“Survivor” Season 45: Episodes 2 and 3, Reviewed

In this double feature, Vaughn Armour ’25 raves about the high-risk, high-reward events of “Survivor” episodes 2 and 3.

“Survivor” Season 45: Episodes 2 and 3, Reviewed
This week’s episodes stunned viewers with their perilous social and strategic gameplay. Graphic courtesy of Nina Aagaard ’26.

On Wednesday, October 4 and 11, “Survivor” released episodes 2 and 3! I wasn’t a huge fan of the premiere, but this pair of episodes captured everything I love about “Survivor.” There was impressive strategic gameplay, heartwarming social bonds, and legitimate growth from the players. It was a joy to watch, truly.

Episode 2 started with Lulu returning from tribal. There was palpable tension between Sabiyah and Emily, because Emily had called Sabiyah and Kaleb out for being a pair. Later on, Sabiyah came up to Emily while she looked for an idol. Sabiyah was clearly trying to keep Emily from finding it secretly. Emily called that out. Her read was correct, but Emily’s social awareness was again nonexistent.

Brandon ended up finding the advantage, which was the same “Beware” advantage that Austin found on Reba. Brandon was too scared to open it, so he gave it to Sabiyah. She opened it without much thought and learned that she would lose her vote until she found the idol. Sabiyah also found a note with a hole in it, which she was instructed to lay over her tribe map. This led her to a specific tree on the Lulu beach. Sabiyah invited Kaleb and Sean to join her search, convincing them to help her. At this point, it was everyone against Emily.

Emily had no allies, which made her a valuable asset. Kaleb realized this and had a conversation with her. He kindly explained to her that she was being too blunt. Emily actually took this lesson to heart and began trying harder to build social bonds with her tribe. I was incredibly impressed with Kaleb here. He not only gained an ally, but also encouraged that ally to become a better player.

Bruce (Belo Tribe), Brandon (Lulu) and Drew (Reba) were picked to visit a separate beach for a vote-risking opportunity. They could opt into a tile-matching challenge that led to a combination lock. The first person to win would gain an advantage in the game and the other competitor would lose their vote. Drew and Brandon risked their vote, while Bruce kept his own. Drew won and received the “Safety Without Power” advantage, which allows the player to leave Tribal Council, keeping them safe, but preventing them from voting. Meanwhile, Brandon lost the challenge and his vote.

Back at Reba, Drew was honest about his advantage, which encouraged Austin to trust him more. Austin shared his “Beware” advantage with Drew.

During the immunity challenge, Lulu lost yet again. Kaleb compared them to the Cleveland Cavaliers once Lebron left the first time. I honestly can’t disagree.

Back at camp, Sean, Kaleb, and Sabiyah went to work finding the idol. They eventually spotted an odd-looking coconut in a tree. The trio got it down and opened it, but it was in wax, and had to be burned. Sabiyah still didn’t have a vote — she had to find a way to burn the wax without flint.

The vote was down to Brandon and Emily. Emily knew this and decided to give Sabiyah her “shot in the dark” as a way to build trust. I loved this. Playing a “shot in the dark” only gives a ⅙ shot at safety at the cost of your vote. Using it to build trust is far more valuable.

Partly because of Emily’s show of trust, and largely because of Brandon’s immense challenge struggles, the tribe chose to vote out Brandon. Sixteen players remained.

Emily began episode 3 with another major social gaffe. She realized Sabiyah had lost her vote because of the number of votes Jeff read at Tribal. This was good. She then called Sabiyah out about this publicly. This was bad. Sabiyah once again grew angry with Emily. However, Sabiyah decided to give Emily her “shot in the dark” back.

At Reba, the idol search was in full swing. Austin and Drew made a great call by including Dee and Julie (Mama J) in the idol search. The four were allied together, but Mama J and Dee felt suspicious that the other two had something up their sleeves. Nonetheless, they all worked together and followed the clues to eventually find the idol in a rock by the water well.

When Austin read the idol note, he found an interesting mechanism. The idol initially works only for one tribal council. If you sacrifice your vote at the first tribal you attend, the idol works until the tribes merge. If you sacrifice your vote a second time, it’s good until the final five. This is when idols typically expire. Austin has the idol, but the alliance those four built is far more valuable. Honestly, that alliance could allow him to sacrifice his vote while staying in the game — maintaining the idol for all of them. I also just like all four of these players, and am rooting for them to go far.

The reward challenge allowed players to compete for a fruit basket and a camp raid. The winning tribe could take any one item from either of the other two tribes. Lulu won for a change, and sent Kaleb for the raid. He ended up taking away the fishing gear, along with substantial information about their tribe dynamics. By conducting this transaction so smoothly, he did set off some alarm bells about his impressive social prowess, though.

Lulu was killing it for most of the subsequent immunity challenge but couldn’t solve the puzzle at the end. This led to their third consecutive immunity loss.

Sabiyah was still focused on blindsiding Kaleb, even though she didn’t have her vote. She told Kaleb that the plan was to take out Emily. She also told him that she would tell Emily to vote him out and asked him to do the same for her. This was incredibly smart. When Emily came up to Kaleb later and told him that they were planning to take him out, Kaleb had a real reason to doubt her.

At tribal, Sabiyah melted her wax into her idol in the fire. She was presented with the same decision as Austin, and decided to sacrifice her vote. This proved costly, as Kaleb trusted Emily, and voted Sabiyah out 2-1. Her idol was now merely a souvenir.

This was a magnificent pair of episodes. Each segment was chock-full of fantastic social and strategic gameplay. Despite her elimination, I thought Sabiyah played an admirable game. It was awesome to see her take big swings in the game and to see Emily and Kaleb counteract them. Emily also improved her social game during this pair of episodes — I can picture her and Kaleb doing damage together going forward. I’m fully on-board with this season and I cannot wait to see what these players have to show next. Tune in Wednesday, October 18 for the next episode of Survivor 45.