Screaming at the Screen - Damnbueno's Survivor 46 recaps
Mid-season report card
By Damnbueno | Published: April 25, 2024
Survivor 46 Episode 9 recap/ analysis

Mid-season report card

Nine have left, and nine are left, which means we’re at the halfway point of the season. There are two Jury members, both of whom were blindsided after being identified as too good at the social game. Now is as good a time as any to issue a mid-season progress report on this season’s remaining players. Who is killing it? Who has already killed it – as in their game?

The short answer is nobody is killing it. Nobody is noticeably ahead of the other players socially or strategically. Hunter is physically dominant, but jury votes are rarely based mostly on the physical game unless the jury is packed full of people named Coach. I’ll tackle this list alphabetically, pointing out each player’s strengths and weakness, advantages and disadvantages.

Ben – The good news is everybody seems to like him ... except for maybe Maria, who in a secret scene doesn’t believe Ben doesn’t know where the Siga Idol is. The bad news is like Maria, many players are frustrated with Ben’s reluctance to talk strategy. Nobody knows where he stands, so nobody can depend on his vote. Ben lost his #1 in Tim, and in that same secret scene, realized how he’s got no partners because he didn’t form a plan B. Ben even left Charlie hanging for a while. This doesn’t mean Ben can’t win. He has become close with Kenzie who can communicate with everyone left. In my preseason column I said “He’ll probably be more of a follower who has no idea how he got into the final 7. But he’ll give very entertaining confessionals. He could easily “Fabio” his way to the end and could win if the other two put their foot in their mouths along the way. But I don’t see him influencing the voting.” I think I nailed this one. I’m sticking with my preview. I think Kenzie will keep him safe and informed while others go after bigger targets.

Charlie – He’s doing a good job of playing the middle, and he picked the most reliable #1 in Maria. He’s got two main problems. First, he’s perceived as a follower. Far too often, he has displayed an “I don’t know what to do” persona. He’s gonna have to change that image pretty soon. His second problem is his greatest asset. If he never turns on Maria, can he beat her? Charlie knows how others perceive him, but does he know how everyone perceives Maria? Charlie’s game-winning move might be removing Maria in a way that raises eyebrows but maintains jury respect. Or he could be crushed when/if he has to make a fire to reach the finals. Charlie’s position is solid for now, but if he doesn’t get more strategically aggressive, he could end up like Cassidy in season 43, trying to take credit for moves the jury won’t believe he made.

Hunter – He very easily could ride an Immunity streak into the finals. He’s shown he’s good at making fire, and he has an Idol to help him if/when he loses Immunity. And since he found one Idol, he’s probably got an edge on finding another should he have to use his. One of Hunter’s problems is one he’s very aware of. He’s by far the biggest physical threat. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about that, but he also doesn’t have a backup plan. Hunter was all in on the Journey 6 alliance, and just lost his primary information source in Tevin. Its also not good that so many were surprised to see Hunter “finally strategizing.” Most of these players don’t think he’s been strategically involved at all. His second-closest partner has been Q, who just showed he can’t be relied upon at all. If Hunter has any strategic chops, now is the time to start showing them. Hunter got labeled as a “leader” by Tim who told Q “Hunter has carried Nami the entire game by leading and dominating in every single challenge.” So far, Q hasn’t wanted Hunter gone, but with Q, that could change in a heartbeat, like it did with Tim and Tiffany. Can he read the room well enough to know when to shock everyone with an Idol play? Will he know who he should take out with it?

Kenzie – She’s doing a great job of staying under the radar with everyone (except Q of course). With Q’s meltdown, Tiffany has greater incentive to keep Kenzie safe (maybe even with an Idol play for her?), but Kenzie is also the only non-Siga to become close to Ben. If she brings Ben in to replace Q, the 3 of them have a decent shot at reaching the final 5. And Kenzie is good at making fire too. Kenzie got labeled a “leader” by Bhanu when he told Liz and Ben “Kenzie’s a mastermind. Kenzie is running the show.” So far, this hasn’t come back to hurt her, but I don’t know if that’s because others have gone after bigger targets, or because Kenzie has made a great image adjustment. Like Charlie, Kenzie will need some kind of high-profile move down the stretch, but I see no reason why Kenzie can’t turn in an Erika/Maryanne-type of win.

