Jeff Pitman's Survivor 46 recaps
Looking for green shoots of life
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 31, 2024
Survivor 46 Episode 5 recap/ analysis

Looking for green shoots of life

Since we last checked in, Episode 4 of Survivor 46 was a weary, grinding continuation of the decimation of Yanu from Episode 3, but then Episode 5 gave us an introduction to a completely new tribe, Siga. We had seen glimpses of Siga before, in the Metallica vs. Taylor Swift song title extravaganza, in Jem's idol clue find and bush-destroying clue re-hiding, and in Charlie and Maria annointing themselves the new Malcolm and Denise (despite Matsing losing every one of the first four immunity challenges, and Siga not losing any). But in Episode 5, we at last were able to watch them scheme and plot with actual consequences, and that was pretty refreshing. There are green shoots of life starting to poke up through the ground for this season, despite the showrunner/host's continuing attempts to pave it all over in non-votes. (Episode 5 also gave us just the second person in the entire season leaving the game at a Tribal in which they cast a vote.)

This also marked the end of the pre-merge (-atory) period, which means if Tim had just been slightly better with a slingshot, we could have had an entire tribe of six skate through to the individual stage despite not being particularly good at challenges (they ended up 0-for-7 with five second-place finishes, but they were almost 0-for-7 with six seconds). Siga was a tribe that was forced to sit out half of its members in the final pre-merge challenge, not because they were the new Koror, but because they were just marginally good enough to not be the new Matsing, despite what their salsa-ing main characters say.

On the one hand, it would have been preferable to have a more balanced start, and get to know Siga, or even the mysterious, musical Nami, a bit earlier. On the other hand, at least the pre-merge is over, and now we will finally get to see that elusive orange-buffed tribe in closer detail (or details that don't involve ultimately fruitless locked box finds).

Is there a lesson the show can take here? Of course not, they don't listen to anyone, and will keep trotting out the same exhausting three-tribe, punish-the-loser format until the wheels fall off. There's no point in complaining, nothing will change in 47 or 48, even though they haven't been filmed yet. The many flaws of the new era, starting with its rigid, utterly predictable structure, have been obvious since at least 43, but Jeff Probst has convinced himself they're actually facets, so get used to it, I guess.

Then again, maybe the show's producers have heard the (nonsensical) complaints of "stop casting so many superfans," and have taken it upon themselves to accomplish that by driving superfans into extinction.

The perils of excessive (dis)advantages

The perils of excessive (dis)advantages

I missed the opening minute-plus during the live broadcast, and came in as Yanu returned to camp. But in rewatching, the "Previously On..." segment's requirement to remind the audience of all the advantages and disadvantages in play made 100% clear that Siga would be attending Tribal this episode. We were reminded that Maria (and Tevin) had an extra vote from the Ep1 journey. We once again saw Jem find the Siga Beware idol half-clue, and Siga's search for the idol due to her re-hidden clue. We were shown Tiffany completing the Beware idol find process after an IC loss. We were re-shown Ben losing his vote at the Ep3 journey. (Plus Bhanu leaving, which was the only event from the actual previous episode.) Gosh, I wonder which tribe all of this could be in reference to?

That did not rock, because it robbed Yanu's clutch (second-place) non-loss in the IC of some of its surprise factor. If you had been paying attention at all (especially to the relative dearth of Yanu content this episode), Q's slow-mo final blow was a foregone conclusion. It also was fairly obvious that Jem was the most likely target on Siga, because of all the time spent in Episodes 3-4 on people complaining about her re-hiding the clue in the bush, and Siga digging it up (also shown in the Previously On...). True, there was a brief reprieve there when she found the idol, and this episode's edit highlighted Ben, which sort of hinted otherwise, but it still didn't feel accurate, based on the previous four episodes' content.

The obvious fix is: Either cut the Previously On... altogether (not great for casual viewers), or stop flooding the game with extra votes and non-votes - especially the latter. They are extremely rarely relevant to the outcome - just look at how Maria's extra vote and Ben lost vote completely canceled each other out this episode! - and explaining them takes up precious screentime. For the most part, they're just unnecessary distractions. Time-fillers. Fluff. But we all know that will never happen, because the first rule of the New Era is that nothing ever changes.

Hunter's journey task: Please make this a full challenge

Please make this a full challenge

But again, there were some fun things this episode, like Hunter's Survivor history-referencing journey task. For years, the show refused to acknowledge its past, wanting to silo each season in its own free-standing universe. But even when that became impossible (All-Stars and every subsequent returnee season), Survivor has almost never made knowledge of its history a currency in and of itself, with the exception of Erik Reichenbach's win in the Final Five RC of Micronesia, "Survivor Roots." With the new era casts burgeoning with self-professed superfans, now is the perfect time to bring this kind of challenge back.

As such, it was a little disappointing that this was just a one-off quiz, in which only one person could partake, on a stupid journey. But the task itself was glorious, right down to Sandra's disembodied head staring down dubiously at Hunter's (lack of) progress, as if to say "I can get those in order too, WTF?"

Please make this a full challenge

Hunter immediately copped to what was challenging for him about rearranging the season logos (above) in numerical order: He started watching in the middle of Survivor's run, and even though he's now seen every season, he didn't watch them in the order they aired. With a lot of recent contestants having discovered the show on Netflix or Paramount+ and then taken the full plunge (or not, in some cases), that's quickly going to become the norm for future players, if it isn't already.

