Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 44 recaps/ analysis
Final nine is divine ... I hope
By Damnbueno | Published: April 27, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 9 recap/ analysis

Final nine is divine ... I hope

We have what I think is a unique situation entering this episode. All 3 original tribes have 3 members left. None of the 3 tribes seem completely united either. On Tika, Carolyn left Yam Yam out of the loop once, and Carson was swapped to Ratu where he had a chance to make new allies. On Ratu, Jaime was swapped away for a while, and Kane got very close to Carson, who has already tried to save Kane when his name was being floated around. And on Soka, Heidi exposed Danny's plan to play his Idol to others, and he wasn't happy about it. And Danny played that Idol for Frannie - who had earlier agreed to a plan to remove Danny.

On top of that, there isn't any single player quietly pulling the strings like Jesse last season, Omar in Season 42, or Ricard in Season 41. There's only one active Idol in the game, but it's being held by Carolyn, who has largely been dismissed as inconsequential by most of the players. And Lauren still has an Extra Vote ... I think. This season is ripe for surprises (if the Producers let the players do the surprising, that is).

Prior to the addition of the final 4 fire making challenge in HHH, the most pivotal vote in many seasons came at final 7. That was a point when one player could shift the balance of power, or solidify alliance loyalties for the rest of the game. Memorable examples here include Rob Cesternino's blindside of Alex in The Amazon, Chris Daugherty's blindside on Leann in Vanuatu (with an assist from Twila), Todd Herzog's blindside on James while James was holding 2 Idols in China, and Sabrina Thompson's blindside on Kat in One World.

But we haven't had as many memorable moments at final 9, mostly because of Producer intervention. In David vs Goliath, the Davids had fought their way to a 5-4 edge, then turned the tables on one of their own with a blindside on Carl. And in Island of the Idols, we saw the season's most likable player Elaine voted out. But that's about it. Since then, Producers forced the action with twists (Do or Die, Choose Your Champion), or split Tribal Councils.

So since nobody in this season's cast has strategic control, is playing a standout stealth game, or physically dominating the challenges, its almost impossible to identify a frontrunner or a goat.

I for one can't wait to see how it all plays out ... if it's ok with the Producers that is.

And away we go ....

Jaime on Danny's Idol play: "That was the most boss move ever." She may as well have said "Everybody go after Danny now."

Yam Yam is chilling with the Ratu crew. Is he sincere? I'd really like confirmation that Lauren still has her Extra Vote.

Yam Yam and Ratu

Yam Yam confessional: "I'm playing both sides. I'm James Bond. Write my name down and you won't get away with it." Does Yam Yam really think these people are gone because of him? Does he really think James Bond played both sides? Does he really think Bond goes by "Double Oh Zero?"

Kane: "I think Yam Yam is our new leader." Uh-oh, Yam Yam just got labeled a "leader." They usually go out in the 8-11 range.

That's one hell of a scrape on Kane's elbow. A continuity freak like me will pay attention to that to see if they're showing scenes out of sequence.

Kane's elbow

Kane: "Danny's gonna keep his foot on the gas until somebody rips him out of the car." Good analogy, Kane.

Danny: "This game isn't won playing a comfortable game." Unless your name is Gabler, Maryanne, Erika, Sarah, Michele, Jeremy, Tyson, Kim, Earl, Sophie, Boston Rob, Natalie White, Todd, Tom, Amber, Jenna, Ethan, Tina or Rich. I think a primary goal for any Survivor player is to make the game as obstacle-free as possible for yourself.

Danny: "I'm trying to be subtle." You've never been subtle, dude. I think the game Danny thinks he's playing is nowhere near the game the other players are seeing him playing.

Jaime: "I still have my Idol, I still have my Idol! How do I still have my Idol?" I almost forgot she was one of the crazy ones. Jaime, you still have your Idol because nobody considers you a threat to win.


How are these people not keeping a constant eye on Danny as he's Idol hunting?

