Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 44 recaps/ analysis
Oh frontrunner, where art thou?
By Damnbueno | Published: May 4, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 10 recap/ analysis

Oh frontrunner, where art thou?

We’ve completed three seasons of the 26-day “new era” of Survivor, and in each one of them, we had no idea who the eventual winner would be as we entered the final 8. At this point in those seasons, nobody was predicting a win for Erika, Maryanne or Gabler. In fact, many people (myself included) thought Maryanne and Gabler had already eliminated themselves simply by being too annoying.

Other players like Ricard, Shantel, Omar, Lindsay, Jesse and Karla all appeared to be playing much stronger games, and each of them – to varying degrees – had kept their threat level reasonably low. In fact, of the players I named, when they reached final 8, they received a collective one vote against them. Ricard got a vote from Genie when their original Ua tribe had been reduced to three members.

But this season seems to be a little different in that none of these players appear to be playing much better or worse than anyone else. Danny and Frannie have done the best in challenges so far, and both have seen their name written down. Bruce, Brandon and Yam Yam were all called “leaders” by other players (Yam Yam twice). Yam Yam is the only one remaining, and he’s seen his name written down 5 times. Heidi has played a fairly stealth game, yet last week she took the lead in targeting Kane. Then she saw her name written down 3 times. Frannie voted for Jaime last week – her reasoning is still unclear. Kane voted for Danny last week too, presumably as part of the Soka/Ratu battle.

So that leaves Carolyn, Carson and Lauren as the only players who haven’t seen Probst holding up their name on a parchment. Does that mean one of them will win this season? It’s not a guarantee at all. Maryanne saw her name written down at the merge, and might have been voted out had it not been for Omar’s maneuvering. Erika saw her name twice at final 8, but her social contacts made her aware of a plot to split votes between her and Shantel. Erika’s best move of the season was convincing others to make Liana the plan B target instead of her. Only Shantel and Liana voted for Erika. Erika guaranteed her own safety and demonstrated some agency in the game too. Only Shantel and Liana voted for Erika. Gabler never saw his name written down until the Final Tribal Council.

I have one statistical note from an earlier column. When Danny saved Frannie with an Idol, he saved her from being booted because his play negated 6 votes. Without his Idol, she’d be gone now. Nobody who has been saved by an Idol played for them by someone else has gone on to win the game. However, there are two players who saved an alliance partner with an Idol who went on to win the game. Jeremy won in Cambodia after saving Stephen, and Natalie Anderson won San Juan del Sur won the game after saving Jaclyn. Winners Tony, Adam and Wendell also played Idols for a partner, but that partner didn’t receive a majority of the votes, therefore wasn’t saved from the vote. Is that good news for Danny? Maybe, maybe not. Seven other players saved an ally with an Idol and didn’t make it to Final Tribal Council – most recently Kellee Kim who saved Dean just before the merge in Island of the Idols.

I doubt Heidi or Carolyn would play their Idols for someone else, but we’ve seen stranger things on this show.

And away we go ....

Ahh, Frannie was left out of the loop last week. That’s bad news for Frannie. Either she reorganizes her alliance and scoops up Jamie and Lauren, or she waits until she gets clipped very soon.

Frannie and Danny

If Frannie was there when Carolyn and Lauren both said they didn’t know the plan, those should be the first two she talks to.

Carson to Jaime: “Kane told me about your Idol.” Jaime: “That makes me not trust Kane.” Wow, that Jaime is quick to pick up on things. I don’t think she should rely on Kane while he’s sitting on the Jury either.

Jaime: “I either need to come clean, or find another Idol.” I say keep your mouth shut AND look for another Idol. Trying to convince people you don’t have an Idol is a bad idea. Just ask Matt Bischoff from Caramoan.


Ho hum, another challenge we’ve seen before. This is the one where Noelle made her massive comeback last season. But instead of tossing sandbags on a perch, they’re tossing balls. We’ve seen the last part of this challenge 5 times before.

