Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor 44 recaps
New connections and an early exit
By Brent Sullivan | Published: April 3, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 5 Recap/ analysis

New connections and an early exit

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.

Well, I definitely was not expecting an episode to end this way. I guess the only way a guy can leave the game is if he gets hurt. Am I wrong about this? Seriously, I do feel for Matthew because you can tell how badly he wanted to play, and you can tell that he really was in a lot of pain. However, it was his own poor choices that put him in this spot ... so there is that.

Overall, these last two episodes have been my favorite two of the season for two completely different reasons. I loved last week’s episode because of the ”semi-tribe swap” and this week’s because of all the humor and fun we got to experience. We will touch more on that here in a few, but one more thought on the edit this year. I love how they are showing us stuff like the producers talking. This is the sort of stuff that is normally hidden, or it is talked about but never seen. I am glad they are letting us peek behind the curtain a bit in this new era.

Ok, enough warm-ups, let’s get to this week’s “Top Five Baby!”

1. Carson in the middle

Carson in the middle

One of the hardest things to do in Survivor is to gain the trust of your tribemates. When Carson was on Tika, he gained that trust by voting with Yam Yam and Carolyn, plus he had an early bond with Sarah and Helen. After he swapped tribes last week, he had to start all over again. I know that Matthew and Kane are coming to him to create that bond as well, but so far he appears to be making great strides in his new tribe. I feel like he had Matthew in a good place. Matthew was telling him tribe secrets about idol locations while Carson pretty much gave him nothing. He and Kane now also seemingly have been talking and creating a “nerd friendship.” That may just be what Kane is hoping because the reality is Carson is playing him like he is the rest of the tribe.

We have not seen much interaction between Carson and Brandon or Lauren, but he talks as if he’s doing the same thing to all of them. This puts him in a great spot with the merge coming up. Not only will he hopefully have his new Ratu family to vote with, but I’m sure Carolyn and Yam Yam would gladly accept him back as well, since they are so low in numbers. Of course, all of this depends on how they are separated during the “earn the merge” section of the game. Plus, I wonder if his idol is still good during the next tribal if they are not officially merged yet? Of course, that would be good news for Jaime as well. Speaking of Jaime ....

2. Jaime doesn't see the love

Jaime doesn't see the love

So, over on Soka, Jaime thinks she is in a great spot. She knew about everything that was going on over at Ratu, and now she thinks she knows about everything here at Soka. Even though she does appear to be meshing well with the group, she has one giant hole in her theory. She somehow completely missed how close Matt and Frannie are. I am not sure if she is trying so hard to ingratiate herself in the tribe, that she is overlooking something obvious, or if Matt and Frannie are doing a better job hiding their relationship from newcomers now. Either way, Jaime makes the mistake of down-talking Matt to Frannie. Then, after a little hiatus from the game where we get all sorts of bubbly, cute conversations about their relationship and where it could go after the game, we see Frannie tell Matt about it.

Now, I know the merge is coming up, but this can really hurt Jaime moving forward. Again, depending on how they are separated during the first part of the merge, Jaime may be an easy target if she is teamed up with a majority of the Soka group. Danny and Heidi would most likely stick with any combination of Matt and Frannie, especially during that first vote. With all of that to consider, she thinks she is sitting on two good idols and could easily overplay her hand thinking she is safe.

3. The Tika trio

The Tika trio

Man ... what a train wreck Tika has been this season. Man ... what fun it’s been to watch them as well. I sure bet Josh was happy to be swapped there, his screen time went up 10,000% with that move.

Seriously though, Tika has struggled all season trying to win challenges and if it weren’t for Matthew leaving the game, they would have been down to two people left. That is not something you see very often in this show. To make matters worse for them, all three of them have trust issues with each other. No one wanted Josh around because he was the newcomer to the tribe. Then he ended up voting with Carolyn to get Sarah out. That put Yam Yam on the outside because he was left out of the vote, so he and Josh were at odds, almost to an uncomfortable level. Then, the two of them had a heart-to-heart conversation and suddenly, they wanted to work together and vote off Carolyn. After Carolyn comes back from the journey, she wanted to jump back into the arms of Yam Yam and have them vote for Josh, even though he didn’t completely trust her anymore.

Ultimately, we didn’t get to see them go to tribal council, so we have no clue as to who would have gone home. We can assume Josh, based on what Carolyn was saying, but until the votes are cast, no one really knows. With the merge around the corner, I am super curious to see where these three land. Will Josh go back to his Soka group? Will Carson be happy to see Yam Yam and Carolyn again? It should be fun to watch them scatter.

4. A bro bonding experience

A bro bonding experience

After the immunity challenge, Ratu got to choose who got to go on the journey this week. They chose Brandon from their own tribe, Danny from Soka, and Carolyn from Tika. I must admit, it was a pleasant change of pace to see them get the Sanctuary instead of an advantage or game twist. But no advantage was needed as some poor gameplay ensued causing some potential fireworks down the road.

The meal at the Sanctuary started sort of normal with the three players talking about Josh’s idol he got before the swap, which of course enlightened the other players on the possibility of Carson and Jaime also having one. But it pretty much went downhill from there when Danny and Brandon started bonding over their own physical appearance and/or prowess in the challenges. It would have been bad enough for them to just talk in front of her like they did, but then they insinuated that Carolyn was weak in the challenges and they didn’t think she would make it that much further. They even brought up that they should include Josh in their group since he was also a physical threat. Every so often she would speak up and say something counter to what they were saying and then would back-handedly try to include her in the conversation again. Overall, this left a terrible taste in her mouth, and she was ready to kick Josh to the curb and jump back to Yam Yam.

We really don’t know the short-term impact, since Tika didn’t go to tribal council, but long-term, this may backfire on Danny and Brandon. Carolyn could try to get the numbers against them after she tells everyone how they acted on the journey. I’m curious to see where this goes and to see if Danny and Brandon are able to link back up again.

5. Matthew leaves

Matthew leaves

Just a quick note on Matthew leaving the game and a few things that it impacts. First and most importantly, it leaves Ratu with one less person. Not sure how the tribes will split apart, but Ratu being down by one certainly doesn’t do them any favors. Just read point number one above for more info about Carson and Ratu if you have any questions. Secondly, he left the game with a good idol in his pocket, so not only is there one less idol in the game, but since it came from Ratu and now it’s merge time, it probably won’t be re-hidden. Finally, him leaving means that no one in the game knows that the hidden immunity idol that Jaime has is a fake. Of course, her other one may still be good until the merge is official, but that leaves her with no ally on that tribe either. With all of the mix-ups and other stuff that’s been going on, I can’t wait to see what happens during the merge!

So, there you have it for the fifth episode. Another strong episode even though we didn’t get a tribal council. With the merge coming, hopefully, we get a few more great episodes here. What were your thoughts on Matthew leaving the game? Do you think Josh was really going to be voted out? What were Danny and Brandon thinking during the journey? 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