Four weeks into Survivor 43, and we finally have some chaos! Ironically not from the two already messy tribes we’ve spent three episodes with, but the frustratingly sidelined Coco Tribe, who broke out in glorious fashion. And on top of that, we had an old-school camp raid, drama around camp and even in the challenges, and a healthy dose of tragedy to make for an instantly classic episode.
Returning to camp, Vesi’s feeling the guilt of cutting Nneka but quickly unifies to perform in the challenges, winning their way to the merge and redeeming themselves for their back-to-back losses. Parts two and three are TBD, but part one is easily achieved as Vesi dominates the reward challenge. Their reward comes in two parts: ten fish to be enjoyed at camp and the chance to raid one of the losing tribes for a valuable camp item. But without fire, Vesi can’t use the fish and opt to trade for the previous reward, camp supplies and a basket of fruit.
They’ll still be able to carry out the raid, though, so it’s on them to sort out who’s going and from which camp they’ll be stealing. Cody immediately volunteers for the role, as one would expect from the guy who’s made “LIVIN” his outlook on life. But his tribemates have some apprehensions. Cody’s got the charisma to charm a rival tribe, but he’s also a wildcard, as Dwight puts it. His big personality might rub their enemies the wrong way, cutting off possible relationships at the merge.
And even worse, Cody’s determined to go for the jugular and steal a machete instead of showing mercy and playing diplomatically. Nevertheless, Cody hops on the boat and heads to Coco beach, believing that weakening the full tribe of six is a better long-term move than raiding the more bountiful but less populated Baka beach.
In line with the season’s recurring theme of gravely underestimating people, Coco buys into the goofy surfer gimmick and falls for Cody’s clever trap. The salesman makes the biggest possible threat and asks for the machete immediately. And Coco, fearing they’d spiral into ineptitude without it, opens the door for Cody to take literally anything else he can find. They offer him food they found, fishing gear from a previous reward, you name it. As long as they can keep the machete, they’ll sleep happily.
Except for Karla. Clocking his plan just a little too late, she mentally kicks herself as Cody swindles them out of more than expected, leaving with everything Vesi needs to turn the tide.
But where’s Baka in all this madness, you may ask? Well, nothing has changed yet again. Gabler attempts to cover his tribe in palm fronds to keep them warm, a kind gesture that will go largely unappreciated by Sami and Elie. Elie herself, taking to the confessional to give another vent session about Gabler being annoying, vows to get rid of him as soon as possible. This man-against-tribe rivalry won’t end at camp, though. Even during the challenges, Gabler’s comments grow grating and cause the others to lose their cool, making snarky quips in his direction even when they’re dominating.
Needless to say, Gabler better be thanking the Survivor gods for that idol, as should we all, because it’s not every day we get to see a stereotypical first boot of the game scrape by for this long while bringing the old-fashioned camp drama. And unless this man makes the dumbest move ever, we should have another two weeks on the Gabler Train at worst before it goes totally off the rails.
Seeing how Coco has yet to lose a member, and with the memory of Survivor 41’s Luvu Tribe fresh in their minds, Vesi and Baka see the next immunity challenge as the perfect time to work together against the current front-runners. Once Vesi finishes their puzzle, Noelle acts as a bonus caller for Baka, allowing them to fly past Coco and steal the win. Not exactly the most “ethical” way to win, but a win’s a win, and it’s certainly not against any rules. In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t seen it play out more often in these three tribe seasons. Nevertheless, Coco’s winning streak is broken, the kumbaya tribe has been tossed into the frying pan, and the paranoia is about to turn up the heat.
On paper, it’s an easy Geo boot. In a total heel turn from his usual likable self, he arrogantly thinks he’s running the tribe while getting into petty arguments with Cassidy, setting himself up as a surefire target for the Women + James alliance with Ryan as his only ally. But the Coco Tribe is about to become the Loco Tribe because not everyone is totally secure with the on-paper plan. Lindsay starts to feel the allure of second thoughts, believing that because she identifies herself as a threat, everyone else sees her as one too, and will be out to get her at the first opportunity.
And so the spiraling begins. James, Karla, and Cassidy try talking some sense into her to keep the Geo plan afloat, but Lindsay’s making waves too powerful for her alliance to withstand. So what was once an easy vote devolves into a coin flip between Geo and Lindsay, with her entire alliance debating whether to cut their leader or not, fearing her paranoia would destroy them all at a merge. In her sudden panic about being a target, she’s ironically manifested just that, going from founding a majority alliance and locking in a spot at the merge… to having one foot out the door in one of the most out-of-nowhere downfalls I’ve ever seen.
But even then, I still expected a safe and simple Geo boot at the end of the night. These last-minute paranoia subplots have been go-to red herrings in so many seasons, the last two included, to disguise otherwise predictable vote-offs. The Lindsay we saw on screen this week seemed like a completely different person than the cool, calm, and collected nurse from prior episodes. I wasn’t taking the bait. And yet Lindsay somehow pulled off a self-inflicted downfall in a few hours, turning her entire alliance against their leader and unknowingly saving Geo as she departed in a 4-1-1 vote.
Moving forward, I’m assuming Geo will remain the target of the majority’s remnants unless he and Ryan can pull someone to their side. Cassidy clearly is out of the running for that spot, but Karla’s already set herself up as a possible swing vote. And James is growing closer with the other Coco men, so it’s not impossible for the outsiders to take control here. But Lindsay’s alliance was unified in purging her and her paranoia from the tribe, so what appears to be a potential power shift might fall flat. The majority is smaller, but they’re still the majority, and Geo’s lack of game awareness won’t do him many favors in recovering from a close shave he wasn’t even in the loop about.
As for our dearly departed, Lindsay entered this season asking what she’d do with her one shot at playing the game after years of applying. And now we have a clear answer: she’d go down in flames at her first Tribal Council, going from top dog to taking the walk of shame as the audience is left stunned. As tragic as it is to see her decades-old dream cut short in such a disastrous fashion, hopefully her absurd elimination will be the catalyst for a crazy rest of the season. After three by-the-books vote-outs, an all-time messy downfall by one of the most promising players of the bunch is the breath of fresh air the game needed. Nobody is safe, people are willing to cut throats, and every single tribe is a mess.
With Coco finally on the scene, all three tribes have formed their own intense dynamic to follow into next week. On Vesi, it’s a battle of the duos with an idol and a Vote Steal looming large over a close vote. On Baka, it’s Gabler vs. Elie with a newly found advantage potentially throwing everything for a loop. And on Coco, it’s a rematch between Cassidy and Geo as yet another women’s alliance fails miserably. And with the merge approaching in due time, there’s the added wrinkle of Baka and Vesi potentially teaming in more challenges to keep Coco on the ropes. It’s taken its sweet time getting to this point, but Survivor 43 finally found its footing. Now it just needs to keep it.