On Wednesday, Nov. 1 and 8, “Survivor” released episodes 6 and 7 of season 45. Episode 6 was the limbo episode, in which the three tribes came together on one beach to make it through one more vote before reaching the individual part of the game. It was electric from start to finish — this season is becoming elite.
The episode began on the Belo tribe’s beach, where Bruce found a beware advantage in front of Jake, Kendra and Kellie. He chose to open it, reading that he lost his vote until he found the advantage. The note also contained a clue that led Bruce and friends to their tribe shelter. They wanted the advantage, but also didn’t want Katurah to know about it, as she’d been anti-Bruce the whole game. Jake slyly pretended that he had lost a ring, digging through the sand to find it. When the boat arrived to take them to the merge beach, the advantage was still in the ground. Bruce cut it close, snagging it mere moments before he had to leave. He got an idol and regained his vote.
At the merge beach, the four original Rebas (Julie, Dee, Austin, Drew) were ecstatic to reconnect. They had had a strong alliance on their original tribe, and immediately decided to continue that in the next portion of the game.
Emily (Lulu, then Reba) and Kaleb (Lulu) also quickly reconnected after the boats arrived. After surviving three straight Lulu votes together at the beginning of the game, they might be the tightest pair in the game. They’re certainly my favorite alliance. Emily has vastly improved her social gameplay throughout this season, as she’s now well-liked by her tribemates. In contrast, Kaleb has been a social superstar the whole way. They’re very different people, but they get along in an unorthodox way that I enjoy watching.
Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy watching Bruce quite as much. He wasted no time at the new beach, immediately bossing people around again. He also called Kaleb out for having conversations with non-Belo people. This showed Kaleb that Bruce had an old-school, “us versus them” mentality that Kaleb simply couldn't work with. He told Kellie (Belo) this, and she agreed. They both wanted him gone.
At the immunity challenge, the castaways heard what they already knew from past seasons. They were in limbo, having completed the tribal portion of the game, but not yet having advanced to the individual portion. To get there, they’d have to survive one more vote. The 13 people were randomly split into two groups of six (Austin, Bruce, Drew, Julie, Kendra, and Sifu; and Dee, Emily, Jake, J. Maya, Kaleb, and Kellie).
Katurah was the odd one out, so she got to bet on either group. She chose the first group. This was a brutal, muddy challenge that ended with a word puzzle. The correct phrase, which was based on words on a large structure they had to build, was “safely moving forward tonight.” Katurah picked right, as Austin, Bruce, Drew, Julie, Kendra and Sifu won. This meant Dee, Emily, Jake, J. Maya, Kaleb and Kellie were the six up for elimination.
Back at camp, Sifu (Reba) wanted J. Maya eliminated. He thought that she voted for him a few Tribals back, although it was actually Dee. I thought J. Maya lying to him and saying that was a bad move at the time — this showed why. The rest of Reba backed Sifu, and started a campaign to take out one of their own. However, Kendra (Belo) wanted Kaleb (Lulu) out. She saw him as a large social threat, which Bruce agreed with. All of Belo seemed to agree, except Katurah, but she’s on the bottom anyway. The two main targets were now set — J. Maya and Kaleb.
This is when the episode became awesome. Reba started to sway towards voting Kaleb out as it meant maintaining their numbers. They told Emily this, which was a mistake. She ran and told Kaleb, sending him into scramble mode. Kaleb told Austin and Drew that he wanted to work with Reba instead of Belo going forward, and that Bruce had an idol. This was great strategic play: Using information to build bonds is really smart.
At Tribal, Kaleb was still scrambling. He made a final pitch for people to vote against J. Maya instead of him, but things looked bleak. Kaleb decided to use his shot in the dark, sacrificing his vote for a one-sixth shot at safety.
For the first time in “Survivor “history, the shot in the dark worked! It worked! Nine shots have been played before, but eight of them were unsuccessful, and the other one saved a person who received zero votes. Every single vote, even Emily’s, was for Kaleb. The only person who didn’t cast a vote for Kaleb was Austin, as he sacrificed his vote in order to keep his idol until the final five. 11 votes were negated, which is a record for the most votes negated at a single Tribal Council.
