Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 44 recaps/ analysis
Survivor minds over Matt-ers
By Damnbueno | Published: March 9, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 3 recap/ analysis

Survivor minds over Matt-ers

A couple of seasons ago, I offered a brief history of Survivor players named Lindsey (or Lindsay), primarily because Lindsay Dolashewich was breaking the tradition of Lindseys who’d strategically shoot themselves in the foot. Lindsay D. played an excellent game, effectively “breaking the Lindsey curse.” Then last season, Lindsey Carmine reloaded the gun and shot again.

This season, we have not one, but two players named Matt – Matt Blankinship on the Soka tribe, and Matt Grinstead-Mayle on the Ratu tribe. Casting two players with the same name can be confusing, and I wonder why Producers didn’t ask one of them to use a nickname. In season 41, we had an Erika (who won) and an Eric, but he ended up going by his last name “Abraham.” I can understand why neither of this season’s Matts would want to be called “Purple Matt,” especially since neither of them are on the purple tribe. Probst seems to be referring to Matt G. as “Matthew,” but for my purposes, I’m gonna call them Matt B. and Matt G.

I was gonna wait a few weeks to look at Survivor Matts of the past, but since Matt G. almost got himself medevaced in the first episode, I don’t want to lose my window of opportunity. So, with that in mind, here’s a (not so) brief history of Survivor Matts.

Matthew von Ertfelda

Matt von Ertfelda (Amazon) – Matt V was a softspoken person who unfortunately holds the distinction of being the first player others labeled as “crazy.” The socially awkward Matt aligned himself with Ryan and Daniel, who promptly became the first two voted out of the all-men’s tribe. Matt thought he’d save himself by becoming a Richard Hatch-esque provider, so he spent more time fishing than forming alliances. Lucky for Matt, an innovative player named Rob Cesternino saw Matt as an asset. Rob promptly put Matt’s vote in his pocket under the guise of counseling him through the game. But Matt was a slow learner. Matt was great at challenges, and Rob C. knew this could get his pocket vote removed. So, he advised Matt to sandbag. Matt nodded, smiled, and agreed. Then he battled Alex to the end of one challenge, prompting several to consider booting Matt.Matt creeped out the women when he’d stare lovingly at the machete as he slowly and methodically sharpened it. People actually became afraid of voting him out for fear of his reaction.

Matt made it to the final 3 mostly due to Rob C.’s brilliant strategic moves. Unfortunately for Rob, that’s when Matt started applying Rob’s advice. Matt sandbagged the final 3 Immunity Challenge. Oh, hell, let’s just say it, Matt threw the challenge knowing both Rob C. and Jenna would take him to the finals. He pitched the jury on his ability to play with integrity and honor. They didn’t buy it. They knew Matt was a pawn, so they gave the win to Jenna, who made better social connections despite being bratty and trying to quit twice.

Matty Whitmore

Matty Whitmore (Gabon) – Matty’s grandfather is legendary actor James Whitmore (he played “Brooks” in “The Shawshank Redemption”) and was living a very cushy lifestyle before going to play Survivor in Gabon. Like Matt V., Matty was a solid challenge athlete, but not a savvy strategist. He watched alliances forming around him without giving much thought to his position. Just the same, he joined an alliance with Randy, Susie and Dan after Randy recruited him. That didn’t last long, as the first of two tribe swaps forced him to start over. But Matty got chosen as a Captain when picking new tribes, and his first pick was Ace. Ace was sneaky, but not nearly as sneaky as he thought. He pitched Matty on a partnership, promising not to betray Matty “until the merge.” Matty eagerly accepted Ace’s offer, not realizing Ace had no intention of sticking with Matty long-term.

Most of the time, Matty rejected ideas pitched to him by others, not realizing he was actually inviting them to start working against him. He was tragically indecisive when asked to help remove Sugar and Ace, which angered his original tribemates Crystal and Kenny. His biggest break came at final 6, when the flaky, emotional wreck Sugar found herself as a pivotal swing vote for the 75th time that season. Bob was in the middle of an Immunity winning streak and was safe, and Sugar was holding an Idol. Crystal and Kenny targeted Matty, but when Sugar decided they were “being mean to Matty,” she gave her Idol to him. Matty got 2 votes, but didn’t need the Idol as Crystal was booted with 4 votes. Matty thought he’d gained another ally. But then at final 4, Sugar, who’d just handed Matty a lifeline, voted against him, forcing Matty into a fire making tiebreaker with Bob. Matty lost the contest and left one spot short of the finals. Matty didn’t play well, but if he’d won that fire contest, he very well may have won the million over the very disliked Sugar and Susie.

