Survivor 42

Episode 11 Recap – Sideshow Games

What went down in Episode 11?

Photo: CBS

Thank the Survivor Gods for overruling their mad prophet Probst and allowing the horrendous Do or Die twist to fall by the wayside again. Lindsay not only survived but beat the Do or Die (and Monty Hall probability, at that) for the second season in a row. Without such luck falling in her, we would have been deprived of one of the most thrilling plays of the season, as Omar and Lindsay conspired to not only neutralise Drea’s Knowledge is Power (notably, also 0 for 2 in efficacy for its wielder), but also yoink Mike’s Idol in one fell swoop, while also leaving their options open.

This season has continued to prove itself a knockout with its characters and gameplay, and I am beyond relieved that all of this episode’s back-and-forths and scrambling had the chance to bear out with a dynamite Final 7 vote. This cast is giving their all, so it is hugely rewarding to see them able to take control of their own fates at Final 7—the last time where the eventual non-finalists outnumber the eventual finalists, where a single vote swing may be all that stands between one outcome and another.

I’m far from the first to disparage the Do or Die twist, and I really hope production lets it die going forward, especially given the far more exciting and satisfying outcome of a pivotal, decisive vote. After 40 seasons, who could have possibly predicted that!

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But production nonsense aside, this episode further cemented my love for this season. The dynamic gameplay is so exciting and the characters universally interesting and predominantly likable. And the story-telling feels like the best and most balanced it’s been in some time. Everyone had moments here, everyone’s role in the tapestry of the tribe was clarified and felt meaningful, and everyone’s position heading into the Final Six feels both clear and unpredictable. I feel like I’ve got a good handle on where everybody stands, but the building tension makes it feel like anything could happen from here.

And the same was true of this episode. There was an abundance of competing schemes, plans, and counter-moves, but that complexity felt perfectly conveyed. It made sense why Drea ended up being the target and why she burned all of her advantages in a final fight. Omar and Lindsay continued their social and strategic dance, but choosing to side with protecting Mike could be understood, if only to guard against Mike’s tendency to hold grudges.

Mike’s perception of the game continuing to fall out of alignment was a natural progression of the last few weeks’ narrative, as did Jonathan continuing to downturn his chances by aggravating his allies as he felt caught between needing to be outwardly valued and the hide-in-plain-sight approach that’s protected him thus far.

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Photo: CBS

Meanwhile, Romeo’s ostracism was clarified through the mutually assured delineation of his self-imposed isolation. At the same time, Maryanne’s buoyant enthusiasm served as an interesting counterpoint for the players on the bottom, as she won hearts and also kept her eyes peeled for the opportunities to seize control of her own game.

This felt like an episode where you could write a page dissecting each scene and interaction. Still, it all came together to feel like a unified, satisfying story that feels like it is building towards a satisfying climax in the coming weeks.

Drea’s downfall was a fascinating turn of events. It feels like she has been in the firing line for weeks, constantly discussed as a danger and a threat for the advantages she’s openly wielded since the early days on Ika. And yet, there is some poetry in this marking the first Tribal where she received a vote—and also the moment that she turned out her bag to play everything at her disposal, unloading her arsenal in a last-ditch effort to avoid what appeared to be an inevitability.

After the Hai vote, Mike had filled the vacuum—as Omar quipped, “he’s high after Hai.” He didn’t want to just pick off Maryanne or Romeo, who he seemed particularly annoyed by on account of Romeo not being a help around camp (which, when you know you’re on the bottom: fair?). Although he was quick to champion staying strong with the remainder of the merge alliance, he was determined to mount another head on his wall and, in this case, take down the huge threat in Drea. Ambitious, but this whole cast is ambitious, and it was a tantalising possibility.

Mike
Photo: CBS

Drea was recognised as not only a charismatic and likable person but someone who was a proactive player. She’d also been surprisingly open about her wealth of advantages. With an extra vote in her pocket that could be used to seize a majority from a tied vote at Final Six, she was also a clear and present danger for her competitors should she decide to flip against him. After all, she’d cut Romeo at the merge with relative ease, as her gameplay was pragmatic, driven, and while she was personable socially, her strategy was cutthroat. On top of this, Lindsay and Omar knew she had the only remaining Amulet. If Drea could be eliminated, Lindsay would inherit a full Idol going into the home stretch, which could prove an essential boon to get them across the line.

