After sending Morriah on her merry way, Baka returns to camp, hoping this is the last time they face Tribal Council for a while. Although everyone voted for Morriah, Owen is still stressed to see his name come up on the parchment. After a loss like this, Baka has no choice but to think about what will make the tribe stronger in the next challenges. A unanimous vote solidifies some trust, but only until another loss.
But Tribal Council wasn’t even the worst part of their night. They may have survived the first vote, but after they must suffer through a storm at camp. Everyone is drenched, freezing, and pruned up. “It came in so loud, so fast, probably 40-mile-per-hour winds,” says Gabler. They have a shelter, of course, but nothing that can withstand gale-force winds. Between the game’s stress and the weather’s intensity, Gabler seems to be in rough shape.
Before we get to any challenges, we should check in with the other two tribes. On Vesi, which is undefeated in the past two challenges, Jesse gives us his reading of the tribal divisions: Noelle and Justine are quick allies, and he sees Cody and Nneka as a duo that he’s close with. That leaves superfan Dwight alone. Seeing as he lost his vote in last week’s prisoner’s dilemma, Dwight doesn’t have much bargaining power. Jesse, proud wife guy that he is, sees the opportunity to bring Dwight in as his “island wife.” Dwight’s excited, but he feels like his social game is thriving with everyone in his tribe, too. Misreading Jesse and Cody’s bond, Dwight lets Jesse know he will likely vote with Noelle and Justine against Cody.
At Coco beach, things are running smoothly. Coco blew away the other two tribes in the last Immunity Challenge, and everyone feels calm now. The alliance of Cassidy, Karla, Lindsay, and James is working well, leaving Geo and Ryan to continue building their relationship. Since bonding during the Sweat challenge first, Ryan and Geo have been a strong duo. This season is proving to be socially focused rather than introducing crazy advantages in every episode. Geo opens up about coming out and being shunned by his family. Geo’s story is dreadfully common, and he describes the pain of feeling like there was no way for him to be himself and still maintain a relationship with his parents. This may be Geo’s life off of the island, but here he finds support from his tribe, especially Karla and Ryan.
Despite Noelle and Cody finding themselves in opposing pairs on Vesi, that doesn’t mean they can’t forge a connection. He’s drawn to Noelle and her ability to kick ass on Survivor with her prosthetic leg. Like many a wildcard, Cody has been shaped by tragedy in his life. In high school, his best friend lost a leg to cancer before passing a year later. After dealing with such a big loss at that young age, he was inspired to live life as freely as he could.
Back at Baka, Owen is in dad mode, taking care of the tribe’s water needs, but not without mumbling under his breath. He is the titular Loveable Curmudgeon. While he’s getting the water, Janine and Elie are bonding. The men and women of Baka see things very differently. While Elie claims she sees Owen and Sami as her children that she has to mind, the men feel they’re being completely underestimated. Janine and Elie feel like the boys have no strategy here, but Sami makes his strategy clear to Gabler and Owen when he can: The three men have to stick together, outnumbering the two women no matter what happens. Sami says he doesn’t like the men-versus-women dynamic but admits it’s quick to start talking in terms of us versus them.
At the Immunity Challenge, we’re reunited with a familiar friend: a 400-pound snake each tribe has to drag throughout. In addition to playing for precious immunity, the first tribe to finish gets a massive fishing kit, including flippers, snorkels, and spears.
Noelle decides to sit out for Vesi, and Karla sits out for Coco. As the challenge kicks off, it’s once again a close race, but Baka pulls out the win. After the loss last week, Baka is ecstatic. Coco takes second place, sending Vesi to Tribal Council. Vesi blew it today and never even had all of its puzzle pieces together to begin with. It will be a good few days for Coco and Baka with fishing gear and safety.