Matt Elrod

Matt Elrod (Redemption Island) – Matt Elrod is probably one of the best Survivor challenge athletes the game has ever seen, but he’s also one of its worst strategists. Whatever talent he had for the game was overshadowed by the Boston Rob vs Russell theme of that season. Producers filled the cast with passive followers who’d gladly get in line behind the star returning players. Strategically, Matt did exactly what Producers wanted. Elrod landed on Boston Rob’s tribe and joined an alliance as one of his minions. When older tribe members Phillip, Francesca and Kristina plotted against Boston Rob, Matt vowed loyalty to Rob. However, Matt also made it too obvious he was attracted to Andrea. Boston Rob feared a power couple could rise against him, so he sent Elrod to Redemption Island. Matt was betrayed, blindsided, and angered, but he used that emotion to drive himself to 6 consecutive duel wins.

He won his way back into the game at the merge, but that meant he had to think strategically again. First, Matt ignored Andrea’s warning to be suspicious of Boston Rob. Next, the very religious Elrod started bonding with equally religious members of the other tribe – as Boston Rob watched. Opposing tribe member Mike slipped a note to Matt trying to recruit him. Matt ultimately decided “God says I should stay with Boston Rob.” Then Matt made his fatal mistake – he told Boston Rob the other tribe was recruiting him. He even added Andrea knew about it. Boston Rob’s decision was sealed. Matt was going right back to Redemption Island. When Andrea found out about Matt’s honesty with Boston Rob, she agreed to vote Matt out too. Matt continued his duel winning streak, but was eventually eliminated by Andrea, missing out on a chance to re-enter the game at final 6. Matt even stayed loyal to Boston Rob while on the Jury. Elrod voted for Boston Rob.

Matt Quinlan

Matt Quinlan (One World) – There aren’t many good things to say about Matt’s game. Ok, there aren’t ANY good things to say about Matt’s game. Well, he was smart enough to grab two water jugs when the tribes scrambled to get supplies off the truck on day 1, but that’s about it. In a men vs women season, several players saw chickens running loose. Matt announced, “We’ll work together and split the chickens,” but didn’t bother to see if any women agreed to his pitch. Chelsea caught two chickens by herself and checked with the women, who told her the men had stolen some of their supplies. So, Chelsea refused to share. Matt said in confessional “I’m not a ladies’ man. I’m not a guy who’s gonna go around and keep the ladies happy. Give us that chicken as an apology, then we’ll think about talking.” Good game plan, Matt. But that wasn’t his crowning moment. Matt returned to his men’s tribe of 9 and promptly formed a 4-person alliance. In confessional, Matt said “So I’m aligned with Big Mike, Jay bird and Bill. It’s an easy alliance. We’re the young, fit guys…I don’t know what else we need to talk about. Everybody else is screwed ... It’s the dominant alliance clearly.” Matt thought an alliance of 4 would be dominant on a tribe of 9.

In his delusion, Matt proceeded to anger or annoy 4 of the 5 he excluded from his alliance. When the men lost the 2nd Immunity Challenge, Matt finally did some math, and realized he needed more than 4 votes. He tried to recruit Troyzan and Jonas. His efforts are described perfectly in their confessionals. Troyzan: “Matt basically is a jerk. He calls the strongest guys the ‘Roosters.’ The whole time, I’m agreeing with him, but in my mind I’m saying ‘I’m never gonna be with you.’ It ain’t Survivor unless you’re lying.” Jonas: Matt hasn’t talked to me for 7 days, and all of a sudden out of the blue, he just comes rushing up to me, and wants to make an alliance. So, I’m looking forward to getting rid of Matt ‘cause he is such a power player.” Matt got himself booted. As badly as Matt played, at least he didn’t take part in the dumbest decision of that season. He was already gone when the men gave up their Immunity to the women so they could obey Colton and vote out Bill.