Heidi gets the Idol. I'm glad this Idol didn't find Danny. If he'd found it, I'd be screaming "Ben again!" more often than Jamie says she's still got an Idol.

Heidi and her idol

Heidi: "I'm not gonna tell anyone I have an Idol." I'll say she's 50/50 on this. She knows first hand when someone knows you have an Idol, they usually tell someone else, then they try to flush it out. She just did that to Danny. But Heidi has made a point of asking everyone around her what she should do. I don't think there's any way she'll keep her mouth shut about this.

Yam Yam is a very good Social player this season. He keeps people entertained during down time. That's the sort of thing that makes people want to keep you around longer. It can buy Yam Yam time to size up everyone's voting criteria too. But Carson has done a better job of gathering that kind of information, and knowing what to do with it.

Carolyn: "My favorite part of the game is when we're not playing the game." Uhh, ok.

Carolyn does a lot better in smaller groups of people. That makes me think she might crumble when being questioned by a large Jury if she gives a bad answer. But if she's sitting next to people who've pissed off the Jury, it won't matter.

Carolyn story hour

Frannie: "I love Carolyn. She's so herself." Frannie just gave the reason people won't want Carolyn in the finals.

Carolyn: "I can't control how people look at me. I want people to think I don't know what I'm doing." Hmm ... those who've played the best games of Survivor are very good at controlling how they're perceived. Tony did a decent job of it in Cagayan, then put on a master class of image management in Winners At War. Chris Daugherty (Vanuatu) and Natalie Anderson (San Juan del Sur) were excellent at it too. And in Cambodia, Jeremy did a great job of addressing his intimidating "Challenge beast Firefighter with kids" reputation, and became the most trusted, and least threatening player that season. But at some point - hopefully before Final Tribal Council - Carolyn will need to convince people she knows what she's doing. Does she have a plan for that?

Carolyn should give Matt G. a lesson on how to climb a rock safely.

Carolyn and Yam Yam, tempting fate

Carson: "We're starving." I've got a bad feeling now. I see a split squad "play for rice" challenge coming.

Treemail confirms it. Dammit!

Danny: "We're 3-3-3. Let's be the season that says 'We're players.'" Even if he's right, Danny probably shouldn't force an agenda on anyone.

Danny three-fingers

Danny: "I won't vote for the sitout." I don't think anybody believes him. Lauren doesn't believe him, that's for sure.

Lauren's BS-detection face

Heidi asks everyone if she should sit out before announcing she's sitting out. Rob C. says this all the time (and I agree with him), "Favors aren't returned on Survivor."

Four people sit out, and all I'm thinking now is the Producers will give them all Immunity, ruining this final 9 vote. Five people Immune would totally suck.

Are these contraptions adjusted for each person's height? They should be. Either the block they're standing on should be different, or the length of wood they have to pin the ball against should be adjusted. If they're not, the taller people have an advantage because they don't have to extend their arms as high. (Writer's note: I went back and noticed the platforms under each player's block were different sizes. So they WERE adjusted for height).

The IC

It comes down to Danny and Frannie again. The targets on their backs are getting bigger. Frannie is able to bend her arms a little (so could Carolyn). It doesn't look like Danny can do that at all.

I love this intensity on Frannie.

Intense Frannie

Heidi targets Kane. She's not aware Carson won't be cool with that. I'm surprised Danny didn't speak up first. But in confessional, she says "He's a big guy, so he can do challenges well." Is she aware he hasn't really done very well yet? Carson is smart to say he's cool with this plan, even if he isn't.

Carson wants to flush Jaime's Idol? I thought he knew hers was a phony. Didn't Matt G. tell him that after the swap?

Jaime wants a split between Danny and Heidi. She's still playing a team game.

Kane joins the group, and everyone but Carson goes silent. That silence can expose a plan sometimes, but Carson did a great job of making Kane feel included.

The Ratus and Tikas

Lauren: "And my Extra Vote." Confirmation.

