Friday, September 29, 2023

Survivor Season 39 Double Episode Recap

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Trigger warning: Discussion of sexual harassment.  

After the idol-filled tribal, Lairo has one mystery. Dean obviously voted for Jack, but who else did? Noura immediately says that she did. She also, after very little prodding, admits Kellee told her whose name to write. Kellee immediately runs damage control, telling Jamal and Janet that Noura is lying. Janet believes her, but Jamal is skeptical. The next morning sees everyone out looking for an idol. Kellee is successful, replenishing her idol. This becomes even better news when the tribe checks their tree mail. It is time for the merge!

After the merge, Missy and Kellee bond over Dan’s inappropriate behavior. During Kellee’s interview, one of the producers spoke on camera about interfering if necessary. Kellee said she was okay and would discuss things with Janet. Janet says she will confront him if something happens again. Tommy, seeing Missy and Kellee talking, is concerned. Kellee said they were voting Missy, but her behavior seems to say otherwise—or at least, it shows she can hide her intentions very well. He tells Lauren his concerns and brings up the option of voting Kellee out. Lauren tells Missy to not trust Kellee and to win immunity.

The producers made the call to step in. They spoke with each tribe member as a group and individually to discuss boundaries. They also gave Dan a warning for his behavior. I am not sure if the producers have ever stepped in like this before, but I am very impressed with how they handled the situation. They let everyone know that any point they can come to them with concerns.

The first immunity challenge is a test of strength and endurance. Players must hold a tilted board perfectly still to maintain the position of three balls. Noura is the first to drop. Elizabeth, Missy, Aaron, and Jamal are the last four standing. Those four have maintained position for fifteen minutes. Missy drops, losing her chance for immunity. Elizabeth is next. Aaron and Jamal have lasted for twenty-five minutes. Jamal drops, and Aaron wins first individual immunity.

Lauren and Tommy are orchestrating a Kellee vote. Jamal wants to vote out Dan after the way he has made a lot of the women feel. Janet is on board, but no one believes her. Elaine tells Dan about the talk. Tommy and Lauren regroup. They realize they have the power to change the vote. Kellee is nervous about Dan’s behavior, and seeks an idol. She finds one, again. If she plays one tonight, Dan goes home. If she does not, she may go home with two idols in her pocket.

“Trust is dope sometimes.” Missy voiced the general consensus of the vote. With this vote, trust is more important than deception. With so many plans on the table, the first tribal council for Lumuwaku will set the tone for the rest of the game. Kellee did not play either idol, and she was voted out. Janet is extremely upset that women who were uncomfortable with Dan did not vote him out. She has a very frank conversation with Dan. Not only does Dan deny it, so do Missy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth honestly states her part in it was gameplay. This is reprehensible. I’m actually glad Kellee is not here for this. Dan tells Janet about Missy and Elizabeth’s side, and Janet is not having it. She confronts the girls, and gets Elizabeth to confess.

Missy and Aaron sneak off to go idol hunting but pass Janet on the way. Realizing how far on the outs she is now, Janet decides to follow suit. She finds an idol, hopefully, she uses it. Jamal and Karishma now have an alliance. They were both left out of the vote. They look up and Karishma sees a note, which Jamal takes. He has to go to Island of the Idols, and promises to share any benefits with Karishma. It turns out, Karishma was lucky to not take the note, as Jamal has lost his vote. His lesson is the art of sabotage. Sandra gives him a small piece of parchment and a pencil. What he does with it could have a huge impact on the game. He fashioned it into his prize from the Island of the Idols. He states he had the power to give someone else an advantage, and he is giving it to Dean for his birthday. Immediately, Dean does not trust it.

The second immunity challenge of the night has a twist. Two people will win immunity: one man and one woman. For this challenge, they are holding a bar behind their back, suspended over the water. Jeff will periodically shorten the line holding them up, lowering them closer to the water. Almost immediately Lauren loses her nerve. Dan gives up, and Jamal follows after. The final five are Aaron, Tommy, Missy, Elizabeth, and Noura. They all lasted ten minutes, then twenty. Noura drops, making the contest between Missy and Elizabeth. Tommy drops, and Aaron earns his second immunity. Elizabeth drops, and Missy wins her first immunity.

Before tribal, the conversation turns to a split vote. Half of the votes on Jamal, the other half on Karishma. Karishma, Jamal, and Janet are on the bottom, but Tommy assures Janet that she is safe. The Dan vote and situation is brought up at tribal, where Aaron says if it was a real issue he would have known. Jamal states that in real life, that is not the case at all. Just because someone is in power does not mean they will know things. Aaron says yes in real life, but not in Survivor. Dan is defensive. Jeff is adamant that he will not let it go. After Dan’s defense and somewhat apology, Janet is unsure if she wants to stay. After more discussion with Jeff and with the tribe, she decides to stay. To prove this, she plays her idol. While she did get votes, most people stayed to voting for Jamal or Karishma. In the end, Jamal went home.

These two episodes have been a lot. This show is nuanced, and multiple times this season we have seen where the harsh realities of our world have crept in. The way this played out left me, as a viewer, very uncomfortable. Originally, I was very happy with how it was handled, and I will say the Survivor team and Jeff really stepped up. I am disappointed in the players. The fact that women could share their stories and other women could twist that story to meet their own needs… especially against that woman… it does not sit well. Add in that they were willing to ruin someone’s reputation, deserving or not, without proof? I hope the players on the outside of this situation look very carefully at the people involved when it comes back to trust. I hope the players look back on this, see their actions on camera, and grow. And I hope Kellee will get a chance to play again, I’ll be rooting for her if she does.

Image courtesy of CBS


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