Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor 43 recaps
Survivor 43: Swipe right or swipe left?
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: September 7, 2022
Survivor 43 Pre-season cast analysis

Survivor 43: Swipe right or swipe left?

I got a whole, what, 5-day break between Survivor SA ending and Survivor US officially announcing its cast? WHAT A WEEK! Coming off of the amazing high that was Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts (if you haven’t started any SA season yet, you need to — ask me how!) I’m anxious to find out how US will bring me back down again ….

It’s been confirmed that several of the stupid twists from 41 & 42 will not be reappearing, but that only means they’ll be replaced by probably even dumber ones. I can give my “rave” reviews on those as they’re revealed, though, and right now focus on the positive which is a new cast of 18 hopefuls who will hopefully entertain us in their battle for a million bucks!

Back by popular demand — i.e. by me because I had fun doing this last year — I’m crafting my cast assessment into Survivor Tinder! This, of course, was initially inspired by the Kat Edorsson ideology that no one wants to date a Survivor who doesn’t make the merge, so I’ll be swiping right or left based on the probability I think each player has of being merge-bound, and thus, safely dateable. Since I’ve been SO SUCCESSFUL at Tinder in my personal life, I’m sure I’ll be spot-on with my Survivor assessments.

Just kidding! This will be as much of a crapshoot as real-life Tinder, but at least here, there really aren’t any serious feelings involved or at stake. I learned the hard way with Natalie Cole to never let my heart get that invested in a Survivor ever again.


Karla Cruz Godoy

That side-eye!

An early obsession of mine is definitely over Karla! She was one of two big standouts for me in the teaser at the end of 42 where she started to say that there are certain lines she wouldn’t cross in Survivor, but halfway through that sentence, she corrected herself and said that there actually is nothing she wouldn’t do to win. LOVE!

Karla’s a badass; she’s had to fight to get to where she is in life, and she’ll definitely bring that fight to the game. She labels herself a “chismosa” which more or less is a Spanish word for shit-stirrer. That could be super dangerous to other players or detrimental to herself — I’m hoping the former. In her bio, Karla cites Cirie as someone she’ll play like for being loved by all but knowing when to stir the pot. I could see some Sandra in her too with that spice and sass. My only concern for Karla would be coming off as too strong, but if she can bite her tongue a bit early, fueling the flames of drama without getting burnt herself, then I could see her being a threat to win.

Do I think Karla’s “dateable?” Absolutely. I think she’s going to be a killer, and maybe I’m just getting too excited over my first potential match here, but I’m going to kick off this cast assessment with a SUPER like!


Super like


Morriah Young

My other immediate love from the May teaser was Morriah! She’s bold, she’s beautiful, and she’s the most colorful person in the new cast both figuratively and literally. I love everything about her energy, and while it will be a balance for her to be a positive presence at camp without coming across as too over-the-top, I think she’ll manage. She’s a schoolteacher from Philly, and if you’re also a fan of the new hit comedy Abbott Elementary, Morriah is almost literally Janine, someone who aspires to see the good in everything and be everyone’s personal cheerleader.

Baka has potential to be the crazy tribe, but in Morriah’s case, I think she’ll be the good kind of crazy. Maryanne proved you can be your big, bold, authentic, weird self and still win this game, and I think that Morriah will follow closely in those footsteps. This cast had not seen the ending of 42, which is good for Morriah because I think otherwise, she would be an immediate target for being molded like Maryanne, but I expect her to be a fresh take on the larger than life, lovable character. I think she’ll find her friends and will find a way to make it close to the end. I’m SO excited for the splashes of color Morriah is going to give us all season!




Cody Assenmacher

I can’t tell yet if I’m going to find him hilarious or if Cody Assenmacher is going up to live up to his namesake and be a total ass-munch. Hopefully he’ll be a good mix of the two where I find him funny and endearing because he’s an ass rather than just an ass with no redeeming qualities.

Cody strikes me as someone who can schmooze the shit out of people. He’s definitely adventurous and has a lot of enthusiasm for life, so I feel like his tribe will instantly gravitate toward him, maybe seeing him as the unofficially elected leader of Vesi. He and Noelle will be the athletes of the tribe, so unless he just goes off the rails with his relationships or plays too hard too fast, I see him definitely making the merge. The Hawaiian transplant in him should let him ride out any waves along the way. I’m probably forgetting someone else, but of the two other mullets we’ve seen on the show, both made it far, so maybe there’s something to that “wildly strategic in the back” bit he mentioned.

