Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 43 recaps
This is why I LOVE Survivor!
By Damnbueno | Published: December 8, 2022
Survivor 43 Episode 12 recap/ analysis

This is why I LOVE Survivor!

I’ll start by saying thank you to frequent commenter Trent C. for inspiring this first part of my intro.

In Game Changers, Sarah Lacina said this about 2-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine -- “The reason Sandra has won twice is that she doesn’t come off as the most dangerous person in this game. I almost feel like the way Sandra talks to people, is she’s grooming us. She doesn’t pressure you, her voice never raises. Its calm, and she just starts to suck you in.” This is exactly what Jesse has been doing all season long.

Think about it. We’ve never seen him go to any emotional extremes. He’s never too high or too low. He’s the epitome of slow and steady-burning consistency and confidence. And just like Sandra, he is able to give everyone the impression he’s willing to vote with them. When someone bounces an idea off of him, he doesn’t reject it. Instead, he makes you think he’s seriously considering it. When he pitches an idea, it never comes off like an order. He looks at the ground a lot, and sometimes barely speaks above a whisper. The only person he has pushed back against is his #1 ally Cody. And Jesse wisely let Cody win at some earlier votes (like booting Dwight instead of Noelle) as a matter of strategy.

If Jesse has been scared or nervous, he hasn’t let it show. I think that’s a huge part of the reason everyone finds it so easy to trust him. Jesse has the image of a 100% dependable person, and that’s the type most people like to work with while playing Survivor. I think it’s the reason Jesse hasn’t had a vote cast against him yet this season (then again, neither has Gabler, and he hasn’t played anywhere close to the same game Jesse has, but I’m on a roll here). Karla on the other hand, has almost played an identical game to Jesse, except she has slipped a couple of times – namely in telling someone she’s got an Idol, and curiously hesitating when asked a tough question. She showed a couple of cracks, and that has cost her some trust.

It comes down to one basic strategic philosophy. Why vote someone out if you believe they’ll help you remove someone who is a bigger threat? That was Sandra’s secret weapon through her first two wins. She was even able to outsmart Russell at Heroes vs Villains final 4 by telling him “I’ll take the (2nd place) 100 thousand dollars because I knew I wasn’t gonna win again.” Russell voted Jerri out in part because he believed Sandra not only couldn’t win, but wasn’t even gonna try. Jesse makes everyone believe there’s a bigger threat than he is.

Does this mean Jesse is going to win? Of course not. This season is wide open. But Jesse has been the only one to keep an Idol secret so far, and these next two votes are the time his self-control can pay off the most. His subtlety has given him the most options entering the final 6. The most intriguing to me would be if Cody wins Immunity. Could Jesse talk Cody into saving him with Cody’s Idol, then turn the tables on Cody at the next vote, knowing Cody is unprotected? He could do it if he can lock down any two of the other five players. Assuming Jesse doesn’t win Immunity (he hasn’t come close yet), he could also pull a Tommy and convince the F4 Immunity winner he can’t build a fire to knock out “the bigger threat” as slyly defined by Jesse of course.

But this column isn’t an early coronation for Jesse. These are just my observations on why I think Jesse has played the best game so far this season. After praise like this, Jesse might just get blindsided while holding two Idols tonight.

And away we go ....

So Sami announcing he was playing his Shot in the Dark is what changed Karla’s mind about voting for Cassidy? I suspected as much. Once again, this cast’s inability to keep their mouths shut bites them in the ass. Good job, Sami.

Owen says he wants to split Karla and Cassidy? Isn’t that what Jesse told Owen HE wanted to do last week? Good job on Jesse manipulating Owen into executing his plan. Cassidy is already suspicious of Owen, and not Jesse. Yeah, Jesse is very good at this game.

Cassidy and Owen

Karla to Cassidy: “I’ve never said your name.” I don’t think Cassidy is buying what Karla is selling either. She saw how Karla hesitated last week when she asked a tough question.

Karla is patting herself on the back for fake crying to Cassidy. Cassidy has a pretty good BS meter.

Cassidy to Jesse: “I didn’t buy it.”

Cassidy and Jesse

I remember this challenge. Russell Swan passed out in this one during Samoa. They did the blindfolded table maze in Marquesas too.

Instead of randomly drawing teams, I would rather have seen two captains chosen. The strategy in making that first pick would be very interesting.

WOW that challenge was close! But this puts Jesse in a great position. He can work on Cassidy all day long, knowing he most likely has Gabler in his pocket already. The only question now is will Karla’s spidey sense tell her to play her Idol? If she saves herself, who will she want gone? If she’s smart, it won’t be Cassidy.

Owen's team wins!'

Karla: “I’ll do anything to make people believe I don’t have an Idol.” Except of course telling Cassidy you have an Idol.

Owen wants Karla gone. The way his season is going, this must mean she’s as safe as can be.

I still think Gabler will say something that screws up the plan.

Cody is all revved up on caffeine. I bet the challenge will require a steady hand and calm nerves, like stacking plates, or maybe a good old fashioned squatting endurance challenge. The Survivor Gods are cruel like that. So are the Producers.

Dancing Cody

It’s a mega-obstacle course with a puzzle. This is why I stopped making Survivor predictions. We’ve seen every element of this challenge before too, with the exception of the Bat puzzle at the end (I think). Jeff Pitman might know for sure.

Cassidy is no joke in physical challenges. She’s been in the mix several times.

I LOVE the fact that Karla is outtalking Probst for a while during a challenge.

Immunity challenge

Cassidy wins Immunity. That makes everything interesting. Karla is bound to play her Idol, which probably means Cody will play his. Everyone knows they have Idols too. Will the others go for flushing both Idols, or will they take the safe shot at Owen or Jesse? Will Jesse sniff out the plan and save himself? He’s got a tough decision at this vote for sure.

Cody to Karla: “Let’s say we’re playing our Idols, but keep them.” If I’m Karla, I try to flip it on to Cody, and blindside him.

And that’s exactly what Cody is trying to do to Karla.

Cody and Owen

Cody is sounding a little too confident about this plan. I wonder if Jesse will flip it on to Cody?

And sure enough, that’s exactly what Jesse is doing – and what I’ve been wondering when he’s gonna do it all season long.

Jesse and Owen

Cody getting his Idol back was total dumb luck. But DAMN, this makes Tribal Council interesting.

Jesse: “Aauuuuugghh!” I feel your pain. Does this mean Jesse is actually Charlie Brown today?

Jesse: Aughhhh!

No matter who goes tonight, if I’m Owen, Gabler or Cassidy, I immediately tell Cody how Jesse was plotting against him as soon as we get back to camp. Noelle knows they’re laying it on too thick.

Noelle loses again

Jesse seems to be the safest one at this Tribal Council, and he’s the only one who has kept his Idol a secret. To me, there’s no coincidence here.

Jesse saves Owen, and just blew the jury away. Cody knows he’s a goner, and his expression just told the Jury he’s been blindsided by Jesse.

Karla blinks and plays her Idol. I think the fear she showed at the last couple of votes has come back to haunt her.

Jesse: I'll explain more

Jesse publicly owns the move with that handshake too. Cody will look like an ass if he refuses it.

Jesse, welcome to the final 4. Everyone will take a shot at you next week, and you’ll save yourself with Jeanine’s Idol. No doubt Dwight has already told the entire Jury about Jesse’s Idol. I think the way Jesse played it still gives him a shot at getting Cody’s Jury vote too.

Moments like this are why I LOVE Survivor so much.


I’ll say it again, this is why I love Survivor so much. Wondering if Jesse will turn on his closest ally? Did he get the Idol back? Will he actually cut Cody loose? He totally fooled Karla too.

MAD props to Jesse for this move. He completely and publicly outplayed Karla and Cody here. He also showed how Owen, Gabler and Cassidy are following his lead. He firmly established himself as the best player. There’s no doubt in my mind if he reaches the finals, he’s winning the game. I don’t see anybody topping this move. If I’m Jesse, I’m spending the next two days making fire. That’s the only way he’s not making the finals.

Jesse’s move ranks up there with the best of all time. Kim’s blindside on Mike ... Yul flipping Penner back ... Sandra’s blindside on Burton ... the Edgardo blindside ... Rob C.’s blindside on Alex ... Cirie’s blindside on Ozzy ... Chris & Twila’s blindside on Leann. But the main difference between Jesse’s move and all of these classics, is the timing and execution. Those other moves changed the balance of power in the game. Jesse’s move likely sealed a win. It ranks up there with Natalie Anderson’s “Did you vote how I told you to, Jaclyn?” in San Juan Del Sur.

Jesse has been playing an excellent subtle game like some I wrote about in the off-season. The challenge of playing a subtle game is that very often, the jury has no idea what you’ve been up to. You have to find a way to publicly own your moves to get the win. I can’t think of anybody doing this better than Jesse did tonight besides Natalie Anderson. His timing was perfect too. Nobody else can take credit for this move, and on top of that, Jesse has Cody telling everyone about it too. Even if Cody is upset, venting his anger will simultaneously be endorsing Jesse for the win – just like Troyzan unintentionally endorsed Kim in One World.

Blown away jury

Needless to say, I absolutely loved this episode. The best part about it was the fact that there wasn’t any annoying Producer twists to force the players’ hands. They provided all the excitement and drama themselves – from the “split Karla & Cassidy” plan, to Cassidy’s Immunity win, to Jesse’s brilliant blindside on Cody. It even had the 11th hour panic of Cody asking for his Idol back. And speaking of Cody, WHY WOULD YOU EVEN GIVE YOUR IDOL BACK TO JESSE? The KIP is long gone. What was he thinking? Even if you had 100% trust in Jesse, why give it back to him? Whatever Jesse did to get it back was absolute Survivor strategy genius. After this episode, I think I understand why so much information from this season (did Jesse return Cody’s Idol? Does anybody know about Karla’s Idol?, etc.) was left out of the final edit. We got a lot of payoff tonight.

I was so high on the episode two weeks ago, and wondered if it could be topped. Tonight’s episode topped it. Jesse’s play almost makes me forget how upset I was when KIP returned and “Choose Your Champion” was introduced, mucking things up. I really hope the Survivor Producers take note of how well these players delivered, and learn to leave a good cast alone when they pick one.

So the only interesting question for me heading into the finals is this: Who will win if Jesse gets bounced at final 4? Since Karla took another hit this week, I think Karla, Cassidy and Owen are on fairly even ground, and Gabler isn’t very far behind them. He’s capable of talking his way into a couple of votes even if a couple of jurors blame his mouth for their failure.

What do you think? Was Jesse’s move worthy of the praise I’ve thrown on it? Is he unbeatable in the finals? Was this the best episode of the season? Let me know what you think in the comments.

I LOVE Survivor!

damnbueno Damnbueno got his nickname in 8th grade Spanish class when his friend shouted out "You're pretty damn good at Spanish." The teacher insisted he say it in Spanish, so the friend said "Esto es damn bueno en Espanol." The nickname stuck. These days, when he's not forgetting his 8th grade Spanish, Damnbueno is indulging his obsession with all things Survivor. Reach him in the comments section here at True Dork Times.