Those good vibes will not be found on Vesi beach. While Nneka did struggle in the challenge, it is hard seeing a Black woman at risk of going home to secure “unity,” as Noelle says. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a consciously racist reaction from Noelle, who was justifiably frustrated after spending the challenge on the sit-out bench, but it is an interesting choice of words. At Vesi, it quickly becomes apparent that Justine and Noelle are going to rally votes for Nneka and that Cody and Nneka are looking to vote out Justine. Nneka is immediately aware of the mood shift from Justine and Noelle. But she feels confident her strong relationship with Cody and her blossoming bond with Jesse will keep her safe this week. Cody has been planting seeds of fear in his tribemates’ heads regarding Justine’s career in sales, and this continues to be his arguing point today. In addition, Justine also made the mistake of bragging about her ability to lie to Jesse.
Island wives Jesse and Dwight talk strategy in the woods, and while Jesse is trying to persuade Dwight to vote Justine off, Dwight doesn’t even have a vote. Jesse really wants to pair up with him, but at the end of the day, Jesse has a vote and Dwight does not. Your vote is your only power on Survivor, which leaves Dwight in a tricky spot. Not at all helping her case, Justine approaches Jesse and point-blank asks him to prove his loyalty to her. Clearly, she’s unaware of how she comes off to Jesse.
Things are moving smoothly before Tribal Council, with Cody, Nneka, and Jesse deciding to vote for Justine. Although Noelle and Dwight may be upset by this vote, it’s the clear division of numbers on the tribe. That is, until Cody finds a Beware Advantage. Naturally, Cody doesn’t think twice about grabbing the dangerous advantage. In the previous seasons, a Beware Advantage took away a player’s ability to vote until one player from each tribe said a silly phrase at the same Immunity Challenge. It didn’t work out particularly well, and the catchphrases were so random there was no way to casually bring them up, especially at multiple challenges in a row. The Beware Advantage is a bit different this season, although the basic premise is the same — Cody has lost his ability to vote until he can convince everyone in his tribe to give him a specific bead that adorns their bag. Then, he’ll earn an Immunity Idol. Now, if Cody was a little less impulsive, perhaps he would’ve gone back for this advantage after Tribal Council, but it was a perfectly timed distraction for the free spirit. Suddenly, the vote will be much closer if he can’t pull off this ruse.
After informing Jesse of the advantage, Cody starts his game. Luckily, he’s already started weaving a beautiful palm frond hat. The only thing that could make it even better? Some beads, of course! Cody quickly secures Jesse and Nneka’s beads in front of the rest of the tribe, prompting Justine to offer up hers. Although Cody plays it cool, Nneka is worried about how tonight will go if Cody cannot vote. She starts to panic a bit as Dwight and Noelle show some trepidation. Dwight gives his beads to Cody, leaving Noelle.
At Tribal, Cody jokes about the hat, playing the bead fiasco off as a part of his happy-go-lucky energy. Justine even compliments the hat, not knowing that if he is successful, his newly re-earned vote will go towards voting her out. It’s a testament to his ability to lie and scheme. Everyone is aware of the three pairs that make up the Vesi tribe, and everyone is trying to get the heat off their backs, throwing other pairs under the bus with no shame. Because Dwight doesn’t have a vote, he and Jesse aren’t seen as threats, although I would argue Jesse is playing the best game on Vesi.
When it’s finally time to reveal the vote, no one plays any advantages or idols, but we still don’t know how many votes were cast. The first three votes go to Justine, Nneka, and Cody. With only five possible votes, three will be a majority tonight. Justine gets a second vote, and a flashback reveals that Noelle eventually gave Cody her beads and solidified her closest ally’s demise.
• Owen, on his tribemates’ state of dehydration: “Your pee looks like bouillon cubes!”
• Although Elie had a shaky few moments last week, her pride after Baka won today was lovely. She was a kid who struggled in class but always knew she was smarter than people told her. A big Survivor win like this will hopefully elevate her confidence for the rest of the game: “A doctoral degree couldn’t even shed me of the feeling I wasn’t smart enough, but today, I looked at that puzzle, and I was like, Dang girl! You’re right!”
• That snake weighed 400 pounds! It’s only been a few days of not eating, but this was an insanely energy-consuming challenge so early on.