Jeff Pitman's Survivor 46 recaps
Whither the withered Six?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 5, 2024
Survivor 46 Episode 10 recap/ analysis

Whither the withered Six?

This week's episode marked the fourth straight in which someone from the Six was voted out, leaving just Maria and Q as original members. Maria wasn't even told about the Six until after the merge, and it was all Q's idea in the first place, so is he the last Six member standing, or will Maria be?

A few weeks ago, I postulated that maybe Q set up this cross-Tribal alliance as a smokescreen, to protect himself from being targeted as a challenge threat, while simultaneously removing all the other threats from the game. We've had no indication from Q in the game that this was actually his plan, but it would be pretty impressive if he had done that, right? But you know what would be more impressive? Whether or not this was really his plan, what's stopping him from telling the jury that it was?

This is a game for a million dollars. And Q has set himself up pretty nicely to get to the end now. He's also established himself as a relatively straight shooter, someone who says what he thinks, which would lend validity to his claim (even if completely false). So if he gets to the final three and states he put half the jury in their jury seats by pretending to have an alliance with them, could that overcome their personal distaste for the chaos he has otherwise caused? I think it could.

Personally, I think Q making this play is unlikely. But even so, there's no reason Q can't do this, and if he does, that could be a pretty epic turnaround.

Anyway, back to the *other* last member of the Six still standing: Maria. She was clearly the player of the episode in Episode 10 (and delivered the title quote), and if we've learned anything in the new era, it's that as soon as you establish yourself as the obvious strategic threat, you're usually the next to go. Maria and Charlie are also the only remaining pair, she just hijacked Kenzie's intended move and claimed it for herself, and as we learned in Tiffany's exit interviews, Charlie had pitched using Tiffany's idol to blindside Maria the next round - after they had taken out Q in Ep10. (The latter was most likely a misdirect so that Tiffany wouldn't play her idol, but once the suggestion has been made, it's more likely to actually happen.) If Kenzie was saying two episodes ago she needed to take out Tiffany, it has to at least have crossed Charlie and Maria's minds that they might need to do the same to each other. Maybe, in true Malcolm/Denise fashion, it happens at F4 (or at F5, since F4 is no longer an actual vote). But F7 is a pretty enticing spot for that too, no?

I hope that doesn't happen, though, because the Charlie-Maria duo is one of the best all-around pairs we've had. Like Malcolm and Denise, they're both strategic and physical, and both appear to have pretty solid social games on top of that. The best possible outcome here from an audience perspective is that they somehow make it through the gauntlet of the next three votes and F4 firemaking, and both of them are in the Final Three together, leading to a nail-biter jury vote. (I know, "Fan fiiiiiiction!")

Will that happen? So far, we haven't actually seen either Maria or Charlie even contemplate voting against the other (on-screen), but turning on your number one does seem to be a recent trend (more on that below), so who knows? Let's hope the Siga Two follows on from the success of the Tika Three and the Reba Four.

Taking the wrong lesson

Taking the wrong lesson

When a scene generates as much live drama (and audience reaction) as did Q's declining to take Liz on the Applebee's reward (and while not shown, also refusing to allow Maria or Kenzie to swap out so Liz could take their place), you can all but imagine the crew members high-fiving each other in real time in the background after the contestants headed back to camp. You could also visualize Jeff Probst sending out a memo to the effect of: "This worked because Liz was starving, so we should never give anyone any food, ever again. No more food rewards. No more rice forever!" (They contented themselves with having Probst film an on-the-spot request for applications, which felt almost as icky.) Not only that, but if you're like me, you worry that Survivor will now go out of its way to "create reality" like this again. I can't believe I have to write this, but: Here's why they shouldn't.

First, we have to understand that this moment may be completely unreproducible, because the situation was a unique confluence of unrelated factors: The reward exactly matched Liz's "Wednesday night ritual" of visiting Applebee's with her daughter (then watching this very show). Liz has also been starving the entire season, because she's allergic to almost every kind of food growing on the island, and because production has been holding the rice hostage all season, purely to create drama exactly like this. So it was the combination of that and everything else - (1) losing the challenge, (2) knowing she wouldn't be picked, and (3) missing out on this uniquely appealing reward with a deeply personal connection - that pushed Liz's emotions over the edge. Liz *really* wanted this, probably more than anyone has wanted a meal from a sit-down restaurant chain in the show's history.

Q's denying Liz the opportunity to participate also evolved from a set of factors that are probably not going to be replicated. Q was squarely on the outs. He wanted Kenzie and Tiffany to go with him, because they were mad at him, but they were still the closest thing to allies he had left, and he hoped to restore some trust with them. He also wanted Maria, as she was the only other person who'd bothered to talk to him after the previous Tribal. That left no space for anyone else. In contrast, Liz had voted against him, and had made no real attempt to work with him.