Liz – As I noted last week, Liz targeted Tevin for making a high-visibility “big move” when he blindsided Soda and publicly took credit for it. So, then she does the exact same thing in blindsiding Tevin. The good news for Liz is that she should be able to keep her head down after this vote because all the heat will be on Q. However, Liz has placed a few speed bumps in her own path and doesn’t seem to know it. She has already shown a decent amount of arrogance, telling several she doesn’t need the million dollars, and bragging about not taking her bag to Tribal Council. Most jurors prefer their winners to show more humility than Liz has shown (which appears to be none). We’ve heard Liz say “I have an enormous ego” in confessional. Can she be self-aware enough to realize she’s got some damage control to do in order to get a win?

Maria – She’s the toughest to evaluate. On the one hand, she has commanded respect from all of these players, and has remained fairly likable. She has only butted heads with Venus, but in a way, I think that could help her. Jurors often reward the player who was willing to confront the least-liked player. Denise spoke out against Abi-Maria in Philippines, and Sandra stood up to Russell Hantz in Heroes vs Villains, and Jonny Fairplay in Pearl Islands. But Sandra and Denise did it more publicly than Maria did. Maria only had Charlie as a witness when she told Venus to back off. Like Julie last season Maria has avoided the “mom” label that traditionally spelled defeat for similarly positioned players. I have to wonder about Maria’s strategy. In this week’s secret scene, she aggressively confronted Ben about whether or not he had the Siga Idol, and Ben seemed put off by the interrogation. If she suspected Ben or Tim had it all along, why was she so gung ho about removing Jem, whom she trusted? In hindsight, that seems like a bad read. Maria could easily win this game. My only question about her is does she want Charlie on the jury to lobby for her, or is she willing to sit next to someone with such a similar game who hasn’t angered anyone?

Q – He’s got no shot. He totally killed his chances of winning with his third “vote me out” plea, which destroyed his credibility. Three potential jurors (Ben, Kenzie and Hunter) called his move the “dumbest” thing they’d ever seen at a Tribal Council, a fourth (Tiffany) has been angry at him for two votes in a row now. That’s three of Q’s closest allies. And Tevin left the game feeling very anti-Q too. Q can only win if he’s sitting next to Venus and a finalist who has an Amanda-esque meltdown. Q’s biggest problem is himself. He can’t get out of his own way. He’s so preoccupied with trying to make others play Q’s game, he can’t adjust when others won’t do it. Q won’t try to meet his jurors’ voting criteria, he’ll try to make them vote use his criteria. In my preseason column, I said “His ability to accurately gauge how others perceive him will be most important for Q. If he gets pushy, he’ll be signing his own death warrant.” Yeah, I think I nailed this one too.

Tiffany – I couldn’t have been more wrong about Tiffany in my preseason column. I said “If her tribe wins a lot early, she could be a zero-vote finalist because her mouth will get her into too much trouble to win the game. But if her tribe loses early, she’ll be one of the first booted.” Tiffany hasn’t angered anyone except Bhanu (though that will likely change if she explodes on Q this week). While I wouldn’t say her social game is elite-level, its more than good enough to win this season. With Kenzie, Tiffany probably has the most solid partnership in the game, rivaled only by the Maria/Charlie pair. Tiffany is sitting right in the middle of the pack and is able to get information from several (yes, at least 7) players. But now that she knows her Idol isn’t a secret anymore, her biggest test will be how she decides when to use it.

