Survivor 44 recap: The season where fake idols go to die
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Producers had a vision for Survivor 44. The vision did not include hourglasses or monsters or Rick Devens as a Fire Token Café shopkeeper. Instead, it involved fake idols. Lots and lots of fake idols.
At some point, Jeff Probst and Co. essentially decided, "Hey, why should Yau-Man and Bob Crowley and David Wright have all the fun? We'll make our own fake idols!" And that's exactly what they did. They threw not one, not two, but three fake idols into the game to augment the real fake idols to be inevitably made and played by other players — which, it should be noted, are different from real real idols.
They put them in birdcages and eagerly awaited the chaos and comedy to be unleashed on a season I can only assume was referred to internally as Survivor 44: Fake Idol Island. And then the game started.
Brandon sabotaged the first fake production idol by opening the birdcage in front of his entire tribe. DOH! Sarah got voted out with the second fake production idol in her pocket. DOUBLE DOH! Matt had the third fake production idol in his bag… and couldn't get his bag to the Tribal Council where he was voted out. TRIPLE DOH! (Brandon had already revealed it was phony baloney to Matt anyway, because it was apparently Brandon's mission on Survivor 44 to obstruct, undermine, and incapacitate the producers at every turn.)
Not only were the three fake production idols wiped from the face of the earth without ever being played, but even old school, au natural idols are now getting caught up in the wash. JAIME!!! The ebullient, enthusiastic energizer bunny who bragged about running this game had been sitting on a fake idol that Matthew planted. The 10 seconds of her repeating "How do I still have my idol?" over and over should have been last week's entire "Next time on… Survivor" clip… and would have been if I were in charge. (Thank God I am not in charge.)
I can honestly say the thing I have been looking forward to the most on this entire season is the knowledge that at some point I would be able to watch Jaime saunter up to Probst twirling her idol around with a swagger unseen since Amanda Kimmel made the jury lose their minds on Micronesia. (Granted, it's not the hardest thing in the world to make Eliza Orlins lose her mind as a jury member.) Alas, it will never happen, and that damn Knowledge is Power is to blame.
Not realizing that the Knowledge is Power is the most cursed Survivor item since the show stopped giving away cars, the players from Ratu assumed someone in the game had the advantage. Hence, Lauren gave her extra vote to Jaime, and Jaime gave what she thought was her real idol to Kane. Annnnnnnnd Kane got voted out. That means no triumphant strut up to Probst at Tribal Council, followed by equal measures confusion and dejection when the truth is actually revealed.
Confusion and dejection is not only the name of my emo revival band, but they are also my favorite things to watch on television. Combining their awesome powers is positively intoxicating. But if you think I'm bummed, imagine how the producers must feel. You know why they put their own fake idols into the game? Because they wanted to see them "played." They may be the only people on the planet that love confusion and dejection more than I do, and the evidence was right there in those birdcages. Now, not only did those fakes flame out, but Matthew's planted forgery is also gone.
The last time I was this bummed by something Survivor-related was… well, pretty much every day when Maryanne Oketch posts a picture on Instagram of herself smiling next to someone else from the Survivor community that is not me. The woman is straight-up trolling me on social media at this point! But I do feel we were robbed of some A+++ Jaime content with the ol' Ratu switcheroo plan. Such a bummer.
I need to distract myself from this travesty of justice by focusing on something else, so let's hit on the other big things from episode 9 of Survivor 44.
Sit or play?
It was not surprising to see four players sit out the immunity challenge in exchange for a bag of rice, especially after several of them told me before the season how they would do exactly that in the right scenario. When Probst asked who would sit out for the rice, he found two immediate takers in Lauren and Carson — the latter of whom remained weak after surviving Barf-a-thon 2022. But Probst said he needed four takers if they wanted rice.
After Danny promised that he would not vote for anyone who sat out the challenge and gave scout's honor (Note: Not a scout), Kane took a seat. I'm honestly surprised it took him that long after he told me before the game that "I'd like to break down the stigma about sitting out for food." While it looked like Jaime might be the fourth, in the end, it was Heidi who sat out. Seeing as how she had just found a hidden immunity idol, that may have made the decision a bit easier. Starving will also do that.
