It’s the penultimate episode of the season, and we’re down to three duos: Austin and Drew, Katurah and Jake, and Dee and Julie. Without Emily, the game is much simpler, but it won’t stop this final six from muddying the waters. Because right away, Dee and Julie agree to play up faux bitterness, all part of the plan, from Dee throwing a vote on her ally to Julie idoling her way into having the sole vote.
But with big moves come big targets, and Julie’s is getting even bigger after last night. Though the Reba Four will put on this facade of unity to the end, everyone knows it’s time to play for themselves instead of the collective. Drew and Austin want Julie out, Julie and Dee want Drew out, and the last two Belos are left in the middle of a Reba civil war. Battle lines: drawn.
The following morning, Katurah expresses interest in making some big endgame splash to solidify herself as a contender who didn’t just play a passive game for 26 days. She needs a story to tell, and now’s the time to write something at the last minute and hope a middling grade is good enough to pass the test. But time’s running out, and with everyone else still asleep, why not sneak off and look for idols? The problem? Dee and Austin wake up, see she’s gone, and catch her in the act. So much for Katurah’s big move.
In the reward challenge, Austin swims, rolls, and slides his way to victory. His prize? A helicopter ride with two guests to a sand spit picnic. While it’s still a little lame to have a reward setting be the same sand spit we’ve seen in dozens of challenges over the past few years, it’s better than another trip to the Sanctuary, and the chopper ride is genuinely fun to see again. Austin takes Dee (duh!) and Katurah. That leaves Drew to “babysit” Julie and Jake, and those three can’t work with each other to save their lives, so no anti-Austin schemes should be afoot when he’s away.
In a rare case of modern Survivor bitterness, Drew is genuinely pissed about missing out on the reward. The only one he’s been on was the feast he won himself. The chopper trio flies over camp to rub salt in the wound, and now he’s stuck doing Austin’s bidding by babysitting two people he can’t wait to get rid of. Poor guy’s right back in middle school getting picked last and stuffed on the bench with the other outcasts.
Julie and Jake are in better spirits, though, as both openly look for idols with no care in the world, and Drew’s not even wasting the energy to stop them. Babysitter of the year, he is not. And it’s not long before Jake finds an idol… clue. Just a clue. But the idol’s in a place nobody would think of looking: a compartment in the tribe’s raft.
All he’s got to do is head off under the guise of changing his clothes, strip down to his undies (somehow not the first “show” he’s done in such attire), pull the idol out of its hiding place, and profit! He’s been hungry to make a huge move for weeks now, and with a little bit of ammo in the chamber, this idol could be a million-dollar trinket if he plays it in a flashy manner. As he puts it, he’s a “wolf in goat’s clothing” ready to strike when the moment comes.
At the picnic, Katurah knows she’s the third wheel. Dee and Austin aren’t great at hiding their showmance, but she’s got other things to worry about, like how she can win this million dollars against the odds. But once again, Dee and Austin upstage her plotting and spend the reward gushing about how much they adore each other in charming confessionals.
Austin used to lack confidence in himself, but getting in shape and working on his social skills earned him a great partner in this game and perhaps in life beyond it. And while Dee hates to admit it on camera, she’s head over heels for the guy too. But will she be blinded by love as Austin was before, or will she have the killer instinct to play for the win against her heart’s wishes?
For immunity, it’s another endurance challenge, and once again, we have a showdown. A showmance showdown, in fact! Dee and Austin hang in there for a while, but Dee the Toe Queen excels at another foot-focused challenge and wins immunity, leaving Austin excited to play his amulet and guarantee their shared survival into the finale. And with Julie being the first to drop, her goose seems cooked as the easy vote… until Jake steps in and sets the record straight: tonight is the night to send Drew packing.
If Julie can work with him, he can pull in Katurah, force the tie vote he aimed for all those weeks ago, and get Austin or Dee to flip on the re-vote. Julie has no other choice unless she’s content with sixth place, and Katurah is obviously happy to wield a little power for a change. But Katurah also wants to tell Dee, expecting her to be an easy fourth vote just to be safe. Jake warns her that telling Dee would spoil the move and rob the Belos of any credit here if she goes along with them, and for a second, he gets his way. And then we smash cut to Katurah and Dee hugging it out over Drew’s impending demise. Rest in peace, Jake’s dwindling winner equity. We hardly knew ye.
Upon learning of this plan, Dee realizes there’s a huge issue: does she tell Austin that Drew’s going home and risk him using his amulet to save him? Austin did the same for Dee when Julie was in trouble after all, so it’s only fair that Dee does the same in return. But Survivor isn’t fair, and Dee doesn’t play fair. She plays to win. And to win, she’s lying to Austin’s face and dealing with the backlash after Tribal. Drew’s toast, and no matter how much he ponders his and Austin’s place among the great Survivor duos of seasons past, his fate is sealed.
The plan goes off without a hitch, and by a vote of 4-2, Drew’s torch is snuffed, and off he walks, trying not to show how legitimately pissed he is about it. While he was certainly a metaphor machine this season and had a couple solid moves to his name, Drew never felt like he had the monopoly on Reba’s power. Dee had a closer bond with Julie than Drew ever did, and near the end of the game, she even charmed Austin to her side and weaponized that bond to gain crucial information. Drew was good, but Dee was simply better, and the better player won out in this Reba civil war.
And that gives us our final five! While I’d love to say this finale seems like anyone’s game, I can’t say that in good faith. This is Dee’s game to lose, and it’s not particularly close. And even if she falls short, it’s still Reba’s game to lose as Katurah and Jake have failed to accomplish much of anything this season, try as they might to prove themselves as our plucky underdogs.
Julie’s going in as a huge jury threat despite her archetype’s troubled history, perhaps Dee’s only real competition in a jury vote, and Austin’s still got a horse in the race as long as he can take out Dee and Julie to sit with the Belos as goats. But I don’t know if he has it in his heart to cut his showmance at the final hurdle should he find himself in that position.
As the season nears its final episode, I’m honestly amazed the New Era has given us such a stellar product. In an era where cutting corners, homogeneous casting choices, and questionable editing decisions have left the show feeling like a shell of its old self, Survivor 45 and its 90-minute episodes have revived that old-school spirit despite all the New Era hiccups still creeping in from time to time. So, no matter how this finale goes down, be it utterly predictable or downright confounding, we’ve had a great season. And it feels so, so good to confidently say that again.