Venus – Where do I start? Like Q, she killed her chances of winning, but did it earlier. First, she failed to secure an alliance on her original tribe, and promptly alienated everyone. Then at the merge, she labeled herself as unreliable by being too willing to spill information. Nobody will give her reliable information because they know she can’t be trusted with it. And like Q, Venus can only see things from her own perspective. If someone disagrees with her, Venus writes it off as their character flaw. When Venus pressured Maria into committing to her voting plan, Venus never realized she needed to try a different approach. Like I said about Q last week, you can’t fix a problem until you’re aware the problem exists. Venus thinks she’s a mover and shaker when in reality, Maria’s opinion seems the most accurate – “Venus is oblivious.” We’ve had a few oblivious Survivor winners, but all of them knew they weren’t in control, and all of them were more likable than Venus has been so far. Venus could take the Survivor eye-rolling crown, currently held by Eliza, but her chances of winning this season are as good as Eliza’s were in Vanuatu. But I’m still glad she’s on my TV every week.

So, entering this week’s episode, all eyes are on Q. How will he explain his bizarre actions at Tribal Council? Will he insist on having one-on-one conversations to “handle business first?” Is there anything he can say to placate Tiffany and Kenzie for spilling the Idol info? Has he lost Hunter’s support? Maria was worried about Q doing it again. Has Q lost her and Charlie too?

How about Liz? Will she let her desire to get credit for a move get lost in the shuffle? Will she stick her head up even more and proclaim “I did that!” while Tevin and Soda are preparing her jury seat? Will Charlie remember how Denise got rid of Malcolm, and realize he’ll probably have to remove Maria to get a win?

This could be the most interesting episode of the season.

And away we go ....

We’re reminded that Hunter has an Idol. I’m not falling for it this time.

What? No shots of the tribe walking back from Tribal Council? Q is just laying down by himself? I feel ripped off already. I wanted to see everyone rip into him at camp.

Q on the boat

Ahhh, there goes Tiffany. Let me get some tea.

I love Venus’ narration. She’s not very good at playing the game, but is a great color commentator.

Venus: Family dispute

Tiffany, you should be mad at yourself. If you’d never told Kenzie and Q you found the Idol, you wouldn’t be in this position.

Q STILL wants to be in charge, and thinks he can do it? I agree with Venus, “He’s literally an idiot.”

And now Liz is sulking because she didn’t get credit again. Liz: “I’m gunning for Q.” Guess what Liz, removing Q won’t be very impressive now. He has already killed his own game. The move you should be planning is removing either Maria, Charlie or Hunter. As the smart Q (Quincy Jones) once said “Check your ego at the door.” It’s not all about you. At least not yet.

Ben to Charlie “If we take him (Q) out, there’s no weight to the résumé because he blew his own game up.” Then in confessional “What Q pulled last night was a ‘poser’ move, trying to look like a noble saint.” Ben’s observations have been pretty accurate lately. Too bad he doesn’t seem interested in doing anything with them.

Five people are all talking about how they won’t vote for Q now if he makes it to the end. Even Venus knows Q’s game is done, and her reads have always been wrong.

Complaining about Q at the well

Venus: “I got Tevin’s ass out of here. Thank God.” To hear her talk, you’d swear Venus also believes she invented the game of Survivor.

Hunter: “I knew no one would get mad if I wrote your name down.” Venus “I got mad.” Hunter: “Yeah, but you’re always mad.” Spontaneous belly laugh achieved. Venus: “That’s rude.” Hunter: “I mean, it’s true.” Second spontaneous belly laugh. Hunter just told Venus how the tribe perceives her, and she missed it completely. Like Maria said “Venus is oblivious.”

How ironic is it that Venus is ripping into Hunter and Q for mistakenly believing they’re running the show?

Venus talks to Q and Hunter

Wow, it looks like Hunter is totally done with Q too, and he told him to his face.

Three teams of 3 for the Immunity Challenge? I agree with the players. “Auuugh!”


Tiffany wants to team up with Ben and Kenzie. As Q would say “Big mistake.” Who do you vote out if you lose?”

Why isn’t anyone thinking three people could take a Journey after the challenge? Wouldn’t you want to have someone on your team who you DON’T want to get an Advantage? Pick the person you want to vote out, then send one of your allies away.

