Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 45 recaps/ analysis
The head vs. the heart
By Damnbueno | Published: December 14, 2023
Survivor 45 Episode 12 recap/ analysis

The head vs. the heart

What shall I write about this week?

Emily was popular, but wasn't really playing well? No, I've covered that. This season's players can't keep any secrets? That hasn't changed. Oates is still cool, and Hall is still a dick? That status is still quo. This is tough.

Last week, Trent C. shared a great line in the comments. It said "Dee has Austin wrapped around her big toe." A-ha! That's it! I'll do a recap of who I think is playing the best game this season - Dee.

Dee's game has been pretty subtle, a quality I think is very valuable. She was so subtle, the only thing I had to say about her in this season's first column was "Dee looks like Jenna from Ghost Island," and in episode 2, we only saw Dee talking about her large toes. I speculated Dee could be sacrificed at final 5 as "the player too likable to sit next to in the finals." Dee showed she's got a good BS meter when she realized Austin and Drew had become very close, and could be Idol hunting together. That paid immediate dividends when the guys showed Dee and Julie their Idol clue. I observed the Dee/Julie partnership was similar to the Erika/Heather duo from season 41. Erika won, and Heather finished 4th.

Dee showed she knows how to cover her tracks too. When she and Julie searched Sean's bag, Dee examined how it was tied so after searching it, they could tie it just like Sean did. I'm guessing we'll see these skills in this episode when Dee avoids the backlash of the Emily boot. I'm thinking Drew will be upset with Austin for exposing the plan, and at Julie for foiling it. But he probably won't be upset with Dee, who was the actual instigator.

We didn't see much of Dee in the first few episodes because she didn't go to Tribal Council until after the swap. She had a plan to remove Sifu. Julie and J.Maya agreed to it. But Sean decided to quit. Dee still tried to push her plan through, mouthing "Sifu" to Julie as they went to vote, but Sean's plea was more persuasive. So far, this is the only time that the person Dee wanted gone stuck around. Dee voted for Sifu, but avoided any blowback by keeping her mouth shut about it (a skill that has almost become extinct in Survivor). J. Maya inexplicably decided to tell Sifu she voted for him, even though she didn't.

Later, Dee's tribe could choose who got sent on a journey. J. Maya announced they chose Austin, but we didn't see who had the most persuasive voice. Dee got two benefits from it. 1) J.Maya appeared to be the more aggressive player, and 2) Austin ended up telling Dee the truth about his journey - namely that he got an Amulet that could turn into an Idol.

At the merge, Dee told the entire group they had some fish leftover from a previous Reward. Everyone knew they were gonna get something to eat. Dee got a little goodwill, and wasn't suspected by anyone of having an ulterior motive. At the next Tribal Council, a desperate Kaleb tried to expose Dee and Julie's partnership. Dee immediately answered by saying "Do I wanna work with you now that you just threw out my name?" That spontaneous counterpunch was brilliant. Dee had already served up J. Maya's name as a backup. So when Kaleb's Shot in the Dark saved him, J. Maya left instead.

The J. Maya boot was the first in an impressive string for Dee. She has been on every vote since then (Kaleb, Kellie, Kendra, Bruce and Emily). Every remaining player has checked in with Dee before going to Tribal Council - either directly, or through Julie, who hasn't made a move without Dee's knowledge. Even when Drew has chosen the target (Kellie, Kaleb), he sought Dee's input/approval early on.

Dee has chosen or influenced every vote since the merge (or mergeatory), and nobody has exposed her as a primary target yet, except Kendra. Dee got wind of that plan and promptly blindsided Kendra. Dee slipped in an Immunity win, and so far has avoided the dreaded "challenge beast" label. Dee faced her toughest decision last week when deciding between booting Emily or Julie. When Julie suggested booting Austin instead, Dee boldly told Julie "No, you're getting too personal about it ... You're gonna vote for Emily," which is exactly what Julie did.

I don't see how Dee's position could get any stronger. Austin and Julie both want Dee in the final 3 with them. Austin, Drew and Julie are all talking people out of going after Dee. And Dee likely has both Kendra and Emily talking positively about her game on the Ponderosa with the other 3 jurors. I'm excited to see how Dee covers her tracks on calling the Emily boot. How will she handle Drew? She's been pretty flawless so far. I don't think she's been surprised at a vote yet.

The challenge for Dee is that she's gonna have to own her game at least a little before Final Tribal Council. Surely Austin, Drew and Julie have thought about how they can beat her. What does Dee do if any of them take ownership of moves she actually engineered? Julie certainly isn't gonna tell the Jury "Dee convinced me to vote for Emily." Recent seasons have proven when you own a move publicly, the remaining players immediately target you. This season's players just did it to Emily.