I’ve been very up and down on Drea’s approach to the game, sometimes feeling like it was too impulsive and sometimes seeing it as precise and efficient. To be fair, every game has its pros and cons. And even someone like Omar, who has played pretty flawlessly so far, is starting to show some wear as we round the final corner. But Drea’s determination has never been in question, and I loved how she approached what ultimately became her last stand.

Before the challenge, she was pitched a Romeo vote by Mike, and while he was confident she didn’t see him coming for her and had bought into the Strong Five decoy, Drea was actively working on another scheme. Frustrated by Jonathan’s increasing stubbornness and inflexibility, she sought to collaborate with Lindsay on the basis of their shared advantage and their opportunity to remove the biggest physical obstacle in the game.

While Jonathan was feeling the pinch of malnourishment and struggling to maintain the cool demeanour he’d prioritised early in the game, while also hungering for more recognition for his camp contributions, Drea capitalised on it to revive the almost-plan of the last Tribal. Lindsay seemed on board, Romeo was eager, especially with nowhere else to go, and Maryanne seemed earnest in her agreement. The only obstacle to removing the obstacle? The Immunity Challenge.

Romeo
Photo: CBS

Naturally, Jonathan earned the much-needed safety, especially with Do or Die increasing his odds. While he and Lindsay were probably the odds on favourites to win out here anyway, the rest of the tribe making the objectively correct decision to not risk their games on a mysterious chance-based twist gave them a huge edge. This is a challenge where will can win out over sheer physicality—Christian’s victory over Alec in David vs. Goliath notably. And it’s possible that had the twist not encouraged savvy players to prioritise Survivor over a Mario Party minigame, a surprise winner may have left him vulnerable. But alas, Drea’s initial plan was thwarted.

And so it came to the back-up: recognising that Mike was gunning for her as she observed the comings and goings from camp, she approached Omar (perennially at the centre of every plan). Here, she continued her risky approach of revealing her advantages by telling Omar about the Knowledge is Power and her ability to seize Mike’s Idol to leave him open for a clean shot. This is by far the most dangerous move of her game and, arguably, the nail in her coffin.

If Drea had kept the advantage to herself, she could have blindsided everyone at Tribal by taking Mike’s Idol. And if she was still sensing the votes were coming her way, she could have immediately played it to protect herself and Idol Mike out using his own Idol. At the very least, she could have assured herself the Final Six. And in a situation where Lindsay fails the Do or Die and there’s no vote, she doesn’t relinquish information to Omar and allow more time for it to get out of her control.

While Drea has historically been pretty loose with revealing information about her advantages, it strikes me as a more desperate ploy than a bad read. There are advantages to looping allies into the scheme. If she blindsides everyone with the new advantage, then she is definitely the next target, and she’s burned her bridges. But if she can use that knowledge of the advantage to facilitate collaboration, it gives her a leg to stand on coming through the vote. But of course, the trouble is that once knowledge is out there, it’s gone. She emphasised to Omar that he was the only person she’d told (and then publicly revealed that on her way to snuff her own torch), but naturally, he was going to scramble to use it to his own advantage.

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Photo: CBS

The absolute blessing of the overpowered Knowledge is Power advantage is that in both Season 41 & 42, its initial secretive introduction unfurled, allowing knowledge of the Knowledge is Power to be exploited and the advantage counteracted. When Omar informed Lindsay of the development, she quickly posited the same solution the Yase minority came to last season: secret away the Idol to another ally and the Power of Knowledge is foiled. Omar has such a good rapport with Mike that such a counterplan would likely be successful. But that also created a fascinating dilemma for our two central stragically social players.

Who to take out next? Drea still had a host of advantages, and leaving her in the game would still be a huge risk, especially if they took a hands-off approach and allowed her to add an Idol to her collection. But pulling a Sam Gash and getting a hold of Mike’s Idol through an offer of trust only to immediately vote him out would be a power play, especially as it would also set the stage for Drea to very publicly misplay her advantage.

However, I do think Omar and Lindsay made the right call to protect Mike and vote out Drea here. Lindsay would gain the Amulet Idol, and Omar emerges with an Idol in his own pocket (for now), and no bad blood with Mike, who would certainly hold a grudge if he’d given away his Idol only to be immediately voted out. The question will be what to do from here: it would be advantageous for Omar to keep the Idol, but hard to maintain any relationship with Mike without returning it. At this stage of the game, it’s probably smarter to let the bridge with Mike burn to ensure self-preservation (especially with Drea’s parting shot putting a target on his back). And Omar has positioned himself well enough that he should still be able to form numbers around him, but regardless, it’s a very very dangerous play.

