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‘Survivor 45’ recap: The Reba foursome fractures

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When Survivor shows you the same scene three weeks in a row, it’s for a reason. So when episode 9 of Survivor 45 showed Austin giving Julie an idol because the tribe was separated into groups of three, and then they showed us the scene again in last week’s “previously on…” segment, and then they showed us the scene again on this week’s “previously on…”, it obviously was going to come into play. It’s actually one of the reasons I was not excited for the return of the “previously on…” segments this season, because those recaps are often pretty leading and spoilery in terms of what is to come. DAMN YOU, 90-MINUTE EPISODES!!!


But let’s set aside my annoying nitpicking for a minute. Austin made what many people will say were two major errors in the game that played out this week. The first was giving Julie his idol, and, well… yeah, that was not good. I get where he was coming from in that Julie was an ally and the dominant Reba foursome wanted to protect their numbers, but yeah, that was bad. Not like J.T. writing a love letter to Russell Hantz level bad but… bad. After all, it put him in a position of having to flush his own idol out of the game.


The other thing people will knock Austin for is telling Dee that Julie was the target, because then of course Dee was going to tell Julie, and of course Julie was going to be pissed and then want to vote him out. And it appears as if she almost did. (I was shocked when Austin did not play his idol after Julie played his other idol.) So, yes, Austin almost got himself voted out of the game by slipping that intel to Dee. But what else was he supposed to do?


The cast of ‘Survivor 45’.

CBS



If he doesn’t give Dee a heads-up before that vote, then he and Drew are on a proverbial island to join their literal one. Because Dee is then done with that alliance — and you can throw all your Rob and Amber love connection comparisons into the Boston Harbor. Not only does Austin put the emergency break on his showmance with Dee if he blindsides her on a Julie vote, but his game is probably over as well. If they were going to go ahead with this plan, he really had no choice. Which is why they never should have gone ahead with the plan in the first place.


But here’s why Austin telling Dee was the best thing for viewers and the best thing for the show: Not only did it lead to a super-dramatic Tribal knowing we were going to lose a big player in either Austin or Emily, but it is going to give us the greatest possible gift moving forward. And that gift is… terrible acting.


Just before Tribal Council, Dee told Julie the plan: Dee, along with everybody else, would vote for her. Then, Julie would play her idol. And then, Julie would have to pretend to be pissed at Dee when they got back to camp, to not give away that Dee had squealed about the scheme to vote her out.


I cannot express how excited I am to watch that happen. There are few things I hold more dear in life than bad acting by reality television contestants. This goes beyond mere lying, which happens on an hourly basis on this show. Bad acting, in this case, involves a far more elaborate ruse in which one player has to put on an Oscar-… or at least Cable Ace Award-… worthy performance to sell that she is actually miffed at her island BFF. Meanwhile, the aforementioned island BFF has to improv off of that and either… A) Pretend to be pissed off back at her scene partner and escalate things to hilarious levels; B) Be super apologetic even though she set the whole thing up, and hope everyone buys it; or C) Throw someone else under the bus and accuse them of spilling the beans even though everyone knows it was her.


All three of these are terrific viewing options and could also easily play in concert together in a veritable smorgasbord of conflicting reactions depending on how the scene plays out. And the folks toiling away in the Survivor editing room better show us EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND. Seriously, this is why you have 90 minutes! For this! As far as I’m concerned, every single one of those minutes next week should be spent on this epic two-woman play back at camp. Forget about the immunity challenge. Screw the journey. I don’t even need Tribal Council… although I would miss Kellie and Kendra competing for this season’s Eliza Orlins Award for Absurdly Overdemonstrative Facial Reactions.


And what if Drew and others find out that both Austin and Dee spilled the beans? Will snitches indeed get stitches? And if the snitches get stitches, will the Survivor medical team have to step in and pull someone from the game due to the risk of infection? I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. But before we can do that, we have to get to everything else that went down this week on episode 11 of Survivor 45.


Katurah Topps, Jake O’ Kane, Austin Li Coon, and Drew Basile on ‘Survivor 45’.

CBS



Smiles all around

I can’t say I know what it is to “Wang Chung tonight,” but I have to imagine that when someone sat down to write the lyrics “Everybody have fun tonight/Everybody Wang Chung tonight,” that this scene after Tribal Council on night 19 was kind of what they had in mind. Poor Bruce. He told me last week in our interview how difficult it was to watch people celebrating his ouster, and here comes the very next episode and he’s not even in the game anymore and they are still celebrating. Celebrating even more, actually.


“You hear the silence? It’s Bruce not lecturing me,” joked Katurah in one last zing for the road. But while the majority of the celebrating was about getting Bruce out with an idol in his pocket, the Reba foursome was also celebrating their all-too-easy run to the final seven. “We dismantled them,” noted Austin. “I honestly didn’t believe they’d let us get to seven unimpeded,” marveled Drew. Neither did we, Drew. Neither did we.


And then there was something else to celebrate — LOVE! We got our fullest look yet at the budding showmance between Austin and Dee, even though Dee’s biggest self-imposed rule when going to play was “no showmances.” Austin had no such rule. In fact, quite the contrary. It appears as if Mr. Li Coon is something of a showmance connoisseur. Which is why a few minutes into this week’s episode, not only did we have a recap of last week’s installment, but also an entire recap of the Boston Rob and Amber love story from Survivor: All-Stars. There they were snacking and snuggling. There was Rob talking about winning the money and the girl. There was Amber on the receiving end of a proposal. The only thing this montage was missing was a shot of Lex’s jury house mohawk.


By the end of the scene, Austin and Dee had proclaimed their undying alliance to each other, if not their undying love, and it set the scene perfectly for what was to come later.


Katurah Topps on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

Katurah opens up

You all have heard me all the way back since season 41 worry about the barrage of “sob story” packages on players that seemed to reduce and define them by a one-dimensional tragedy. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in knowing more about the contestants and their histories, but when producers first started introducing these, they all pretty much followed the exact same script and often weren’t worked in very seamlessly.


But those editors and producers have gotten much better recently in both not overwhelming us with sob story after sob story after sob story — thereby numbing the viewer somewhat to their power — and also integrating them in a far more organic way to what is actually happening on the island. Which brings us to Katurah.


Katurah has been largely defined this season by her hatred of Bruce. It’s not the only thing we’ve seen from her, but it’s what most people will remember when they look back a decade from now. But there is so much more. Her story — which she told after talking with fellow lawyer Jake — was absolutely wild. She talked about her parents pulling her out of school after fifth grade when they joined “a quite extreme religious cult.” She spoke about being tapped to be the cult leader’s next wife when she was only 13, and how she escaped with her mother in the middle of the night with two trash bags of possessions.


As if all that was not heavy enough… “and then I realized I was Black, and I was poor, and I was a woman, and I was gay.” Quadruple whammy! Which is why Katurah, at the age of 14, “decided I was going to be a lawyer to fight for Black people.” What was so great about this is that Katurah was not just rattling off a list of all the hardships she had endured; she was explaining what led her to become the woman (and the lawyer) she is today. “It’s not a sad story,” she explained. “It’s a story of redemption.”


That’s awesome. As was the way it was incorporated into the episode. Also, props to Katurah for the best line of the episode, and perhaps the season: “Why can’t we just vote somebody out at four. Why does there need to be all this, Jeff?” PREACH!!!


The cast of ‘Survivor 45’.

CBS



Give ’em enough rope

Gotta be honest: The fact that John Kirhoffer did not name this immunity challenge after the title of The Clash’s second album kinda breaks my heart a little bit. It’s a perfect fit! You literally gave them enough rope! Too much rope, actually. Which was part of what made this competition so great. For one thing, it wasn’t people lined up and balancing or holding onto something. They were all out and moving, and untangling, and throwing, and solving, which I always enjoy.