Mullets across Survivor history

To my knowledge, though, Cody’s the only one of the three to have a “butt cheek” tattoo, so that’s a variable that could mess with the data.




Mike Gabler

I just know that Casting saw “Gabler” and probably didn’t even need to listen to him speak or watch his full video before inviting him out to LA for finals. I would bet money that he’s the most interesting man in Idaho.

There’s always “that guy” on the show, and this season it’s Gabler. Being the oldest in the cast already puts a target on him — I hate that it does, but it does. He definitely looks like he’ll have a lot of personality, but when I look at the Baka tribe, I don’t really see anyone who he’s going to immediately bond with. Sami may be the only one to gravitate toward Gabler, but for that reason, this guy is giving me big first boot energy. In his bio, when he was asked, “Why do you believe you can be the Sole Survivor?” his answer was just, “Yes!!” No “why” just “yes!” That’s a dealbreaker for me in the Survivor dating game. If you can’t articulate why you’re going to do well, then I don’t think you will.




Geo Bustamante

I like Geo’s energy for what I think will be an entertaining character, but an entertaining character for a limited amount of time. A few things stand out to me from his bio and short intro video that make me think he could be the one to go from Coco (also, LOL at “the Coco tribe”).

He says he was a shy kid which people can definitely grow out of, but when under stress in the game, I could see someone like that reverting a bit and putting some unintentional distance between themselves and the tribe. Geo also stated that he’s going to play the game guns-blazing until someone says “you’re playing too hard.” The issue without that is that no one is going to tell Geo he’s playing too hard — they’ll just vote him out for it.

Finally, Geo said he’ll be a combination of Cochran and Boston Rob who, although both winners, could not be more extremely different players, making me concerned that Geo really doesn’t know himself when it comes to Survivor, so he’s going to play all over the place. There’s a reason you can’t be both Boston Rob and Cochran:

Boston Cochran

It just doesn’t work. But hey, if you’re into that, swipe right.




Noelle Lambert

Someone who I also think doesn’t see themselves being a target but could become one is Noelle. She’s 100% going to be a kickass competitor, and her story is an inspiring one with her journey toward becoming a U.S. Paralympian, but I can easily see Noelle’s downfall in this game being that she’s too fierce and ferocious. Even looking at that picture above, if I saw that face staring me down in a challenge, I’d run the other way. Those eyes are out for blood!

Nothing reads as soft and sentimental about Noelle, despite her name reminding us all of the most wonderful time of the year, filled with lots of joy and holiday cheer. I think she’ll do well on Vesi, the tribe that especially looks the most stacked athletically compared to the other two. If they manage to lose a challenge, I don’t think it will be Noelle that gets the boot, so she’s “dateable” for me in that she should make the merge, but soon after that, I see her flame getting extinguished. Maybe that “#1” she’s referring to above is the first merge boot — the real one, not the silly “earn the merge” vote that I hate wasn’t cut from the game.




Elie Scott

At the opposite end of the sentimental spectrum from Noelle, there’s Elie. Her friend that compared her to Michele Fitzgerald may just be right on the money. I’d always bet on someone who studies in the psychology field or works as some type of therapist – it’s almost an unfair advantage playing Survivor having professionally studied people for your entire adult life, but as Jerri Manthey would remind us, there’s nothing “fair” about this game.

Elie cites Kim, Kelley, and Cirie was players she could see herself emulating, and that’s a deadly combination if she’s right (it at least makes more sense than Boston Cochran). I don’t see her as much of the Kim type who will be a leader in the game, but I could definitely see Elie playing like Cirie and making everyone fall for her and spill all their secrets. Again, that’s already how Elie makes money, so I’m sure that’s her strategy to win this money too.

I also liked the statement about Elie’s bio about playing not with psychologist ethics but with Survivor ethics. Elie has a gameplan that’s going to focus on social strategy, and that’s the best way to win the game, in my opinion. I love making Jeffrey angry, so I’d love to see this Michele lookalike win — I’d equally like that as much as I think it’s likely, so not only does Elie get a Super Like from me, but I’m blessing/cursing her as my official Survivor 43 winner pick.

Probst holding winning 'Michelle' ballot

That picture never gets old.


Super like


Jesse Lopez

Jesse’s another studious type like Elie who gives me ~the vibe~ but Jesse has a wildly different story than Elie. He said he’s basically Spencer or Christian if they’d joined a gang at 15, so … that’s an image (I’ll spare the haunting photoshop on this one). All that to say, Jesse may have a rough past, but deep down, he’s always been a super nerd. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that, so that’s probably something he’s going to be able to use to his advantage in the game, hiding the fact that he’s very well-educated with a PhD.

With that impressive degree, he’s spent the last several years “studying how people vote” which, you know, kiiiiiind of seems relevant in the game of Survivor. I’m sure that has a lot to do with figuring out what motivates people to vote certain ways, so I think Jesse will learn quickly how to make the numbers go his way. Something that also stood out to me about Jesse was how he pointed out that he’s formed relationships with gang members to Ivy League grads and presumably all other people in between. Strategically, Jesse will figure out what to do, and that together with a solid social game will make Jesse one to watch. I think he’ll surprise people in the game and those watching at home, so I’m going to give him my third and final Super Like, naming him next to Elie and Karla as my top contenders from the pre-season press.


Super like


James Jones

I didn’t notice until I was writing this, but that’s a Naruto symbol on his wrist. James is a mega nerd!!! I mean, the chess champion story said that too, but if he’s an anime fan, then this gives me hope for what I want to be the Jesse & James “Team Rocket” alliance. Come on, you two, IT’S RIGHT THERE! I’ll be pissed if one of them doesn’t make the merge, stopping that dream of mine from becoming reality.

James may be coming for Davie’s “blerd” title, but he’s also coming for Earl’s Sole Survivor title, whose historic win in Fiji inspired James to play the game himself. That’s a great role model (and a reminder to why representation matters in the show) as well as the “as long as it ain’t me” game he hopes to replicate from Sandra. James had me going as a strong winner contender until the very end of his bio, though, where he said he’ll be an “agent of chaos Russell with charm.” “Russell” and “charm” don’t belong in the same sentence unless that sentence is “Russell has no charm.” Last time I did this Survivor dating game gig, I roasted Voce for wanting to play like Russell — swiped a HARD left there, making the correct call because Voce was voted out second. So, James … this is what I call a risky right swipe. He has potential to go far — but if he wants to win, he shouldn’t be referencing Russell in any way, shape, or form.




Owen Knight

I love Owen’s nod to Adam’s “super-duper fan” status which clearly calls out Owen as such. I don’t think that label is as threatening as it was years ago since nowadays, most of the cast is at least some level of “super” fan — maybe not “duper” but the “dupers” are probably smart enough to know how to blend in with just the “supers.” I can relate to that — I know someone who told me they thought they were the BIGGEST Survivor fan but then met me and went, “Oh … apparently not.”

Owen is going to be so much fun to watch living his Survivor fantasy — again, he’s among like-minded company, but I’d venture a guess — at Owen being the super-duperest fan playing this season (he also watches international seasons, which I hope includes SA!) Thinking with recency bias, I get a lot of Omar vibes from Owen — a big fan who I think will drive a lot of the game only to be voted out close to the end for being too big of a threat.

I could see Owen’s description of himself as an unassuming triple threat as very accurate, but after 20-something days, that will no longer be unassumed. Owen could take over early as the silent leader of Baka, making critical decisions there and navigating most of the merge with his pre-merge alliance, and he definitely could win it all if he can navigate that end-game just a little better than Omar, so absolutely I’m swiping right on Owen.




Jeanine Zheng

Jeanine said in her video that she’s like a little baby seeing the world for the first time – I agree, she’s precious! While not the youngest on the Baka tribe, I could see her struggling to find her place in this “world” if the Baka core becomes Owen, Elie, and Morriah, meaning that if Gabler goes first, it would be Jeanine and Sami who would go next. Just thinking physically there, I think Jeanine would be the most in jeopardy.

That said, I think Jeanine could surprise me since she made it a point to say that she doesn’t want to be stereotyped at all, so I’d be naïve to count her out as a killer social player like the Kim Spradlin she hopes to be (I haven’t counted, but a lot of these ladies compared themselves to Kim and Kelley, haven’t they?) My heart wants to swipe right on Jeanine, but my head wants to swipe left. I think Jeanine would do much better in a larger tribe of 8-10, as I feel like she’ll be someone who could build great bonds over just a bit longer time. In a tribe of 6, however, everything starts so fast, and especially with big gamers like Owen and Sami or a big personality like Morriah, Jeanine may just find herself a little out of her element, so I’ll sadly swipe left but hope that she makes me regret it! That’s how I hope to make someone feel who didn’t swipe right on me.




Sami Layadi

While I’m on the topic of Baka dynamics, I may as well round out this tribe with the most Tinder-looking picture in this entire line-up. On paper, I should hate Sami — he’s a hotshot 19-year-old who thinks he’s going to outsmart seventeen other actual adults and win Survivor. I definitely don’t think he will do that … but I don’t think he’ll do too bad?

There’s a couple of things that were of interest to me about Sami in his first impression. Foremost, he’s a pet cremator. I didn’t know that was even a standalone job, but it goes to show how out of touch I am with Gen Z — is 19 still considered Gen Z, or are we at Gen AA yet? (Horrible Excel nerd joke.) I hope this means Sami brings back Jan’s pet cemetery from Thailand, only this time I guess burning the animals before burial. What a career choice (… should we be worried about this kid?)

Sami was also the next in line to say he’d play like Kelley Wentworth — seriously!? Was this cast given a list of like Kim, Kelley, Cirie, and Boston Rob and told to pick one? I would instantly stan anyone who, just for shits and giggles, pulled some random name out like, “I hope to play exactly like Michelle Tesauro” with no further explanation at all. Bonus points if you’re reading this and didn’t have to Google which Michelle that was.

Along with the Baka dynamics I explained, I can see Sami being part of the initial core, but once the merge hits, he’ll get dumped, sort of like what Vati did to Chanelle last season — not super critical to the alliance so able to be sacrificed as part of some new cross-tribe deal, hopefully not such a literal sacrifice that comes to cremation.




Dwight Moore

Dwight’s #1 pet peeve is someone making a reference to The Office as soon as they learn his name, so I’m sure nothing beets his excitement to be on national television. I kind of want to root for a “local” even though neither of us were born in Tennessee, and by “local” I mean like he lives 3 hours away from me. He said he likes video games too, so he’s probably a fun dude — I wonder if he plays Second Life?

Dwight’s also another cool nerd given his academic background and passion to work in politics. A bright future is ahead for this one, both outside of the game and I think inside of it. Vesi could just be short in stature, but Dwight looks pretty tall and built like an athlete, so an easy swipe right on Survivor Tinder. He’s also very well-spoken and gives off a calm, comforting demeanor in his video. If I were playing, I’d be a little skeptical about his age, but he seems like a pretty mature 22-year-old and I think most will gravitate toward his seemingly good-hearted nature. Like many young people, I think he’ll eventually get the itch to prove himself with a power move, and if he pulls it off, that may just make him the next power player to take out. I could *picture* a scenario where Dwight wins which is wild, but at 22, I guess he wouldn’t be the youngest Sole Survivor ever. He’s definitely no Fabio, though (that’s a good thing).




Lindsay Carmine

“Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? Natalie — mental and physical strength.” SHE MEANS NATALIE COLE, RIGHT!!??

Probably not, but I’ll pretend since it makes me love Lindsay more. I always love Survivor moms and, at the same time, always fear for their lives on this frustrating show. We only had one last season and she was, of course, the first boot from her tribe so … love that journey for me. On paper, Lindsay looks great. She’s naturally a caretaker, someone who will make friends fast, and she’s super competitive — all the great makings of a strong player. If I said earlier that Geo will be kind of the explosive loco first boot of Coco, that means Lindsay has to avoid being the second or third. James and Ryan should be quick friends there, and Karla is physically strong, so it could be up to those three to determine who between Lindsay and Cassidy would go next in the pre-merge.

Heather and Tiffany were two moms who made strong runs on 41, but my gut read on Lindsay is that she’ll land more like Marya from 42. I’m sure I’ll like her and root for Lindsay, but I’ve got to swipe left here. I just don’t feel “the spark.”




Cassidy Clark

Oh hey, it’s the 8th Kim Spradlin wannabe, though I don’t know if I agree with Cassidy’s claim that Kim was a “low-key assassin.” I recall Kim being the rather front and center queen; she was just that good at keeping her soldiers in line and from staging a coup. I don’t know that I see Cassidy taking the same command as Kim did.

She seems sweet, though. Cassidy sounds super spiritual and is probably into astrology which I’m just not in tune with at all. I’m an Aries, but whether I’m a moon Virgo or house of the rising sun Capricorn, I have no idea. Cassidy said she wants to be like a fox or “trickster” but something strikes me as more talk than action there, or she’ll think she’s playing sneaky like a fox when in actuality, everyone is onto her wily ways, sort of like Swati from recent memory. She’ll tell everyone in the zoo that they’re her #1 cuddly-wuddly bear and end up last on everyone’s lists.




Nneka Ejere

At 43, Nneka is the “oldest woman on the season” for Survivor 43 … I guess the median and average age is around 30, so not technically as young as I thought at first glance, but I think Vesi is especially the tribe that won’t feel the need for a Cirie to whom Nneka would compare herself. She definitely has that Cirie smile, but Nneka said she’s a terrible liar and can’t cheat so she’s not as much like Cirie in the more important ways when playing Survivor.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Vesi wins most of the challenges, but if they lose one, I’d be surprised if their first boot isn’t Nneka. Cody and Noelle will be leading “keep the tribe strong” mantra so unless the other three try to make a power move to pull in Nneka and take one of those two alphas out, I don’t have the highest of hopes for Nneka’s longevity. She seems like a wonderful woman, one that I sadly will probably adore but know better than that to get too attached.




Ryan Medrano

Oh look, a Ryan! And we’re practically identical twins! I don’t know if that picture does justice to how happy-go-lucky Ryan seemed in his video — he’s definitely livelier and more colorful than just your average jock-looking archetype. I suppose that says something about not being too quick to swipe on Tinder, but as my friends will make fun of, I’m extremely guilty of that.

In the sea of Kims and Ciries, I absolutely love that Ryan said he’d play most like RUPERT. That means he absolutely will not win, but I love that that’s who he’d most like to emulate, being the provider and challenge beast for his tribe. That should make for an easy pre-merge for Ryan but a rough post-merge. New School Survivor isn’t all about voting out the physical threats at the start of the merge anymore, and Ryan looks to be a likable guy to make it through those early merge votes, but as someone who’s both friendly and physical, he’ll face a massive hurdle getting to the end and winning. I like Ryan though, and I think his story is super inspiring, having a very hard start to life with a series of medical issues, so I’m rooting for him, and not just because I’m a narcissist. With the exception of Ryno, I’ve hated the Ryans on the show before, so I’m hoping this one can be a game changer.




Justine Brennan

Is anyone else getting original Pink Power Ranger vibes from Justine? That, or some Jessica Alba. She may have been typecasted as the season’s “hot girl from California,” but there’s definitely a lot more than meets the eye with Justine. I like how she acknowledged that she can look like a girly-girl, but she can also get down and dirty with the boys on the dirt bike trail. Her work in sales will also give her the edge to talk her way into deals or just in general sell herself to those around her.

I could definitely see Justine warming up to Cody and Noelle as fellow athletes, and before listening to her interview, I didn’t know she’d fit into this category, but this just further cements Vesi as a physical powerhouse tribe. I’m looking at Baka like … where was the balance? However, if Vesi dominates the pre-merge, that will make them prime targets at the merge and “earn the merge” votes. At that point, I could see Dwight and Jesse being more adaptable at acclimating into the other tribes while Cody, Noelle, and Justine will be targets. We’re not sure how the “earn the merge” twist will work without the hourglass, but if Cody and Noelle win their “tribe” immunity, then Justine may be left to take the bullet.

Does this mean I should swipe left because I don’t think Justine will technically make the merge? Or do I give her a pity swipe right because, to me, that final twelve twist is just another way to do the merge? I’m feeling nice, so I’m going to say it’s a swipe right for me because if Justine otherwise goes one way or the other, I think she’ll go the further route, so I’ll be Justine-fied in my swipe right.



Sad Kat Edorsson

Well, that’s that on all the available prospects! To recap, I turned down Gabler, Jeanine, Geo, Cassidy, Lindsay, and Nneka as pre-mergers, with Justine as a close call there, too. Members of the merge/jury would include Cody, Noelle, Sami, Ryan, Dwight, Owen, Morriah, and James. My “super like” standouts were Karla, Elie, and Jesse, with Elie I think likeliest of all to take the title of Sole Survivor.

I looked back at 41, and of my 7 swipes left, only 2 actually ended up voted out before the merge which means almost half of my merge picks didn’t make it, so my history with this is not THE BEST, but maybe something will be different this time. That’s what I always tell myself when it comes to Tinder, at least ….

Morriah shrugs

^Reality being like “lol whatever you say!”

Ryan KaiserRyan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser