“Survivor”: Season 44, Episode 7
This week’s episode of “Survivor” featured an uncharacteristic twist, and the consequences took viewers by surprise. Columnist Vaughn Armour ’25 recounts the alliance-destroying challenge.
On March 29, “Survivor” released episode six of season 44, which was all about Matt and Frannie. Their flirting has turned into a real relationship, which is rare on “Survivor.” They are both also adept players, making them fun to root for.
At the start of the episode, Matt found out from Brandon that each tribe had two idols: one real, one fake. Matt had only found one idol. Impressively, he pieced together that Danny led him to find the fake idol, and that Danny had the real idol. Matt told Brandon, Yam Yam, and Kane about this, painting a target on Danny’s back.
At the same time, Danny wanted Lauren voted out. Everyone in the game knew that she had an extra vote, so it made sense to eliminate that advantage. However, Matt flipped this on Danny and pulled Kane and Carson in on a plan to blindside him.
At the immunity challenge, the 11 castaways faced a controversial twist. They were split into two groups of five by a rock draw. The remaining person (Carson) didn’t compete but got to choose which side he thought would win. The last competitor remaining in the challenge from each side won immunity, and the last person overall won immunity for their whole group. That group wouldn’t vote, instead sitting in the jury positions for the next Tribal. They would also enjoy PB&J sandwiches, iced tea, and chips, a welcome meal for the starving contestants.
The orange group was Heidi, Kane, Danny, Frannie, and Carolyn, and the purple group was Matt, Jaime, Brandon, Lauren, and Yam Yam. Carson backed orange. The challenge was classic endurance — balancing a ball on a long platform while inching forward on a narrowing beam. Frannie won for orange, and Brandon won for purple. At this point, Frannie could have thrown the challenge to save Matt. She had already secured immunity for herself and would have ensured that both of them made it to the final ten. However, she kept fighting and eventually bested Brandon. This made Matt, Jaime, Lauren, and Yam Yam the only four up for elimination.
After eating their PB&Js, a note sent the winning six on a frantic hunt. They learned keys were hidden all over the island, and that one of the keys opened a cage with an advantage. After a hectic search for the correct key, Heidi unlocked the cage. Her advantage was controlling one player’s vote at the next Tribal Council. She could tell any player to vote for any player she wanted them to. Ostensibly, Heidi couldn’t make someone vote for themselves.
Since Lauren, Brandon, and Jaime were all originally on the Ratu tribe, Matt (Soka), and Yam Yam (Tika) found themselves on the chopping block. They both pleaded their cases, but the choice was out of their hands. Matt hadn’t even brought his bag to the challenge, so he couldn’t play his one-in-six shot in the dark.
Heidi was in an interesting position. She had to play her advantage before the vote, revealing her plan. This meant that any of the Ratu three could play an idol to save Heidi’s target from elimination. Lauren’s extra vote also complicated things for Heidi. She could only control one vote, so if Yam Yam’s, Matt’s, and Heidi’s controlled vote went towards Jaime, and none of the three Ratus had an idol, it would still be a three-three tie between Yam Yam and Brandon.
In “Survivor,” a tied vote results in a revote where the tied players don’t vote. Lauren’s extra vote wouldn’t work in a revote, and I’m unsure if Heidi’s controlled vote would either. If it did, a revote would send Jaime home two-one, as Brandon would be the only Ratu left voting. Honestly, I doubt Heidi knew if her advantage worked on a revote. In my opinion, though, she should’ve tried.
Instead, she put one of Lauren’s votes on Yam Yam. If the majority wanted Yam Yam gone, they’d send him home five-one. If they wanted Matt gone, Matt would go four-two. The controlled vote had no chance of actually making a difference. If anything, it disincentivized Lauren, Brandon, and Jaime to keep Matt around.
This is all very complicated without even considering the pressure and hunger that Heidi faced. However, if Heidi wanted Matt to stay, I think she should’ve voted for Jamie.
In the end, Matt went home. Frannie cried, unable to save or even console him. She certainly regrets not throwing the challenge. At the moment, she likely only focused on outlasting the competition. It was also a tough challenge to throw without others noticing. Unfortunately for her though, Frannie ended up trading Matt for iced tea, chips and PB&Js.
I tend not to like major twists in “Survivor.” It makes the show feel too “Big Brother” to me — contrived to manufacture drama. I actually don’t hate this one, though I do have critiques. “Survivor” often does post-merge group immunities at the final nine or ten, which is much worse since there are fewer people in the game. Those are the pivotal votes in most “Survivor” seasons, as they often determine which group takes power. I also prefer this manufactured chaos to the old days of “Survivor,” where the Soka majority would systematically eliminate the bottom dwellers week by week.
But there are a few things I don’t like about this twist. The first is that Matt’s game ended because of factors outside his control. He was in a great spot with a ride-or-die partner in Frannie and multiple other allies. He wouldn’t have gone home this week if not for this twist. I also think that everyone should be able to vote in every post-merge Tribal. I don’t like that Frannie had to sit there powerless while Matt exited. I don’t like that Carolyn was powerless to fight for Yam Yam and couldn’t even use her idol on him.
I think if the show branded this definitely, it would’ve been great. Last week, the Survivors “merged,” split into two groups, and voted Josh out from one of those groups. This week, they split into two again, voting Matt out from one of those groups. This is no different than two straight weeks of pre-merge tribe swaps. It would’ve been fun if the Survivors had to survive two rounds of random swaps before making it to the real merge at ten. It’s never happened before, and then, it would’ve made sense for the winning tribe not to vote at Tribal, as that’s what happens in every pre-merge vote.
I will admit though, this episode had me on the edge of my seat. I love “Survivor” because I love debating what I’d do in the dilemmas players find themselves in. This episode provided that opportunity for me in spades, so I really can’t complain. Tune in next Wednesday for a (hopefully) more traditional vote!