In preseason press, Q said he’d never throw a challenge, and would vote out anyone who did. Yet here he is asking Charlie to throw a challenge. Does Q have any consistent thoughts at all? Who knows, but their missed fist bump/handshake made me laugh.

Fist bu... uh, nevermind

Charlie: “Throwing a challenge? That’s just ‘yuk’ to me.” Is Charlie 13 years old? No wonder he loves Taylor Swift. Her songs haven’t changed since she was 13. But he’s smart to keep saying “yes” when Q pitches a plan. Now Q won’t start making a different plan. Maria wants Tiffany gone because Tiffany went after her. That formula worked for Dee last season, but her side had two Idols and a rock-solid alliance. Maria should choose a different primary target and try to flush Tiffany’s Idol first. The smarter move is for Maria to go after Kenzie, and split votes between her and Tiffany. Either Tiffany saves herself, or she saves Kenzie. Either way, Maria weakens Tiffany.

Kenzie looks like she peed her pants when she saw the challenge.

Pre-challenge lineup

Probst is upset that one of the Producer-forced plans to stir up some drama fell flat? Did he expect these players, who’ve seen it several times before would fight to have Hunter on their team like Jerri fought to have Colby on her team in The Australian Outback?

Kenzie really sucked on that balance beam. Maybe she knew she’d suck, and that’s why she peed her pants.

Kenzie on the beam

Venus killed it on the balance beam, was the first to find her buried rope, then found Liz’s. Then she was the third one to finish the rope bridge. Like I said earlier, as long as she’s not swimming, Venus is very good at these challenges.

Part 3 of this challenge should be renamed the “Hubicki.” He made it famous.

The Hubicki

Charlie wins Immunity, but thanks to Hunter’s ability to keep his Idol a secret, he’s still got a great chance to control who leaves. He’s got to know votes are coming his way. Does he remove someone he knows won’t work with him (Venus?), or does he take out a strong social player who hasn’t angered anyone (Kenzie, Tiffany)? Removing Q could make some people happy, but won’t be nearly as impressive, but of course, playing an Idol nobody knew you had should make up for that.

As for everyone else, who do they go after? The annoying wild card Venus? The wrench throwing agent of chaos Q? They probably think they’ve got a clear shot at Hunter and won’t think of other options aside from splitting votes between Q and Hunter “just in case.”

Venus is so cute. She keeps talking about how “I love having options” as if she’s capable of pushing a vote through.

Venus has options

Kenzie is 100% correct for not wanting to work with Q, but being so abrupt with him might cost her his jury vote.

Hunter just told Maria he’s ok with being the decoy vote. As Q would say “Big mistake.”

Tiffany telling people she’s gonna play her Idol is not a bad plan ... if she’s bluffing. If she thinks she has convinced everyone, she might be able to hold on to it. But she should also try to swing the vote towards someone who won’t support her, like Liz, Hunter or Q.

Charlie and Tiffany

These groups are so splintered, it might be impossible to pull together a good split vote plan. Nobody can depend on Q or Venus to keep their mouths shut. It might have worked if Kenzie didn’t want to go after Tiffany.

Ben: “You can only get the T-Rex back in the cage one time.” I thought for sure Ben would have come up with a music metaphor like “You can only bring David Lee Roth back into Van Halen once,” or “You only get one shot to kick Jann Wenner off the Hall of Fame committee.”

It’s weird that Liz has complete safety but is dead set on sticking her head up again. Hunter to Q “I have an Idol.” DAMMIT Hunter! I was so proud of you. Now you’ve just given the power to Q.

Hunter and Q

And now he’s telling Venus! As Darth Vader said in George Lucas’ horrible, revised movie “Nooooooooo!”

And now he’s telling Kenzie too???

And just like that everyone knows Hunter has an Idol.

Ben: Hunter has an idol?

I’m so disappointed. If Hunter could have kept his mouth shut, he had a shot at being in total control of who left. It’s possible his one vote could have gotten it done, and he’d have total ownership of the move. Even if his lone vote failed, people would still be impressed that he kept an Idol secret. They’d know he’d do the same if he found another Idol. He’d get jury respect.