So Liz was uniquely primed to want/need this reward; Q was deeply unlikely to pick her. Combine that with the fact that Q's winning the reward challenge in the first place was literally an eight-way toss-up, and you have a situation whose chances of happening were approaching lottery-draw odds.

If the show wants to make this happen again, the easiest thing they could do is just have more individual reward challenges that feature this kind of decision-making. Remember when they used to be in almost every post-merge episode, but they were taken away, because ... reasons? Sure, it's unlikely we'll again be in a situation as primed to pop as this one, but you can't win the lottery if you don't play, right?

The 46 metagame and optimal gameplay

The 46 metagame and optimal gameplay

Rob Cesternino and Stephen Fishbach talked about this a little bit on Know-It-Alls, but there is an emerging trend in 46's moves that may or may not impact future seasons: Targeting your #1 is now a desirable big move in order to win the game. As Rob and Stephen mentioned, it sort of follows from Maryanne voting out Omar in 42 and Jesse backstabbing Cody in 43, and Ricard and Shan plotting against each other in 41. Also, as discussed on KIA, to a certain degree, if everyone in the endgame holds a common opinion about gameplay, even one that's completely wrong, if you want to win, you probably need to lean in to that opinion. So if everyone wants to see a résumé, you're gonna need one. (Rob also had a fantastic discussion about this and many other topics with Drew Basile this week, both podcasts are well worth a listen.) All that said, will this stick in the future?

Making Big Moves™ flickers in and out of fashion frequently, and despite the 46 cast seemingly taking their cues from the first three new-era seasons, the winners of the following two seasons, Yam Yam and Dee (who will be the most recent winner examples for the upcoming Survivor 47 and Survivor 48 seasons, which are about to film), famously stuck by their original tribe alliances up until the end of the game. Apart from voting out the aforementioned Drew, Dee never voted against her Reba alliance-mates, and Yam Yam never voted for Carolyn or Carson. So chances are the pendulum will swing back the other way in the next two seasons, and turning on your closest ally will be less of a thing. But you never know. Maybe as Drew suggested, it's more about casting people who are fixated on résumé-building, and not so much on recent gameplay norms. (Also, everyone in 47-48 will be playing with the full knowledge they're auditioning for Survivor 50, so maybe it's Big Moves™ or bust for the foreseeable future, sigh.)

The other big gameplay topic of the week is obviously idols, as the third idol of the season left the game unplayed, this time in Tiffany's backpack. Part of the problem is, of course, that most new era idols have either forced contestants to enlist allies to help find them (45), or were activated very publicly (41-42), meaning it was virtually impossible for most to be secret. At the very least, the Beware vote-losing disadvantage coupled with tiny tribes all but requires an idol-finder to inform their allies that they're voteless, before the idol becomes active. (This season's version being the first in which that was not necessarily true.) Not only that, but the consensus opinion this season (and in the past) is that if you have an idol, you're a target. So what's the best path forward if you find an idol?

At least with this cast, the obvious play in retrospect is: As soon as your idol becomes known by anyone else, play it. The worst-case scenario is you didn't need to play it, and you look a bit dumb, but at least you're guaranteed to play another round, and you have a decent chance of finding a second one, presumably one that's actually secret, or at least has fewer strings attached (see Bruce's idol in 45, which did not require any vote sacrifice to become fully powered). And who knows? When you play the first one, you might get lucky and accidentally thwart a blindside coming your way (probably engineered by your #1 ally). With all the negative baggage associated with idols in the new era, better to be safe and void no votes than to leave with a souvenir (one that production will snatch away from you anyway).

Shorter takes

Shorter takes

Maybe don't starve them, though?: Liz's emotional outburst after not being picked for reward was an all-time memorable moment, but what if instead of driving the contestants to the brink of a breakdown, we let them have basic sustenance again (rice), like on every other international franchise, and as it used to be on this show before the New Era? Is causing someone to be so depleted that they scream intensely about not receiving a reward "creating reality," or just borderline physical/psychological abuse? In fact, and again, hear me out: What if we gave them FUN reward food, like the ridiculously oversized jar of cookies (and idol clue) from AU: Heroes v Villains?

Cookie jar

Instead of JLP pretending to be generous with a few pieces of popcorn, the Villains brought cookies to Tribal on their own accord, and used them as humorous props during the discussion. Not to mention all the various hijinks and shenanigans with Simon's ill-fated "cookie idol." Remember just a couple of episodes ago, when Q said that once he'd finally been fed, he had more energy to come up with interesting, entertaining concepts, like the Q skirt and the Hide-and-Seek game? Why *can't* Survivor be fun? What's so wrong with that?

Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes