Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 44 recaps/ analysis
To play is to overplay ... sometimes
By Damnbueno | Published: March 16, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 3 recap/ analysis

To play is to overplay ... sometimes

First, a few random notes from last week’s rewatch.

Danny is a pretty damn good athlete. In last week’s Immunity Challenge, he ran up that tree trunk ladder without using his hands. He was off the net and on his mat waiting for his tribe before anyone else reached the bottom of the net. Yam Yam took the longest to clear that first obstacle.

Carolyn was wearing different clothes when she opened the Birdcage. When the tribe left to get water, she was wearing a purple top covered in sweat. But when she got the Idol, she was wearing a white top with stripes. When the tribe returned from the Well, and took Carolyn back to the Birdcage, she was in the sweat-covered purple top again. This was probably just a reshoot because something went wrong with the original footage, but it caught my eye.

Last week, Carson sided with Carolyn and Yam Yam – the two players he has the least chance of influencing. Let’s see how he handles it. I wonder how he’ll smooth things over with Sarah too.

In a deleted scene from episode 1 (I’m a little late on this one), we learned Claire lost Soku’s machete. The tribe wasted hours of shelter building time trying to find it. I’m wondering if this mistake, and her tendency to sit out will catch up to her.

Brandon saved himself with an Idol at final 17 (thanks to Bruce’s medevac). While there have been 12 pre-merge Idol plays, and 3 others played with 17 players left (Tom in HvV, David in Millennials vs Gen X, and Tai in Game Changers), Brandon’s was the first Idol played at the game’s first Tribal Council.

I did my best to get a good look at all the Idols – real and phony – this season, since I know they’ll all come into play:

Ratu real Idol: a small bracelet with one orange and one yellow bead, and two tiny pink beads.

Soka real Idol: a palm-sized necklace that looks like 3 green discs woven together in triangular form.

Tika real Idol: a silver coin attached to a necklace.

Ratu phony Idol: a palm-sized medallion made up of 3 orange small saucer-shaped discs.

Soka phony Idol: a silver coin attached to a necklace.

Tika phony Idol: a bracelet with 3 white and 3 yellow beads on it.

And away we go…

Carson is gloating a lot after one vote. He’s a little too excited about pulling off a blindside. He’s showing day 18 excitement on day 5. Carson and Matt G. are getting pretty big heads.

Excited Carson

Carson, its smart to try to make good with Sarah, but you’re laying it on a little too thick.

Carson: “I don’t want Sarah to think I’m the strategic mastermind.”

Sarah: “Carson’s the strategic mastermind.”

I don’t think Carolyn knows what she’s doing, but she’s the best liar on the Tika tribe.

I’m a big Hockey fan and have heard “Oh Canada” sung hundreds of times. Kane’s version made me not want to hear it again. It wasn’t as bad as Roseanne Barr or Fergie’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” but its in the same neighborhood.

Kane singing

Brandon says he played with the Seahawks from 2015 to 2018? I looked up some of his stats, and all I found was that he was signed and waived by the Seahawks 3 times. I don’t think he played a single game with them. He spent some time on their practice squad though.

Brandon: “With no risk, there’s no reward.” This isn’t really true in Survivor. What risks did Gabler, Maryanne or Erika take? Tony can’t inhale without taking a risk, but he’s a Survivor unicorn. Tommy, Chris U., Nick and Wendell didn’t take big risks either. Sometimes the best move is not taking a risk.

Frannie and Matt B. need to take lessons in laying low. They’re really bad at it.

Matt B and Frannie

Did we really need to see Danny finding the Idol again?

If Danny wanted to hide the phony Idol without being caught, why not hide it at night when everyone is sleeping? Did Production tell him to do it during the day?

Danny, you’re playing Survivor, not Parkour. That little tumble roll was for the cameras, not for your game.

Danny crawling

Danny: “I’m Peter Pan, running through the woods.” Did Peter Pan run through the woods? That kid could fly, what does he need to run for? Was Danny thinking of Mowgli from “The Jungle Book?”

If we’re getting a fun segment about Yam Yam’s snoring, it makes me think they’re not going to Tribal Council this week.

