Survivor 44 Episode 6 Recap: Earning The Merge

In this new era of Survivor, there are no hand-outs. Everything must be earned. That rang true for the 12 remaining players who needed to fight their way into the next phase of the game. For one contestant, karma would come back around to snuff their torch, just shy of this particular finish line.

Josh Wilder had been skirting disaster for several weeks now, but his time was finally up. A twist would save him from being blindsided by his original tribe. Then he was on the chopping block again last week, only to have his demise postponed when Jeff Probst announced that they were canceling Tribal Council altogether, on the heels of Matthew Grinstead-Mayle’s departure from the game due to his nagging shoulder injury.

Josh’s desperate attempt to stay in the game – trying to create a fake Idol using commonly-known beads seen at the camp’s water supply – ended up coming back to bite him, as the attention that it drew (did he or didn’t he have an Idol?) was enough to send him home, finally, the last victim to leave the game pre-merge.

The Merge Is Upon Us

Of course, the overarching theme of the episode was that the Merge was on the horizon. Six players, Carolyn Wiger, Carson Garrett, Matt Blankinship, Frannie Marin, Brandon Cottom and Jaime Lynn Ruiz, won their way to the merge by winning the Immunity Challenge. The other six, Josh, YamYam Arocho, Kane Fritzler, Lauren Harpe, Danny Massa and Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt weren’t so lucky.

The Three Stooges

A very secret three-way alliance was revealed that may be something to keep an eye on moving forward. “The Three Stooges,” as they called themselves, consisted of Carson, Carolyn, and YamYam. Three outcasts bonded together by their outsider status. I immediately thought that this sounded like an amazing Final Three, as all three are players that I am rooting for and who fall into the category of the underdog.

But just like the real-life Stooges, they were some major fumbles and stumbles to be had during the episode. Carson nearly threw the entire Tribal into an upheaval when he went and revealed to Kane that his name had been thrown around earlier at the Merge Feast. YamYam too, admittedly finds himself talking way too much, which leads him often-times into trouble.

So well-intentioned Carson must be Larry. YamYam is definitely Curly. That makes Carolyn Moe I guess, and that checks out considering Carolyn’s hilarious – and telling – facial expressions.

When Will They Listen?

One of the most frustrating aspects of this season thus far has been how nobody seems to want to listen to poor Carolyn! She’s zany and eccentric, to say the least, but despite all of this she has actually played quite an amazing game thus far! And yet, nobody within the game seems to notice. Everybody discards her and underestimates her. That could not have been more clear than during the Merge Feast when she straight-up told everyone that Josh does not have a real Idol. Heck, she should know, she had just been at camp with him. But the others just discarded this vital info, much to Carolyn’s ongoing frustration.

Are people ever going to take Carolyn seriously? I’m saying this now, but I truly think she has a fantastic chance of going to the end of this game.

Beware The Show-Mance!

One ongoing storyline of the season also has been the budding and now blossoming romance between Matt and Frannie. They’re two peas in a pod, bonded in their nerdiness. But wow are they infectious to the audience. I’m not sure if I’m rooting for them to win (Matt still seems to not be as “tuned in” to the game as I like my winners to be), but I sure am rooting for them in life. Too bad we no longer get the live studio Reunion Show, or there would be a high probability for an on-air proposal this season!

The problem with love on Survivor is that it is almost always rooted out by others who rightly identify two as being more dangerous than one. As we see in the preview for next week, Lauren is on to them and knows they need to be separated. Time will tell if this is a power-couple out to win the game, or if love will be enough of a prize. Stay tuned.

Episode Take-Away

Now that we’ve officially hit the merge, it’s time to start really taking stock of where everyone stands. It’s clear that YamYam has a tough path to win, knowing that he’s going it alone and will likely not have a built-up resumé even if he were to somehow make it to the end. That Three Stooges alliance is intriguing though, so if they were to be the emerging alliance YamYam definitely could have a claim to make.

Carson seems like a player with all of the potential in the world, and someone who has been able to master the social aspects of the game thus far. However we saw him make a strategic blunder this week. Will that come back to haunt him?

With several advantages already in the game and a twist coming next episode, there are still so many different ways that the game can shake-out. It’ll be interesting to see if players will eventually take note of how dangerous Carolyn really is, or if they’ll continue to discard her until it’s too late!

On Fire With Jeff Probst

The Survivor Official Podcast that followed this week’s show had Jeff taking a deep dive into the Survivor Art Department. 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.

“Josh’s Last Stand” 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: Josh

Won Immunity: Randomly chosen tribe consisting of Carson, Carolyn, Jaime, Brandon, Matt and Frannie.

Vote Result: No Idols or Advantages were played. Matt could not vote having lost his vote during the “Risk/Reward” journey. 7 – Josh (Frannie, Carson, Danny, Lauren, Jaime, Heidi, YamYam), 3 – YamYam (Josh, Brandon, Kane), 1 – Kane (Carolyn)

Current Advantage/Disadvantage List:

  • Lauren – Extra Vote
  • Matt – Possesses a Fake Idol
  • Jaime – Possesses a Fake Idol
  • Danny – Immunity Idol
  • Carolyn – Immunity Idol

Next Week’s Episode: Kane feels like he’s inside Dungeons & Dragons, Matt and Frannie are targeted by Lauren, and Jeff Probst reveals a twist during a challenge and says, “You will have no say in who goes home.” A sly bit of editing or a major unprecedented twist on the horizon?

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]