Top Five, Baby! - Brent Sullivan's Survivor 44 recaps
More like a merge vote
By Brent Sullivan | Published: May 1, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 9 Recap/ analysis

More like a merge vote

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.

Coming into this episode, I was excited to see how the three vs. three vs. three matchup would play out. I must say, this was a very exciting outcome for sure. Tribal council had the feel of a merge vote with several players receiving votes, an advantage getting played, and even some “live tribal” action going on at one point. It was chaotic ... and it was great. I’m with Kane, I would much rather play (or watch) this sort of season rather than a boring one with straightforward votes. Speaking of Kane, I feel like we didn’t ever get a good read on him as a player, so it’s sad to see him go, but there are plenty of players left who are still playing a hard game.

Besides that, we never got the payoff of Jaime’s fake idol that she’s been talking about since she found it. More on that below, as well as a few other things to discuss on this week’s “Top Five Baby!”

1. Yam Yam knows

Yam Yam knows

At the start of the season, I felt like Carolyn was easily the biggest character of the season and overshadowed Yam Yam within the Tika tribe. But as the season has moved along, he has slowly taken over the crown of biggest character and he definitely has to have the most confessionals. Most of them are also pretty funny as well. A great example of this is how he calls himself the Double-O Zero instead of 007 when referring to himself while explaining about he knows about everything that is going on and how everyone who has voted for him has now been voted out back-to-back-to-back. So basically, he confirmed what the major discussion was this past week about how he and the Tika members all knew about how the vote was going to go on Brandon, but they voted with Ratu anyway so they could continue playing both sides.

That line continued this week when they all three switched and voted with Soka to knock out yet another original Ratu member, leaving them with just two left. So, the big question moving forward is are they going to swing back and vote with Jaime and Lauren next time to knock out one of the Soka members, stay with Soka until Ratu is all gone, or will everyone else figure out what is going on and band together to get out one of them? It seems like it could go either way at this point and I’m curious to see if Yam Yam will still know what is going on if that happens.

2. Carolyn's sobering story

Carolyn's sobering story

So, more on Carolyn and her big character status. Her story arc is changing a little bit as she makes it further to the end. She went from being goofy and acting like she didn’t know what was going on to sitting around and telling heartfelt stories to her tribe. That alone is something that she would have struggled with early in the game. She tells her tribe some of her backstory and her road to recovery and sobriety. Not only was it a great true story, but it was moving and had Frannie wanting to spend more time with her.

Carolyn has put herself into a pretty good position as no one thinks she is very strategic, a lot of people still see her as the goofy lady, and nobody ever takes her seriously in challenges. She has a great chance to make it to the end, but I fear that if she doesn’t do a few big moves or is the one who orchestrates a blindside at tribal, then she will get zero votes at the end. Carolyn is fun to watch and fun to root for, but she will need more than a sad story to sway some votes her way if she isn’t going to do anything else but that.

3. Rice negotiations

Rice negotiations

This is one I bring up every year and it seems like every year I change my opinion on it. I am very much in the same boat as Danny, I don’t think you should ever sit out an immunity challenge. I think Kane would probably agree at this point too, but in this game, it is way too risky to not compete when there are these few players left. However, I say this knowing that I can eat whatever I want to today and sleep in a comfortable bed tonight. When you are out there starving and freezing, your mind is going to want to go in a different direction.

So, Carson and Lauren choose to step out of the challenge almost immediately. Then Kane, then after some back and forth with herself, Jaime decided not to. Eventually, Heidi became the fourth one to agree to sit out so the rest of the tribe could have some rice. Along the way, we get some obvious lies from Danny and Carolyn about not voting for those four individuals.

In the past, I’ve always debated on whether or not sitting out the challenge has anything to do with if they are voted out or not later that day. In this case, I don’t think Kane would have been safe even if he did compete in the challenge. But in the case of Lauren, Carson, and Heidi, it could potentially come back to harm them especially if Danny is the one choosing who will go home next.

4. Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

So, even when the “Knowledge is Power” advantage isn’t in the game, somehow, it’s still in the game. We’ve seen this happen over the last few seasons where the new advantage would try its best to wreak havoc among the players. The odd part about that is to this day, no one has yet successfully played it. As soon as the other players get wind of it, they start passing around their idols and advantages before they get to tribal council so they can circumvent its use. This has led to some great moments in the past. This season, the players were afraid of its use, so they started doing the same thing of swapping their goods. Lauren gave her extra vote to Jaime to use. Then Jaime gave Kane her idol…which she still thinks is real. So, they had all their bases covered.

This can’t help but make me wonder if others this season will continue to do the same thing. Even though the original Ratu members are the only ones to think of it yet, I wonder if Carolyn, Heidi, or any other future advantage finder will be doing the same thing. Obviously, Jaime’s idol wasn’t real, but if it was, that would have been an even bigger moment to see Kane get voted out. Maybe this really is the best use of the “Knowledge is Power” ... have it have power without even being in the game.

5. Two out, one in

Two out, one in

This isn’t quite an advantage update, so much as it is an update on what the people who have them can do. With Kane leaving the game with Jaime’s fake idol and Lauren having Jaime use her extra vote, there are only two hidden immunity idols left in the game. Carolyn has had hers so long, there are times when I forget she even has it. But I’m sure she will pull it out and use it at an appropriate moment. Heidi, however, happens to be the newest member of the tribe to find a hidden idol.

With her being close to Danny and Frannie, is she willing to play it on one of them like Danny did for Frannie? At this point in the game, I can see her not doing it to save her own butt, but at that same time, if they are trying to take command of the game, she could use that as a way to weaken Tika or to take Ratu completely out of the game. On the other side of this, there is still plenty of time and players left in the game that they have time to add even more advantages. Hopefully whatever comes into the game has to be swapped to another player or hidden by someone. This could get exciting as we come down to the end.

So, there you have it for the ninth episode. Hopefully, next week can keep the streak going of great episodes. What do you think of Danny’s attitude? Will Yam Yam continue to be a target and come out on top? Would you ever sit out a challenge? 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