Survivor 44 Episode 5 Recap: Adding Insult To Injury

One crazy thing about Survivor is that it is so unpredictable by nature. You never quite know what’s going to happen, by design. And yet the game is so tough, that the occasional medical evacuation is inevitable.

But whenever these med-evacs do happen, it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It seems unnatural. The game is changed, and not because of strategy, alliances, or blindsides. It’s almost impossible not to play the “what if” game, cycling through all the different ways the game might have played out had the injury not occurred.

It’s enough of a game-changer in and of itself, that it feels doubly insulting when production uses the injury as an excuse to change the game even further. That’s what I believe happened when they cancelled a scheduled Tribal Council after Matthew Grinstead-Mayle was medically evacuated from the game.

Medical Evacuation Or A Quit?

Losing Matthew is a huge blow to this season. He was a mastermind strategist, had great in-game awareness, and was a huge social threat. He seemed destined for greatness. Instead, he’ll be forgotten as time marches on, just another pre-merge victim of the game. Unlike Bruce Perreault, who was the first to leave the game this season due to injury and was then invited back for a future season, I think Matthew’s time on Survivor is all but done. Even if he is asked to come back and “redeem” himself in a future installment, he played long enough to show how big of a threat he really was. With a major target on his back, I don’t see Matthew doing as well as he could have done this season had he been able to continue.

But of course, it wasn’t a full minute after his injury until the internet created controversy with his exit: Technically production didn’t remove Matthew from the game. The pain from his separated shoulder just became too unbearable to continue. So if production didn’t pull him, could this be considered a “quit”? The word “quit” has such a negative connotation to it, that it doesn’t seem to apply here, given the understandable pain Matthew must have been dealing with. But it has to be considered a quit, no? I don’t mean any insensitivity. And I would likely quit Survivor if I stubbed my toe, or got more than one mosquito bite.

Does its categorization matter? The main takeaway is that Matthew is no longer in the game. So what now?

More Controversy – Part One

Matthew‘s injury prompted Jeff Probst to arrive at the Purple Tribe’s beach with some good news to go along with the bad: Yes, Matthew is no longer in the game. But his bad fortune was good for Carolyn Wiger, Josh Wilder, and YamYam Arocho. They had just been about to leave for what was shaping up to be a very intense Tribal Council. Probst then informed them that due to Matthew’s injury, they no longer would need to go to Tribal Council.

I’m not a fan of this decision at all.

First and foremost, at least be consistent. Just this season as mentioned, Bruce left the game due to injury. They didn’t cancel Tribal Council though. Why not? In other seasons, there is no clear precedent. It seems that production cancels Tribal whenever it wants to, and tries to justify it with these in-game visits from Probst. More likely, Probst didn’t want to lose Matthew AND lose another big personality in the same episode or pre-merge (they clearly love YamYam and Carolyn – who doesn’t? – and as we saw with flashbacks, Josh’s story is an amazing one).

More Controversy – Part Two

Their decision not only impacts the game in ways that stretch well beyond Matthew leaving, but it also renders half of this episode completely useless. We just watched a close-fought Immunity Challenge, that in retrospect, was a complete waste of everyone’s time. It meant nothing that the Orange and Green tribes were victorious. It meant nothing that the Purple tribe lost their second consecutive challenge.

In my view, there is no good reason why the Tribal Council couldn’t have gone on as planned. I would rather production alter the game moving forward in more subtle ways (one less jury member, for example) than to have thrown this tribe a lifeline when they didn’t deserve it. And for Matthew’s remaining tribe…they not only lost an alliance member, but now the enemy tribes are stronger because no one else went home. As they should have. You know, after losing an Immunity Challenge.

Also, I’m not a fan of how it was portrayed. They left Matthew’s official decision off-camera, in an attempt to squeeze some drama out of it. Just not a fan.

Something we can all agree on though: Josh’s fake Idol is maybe the second-worst in the game’s history behind that “stick” presented to Eliza Orlins back in Season 16. I loved that it instantly fell apart in YamYam’s hands.

