Survivor 44 recap: Yet another woman takes the fall
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Well, I certainly got that one wrong. Granted, I have gotten a LOT of things wrong with my episode 1 predictions over the years in terms of who was going to win Survivor. Who could forget my SUPER confident Betsy Bolan pick for Survivor: Samoa? Still, this one hurts.
I saw something in Claire Rafson's pre-game press. She was clearly smart and appeared to have no compunction in doing what it took to get to the end. She seemed loose, at ease. I figured she would be a social dynamo. I thought she looked athletic… which appears to have been a misread of epic proportions. As I wrote in my premiere recap, I wasn't completely sold on my selection of Claire as the imminent champion on Survivor 44, but she was the player I felt best about.
The irony of it all is that one of the reasons I, in my infinite wisdom, picked Claire is because of what she did while sitting out one of her numerous immunity challenges. The way she approached Matthew on the Sandra Sit Out Bench about what he was told after their tribemates' journey showed me a savviness that I thought would carry her to at least the merge.
Could not have been more wrong. First Tribal Council she attends — GONE! And the thing that was used against her was the fact that she was being such a team player in being so agreeable in sitting out of challenges. As I wrote last week, I couldn't imagine showing up in Fiji to play Survivor and volunteering to sit out the first two — much less three — immunity challenges. That just seems to be the exact opposite of "digging deep" — which is why Jeff Probst very gently prodded her on the topic. But Claire was doing what she thought gave her team the best chance to avoid Tribal Council. And it was a strategy that worked for as long as Soka kept winning. But, unfortunately, their copying skills were simply not as strong as Tika's.
Of course, we didn't need to wait for the vote to know that Claire was a goner. It was obvious as soon as they left for Tribal Council due to the fact that Josh had not yet gotten his emotional backstory package. Josh has an incredibly inspiring story of almost dying when he was a few years old before receiving a kidney transplant from a donor who died in a car accident. He told me before the game how he was living — and playing Survivor — for two people: "I have made it my life's mission to live for her and do everything that I can for her. I'm doing this for her and that is why I'm going to win this game."
That's an amazing tale, and if you think for one second that Probst was going to snuff Josh's torch before that story unfurled on our screen, then you have clearly not watched a single second of new-era Survivor. So that was tip-off number one. Tip-off number two occurred during Tribal Council — before the actual voting, yet after Probst started impersonating a gargoyle — when Claire super awkwardly asked Heidi, "Have you thought at all more?" and Heidi just kind of nodded her head like someone being filmed for a hostage video.
Claire followed that up with, "Are you still at the place you were before?" to which Heidi looked away while answering "I think so." I think so???? Let me just put that through my handy Survivor Translator 3000 machine and see what pops out. Ah yes, that translates roughly to "Girl, you're cooked." (Where were all the Tika body reading experts when you need them?)
I think so is perhaps the most blatant tell imaginable. Give Claire credit for picking up on Heidi's obvious lie and playing her Shot in the Dark, but we knew she would not pull the "Safe" parchment because again, we had not seen Josh's tear-jerking backstory package, and he would have been the backup plan on a revote.
I'll miss Claire, and not just because I look like a big doofus for picking her to win. (At least I did better than my Surviving Snyder cohosts Brendan Shapiro and Rick Devens who named — and I am not making this up — Maddy and Helen as their pre-season winner picks. I guess that kinda makes me like Anthony Michael in Sixteen Candles — King of the Dips---s.)
And that means that the three people that have been voted out of Survivor 44 are all women. The circumstances surrounding their ousters are all different, but the facts are the facts, and it's increasingly difficult to ignore an implicit gender bias, even as back-to-back female winners Erika Casupanan and Maryanne Oketch recently broke the streak of six straight male champions.
We know women have historically been voted out early in greater numbers than men. According to Erin O'Mara Kuntz, Jennifer Howell, and Nicole Beasley, who conducted a study on the first 40 seasons of the show and wrote a paper titled Surviving Racism and Sexism: What Votes in the Television Program Survivor Reveal About Discrimination, "compared to men, women had 54 percent higher odds of being voted out of their tribe first."
