For it being the day before Thanksgiving, this episode of Survivor was no turkey. We are watching some incredible players enter the home-stretch of a long and grueling game, and there’s almost zero dead weight. As discussed at Tribal Council, this is a game chock-full of deadly assassins. There is a precision to who is being targeted, and Jesse even gave us a three-step breakdown as to how to pull off a perfect blindside.
In the end, it was the “warrior” Noelle who took the silent proverbial bullet, but she didn’t go down without carving out a spot in Survivor history. A true champion and an inspiration all season, Noelle’s comeback to win the Reward Challenge was a sight to behold. As it was playing out, I was readying a number of complaints aimed at the show’s producers, about how unfair it was to have a balancing be part of a competition in a season where an amputee is competing. I’m sure a number of viewers were thinking the same. And it never occurred to me that Noelle would come back to win the challenge…as a seasoned Survivor-watcher, we are used to the cameras lingering on “the one who has fallen behind” during a challenge, where their story is about personal triumph, or “digging deep” to complete the challenge, but hardly ever about how they stage a massive come-from-behind, improbable and nearly impossible victory.
Kudos to Noelle for never giving up and proving everyone wrong. It was a fitting end to her story, as she has been one of the more persistent competitors this season. As the others described, every time they’ve tried to take out her allies, she has been able to regroup. But as fierce a warrior as she is, there are just too many savvy strategic masterminds left in the game for her to have been able to overcome.
On the strategy-front, some major developments occurred during this week’s episode, that set-up what we may see play out over the coming weeks, and the final stretch of episodes. One, Sami‘s game has been all but exposed. To the viewer’s eyes, Sami has played a very effective “down-the-middle” game, but revealing the plan at the last minute to Karla before last week’s Tribal Council has painted Sami a “flip-flopper” by the rest of the tribe. They’re on to him, and the implication is that the “flip-flopper” style of game isn’t really respected…Sami may not be winning material after all, unless he makes some strong and surprising moves down the stretch.
Secondly, Jesse and Cody are – as Cody says – “steering the ship.” It’s true, as they are indeed the true power couple left in the game as we are now down to just seven players remaining. But importantly, Gabler sees it. Gabler is tucked in nicely and is in my view the real person in the middle of everything. With so many big fish to fry, Gabler may just have what it takes to navigate his way to the end, and win. You’ve heard it hear first. Remember though that simply noticing the Jesse/Cody power duo is only half the battle…someone is going to need to act on it, and soon, if they’re going to overcome it. Not only are Jesse/Cody calling the shots, but they have TWO Idols. An Immunity Idol hasn’t been played successfully yet in this “new era” of Survivor (defined as every season beyond Season 40), but with a little luck on that front, Jesse/Cody may not be able to be stopped, regardless.
While Karla still has an Idol, it appears that she has lost a bit of control over her game after last week’s vote. But don’t underestimate her. Cassidy too, is a sneaky pick to go far as she’s just under-the-radar enough to become a threat…and winning her first Individual Immunity only goes to raise her profile. Owen, of all of the remaining seven, seems like the only one left who has not at all been in control of his own game…he continues to vote outside the majority alliance, and nobody seems to view him as a real threat to win.
Where things go from here is anyone’s guess, but I’m stoked that such a high-caliber group of players are still remaining. In a typical season, we’d see many of them blindsided much earlier on, so it’s rare that so many great strategic players have made it so far in the game. But something’s gotta give, and time is running out.
Episode Take-Away: This was a solid episode (as is usually the case with the Thanksgiving Eve episode), and a perfect ending note to Noelle‘s story. I love that I feel invested in the players that are left and I truly don’t like the thought of any more of them going home. Of course, there can only be one winner, and I have absolutely no idea who would be considered the front-runner at this point. Is there one? I feel like Jesse and Cody are in great shape if they can just get through one more vote, and if they don’t catch on to how good Gabler is playing this game, that could end up being their fatal flaw. Heck, it may end up being everyone’s fatal flaw, should they keep him around until it’s too late.
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: Noelle
Won Immunity: Cassidy (1)
Vote Result: No advantages or Idols were played. 5 – Noelle (Jesse, Cody, Karla, Gabler, Cassidy), 2 – Karla (Sami, Owen), 1 – Sami (Noelle).
Current Advantage List:
- Jesse – 2 Immunity Idols (One was Cody’s, Jesse mentioned Cody asked for his back but it wasn’t confirmed on-air)
- Karla – 1 Immunity Idol
Next Week’s Episode: Gabler has a plan for a Final Three…Boatmail sends the tribes scrambling through the jungle…and an underwater challenge has players literally gasping for air. Don’t miss it!
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? ANY FINAL THOUGHTS ON NOELLE? AND WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR THUS FAR TO WIN THE GAME?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]