On Wednesday, Oct. 12, “Survivor 43” released its third episode. It was fairly straightforward, but enjoyable nonetheless. When the cut-and-dry episodes are this entertaining, you know you’re in for a good season.
The episode started at Vesi beach, with the fallout from the Justine blindside. Dwight didn’t want to vote her out, so Jesse left him out of the loop. As a result, Dwight was shocked at Tribal, and this changed Dwight and Jesse’s relationship. Both would still like to work with each other, but they’re not each other’s number one allies as they had been previously.
Over at Baka, Elie and Jeanine were on cloud nine. They thought they were running the game together, with the three boys (Gabler, Owen, and Sami) eating out of the palms of their hands. They wanted Gabler out next, so they tried to convince him that the idol he found was only good for the first Tribal Council of the season, instead of the first Tribal Council he attended.
This plan was subpar: Gabler had obviously already read the rules for his idol, and if he was unsure, he could have just asked production. The execution was far worse. Elie and Jeanine first told Sami that they would try to trick Gabler. Sami went right to Gabler and Owen, which not only ruined their plan, but further solidified the three boys against them. Sami even told Gabler that the girls went through his bag to read the rules of the idol themselves. Next, Elie was not slick during the conversation with Gabler. Even if he didn’t already know what she was doing, he definitely would’ve seen through her facade. He played dumb, and she bought it — Elie went away giggling with Jeanine, confident that Gabler wouldn’t play his idol. The pair thinks that they are running Baka, but they may be in for a rude awakening.
On Coco beach, Karla found the beware advantage. This was the same advantage that Cody found last episode, with the same rules. Production had placed beads on the bags of every player in her tribe before the season, and she had to collect those beads in order to have a vote. She used multiple tactics to accomplish this. She got James’ and Geo’s by telling them that she was making a bracelet for her wife, and then actually traded her earrings for Cassidy and Lindsay’s beads. She got the last bead from Ryan by trading a bracelet for him to give to his girlfriend. This was an impressive move: She showed poise under pressure and now has an idol to show for it. It was interesting to see her use such a different strategy than Cody. He used his wacky personality, while she appealed to emotions and bargained when that wasn’t enough.
At the immunity challenge, Nneka cost Vesi yet again. The tribe had a massive lead, but she squandered it with her inability to complete the puzzle. Nneka was still aligned with Cody and Jesse, but tribe strength became a significant factor: They couldn’t keep losing challenges. The other option to vote out was Noelle. She had the closest relationship with Justine, so the previous vote left her on the outs. However, Noelle is also a strong challenge performer. She showed her social chops in this episode, bonding with Owen (Baka) and James (Coco) during the vote-risk dilemma, and explaining to them that she was on the outs. This was the same set-up as in episode one, where each player could either risk their vote for a shot at an advantage, or protect their vote.
Because of the strong connection that the three formed quickly, James and Owen let Noelle have the advantage. They thought she needed it the most. This ended up being a steal-a-vote — Noelle could take anyone’s vote she wanted at a Tribal Council, and decide who to vote for with it.
This was awesome social work for all three of these players: Look for them to work together at the merge. Noelle also connected with the audience in this episode. She told the story of the mo-ped accident that took her leg. She was a college athlete, and had to miss two lacrosse seasons after the accident. However, she came back to play during her last two years, and eventually became a paralympic sprinter. Noelle placed 6th in the world at the Tokyo Olympics, and even broke the U.S. women’s 100-meter paralympic record. She’s a resilient person, and I’m definitely keeping an eye out for her going forward.
Noelle only told Dwight about the advantage, lying to the rest of her tribe. Dwight didn’t reveal this information to anyone else, which was telling — those two seem tight. Because of Nneka’s challenge struggles, the tribe voted her out unanimously. This led to an emotional response by Jesse. Both he and Cody genuinely cared for Nneka, but it was different for Jesse. Nneka reminded him of his late mother. Both women took in kids in need of housing, and ran ministries to feed the homeless. For Jesse, voting out Nneka was like voting out his mom. This is a reminder of why “Survivor” is so brutal. These people aren’t chess pieces, unaffected when moved and sacrificed. They’re complex individuals that you spend every waking moment with — eating with them, joking with them, surviving with them. Then you have to scheme to eliminate them. You not only have to watch their torch get snuffed, you have to be the reason why.
The makeup of Vesi will be fascinating to watch going forward. Noelle and Dwight seem like a pair, and Cody and Jesse seem like a pair. This leaves them at a 2-2 stalemate. Even if Jesse flips on Cody to reunite with Dwight, Cody could save himself with his idol.
Fifteen castaways remain. Tune in next week to see how this season of “Survivor” continues to unfold.