If I’m Sarah, I start dropping subtle hints to Carolyn and Yam Yam about why they shouldn’t trust Carson. Turn them against him like Danni turned Stephenie against Judd in Guatemala.

Sarah and Carson

I still haven’t figured out what I like about Sarah, but I’m glad she’s not buying Carson’s BS.

Matt B. finds the re-hidden key. How soon will he tell Frannie?

Matt B and the key

That didn’t take long.

Showing Frannie the idol

Why won’t anybody just sit on the key?

Danny had a great idea in hiding the key, but I think he killed it by confronting Matt B. about it. Why not sit on that info and figure out how to best use it if/when you know Matt B. isn’t working with you?

So, Danny wanted to remove suspicion from himself? That’s not a bad plan, but was anybody suspicious of him in the first place? Danny is outthinking himself.

Now we get a worm eating segment on Ratu? Yeah, Soka is going to Tribal Council this week.

Eating worms

Jaime: “I was born for Survivor.” Then why did you panic and play your Shot in the Dark? Players born for Survivor have more backbone.

And when they find something, they try to conceal it from others.

So, Matt G. made a phony Idol that looks just like his real Idol? Much like Danny, Matt G. is outthinking himself. He’s playing more for the sake of being sneaky, or to be a memorable character than to win the game. And Brandon is still holding Ratu’s phony Idol. There are more phony Idols this season than real ones so far. Does this mean Brandon has the phony Idol, and Jaime has the phony phony Idol?

Jaime with Matthew's fake idol

Ho hum another Immunity Challenge we’ve seen before. But instead of rolling a cube through the water, players had to raise a ladder in Survivor 42. Jonathan’s tribe was the only one that could fight the rough waves and complete it. We’ve seen that Vertical, Rubik’s Cube thingy in Samoa, South Pacific, and Winners At War.

Probst calls Claire out again.

Claire sits out

Matt G. wears his sling in camp, but takes it off during challenges? That’s a confusing strategy. I think it says “I’m not gonna work around camp.”

Why is Yam Yam allowed to run ahead of his tribe?

Yam Yam runs ahead

I hope nobody uses Jeanine’s method for getting under that log. Their chin will be purple for two weeks.

I have separated my left (non-throwing) shoulder. 4 days after my injury, I couldn’t lift my arm over my head. It even hurt when I’d scratch my ear. My shoulder was just too stiff. Matt G. can clearly use his arm just fine. I don’t think he’s feeling much if any pain at all. If he says he’s hurting (like he did while digging under the log), I think he’s faking it.

Yeah, if Matt G. was in pain, there’s no way he’d be able to use his left arm to lift a block over his head.

Matthew hoisting the last block

Soka has always had the advantage of being in the middle during the puzzle portions. Its easier for them to look at the other tribes’ progress. Why is it one tribe always seems to be in the middle? Baka was always in the middle last season, Vati in Season 42, and Ua in Season 41.

And sure enough, there goes Matt B. looking at Ratu’s finished puzzle. Carson to Yam Yam: “Go over there and check that puzzle.” Yam Yam: “Over there?” Carson, this is why you needed to keep Helen. The learning curve with Yam Yam and Carolyn is steeper than with Helen. My dog hates these moments because my burst of laughter always wakes her up.

Over there?

Even after checking out Ratu’s puzzle, Soka still loses Immunity? I wonder if anyone threw it? I don’t know why they would, but we’ve seen stranger things on Survivor. Frannie and Matt. B. think he’s got a real Idol, so I suppose that gives them incentive to remove someone he doesn’t think will work with them. Matt B. also might want to burn those two Tribals where he can’t vote. Frannie and Matt B. even stopped working while Probst was verifying Tika had it right.

Josh side-eye

I do think tribes that go to Tribal Council before the merge are usually better prepared for the post-merge game. The biggest advantage is you get experience answering Probst’s questions. You figure out how to give a response without revealing your alliances or strategy. Probst once said Tina from The Australian Outback was the best at this.

Danny is pushing his voting agenda pretty hard. I think he’s playing too hard too fast just like Carson and Matt G.

