Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor 44 recaps
What's up with the bitch face?
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: March 31, 2023
Survivor 44 Episode 5 recap/ analysis

What's up with the bitch face?

After the aggravating chaos and randomness of last week, I appreciated the narrowed focus of this episode as kind of a character study, primarily of the Tika tribe. While I could see some fans unsatisfied without the “finality” of tribal council, without that to eat up minutes and the journey this week taking the time to show us players actually getting to know each other (something promised on each journey this season but never shown), I left the night 100% satisfied. For once, the hour wasn’t driven by search and finds for advantages or idols, and instead, we zoomed in on what it’s like to live on a tense tribe of three with that drama intensified once there was the official, looming threat of a vote. THIS is the drama I want to see on the show – not a bunch of random shit that ends up making that plotting behind the votes pointless.


We've all been through wedgies

I did a double-take at Carson’s new look – it was like when my friend since kindergarten switched from glasses to contacts in high school and became like a whole new person.

During the short update from Ratu, Carson was shown to be making key connections within the tribe, first comforting Matthew whose struggle with shoulder pain had intensified followed by some nerding-out with Kane. Ironically while Carson and Kane bonded over being nerds and being victims of wedgies (Kane, at least), Carson’s stay at Ratu has actually been more like the popular new kid in school who everyone wants to be friends with.

Given Matthew’s fate, I’m not sure what his bond with Carson was meant to tell us other than that Carson is good at forming relationships (something he was successful at on Tika as well). This new connection with Kane could also be crucial as we head into “merge-atory” next week and the merge the week after that. If Carson wants to stick with original Tika, he could pick up Kane and the foursome could do some fierce damage together, targeting Ratu and Soka back and forth. Anything that will lead to a Carolyn victory is something I’d like to see.

I’d also like to see what Carson and Kane had to say about their favorite Pokémon! Kane asked the question and the audience was just left hanging on the answer! Kane’s is probably Aegislash or Sirfetch’d – something with a big sword, obviously. For Carson, I wouldn’t be surprised if he calls himself a “huge” Pokémon fan but then says his favorite is Charizard or Pikachu. LAME! As to not leave anyone hanging with my own answer, this majestic beauty is my fave:


If this season goes south, I’ll just scrap writing about each episode and turn this blog into a deep-dive analysis of who I think everyone’s favorite is.


High vibe tribe

It was an eye-opening evening for me to learn that I have been breathing wrong for all 30 years of my life and that I should have been using more of my diaphragm so it looks like an alien baby is going to burst out of my abdomen. Breathing, we learned, was the love of Danny’s life, behind only his wife and newborn daughter – a surprisingly sweet moment that helped make me come around even more to the “douche” I thought Danny would be before the season (until the scene at the Sanctuary ....)

Nothing else was really news at Soka – Jaime said she would’ve liked to start at Soka given the good energy she’d received in her short stay, but she wasn’t sold on Matt. She saw him as strategically way behind compared to everyone else, saying he should’ve been more interested in her since she was the important new person with all sorts of insider info on the tribe – a bit of a high opinion of herself to go with that “high vibe” of the tribe.

Jaime may not be as aware of things as she thinks because she chose to vent her Matt frustrations to Frannie, his ride or die, so I’m sure that will get back to Matt. We also finally got more from Frannie regarding that relationship, confirming that it wasn’t just one-sided infatuation with Frannie. However, to Jaime’s point, Frannie talked about it much more strategically and acknowledged that whatever was there could wait until after the game. I think Matt is thinking Frannie first, game second while Frannie has her eyes focused foremost on winning Survivor. I don’t think this is any knock against her character or her feelings for Matt, as I gather those feelings are genuine, but it makes me way more confident in Frannie to figure out how to not let Matt hurt her game while Matt is seems naively willing to let this Fran-ship hurt his.


I'm fine

No one ever says “I’m fine” and is actually fine.

The rest of the episode was mainly the Tika show, deservedly so with so much to unpack. Following the tribal council, Yam Yam felt betrayed by both Carolyn and Josh for being left out of the vote, especially by Carolyn who he had been working with closely up until this point, while Josh also felt betrayed by Yam Yam for having said he’d vote for Carolyn but ended up voting for Josh. Things were ... awkward. Josh described Yam Yam’s mood as, “like someone killed his dog.”