The "new era of Survivor" is even worse. Ten of the 12 people voted out of their tribe first in seasons 41 through 44 have been women. (Jackson Fox and Bruce Perreault were both medically evacuated and not voted out by their peers, and it should be noted that Sydney Segal's vote-out happened as part of the pre-merge Hourglass twist.) That is pretty damn stark. Ten out of 12! Not only do women keep being voted out first, but the first four people voted out last season were all women, making it seven for seven over the past two years. Not great.
And now we have our latest victim. Bummer for Claire. She will be missed for her epic nerdmance eye rolls, if nothing else. I also saw Claire as someone who gave a decent confessional and was willing to mix it up if need be. But hey… THAT'S SHOWBIZ, BABY! Okay, let's get to some other big moments from episode 3 of Survivor 44.
In retrospect, Carson's move to jump ship from Helen and Sarah to "old and crazy" Yam Yam and Carolyn makes more and more sense. Sarah mentioned at the very start of this week's episode that "I know everyone thought me and Helen were BFFs." If that's the case, then Carson clearly saw himself as the odd person out in that alliance.
Now, as Sarah pointed out, Carson is at the crossroads of every single alliance and the only thing that could possibly jeopardize that position is if he starts to somehow out-snore Yam Yam, but let's be honest — what are the odds of that happening? By the way, they only gave us a quick snippet on the show, but my note to producers would be… RELEASE THE YAM YAM SNORING TAPES, YOU COWARDS! I know they have hours and hours and hours of footage, possibly with Carolyn tossing and turning and emitting a random series of aggravated grunts as a result.
The Ratu Renaissance
Here's a fun fact: Ever wonder why you never see players on Survivor humming or singing songs like… oh I don't know "Mr. Roboto" or "Sister Christian" or something actually from the past 30 years that is significantly less lame? Because if they show it, CBS then has to pay a music licensing fee, and for a program that recently cut out one-third of its show for budgetary reasons, that's just not going to happen.
With that in mind, let's hear it for the public domain!!! That's why we get to bear witness to the silky smooth vocal stylings of Kane Fritzler, the pride of Moose Jaw, who started belting out the Canadian national anthem. I don't know why he was singing the Canadian national anthem. Maybe it was in tribute to recent Survivor champions Erika and Maryanne, kind of in the same way a country's anthem plays at the Olympics for whoever scores the gold. Perhaps it was a shout-out to all his homies in Saskatoon. (Are there homies in Saskatoon?) Or maybe he just really wanted to show off his pipes and knew that was the only song with the potential to make it onto air.
BUT NO! None of those were the real reason for Kane's impromptu Canadian Idol audition. Clearly the huge fantasy fan — who also spent a portion of this week's episode morphing into the Beastmaster — was taking gameplay tips from the mythological sirens of Homer' The Odyssey and attempting to lure players off-course to their death. (He also could have just stabbed them with his sword, although that may be technically against the rules. Then again, they did allow Robb Zbacnik to strangle poor Clay Jordan on Survivor Thailand, so maybe anything goes?)
Kane is not the only renaissance person on Ratu. You also have Brandon, who, judging by his backstory package, followed his football career by becoming some sort of test drive dummy for any and every extreme sport imaginable, including something called flyboarding that I can only imagine was invented by Kenny Powers. And you have Jaime, who finally got a segment on Survivor that wasn't just making her look paranoid, and this time she was… eating worms.
I actually support live worm-eating. I mean, it probably won't get you the Sia money, but it does seem like a smart, if disgusting, way to score some extra protein. Unfortunately for Jaime, her segment did not end there, because while collecting some mud by the well, she found something else — a hidden immunity idol. At least she thought it was a hidden immunity idol.
In flashbacks, we saw Matthew finding an idol two days prior, and then making and hiding a fake one by the well with his note. Pretty crafty. Holy moly, Matthew is playing all-out. Sure, he almost died as a result of it at one point, but still. (Maybe it was Kane's singing that lured him over to that large rock?) I love the way Matthew figured out another way to use the Shot in the Dark in terms of not putting his name on a vote so early in the game so everyone would still want to work with him, and now putting another fake idol into play.