So how can Dee close this out? That's what I'm most interested in learning.

And away we go ...

Dee to Julie: "I'm gonna vote for you too, because then we're gonna hate you after this." I forgot about that part last week. We're gonna see some attempted acting from Julie and Dee.

Dee is "giving Julie the silent treatment," but she's also letting Julie publicly take full credit for this move. This is an intriguing attempt at the frienemies strategy I've always wanted to see.

Dee: "Its a game, we're almost done. We can act for a few more days."

Dee, acting

Austin reminds us he's safe tonight, even though he wanted Julie gone. What does he do with his Amulet/Idol if he wins Immunity?

Dee to Austin: "She's gonna come after me." That could be a good ploy to get Austin's Idol.

Austin: "We need to make sure everyone knows you didn't tell her (Julie)."

I can't tell if Drew is buying it, but Austin never questioned it.

Drew, Dee, Austin

I love how Dee paused, then turned to look if anyone else was coming while she spoke to Drew and Austin. That's a very subtle way of convincing Drew she's still with him. Dee has Austin, Drew and Julie all proclaiming they want her in the final 3 with them. She's got all the bases covered.

Dee: "Out here, it's a game. It's (acting) almost as important as finding an Idol and keeping it to yourself." Right now, I want to kiss Dee more than Austin does. So many "New Era" players just don't understand the value of keeping your mouth shut.

I don't know what I think about Julie jumping in on the other three. What was there to gain by doing that? Wouldn't it be better to leave it alone until at least the next morning?

Day 22. Katurah is up and searching for a possibly rehidden Idol. The first place I'd look is wherever Ben was sleeping.

Katurah, idol hunting

Dee immediately knows Katurah is Idol hunting. Dee's instincts are very good, but this was pretty obvious. It's a good plan to keep an eye on her, but I don't think I'd confront her.

Dee and Austin go looking for Katurah. If Austin sees her first, he shouldn't let her know. He's safe. It's better for him to know where the Idol is so he can place votes around it, and spoil whatever plan Katurah has for using it.

So much for that idea.

Austin catches Katurah

But Austin's idea of convincing Katurah not to look so hard because it could inspire Julie to start looking was a good, on the fly adjustment.

And speaking of Julie, why isn't she Idol hunting? She needs another Idol more than anybody else.

Julie wakes up

Julie: "I want to go to the end with people I can beat." So why was it so important for you to remove Bruce? Why were you targeting Jake so much?

Drew: "I'm gonna coddle Julie, and let her know Reba can still work." Good idea, but don't both of them know they're lying to each other's faces?

Julie: "It's lies. Drew is feeding me what I want to hear." Good to know they're not that dumb, but again, why did Julie want to talk to the other Reba members immediately?

The Survivor Gods are testing Dee's ability to keep her mouth shut. So far, she's doing a good job.

Dee: "When you orchestrate a blindside, you can't tell anybody. The moment that comes out, even if it's to Austin, you're risking a million dollars. I'm gonna swear on everybody in my family out here, and they're gonna be happy when I win a million dollars." - I think Queen Sandra said the same thing in Pearl Islands.

Dee to Julie: "Drew is the mastermind, and he's good at Tribal talking." That's the best reason for wanting Drew gone.

Julie in confessional: "I have to get Drew out." Julie buys everything Dee sells her.

Pre-RC lineup

They've got to roll barrels? Does Dee get a bigger barrel since she's the shortest, or do her ropes hang lower?

I know it's a Helicopter Reward, but I still don't think the smart player wins it.

I miss the Rewards when the players get to interact with the locals. I know that got cut because of COVID, but I'd still like to see them again.

Wasn't Katurah afraid of deep water?

Katurah, starting raft

No surprise, Austin is out in front. If he wins, the smart move is to leave Dee at camp to gather information. But there's no way he'll do that.

Austin, leading

Dee should have done this one barefooted. She can move and stop that barrel with one toe.

Austin wins. Now it's decision time. I think he should take at least one between Jake and Katurah.

Austin: "I have to take Dee." I knew it.

Austin tells people the truth about why he's leaving them behind. Bad move. Make up a good lie instead. "I feel bad because Katurah had to get in the water again" might have worked. Let them speculate as to what your real reasoning is.

Austin takes Katurah. Good choice. Try to lock up her Jury vote, then work on damage control with Jake when you get back. I'll call this the "What would Cirie do?" rule. In Panama, Cirie left Shane behind, and took Aras and Danielle. Shane was furious, but she only needed 10 words to smooth things over with him when she returned.

