Survivor 44 recap: Another player is forced out by injury
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Matthew Grinstead-Mayle is alive. GOOD FOR HIM! Seriously, that dude should totally be dead. Having sat through way too many B-grade horror movies, every time I watch (in between my fingers) that aerial shot of Matthew plummeting down off the rock on day 2, I keep waiting to see him crack his head open. But it never happens. Instead, the Ratu rascal walked out of that Fijian deathtrap with merely some scraped feet and a dislocated shoulder. I ask again: HOW IS HE NOT DEAD?!
That drone angle from above capturing all the action may be one of the most impactful Survivor shots ever. First of all, a huge bow down to the production team for having the foresight to call in the drone right when Matthew began climbing so it was in a perfect position to capture the super disturbing image of him tumbling horrifically to the ground. It's honestly one of the scariest things I've ever seen on TV. Sure, shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Last of Us and others have had much more graphically explicit content, but — RICK DEVENS BREAKING NEWS ALERT! — those shows are not real.
How often do you see something that scary happen to a real person on your TV screen? This was no green screen. No post-production or VFX. No stunt people. This actually happened. Which is what made it so disturbing to watch. And the only reason CBS probably did not deem it too disturbing to air is the fact that Matthew was not too seriously injured.
But it was serious enough. Serious enough to eventually take him out of the game. Matthew tried to "dig deep" and push through the pain. He competed in physical challenges. He went into full hero mode on the snake maze. He was in and out of that damn sling so much I thought at one point that maybe it was just for dramatic effect under the advisement of his new legal counsel, Saul Goodman.
But eventually, nine days after that scary fall, Matthew could dig deep no longer. The pain was too excruciating. We saw him opening up about the increasing agony at the start of the episode, trying his best to engage Kane in a conversation that did not revolve around Pokémon, Lord of the Rings, or "Jedi." And there was more to come. Because sitting out back-to-back immunity contests apparently now initiates an automatic medical check — unless your name is Claire Rafson — Matthew was told by Probst after the challenge to hang back for a 1-on-1 with the doctor. (Well… more like a 1-on-2 with Probst hovering by to offer Vin Scully-like play-by-play for the audience.)
The bearded wonder told reality TV's second-most famous Dr. Will that his shoulder was killing him, and the lack of sustenance meant he wasn't healing properly. Unlike most situations where the contestant has no say whether he stays or goes and is pulled out of the game by the doctor, this appeared to be Matthew's call in terms of how much more pain management he could endure. That's always an interesting situation because I can tell you that there have been circumstances in the past where someone claimed a medical malady where producers questioned if that person was actually suffering or just wanted to get out of the game.
Clearly, this was not that. You could see the battle between emotional and physical anguish all over Matthew's face, and nobody is going to question his decision — certainly not someone like me who has been dealing with a much lamer shoulder issue for the past few months and literally moans and complains and bitches about it to anyone within a 312-mile radius that will tolerate my incessant whining.
What was a little odd was the way we did not see Matthew's exit on screen. After the post-challenge evaluation, Matthew said he had a big decision to make, but then we never saw him make it. That's super rare. And weird. Because if he went back to the beach and then couldn't take it any longer, you figure they would want to show that footage. And if he decided right there at the challenge to leave the game, you figure he still would want to say goodbye to his tribe. And the producers would want that as well for the show. Matthew tearfully departing while his tribemates openly weep as he boards a boat and waves goodbye (with his good arm!) is the equivalent of a Survivor money shot. For them not to have that shot and end the episode on it is very out of character for the show.
Us clock watchers knew something weird was going on when there were only five minutes left in the episode and Tika wasn't even at Tribal Council yet. That's when we knew Matthew was a goner. But instead of those last few minutes being Matthew's goodbye or Probst showing up at Ratu beach to inform the tribe that he was gone, we instead got the Hostmaster General delivering the news to Tika that they were spared.
Did they not show us Matthew's exit because they wanted to preserve the drama over on Tika? Are they setting up another one of those non-linear Pulp Fiction-esque new era of Survivor situations where we go back in time in a future episode like we are rocking out flux capacitor style at 88 miles per hour in our DeLorean? And will Matthew get a Bruce Perreault-style invite back to play again, or did he screw himself by sticking around for nine extra days? And what the heck happened to his immunity idol? TOO MANY QUESTIONS!
Time will tell on all of that. Speaking of time, I'm a bit short of it this week due to a few other factors that I wish I could blame on my bum shoulder, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't make it past Dr. Will's probing medical diagnosis. So these quick hits on the rest of episode 5 of Survivor 44 will be quicker than normal. (Famous last words.)
Soka To Me
Crawfish pizza. Season 5 of The Simpsons. Any James Brown live album. Toña beer. My wife and kids. That is pretty much the entire list of things I love more than seeing a Survivor contestant brag about how much they know… only to then be shown the exact opposite on screen. Which brings us to Jaime. Jaime! Everyone loves Jaime! So bubbly! Jaime would be one of the most zestful contestants in recent memory if she weren't sharing a season with the Energizer Bunny known as Carolyn. But it's really hard not to like Jaime.
