'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (2024)

Well, it finally worked!

Survivor first introduced the Shot in the Dark twist — which enabled a player to sacrifice their vote for a one-in-six chance in safety — in season 41. And since then, bupkis. Sydney. Zach. Mayra. Swati. Tori. Sami. Matthew. Claire. They all played it and all got the dreaded "Not Safe" scroll. Jami played it and actually got "Safe"… but she didn't need it as she wasn't getting voted out anyway. But this week on Survivor 45, for the first time in franchise history, a player who was going to be voted out of the game — unanimously, it turns out — played the Shot in the Dark and was saved.

That player was Kaleb. Kaleb's only flaw is one we've pointed out repeatedly — that he has Survivor winner written all over him. His social game would be fantastic if it weren't so obviously fantastic. And we saw players like Kendra and Bruce use this as reason enough to get rid of him. But the Shot in the Dark saved him to play another day, and not unlike his closest ally Emily — who was saved herself from sure elimination back on day 3 — now who knows what will happen?

The Shot in the Dark seems like an addition to the Survivor gameplay that I would not like, but that is not the case at all. To me, the Shot in the Dark is more like a hidden immunity idol than a Redemption Island/Edge of Extinction bastardization of the elimination process. And what I like about Shot in the Dark is that it is actually a better creative element than an idol because it is an equally distributed advantage. You don't get a leg up on everyone else just because you happened to look behind the right bush. Every single player has one and can use it whenever they please — even for other strategic purposes, as we saw from Matthew last season and Emily and Drew on this one. Also, the chances of it working — just 1 in 6 — are set perfectly. It's not likely to save you, but just likely enough to give you a bit of hope. And it's rare enough that when it does hit, it's a big deal.

'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (1)

The only thing I didn't like about the Shot in the Dark in this episode is that fact that producers spoiled that it was going to be used by putting it into the show's opening credit sequence. I generally think it's fun the way they have added little clues into that spot, but this one went a bit too far IMHO.

Look at me, such a Negative Nancy! I must have studied at the school of Emily Flippen. Always finding something stupid to complain about. So let me put this in more stark terms: This was a fantastic episode of Survivor. Merge (or now, Mergatory) episodes of the show usually are fantastic, as multiple tribes combine into one and new battle lines are drawn, but there was so much to like here — from the Hail Mary Shot in the Dark play that kept one of the most dynamic players, to someone finally calling someone else out at Tribal Council, to all the over-the-top sandwich talk, to the least enthusiastic first-bump in reality TV history, to small production wrinkles like that awesome drone shot swooping down low alongside the moving cart during the challenge. Just fantastic. Everything. So let's touch on some of the big beats that went down on episode 6 of Survivor 45.

'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (2)

3 become 1

There are many, many reasons I would never play Survivor. First off, nobody wants to see me shirtless. Secondly, I am way too big of a control freak to allow cameras to follow me around without having any say as to what footage gets to be shown to the world. But I'm also not sure things would go well for me socially. Like, I would be that annoying doofus interrupting the entire tribe dancing and singing their silly "We made the merge" song to point out that technically it was not a merge until after someone was voted out at the next Tribal. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised and disappointed that my mentor and world-renowned killjoy Emily Flippen did not do this for me. YOU SOFTENED HER UP TOO MUCH, KALEB! I BLAME YOU FOR THIS!

But let the people have their fun, I guess. The not-quite-a-merge is a big moment for players that have made it that far (even if it is now only 12 days). And I suppose crazy Uncle Bruce was even more excited after finding an idol with just moments to spare before leaving the Lulu beach for good. I can't imagine Kellie and Kaleb were too psyched for Bruce to find that thing, with Kellie even then having to serve as his lookout. But having that idol — which everyone now knows about — at the merge is almost more bad than good since it makes you such a target. If I were Bruce, I would consider self-flushing that thing at the next Tribal just to bring your threat level down.

Of course, one of the big reunions at the pre-merge was Bruce and Emily sharing a beach for the first time since she came after him at the marooning. They both said all the right things and pretended like it was no big deal. In fact, according to Bruce, Emily was the only person talking to him… at all. That's not good. When you are out of conversations, that means you are at best out of the loop and at worst the person they want out. In the case of Bruce, it could be both. While we never got to see a Bruce tribe go to Tribal, Brando confirmed in his exit interview that Bruce would have been the one go to had Belo ever had to vote somebody out. While the rest of his tribe were all making connections and feeling everyone out, Bruce was… I don't know, collecting wood or doing the robot or something?

