Survivor Recap: Close Allies Draw Knives — But Who Was Stabbed in the Back?

With loved ones visits being a thing of the past, how else can Survivor get its castaways crying? Why, letters from home, of course!

But before the tears are shed, Ben has something to clear up: He was the one who wrote Kenzie’s name down. And she’s absolutely bewildered! It really doesn’t make any sense at all. He says he drew a blank at the podium and forgot who to vote for. He just made a mistake! (Uhh, oops?) It’s almost funny to watch him try and explain it to his island sister, but when we eventually learn that his night terrors are back, we know just how hard a time the guy is having out there. But still, as Kellie Nalbandian would say: “What the hell, guys?”

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Maria’s also having a hard time because she feels Venus dragged her name through the mud. But she’s had two wins, masterminded a blindside and has been on the right side of every vote. As she tell us in the episode: “If they’re not trying to get me out, then that’s their mistake.” The line for the Maria Fan Club starts right behind me, folks! (Now to just think of a cool name…)

Someone who might be leaving his post in the club? Charlie. He knows he can side with Liz, Kenzie and Ben to cut Maria and Q, but he has to make a decision. Should he stick with his island bestie (aka, his “Denise”) or try to take out arguably the game’s biggest target?

Survivor recap Episode 12
Survivor recap Episode 12

REWARD | After a high-stepping obstacle and freeing a bag from a rope bridge, the players compete in a table top maze. It’s yet another competitive challenge, but Charlie wins himself a Chinese takeout lunch and the aforementioned letter from home. His first pick to join him is Liz. And before he even makes his second choice, Maria is staring at the ground. She even turns away from the camera. She knows he’s not picking her (thanks to a past agreement they made), yet it’s still a brutal, brutal loss for her. He chooses Kenzie, but I could barely focus on that because Maria was so sad. That was some really real reality TV there, my friends. But as Maria sits on the beach, her tears morph into a stoic resolve. “Mama Bear” is recharging and readying for battle.

Kenzie, Liz and Charlie talk about needing Maria gone, and Charlie hopes to cement the blindside right then and there. But the way this episode has been unraveling, I’m praying for a Maria immunity win. (I’m manifesting it. Doing a rain dance, except for a Maria win. A Maria dance? OK, this got weird.) And while Maria readies for battle, Q finds an idol and tells her about it. Then, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, Maria brings up Charlie’s name! She thinks he wins hands down if he makes one of those final three seats. When Charlie comes back from his reward, the two have a heartfelt chat about remaining close after the show wraps. But Charlie knows “Malcolm and Denise” can’t go to the end together. Malcolm needs to win this time, he says. And Maria says Charlie is standing in her way of victory.

IMMUNITY IS BACK UP FOR GRABS | After a high jump off of a tower and a cargo net run, the players make their way to a balance beam and lastly, a dolphin puzzle. Maria destroys the beam while everyone else continues to plunge into the water. Ben takes an early lead on the puzzle, but Maria kicks it into high gear and everything clicks. Then: MARIA. WINS. IMMUNITY. (And yes, it was all because of my special dance. See? It works.)

STRATEGY | With the game’s No. 1 target safe, Kenzie’s eyes are back on Q. Ben thinks this vote is going to be the biggest blindside of the season, and considering that Q wants to axe Charlie, Ben might just be right. Kenzie is happy that Q feels comfortable, not knowing that he has an idol in his pocket. But the real question: Will he be smart enough to play it?

Survivor recap Episode 12
Survivor recap Episode 12

THE TRIBE HAS SPOKEN | Apropos of nothing, while trying to explain the importance of the letters from home, Kenzie calls Charlie the family dog and Liz the wacky grandma who’s kinda losing it. I just needed that on record.

Anyway, Liz says she thinks the game has more power couples than alliances. Which is exactly what someone who’s not in any meaningful alliances would say. They talk about the pros and cons of blindsiding someone with more or less people in the game, but soon enough, it’s time to vote.

In a rare editing move, we’re shown all of the votes! Kenzie, Liz, Ben and Charlie all write down variations of Q(-Skirt), while Maria and Q make their move against Charlie. And then: FACEPALM. Q does not play his idol, joining Hunter, Tevin, Tiffany and Venus in a truly elite group of people who so, so wrongly assumed they were safe. (Read our exit interview with Q here.)

Is Maria’s game in jeopardy now that she took a shot at Charlie and missed? Which player do you think will win the game? Go full tilt boogie in the comments with all of your predictions!

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