Survivor 43 continues its strong start this week, following up last week’s two-hour Premiere Episode with a fun and unpredictable 90-minute Episode 2. The additional time is important this early in the season, as it gives us a chance to become more invested in this group of contestants, and it allows the producers even more room for character-building and story-telling.
But sometimes, characters on Survivor don’t need any help at all being “built,” they simply are “characters” already in real life. This week’s episode belonged once again to Cody Assenmacher (just love that last name), who I pointed out last week as being the one person that really was putting out some “future All-Star” vibes. He just seems unique…he may be an amalgam of other players we’ve seen on the show before, but you can’t quite put your finger on what makes him so incredibly compelling. Sure, every episode of Season 43 so far has now featured a shot of the “LIVIN” tattoo on Cody’s ass(enmacher), which is a trend I could do without. But for every “cliff-diving” segment they’ve given him thus far, they’ve also shown him to be a savvy strategic and social player. His “Beware Challenge’ journey this week is an instant classic Survivor “moment,” a sequence that will go down in history and become even more legendary the further that Cody goes in the game. And the move also has “new era” written all over it, with the Survivor producers saving the reveal of his accomplishment until during the reading of the votes, for maximum dramatic effect (a structural move that would never have happened in past “old era” Survivor).
Of course I’m referring to Cody‘s personal mission impossible. It all started with his Red Tribe getting cremated during this week’s Immunity Challenge, with Nneka taking most of the blame for their team loss. It was Nneka after all, who didn’t even remove one of the puzzle pieces from the bag that she was responsible for, and she did struggle noticeably much worse than the rest of her tribe during the earlier, physical portion of the challenge. But we were reminded that Dwight lost his vote last episode, by choosing to risk it and losing out – by chance – on the Immunity Idol that ultimately ended up with Gabler over at the Yellow Tribe. Dwight’s vote not in play, that means that a three-person majority could control the vote at the Red Tribe’s first Tribal Council, and Cody, Jesse and Nneka all seemed locked in to vote out Justine.
But then Cody went out and found a “Beware Advantage.” Remember, these contestants have now seen Seasons 41 and 42, so Cody had to have known that if he decided to open it up, that he was probably going to lose his vote until he was able to pull off some sort of ridiculous challenge or mission. In the last two seasons, the tasks would not have even been possible to complete before heading to Tribal that same night, as they required the players to say ridiculous sayings out loud during the challenges, in order for their Idols to activate. But hey, LIVIN. The go-lucky adventurer was not thinking in that moment how important his vote was, or what damage it may do. He was going to open that thing up and read it and that’s exactly what he did.
What came next was nothing short of amazing. How the heck was he going to pull off getting beads – willingly given to him – from each of his tribe mates? Cody‘s ally, Jesse, one of the other stand-out fan-favorites thus far this season, brought up the palm frond hat that Cody had made earlier…those beads would be a lovely addition to them and the perfect cover. Even this idea alone had to feel like absolutely striking gold for Jeff Probst and the producers…they could not have possibly anticipated a player making a palm frond hat, and must have wondered exactly how a player would have to have gone about collecting these needed beads to form the Immunity Necklace. But Cody provided that gold. Even with the idea in motion, it seemed impossible that Cody would be able to get all of these beads in the short time before Tribal. But he needed to. It was drawing rocks time at Tribal if he didn’t figure it out.
The viewer headed off to Tribal thinking that Cody was able to score all of the beads except for Noelle‘s…and that we were headed to rocks. Imagine how boring it would have been had they shown him getting all the beads ahead of time? We, as viewers, are not used to being hoodwinked – blindsided, if you will – ourselves. But oh does it feel good when done the right way. Tonight’s episode was the right way, a reveal that didn’t seem like a manipulation, and one that was appreciated for the drama and tension that it brought.
On the receiving end of this move was “spider queen” Justine, whose real blunder seemed to be her inability to connect with Jesse. She was correct in saying that Jesse was in the middle and was the “swing” vote, but the way she approached him about it was a bit less than cordial. Big kudos to Jesse on the move, because Justine could have definitely developed into a larger strategic threat, and he made the move to serve his own game, despite what his “Island Spouse” Dwight might have thought about it. Dwight on the other hand was also blindsided by the move, and I know emotions run high out there, especially right after a Tribal blindside, but I don’t really like his “we’ll talk about this later” comment to Jesse on the way out. Like, Jesse is in trouble and needs a talking to? Dwight is the one that is in trouble now, and instead of trying to repair his relationship with Jesse, it looks like next week’s episode teases that Dwight is instead going to stay bitter towards Jesse. He and Noelle are both in big trouble as they find themselves now on the wrong side of the numbers, and with Cody sporting his one-of-a-kind, beaded palm frond Immunity Crown.