And it wasn't just Katurah bitching about Bruce this week. Kellie said he was "impossible to play with" and called him a liability in the game. "I am so done with him," she proclaimed, and when that comes from someone you probably consider your second-closest ally in the game, well, that also ain't good.

'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (3)

Rockin' with the rebus

I already touched on that awesome low-swooping drone shot that took place during the challenge when the blue team was rolling their cart, but this challenge as a whole had a lot of cool elements. I dig the wrinkle of having to stack up the sandbags to get up on the tower, as well as also having to climb up on that boulder — both unique approaches to the obstacle course.

And what's this? A shout-out to the Game Within the Game! That's right, the puzzle at the end of the challenge was a two-parter — the first part of which was a big block puzzle that contained a rebus puzzle that then needed to be translated to words for part two. And I am now convulsing from major flashbacks to all those rebus puzzles embedded into every episode of Survivor 41 so kids could play along at home. I will say, this particular rebus puzzle was pretty easy and felt more on a Big Brother level of difficulty than a Survivor one. That's not a dig at Big Brother competitions. Hell, if we could ever get a Survivor challenge where they show the players back footage of themselves bending over while superimposed purple fart gas flies out of their butt, then I will die a happy man. And if you think I just made that up and that was not an actual competition on a primetime CBS reality show, then you clearly have never watched Big Brother.

Anyway, after what appeared to be a pretty lopsided rock pull, the blue team of Sifu, Drew, Bruce, Austin, Julie, and Kendra destroyed the red team of Kaleb, Jake, J Maya, Dee, Emily and Kellie, making the first group (and Katurah, who bet on them) safe, and all the others in danger of being voted out. Sucks for them.

We now interrupt this regularly scheduled Survivor recap for a message from our sponsor…

Hi, I'm Jeff Probst. You may know me from the hit television program Survivor. Or my dimples. Do Beware Advantages have you down? Is your crazy uncle driving you crazy arguing about palm fronds and food? Is all that tai chi not helping the anger over seeing your name written down at Tribal Council? Hey, life in the Fijian jungle can be hard. And sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Wouldn't it nice to go to a place… where good things happen? That's why I say COME ON IN… to the Survivor Sanctuary, where a meal and a makeshift hut can be the answer to all your reality TV problems! Right now, for a limited time, we are offering a special 2-for-1 package where all non-colored rocks can enter for free if accompanied by an official Sanctuary FastPass™ blue-rock holder. BUT WAIT! THAT'S NOT ALL! Also, for a limited time, we are offering exclusive romantic packages where guests can sign up for sensual 1-on-1 sessions with butter. As we like to say at the Survivor Sanctuary, it's better with butter. So send all your troubles away via Tree Mail and join me, Jeff Probst, at the Survivor Sanctuary… where good things happen. *Disclaimer: Jeff Probst will not actually join you at the Survivor Sanctuary. Furthermore, the Survivor Sanctuary cannot and will not be held liable for any genital defects or diseases incurred by having sexual intercourse with butter.

'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (4)

The ghost of Mike Gabler

Sifu has already done his best Tony Vlachos impersonation by unsuccessfully trying to spy on fellow tribemates and their conversations, and this week he busted out his Ali-Gabler impression by almost immediately blurting out J Maya's name to this group of relative strangers as the person he most wanted out of the game. Julie then repeated the lie that — and I cannot stress this enough — J MAYA ASKED HER TO REPEAT that she had voted for Sifu at their last Tribal Council (even though it was actually Dee).

This is why I wrote last week what an inexplicable strategy it was by J Maya to needlessly take blame for this. Now here was Sifu throwing her name out as an easy option to take out first. And if Reba was willing to take out one of their own, who was going to argue? That's not even a rhetorical question. IT WAS BRUCE! THAT'S WHO!