Which makes me feel kinda bad for reveling in a scene that was basically set up to make her look completely clueless. "I have so much more information that anybody playing this game," Jaime told us about having moved over to Soka. The woman who also happens to hold a fake idol that she has no idea is fake then explained that "we are all running a marathon out here and Matt is learning to crawl." The problem was, Jaime had no idea to whom Matt was always crawling.
I understand Jaime kinda sorta just got to Soka, and maybe the showmance cuddling has died down a bit since those first few dates… I mean, days, but for Jaime to then go talk trash about Matt to Frannie was certainly not the most perceptive move in Survivor history. Then again, I don't know what was more awkward: Jaime not knowing what was going on between the two lovebirds, or the extended 12" dance remix hug that immediately followed it.
A Brodown Throwdown
Producers did something very interesting this week for the trip to Journey Island. Instead of forcing contestants into decisions with votes and idols and advantages at stake, the show instead just told them to go enjoy a light snack in a hut. No big deal. Whatevs.
I actually love that idea because you know there is absolutely no way anyone back on the beaches would believe the stories players came back with that there were no twists, trinkets, or surprises at play on their journey. So this twist of no twist essentially forced players to look exceedingly guilty… for telling the truth! Amazing.
But what turned out to be even better was watching the brotastic back-and-forth between Danny and Brandon. Now, this could be a complete case of selective editing. For all we know, Brandon and Danny (or Branny, if you will) involved Carolyn in the conversation at several points that were not shown for the sake of making them look bad by ignoring her. And let me be absolutely clear about something: If that is the case… I. DON'T. CARE.
I don't! Not in the least! Watching two dudes be dudes paying no mind whatsoever to the woman sitting right there with them while they compare notes on tattoos and what absolute physical beasts they are while forging a "Bros-R-Us" alliance is pretty much the Merriam-Webster definition of comedic gold. And Carolyn's priceless reactions to the sausage party (note to producers: Why were you not serving sausage?!) was equally epic.
Topsy Turvy Tika
There is so much to get into with everything that went down on Tika this week, but I promised I would be brief so will do my best to honor that pledge even though I have blown past that promise many times before in this here space. I think the best way to do that is just do some quick hits on the big headlines out of Tribe Crazypants.
* The Yam Yam and Josh relationship is so weird. While they have some things in common and were clearly able to bond over their experiences in coming out in a very touching scene, they also appear to have very different dispositions. It was heartbreaking to hear Yam Yam talk about how he never had boyfriend because he did not find himself attractive enough to deserve one. And I couldn't help but sigh as Josh related his mom's reaction to him telling her he was gay by responding "Are you sure?" and then crying. But I'm so glad they had each other to share these stories with, and even if they are not exactly island BFFs (Bitch Faces Forever), they — like the dueling Hai and Romeo on Survivor 42 — showed that there are some conversations that can transcend the game.
* As amazing as that last scene I just referenced was, let's be honest: It can't hold a candle to the hilarity of watching someone trying to pull off a lame fake immunity idol. I'm sorry! It's true! This is why we watch the show! And the fact that the person who got busted with his middle school arts and crafts project was Josh — who has already proven to have some, shall we say, difficulties in the art of deception — just makes it even more funny. Josh used the same parchment from his real immunity idol and then took some beads to make a new fake idol that he attempted to convince Yam Yam and Carolyn was real. Just a few problems.
Problem No. 1: He had already showed Carolyn the parchment, which she immediately recognized as the same one he had already shown her. Whoops! Problem No. 2: Yam Yam recognized the beads on the phony baloney idol as being from the Tree Mail. Whoops! Problem No. 3: The idol started to literally fall apart in Yam Yam's hands. Whoops! You know when other players are openly laughing about your terrible fake idol that you are in trouble. If only Jason Siska had been on the tribe, Josh may have had a shot.
* The big question, of course, is: Had Matthew not left the game, who would have been voted out — Josh, Yam Yam, or Carolyn? Carolyn told us at the very end that she was actually "pissed off" she didn't have a chance to go to Tribal to vote Josh out — apparently due solely to the fact that Danny and Brandon wanted to add him to their brodown throwdown. But did she have Yam Yam's vote to do so? The guess here is that she did, and that would have been the end from the doctor who thinks people don't know he's a doctor. But we can't be sure. And in true Survivor style, watch Josh now go from should-have-been-voted-out to million-dollar-winner-of-the-season. Sometimes, one break is all you need. Go ask Erika Casupanan.
I'm guessing you could probably use a break yourself after all the nonsense I've been throwing your way, but a few programming notes before you go. We have an exclusive deleted scene from this week's episode starring the one and only Frannie, so make sure to take a gander. We also have our exit interview with Matthew about that pesky shoulder, as well as the host himself weighing in on Matthew's decision. And for more Survivor scoop, you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss and Instagram @thedaltonross. Okay, that's it. No more. I'm done. But, as always, I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!
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