this conversation, and give Yam Yam her jury vote ... but not if she leaves at this vote. Yam Yam is setting himself up to face a possible bitter juror in Jaime.

Jaime and Yam Yam

This challenge seems pretty even. I think Frannie would have won this one easily.

Jaime is out first, closely followed by Carolyn. That's who you want competing against you for final 4 Immunity.

Jaime and Carolyn out

Ok, having Yam Yam there wouldn't be so bad either. But he's way too likable to let get to the end.

Winning Immunity here puts Heidi in the final 4. She could drop out first at the next challenge. The only incentive for her to do well would be to keep Immunity away from someone she thinks can beat her for the million.

Lauren vs Heidi

Lauren's intense face is as good as Frannie's. That fly doesn't even break her concentration.

Lauren's fly

Probst: "Stay engaged. Do not drift." Right on cue, Heidi's ball starts to drift. She doesn't know how to tune him out like Lauren can.

Lauren wins Immunity, and busts out another great celebration. So Heidi has a tough decision tonight. If her read is accurate, she could hold on to her Idol tonight, and breeze into the final 4.

If Yam Yam really wants Carolyn gone, this is an excellent chance to do it. It'll be much easier to fool her at this vote than it will be at final 5. And after Carolyn bounced back so quickly after the Frannie boot, Yam Yam could still get Carolyn's jury vote. If Carolyn does leave, Yam Yam should make sure the Jury sees him saying "Sorry, Carson, I had to." That's a good way to tell the Jury "I'm playing better than Carson."

Yam Yam

Heidi doesn't know what to do. And she'd be a fool to tell anyone she has an Idol just so she can get their opinion.

Heidi gets her idol

Yam Yam: "Carolyn can win at fire. She practiced until she was bleeding." It would have been nice if the audience could have seen some of that practicing.

Carson in confessional: "Carolyn could win this game."

Man, I can hear Ryan Kaiser screaming from here: "Noooo, not Carolyn! Don't vote out my Carolyn!!!"

I think Carolyn is a goner. I don't think we've seen Jaime's "Life at home" video segment yet. But I've been wrong before.

These players just gamed the game. Bringing all their supplies to Tribal Council should tell the Producers they're being too predictable.

Lauren and the rice

I get the feeling nobody on the Jury takes Jaime seriously at all.

Carolyn: "I've been an emotional player, but I can play this game." Again, she's showing the kind of honesty she should reserve for Final Tribal Council. Saying this now only reminds the remaining players of why they should vote her out.

Probst is getting the votes with 7 minutes left. Is there gonna be a tie or an extra commercial break?

And just like that, I think Heidi just wasted an Idol.

Carolyn: "What the fuck?" If the Jury saw that, Carolyn just showed them she's not quite as good at this game as they might have thought. She showed them she didn't know where the votes were going.


Even though the Tika 3 is guaranteed to be able to boot either Heidi or Lauren at the next vote, I still think it was a mistake for Yam Yam and Carson not to remove Carolyn here. They could have neutralized her surprising emergence, and still been in line to get her jury vote. They'd also have to be favored to win Immunity over Jaime and Heidi for sure. Since they didn't know Heidi had an Idol, I have to wonder why they thought Jaime was a bigger threat than Heidi?

I can't blame Heidi too much for playing her idol. The Tika 3 have done a great job of fooling people. They easily could have told her they were voting for Jaime, when actually voting for her. But had the votes gone on Heidi, she would have missed a chance to remove one of the Tika 3. Heidi has a better chance of beating Jaime for the million than beating anyone on Tika. Heidi has been scared of angering potential allies all game, but now is the time to remove anyone with a better chance of beating you at the end. This was a game-losing decision for Heidi. She showed she was too scared to take a shot at a Tika, and too scared to hold on to her Idol.

I also think it was a mistake for Yam Yam not to take Carolyn out. He'd just convinced Lauren and Jaime to vote for her, so he'd be in the best position to work with them to remove Carson or Jaime at the next vote. To a degree, the same is true about Carson. He's been able to manipulate Lauren and Jaime for a while too. Yam Yam sincerely believes Carolyn has played the best game. He was right when he said people at home (like me) are screaming "That's what you have to do!!!!" But he made an emotional decision, and kept her around. He could easily regret that decision.

Carolyn manipulated this vote 100%, but I don't know how much it will mean to this Jury. On one hand, it does show she had some agency in the game, but choosing to boot Jaime probably won't impress a Jury. In MvGX, Hannah boasted about controlling the Sunday boot, but the Jury didn't care because they thought she should have removed David Wright.

I'm starting to think the mistakes made at this vote are gonna be the compelling argument in Carolyn's win if she makes it to the finals. The jurors might be wondering why they whiffed on removing Carolyn too. They might make somebody pay for it in the form of votes for Carolyn.

Lauren could actually pull out a win here similar to Adam's win in MvGX. That season's jury blasted Ken and Hannah for passing on so many chances to remove David Wright. They rewarded Adam in part for pushing so hard to remove David. Most of them thought he was the one who finally convinced Ken to vote against David at final 4, even though it was actually Hannah's move. Carolyn isn't quite the frontrunner David Wright was, but the jury might still penalize a finalist for not taking the shot when they had the chance. I could EASILY see Danny doing this. Now Lauren is the only one who can say "I tried to remove Carolyn at final 6."

So, we're in for an interesting finale next week. I'm terrible at handicapping jurors (I didn't think Gabler had a prayer last season), but its still interesting to speculate. Of the current jurors, who do you think they're most or least likely to vote for out of the remaining players? Let me know in the comments. I'd also like to know your thoughts on the (lack of) race discussion this season.

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.