On Wednesday, Nov. 9, “Survivor 43” aired its eighth episode. It was fantastic yet again, delivering suspense and excitement to eager viewers like myself.
It began by filling in the blanks for the last vote, which was left slightly ambiguous. Sami had gotten wind of Dwight being the target and jumped on board. He was the only member of his Baka tribe to do so.
His decision benefited him significantly, as the seven that voted together at the last Tribal Council (Cassidy, Karla, Jesse, Ryan, Cody, James, Sami) formed an alliance, and vowed to go to the final seven together. Of course, this alliance won’t last long, but it will provide them with a bit of temporary power. It is clear that Sami consistently has his finger on the pulse of the group.
We also learned early in the episode that Jeanine gave Dwight her idol before he was voted out in an effort to keep James from stealing it with his “Knowledge Is Power” advantage. Jeanine was devastated. She thought, as the rest of the tribe did, that her idol left with Dwight. However, Dwight had passed her idol to Jesse before Tribal Council. This may be the only secret in the game, and Jesse intends to keep it. He now has an idol, and coupled with his impressive strategic prowess and social positioning, Jesse is the current favorite to win “Survivor 43.”
From a narrative perspective, this was the Owen episode. We learned that he was born in Korea, and then adopted at four months old by white parents. He spoke of his desire to fit in as a child, and how he struggled with feeling different from both his family and his peers. That insecurity was seeping into the game for Owen. He had been on the wrong side of the votes a couple times in a row, and felt out of the loop because of it. In an attempt to change his position, Owen unified the Baka players on the bottom (Noelle, Gabler, Jeanine, and himself) against the majority alliance.
At the immunity challenge, James did a poor job of hiding his desire to eliminate Owen. Probst offered the tribe a large bag of rice, contingent on five of them sitting out of the immunity challenge. Giving up your shot at immunity is a tough sell, but these people are starving. That rice had to look like Val’s miso salmon.
James implored Owen to sit out, telling him that he was protected. This was reminiscent of Amanda Kimmel telling Parvati Shallow that she didn’t have to play her idol in “Survivor: Heroes vs Villains.” This backfired on Amanda, and it didn’t work much better for James. James and Owen don’t have a close relationship, so it was quite suspicious. Owen ignored James, and made the correct decision to participate in the challenge. He eventually won, taking down Cody at the end of a long competition in which they had to hold up a large ball on a platform, using an increasingly long stick.
Seeing Owen wear the immunity necklace warmed my heart. He was emotional, explaining how he had watched legends like Colby Donaldson (“Survivor: Africa,” “Survivor: Heroes vs Villains”) and Kelly Wigglesworth (“Survivor: Borneo,” “Survivor: Second Chance”) do the same. It has been over 20 years since the first time those two played, showing how dedicated a superfan Owen is. He may not be in a powerful position, but Owen has a vast knowledge of the game and a strong ability to read people. I still believe that he can turn things around.
As often happens with large alliances in “Survivor,” the majority alliance immediately targeted each other. In a group that large, some people will be better positioned than others. The great players are the ones that recognize their position and do something to change it. Sami did just that. He recognized that he had minimal power within the large group and came up with another plan: to target Ryan.
Ryan is far from a strategic threat as his game is largely just being helpful around camp and hoping people keep him around because of it. He spends more time interacting with the fish than he does his tribemates. However, he is a massive, athletic guy. His physical prowess makes him a large threat in immunity challenges — a compelling reason to vote him out. Sami first pitched this idea to his former Baka tribemates who immediately latched on. He then went to Karla and James, and before long, Sami had turned the entire beach against Ryan. Of course, Ryan was fishing this whole time.
James pushed back against the Ryan plan, and for good reason. Despite his lack of strategic sense, Ryan is loyal to Coco. He would likely never target James, Karla, or Cassidy. Since he’s on their side, winning challenges will also actually benefit them. Despite Sami’s best efforts, the seven remained together for at least one vote. Jeanine was eliminated without finding out that Jesse had her idol.
Despite not pulling off the Ryan vote-out, Sami is in a fascinating position directly between both groups. This is a high-risk, high-reward spot to be in. Ideally, everyone will think he’s on their side, and no one will target him. Eventually, though, he’ll have to make a decision to turn on one of the groups; I don’t imagine they’ll be happy.
At this point in the season, it usually becomes clear who actually has a chance to win the game. Most players are somewhat along for the ride, with only a few playing well enough to have a realistic shot at the title of “Sole Survivor.” This season, though, we have a handful of serious contenders. Jesse is playing the best game, with no one targeting him and an idol in his pocket. James and Karla are a powerful duo within the majority alliance, and maintain a 4-3 Coco advantage within that alliance. Cody has quietly been on the right side of every vote and seems to have the best social game on the island. Sami and Owen are not content with the majority alliance dominating this game and seem poised to break this thing open. I could realistically see half the cast winning this thing, which is incredibly rare for the final 10. Tune in next week to see how this fantastic season continues to unfold.