Since zero votes were cast, the players re-voted and sent J. Maya home. With everyone in shock, Jeff announced that they had officially made the merge.
The shock had not subsided by the start of episode 7.
Shortly after arriving back at their beach, Bruce called Katurah out for being on the fence about voting for Kaleb. This was incredibly transparent and rather rude. Katurah had spent the entire game trying to spin an anti-Bruce narrative — this gave her fuel. Kendra and Kellie (Belo) were also tired of having to deal with Bruce. Even Jake (Belo) wanted to go against Bruce’s wishes and keep Kaleb around. This was yet another annoying mistake that made Bruce’s allies consider voting him out.
The immunity challenge was a “Survivor” classic. The castaways had to hang onto a tall, thick wooden pole for as long as they could. The twelve Survivors were split into two groups — Red (Austin, Dee, Kaleb, Katurah, Jake, and Julie) and Blue (Bruce, Drew, Emily, Kendra, Kellie, and Sifu). The last player remaining in each group won immunity, as both tribes were going to tribal that night. The last player hanging on overall won tacos for their group, as well as the right to go to Tribal second. The player voted from the losing group would be the last castaway eliminated before the Jury phase of the game.
Emily fell almost immediately, but this challenge lasted about 20 minutes. The Blue group came down to Drew and Kellie, with Kellie outlasting him to win immunity. Red’s battle was between Katurah and Dee, with Dee winning. The ensuing competition between Dee and Kellie was awesome. Both women demonstrated impressive grip strength and mental fortitude, with Dee edging out Kellie for the overall win.
After negating 11 votes during the previous tribal, Kaleb was the obvious boot on Red. Jake wanted to keep him around, though. He saw Dee as the biggest threat in the game, especially after her impressive immunity performance. The immunity necklace kept him from voting for her, so he wanted to take out Julie to weaken Dee. Julie is Dee’s closest ally, so this made a lot of sense.
Jake and Kaleb got to scheming. Kaleb told Katurah about Bruce’s idol, once again using information as power to strengthen a bond. This made Katurah trust Kaleb more, but also made her wary of Jake. Now she knew he wasn’t looking for rings at Belo beach. Kaleb and Jake planned on making the vote a three-to-three tie between Julie and Kaleb, and then flipping Austin to their side on a re-vote. They viewed him as a gutless player, and believed they could convince him to change his vote by threatening a random rock draw for elimination (what happens in the event of a deadlocked tie). This plan relied on Katurah, though.
For the Blue group, Kendra saw the split as an opportunity to take Bruce out. He’s annoying and had an idol: it made sense to take the shot. Bruce sussed this out and told Kellie, who was torn. On one hand, Kellie disliked Bruce as an ally, finding herself frustrated with his poor gameplay on a daily basis. On the other hand, Bruce trusted her — that’s valuable in “Survivor.” Kellie opted to keep Bruce around, working to mend fences between him and Kendra. This subsequent conversation was masterful from Kellie. She sat down with Kendra, talking to her in a kind and understanding way. This changed Kendra’s mind, saving Bruce in spite of himself. The Blue group voted Sifu out, five to one.
Red’s vote was more complex. Austin saw value in keeping Kaleb as a meat shield. Kaleb would always be a bigger target than Austin and his allies (Dee, Julie, and Drew), so with Kaleb in the game, other players would target him instead of them. I agreed with Austin, but Dee was adamant about eliminating the biggest target. Austin, Drew, and Julie voted for Kaleb. Jake and Kaleb voted for Julie. Katurah voted for … Kaleb. Although it hurts to see Kaleb leave, she made the correct move in my mind. Risking a rock draw just wasn’t worth it to save people who had only recently started telling her things.
This was a wild pair of episodes. Kaleb broke a “Survivor” record and gave fans a moment to remember. I’ve been waiting for the first successful shot in the dark since it was introduced. Even though it only saved him for a round, it was exhilarating to see it negate all those votes.
The next episode will see Jake in trouble after his plan with Katurah fell through, along with a personal favorite — the “Survivor” Auction! Tune in next Wednesday, Nov. 15 to witness its long-awaited return.