Kane: "People are scared of Knowledge Is Power." KIP is functioning like the fear of a rock draw. If affects people's decisions even when its not around. I bet Probst loves this, and that means KIP will probably stick around.

Jaime passes her Idol to Kane. Will we get a repeat of last season when Dwight left while holding Jeanine's Idol, but this time with a phony?

Frannie is smart to recognize the threat Tika represents.

Danny is sounding like Pilot Terry in Panama. His mantra was "If its not MY plan, its a bad plan."

Your plan is illogical

Did Danny just smack himself on the thigh with the machete handle? That could have been a lot worse.

Carson: "The 3 Stooges are running this game." As Sandra would say "I don't know about thaaaaaat." They're in the middle, but they're not choosing any of the targets. If Carson tries to take credit for something at Final Tribal Council, he could be as surprised as Cassidy was last season when someone corrects him.

They're heading to Tribal Council at the 40 minute mark instead of the 50 minute mark. I'm getting excited now. Tribal Council should be fun. I just hope they give us captions if they all start whispering.

Carolyn is sitting in front again. Being in front is normally a disadvantage, but since she wears her emotions on her face, its an advantage for her.

Tribal seating

Danny: "Ok, you can't eat, but the other 8 can. Will you still sit out? You'll get nobody." Kane: "I don't know if I agree with that." I don't agree with it either. I think this has happened several times. This is part of why Rob C. says "Favors aren't returned in Survivor." In Guatemala, Jamie gave up food, and they voted him out one vote later.

Jaime: "It tells you a lot about how that person is playing the game." Danny: "Agree to disagree." I hate "Agree to disagree. Its a cop-out reply, even in Survivor.

Smirking Danny

Lauren gestures towards Heidi as she says "Who has lied to me." I love that Heidi owned it, and called Lauren out on it.

I have no idea who's leaving tonight, and I love it.

Carolyn: "And now we're whispering."

The whispering

Yam Yam: "I want some subtitles." Ok, now I love this guy! THANK YOU EDITORS!

Nobody's whispering to Danny or Heidi except Danny and Heidi.

There's a lot of dancing in the voting booth tonight.

Dancing Danny

Kane: "Enjoy your rice, you bitches!" I'll let it sink in, but that exit might compete with Judd's "I hope you all get bit by a crocodile, scumbags" exit from Guatemala as one of the greatest. I have a sentimental place in my heart for Judd though.


So Heidi made the call for this hit on Kane. I have to admit, I was surprised to see her being so decisive. I didn't think she had it in her. This was a good episode for her. But it was a bad episode for Danny. He even tried to reuse the drivers/passengers metaphor. He's starting to come off as a little condescending too, and everyone is noticing. Yeah, he was a dick at times tonight.

It looks like the Ratu crowd went with Jaime's plan to split the votes. But the fact that the Tika crew knew she regretted not splitting votes the last time probably killed this plan. Hmm ... how much more effective would Lauren's Extra Vote have been if she was the only one who knew she had it? She wouldn't have had to hand it off to Jaime and trust her with it, and she might have been able to swing one of the last two votes in her favor.

I thought for sure that Carson knew Jaime's Idol was a phony. Not having my transcript handy is killing me. I'll have to rewatch the swap episode now.

So I guess all of this season's phony Idols ended up amounting to nothing at all. I think its hilarious that one Producer-forced twist (Knowledge Is Power) ended up foiling another Producer-forced twist (Producer-made phony Idols). Maybe they'll figure this out and just let the players play. Yeah, I know they won't. That's just the optimist in me.

What do you think? Was Kane's exit line an all-time classic? Who are some of the other contenders besides Judd? Boston Rob was ultra bitter when he said "Coach, you're a little man." Its a litle early, but how about handicapping the jurors? Who do you think Brandon or Kane will vote for? Is there anyone they won't vote for? If Frannie isn't there, who will Matt B. vote for? 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.