I've never been a fan of giving up a chance for immunity… unless it is a challenge you clearly cannot win. I just don't see how you could tell that from this competition of standing on a small block with one foot while balancing a ball on an overhanging piece of wood. Okay, I guess if you have terrible balance or massive feet, I could see how that would be an issue, but this was a challenge that went for approximately five minutes, not five hours. That seems to be a relatively open window for a surprising result.
Ultimately, it came down to Frannie vs. Danny — which sounds vaguely like the title of an outrageous 1990s Fox sitcom — and for the second straight week, Danny came up on the losing side of an endurance duel. But the true winners were the viewers, who were treated to a million-and-one incredible Frannie facial expressions as she gutted through the pain. Frannie's intensity, coupled with the pouring rain, soaring music, Probst play-by-play, and back-and-forth shots of the two competitors truly made this an epic scene. Huge props to the Mark Burnett Doppler 4000 weather machine for setting the mood, Frannie and Danny for pushing themselves to the limit, and the Survivor editing department for bringing it all home. Just awesome.
The entire relationship between Frannie and Danny is pretty fascinating. Look at the three-week run we just had with these two. First, Frannie talked about wanting Danny out, but got her own boyfriend ousted instead when she won immunity. The very next episode, Danny played his birdcage idol for Frannie. Then, this week, they dueled to the death (not really) for immunity. But the most interesting thing of all may be the strategic conversation they had back on the beach before Tribal Council.
We asked in last week's recap if Ratu or Soka would ever wake up and realize that the self-proclaimed Three Stooges of Tika were actually controlling the game and making themselves stronger while weakening the two sides surrounding them. Well, Frannie woke up. She realized the danger of Tika playing the middle and came to Danny with a possibility of getting one of them out instead. Danny scoffed at the plan, calling it "bad gameplay." Is it possible they were both kind of right?
Frannie was alert to noticing the impending danger of ignoring Tika and the peril that could ensue should the Stooges stop working with them. But Danny was also right — what was their other option at this point? With Ratu so focused on getting a Soka member out, do you think they would have bought it if Danny and Frannie had proposed them making like the Wonder Twins and combining their awesome powers to take out someone that the Ratu folks still (mistakenly) believed was on their side? Not a chance. No way a Scout's Honor would work on this one.
So while Frannie was 100 percent right to worry about Tika, Danny was also correct that there was really nothing to be done about it at this point (especially since they did not seem to even know about Heidi's idol)? But that definitely could turn into a next episode problem that needs to be dealt with.
Big Daddy Kane
Kane was cut loose after Tika sided with Soka (again). Too bad, especially when you consider that he never got to say the word "wing-wangs" on national television. Kane seemed like a fun guy. His entire edit essentially focused on him being a big nerd and then getting too comfortable and confident, which is probably pretty accurate. There's an alternate universe where Kane is one of the most dynamic breakout personalities of the season, but that's hard to do when you have the likes of Carolyn and Yam Yam running around and the producers are clearly obsessed with Carson.
Speaking of which, how is it that Carson and Yam Yam seem completely impervious to the well-documented wrath of the Survivor gods? We have now heard them multiple times bragging about either controlling the game (Carson) or voting out anyone who voted for them (Yam Yam). The second such blasphemy usually comes out of someone's mouth, their torch is inevitably snuffed approximately 10 to 30 minutes in airtime later. Yet here they still are. Honestly, I would be shocked at this point if one of the Three Stooges did not win this season. I'll throw Frannie in the mix as well, because she would have a tremendous arc in going from getting her boyfriend voted out to winning the game.
We heard lots of big buzz leaking out of Survivor HQ dating back to last summer about how high producers were on this season, and a lot of time such talk translates to them being excited about the endgame and the winner. At least it has in the past. Which is why it has my Spidey sense tingling that one of those four is going to end up as the Sole Survivor of season 44. Just a guess, and lord knows I have been wildly wrong about such matters before. But things certainly seem to be trending that way.
Also trending? The heaping helping of Survivor goodies we have you. Goodies like Probst talking about future juries possibly watching challenges. Goodies like an exclusive deleted scene from this week's episode of CAROLYN LIGHTING HER PANTS ON FIRE! Goodies like my exit interview with Kane. And goodies like Jeff Probst responding to fan feedback on the show's most controversial twists. Keep your eyes peeled for all of that and more (or follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss for all the updates) and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy. And no, I won't be sitting out next week's recap to get it.
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