To be fair, it wasn't just Bruce from the Belo side who recognized Kaleb as a massive threat trying to play the middle and please all parties. Kendra also saw him as the most dangerous player to keep around. And they were right! Kaleb is a much scarier player than J Maya. When the vote appeared to be heading toward the latter, Bruce started working overtime to get his former tribemate out. But there were a few problems: For one, Sifu had Tribal Council revenge on the mind. For another, Austin had sandwich revenge on the mind. I can't believe how much play that stupid sandwich has gotten this season. The sandwich may end up getting more airtime than poor Brando by the time all is said and done here.

The other problem for Bruce in getting the vote to land on Kaleb was that Kellie (like Austin) realized that her amulet would have more power if they voted out J Maya and her amulet. Yet another example of J Maya's folly in insisting on that lame-ass advantage which only incentivized people to vote against her. But I already yelled enough about that last week, and just thinking about it is getting me angry all over again. It sounds like I need a trip to the Survivor Sanctuary!

'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (5)

The spice is nice

Obviously, this was a super dramatic Tribal Council what with the unanimous votes for Kaleb being nullified by his successful Shot in the Dark play. Unfortunately for me, the sight of the cube in the opening credits as well as a look at all the time left in the episode when they arrived at Tribal told me such a scenario was highly likely, but that's on me for being the kind of dork that looks at the clock to do on-the-fly math and figure out how much episode time is left.

But yeah, it was exciting. And you can stop all the "Survivor is rigged!" talk right now just because the Shot in the Dark finally happened to come through for one of the most magnetic personalities since the twist was introduced. I have been on set of Survivor a ridiculous number of times and there is a standards and practices person out there on location to make sure everything is completely fair and square, so as much as I absolutely looooooove a good conspiracy theory, we can shut that down before it starts.

Kaleb was just extremely fortunate. Or maybe he really is Batman! But we've already talked about that Shot in the Dark, so I'd like to focus on something else I loved about this Tribal Council, and no, it definitely was not Drew's labored baseball analogy. What I loved is that we finally got another feisty Tribal Council. These have been in short supply in the newer, kinder era of Survivor, and as a result, Tribal Councils have often been the least interesting part of the episodes as contestants choose not to — as Hayden Moss would say — rustle any feathers while they expertly deflect Jeff Probst's queries.

But Kaleb was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Kaleb not only directly told people to vote out J Maya, but he then threw Dee and Julie's names out there as well, leading to that absolutely delicious half-hearted fist bump. J Maya fought back, highlighting how dangerous Kaleb was with his social game. "If you don't think that he won't be a threat to your game… I can't imagine that." It was all so good. And the cherry on top was Kaleb paying homage to my man Domenick Abbate — who is off drying his tears after losing to me in fantasy football by a mere point this week— by yelling out J's name as he approached the voting booth (a nod to Dom shouting out Chris Noble's name during the Ghost Island season). Of course, Kaleb didn't actually vote. Instead, he used the Shot in the Dark that saved his game. At least for two more days.

As for J Maya, she never found her footing in this game. She wasn't part of the original Reba alliance and while she at least tried to play a big game, her two big moves (pushing for the amulet, and making up the lie that she had voted for Sifu) didn't really make strategic sense. Even if Kaleb had gone this week, I'm not sure how much longer she would have lasted because she didn't appear to have a single ally in the game. Nobody even stood up or hugged her on her way out (although it's certainly possible that could have just not made the final edit). But we'll never know where she would have ended up if Kaleb had pulled the Not Safe scroll.

Here's what I do know. We have plenty of other goodies for you to peruse and enjoy. Like my exclusive in-game merge interview with Emily. Definitely worth a read. You can also see what the Hostmaster General himself, Jeff Probst, has to say about this week's crazy Tribal Council. And, of course, we'll also be talking to J Maya about her untimely demise. You want even more? FINE! We also have a deleted scene that involves Kendra and astrology, and honestly, I shouldn't have to say anything else other than that. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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'Survivor 45' recap: Franchise history is made at Tribal Council (2024)


Who is most likely to win Survivor 45? ›

'Survivor 45' winner predictions: Dee Valladares leads finale odds [UPDATED DECEMBER 20]
  • Dee Valladares — 8/15 odds.
  • Austin Li Coon — 6/1 odds.
  • Julie Alley — 21/2 odds.
  • Jake O'Kane — 13/1 odds.
  • Katurah Topps — 25/1 odds.
  • J.
Dec 20, 2023

Who won fan favorite on Survivor 45? ›

Katurah Topps was named the superfan's favorite player and rewarded with over $100,000. Topps, an attorney from New York, started out on the Belo tribe and made it to the season finale before ultimately being eliminated.