Probst: “Virgin Margaritas if anyone is under 21. Worth playing for?” NOPE!

Shocker, Danny does a somersault over the net.

Another shocker. Danny and Frannie are way out in front. If ever there was a time for Frannie to tank a challenge, this is it. Everyone (but maybe Danny) thinks you can win every challenge. You’re better off if they think they can beat you.

Frannie and Danny, again

Carson is in dead last, and doesn’t appear to be trying at all. In a Reward challenge, that’s the smart move, as long as nobody sees you goofing off.

Frannie wins again and blows everyone away. Nobody else landed a single ball. She really wants to be voted out next, doesn’t she?

Right about now, Frannie realizes what a big mistake she just made. Now she has to deny people messages from their loved ones. Picking Heidi was a no-brainer here. How can she pick Carolyn because of her kids, then deny Heidi? At least she took one person from each original tribe.

Frannie's decision

Only 6 people have won both the Loved Ones Reward Challenge and the million – Tina, Brian, Bob, Mike, Nick and Tommy. However, loved ones weren’t present when Tina and Brian won. Bob got to bring everyone’s loved ones to camp, Mike’s win came with an advantage in the next Immunity Challenge, and Nick and Tommy won the challenge with partners (Angelina & Janet), so they could share the “blame” of leaving others behind. Because of COVID, this season’s players knew their loved ones wouldn’t be on location, but just the same, you shouldn’t want to be the person telling others “no.” Its better to be chosen to come along than to be the one doing the choosing.

Frannie in confessional: “Its simple Survivor strategy. Take out the person who could win every challenge.” That’s why you shouldn’t win a lot of challenges – especially the early merge challenges.

Yam Yam’s pouting is a bad look (for him and Frannie), even if he’s sincerely hurt. The others know he’s taking the game too personally. Can’t he see that Carson, Jaime and Danny aren’t taking it as hard as he is?

Jaime and Yam Yam

And just like that, Danny wants Frannie, his biggest challenge competition, gone.

Carson thinks now is the first time Frannie’s been on the voting radar? Did he not see Danny’s Idol negating 6 votes? That was only two days ago.

I wonder if Carolyn drank a Virgin Margarita? Didn’t she just celebrate 13 years sober?

Carolyn: “I don’t want to vote Frannie out now.” Is it possible Carolyn will play her Idol for Frannie?

And the women want Danny gone in part for being so good at challenges. What a shocker.

Good for Heidi for telling people she’s not just Danny’s pocket vote. But now she has to back it up with action.

Jaime, if you’re gonna tell the truth about losing your Idol, don’t smile while you’re doing it.

Jaime, smiling

Jaime: “The truth shall set you free.” But in Survivor, it will get you voted out. I know I always say “Never tell people when you have an Idol,” but you shouldn’t go telling people you don’t have one either. I think Jaime just got herself voted out.

We’ve seen every part of this Immunity Challenge too ... except for the part where they drag a buoy with their mouths. We’re gonna have a lot of sandy mouths after this one.

Danny even does somersaults when his hands and feet are tied together.

Danny, rolling

Did anybody think of hopping on their knees through this one? Why do I think Jack Black would be great at this challenge?

Carson’s hands were free before he reached the mat.

I wonder how many times Carson practiced that Star Puzzle? We’ve seen that several times, the first time being in Vanuatu, and most recently in Survivor 41.

There goes Probst reminding everybody how much Frannie has won so far. That’s another reason Frannie should have tanked the Reward Challenge. If you win a lot, Probst will keep reminding people of it.

Probst blabbing

Carson wins. Knowing how much he has practiced Survivor puzzles took the fun out of watching this challenge for me. But once again, Probst’s commentary made it sound closer than it actually was. He told us Frannie was close, but it didn’t look like she was in this one at all.

Carson's puzzle'

Carolyn: “I want Danny gone.” Nobody listens to her again, and they go for Carson’s split vote plan.

