I'm a lucky guy. I get to watch TV and write about TV for a living. It's pretty awesome. Every time my wife walks into the room, sees Big Brother on the screen, and is all "Why are you watching that garbage?" I can just shrug my shoulders, sigh, and say "Sorry, hon. It's for work." And the best part about it is… it's true! IT'S THE ULTIMATE GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD! How do you think I got by watching six — SIX! — seasons of Temptation Island without being divorced?
I watch so much TV that sometimes I'm not even sure if what I am seeing is actually new or old because everything sort of feels familiar and blends together. Like, did Danny McCray really keep giving shout-outs to his wife Kiki every week on The Challenge or did I just dream that? Or take this week of Survivor 43. I could have sworn they showed a shot of Cody's ass tattoo, but maybe I'm just confused because they wouldn't do that a mere week after they pretty much built a whole segment around his "LIVIN!!" ass tattoo, would they?
We can only hope Cody's right butt cheek becomes a season-long thing like Danny's spousal shout-outs. It would certainly be appropriate for a dude whose last name is Assenmacher to put his rear in gear for every single episode. Hell, you can even give Cody's ass its own Ponderosa episode if you want. I'm down. And while we ruminate somewhat awkwardly on that, let's get into what else went down on this week's episode of Survivor 43.
Robert Voets/CBS Jeff Probst and the cast of 'Survivor 43'
Goin' Fishing (in Bags)
Great. I went out on a limb making Owen my winner pick last week, and here he is this week talking about pooping his pants. Just fantastic. And then he went from talking about pooping his pants to looking like he peed his pants. (Is it possible he made up the whole Junior Deputy Waterboy position as an elaborate cover story because he actually did pee his pants? Just a thought.)
As much as I would like to spend the next thousand words discussing Owen's large and small intestines — and still may at some point; don't put it past me— there was some other non-bowel related activity at the Baka camp to get into. It looks like out boy Gabler has a license to ill. "Every minute that I'm laying down getting stronger, I'm getting weaker in the game," he said in a very astute observation of his predicament in recovering while being sick.
Okay, while we're talking about Gabler, I need a show of hands: Who else was 100 percent positive that we were about to watch Gabler lose the Hawaiian sling after he told his tribe he had spearfishing experience and refused Elie's suggestion to put a string on it so it did not get lost? C'mon, I could not have been alone in that. The table was all set for him to lose that thing and then… nothing. Nada. Zilch. Survivor producers set up all the pins but then refused to knock them down.
While Gabler was out there NOT losing the Hawaiian sling, the tribe started wondering about his immunity idol. Was it good for the first two Tribal Councils or his first two Tribal Councils? They weren't sure, so they did what any smart Survivor player would do — they went in his bag to go find out, discovering that it still held power for the second Tribal that Mike attended, whenever that may be.
For those new to the show, you aren't allowed to take anything out of someone's bag, but you are allowed to look. And I think that is a mistake. I recently opined as much on Twitter after this came up in an episode of the recently aired (and very excellent) Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts season.
Survivor Hot Take Alert: I don't think players should be allowed to go through each other's bags. #SurvivorSA
— Dalton Ross (@DaltonRoss) August 17, 2022
I was shocked to see how many people actually agreed with me. Now, let me by clear: My Survivor Hot Take is not based on any sort of preservation of personal space for the contestants. We all know I am a terrible person who cannot be bothered showing simple empathy for human beings who are already suffering out in the elements. No way. Rather, I just think it makes for better TV if they can't go through other folks' belongings.
For me, it comes down to this: Why would you want to let players confirm information when you can instead leave them in the dark? Think of this Gabler example that just went down. How much better would it have been if Jeanine, Elie, and others had no idea if Gabler's idol still had power at their next Tribal Council? To me, that makes for more interesting television than allowing them to learn the truth and have all the information at their disposal.
Sure, we can point to some famous moments from the past like Survivor: Fiji where there was some decent drama born out of a bag search, but those were also more than a decade ago. The game and show have changed, and I think the rules should as well. I'll also note (as I told Survivor SA champ Dino Paulo) that although I don't think going through bags should be allowed, if it is part of the rules, then, as a player, you should 100 percent be doing it. Same thing on copying puzzles at challenges. If they're going to continue to allow it and not put partitions up, then you'd be a fool not to take a look at that half-completed puzzle next to you.
By the way, the best dissenting option to my bag opinion came from another Survivor: South Africa contestant, when season 8's Santoni Engelbrecht weighed in with a creative strategy to dissuade such activity.
I kind of think it makes the game more fun. When everyone knows it's allowed, you are forced to be creative in storing your clues/idols. I always put my dirty panties at the top of my bag to hopefully gross people out of looking further 🤣
— Santoni Survivor SA S8 (@Santonie) August 17, 2022
Geo Opens Up
There was not a lot of time spent at the Coco tribe this week, which I guess is what happens when you neither win nor lose the immunity competition. But we did get big spotlight on Geo, who told us about being essentially disowned by his parents for coming out at 18 as gay to his parents. "I guess their dreams came down crashing because I was not the person they wanted me to be," he explained before talking about having to leave home, becoming homeless, and considering suicide.
I've felt the past few seasons have occasionally gone too heavy emphasizing the tragic backstories of contestants à la American Idol circa 2005, mainly because it sometimes came off as one-dimensional, as if these people were being solely defined by the most horrific elements of their past. But they also can be really powerful and — more importantly — really mean something to someone out there watching. Which I hope this segment did this week.
Watching Geo talk about what he had to go through was heartbreaking, but seeing how full of life he now is in pre-game press makes me so happy that he was able to find and share that light that he clearly does have now in his daily life. And I look forward to him sharing more of it on the show.
Robert Voets/CBS The Coco tribe of 'Survivor 43'
Livin' La Vesi Loca
Can we talk about how into the Vesi tribe I am? I'm into the fact that Jesse and Dwight can't seem to decide if they are working together or not. I'm into the fact that Justine is deathly afraid of spiders. I'm into the Pineapple Zone, even though I have no idea what it actually is and am worried it could be something super-sexual. I'm into the fact that they randomly showed us a picture of a bottomless Cody on a mountain, although it would have been much better if they had pixelated his entire ass except for the part with the LIVIN!! tattoo. I also have a sneaky suspicion that Cody Assenmacher very well may have some experience in the Pineapple Zone, if you know what I'm saying. (NOTE: I don't know what I'm saying.)
I'm just into this tribe! I find their dynamic fascinating and I still can't quite figure Cody out. Is this guy a nutjob? A rock solid partner? Both? Neither? I have no idea! Like, how did he and Nneka become so close? That really intrigues me. They seem like polar opposites, and I'm not talking about skin color. But there they are, thick as thieves, with Cody getting Nneka's back unequivocally when she was in trouble with the tribe.
And am I the only one that really, really wants Jesse and Dwight to work together? Why am I so invested in them as a pair? Especially when it is perhaps more interesting to watch them work apart, as in at the end of this week's episode. Anyway, lots more to come with Vesi, but let's first get to the challenge.
Snake in the Grass Water
I do something stupid sometimes when I watch challenges. I really focus on footwear, or the lack thereof. This first happened back when I was in Fiji doing a water and obstacle challenge run through for Survivor: Ghost Island where some of the Dream Teamers were wearing shoes and some weren't. I proceeded to spend the 10 minutes before the challenge obsessing over whether to go shoes on or off.
This challenge in which players had to dive into the ocean, swim to a cage, retrieve a waterlogged snake, drag it to a table on the beach, and then solve a puzzle had elements on both land and sea. It had swimming and it had obstacles. So what do you do when it comes to footwear? For the two — if that — people out there who care about such things, here's what the Survivor 43 cast decided: All of Baka and all of Coco had their shoes on. But then all of Vesi except for Dwight had their shoes off. Is that what lost them the challenge? No, but I just wasted two paragraphs on it anyway because I remain OBSESSED with that decision process.
Robert Voets/CBS The Vesi tribe of 'Survivor' 43
But I do have a modicum of actually useful insight into this challenge because I did the whole snake in the cage thing during a run-through back on Game Changers, and let me tell you, it sucked. That thing was heavy. In between 300 and 400 pounds, I was told. Because I am such a scrawny weakling, I strategically positioned myself at the back of the snake so I could just deal with the lightest tail portion of that stuffed monstrosity and I still managed to embarrass myself by falling off the balance beam we had to traverse. Anyway, the struggle you saw on your TV watching this was real.