Yam Yam and Josh

Naturally, I loved this (the drama, not the dead dog mood). Everything about these feelings was genuine – the hurt, the betrayal. In a move of self-preservation, Yam Yam told Josh that he thought Carolyn was the most dangerous player in the game now and to not let her fool anyone. Carolyn’s own struggle became whether to patch things up with Yam Yam which is the way her heart wanted to go or move forward with Josh which she thought would be better for her game – I suppose hoping to use his connections to Soka to secure her other allies at the merge.

Josh couldn’t sit around and wait for the two OG Tikas to either make amends or not, so he set himself up with some security by telling Yam Yam that he had another idol, showing Yam Yam the same note he showed Carolyn. The note seemed legit to Yam Yam because, well, it was, but at the time, Josh did not share his arts and crafts project. Instead, he and Yam Yam had a heart-to-heart to share something outside the game.

Yam Yam and Josh

The best parts of this show happen in between “the game” and the coming out stories shared between Yam Yam and Josh here reminded us that so much more conversations take place on the island besides where the votes are going or where idols and advantages are located. I’m not sure we’d have had the time for this had we had to deal with a tribal, so that’s another reason why I didn’t mind the episode ending the way it did.

This scene showcased the complexities of the game of Survivor that make it what it is. Yam Yam and Josh were currently on opposite sides when it came to voting, but despite that, Josh admitted that he felt that because of this personal commonality with Yam Yam, their relationship was actually “deeper” than his was with Carolyn. Therefore, Yam Yam ended up the “heart” choice in an ally for both Carolyn and Josh, while the two were only each other’s “head” choice for the sake of the game.

We won’t 100% know what would’ve happened had Tika went to tribal council, but from what the episode showed, I think Yam Yam played the post-vote perfectly and did manage to make amends with both Josh and Carolyn to possibly put himself in the swing position instead of what looked to be Carolyn after the end of last week. That’s what added to the drama of this episode, though – we didn’t totally know! Each member of Tika presented their two options and discussed their dilemma, and we not only heard about it but we saw it, so we were able to put ourselves in their shoes and weigh the decisions ourselves.

That was fun! We were finally given enough context and story to do that and fully understand their positions, and finally I feel like I know the full dynamics of a tribe. Additionally, they mattered. Josh’s idol wasn’t real, and later that was made obvious to Yam Yam and Carolyn too, so the theoretical next vote would be entirely determined by these social intricacies. For that reason, I think it was a shame we didn’t see Tika at what could’ve been a very raw and open tribal council, but I appreciate, for once, that the edit was a little lopsided in favor of one tribe because this was one of the most fascinating dynamics we’ve had in the new era.


People like us

Go figure the best ever “journey” was the one where there was finally no advantage up for grabs and instead the players just got to sit and talk or, for some, put their feet in their mouths. I would much rather see this exact same scenario every week than a new, random chance mechanic hand out a different advantage every other week. 41 and 42 had some blend of this, but in 43 and 44, all focus was mainly on the advantages – the “time to get to know each other” has been blatantly cut. Having Carolyn, Danny, and Brandon simply chat not only gave us a great, comedic moment but set up some great potential for later in the game rather than some half-hearted “let’s work together at the merge” that never happens.

In an attempt to build trust, Carolyn immediately offered up the information that Josh was gifted an idol on his journey before the swap, letting Brandon and Danny know that Carson and Jaime likely had idols too. Immediately after that, Danny and Brandon broke off the conversation to talk about how amazing it was the two of them were able to come together and talk before merge, completely talking over Carolyn and removing her from the conversation. Rightfully so, Carolyn was not entertained.


Danny and Brandon made a pact right in front of Carolyn’s face to join forces, and it was so exclusionary that Carolyn literally had to ask, “Am I in on this?” to which Danny said of course but in about the least reassuring manner possible. Danny kept saying “you and I” and “people like us” in reference to Brandon and Danny being poor, misunderstood, alpha males who so often are treated unfairly in Survivor. Maybe people like “them” rarely win, but people like Carolyn rarely even make the merge anymore, so who’s the worse-off demographic in the new era?