It’s so out of character for Probst to do something nice.

Probst dispenses popcorn

Charlie: “There was plenty of talk when we got back to camp. We wanted to know the why (Q did it).” It would have been nice if us viewers could have seen some of it.

Tiffany: “He (Q) was pushing Venus this morning, then he was pushing Hunter this morning.” Hunter, this message couldn’t be any clearer. Play your Idol.

Kenzie and Hunter

Q: “I’ve been talking to no one.” Ben: “It’s been nice.” Great line Ben!

Hunter: “I was confused last time, and I was on the wrong side of the vote. I’m still trying to figure it out.” Make it easy, and play your Idol.

If I’m Hunter, I don’t trust anyone. I’m playing my Idol. But I’m not voting for Q, even if it will anger whoever I do vote for. People might understand your reluctance to trust anyone. But of course, your position would be better if you’d never told anyone about your Idol.

Four votes for Q, four for Hunter, and one for Ben, then Hunter leaves in the revote.

I’ve been saying it all season long (Jelinsky, Bhanu, Jem, Soda and now Hunter), you did it to yourself. This season’s players are reaching Gabon-level sloppiness, but at least they’re much more entertaining. There was a lot more mean-spirited play in Gabon.

So, Tiffany, Maria, Charlie and Ben voted for Hunter in the first round. I wonder which one of them pushed it through? My spidey sense says it was Maria, but who knows? It’s possible the several of them got together to split their seven votes. Kenzie was selling Hunter hard that he was safe but didn’t appear surprised when his name kept coming up. I think she was in on it too, even though she initially went after Tiffany, and told Ben “I think the Hunter vote is boring.” Tiffany put on a damn good poker face since she was sitting right next to Hunter.

Tiffany reassures Hunter

Maybe Maria initiated the plan but Tiffany sold and sealed it at Tribal Council? Either way, it looks like Siga’s early unity is starting to pay off.

But Venus will tell the world it was all her master plan.

And so will Q.


Obviously, Hunter didn’t follow my advice and paid the price for it. I think Q was definitely leaving if Hunter hadn’t told anyone about his Idol. All Hunter did by opening his mouth about it was provide greater incentive to go after him. He even made an easier decision for Tiffany. If he played his Idol she’d play hers just to be safe. But if he didn’t play his Idol, she could keep hers. I’m starting to think Ice Cream Scooper Erik had the right idea in Caramoan when he said he never wanted anything to do with Idols. Nobody ever targeted him, and when he was medevaced at final 5, he was in a pretty good position to win the game against anyone but Cochran. Hunter was actually safer when nobody knew he had an Idol. It looks like two votes flipped from Q to Hunter on the revote.

Hunter really sunk his own ship. He changed everyone’s voting options by telling people he had an Idol.

So, Hunter, who was labeled a “leader,” and was a challenge beast goes out 9th – right around 10th place like most of them do.

Once again, I’m wondering what’s going on in Maria’s head. Earlier in the episode, she said she was open to working with Hunter, and didn’t want Tiffany around. But in the end, she voted for Hunter, and might have worked with Tiffany to get it done.

It’s safe to say we won’t have an elite-level winner like Dee last season, but when those kinds of wins are few and far between, you can appreciate them more. Just the same, it’s a downer to know that nobody is remotely close to playing that well yet. It’s been fairly random. We’ve got three players (Q, Liz and Venus) itching to take the lead, but failing to do it, three players (Ben, Charlie and Kenzie) laying so low they almost disappear completely, one (Maria) playing subtle but inconsistently, and Tiffany who seems to be using all 3 styles. Then again, this season has been so random, I suppose it’s fitting we’re gonna get a random winner.

What do you think? Is any single player (or pair of players) driving this game? Or is everyone just trying to maneuver around the chaos – both Producer- and player-generated chaos? What does your player report card look like? Would it have been smarter to remove the uncontrollable, unpredictable Q? He’s an ideal finals goat, but so is Venus. Keeping them both around increases the chances they’ll take your seat in the finals. 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.