I wondered how long it would take for Survivor 43 to return to handing out advantages and showcasing twists after a shockingly personality-driven fourth episode hardly mentioned them at all. And as it turns out, we didn’t have to wait that long. Technically. While this week’s episode definitely spent a majority of its time on pouches and shells, there was still underlying humor, almost as though the show became aware of how overstuffed with advantages it was and developed a sense of self-deprecation as amusingly bad gameplay took center stage.
To kick things off in this swan song to a short pre-merge, there’s only one Beware Advantage left to find, and it’s cushioned in the middle of an ant nest on Baka beach. Lo and behold, Jeanine emerges from her purple edit purgatory to seize the moment and the package, teaming up with Elie to scheme her way into a new bead collection. But it won’t be a simple mission because Owen casually wanders into the mix as he treks to refill his canteen.
Left with no choice, the women bring Owen into the fold and give him two options. He can give Jeanine his beads and officially side with the women… or he can become the villain of the tribe, withhold his beads, and deny Jeanine an idol and her vote. The middle-man opts for diplomacy, a wise if less entertaining move, and now only Gabler and Sami stand in Jeanine’s way.
Sami is an easy one to convince once he’s informed about the advantage though, and Gabler’s more than happy to hand over a couple beads for Jeanine’s proposed arts and crafts project. And thus, doomsday is avoided, Jeanine has an idol, Owen’s chosen a side, and Sami’s left to inform Gabler about how much power he’s accidentally given the women.
Baka isn’t the only beach where advantage shenanigans are afoot. After a close challenge, Vesi and Baka walk away with immunity, and the trio of Jesse, Jeanine, and Geo head off for the latest visit to Advantage Island, casually renamed Advantage Sand Spit. Geo is more than happy to play up a “fake” story about being on the outs and desperately needing protection, having no idea his cheeky lies reflect what’s actually happening on his tribe. Based on previous journeys, one would expect Jesse and Jeanine to fold, let Geo take the advantage for the sake of protecting their own votes, and head back to camp for a nice day off.
But no. The messiness momentum is in full swing. All three risk their votes. For Jesse and Jeanine, this move is bizarre. Geo practically begged for the advantage, so their odds were never going to be better than 50/50 should they play the risk card. But for added context, Jesse’s on a tribe of four where he’s actively betrayed someone and only has one confirmed ally in Cody, who’d probably save himself with that idol. And Jeanine, even if she has an idol and assumes she has the numbers with Elie, Owen, and Sami, shouldn’t feel too comfortable with Gabler’s idol still in play. Because if Gabler’s actually off the table and Jeanine has no vote, that puts the pressure on a swing vote like Owen to flip away from the women if Gabler and Sami stand firm as a tight duo and threaten a tie.
Geo ultimately walks away with the lucky shell, revealing it to be the third coming of the brutally overpowered Knowledge is Power advantage. While it’s no Do-or-Die or Hourglass-level twist in terms of how hard my eyes roll upon watching it appear again, I’m still disappointed to see production giving it yet another go after it was defeated the same way in back-to-back seasons. I get wanting to see it actually play out as intended at least one time, but that’s the doomsday result that could derail a season, not a big TV moment everyone will be cheering for. And thankfully, this cast is on my wavelength and wants to get rid of it ASAP.
After Lindsay’s elimination, Geo and Ryan returned to camp feeling like the kings of Coco, ready to exercise their majority alliance’s power to finally knock Cassidy out of the game after their previous attempt was foiled. Ryan is so confident in this plan that he throws the immunity challenge without the tribe’s consent. Channeling the spirit of Drew Christy, he marches towards his self-inflicted demise as the rest of the episode is devoted to painting him up with clown makeup.
Cassidy, Karla, and James hold all the power, and it’s a toss-up between Geo and Ryan for who’s getting the humiliating downfall of the week. Geo is the primary target, but Cassidy’s not sure about targeting someone who might return with an idol when her name is clearly being written down, so she convinces her alliance to shift the votes to Ryan as the safest play. But there’s one more wrinkle left in the plan: Geo’s advantage.
The fear of the unknown is potent, and Geo does his best to unknowingly dissolve said fear by revealing his advantage to everyone except Cassidy. Karla sees red flags, laying out how Geo’s advantage could be used against her should the bead idols become public knowledge at the merge. And to make a Geo boot sound even sweeter to her ears, the advantage can’t save him on its own, leaving him vulnerable to the original plan her alliance concocted.
To sum up the hilarity of it all: Ryan foolishly threw the challenge and put Geo at risk, only for Geo to potentially get an advantage which then put Ryan at risk, only for Geo to foolishly reveal his advantage and put himself back in the hot seat… all while the guys foolishly believed Cassidy was a helpless fox caught in their trap.
As for the fox herself, Cassidy’s not sold on a return to the Geo plan just yet. Rightfully so, she’s worried about her own survival, and Ryan being the target is what best suits it. But she pushes back a little too hard, giving James and Karla flashbacks to Lindsay’s downfall as the pair consider cannibalizing another anxious ally. Only this time it’s actually a red herring as Geo is sent packing in a 3-2 vote, killing the KIP advantage before it has the chance to sink someone’s game. So as we eulogize Geo’s time on the show, let’s hope this episode was a eulogy for that broken advantage too.
Needless to say, Geo’s journey this season was messy, just like the season itself. He essentially got the speedrun version of Romeo’s arc from the last season, beginning as a sweet, humble representative for the same marginalized groups and then morphing into an outcast antagonist once he stepped on the wrong toes and lost his goodwill. As a player, though, he never held any power in the tribe, let alone the knowledge of his own dire predicament. And he was swiftly sent packing after a series of bad moves by multiple parties, himself included. While his sudden heel turn in his last two episodes came out of nowhere, it was the welcome touch of drama and humor the Coco tribe needed, so he definitely left his mark on this rather short pre-merge.
And speaking of which, the… fake merge? Earn the Merge twist? Mergatory? Yeah, it’s coming back, and I’m terrified. Though Probst himself swore the Hourglass Twist was retired until further notice, I have to imagine production’s cooked up a new twist to take its place. But potentially broken twist aside, this merge group has a lot of moving parts.
Baka somehow enters with the numbers, two idols, and some serious personality clashes. Coco has lost their momentum and has a sole outcast who might flip to aid in the tribe’s total destruction. And Vesi recovered from their early losses to become the season’s underdogs, bringing an idol and a Vote Steal into the impending battle. All the while, Jeanine and Jesse can’t even vote. While I’d rather see these dynamics play out naturally without these twists and advantages overshadowing everything, there’s still plenty of exciting prospects to look forward to in the coming weeks.