Carson to Yam Yam: “I want you, me and Carolyn to be the closest to each other.” Then why aren’t you also talking to Carolyn here?

Yam Yam: “Carolyn gets really annoyed when she’s not included in stuff.” I sense the boys are about to make a big mistake.

Danny: “Everybody’s voting Frannie. We don’t even need you as a number ... you wanna win the game, you gotta do it.” He just gave Heidi an order, instead of including her in the decision-making process. Danny’s social game gets worse with every episode.

Danny and Heidi

Pissed off Heidi tells Carolyn and Carson that Frannie is the target. Now Carolyn knows she can save Frannie. Danny obviously didn’t learn his lesson about giving info to Heidi too early.

Carolyn, Carson, Heidi

And now Carolyn has told Frannie about Danny’s plan.

Look at Carolyn spreading the word about the plan to boot Heidi. If this happens, she might be able to own this vote, even though it was Lauren’s idea. Carolyn could even say she was flexible enough to switch her target from Danny to Heidi, and wasn’t playing emotionally.

If Heidi goes, I think it will be in part because of her habit of getting everyone’s opinions before making her decision. Everybody doesn’t need to know what your plan is. In fact, some jurors appreciate your ability to fool them.

Once again, Carolyn is sitting in front.

Carolyn, front row

Probst: “Is it better to be chosen to go on a Reward?” Has Probst been reading my column?

“Full tilt boogie?“ “Club Condo?” I’m as confused as Matt and Kane are on this one.

Club Condo?

Jaime: “My Idol left with Kane.” Everyone looks at Kane. Apparently, Jaime doesn’t know the jurors are instructed not to react while watching Tribal Council.

Please stop looking at me

I think I’m watching Jaime talking herself out of the game (if that decision hadn’t already been made).

Heidi: “If you say the wrong thing, you could go home.” But what happens when 4 people say the wrong thing? Does the wrongest (wrongier, ronger? Kaoh Rongier) person get booted?

Frannie is gone. So much for Carolyn’s efforts. Carolyn is showing how pissed off she is ... in front of the jury too. Why not just hold up a sign that says “I’m no good at this game?”

Carson: Sorry

Frannie returning Carolyn’s belt could be a good sign. Frannie is very open to voting for Carolyn. She’ll also have a strong influence on Matt B.’s jury vote. I don’t know if Frannie was a frontrunner, but most of the players knew she was playing a pretty good game. They’re more likely to listen to her than any other present juror.

And Danny is smirking again. He thinks he swung this vote for sure. His cockiness will catch up to him.


I saw Frannie as a very sharp player, but she made two very clear mistakes in becoming an obvious duo with Matt B., and in doing so well in challenges. After winning the first Individual Immunity Challenge, it would have served her much better to go out in the middle of the pack in the second one. And she had no business at all winning ANY Reward challenge so soon. People want to remove the player they think they can’t beat for Immunity. A big fan like Frannie should have known that. She also appeared to be getting too close to Carolyn. She created a lot of reasons to want her gone.

Heidi walked it like she talked it by voting for Danny. Something tells me she won’t get much flak from Danny either. He might just assume Frannie voted for him. I like that she’s trying to publicly own her game though.

I think Jaime has a fundamental disconnect from the other players in this game. Her thoughts just don’t match everyone else’s. Her confidence in this game came from having an Idol – that she didn’t know was a phony.

Carson is making the right moves, but isn’t owning any of them. Then again, neither did Erika, Maryanne or Gabler. Then again, again, the only one trying to publicly own moves is Danny, and he’s probably the next most likely to get booted.

What do you think? Should Frannie have tanked this Reward Challenge? Should she have tanked the second Individual Immunity Challenge? Is anybody in the driver’s seat this season? It feels like Carolyn already has a seat in the finals locked up, but can she talk her way into a win? Let me know in the comments.

damnbuenoDamnbueno 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.