Survivor 45

Episode 7 Recap – A Swing and a Miss

What went down in Episode 7?


The officially merged Dakuwaqa Tribe (named after an incredibly cool Fijian shark god, by the way) returns to camp feeling the hype of Kaleb’s insane luck. He dodged eleven bullets at once, giving a massive boon to his story and putting a massive target on his back. And outside of Emily, he has zero allies. But he might have a saving grace here because in the aftermath of Tribal, Bruce commits another Survivor faux pas by grilling Katurah on her vote reasoning… in front of Reba members.

According to Bruce, she was trying to defend Kaleb and only voted for him because of the drama at Tribal. In fact, this grilling session is a genuine strategy from Bruce, who’s trying to put a target on Katurah’s back in front of Reba. But it will prove to be a swing and a miss as Kendra and Katurah both agree that Bruce sucks and should leave ASAP, easily replaced in their alliance by the lone wolf Kaleb. The problem? Kellie wants Bruce to stick around, so Belo isn’t on the same page yet.

Meanwhile, Emily admits that Kaleb might have to go for the sake of her own game, as she’s not willing to go down with his sinking ship. Instead, she wants to keep her options open with Belo and Reba, working with allies found at the swap who actually have the social capital and influence to help her survive.

Bruce continues his reign of messiness, trying to patch things up with Kaleb by offering him advice. Only Kaleb isn’t feeling Bruce. At all. He comes across as more patronizing and annoying than helpful. And Bruce’s once decent reads go out the window as even Jake, an ally he seemingly could rely on throughout the pre-merge, is willing to work with Kaleb and abandon Bruce to be blindsided. But once again, Kellie remains the obstacle to this anti-Bruce surge, seeing him as a great shield for the foreseeable future.

For our double elimination immunity challenge, it’s the return of Get a Grip, split between two groups of six. The last player left on their pole in each group gets immunity. But the overall winner wins reward for their group in the form of a taco feast at the Sanctuary and guaranteed spots on the jury as they’ll visit Tribal second. The first group consists of Bruce, Kendra, Kellie, Drew, Sifu, and Emily. The second group comprises Austin, Dee, Julie, Katurah, Jake, and Kaleb. Kellie manages to dominate among her group to win immunity but is no match for Dee and her super toes, who snags immunity and reward.

Sent to the old Lulu camp (where good things certainly do NOT happen), Kellie’s group quickly settles on two possible targets: Sifu and Bruce. Drew left his bag at the merge camp, so he can’t whisk himself away with Safety Without Power, but somehow he avoids being targeted here even though he should be a juicy target without his allies to protect him. Bruce campaigns for Sifu to go, but Kendra is willing to take the shot against Bruce on account of him being both annoying to play with and someone who’s spoken next to zero game with her from day one.

Kellie isn’t here for this Bruce slander, though. She tries to get Belo on the same page and take advantage of Reba’s moment of weakness, but that requires Bruce and Kendra to see eye to eye long enough to vote together. Kellie manages to get through to her, arguing that Sifu is too much of a wildcard to keep around, even as a jury member. With Drew brought on board soon after, the vote is pretty obvious, with the only true suspense being whether Bruce will get paranoid and burn his idol. He wisely does not, and by a 5-1 vote, Sifu becomes the final member of the pre-jury crew as one of the season’s biggest enigmas.

This man was barely on the show, and when he did manage to sneak into a scene, it was usually to play his air guitar or vaguely threaten people. In an old-school season, he really could’ve popped as this eccentric figure bringing levity and a unique playstyle to a cutthroat game. But this is the New Era, and he, unfortunately, falls in line with the Naseers, Rocksroys, and Ryans of the world, who don’t connect to the fast-paced gameplay around them and just kind of flounder at the double Tribal twist when people need an easy target.

But there’s still one more Tribal to touch on, and it’s way juicer. Dee, Julie, and Austin settle on Kaleb as the target at Dee’s command. But feeling it’s time to assemble his own army and draft the early stages of a resume, Jake acknowledges Dee as a massive threat and aims to weaken her by blindsiding Julie with Kaleb’s help. But they need one more vote: Katurah. If they can force a tie, Jake swears he can convince Austin to flip on the revote or the deadlock, framing Austin as a scared player who won’t take the risk of a rock draw.

And in one of the wackiest editing tricks yet, they actually cut to Tribal and show Jeff reading a couple votes. A Lost-esque flashforward isn’t the dumbest idea, and there’s a way it could be cool in the right situation, but this just feels flashy for the sake of flashy. We already know who the targets are and what Jake’s plan is. Seeing a visual aid of Kaleb and Julie getting votes as Austin stares pensively into space doesn’t add anything but the slightest hint that a tie is actually coming. And if you know the rules of storytelling, laying out a character’s step-by-step plan to the audience in such detail almost guarantees it goes horribly wrong at some point.

Go wrong it will, because Jake and Kaleb decide their best bet of roping Katurah into their scheme is telling her about Bruce’s idol before Austin can fill her in. You know, the idol her entire tribe helped find when Katurah was down at the beach, the idol nobody else bothered to tell her about until it was convenient for them, the idol that got Jake into a web of ring-hunting lies to keep Bruce’s secret safe from Katurah alone. Katurah is right to be sketched out here, even if working with the guys to target Julie is the correct strategic play, given Kaleb’s a solid number for the Belo alliance.

When this group’s votes are finally read in full, it’s not a tie as Jake and Kaleb planned. Katurah flips to Reba and votes Kaleb out as the first juror, leaving Jake with egg on his face as his massive swing becomes a massive miss. The idea of blindsiding Julie was great, but the execution was lacking in its most crucial step. It takes a masterful player like Tony to get away with the awkward “prove you’re honest by telling someone you lied” strategy, and Jake is no Tony. But Jake did claim to be a master bullshitter, so let’s see if he can channel his inner Chris Daugherty instead.

Losing Kaleb still stings. I never expected him to survive much longer after that mess of a merge vote, but he had a potentially steady path forward had this round not gone off the rails in Jake’s hands. I’m sure he’ll be back on our screens, though. As one of the breakout stars of this breakout season, he should be guaranteed a second chance if he wants it. Hopefully, by then, he takes a lesson or two in threat management, as his only serious game flaw was being so socially savvy that his charm lost its effect when everyone saw through it.

But as one star falls just past the halfway point, another star returns next week in the form of the long-lost Survivor Auction! Judging by the final ten’s overwhelming excitement, bringing it back was the right call… as long as the New Era’s influence doesn’t tamper too heavily with what made the auction fun in the first place. Even so, we have rogue underdog Jake on the loose, a blossoming women’s alliance adding a wrinkle to what seemed to be a rigid merge dynamic, and a hopefully clean round of gameplay with minimal twists to make up for any unfortunate grievances.

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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