We didn’t get much insight this week into the Blue Tribe (though we did get another great flashback sequence giving us a bit more information on Geo, and how Geo and Ryan might be a formidable two-some). The other drama this week was over at the Yellow Tribe, with the spotlight mostly still on Gabler. Yes, he’s older than the rest of the contestants this season, but the show went out of its way to show the physical toll it was taking on Gabler specifically. Was this a bit of foreshadowing? Or just an attempt to throw us off Gabler being a post-merge player? His tribe – well, mostly Elie – also had issues with him taking out their newly won fishing spear, and they all secretly pondered the power of the Idol that they all know he possesses. Well, they went past the point of “pondering” when Jeanine actually went into Gabler’s personal bag to track down and re-read the parchment that came with the Idol. Does the Idol have power for the first two OVERALL Tribal Councils? If so, then Gabler’s Idol would now be useless. Or, could it be used for the first two Tribals that Gabler is actually at? They clarified it for us that it is actually the latter, meaning that Gabler is indeed safe at his next Tribal Council…should he choose to play it (and why wouldn’t he? He is Gabler after all!). Jeanine and Elie seem to cocky to realize that they really did make what seems to be a boneheaded move in voting out Morriah last week…the three guys, Gabler, Sami and Owen, may not talk a lot of game but they do know that they need to stick together strategically, which only spells trouble for the girls, who seem to be severely underestimating each of the guys, albeit in different ways. As next week’s preview shows, Sami tattles on Jeanine to Gabler about rifling through his personal belongings, so things are about to get a bit uglier over at Team Yellow.
Episode Take-Away: What can you say about Cody? About this “new era” of Survivor? First of all, I wish that each week could be 90-minutes at minimum…I just love having that feeling of watching Survivor episodes sort of “breathe.” Cody is a big personality, but so far has avoided becoming a big target, which is impressive. Tucked underneath the big shield he provides though, is Jesse and Nneka. They could be a formidable and “under-the-radar” pair should they go far in the game. I just love when Survivor starts off each season by sending different tribes to Tribal Council, so we can get enamored with each of the tribe’s dynamics as soon into the season as possible. Nothing personal, but here’s hoping the Blue Tribe meets up with Jeff Probst at the end of next week’s episode! If they don’t and it is one of the other tribes, I think that Elie or Jeanine could be in serious trouble at Yellow, and Dwight could be the next target at Red. Of course, this is Survivor, and there are challenges to be had, and other advantages and twists to be discovered between now and then. But so far I am getting a really good vibe from Season 43: No clear-cut villains, but so many people to root for, and that’s really all you can hope for.
Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. We’re honored here to be associated with Survivor legend Erik Reichenbach, who just so happens to be an amazing artist. As always, we’re thrilled that he shares his talents every week on my column and with my audience with a new piece of Survivor artwork each week. His latest piece will appear here usually in the days after the show’s airing, so if it 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, DabuDoodles.com, and I urge you to support this fantastically skilled former Survivor player!
Out this week: Justine
Won Immunity: Blue Tribe and Yellow Tribe
Vote Result: No advantages or Idols were played. Dwight had no vote. 3 – Justine (Cody, Jesse, Nneka), 1 – Cody (Justine), 1 – Nneka (Noelle)
Current Advantage List:
- Gabler – 1 Immunity Idol (expires after one more Tribal Council for him)
- Cody – 1 Immunity Idol (unclear if/when it expires)
Next Week’s Episode: We get deeper into some strategy and tribe-dynamics with a 90-minute episode next Wednesday. Plus, Cody goes cliff-diving! What could go wrong?
Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am also a TV personality in the Detroit area, as well as a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic. I encourage you to check out my past movie reviews and my movie show (episodes are also available online at the website, www.MovieShowPlus.com.) 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.
TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS WEEK’S EPISODE? DO YOU LIKE WHEN THE PRODUCERS INCLUDE EDITING TWISTS FOR THE VIEWERS? AND WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR THUS FAR?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]