Sad Jake, happy Katurah

The first thing I do with those picnic supplies is search for an Idol clue.

Drew complaining about being the babysitter rubs me the wrong way. This is the smartest possible move. Drew and Austin should have talked about this a long time ago. I think Austin chose the right people, but he shouldn't have told them why. And Drew should have expected this. If he'd won, it would be smart to leave Austin behind too. Of all of this season's players, Drew should have anticipated this scenario.

Katurah: "Oh right, I'm the third wheel." If you take Dee, enjoy the Reward, but don't go holding hands.

On the chopper

This is one time a player might have preferred staying at camp. Katurah might have been better off searching for an Idol. In Cambodia, Jeremy said he preferred staying at camp. He found two Idols that season. But he also went on the Helicopter Reward. Then he won the million.

I love hearing the Producers asking the players questions. They started this last season with Carolyn. We all know they're doing it. Why not just make it a regular part of the show?

What's the deal?

Ok, I admit it. If I'm on Survivor, and I think one of the women is into me, I'd take her on that helicopter too. Then again, I'd never win a Reward unless I really needed an Idol, or wanted to guarantee the person I wanted to vote out didn't win it. I learned that from Aras when he was sandbagging in Panama. Call that the "What would Aras do?" rule. Aras won that season.

I bet Austin just loved that Producers included that shot of his acne-covered face.

Jake finds an Idol clue. Let's see if he can keep his mouth shut about the Idol if he finds it.

Jake provides endless entertainment in his confessionals. He was hilarious when talking about the play he did in his underwear. The story wasn't great, but the way he told it was.

That's a pretty cool hiding place for an Idol. But why put the cap back in place? I'd throw it in the jungle. I'm not sure, but that's more likely the Idol Julie played than Bruce's Idol.

Jake and his idol

Jake hides the Idol in his crotch. Adam did the same thing in Millennials vs Gen X. He won that season.

Jake: "I'm a wolf in goat's clothing." That made me laugh, but not loud enough to wake up my dog.

Jake can only make a big impression with his Idol if he can draw a majority of votes towards him, then use his Idol to boot the perceived jury favorite, which right now is Julie. But if these players get smart, they'll want to keep the person least likely to win the game. Right now, that's Jake. But hey, if they wanted to remove Bruce, who says they won't want to remove Jake and Katurah too?

I don't think we've seen this challenge before.

For Jake's plan to work, he has to lose Immunity too. I don't think he'll tank it though.

It's interesting, only Dee and Drew have their right foot on the plank. I think all of these players are right-handed, which would also make them right-footed. Why do the balancing with your weaker leg?

Julie goes out first, and before she can step down, Jake is out. Was his failure sincere or intentional?

IC, minus Julie and Jake

Katurah goes out next. Now I say Austin should tank this challenge. He's got an Amulet/Idol that expires tonight. The only reason for him to compete is if he wants Dee or Drew gone. The best move for his social life is to let Dee win. The best move for his game might be to let Drew win.

Drew makes several arm-flailing saves. He looks like Daniel LaRusso practicing his moves in "The Karate Kid."

Flailing Drew

Drew is out after 12 minutes. Austin should drop out, but sell it like Dee beat him. Then again, if Austin wins, he's just gonna give his Idol to Dee anyway. Will he play it for her publicly, like Russell did for Parvati in HvV, or will he slip it to her behind the scenes?

I wonder if Dee's elephant toes are helping her here?

Jake: "Damn, so I'm not goin' on the Dream Team?" This dude is just naturally funny.

Austin drops, and Dee has another Immunity win. Once again, I ask was that sincere, or intentional?

Austin congratulates Dee

Dee: "It means more when it's a showdown." Dee thinks Austin was trying his best. I can't be sure.

Drew wants Julie gone because she publicly outsmarted him. Just like last week, the person who makes an impressive strategic move gets targeted for it.

Austin wants Julie gone. But Jake is gonna try to put votes on himself for his plan to work. This should be interesting.

Need to pull Katurah

Jake wants to vote for Drew, in part because he's so articulate in front of a crowd. Jake's right, but he doesn't know the key to this plan working is keeping Austin out of the loop. He can give his Idol to Drew. Who's gonna screw this up?

Jake fills Katurah in on the plan. But she exposed his last plan when he went after Julie. Why tell Katurah so soon? Tell her just before you leave for Tribal Council so she doesn't have time to kill the plan.

Sure enough, Katurah tells Dee. Dee will tell Austin, then it becomes Austin's decision.

