With Episode 10, Survivor 44 moved further into the post-merge, and for once, it felt like production finally just let the game play out under its own power, enabling the contestants to make choices and moves that put them in or out of power, completely on their own. It was, dare we say it, normal Survivor. That means we can finally focus on the gameplay ... because the contestants were playing the game, rather than trying to play around the obstacles set in the way of the game. (Or the game playing them.) It's a very refreshing development. More of this, please.
A fun side-feature of this episode was multiple people telling true stories, only for everyone to think they were lying. Jaime told two separate groups of people about Kane leaving with her "idol" - which actually happened – and not one person believed her. In fact, Carson instead talked about how impressed he was in her ability to lie (that reading up on physical tells during interrogations continues to pay off for him). Later, Heidi was irritated by Danny's off-putting ordering of her to vote with him (while also saying he didn't really need her vote), and told Carolyn and Carson about it ... only for Carolyn to suspect something was off about Heidi saying this. Frannie agreed, leading to a last-minute attempted blindside of Heidi, one which Lauren and Jaime ultimately declined to actually join.
All of these moves, feints, and attempts at alliance-building (despite alliances being "over") added up to a fun regular episode of Survivor, even though one of the more rootable players ended up heading to the jury. Let's hope the rest of the season plays out with similar minimal interference, and start talking about the decisions the players made this week. (Yay!)
Did Yam Yam and Carson make the right move?
The case against keeping Frannie around was pretty straightforward. As stated by Danny: "Nobody's beating Frannie. Who wants to sit with her at final three?" From his perspective, she was his main competition in challenges, and booting her clears the way for him to potentially sweep the remaining immunities (as long as, as cattily noted by Yam Yam in a secret scene, there are no puzzles). Conversely, Frannie was also Danny's best shield. With her winning so many challenges, Danny's only been picking up stray votes here and there. Still, Danny's reasoning that Frannie was both a physical threat AND someone who would get a lot of jury votes seems accurate, and his argument made perfect sense for people like Lauren and Jaime, who had no ties to Frannie to begin with.
Where it may have made less sense, though, was with the Tika three. From the moment Danny brought it up, Yam Yam realized that Carolyn would not be on board with such a move (above). But was it the right move for Yam Yam and Carson, anyway? Yam Yam and Carson are clearly already a tight pair, and view Carolyn as mostly just an extra vote. Why would Carolyn having a slightly closer relationship to someone else - especially someone else who has no other close allies - really be a threat to them?
As Frannie revealed in her exit interviews, she had actively been begging Tika to take her in (and as we saw, was at least making progress with Carolyn). Adding Frannie would have given Tika a four-person alliance, which, after they voted someone like Danny out this episode, would have been the majority going forward. Sure, Frannie is probably a favorite to win the F4 IC among those four, but not necessarily if it ends in a puzzle (especially when production seems to be picking which puzzles to use directly from Carson's audition video). What's more, they could easily use whichever straggler remained at F5 to vote Frannie out, because she's an obvious threat (as long as she didn't win immunity).
Instead of all that, they now (potentially) have a two-person alliance on a seven-person tribe. In the post-Tribal shots in the preview, Carolyn rightly appears livid to have been betrayed by Yam Yam again, and also by Carson this time. It's not clear whether cooler heads will prevail the next day, but Yam Yam was explicitly worrying in confessional before the vote that "Carolyn might not be our ally any more." So was it worth that risk?
It's hard to say for sure, but it does seem fairly risky. On the plus side, Carolyn doesn't really have any other allies. Lauren and Jaime just burned her on this last vote, telling her they'd vote for Heidi, then voting out Frannie instead. She seems unlikely to spontaneously start working with Danny any time soon (although nobody would see that coming). The only other option is Heidi, which is possible. On the whole, seems like a poor time to be shedding allies, willy-nilly, but what do I know?
Let Frannie be Frannie
There has been a lot of fan second-guessing around Frannie in the post-merge, mostly centered around "She should have thrown that challenge" - first at the split/team RC/IC where she outlasted Brandon to win reward and immunity for her group (indirectly dooming Matt), then at this week's quasi-loved-ones reward challenge.
On paper: Yes, Frannie probably should have thrown the individual RC, at least. Every fan knows never to win an individual RC. As his opening line of questioning at Tribal revealed, even Probst appears to know that! But she was hungry and wanted tacos, so ... what are you gonna do?
In reality, though: Look at how much delight Frannie is taking in holding the lead in this challenge! She's clearly having the time of her life playing Survivor. She is one of the rarest types of players: A nerdy superfan who's also historically good in individual challenges (fifth-highest mean % finish in a single season, ever). Just let her live in the moment and enjoy her time on the show. Seventeen out of 18 people don't win their season, anyway, so just let her go out and play in whatever way she sees fit.
Realistically, Danny was probably going to target Frannie no matter how well she did here, because she was consistently ahead of him in the immunity challenges. Also for her part, Frannie probably was perhaps not completely aware of her perceived physical threat level, because (from her exit interviews) she didn't come into the game expecting to do well in challenges. So she surprised herself, and it probably took some time for her self-perception to catch up to her competitors' view of her. She was aware of the overall "Frannie is a threat" vibe this episode after her RC win, but at that point, it was already too late.
She was also butting heads with Danny over strategic decisions, as she correctly noticed that Tika was playing the middle, and tried to snuff that, only to be shut down as "illogical" by Danny. Even if she wasn't being targeted as a physical threat, being observant, smart, and well-versed in the game is also often grounds for being an 8th-place target. Especially if you're a woman who has her own ideas.
So throwing this challenge probably wouldn't have gained Frannie any reduction in threat level, and might have limited her ability to strengthen her bond with Carolyn. At best a marginal gain there, so just let Frannie be Frannie.
Hiding in plain sight: It's impressive that Carson has now single-handedly won two immunity challenges ending in puzzles (and saved Tika from losing a third one), but nobody is talking about how he's a threat. He's betrayed Ratu, who had all but adopted him as one of their own. As Stephen Fishbach pointed out on Know-It-Alls, this episode, Carson was lying in pretty much every scene in which he appeared. Yet not one person has even bothered to write his name down. Carson very much felt like the main character this week. We'll see if that continues.
And that's why you should never try: Jeff Probst really deserves an assist in screwing over Frannie for winning the reward challenge. Before the challenge, the only part of the reward that was announced was the food: Tacos, empanadas, and margaritas. After the challenge, he announced it would also be an overnight trip (shocked gasps). And then ... with letters from home (everyone starts sobbing). Should everyone have anticipated it, though? Probably. The Ep10 RC in 41 and 42 was this exact reward (overnight Sanctuary trip with letters/videos from home), obviously at this exact spot. Still, many people seemed surprised, somehow.
This has nothing to do with the new era: Jaime talked at Tribal about how she loved "this new era" game, because everything changes every day, and people you plot against today might be the same people you work with tomorrow. "The era of alliances is over," she declared, no less. This, while it was no doubt music to Jeff Probst's ears, has no basis in reality. Jaime just described Survivor. There's nothing specific to the new era in what she said. Eleven seasons ago, people were saying the same thing, calling it "trust clusters." Two seasons before that, it was "voting blocs." I know it's tempting when you're sitting right in front of him, but please don't feed the troll's ego.