Survivor 43 Episode 3 Recap: Keeping The Tribe Strong

We’ve bee spoiled so far this season, with 210 minutes of Survivor 43 over the first two weeks. This week’s episode was the first of the season to clock in at the standard 60 minutes (less with commercials, but you know what I mean), so perhaps rightly so, it felt a bit anemic and standard. That’s not to say there weren’t some important developments, but overall, this was definitely a weaker chapter in what still seems like a very promising season.

Most of the drama dealt with the Red Tribe, who began and ended the episode dealing with Tribal Council. Last week’s episode had the editors showing us – to maximum dramatic effect – that Cody did indeed secure all of the needed beads that allowed him to retain his vote at Tribal, and also earn an Immunity Idol in the process. Jesse, Nneka and Cody were able to blindside Justine due to the fact that Dwight had lost his vote during the “Risk/Reward” experience. With Justine gone, Episode 3 began with Dwight and Noelle trying to make sense of what just happened, and vowing that they would get some revenge on Jesse, whom Dwight at least felt the most betrayed by (mind you, Dwight and Noelle still do not know about Cody’s Idol).

Returning to Tribal Council for the second straight time, it became clear that the Red Tribe was starting to panic…they needed to prioritize keeping the tribe strong and winning challenges over all else, as they simply cannot afford to keep losing. So while Nneka was in a strong alliance with Jesse and Cody, even they had to admit that she was the weakest link, challenge-wise, especially when compared to the fierce competitor that Noelle was proving to be. Even with one leg, Noelle absolutely crushed the physical portion of the challenge, but it was Nneka who wasn’t quite able to come through on the mental portion.

Noelle not only dominated the challenge, but the episode in its entirety. Earlier on in Episode 3, one player from each tribe was selected to go off on another “Risk/Reward” journey, and Noelle was sent along with James and Owen from the other tribes. With her back against the wall and in the minority at her tribe, Noelle had nothing to lose and divulged to the others that she really needed an advantage. James and Owen – whom both felt pretty secure in their own situations – decided they’d buy some favor with Noelle by both choosing “No Risk” and therefore allowing Noelle to take whatever advantage was being offered. Noelle ended up with a powerful “steal-a-vote” advantage and went a step further by promising both Owen and James that should they all make the merge, that she would “ride or die” with them. Not a bad deal for James and Owen, and perhaps a game-saving trek for Noelle.

Presented as a strong physical player thus far, Noelle showcased her social savvy as well, not only on the “Risk/Reward” journey but also back at camp. She ultimately only told Dwight about her secret advantage, and then ended up not even needing to use it when the Tribe voted Nneka out of the game unanimously. With Nneka, we were able to see the amazing, loyal person that she is, and all of the great charitable work she has done outside of the game, but within the game, she seemed a bit too passive of a player to go very far. Alas, she was the third person sent home pre-merge.

Over at the Yellow Tribe, I am becoming a bit concerned for Gabler, who has been a fabulous personality to have on the show, but who continues to get air-time regarding how hard of a time he is having on the island. With a boat seen coming towards the island in next week’s preview, could this all be foreshadowing an early evacuation for Gabler? I sooooo hope not.

Should he stay in the game, it appears that he is gunning hard for Elie, who is getting an interesting “love her/hate her” edit. She has overcome a lot to be out there, including the death of her sister, but in the game she is being portrayed as a bit over-confident and arrogant…not a good look in the game of Survivor as those people often get blindsided before they knew what hit them. Sami is a stand-out, and he manages to stir the pot when he tells Gabler that Elie and Jeanine rifled through his personal belongings. Elie’s play seems to be to convince Gabler that his Idol is no longer active…that is a bold move and more than a bit condescending. She must think that Gabler is stupid? She also doesn’t seem to have much awareness to boot. They’re either setting Elie up for a major blindside, or as a long-lasting season villain. Time will tell.

Through three episodes, we’ve yet to see the Blue Tribe go to Tribal Council, but we have been getting a lot of Karla, which is fine by me. Karla’s story this week paralleled what is at the crux of the entire Survivor experience: Do I or don’t I make a big move? Most, like Nneka, who sit idly by often see their torches snuffed. And sure, we’ve seen more than plenty take big swings and miss. But you have to take those chances if you are going to win. Karla came across a “Beware Advantage” and was the first player in history (I think) to just put it back and say “nah.” But it ate at her, she reconsidered, and she ended up being faced with the same “bead collection” dilemma that we saw Cody with last week. I personally like that these Beware Challenges are the same for each Tribe, because part of the “social experiment” that is the game of Survivor is seeing how different people react given the same challenges. I liked, for example, to see and compare how Cody went about collecting his beads, versus how Karla ended up getting hers. She did, in the end, figure out a way to collect all of her beads, so now our favorite Blue Tribe member is equipped with her very own Immunity Idol…one she wouldn’t have had if not for taking that big, scary chance on herself.

Episode Take-Away: This was sort of a ho-hum affair this week, a “by-the-numbers” episode that didn’t really give us tons of excitement, but one that also didn’t completely squash the momentum created by the first two eps. The best seasons, for me, end up having an equal balance of tribes going to Tribal Council…there’s nothing worse than watching the same tribe attend Tribal Council each week while we never learn the tribe dynamics of a different group. It can’t always happen perfectly, but now I find myself rooting for the Blue Tribe to lose next week so that we can see how their tribe handles their first vote-out. I’m just worried about Gabler…usually when the show lingers on a storyline about how “rough” someone is doing on the island, it goes one of two ways: Either they use the struggles to show how much a player overcomes by the end of their hero arc, or they are setting up a medical evacuation. I sure hope it’s not the latter.

Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. No that is not an advertisement you are seeing below, but Erik’s most recent creative work of 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,, and I urge you to support this fantastically skilled former Survivor player!

“Idol seeking Idol, must’ve gone by tribal”

Art by Erik Reichenbach –

Out this week: Nneka

Won Immunity: Blue Tribe and Yellow Tribe

Vote Result: No advantages or Idols were played. 4 – Nneka (Cody, Jesse, Dwight, Noelle), 1 – Noelle (Nneka)

Current Advantage List:

  • Gabler – 1 Immunity Idol (expires after one more Tribal Council for him)
  • Cody – 1 Immunity Idol (unclear if/when it expires)
  • Karla – 1 Immunity Idol (unclear if/when it expires)
  • Noelle – 1 Steal-A-Vote

Next Week’s Episode: It’s teased that the winner of the upcoming challenge will get a chance to “steal” stuff from the losing tribes. We also see a boat heading to the island, and we hear a few shocked/surprised sounds from the players.

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