The amount of emphasis placed on challenge strength continues, and while Brandon meant his remark to Carolyn to be a good thing about her not yet proving herself in challenges making her more enticing to take deep in the game, it still had the same backhanded compliment effect as when Yam Yam said it last week. It’s a marvel that Maryanne and Erika were able to win when you have more and more men like this making up the jury who immediately discredit a woman as a strong player because they lack strong arms and legs.

Carolyn was tipped off by Danny who said he wanted to bring in Josh to what would later be labeled the “meat brigade” – something Josh didn’t actually want to be a part of – so Carolyn said these two dudes better watch out for her at the merge, and frankly, I am so here for this revenge story of Carolyn destroying all the big bros who’ve made her feel small in this game.

Kill Bros

She said, “I don’t eat meat but I do on Survivor” so I’m ready for her to devour these two meatheads in particular.


Ticking time bomb

Back at Tika, while Carolyn was still away, Yam Yam and Josh discussed the vote and since they weren’t going to tell each other they were voting for themselves, they settled on Carolyn who Yam Yam said had been playing both sides and who Josh called a “ticking time bomb” (much to my dismay when “Tika time bomb” was right there ....)

Upon Carolyn’s return, she signaled to Yam Yam that she was good and that her target was Josh. While things had been off for this dynamic duo since the last vote, Yam Yam was relieved to see the “Carolyn I know” back after the journey.

That journey, however, raised some red flags. Since every one up to this point has involved some sort of risk and reward, Josh and Yam Yam assumed Carolyn had something but she swore up and down she didn’t – another frustrating choice by Production to set her up to never be believed since a chill day at the Sanctuary wasn’t something the players had ever seen before with the boat trips.

Josh felt it was then the appropriate time to share that he had another idol and proceeded to show the “bootleg” to both Yam Yam and Carolyn. Carolyn being the smart cookie that she is, and the one that Josh mistakenly missed her being, knew that the note with this “idol” was the same one Josh showed her before, signaling it wasn’t legitimate. As if that wasn't a big enough blunder for Josh, Yam Yam immediately recognized the beads as the ones that were at Tika’s treemail before they literally fell apart in Yam Yam’s hands. I’m sure it was hard to hold in laughs in that moment over just how bad of a performance this was on Josh’s part. I know I was laughing out loud.

Yam Yam laughing

Given the timing of the episode, it didn’t feel like we had enough time for a full tribal council, so it seemed apparent that the last we saw of Matthew after the challenge was the last we were going to see of him in the game, but had Tika voted, following recent developments, I’m pretty confident it would’ve been game over for Josh. The fake idol was an obviously desperate attempt to keep votes off himself, and after Carolyn and Yam Yam almost made out in the woods –

Yam Yam and Carolyn

I felt good that the band of misfits were back together. After Carolyn had also shared the “bro” talk from the day, Josh was worried that his name was now attached to “those” people and seemed like he had switched his allegiance from Carolyn to Yam Yam, fearing that Carolyn would come after him at the merge. That was exactly what Carolyn wanted, so from what we could see, Yam Yam had managed to put himself back on top of Tika. It was a wild two days for Tika and I think it would’ve been a fun, “live” tribal had we made it there, but when Jeff rode in on the boat (not as pretty as Cleopatra, but in his head, I’m sure he thought so) we knew what was happening.

So, Tika was spared another vote and while I thought Matthew was a great player and a great character, I’m kind of glad that Josh/Carolyn/Yam Yam dynamic that drove so much of this episode is still intact going into the pseudo-merge next week. That half-hearted hug of relief was hilarious given how true Carolyn’s words actually were and how much she was looking forward to voting out Josh.

I wanted to vote you out

The episode then ended with her line, “I don’t want nothin’ to do with you, Josh,” and that just felt so ominous that I really can’t wait to see what happens with this chaotic trio going forward. It felt like an epic last line of a movie setting up the audience for an exciting sequel. I don’t know that it’ll necessarily be Josh vs. Carolyn next week, but whoever is on Carolyn’s hit list has got a big thing coming.