Are Dee and Austin still a couple? ›

Dee and Austin entered a showmance during the season and fans want to know if they're still a couple in real life. Both of them are speaking out! Yes, they are still together, but they're taking things slow.

Who is the girl with the big toe on Survivor season 45? ›

During episode two of season 45 of Survivor, Dee, a contestant on the Reba tribe, introduced viewers and her fellow Rebas to her long, big toe. “My toes are pretty,” Dee told the cameras.

Who is predicted to win Survivor? ›

Survivor 46 Odds To Win Season
ContestantOddsPct. Chance
Hunter McKnight+70012.5%
Ben Katzman+80011.1%
Charlie Davis+10009.1%
Venus Vafa+12007.7%
4 more rows
Apr 11, 2024

Who is the youngest to win Survivor? ›

Morasca was the youngest contestant to ever win Survivor until Jud "Fabio" Birza won Survivor: Nicaragua in 2010, though Morasca remains the youngest female contestant to win Survivor.

Who is the most favorite person on Survivor? ›

What Is the Most Popular Survivor?
  • Tony Vlachos - Tony won Survivor: Cagayan and returned to win Survivor. ...
  • Kim Spradlin - Kim won Survivor. ...
  • Yul Kwon - Yul won Survivor. ...
  • Tom Westman - Tom won Survivor. ...
  • Sarah Lacina - Sarah won Survivor: Game Changers and returned to play in Survivor. ...
  • Jeremy Collins - Jeremy won Survivor.

Who is the most popular winner of Survivor? ›

1 Sandra Diaz-Twine

One of the most well-known and iconic players in Survivor history, having etched herself a place in the history books as the undeniable queen of Survivor. Sandra Diaz-Twine first appeared on Survivor: Pearl Islands, the 7th season in which she won.

Who is the most popular person from Survivor? ›

Sandra Diaz-Twine is a renowned and highly successful participant in the reality TV show Survivor. She is known for her strategic gameplay and impressive track record, making her one of the most popular winners in Survivor history.

Who is Austin's girlfriend now? ›

Austin Butler is dating supermodel and nepo baby Kaia Gerber. They were first spotted together in December 2021 taking a yoga class together after her split from Euphoria star Jacob Elordi.

Who is Austin's new girlfriend? ›

"Masters of the Air" actor Austin Butler and model Kaia Gerber were romantically linked in late 2021. Butler, 32, and Gerber, 22, went public as a couple in 2022. Here's a complete timeline of everything we know about their relationship.

Why did Austin break up? ›

After the pair broke up in 2020, an insider told Hollywood Life exclusively that their split was because of their busy schedules and being far apart. “They had to spend too much time apart the last few months, that's what did it. Vanessa was so busy with back to back projects that she was hardly home.

Who is the skinny girl on Survivor? ›

Courtney Yates | Survivor Wiki | Fandom.

How did girl on Survivor lose leg? ›

Noelle was a Division I college lacrosse player before a moped accident caused her to lose her left leg above the knee. A year after the accident, she successfully returned to lacrosse, and then got into track and field.

How did Kelly from Survivor lose her leg? ›

Kelly Bruno was six months old when she had her leg amputated below the knee due to a congenital deformity.

Can Jake win Survivor 45? ›

He didn't win Survivor 45, but Jake O'Kane won the Survivor 45 finale. Jake had perhaps the most topsy-turvy roller coaster finale ride of any Survivor player ever. He won an advantage to a challenge!

Who is favored to win Survivor 46? ›

Survivor Season 46 Odds and Prediction After the Latest Episode
Maria Shrime Gonzalez+500
Hunter McKnight+800
Liz Wilcox+1200
Charlie Davis+1200
5 more rows
Apr 18, 2024

Who is the best person on Survivor? ›

After getting outplayed by eventual winner Sarah Lacina in Game Changers, Tony was brilliant against the strongest roster of Survivor players ever in Season 40. Tony Vlachos is the greatest winner in Survivor history.

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