As for Jaime, getting played with a fake idol was not nearly as embarrassing as being left hanging on a high-five by Matthew for an absurdly awkward amount of time. Simply uncalled for behavior from the bearded wonder… but, also, hilarious.
Survivor can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Many players have been completely undone by what can only be described as #SevereGastrointestinalDistress. You're not eating enough. Then you're eating too much. You're consuming weird things you're not used to consuming. There are a lot of ways things can go wrong. Which is why I would not make a habit of eating parchment while out on the island.
I mean, it certainly looked cool in a this-message-will-self-destruct sort of way, but let me say… completely unnecessary. Like, just bury it. People bury things out there all the time. No need whatsoever to eat it. I also don't know if it was necessary to essentially parkour through the jungle to put the fake idol back in the cage, but God bless Danny for making everything as over-the-top dramatic as possible. I'm being 100 percent serious. Here is a guy who knows he's on a TV show. He's playing the game hard, but also, like Matthew, he's putting a little mustard on it. (Perhaps they are both borrowing mustard from Carolyn and Yam Yam, who appear to have bought an industrial size carton of it from Costco on their way out to Fiji.)
Anyway, Danny ate the note talking about how the silver coin had no power and then put the fake idol coin back in the cage and re-hid the key. Poor Matt was the one who finally stumbled across it, meaning he was the one who had to sit there talking all excitedly about it while the editors clowned him by laying down some goofy stupid-guy music — I believe that music bed is titled "March of the Fishbachs" — playing underneath.
And Danny wasn't done. He then went and told Matt right in front of Josh that he saw him put something in his pocket, forcing Matt's hand to admit to both that he found it. Danny then also told Heidi his quest to sow as much misinformation as possible. These are exactly the type of shenanigans that producers had in mind when they put those birdcages out in the open with the real and fake idols within, and it's nice to see it paying off.
Color Me Impressed
Another challenge meant another back and forth between Probst and Claire about her seeming refusal to participate in an immunity contest. "You have yet to compete in an immunity challenge this season, and you're alright with that?" he asked. "Yeah," responded Claire. "As long as we get to the next immunity challenge, maybe I'll compete then. I want our best shot, and I really trust these people."
I think the second half of that is actually a pretty good answer, and Probst himself acknowledged it was an ego-free approach. The problem is, you probably need a little ego on Survivor, and while a strategy to stay out of the way on challenges and hope that someone else not performing well might put a target on them is relatively sound considering how often that has happened in the past, the more you sit out, the more you risk others perceiving you as dead weight. And the more you allow the other folks to bond together through hard-fought wins and losses. In essence, you become the outsider.
The challenge itself had a lot of different elements. It was on land! It was at sea! There was swimming, and rolling, and digging, and unlocking, and puzzle-solving. One-armed Matthew and dungeon master Kane dominated that last stage, giving Ratu the victory. They were followed by Yam Yam and Carson for Tika, which just goes to prove that you can create and study and practice every single Survivor puzzle on your 3D printer… or you can just run over and copy from the other team. Either method works!
Interesting that Soka was first to the puzzle yet could not complete it, especially since nerdmancers Frannie and Matt were on it together. What does this say about their compatibility? Is this the beginning of the end? More likely they were simply busy daydreaming about their impending road trip or favorite tertiary Star Wars characters (special shout-outs to Dexter Jettster and Cad Bane).
But neither Frannie, nor Matt, nor Sy Snootles would pay the price for the loss. What was interesting is that everyone seemed to want Josh out. Everyone except one person — Danny. Well, that's not technically true. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that Josh also did not want Josh out. But it is still remarkable that even though Frannie (and, by extension, Matt) and Heidi all wanted to keep Claire. Yet they didn't. All because of one dude. That is a lot of power, especially for someone who once compared himself to an extra from American Pie 5.
Will Danny's dominance continue? We'll have to wait until next week to find out, but you don't have to wait for more Survivor goodies to come your way. We've got an exclusive deleted scene of the Ratu tribe, and we've got an exit interview with Claire, so make sure to check those out. Or just keep your eyes on my Instagram and Twitter accounts to get alert a right when everything drops. Enjoy all that, and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!
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