On Wednesday, Oct. 26, the tribes merged! Well, sort of. “Survivor 43” repeated much of what the past two seasons did at the (not) merge, with some key differences.
The remaining castaways were split into teams of six and competed for immunity at the first vote of the individual portion of the game. This time, though, the winners actually kept their immunity. There was no hourglass twist, where the other half ended up immune. This was a welcome change, as I really think it gave fans the best of both worlds. The hourglass twist was awful. Players were lied to and disadvantaged for winning. Removing it was necessary. However, the idea had some merit. Having only six people vulnerable instead of 12 works much better as large merge votes tend to lead to a huge consensus. This forces players to navigate a tighter space, and illuminates tribal fractures. Karla, Gabler, Jeanine, Dwight, Ryan, and Jesse won the challenge and were rewarded with their new merge buffs and a merge feast. Since the tribes merged at an odd number, Noelle got to choose which group to align with. She chose correctly and was also safe.
This was a fun and organic “mergatory” episode. A lot of the pre-merge set-up paid off in spectacular fashion. While complimenting Cody’s easygoing personality early in the episode, Noelle unknowingly revealed to Elie and Jeanine that Cody had an idol. She casually told them that he collected their tribes’ beads for a palm frond hat, not knowing that the beads were the activation for the idol. Elie and Jeanine’s poor treatment of Gabler also paid off in a major way. They gave him no agency in the game, and thought he believed every lie they told him. He saw right through them, and was understandably offended by their view of him.
James, Cassidy, Sami, Elie, Owen, and Cody were the six available for elimination. Gabler saw this opportunity and ran with it. At the merge feast, he blew up Elie’s game, telling everyone that she searched his bag on day three. This was an epic moment. Jeanine sat close by in shock while Gabler stomped on her “Survivor” dreams nonchalantly.
Jeanine and Elie did it to themselves, honestly. Elie played very sloppily throughout the episode, as she has all season. Gabler gave Elie a chance to save their relationship, asking her point-blank if she looked through his bag on day three. She could’ve apologized and owned up to it, but she instead chose to lie unconvincingly and thus kill their relationship. She also threw out multiple names for elimination during this episode, and thought she’d get away with it. With a group this large, what goes around comes around. In every conversation she has with anyone besides Jeanine, she tells people what to do. She constantly gives directives and never asks for input. This makes people distrust her; those aren’t the makings of a partnership.
Elie treated players like chess pieces the entire game. She thought she and Jeanine were the only ones playing and that everyone else was along for her smooth ride to a million dollars. It’s rare for a duo to be as cocky as Elie and Jeanine were, so it was satisfying to see Elie’s torch snuffed in this episode. In a nearly unanimous vote, Elie became the last player eliminated before the merge. Jeanine is now alone, and will have to face the fact that other people are playing hard as well. Twelve castaways remain — tune in next week for the real merge episode!