But this is what I’ve loved about this season: the joy of the game has felt palpable. It’s not just in gracious and enthusiastic exits like Hai or Drea’s instantly iconic departure here, but in the competitiveness that’s managed to be good-natured. Omar is a perfect Survivor villain, scheming and plotting and relishing in his manipulation of his tribemates, but never with malice. And while a more earnest, big-hearted player like Mike will take some betrayals harder than others, it still feels like the gamesmanship will ultimately be a prevailing quality.

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Photo: CBS

So Drea’s exit on the back of a foiled KiP, an ineffective extra vote, and (according to interviews) a forgotten Shot in the Dark, somehow feels like a perfect demise for one of the season’s biggest players and characters. I’ve loved Drea’s intense determination to compartmentalise the game from the social experience, as seen in her post-vote farewells, gleefully embracing the people she’s come to know well while still taking a few precise digs after going all-in went bust. She’s felt like such a unique character between her way with words, her keen-eyed savvy, and her almost-goofy embracing of the game’s absurdities. I think there’s a good chance we see Drea play again in future and I hope that’s a future that comes to pass: she’s only going to become more of a force to be reckoned with.

But this was where Drea’s story ended. Lindsay, meanwhile, survived on borrowed time. Her decision to take a shot at the Immunity Challenge was definitely a flawed call. And seeing her grapple with the repercussions of that impulsive need to compete overriding more sensible logic was a fascinating character study of a player who got the short-end of the story-telling stick early on. And while there is something to say for the Do or Die twist being opt-in and the drama arising from Lindsay’s choice to compete, I’m so grateful it wasn’t the end of her story. She’s been playing a remarkable game and getting to know her more and seeing more of her dry humour amidst subtle social game has been a joy.

I’m still curious about where the Omar and Lindsay dynamic goes from here. Both currently hold an Idol, and while they were regularly in conversation here, it feels like there’s an inevitable sparring match coming between them. The question will be whether that’s reserved for a Final Tribal showdown or if they come apart at the seams earlier at the detriment to both their games.

Romeo’s independent wild card makes for a very threatening role, and he’s perfectly positioned to slide to the Final Tribal—seen by his competitors as something of a goat because of lack of agency and apparent social faux pas. But if he’s taking up one of those seats by default, isn’t there value in voting him out to clear it?

Drea
Photo: CBS

Meanwhile, Mike is his own loose cannon, and if he makes the end, sentiments towards him could swing either way: he’s clearly got an overblown perspective on his own game that might bite him, but he’s also got an earnest affability that could override that, especially if the non-Taku Jury resents a Taku-dominated endgame.

Because it’s worth mentioning that Taku remains intact: 4-1-1. It is an impressive feat for this divided four to survive all this time, but those cracks are threatening. Jonathan’s stubbornness and challenge capabilities make him a huge target. And given his reputation as a provider, he’d be a danger to go up against at the Final Four Firemaking too. While he might not have the best reputation for the Jury, he’s an obstacle to getting to the end in the first place (and it’s not out of the question he could snag at least a couple votes, and that might be enough to make a difference).

Meanwhile, Maryanne is her own quiet threat. Likable and bubbly, she might not have had much agency, but she seems almost universally liked. And with a secret Idol in her pocket and the game awareness to know that she can’t just drift into the Final Tribal and expect to win without making an active, visible play, we could easily see her cause an upset in this home stretch.

Which, coming back to Omar and Lindsay, puts them in a fascinating dilemma. They’re each other’s biggest competition, but their best chance to get to the end is probably with each other because there are dangers on every side. And as soon as one of them goes, it would make it very easy for their disparate opponents—outsiders like Romeo and Maryanne, an eager loose cannon like Mike, even a headstrong competitor like Jonathan—to see the opportunity to take out the other nexus in the tribe dynamics.

All this is to say that I am on the edge of my seat for our final two episodes of Season 42. In spite of so many production twists I’ve loathed, we’ve lucked out with an absolute treat, and there’s still another course left to eat.


Written by

Austin Smith

Austin hails from Canberra, Australia. By day, he works by the light of office fluorescence. By night, he can be found swing dancing to Top ‘40s tracks (1940s, that is), playing board games, and enjoying life with his wonderful wife. His pedigree as a long-time Survivor superfan is evidenced by his Survivor-themed 11th birthday party featuring a gross food challenge comprising Brussel sprouts. Austin writes Inside Survivor’s episode recaps for both Survivor US and Australian Survivor.


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