Matt Bischoff

Matt Bischoff (Caramoan) – Matt was part of the second Fans vs Favorites cast chosen to play with 10 returning players, so right off the bat, we knew we wouldn’t see much of him unless he created a lot of drama. But Matt specialized in NOT creating drama, which is also why he didn’t get much camera time. When the volatile Shamar ordered the tribe to focus on making fire and boiling water, Matt decided to build a shelter. Shamar yelled at him. Matt didn’t back down, but he later offered to make peace with Shamar. Matt made a quick partnership with Michael, and they found themselves in the middle of two foursomes, which wasn’t a bad position to hold. Matt was able to build trust with most on his tribe, except of course, Shamar. The Fans were getting destroyed in Immunity Challenges, but Matt stayed in the majority after 3 trips to Tribal Council, and Shamar’s medevac. But the tribe swap put the fans in a 4-3 minority on both tribes. Matt was swapped with Michael and Julia, and their new tribe lost the next Immunity Challenge. Julia hadn’t made any strong connections and seemed like an easy vote. But Cochran realized she wasn’t a threat, and Corrinne lobbied to keep Michael. Some of the Favorites suspected Matt was holding an Idol. Matt tried to convince Corinne he didn’t have an Idol, and unfortunately for him, she and Cochran believed him. Instead, they suspected Julia was holding an Idol, so out of fear Julia would save herself, they voted Matt out.

Up until that moment, Matt Bischoff had probably turned in the best Survivor game for someone named Matt. I’m not counting Sash from Nicaragua (who’s real name is Matt), because we know him as Sash. It’ll be interesting to see if Matt B. or Matt G. can “break the Matt curse” like Lindsay D. did with her namesakes. So far it looks like Matt B.’s chances are more promising because Matt G. seems destined to get himself medevaced.

Gabler’s win put my mind on alert about something. We (the audience) largely saw Gabler as too annoying to have any chance at winning (at least I did). My initial take on Carolyn is similar. However, in my episode 1 rewatch I noticed that while we saw several shots of Carolyn making goofy faces, screaming, giggling, or sticking her tongue out, we DIDN’T see any players reacting to these quirks. That means its possible Carolyn is hiding her crazy from the rest of the tribe, and saving most of it for her confessionals. If Gabler can win Survivor, so can Carolyn.

And away we go…

Matt G. sees himself as a mastermind. Elie saw herself the same way last season.

Wait, Lauren is telling everyone she’s got an Extra Vote? What is she thinking? That just blew Kane’s cover, but I doubt it was intentional. What exactly does Lauren think she gained by telling everyone she’s got power? Smart people will want to separate her from that power ASAP.


Brandon, don’t show your anger to Kane. Make him think you’ll get over it. That’ll lower his guard for later on.

Matt B. is starting to remind me of Owen. The “woe is me” thing has got to go if he wants to win.

Matt B

My wife snorts when she laughs. I think its cute too, but I wouldn’t say it makes my heart gush.

Frannie is wise to try to distance publicly herself from Matt B., but it might be too late. They’re already giving off Andrea/Matt Elrod vibes.

I bet the Producers hate these group search sessions as much as Helen does.

Kane should take a page from Kelley Wentworth’s manual. When you know you’re in the minority, don’t disappear. Hang around camp. She ended up finding two Idols that way in Cambodia.

Kane's idol search

Hey look, there’s Danny. I totally missed him last week. If he’s smart, he’ll sit on that key. Hide it far away from camp. If he wants to grab it, do it late at night. The camera crew will follow you, and you can use their lights to see. That helped Domenick find an Idol in Ghost Island. It might have helped Tony in Winners at War too, but Tony also built a fire. Leave the cage alone until you think the merge is close. Your tribemates will honestly tell the others they don’t know if anybody has the Idol.

Carolyn dug through her son’s poop to find a tooth he’d swallowed? Does she not know about recent advances in Dentistry? I don’t think I’d want to put that tooth back in my mouth. People would call me “Potty mouth.”

Carolyn is eccentric enough that everyone will believe her lie. They don’t think she’s smart enough to lie that well. They think she wears her heart on her sleeve.

Ok, props to you Danny for covering your tracks, but now you have to keep the Idol hidden.