That makes Hunter's memory game an excellent choice for a challenge-ending equalizer in a future tribal challenge, or even as (part of) an individual challenge. It works best in an individual reward challenge, because most superfans know the wisest strategic approach to them is to Always Be Throwing, but what self-respecting superfan is going to pass up the opportunity to blaze past your competitors while acing a Survivor memory test while on Survivor?

Best of all, it's that rarest of commodities: An element that favors someone who has watched and discussed every season of the show as it aired, which in season 47+ would be someone who is at least in their lates 30s, probably older, and probably nerdy. Sure, you get your rare Keith Nale who can dominate physical/skill challenges in his 50s, but almost never do you see the older "mom" type or the aging nerd/tribe dad get a challenge that's directly in their wheelhouse. Just for balance's sake, please greenlight this.

(To be fair, as someone who routinely organizes old Survivor content by season number on a website, I might be overestimating the average superfan's abilities on this, but I will always advocate for challenges in which I, personally, would shine.)

Sorry for you, the beatings will continue until morale improves

The beatings will continue until morale improves

If you watched Survivor 45 and thought to yourself, "Wow, the new era game is actually pretty tolerable with 90-minute episodes to provide more room for camp life, fun characters, and the gentle re-introduction of long-missed former staples, like a swap and the auction. It might even be fun!" ... well boy, are you in for a treat: Jeff Probst kindly invites you to "go find another show." (For context, see this article from Mike Bloom.)

For example, if you had observed Yanu's downward spiral in Episodes 1-4, and mused, "It's really dumb that Yanu didn't have flint after their first Tribal, since they'd already been punished by voting someone out - repeatedly," Kommissar Probst would like you to understand that no, you are 100% wrong, and that he's not changing his arbitrary new rule that has now kneecapped the show for two straight seasons, even though it's essentially what everyone complained about with the poor Ravu tribe in Fiji, and that twist (Haves vs. Have-nots) was jettisoned immediately. How dare you threaten his precious "Sorry for you" catchphrase?

You see, if there's one thing (and it can only be one thing, stop being greedy) that fans have enjoyed about Survivor over the past two-plus decades, it's the gritty, draining, suffering of the contestants, as they starve and shiver through long nights of cold rain with no tarp, and no fire to keep them warm. Every superfan's favorite moments are when someone who's starved, sleep-deprived, hypothermic, and/or dehydrated is so demoralized that they contemplate quitting - as has happened in the last two seasons. If you thought differently, and maybe enjoyed gleefully backstabby strategic moves, or epic challenge victories, or big outrageous characters, again: You're wrong, go find another show. We are ONLY here to watch people break down physically and emotionally. When thinking about Survivor, you must ask yourself: "But is it fun?", and if it is, please go do something else.

Side note: If you ARE looking for another show, the last two seasons of Australian Survivor have been really well put together, and the most recent one (SurvivorAU: Titans v Rebels) is an absolute triumph that stacks up well against any US season. It may be the best all-newbie season of any Survivor franchise since Cagayan. For a brief, circa-monthlong period of bliss, SurvivorAU was available to watch on Paramount+ in the US ... but no more! Now it's US Survivor or bust on P+ (more of a P-, really, since Peacock has The Traitors), so I guess you can go find another streaming service and stop paying for that one, as well.

Shorter takes

Shorter takes

Title quote deciphering: By elevating it to a title quote, the show's editors are telling us that Tim's constipation (above) ALSO referred to Siga's inability to vote anyone out through the first four episodes. Always a great sign to have the show referring to its most fundamental mechanics as bowel movements! No wonder Probst wants to remove everyone's ability to vote.

The missing swap: Episode 4 was the spot where Survivor 45 had its swap. It's the natural spot, since with 15 left, you can have three new tribes of five. (There's no reason they can't swap down from three to two tribes in Ep3, they just don't want to.) But, as I and Damnbueno have noted, the Beware idols all had instructions for what to do if you find yourself on a new beach (FYI, it reads: wait until your tribe loses an IC, then instructions will be available at tree mail). Since we're now at the merge and no swap happened, that suggests that production killed the swap at the last minute. That makes sense: They had to medevac Randen at the end of Ep3, which temporarily saved Bhanu. It would have seemed pretty unfair to the other two tribes if Yanu's IC loss was erased in Ep3, then they were given a completely fresh start the very next day with a swap. As much as a swap would have improved Episode 4, it was probably a better and more fair choice to let Bhanu's boot play out organically.

Hunter's freefall: Hunter went from an unstoppable force - someone with a non-zero shot at running the table on individual immunity - to a postmerge sitting duck this episode. In theory, he might eventually get a chance to find the second half of the Nami Beware idol, but at the moment, he's lost his vote. Then he lost a second one on the journey. With a good performance in the dumb New Era mergatory team IC, he might have (team) immunity at the next Tribal, which will erase one of those lost votes. But if we then go straight into split Tribals in Episode 7, he could face a situation where (1) he has no access to the camp where he completes his idol, (2) he's separated from his allies (Tevin and Soda) AND his potential cross-tribal ones from the journey (Q, Tim), and (3) he can't vote. Jeff Probst warned that this season would feature all of the New Era twists combining to claim victims. Hunter looks like the most likely candidate for that. If so, what an absolute waste of an outstanding all-around contestant.

Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes