Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor 43 recaps
Two heads for the price of one
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: November 18, 2022
Survivor 43 Episode 9 recap/ analysis

Two heads for the price of one

Did we…finally get kind of a shake-up this season? “The seven” can only come back together next week as “the five” at best, which is highly possible/probable, but at least I got my wish this week of them taking a hit without it being on more women. Even if the 5-5 split wasn’t exactly the “twist” Jeff said it was, considering it’s now 3 for 3 on appearances in the new era, I’m glad it made for at least one move that I doubt would’ve happened without it.


Not the godfather

Returning to camp after tribal council, Sami summarized that Jeanine was the one everyone wanted out because it was the easy vote – we knew this, of course, but it still was disappointing to be confirmed that it all happened because it was “easy” and not for any other exciting reason.

Owen was upset because once again he was left out of the vote, only filled in last-minute by Gabler. Imagine that low blow to the balls – Gabler getting the gossip before you do. That’s when you know you’re the lowest of the low on the totem pole. Out of nowhere, meaning that this was going to be an important story this episode, Owen complained about James’s “godfather” wannabe persona and that it was time for him to go.

Nothing so far about James had said “godfather” to me this season which makes me wonder whether Owen was just exaggerating or if the editors were bad storytellers – obviously, my money’s on it being the latter. It goes back to showing vs. telling. Sure, we can guess Owen’s claim has merit, but it’d be nice if we’d seen more of James being kind of a power-mad jackass or – GOD FORBID – he was portrayed as an actual villain Owen said he was.

It reminded me of when Kelly Wiglesworth was suddenly some super social threat in Second Chance after we hardly heard from her at all that whole season. What happened at the end of that episode? Kelly got voted out for being said threat. It was lazy editing at its finest – a narrative being inserted at the eleventh hour to quickly and conveniently explain the episode’s outcome. That’s all I needed to see to correctly pin James as one of the night’s two boots, so my interest then became who’d be joining him.


What about the big girls

The highlight of the episode for me was when we were welcomed to the challenge by what might possibly be the worst British(?) accent ever to be heard on the show or ever to be heard period. We certainly haven’t heard one that questionable since this guy graced us on Gabon:

Ace Gordon, S17

After the dust settled on that dismal delivery, Jeff revealed to the tribe that there was a “twist” to this challenge. I use quotation marks because this is now the third time in a row we’ve seen it precisely at Final 10, so a real twist would’ve been a standard 10-person tribal council, but I guess Jeff is still trying to compete with Allison Grodner for “most twists in a single season,” so he’s got to count as much as he can.

What Jeff also should’ve air-quoted was the “reward” of not peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but do-it-yourself peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The crew can’t even be bothered to prep the rewards anymore – they just throw some bread and spread at the players and let ‘em have at it. I wonder if they were even given a knife or if they were just expected to use their dirty fingers. I look forward to one of next season’s rewards being DIY pizza – the winners will get some wheat, tomatoes, and a live cow and be told they have the rest of the afternoon to make as many delicious pies as they want. To be honest, they’d still probably end up with something better than that nasty-ass pizza we’ve seen lately. PETA may have something to say about how they get the meat and cheese, however.

Linda drinking blood, S3

Or the blood for the dessert smoothies.

I’ve gone down a rabbit hole which is probably what happens in most of these “stand there and hold something in the air for a long time” challenges. When it was down to just a few, Gabler dedicated the next minute to the “big boys” that remained to which I’m proud of Karla for rebutting to ask, “What about the big girls, huh?” Like let’s just otherwise celebrate the trend this season that women are less important than men!

Karla’s win, especially after that, was awesome and equally heartwarming was Cody’s as I’m sure he finally felt redemption from that one wrestling match in high school. Karla left the beach speaking on the “power of believing and trusting in me” – a beautifully powerful message! Someone should put that on a giant banner.

Believe in yourself, S6

We love banner!


Anybody want a papaya?

People sure lose their shit around unripe papaya, huh?

The “losers” or the ones that didn’t get to serve themselves sandwiches returned to the old Vesi (/Vati/Yase/Sele/etc.) camp. This was Owen, Sami, Noelle, James, and Karla – a combo quite well-equipped to create a not-so-simple vote. Karla and James were tightly aligned and Owen and Noelle had been working together out of necessity from being on the bottom which left Sami in the middle. This was the guy who’s been saying the last several weeks that he’s wanted to make a move but hasn’t had the numbers, so now was his time to make the math happen!

Owen tried to make amends with James but was given the same attitude as before, starting what I think is like the second argument of the season. EXCITING! They tried settling their differences at the water well but ended up coming back to camp literally up-in-arms to cause quite the awkward commotion (see screenshot above). Poor Noelle tried to maintain peace with the passing around of papaya, but there was a time and a place for that and it wasn’t this moment. Without saying it out loud, Owen and James essentially announced they’d be voting for each other, giving Noelle a major window of opportunity.

Noelle: So I steal his vote

On the surface, Noelle’s idea sounded silly. Why not just steal James’s vote if she, Owen, and Sami wanted to get rid of James? Why even steal a vote at all if they already had a 3-2 majority? Well, you, see, in the new era of Survivor, there’s so much random shit in play at tribal council that you need to come up with several contingency plans.

It was all to smokescreen James into thinking he was safe enough to not play his Shot in the Dark. Noelle thought that if James saw her steal Owen’s vote, that would signify she was with him – a pretty brilliant plan. I think the same result could’ve been achieved with Noelle getting to hold onto her steal-a-vote, but in the end, I was happy to see it used in a successful, strategic way.

Of course, this all assumed Sami was on board with Owen and Noelle. We had no reason to believe he wasn’t until, out of nowhere, he told us that Karla’s opinion mattered to him more than anyone else’s so he told her everything. As a Karla stan, I understood immediately, but from Sami’s perspective, I thought, “Huh?”

Once again, storytelling had failed us and Sami joined Jesse with having this unannounced, undying loyalty to an alliance with Karla. Sami, thus, filled Karla in on the plan to vote out James so the two could deliberate on what to do. To quickly recap: first it was Noelle in the driver’s seat, able to use her advantage against James and just vote with Owen to get rid of him, then she gave up that power to Sami as the critical swing vote, but in the end, it was all Karla’s decision because Sami wasn’t going to do make any move without Karla’s blessing, apparently. Her power, y’all. Who’s the real godfather this season? It’s Karla.



Three-headed hydra

That was the face I was making while watching Gabler and Ryan talk strategy. Like, okay, great, but can we switch to the actual people who will be making the decision on this other beach and not these two boneheads?

Gabler called Karla, James, and Cassidy the “three-headed Hydra” that had been running things and attempted to convince Cody that Cassidy needed to go in order to weaken that trio. Gabler was evidently not an expert in Greek mythology or else he’d have realized what a terrible analogy that was – when one of the Hydra’s heads is cut off, it only sprouts more, making it more powerful. Good job, Gabler.

Gabler vs. hydra

I got very concerned when, after Cassidy’s pitch to Cody and James about voting for Ryan, the show gave us her little personal package in which she shared about her late sister whose ashes she carries in her necklace – rather than going “oh yeah, she does that” when she told us why she sometimes is kissing it, I wish we’d have learned this weeks ago so we could’ve picked up on it every time it happened. Now I almost want to go back to find the Easter eggs, but a 43 rewatch this soon? I’ll pass.

Back to the lazy/convenience-driven storytelling, this seemed like the perfect set-up for Cassidy to go home and predictably fell to Cody and Jesse to decide what to do. They recognized the same concern Karla voiced to Sami during his pitch – how one half of the tribe voted would have repercussions once they were all merged again. Jesse said that only if James was sitting on the jury would it be a good idea to vote out Cassidy; otherwise, they’d be pissing off both Karla and James at the re-merge. This only heightened my fears of a Cassidy boot once we saw what happened at the first tribal council. I also feared this thing:

Cody to Gabler: I want to trust you 100%

I don’t know what damage this will do, but this could end up the reason Karla doesn’t win. Gabler’s got to be considered a goat at this point, so Cody and Jesse would be sharp to swoop him up and take him to the end. With Ryan, they could’ve been a powerhouse foursome that rode it out all the way, so I’m glad it won’t be that easy, at least. I just hope Karla sees this bro-lliance as trouble and considers taking one of them out (preferably Gabler) before Jesse and Cody just run away with this thing.


Too much testosterone

Noelle spoke the truth on that – “too much testosterone” lately. This vote went perfectly according to script – I thought maybe there was a chance Sami agreed to vote out Owen and James could’ve used his advantage to steal Noelle’s, but as soon as Noelle set the stage with her play, we all knew it was curtains for James.

His exit was overdramatically bitter with his, “see how far y’all get now” line. Who was he talking to? 3 out of these 4 people weren’t in his endgame plans. Their response should’ve been, “Thanks! We’ll get farther now that you’re not here!”

Cool beans, James snuffed

“Cool beans.”

James didn’t particularly do much for me this season, but apparently he did a lot we didn’t see, if he was accused of calling all the shots. If that was the perception, then it means it was reality in the game, so while this is a loss of an ally for Karla, it may be a win for her overall. James will get to join the jury and sing her praises in that gravelly voice we’ve grown to love!


Back in the belly of the beast

Ryan really thought those 30 pounds of clams in his bag was going to be his ticket through this tribal council, huh? He should’ve asked Ozzy or Rupert just how important being the “provider” is when it comes to winning Survivor. Ryan only got to leave with a bag of some smelly souvenirs, though I bet he got off on withholding all that protein from the people that voted him out.

Lucille Bluth: No, I'm not withholding it

Look at me getting off!

And so ends Cassidy’s revenge? Was this really that big of a rivalry? Cassidy and Ryan tried to get rid of each other a few times, so I guess it’s as close we get to “rivals” these days. What a gripping rollercoaster ride.

Ryan snuffed

Oh, Ryan, you beautiful, himbo musk ox (or some other Leslie Knope-ism). He was too old school for these new school gamers that ran circles around him strategically, but I like that because it brought balance. A major gripe of mine recently has been too many game-bots, and Ryan was anything but that. With so much game in so little time, not enough of the episodes are spent on the simpler things like just a nice guy who loves to provide for his tribe. Typing that out, though, that’s not the Survivor I want either, so I guess I really just will never be satisfied – not until Scout and Twila return for Blood vs. Water III.


Next time

I was talking with another friend about this, but is every “Next time on Survivor...” now just a bunch of people repeating everyone’s names? Players be playing the game – WHAT A HOOK! There’s always some small truth to the snippets, though, and it appears that Jesse and Cody could finally be on the chopping block for the strong duo that they are. However, Jesse still is holding onto both Jeanine and Cody’s idols (according to the chyron) soooo ... unless the blindside is executed perfectly, I don’t expect either to go, especially since no one is good at keeping secrets in this game anymore.

Players of the week


Noelle – New school players just can’t lie like the old ones – I still think Noelle could’ve kept her advantage and convinced James he was safe, but I award an A+ for the creativity of her move even if a little unnecessary. She said she wanted to make a move and she made it, and when so many people often talk about wanting to make a big move but never do it, well hot damn did we finally get one to celebrate! This won’t win Noelle the game, as we clearly saw that Sami and Karla still had the control in the vote, but good on Noelle for putting her money where her mouth is. Watch this make her a threat next week and get her voted out ....

Owen – Rather than just bitching about James behind his back, Owen confronted him and made for a big highlight of the episode. James had definitely disregarded Owen in the game, and Owen was tired of it so he stood up for himself and ultimately helped off the “godfather.” Rarely do we see people go to blows any more, and while it was no chicken fight, I’m glad Owen was bold enough to cause a scene that helped shift the sway of the votes this week.

Karla – They keep showing us how much Karla is killing it at this game which means it’s only going to kill me harder if she doesn’t win it. Her immunity win was so great this week with the body positivity message that came along with it and the sheer joy on her face when she realized she beat the boys. I’ve loved every minute of her journey this season and the confidence we’ve seen emerge more and more from her as she runs this game like a mafia boss – everyone coming to her for permission to make moves. If James was a threat to her winning, then all she has left in her way, I think, is Jesse. If she can get rid of him, then her win should be inevitable as I think those are the only two major contenders at this point. I hope this fantasy of mine becomes reality because Karla winning everything just looks correct to me – and good on her.


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