Survivor 42 Episode 9 Recap: Reality TV Gets Real

There’s a lot to digest from this week’s episode of Survivor. As it so often has in the past, real-world issues became the over-riding topic of conversation in the game this week, because though we’re all drawn to Survivor for a variety of different reasons, we sometimes need a reminder that this show is in fact real…that these are real people…and that the same issues that affect these players and all of us in our actual lives still exist within the confines of the game.

Drea and Maryanne, thank you. Thank you for sharing your truths with the world and for forcing this conversation to be had. It is difficult, complicated and for some, uncomfortable. But I’m forever grateful that Survivor is not just the best competition show in TV history, but that its format allows for moments like they gave us tonight. Why? Because tonight’s episode is at the core of what Survivor is and always has been about. The idea of living with, interacting with and adapting to situations with people from all walks of life – different genders, ages and ethnicities – is part of the appeal of the show. There are lessons to be learned, there is empathy to be had. I’m here for it.

But wow did things take a turn. Up until that point, the castaways were dealing with the latest game-twist, where Jeff Probst announced to them that there would be two individual Immunity Challenge winners, and also two Tribal Councils where two people would be sent to jury. Split into tribes of five, Jonathan finally did what most expected of him at this point in the game, and he won Immunity (as well as a food reward of kebobs for his team). Hai was the other Immunity winner, and the first domino to fall was when Omar set in motion a plan to blindside Rocksroy, instead of go with the obvious vote-out of Romeo, who had been at odds with Hai and pretty much everyone else lately. There was some good strategizing, with Hai wanting to make sure he brought in Mike on the plan so as not to dislodge his trust in him, and Mike countering with the good observation of what the optics might look like if they were to send Rocksroy out. The optics Mike was talking about had nothing to do with the optics that would be discussed later at Tribal Council…Mike was more concerned that they would all look untrustworthy if they were to vote Rocksroy out.

Ultimately, they went through with the plan, and they unanimously sent Rocksroy to jury…since there was to be a second Tribal right away, Rocksroy immediately took his spot on the jury next to Chanelle, voted out last week. Two people of color, the first two sent to jury. This was an observation that instantly struck and shook Drea (as well as Maryanne) when they entered the area…and what came next was a deep and provocative conversation and exchange that ended up defining this week’s episode, and perhaps even this season on the whole.

First off, it was a blindside that Rocksroy was even over there at all…he had seemingly been in a good spot, on a team of five members that were supposed to have had his back. But seeing him and Chanelle together, it was too much for Drea to keep inside. You see, there is a history of minority contestants getting voted-out or eliminated early across the spectrum of reality television. Drea – who was in a good spot from the perspective of all of the advantages in her possession – had some concerns heading into Tribal that Jonathan might have been gunning for her, and seeing that she might be just end up as another example of a minority in-game casualty, she announced that this was a “game-changer” for her. She was not going to become the third person of color on the jury, and she was going to play her Idol. Maryanne quickly followed suit.

Kudos to Jeff Probst though, who by all accounts (screw you Emmys!) is the best there is and ever will be. Instead of skirting around the issues that were raised, he leaned in, seeing it as an opportunity for growth and learning…for the contestants and for the audience’s at home. It was a powerful conversation, but it was made controversial when Jonathan piped in. Not only was he a bit defensive, but he called Drea “aggressive” at one point, for…I guess?…having an emotional reaction to what was being discussed.

It was not a good look for Jonathan, who up to this point has been given a blatant “hero’s edit.” And deservedly so…he has already made a name for himself as one of the greatest physical competitors the show has ever seen, but maybe equally impressive has been his strong social game. Jonathan – up until now anyways – had been extremely likable, and in his confessionals has shown that he has played the game with restrain and an even-keel.

Well, that no longer can be said, but for Jonathan it started well before Tribal. Winning Immunity might have actually gone to his head, because his “man-splaining” conversation with Lindsay on the beach with almost more cringe-worthy than how he was portrayed at Tribal. In that beach scene, I think he showed Lindsay an unflattering side of himself, to put it mildly, and it doesn’t just effect his reputation with the audience, but I think Lindsay came away too, with a different perspective on Jonathan. Flash-forward to Tribal, and Jonathan’s “hero” status becomes completely unraveled. He’s survived this long as the number one physical threat, but not solely because of his physicality. If he starts to rub people the wrong way, I think that it will finally give the others good reason to vote him out, the next chance they get.

The important thing here I think is to understand that what Drea was speaking was her truth, like she explained to Jonathan. She had every right to play her Idol for any reason she deemed necessary, as did Maryanne. For those that are uncomfortable or upset that race is being discussed at all on Survivor, may be looking at things from a perspective of privilege to begin with. It’s convenient, isn’t it, to not have to think about race? As Maryanne said brilliantly, the odds of winning aren’t just one in eighteen, as all people increase or decrease their odds based on the amount of burdens and/or privileges that they bring with them into the game. It’s important to have empathy, and to listen, not to get defensive or feel attacked. Look, you do you. I don’t think anyone involved believed that Drea or Rocksroy (or Chanelle) were voted out because of race, but if you are a person of color, there is no way that you could not notice that the first two jury members just happen to be people of color too. This doesn’t make Jonathan or anyone else racist. And Jonathan by the way has every right to live his truth as well, and even share his opinions. The two people of color on his current team, both also just so happen to be the only two holding Idols and numerous advantages, and it is not at all uncommon for players at this stage of the game to target those with power as potential blindside victims. And I also understand that nobody likes being called racist or even that they are being “subconsciously racist.” But that is not at all what was happening. Nobody called Jonathan a racist. Nobody implied there was a mass conspiracy to vote out all people of color. But the fact is that two people were on jury, and that both were Black, so if you are Drea or Maryanne, they’d be damned if they’re going to even chance becoming the third.

I urge everyone reading this, to engage in a constructive manner if you do feel the need to chime in. Some people despise Survivor when it starts taking on issues bigger than the game, but I happen to love it on a human level. And this world, frankly, needs more civil discourse.

Believe it or not, there is more game that needs to be played! The other five contestants were not present to witness what ended up sending Tori home, so that will be interesting too once the tribes begin mingling back at camp. Speaking of Tori, what a crazy way to finally go. The way she had somehow survived all season with her back against the wall, I really thought that her “shot in the dark” was going to save her. And what would have happened if Lindsay were to have played her “shot in the dark” as well? My oh my.

Episode Take-Away: We’re down to eight players and four episodes remaining, and we’re now at a point where Mike is the only player with an Idol, although there are still a bunch of extra votes, amulets and other powers floating around. And don’t forget that Drea still has her “Knowledge is Power” advantage and knows that Mike possesses an Idol, so she may end up with an Idol after all of this. Imagine if they had just voted out Romeo as the easier vote! None of what we saw tonight would have gone down. But with Tori and Rocksroy now gone, you have to start believing that Jonathan is in serious trouble, now with his social game taking a hit and still with the largest target on his back of anyone out there. Will the two played Idols be recirculated back into the game? If this season has shown us anything, it’s that things can change drastically in a single moment. And there are still many, many big moments to come on Survivor 42.

Also a sad side note…I think that CBS has done away with the weekly Ponderosa videos? Say it ain’t so CBS! These have been awesome over the past several seasons, but if they are still doing them, I haven’t been able to find them at all. RIP Ponderosa Videos!

Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. In case you didn’t know (and how could you not?), each week Survivor legend Erik Reichenbach contributes a brand-new, original piece of artwork relating to the new week’s episode. It will appear here usually in the days after the show’s airing, so if his latest work does not appear here now, check back usually by the weekend following an episode and give this page a refresh. All of Erik’s work can be found and purchased on his site,, and I urge you to support this amazingly talented former Survivor player!

“Bigger Things”

Art by Erik Reichenbach –

Out this week: Rocksroy and Tori

Won Immunity: Jonathan (1), Hai (1)

Vote 1: No advantages or Idols played. 4 – Rocksroy (Hai, Mike, Romeo, Omar), 1 – Romeo (Rocksroy)

Vote 2: Drea and Maryanne both played Idols. Tori played her “shot in the dark” but was unsuccessful. 4 – Tori (Lindsay, Drea, Maryanne, Jonathan), 1 – Lindsay (Tori)

Current Advantage List:

  • Drea – “Knowledge is Power” advantage, 1 Extra Vote, also has Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
  • Lindsay – Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
  • Hai – Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
  • Maryanne – 1 Extra Vote
  • Mike – 1 Immunity Idol

Next Week’s Episode: We move forward from this week’s double Tribals and it’s back to the game at hand. Is Jonathan in serious trouble? Numerous players refer to a “he” who is. Don’t stop watching now!

Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am also a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic and I encourage you to check out my past movie reviews and my movie show (episodes are also available online at the website, As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]