Episode 2 Recap – Rising Stocks

What went down in Episode 2?

Photo: CBS

So it turns out that 90-minute episodes are, like, actually amazing? As the show forced in so many twists and cut camp life for strategy content over the years, you’d almost forget that once upon a time, we actually got to see full camp dynamics, full main titles, fleshed-out storytelling without overdramatic flashback stories thrown in at random, and fun moments of levity that have nothing to do with gameplay. I was hesitant about whether 90-minute episodes would be worth the hype because production has let us down so many times, but if every episode is as well produced as this one, we’re in for a treat.

After the return of Previously On Survivor and the epic main title sequence, it’s back to Lulu beach for the fallout of last week’s Tribal. Having been saved by Hannah’s quit, Emily is both relieved to have survived and highly annoyed with Sabiyah after their drama spilled out for all to see. But Emily will attempt to apologize here, explaining that she struggles to fit in and didn’t mean to offend her or Kaleb. The apology falls on deaf ears, however, as Sabiyah finds Emily totally unaware and says she’s in a position she created for herself with her bad attitude.

The next day’s events on Lulu won’t mend any fences as the entire tribe comes together to stop Emily from finding an idol under the guise of casually pairing up. Emily calls it like it is in the most blunt fashion, but the group search pays off for Brandon as he sniffs out the Beware Advantage first. But Brandon’s seen how badly taking one can go, so there’s no shot he opens it himself. Thankfully, Sabiyah is standing right there to open it instead. Following the clues leads Sabiyah, Brandon, Sean, and Kaleb to a tree hiding the idol high in the canopy, but it’s a dead end for now as everyone agrees to come back tomorrow.

Emily remains on the outs, lying half dead on the beach as her game turns from embers to ashes. But Kaleb sees an opportunity here to create a phoenix out of her. While the others have neglected Emily and treated her like she’s already gone, he understands that truly good players never take anyone for granted, no matter how on the outs they seem. With Kaleb tutoring her as a player, Emily learns to stop viewing people through this white-collar stock market lens and lets go of her issues with the others, at least for now. It’s not a complete turnaround, but a good start on the road to redemption.

On Reba, J. Maya examines the writing on their flag, Austin actually susses out his idol clue, and Dee shows off her weirdly long toes. But it’s Julie and Drew who find themselves at the heart of the tribe. With Julie posing as the tribe mom and Drew likening his alliance-building efforts to founding a kingdom, they pull in Austin and Dee to form the core four, leaving J. Maya and a tree-punching Sifu at risk.

Meanwhile, on Belo, Bruce picks up where he left off, with his Uncle Bruce persona receiving mixed reviews. While he’s certainly fun to hang with and offers solid fire-making skills, he’s still too bossy for his own good. An annoyed Katurah clocks his game, too, pointing out how he’s slowly charming the others with his celebrity status, and they don’t even notice it. And to make it worse for her, she has to watch Bruce hop onboard a boat heading to Advantage Island, giving him a chance at even more power.

Joining him are Drew and Brandon, with the latter spilling most of Lulu’s tea as Bruce and Drew stay fairly tight-lipped. Faced with a three-minute puzzle challenge for a mystery advantage, Bruce decides to keep his vote (and thank god they’re allowed to make that choice this season!) while Drew and Brandon opt to play. Drew beats the clock and earns a Safety Without Power good until the final ten, but Brandon fails yet another challenge spectacularly, costing him his next vote. Both nerds decide to come clean with their tribes. Drew’s honesty earns trust, especially from Austin, who shares his now-solved idol clue. But Brandon’s honesty only makes him a bigger target with yet another embarrassing challenge fail under his belt.

Bruce’s return is irrelevant, though, as the real drama on Belo is the forging of new alliances. Jake and Bruce realize the women are working together, so they need to get Brando involved in a guys’ alliance ASAP. But Brando’s actually close with the women, having been recently adopted as a fourth member of the September Sisters. However, Kellie sees some wiggle room here, wondering if the guys will be more useful in challenges should they lose immunity. And together with Brando, they form their own swing vote duo between both gendered sides, promising fireworks should Belo face Tribal.

At the immunity challenge, we have a couple reworks inspired by last season. Claire’s triple sit-out inspired production to take “back-to-back challenges” literally for once, so now the sit-out rule doesn’t reset with each episode. And after Carson 3-D printed his way through all their stock puzzles, they cooked up a new puzzle to make it a fair challenge regardless of pre-game planning. But you wouldn’t call it a fair fight with Lulu in the mix because Belo and Reba destroy them yet again. As always, Brandon finds himself at the root of another loss. Four challenges, four weak performances.

The Lulu Losers return to camp for another evening of suffering and debate, and it’s clear who’s on the block. Emily was the planned target last time and holds no punches with calling people out, so if they want to remove the bad vibes, she’s an easy boot. But Brandon’s terrible challenge performances make Chet look like Ozzy, and they can’t afford an Ulong-level losing streak. Sabiyah, Sean, and Kaleb head off to discuss their options and finally find the Lulu idol… inside a candle that can’t be melted until Lulu gets fire… which nobody can make without flint… which they have to win immunity to earn. Bummer.

That leaves Kaleb and Sean with all the power at first glance, but both men are willing to follow Sabiyah’s orders with this vote even if she can’t write a name down herself. Her goal has been to remove Emily from this beach at all costs, but Emily makes a bold play and gives Sabiyah her Shot in the Dark die as a symbol of trust. Sabiyah could easily reject this olive branch and send Emily home, effectively buying herself two attempts at safety in the future. But once the votes come in, Emily’s bold move and recent social efforts bear fruit. Brandon is voted out unanimously to give Lulu a fighting chance in challenges, and off he goes with a satisfied smile.

While Emily’s stock rose big time, Brandon ultimately had to meet his end here with a complete market crash. Love him or hate him, Brandon is exactly what I want in an early boot: a fun, messy player with a wild journey who leaves a mark on the season’s story. Coming in as somewhat of a super fan messiah with friends galore in the fan base, Brandon had the entire community behind him.

Did he live up to the expectations? Nope. He was a total mess. But he was certainly great TV between his tragic challenge fails and genuinely relatable struggles with anxiety. With how often the show loves pushing the idea that super fans are built to play Survivor, it’s refreshing to see the exact opposite case play out where everything goes horribly wrong, and Survivor plays the super fan without an ounce of mercy.

Two episodes down, and so many more to go. The 90-minute formula is already paying off, and next week looks to be another intriguing episode with the majority alliances on Reba and Lulu hitting rough water, a medical emergency on Belo, and a camp raid reward offering another taste of old-school Survivor on a season full of more than welcome throwbacks.

Written by

Cory Gage

Cory is a writer and student from Texas. He's a die-hard Survivor fanatic who's seen over 50 seasons worldwide, hosted his own season in high school from scratch, and hopes to one day compete on the show himself.

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