Danny lobbying

Joshua is smart not to try to switch votes from Claire to Matt B. Its too early to be that aggressive. Plus, he thinks Matt B.’s Idol is real.

Claire! What are you thinking? Did you really just ask Frannie to vote Matt B. out? That’s a great way to turn Frannie against you. Just look at her reaction! I think Claire just sealed her own fate. Even my dog knows Frannie won’t vote for Matt B.

Unhappy Frannie

Claire asks Heidi to help save her, and Heidi says “I have to think about it?” Wow, that’s a horrible move Heidi. You should convincingly tell her “Yes” as a means of stopping Claire from making other plans. If you think everybody wants Joshua out, then YOU have the best shot of putting his vote in your pocket!

Heidi and Claire

And now Heidi is telling Frannie AND Danny she’s still undecided???

I keep a list of indecisive swing votes. I’ve got 13 indecisive players through 43 seasons. Heidi just made it 14. She’s up there with Gabriel (Marquesas), Christy (Amazon), Dolly (Vanuatu), Sarah Lacina (Cagayan merge), and Aubry (crossing out a vote in Kaoh Rong). The only one who went on to win the game is Ben, who was indecisive at HHH final 12. And we all know why Ben made it to the end, done we (wink wink, nod nod). I doubt Heidi will have Ben’s kind of “luck.”

No matter who leaves, Heidi did a lot of damage to her game at this vote. Everyone knows she’ll have trouble committing to a vote. She identified herself as a high maintenance alliance partner. She just made herself the next most likely to go.

Claire: “They didn’t give me a chance to show what I’m made of.” Uhh, no, you straight up volunteered to sit out at least twice. You also saw Matt G. do two straight challenges with an injured shoulder.

Claire at Tribal

If Claire leaves, it might not exclusively be because she sat out a lot, but that’s 100% Danny’s reason. Just the same, you’ve got to know Probst will call you out if you sit out a lot. It should be part of your game plan to make sure not to get exposed by Probst – either in challenges or at Tribal Council. That’s part of his job.

Heidi’s getting called out at Tribal Council by Claire. That’s why you tell everyone “Yes” when they ask you to vote with them. Then YOU can surprise everyone when they see your vote. Claire just outlined the reason nobody should depend on Heidi. And I think Heidi just told Claire to play her shot in the Dark.

What’s with all the closeups of that Wizard of Oz Funky Monkey? Is that the Monster Probst has been talking about for four seasons now? Is there a Gargoyle Idol in the voting booth?

Tribal gargoyle

Claire playing her Shot in the Dark just increased the odds she’ll be booted. What if Heidi and/or Frannie chose to vote with her? It could also be a 2-2 tie now.

Hmm ... do I want to sit through “Lingo” just to see a preview of next week’s Survivor? The “Next week on Survivor” promos are almost always misleading. Just last week, they flashed a shot of Yam Yam falling, but this week we saw he was recreating a slow motion “Baywatch” fall in jest. I’m gonna give RuPaul a no on this one.


The vibe I’m getting is that Matt G., Danny, and Carson are so excited about playing, they don’t realize they’re playing too hard. All three of them are standing out as aggressive strategists. My gut says those three are not as smart as they think they are.

So far, I’m not seeing any of these players emerging as strong strategists on the Jesse/Omar/Ricard level. I’m not seeing a standout social player making multiple connections like Tommy, Lindsay D. or Karla either. Usually someone emerges by episode 3.

I’m dying to know what’s going on in Joshua’s head. His facial expressions tell me he’s doing some deep thinking. I like that he’s keeping things close to the vest.

Heidi had a really bad week. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take time to make your decision. But you should try to fill the other players with confidence about your vote. Never make people think “She’s not with us.” Carson was in the middle last week when deciding who to side with. Helen didn’t find out he was wavering until Probst held up his vote. He had both sides convinced he was with them. Heidi had both sides wondering about her.

What do you think? Did Soku throw the Immunity Challenge? Did Heidi do as much damage to her game as I think she did? Are Danny, Matt G. and Carson overplaying? Is Joshua a master strategist, or did he just practice his poker face before playing. Are there any elite-level strategists this season? 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.