Macho, Macho Men

Without a vote-out in the episode, there was a lot of time spent on future tribe dynamics. But the most fascinating segment had to be the “journey” that Carolyn, Brandon Cottom, and Danny Massa took part in. First, I loved that the twist was that there was no twist. There were no “risk/reward” challenges and no advantages (unless you count the food). Yeah right! Try explaining that one to the tribemates back at camp! Nobody will believe for a second that there were no advantages to be found. This decision by production sows doubt, and I loved it.

But wow was it painful to watch Danny and Brandon “bro out” during their feast! Carolyn is so unique and such a mesmerizing presence this season. We’ve never seen anyone quite like her. And she has shown that she is not just here to be a crazy pre-merge personality. She has been playing this game! She has an Idol, planted a fake Idol, and pulled off a huge blindside. And yet, something about her allows other players to dismiss her outright.

There might have been some creative editing there, but clearly, there was enough machismo to make her worried about these Bros heading into the merge. Why Danny and Brandon would have left her out is mind-boggling, and says a lot more about their games than it does Carolyn’s.

If anything, key information did change hands. Carolyn let the boys know about Josh’s temporary Idol, which led Danny to connect the dots and determine that Jaime Lynn Ruiz and Carson Garrett must also have temporary Idols. But with the merge next week, does this info become useless?

At any rate, let these men continue to discard you, Carolyn! We see you. And you’re quickly becoming my pick to go far this season…not as a goat as Brandon might have alluded to. But as a possible winner!

Episode Take-Away

Elsewhere, we got to see Carson continue to nudge his way into the good graces of his tribe. A budding “nerd-mance” blossomed between Carson and Kane Fritzler, who has transformed from a grumpy-pants the first few episodes into his current incarnation as a giggling geek (the highest of compliments from one geek to another).

And the full-on showmance between Matt Blankinship and Frannie Marin continued to grow. The pair has now reached the merge, and something tells me that they are not going to be top on anyone’s list. Alliances are good, but love is in the air. Could Fran-Matt combine with Car-Kane to form the ultimate Nerd Alliance? Could this be the antidote to the budding “Bros” Alliance? Will the rest of this season remind me of high school? Will Season 44 be remembered as “Survivor: Revenge of the Nerds” when all is said and done?

I’m just saying that there are more nerds and outcasts than there are “cool kids” remaining in the game. This could lead to several more injuries as we move along, but it’s a risk I’m willing to root for.

On Fire With Jeff Probst

The Survivor Official Podcast that followed this week’s show had Jeff reminiscing about Survivor Season 1 way back in the Summer of 2000! Lots of fun insights and good stories. Again, this is a must-listen for die-hard Survivor fans and casual fans alike. You can find the podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art

We’re honored here to be associated with Survivor legend, Erik Reichenbach! He just so happens to be an amazing artist. As always, we’re thrilled and honored that he shares his talents every week in my column and with my audience. If you don’t see his art below, that means that it isn’t ready yet (one does not rush an art-eest). But it will appear once ready, so check back if you don’t in fact see it.

“Player Service Announcement” Art by Erik Reichenbach –

All of Erik’s work can be found and purchased on his site, I urge you to support this fantastically skilled former Survivor player!

Final Episode Tallies

Out this week: Matthew (left the game due to his ongoing shoulder injury)

Won Immunity: Green Tribe and Orange Tribe

Vote Result: No voting this week as there was no Tribal Council due to Matthew’s injury.

Current Advantage/Disadvantage List:

  • Lauren – Extra Vote
  • Matt – Cannot vote for one more Tribal, possesses a Fake Idol
  • Jaime – Possesses a Fake Idol, and one temporary Idol (must be played pre-merge)
  • Danny – Immunity Idol
  • Carolyn – Immunity Idol
  • Carson – one temporary Idol (must be played pre-merge)

Next Week’s Episode: Drop your buffs, you are about to enter Merg-Atory!

Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! I am also a TV personality and Film Critic in the Detroit area and a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic. Check out my past movie reviews and my movie show (episodes are also available online at the website, Follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


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