“Survivor” Season 43: Episode 2, Reviewed

Season 43 of “Survivor” is in full swing! Vaughn Armour ’25 recaps the second episode, which revealed heartfelt backstories and surprising twists.

“Survivor” Season 43: Episode 2, Reviewed
Season 43 of “Survivor” is in full swing! Vaughn Armour ’25 recaps the second episode, which revealed heartfelt backstories and surprising twists. Graphic courtesy of Nina Aaagard ’26.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the second episode of “Survivor 43” was released. A longer episode, it was 90 minutes instead of the typical 60. This allowed for a nice balance — more strategy than in the premiere, while still fleshing out the backstories of the players.

We learned the most about Cody, Geo, and Elie this week, seeing a different side of Cody than we had previously seen. He initially presented himself as a carefree guy,  but in this episode, we learn that one of Cody’s best friends passed away in high school from skin cancer. This has inspired him to take more risks in life while he still can.

In a conversation with Ryan, Geo revealed that he was kicked out of his parents’ house at 18 after coming out as gay, which led to Geo being both temporarily homeless and suicidal. This story was powerful, and it was moving that he first revealed it to Ryan. Their friendship is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of this season, and their strategic partnership also seems potent.

Finally, Elie revealed after the immunity challenge that she is dyslexic and has ADHD. Elie was diagnosed late, so she grew up being called lazy and unintelligent by classmates and teachers. Even now, with a doctoral degree as a clinical psychologist, she struggles with the feeling that she isn’t good enough.

At the immunity challenge, Elie dominated the puzzle en route to a Baka victory. This victory brought her to tears. I’m a certified Elie fan after this episode and am definitely rooting for her to continue tackling her insecurities. The Coco tribe also secured immunity, forcing Vesi to go to Tribal Council. The ensuing chaos was emblematic of “Survivor” at its peak, with strategic decisions and social manipulation that left fans (like me) grinning from ear to ear.

Although Baka was safe, an important strategic conversation took place at their beach. Elie and Jeanine are a tight pair, and they debated bringing in either Sami or Owen as their third. They decided on Sami, because they thought he’d be easier to control. The women believed that Sami wasn't strategizing, and would go along with whatever plan they tell him. However, Sami is more strategic than they think. He knows how close Elie and Jeanine are, and he knows how they see him. Because of this, he pitched a guys’ alliance to Gabler and Owen, which seems to be the dominant grouping on Baka right now. Sami continues to impress me, and the way he downplayed his intelligence last week has already paid dividends.

The Vesi chaos started at the immunity challenge. The tribe had to move a massive wooden snake through water and across a beach for most of the challenge. Nneka was a liability, to put it kindly. She was physically overmatched, unable to help for the majority of it. The challenge was not an easy feat, but she struggled significantly more than anyone else, and was the main reason they lost. Justine and Noelle wanted her gone because of this, so she was in trouble. Thankfully for her, she had two things going for her. Her trustworthy allies were the first — Jesse and Cody were in her corner, giving her at least three votes to count on in a six-person tribe. The second was Justine’s disastrous gameplay.

Earlier in the day, Justine claimed to be a good liar to Jesse, for no good reason. It was a puzzling decision — there really wasn’t anything to gain, and it just makes her seem untrustworthy. Later, she asked Jesse and Dwight how she could know that they weren’t lying to her. This is basically telling them that she doesn’t trust them, which is a cardinal sin in “Survivor.” After all, why would you trust someone that doesn’t trust you? Jesse began pitching Justine as a vote-out and got Nneka and Cody on board easily. However, Dwight felt uneasy about that plan. He wanted to vote with the girls to take Nneka out. This was because Dwight didn’t trust Cody, despite Cody actually feeling pretty good about Dwight.

The whole vote descended into madness when Cody found a “Beware Advantage.” As seen in the previous two iterations of “Survivor,” this advantage reads “Beware” on the outside, and gives players the option to either take it or leave it there. Cody had seen these in the last two seasons, and he knew that taking a Beware Advantage could easily lead to you losing your vote at the next tribal. However, Cody decided to take a risk and snagged the advantage. It was an idol, with a twist. Production put beads on every castaway’s bag at the start of the season, and Cody had to get the beads from every person in his tribe without stealing them. If he succeeded, he’d activate the idol, but until he did, he’d be unable to vote.

It was a fantastic twist. It forced Cody to use social connections to better his position in the game. He actually did a fantastic job and played it in a way that only he could. First, he told Nneka and Jesse about the advantage so that they could help him. Then, once the whole tribe was together, he had Jesse offer up his beads to decorate a palm-frond hat that Cody had made. Nneka followed suit and soon after, Justine gave up hers. It took a little time and some light pressure from Jesse and Nneka, but Dwight and Noelle eventually gave up their beads, giving Cody an idol, and more importantly, a vote. He used his social bonds to complete this task, along with his reputation as a quirky guy. Anyone else randomly having a palm frond hat that needed beads likely would have been met with suspicion. With Cody, it tracked.

Justine ended up being voted out. Because of his hesitation, Dwight was left out of the loop, and he voted for Nneka to go. This puts him squarely at the bottom of the Baka tribe alongside Noelle.

This was a fantastic episode of “Survivor.” It had meaningful stories, and both questionable and imaginative decisions. It was everything a “Survivor” fan would want on a Wednesday night. Tune in next week at 8 p.m. to see if this season continues its hot start!