Danny and his idol

Of course, Carolyn isn’t as good at covering her tracks. Look at Carson pulling a Boston Rob bag search move. It didn’t work for Boston Rob either.

Tika bag search

I don’t think it’s a question of if Carolyn will crack, but how entertaining will it be when she does crack?

We’ve seen this Immunity Challenge before. The snake maze was used in David vs Goliath, Edge Of Extinction, and again in Winners at War. Rick Devens and Tyson won their way back into the game. Alec and Christian did it well in DvG. I think this time, the smart player stays away from that snake thingy at the end.

Matthew, snake maze

I don’t think Probst likes that Claire has sat out twice already. But if I’m Claire, I don’t care. I’m not playing to please Probst. Then again, he might rip her apart if she doesn’t do well the next time she competes. But then then again again, its probably good for your game if people believe they can beat you in challenges. They usually don’t want to vote out the weaker challenge performers post-merge.

Someone could get hurt really bad if they drop that bridge.

The bridge

Matt G. is doing the snake puzzle with a bad shoulder? Bad decision.

Josh is dropping that ball a lot. Time to swap out, Josh.

Good for Matt G. for winning the challenge, but he would have been better served by milking his injury a little longer like Tyson did in Blood vs Water. Now everybody knows he’s healthy and will play through pain. Had he sat out, I think he was unlikely to get targeted. Jaime or Kane were probably in more trouble than Matt G. was.

And now everybody knows Matt G. has made simulated Survivor puzzles at home. He’s digging his hole pretty deep already. Telling people he practiced this challenge at home lets them know he’s probably practiced other challenges too. He’s telling people he can beat them in post-merge challenges.

Ratu wins!

Will Carolyn be able to hold it together enough to hold on to her Idol? Will her read be good enough for her to know nobody sees her as a threat?

Carson is smart to sandbag his intelligence.

Did anyone laugh as much as I did when Carson tried and failed to break that branch across his knee?

Carson vs branch

These 3 are taking Yam Yam for granted. They’re not making him feel included. He’s got to know he’s #4 with them.

And sure enough, Yam Yam is off to strengthen his position. If he locks up Carolyn, he only needs one more vote.

Carson! Learn the lesson from Island of the Idols! Remove the vote you won’t be able to control. Boot Carolyn! As a viewer, I’d hate it because Carolyn is entertainment gold, but this is by far the best thing for your game. Don’t let Noura, uh, I mean Carolyn screw up your game with her flighty decision making!

Carolyn’s non-poker faces are the best. But I’m sure it makes her very hard to read for the other players.


I’m thinking there’s something in that bag in the voting booth. Its just like the bag in the Birdcage.

Carolyn holds on to her Idol. I’m impressed.

Bye Helen.


I feel bad for Helen. She really didn’t do anything to get herself voted out aside from “looking smart” to Yam Yam and Carolyn (no, I’m not gonna go there). Maybe she should have sandbagged her smarts too.

I’d really like to know what Carson was thinking. Is he making the mistake of thinking he’ll be able to put Carolyn’s vote in his pocket? He approached Carolyn so late, he’s got to know he’s no better than #3 in that alliance. At best, he’s gonna be in a power struggle with Yam Yam to influence Carolyn. If he’d have kept Helen, he’d be right in the middle with a much better chance of influencing how Sarah and Helen would vote. He’s gonna need Sarah. How will he get Sarah’s trust back? I don’t think his social game is as strong as Jesse’s, so I think he’s in trouble now.

So, since Sarah told her tribe she wouldn’t find out if she had a vote until she went to Tribal Council, she has to come up with a cover story. She’ll need a good one if she wants to improve her standing. Much like Brandon, the worst thing she could to is let anyone know she feels betrayed. If she finds out Carolyn has an Idol, she could finesse Carolyn into playing it, then inherit it for herself.

What are your thoughts? Was Lauren smart for telling others she’s got an Extra Vote, or did she set herself up to be betrayed by someone at the merge? Who will survive between Matt B. and Frannie when one of them gets booted pre-merge? Carolyn seems to know a lot about basic Survivor strategy, but will she have the social skills to maintain anyone’s trust? Was Danny smart for grabbing the Idol so soon, or should he have sat on the key a little longer? 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.