Katurah is pulled

Dee: "Thank God I voted for Julie last time ... Drew still trusts me." Yep, she adjusted well on the fly and made the right call.

Drew is hoping Austin gives his Amulet/Idol to him. And I think he might do it. Dee smartly convinces Drew she's cool with his plan.

Dee knows Austin is in the same position she was in at the last vote. This is an interesting reversal of fortune. I'm hoping Dee keeps her mouth shut, and doesn't tell Austin what's up. Let him find out months later when the show airs.

Dee and Austin

Austin came clean to Dee at the last vote. Will Dee do the same thing this time?

Kellie sees Dee with the Immunity necklace, and says "I'm happy for her." Kendra; "Me too." VERY good sign for Dee.

Kellie is happy

It doesn't sound like Austin's Reward choices are having any blowback.

Drew: "I have alliances locked in." If he stays, that's a good winner quote. Did he say that because he's got Austin's Idol?

The biggest question here is "Who does Dee want gone?"

Probst asks for any Idols, and Austin plays his for ... himself. So once again, it's Dee's decision. Did Dee convince Austin she's voting for Julie?

Austin plays his idol

Austin's play fails in front of the Jury, and Dee voted for Drew.

So Drew gets blindsided, and Dee lets Austin's Idol play blow up in his face in front of the Jury. That's an elite player move. Austin's reaction tells the jury he was left in the dark.

Sad Austin

Dee still keeps her head down, and removes the player she wanted gone. Dee continues to impress. But now she's got to get to the finals.

So Dee still has final 3 promises from Austin and Julie. So if they all reach final 4, and Dee doesn't win Immunity, she's probably got a seat in the finals. Since Jake still thinks Julie is the biggest threat, it's a fairly safe bet he won't go after Dee at final 5. And I still have no idea who Katurah wants to go to the end with. But once again, the person Dee wanted gone has joined the Jury.


So next week is the finale, and we'll find out who our winner is. Drew is joining the jury now, and as the first Reba member there, the info he shares will be huge. No doubt he'll take full credit for engineering the boots on Kaleb and Kellie. Emily will back any claim he makes on planning the blindside on Bruce. That will make it tougher for Dee to claim any of those moves. But Drew was so visibly surprised when Emily left, then again when he got blindsided, the jury will know he wasn't totally in control.

Oh, he's pissed

So the question now is how does Dee convince the Jury that she's really been the one pulling the strings? She's got a good shot of owning the boots on Sifu, J. Maya and Kendra, but only one of them are on the Jury. Julie publicly owned the Emily boot. Dee has to crush Julie much like how Sophie crushed Coach in South Pacific to own that move. Dee can probably lay claim to booting Drew, even though Jake and/or Katurah might try to own that one. Dee's strongest statement might be "I even lied to Austin about the blindside on Drew, and I adore Austin."

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Dee has to get past final 5 first. Dee is probably safe if Austin or Julie wins Immunity. And if Jake wins, they can boot Julie or Katurah. I don't see Jake playing an Idol for Katurah, but he might if he thinks his boot choice will help his cause. Dee just lied to Austin, but let's be real, he's gonna forgive her.

But what if Katurah wins Immunity at 5? Jake will save himself with his Idol (if he keeps his mouth shut about it of course). Then it becomes Jake's decision. He most likely wants Julie gone, but what if he has a "moment of clarity" and realizes Dee has been the stronger player? Does he remove her on the spot, or hope she goes out in the fire challenge?

The final 5 vote seems like a Julie boot for me if she doesn't win Immunity. Otherwise, I think the Reba stick together and remove Katurah.

Then at final 4, if Austin or Julie win Immunity, Dee is probably safe, and can make her play for the million because neither of them will throw Dee into the fire challenge. But what if Jake pulls out an Immunity win?

Dee is the frontrunner, but doesn't have it in the bag at all. Like I've said before, each of the last 4 "New Era" seasons saw the frontrunner going out just before the finals - the most heartbreaking being Jesse losing the fire challenge. Will Dee suffer the same fate if Jake throws her in against Austin or Julie? We did see Austin telling Dee "I'm gonna beat you."

What do you think? Can Dee pull it out? Will her lie to Austin be a wake-up call and refocus him on the game? Could Jake's Idol play make him a surprise winner? Will Julie become the first "Survivor Mom" to win since Tina Wesson in The Australian Outback, season 2? (I know Sandra and Denise were both moms when they won, but neither of them "mothered" the tribe like others labeled a "mom.")

And can Jake pull out a miracle win after so many of his ideas failed? Let me know what you think 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.