No snuff for you

I guess the show chose to save the Matthew “reveal” as the big shock ending but it was kind of weird that we didn’t get a great send-off besides a short assessment from the doctor and some final words post-credits. Then again, maybe we were spared from having to suffer through more close-ups of Jeff’s heavily botox-blown face:


He can’t spare the moisture.

Matthew was great and I honestly did not expect this exit to happen for him, thinking last week’s preview was a classic red herring. I feel like Matthew’s story left a lot on the table – he seemed to be the center of Ratu, made a key new connection with Carson that seemed important, had an idol, and was the only one to know that Jaime’s idol is fake so that will be interesting if it comes into play (given how Survivor sometimes drops narratives, I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t). All of these were stories I expected to go somewhere, so I’m sad that they won’t. I guess the moral of this story is not to play with rocks. Damn you Debb Eaton for convincing us they were a good thing!



Next time

My least favorite episode of every new era season, yay. If the pattern holds, it’ll be another woman who no one feels particularly connected to that gets the boot. That top candidate for me would be Lauren with an off-chance of Jaime. This whole Carolyn vs. the bros thing could blow up, but I don’t think it will until the official merge. Everyone just wants to get that new buff, so I think we’ll see a “safe” vote rather than a spicy one. I only hope I’m proven wrong.

Players of the week


Yam Yam – All of Tika were terrific this week, but Yam Yam impressed me the most with his gameplay in coming so far back from the bottom to the top and what I think would’ve been the deciding vote had Tika made it to tribal council. Ultimately, he patched things up with his partner in crime, Carolyn, but in the process, he was able to turn Josh and swing him into seeing that Carolyn was the more dangerous player than Yam Yam was. I didn’t love Yam last week with his attitude toward Carolyn, and I support what she did in response, but I was happy to see them kiss and make up this week. No more selling her under the bus again, Yam! You two are destined to be in the final three together!

Carolyn – Coming back from blindsiding Yam Yam was going to be hard, but she made the right move in letting Sarah go last week. I was surprised to see Josh flip so quick this week after Carolyn helped him, but I don’t know that that was so much Carolyn’s fault as it was Yam Yam’s credit in convincing Josh to work with him over her. Every scene Carolyn is in she steals which made the Sanctuary trip incredible and my favorite journey we’ve seen. I’m nervous that her #1 is already throwing her name around, but my gut says that for as big of a character she’s been, she’s going to remain one until the very end.

Josh – Josh’s personal story was shared this week which added some much-needed depth to this character that sort of came out of nowhere last week to play such a pivotal part in the game. The “bootleg idol” was a big blunder which brings into question how sharp of a player he really is but I can’t help but to root for the guy after all we’ve seen now. I’d love for him to stick with Tika since Soka wanted him out next, but he’s oblivious to that so I think he’ll switch back – now that we know all there is to know about Josh, I do wonder if this was sort of a “swan song” episode for him. He’s been important mainly when he’s had to be which makes me worry his future in the game won’t be long. I don’t know his long-term plans since we’ve seen him play more week to week. I do appreciate him at least not wanting to be a part of the “meat brigade” he’ll be invited to join at the new beach next week, so I’d love to see him instead join Carolyn and be a part of that bro-gade’s blindside.

Carolyn Corner

Carolyn is unsurprisingly one of the best confessionalists ever, so now it makes even more sense why the season started with one. Her commentary and reactions to everything are so expressive and charismatic that it’s easy to be sucked in and “see” everything the way she sees it. I don’t know that we’ve ever had such a “main character” like this, so it’s difficult to say whether this is an unprecedented hero-winner edit or if it’s to guarantee us wanting her back on a future season. She’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind nor to stand up for herself when she feels slighted even if that’s “risky” to do in Survivor.

Not only has she been a fun character but she’s been a hell of a player too. She listed her resume this week of finding an idol, successfully planting a fake, and executing a blindside (two if you count Helen’s as well). She came here to kick ass and eat fruit – and she’s almost all out of fruit.

Carolyn eating

It’s because she can’t keep it in her mouth.

Carolyn dropping fruit

In her defense, when people act a fool in front of me, I may spit something out of my mouth too.

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