But the wrinkle of not telling players how much rope they needed to untangle to get across the entire course was a stroke of brilliance, as players like Jake had to keep going back and starting over after risking that they had enough and failing. Fantastic stuff.


In the end, Drew won his first individual immunity after Austin had a brain freeze and didn’t realize both sides of the puzzle had to spell the same word… even though Probst kept telling him exactly that. Sounds like someone needs a sandwich!




Civil war

I just want to say that the fact that Drew picked the two other men left in the game to join him on reward and we did not get another encore performance of “Playing with the Boys” has to be the disappointment of the week. Just a huge letdown. But Drew and Austin had other dude stuff to discuss, namely getting rid of Julie.


They both seemed so sure that getting rid of her was the best strategic move, but was it? Because it only makes sense if you can get Dee on board. And if you can’t, then you risk losing your numbers advantage. I’m actually surprised Austin thought this wouldn’t backfire. I don’t blame him for telling Dee, because I think he had to tell her in order not to blow up his game, but if you have to tell her and there is a solid chance she is going to then go spill the beans, you simply don’t make this move. But they did. And then things went haywire.


Because of course Dee told Julie, and then of course Julie couldn’t help herself — and instead of just staying quiet and playing her idol, tried to organize a revenge vote against Austin. That was a bad play by Julie, because naturally that intel got back to him and Drew. But it was then as if Dee saw this really bad move by Julie and said, “Hold my beer…” by telling Julie she could note vote Austin out because — and this is direct quote — “Austin is my number one.” Why would you tell the person who thinks she is your number one that your number one was someone else? If I were Julie, I would have been half-tempted to put the vote on Austin right then and there because of that before most likely reconsidering because it would have burned my bridge with the woman who just saved my ass.


But imagine if both Julie and Austin had played their idols, and Emily had successfully completed the ring puzzle on her journey (instead of opting out to protect her vote). What would have happened then? With Drew also safe due to immunity, I’m guessing it would have been Jake taken out on the revote. How you feel about someone going home on a revote due to four different people being safe due to various immunities probably says a lot about how you view Survivor.


Emily Flippen on ‘Survivor 45’.

CBS



Emily’s last stand

Of course, Emily did not get immunity, and Julie did not decide to blow Dee up by voting for Austin, so that meant that 18 days after she was saved by Hannah quitting the game, Emily was finally on the receiving end of a torch snuffing.


Look, I guarantee you pretty much every other person on planet Earth is going to say the same thing about how great it was to see Emily Flippen’s evolution in this game and how amazing it was that she stopped calling people out and ruffling feathers and complaining about aliens building the pyramids. If you’re a personal growth kind of person, that I’m sure you loved the morphing into Emily 2.0


Not me. I was Emily 1.0 all the way! I loved it when she called out Bruce and annoyed her tribemates and complained to us about the people she had to live with. Because it was so real! It was old school Survivor. Finally, we had someone not afraid to say what was on her mind and call people out and put everyone on edge. Was it terrible game play? Yes! Among the worst I have ever seen in the first 72 hours of a season. No doubt. But it was also super refreshing! We need more original recipe Emily Flippen, and I would be lying if I said she was as entertaining in episode 11 as she was in episode 1. But like I said, that’s probably just me.


At least I can hope for the return of Emily 1.0 on the jury. May she roll her eyes, and shake her head, and actually challenge people with her questions at the final Tribal Council. I worry this feral wildcat has now been tamed, but here’s hoping there are still some claws in there that have only been momentarily retracted.


And there is also plenty more Emily Flippen to come right here, as I will be chatting with the fifth member of the jury. We also have an exclusive deleted scene of Emily contemplating… marriage??? You can also catch up with the latest from Hostmaster General Jeff Probst to see what that guy has to say, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates. Oh, boy — I just realized next week is updated season rankings time, so hit me on social and let me know where you would rank Survivor 45. That will be part of next week’s supersized scoop of the crispy!


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