Survivor 44 Episode 7 Recap: Love Hurts

Episode 7 of Survivor was by all measures the best episode of the season. But for those rooting for the “nerd-mance” to prevail, it was quite frustrating.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes, but it rarely comes at all on Survivor. When it does, it provides players with the rarest commodity ever to be found within the game: Someone you can unequivocally trust. For Matt Blankinship and Frannie Marin, they had found that in each other. They were two self-proclaimed “nerds” who had found an instant connection. They had hoped that would be enough to carry them to the end of the game. Well, at least carry them further than what ended up happening.

The Devious Snake

From the get-go, Episode 7 was non-stop strategy and drama…exactly the way I like my Survivor prepared. YamYam Arocho was finding it hard to stomach that there had been some votes cast against him in the previous Tribal Council. With nobody in the game other than Carolyn Wiger in his corner, YamYam knew that he had to turn up his social prowess if he was going to survive another vote in this game.

But with the tribes now merged, information was flowing everywhere. Matt had believed he possessed an Immunity Idol until he learned from Brandon Cottom that the birdcage contained both a real and a fake Idol. When Matt had come across his, there was just one in there. That pretty much proved to Matt that the Idol he possessed was indeed a fake. Recalling a strange conversation he had with Danny Massa just prior, he realized that “devious snake” must have the real Idol. Suddenly, Matt didn’t feel all that safe in the game.

Big Twists

Matt’s fortunes wouldn’t improve over the course of the episode. As the tribes entered into the Immunity Challenge area, Jeff Probst dropped more than a few bombs on them. First, this Immunity Challenge would not be played individually, but in teams. The divide would split Matt and Frannie.

When Frannie won individual Immunity for herself, those of us shipping for Matt and Frannie nearly jumped off our couches. All Frannie had to do was throw the rest of the challenge! She had already won herself Immunity. But by letting Brandon win the bigger prize, she would ensure Immunity for Matt as well!

All the stars had appeared to align for Frannie and Matt…until Frannie just kept fighting. She outlasted Brandon, and ultimately sealed her boyfriend Matt’s fate in the game.

The Decision

The most hotly debated topic following Episode 7 was: Did Frannie make the right call in trying to stay in the challenge to win it after she had already won Immunity for herself? This ended up being just Blunder #1 that her alliance would make in this episode. As mentioned before, it is so incredibly rare to see a true power-couple form in the game of Survivor. It has of course happened, but it’s rare…more rare when it’s a romantic duo. The further the pair would last, the bigger the targets they’d become. There’s no doubt of that. But the trade is that their bond becomes stronger too, not to mention their voting numbers.

Frannie exposed Matt to being voted out. She also painted herself as a larger physical threat by winning a challenge. On one hand, I get it…you are on Survivor. You are out there for an adventure and to prove to yourself what you’re capable of. But if you are “in it to win it,” you have to think bigger than personal glory. It was just too risky a move to leave Matt as one of just four eligible people to get voted out.

When It Rains…

For Matt, the other big twist was that he wasn’t allowed to even return to his camp, where he had left his personal bag. So whether his Idol was fake or not (it was), he didn’t get the chance to play it. Also in his bag? His “shot-in-the-dark” which would have given him at least one last gasp at staying alive.

The most painful element of all was that Matt and Frannie did not get a chance to even say goodbye. Matt desperately clung to hope that Frannie might bring his bag with her to Tribal (she did not). Matt’s torch was then snuffed. Poor Matt even sank so low as to offer up a papaya to Jeff Probst, in hopes that his fruity gift might make Probst call off the Tribal Council.

At least viewers and fans can take comfort in the fact that Matt and Frannie will be able to see each other moving forward, with Matt becoming the first member of the Survivor 44 jury. Matt and Frannie will either reunite at Ponderosa (if Frannie is voted out), or Matt will help cast a vote for her to win the game. Either way, things did not shake out the way that Matt and Frannie had envisioned, and it sucks knowing that Frannie had multiple chances to keep him alive in the game, even for a little while.

Taking Control

Even with Matt’s fate seemingly sealed, the game provided yet another twist that nearly saved him. It was a mad-dash through the jungle looking for keys, to open a new birdcage which provided the game a new advantage. It was Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt – a player we’ve seen tragically little of thus far – who found the correct key. The advantage? The ability to “control” a player’s vote at just this Tribal Council.

Heidi – along with ally Frannie – had a chance to use this advantage to save Matt, or at least make things interesting. Everyone in the game knew that Lauren Harpe has an Extra Vote advantage. So had Heidi taken control of, say, Brandon‘s vote and used it against Lauren, that would have sent a signal to YamYam and Matt that they needed to band together and vote for Lauren as well. There’s no guarantee this would have happened, but had it happened, that would have been three votes on Lauren (Matt, YamYam and Brandon’s controlled vote)…enough to send her out of the game. Even if she were to have used her Extra Vote, it would just be her voting along with Jaime Lynn Ruiz…not enough to save her.

So Lauren was able to hold on to her Extra Vote, YamYam was ultimately saved (yay Team Carolyn!) and Frannie must now manage the rest of the game without Matt in her corner. Despite winning, this seems to be a terrible episode for Frannie’s game, no?

Episode Take-Away

Significantly, Danny was exposed during Episode 7 as someone in possession of an Idol, and someone categorized as a “snake.” That’s not good for Danny. Meanwhile, the longer YamYam and Carolyn slip through, the more powerful they become. Carolyn still has a real Idol that nobody knows about, and together they form the unlikeliest of power couples. That is the epitome of danger.

It was good to see Heidi a bit more this week, to see what kind of player she is and where her head’s at. But with all the talk of wanting to make a big move, it seemed like everyone played this week safe. Matt and Frannie are endlessly cute but are maybe the least strategically-minded couple the show has ever seen. At least a power couple was broken up. I for one am still rooting for Frannie, and only time will tell if this was ultimately a good move for her or the beginning of the end of her game.

On Fire With Jeff Probst

The Survivor Official Podcast that followed this week’s show had Jeff talking all about the “big themes” that the show has used over the years…think “Redemption Island,” “Ghost Island” or “Winners at War.” 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

Former SurvivorErik Reichenbach, honors us each and every week with his exclusive artwork! He is an amazing artist in addition to being a Survivor legend. Sharing his talents every week in my column and with my audience is a huge honor and thrill. 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.

“Balancing Act” Art by Erik Reichenbach – is where you want to go to find all of Erik’s work. I urge you to support this fantastically skilled former Survivor player!

Final Episode Tallies

Out this week: Matt

Won Immunity: Frannie and Brandon win individual immunity, with Frannie winning immunity for her team, Heidi, Danny, Kane Fritzler , and Carolyn

Vote Result: Heidi used her “Control a Vote” advantage to force Lauren to vote for YamYam. 3 – Matt (YamYam, Jaime, Brandon), 2 – YamYam (Lauren, Matt)

Current Advantage/Disadvantage List:

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

Next Week’s Episode: Frannie deals with the fall-out of Matt‘s departure, Carson Garrett appears to get sick, and Danny tells someone, “We need to make a big move!”

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]