Survivor 43 Episode 8 Recap: Bigger Fish To Fry

First of all, great job Survivor! You managed to hoodwink all of us last week into thinking that Dwight left the game with Jeanine‘s hidden Immunity Idol in his pocket! Well not only was it not in his pocket (it was in his crotch…”Don’t worry,” he told Jeanine. “I’ll wash it.”), the Idol wasn’t even on his person! Unbeknownst to the viewers but as revealed on Wednesday’s new episode, Dwight had actually handed it off to Jesse before heading to Tribal Council. So not only is the Idol still in the game and in Jesse’s possession, but Jeanine never knew that!

There was a lot of talk this week about “trust” and also the “social contract,” as Jeff Probst calls it, that the players create for themselves within the game. I couldn’t help but see the parallels with what they were discussing, as applied to the “social contract” that Jeff and CBS has established with its die-hard, faithful Survivor audience. We expect things to go certain way when we watch the show, we allow certain things and sometimes (like when Jeff Probst decided to address the camera straight-on during Season 41), we reject variances. But the show has created the social contract stating that they have the freedom to try new things, twist things up, and even though we may not like something, we’ll keep watching as we keep our faith in the game on the whole.

But like Sami said, the rules are always changing, always being amended, even if subtly. The idea that Jeanine‘s Idol would end up with Jesse but that the truth wasn’t revealed to the audience until this week is a classic example of nudgingly “amending” Survivor’s social contract with its audience. I for one, loved it!  I also was a fan earlier in the season when they revealed – conveniently – that an Idol had been found earlier in the game, but was shown to us as a flashback during Tribal. If Survivor pushes things too far and we begin to feel manipulated, then I think it’s fair to say that Probst has broken his social contract with the audience. But I haven’t felt this yet, not this season anyways. Did any of you feel at all like keeping Jeanine’s Idol whereabouts was out-of-bounds? Anyone feeling betrayed?

Speaking of feeling betrayed, this week’s episode began with Owen feeling quite lonely, having been left out of two straight votes. It’s hard not to feel for the guy, and we were given some backstory about how he was adopted and how he always feels on the outs, to cement our feelings about him. It worked. But Owen went on to win individual Immunity during the episode, against all odds and even as a surprise to himself. Owen is a great player to root for, but like he even said, right now his Survivor resume is less than impressive.

The good news is there is still a lot of game left to be played…there is still time to build that resume. I love that on Survivor though, this is all perspective. If you’re on the bottom like Owen? You’re planning your next, and first, big move. If you’re Sami, a guy who has mostly flew under the radar but who is relatively safe so far? He also knows that he’s going to have to “go big” at some point. But if you’re at the top of the food chain, like Cody has been thus far, you see things much differently. “Let’s simplify things,” was Cody’s strategy this week. Not every vote has to be a huge move, sometimes you need to go with the obvious target. Is Cody right or wrong in this way of thinking?

With the majority seven in place (and they stayed in place after voting out Jeanine), that leaves Gabler, Owen and Noelle on the outs, with Jeanine becoming “The Mayor of Ponderosa” (i.e.: The first member of the jury). But if you know Survivor at all, you probably know that even when there is an “easy” vote like this week’s, it is even more rare for a second “easy” vote to come next week. So in a weird, twisted Survivor way, the three current bottom-feeders may actually be more safe than we realize. As we saw, the majority seven are just chomping at the bit to make moves, and to ensure that they are not on the bottom of that seven alliance. That is, all except Ryan who just seems content catching fish and being the camp Survivor…the oldest-school strategy in existence in the game one one that hasn’t worked in eons.

I’m loving it, because we have such great players remaining, all of whom have what it takes to become legends. Karla, Jesse, Sami, Codi…all of these seem to by laying in wait and looking to pounce. Cassidy seems a bit rockier, and I’d say other than Ryan (who is clearly the seventh-man in the seven person alliance), it appears that James is gaining a lot of attention. As long as he possesses his “Knowledge is Power” advantage, the more dangerous a target he becomes, especially for those that have Idols or advantages of their own that they don’t want to be stolen. James isn’t special in this way: ALL remaining players that have Idols or advantages are becoming bigger threats the fewer players that remain in the game…at some point, the current in-game “social contract” will be lit on fire, as someone will eventually strike first. It’s inevitable. There are always bigger fish to fry…you just want to make sure that you’re not the one who is cooking too hot.

Episode Take-Away: It was an uphill battle for Jeanine, so I am sorry that she went out the way she did. She just couldn’t get a break in this game, which happens to all but one player each and every season. But for an episode that seemed to end with the “simple” or “obvious” choice, I thought it was packed full of great strategy. This season is bubbling just under the surface, and I don’t think we’re very far off from watching the volcano erupt.

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,, and I urge you to support this fantastically skilled former Survivor player!

“Voyage of the Seven.”
Art by Erik Reichenbach –

Out this week: Jeanine

Won Immunity: Owen (1)

Vote Result: No advantages or Idols were played. 9 – Jeanine (Jesse, Cody, Karla, Sami, James, Ryan, Gabler, Owen, Noelle), 2 – Ryan (Jeanine, Cassidy).

Current Advantage List:

  • Jesse – 2 Immunity Idols (one was Cody’s but he wasn’t shown giving it back yet?)
  • Karla – 1 Immunity Idol
  • Noelle – 1 Steal-A-Vote
  • James – Knowledge is Power advantage

Next Week’s Episode: Owen feels betrayed by James as their relationship continues to deteriorate. Will Noelle be using her Steal-A-Vote advantage? And the Immunity Challenge reveals that not one, but two, players will earn Immunity.

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, 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]