Even with Gabler clearly fading, Baka led this thing from wire to wire, and Vesi was never really close to even second place. Obviously, Nneka was an issue out there on the course. The question was: Would it be her undoing in the game?
The Mad Hatter
So, the vote on who would go home on Vesi seemed pretty simple. Noelle, Justine, and Dwight wanted Nneka gone. But Dwight had no vote, and since Cody, Jesse, and Nneka wanted Justine to go, they had the numbers and that was that. Ah, but nothing is ever simple on Survivor, now is it?
For while this is not Temptation Island (although let me just state for the record that Cody would be simply fantastic on that show as well), there is always temptation on this island, and our boy Assenmacher happened to find it. It was another Beware Advantage — an advantage where you have to do something to receive the advantage and face a punishment if you are not able to complete it.
As a concept, I'm a fan of Beware Advantages. I think they're fun and I like the fact that players have to work harder to gain an advantage instead of it just being handed to them. And I also dig the risk and penalty factor. There is one very specific aspect of this particular one I did not love, but we'll get to that later. The basic gist of Cody's task was that he could get an immunity bracelet if he could convince everyone to give him a very specific bead off of their bag for said bracelet. And if he did not get all the beads by the time he went to Tribal Council, he would not be able to cast a vote, throwing their plan to save Nneka into serious jeopardy.
So Cody grabbed his super dope palm fronds hat and asked for beads to help bedazzle it. Did he get them all? We had to wait until Tribal to find out. Now, I mentioned there was one very specific thing I did not like about this Beware Advantage, but it wasn't anything having to do with the actual mechanic of the twist. Again, I thought it was fun watching Cody having to work with his accomplices Jesse and Nneka to get the others to give up their beads. They had a whole racket going on that reminded me of folks on the street in NYC who used to take tourists for cash with the whole hide-the-shell game.
Robert Voets/CBS Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 43'
For those who don't know the scam, one dude would set up a cardboard tabletop and then two of his buddies (posing as regular folks) would be placing bets on which of the three cups the shell (or ball or whatever) was under after the dude shuffled them around for a while. And wouldn't you know it? They always won! But then the out-of-town rube watching all this easy money to be made, would try his hand at it, and find it wasn't so easy after all. After the money had been lost, another accomplice would yell "Police!" and the person running the game would demolish the table and everyone would take off quickly, leaving the confused tourist lighter in the wallet.
Make no mistake, Cody, Jesse, and Nneka were running game on the others, and they ran it to perfection. A super fun addition to the episode. What I didn't like happened later at Tribal Council, and it certainly wasn't Dwight mouthing the words "when your fire is gone so are you" under his breath alongside Jeff Probst because that was flat-out awesome.
Here's what I didn't love: waiting until during the vote reveal to cut away to footage of Cody explaining that he also got Noelle's bead. Now, I'm not gonna make a huge deal out of this. Survivor editors have been experimenting with different, non-traditional ways of revealing if and when idols or advantages and things are found and activated, and I generally think that experimentation is a good thing. You have to try new things. And I get that they were trying to build some mystery in the final vote, even if the vote splitting by Justine and Noelle made the end result a fait accompli anyway.
But I also think the vote reveal is the singularly most important and dramatic moment of the episode, and cutting away from that to see what we already assumed to be true anyway (that Cody got the bead) kind of neutered the episode climax a bit. Again, small gripe. They tried it. I'm fine with that. But I wouldn't do it again. Let the vote itself be the big reveal. There, mini-rant over. Much like Justine's game.
Robert Voets/CBS Justine Brennan on 'Survivor' 43
I can't believe we have to wait a week to see the fallout of Jesse's decision to lie to Dwight about the vote and see how that plays out. No fair! Then again, I suppose I should not be complaining after getting 210 minutes of Survivor in our first two weeks How amazing is that? Like I said, I'm a lucky guy. And you're lucky too! Because not only did you also get 210 minutes of Survivor, but we have a few more minutes for you in the form of our exclusive weekly deleted scene, which is waiting for you at the top of this recap.
Speaking of goodies, check out my exit interview with Justine as well as a few other extras I'll start rolling out soon. Follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss to keep tabs on all of that, and I will definitely be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!
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