Jeff Pitman's Survivor 46 recaps
One more
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 20, 2024
Survivor 46 Episode 12 recap/ analysis

One more

After Episode 12, we now have just one episode of Survivor 46 left. The good news is, it's unlikely someone will be voted out in the finale while holding an unplayed idol, so we should have a different storyline. Although we did get one more person doing that this episode, to make four in a row. Yay, records. But it was part of a series of "one mores" in this episode. Beyond the idol blindside, Maria won one more immunity challenge, and needs one more to tie the women's record. Surprisingly, we had one more individual reward challenge (yay!), that, naturally brought with it one more new era booby trap for the winner.

As I said way back when Hunter kicked off the parade of idol non-players leaving the game, voting someone out who's holding an idol isn't all *that* entertaining, I mostly just feel sad for the blindsidee. And already having had three in a row (four total), having one more of those didn't really do much for me, excitement-wise. Then again, four in a row is objectively unusual and unlikely, so sure, it's sort of interesting from that perspective, but it's still a whole lot of, "Eh, I'll bet they wish they'd played it, though."

This week at least changed the idol/boot script slightly, as Q the human smokescreen became Q the blindside target. Obviously, the "vote Q" decoy strategy would not have worked on Q, so we had to see a new plan this week. Charlie won individual reward (big mistake), but brought Kenzie and Liz along, so they could scheme and plot in privacy. (Also this meant Liz was finally allowed to eat something, yay.) They agreed to vote Maria, but Q was the crowd-pleasing backup, should Maria win immunity, and she did. Not exactly groundbreaking strategy, but at least Charlie didn't get voted out after everyone assured him they were voting Q. So there's that.

There were other minor victories and/or points of contention along the way. Q found an idol, of course, and immediately told Maria about it. Normally, that would be another "big mistake," but Q sold it well, asserting that if she won immunity, he would play the idol for himself, or he would play it for her if he won immunity. Neither ended up happening.

There was also a minor furor over Charlie being bait-and-switched over his reward. Prior to the challenge, Probst told the contestants they would be competing for Chinese food. Yay! Everyone gave it their all. But upon winning, Charlie learned that he (and his yet-to-be-chosen guests) would also receive their letters from home. Yet another, "Ha ha, we pulled a fast one on you!" stunt from production, so hooray for that, I guess? This led to some extremely hurt feelings, though, as Maria desperately wanted those letters from her family, whereas Charlie had already mentally committed to bringing Liz and Kenzie, the only other two people left out of last episode's pizza reward. Points for manufactured drama, but is this really necessary?

As suggested on twitter, technology has advanced sufficiently that Survivor no longer has to have loved ones on-site to do fake "internet video calls" like they did in S9: Vanuatu, they could just do a Zoom call, or a Facetime one, probably pretty much anywhere they choose. (Worst-case scenario, hardwire an ethernet connection to the Sanctuary.) It's not that hard. Let the winners do that, give letters to everyone. I dunno. It just seems a bit cruel to spring all that on a reward winner after the fact.

One more episode: Looking to the finale

One more episode: Looking to the finale

So how is this all going to end? We've finally had the first shots fired between Maria and Charlie. A great duo for the first 11 episodes, now the chief rivalry heading into the finale. Friends going to war, indeed (that's the finale title).

Either Maria or Charlie would make a great winner for this season. They've each played thoughtful, well-rounded, socially grounded strategic games. Both have subtly guided the post-merge game (and together, the pre-merge Siga game), correctly making moves while Q offered an obvious distraction. But obviously, only one of them can win. (Or maybe it's neither?)

Based on the dramatic disparity in their confessionals (thanks to @RobsFactChecker) - 73 for Charlie to 43 for Maria, with Maria getting almost a third (12) of those just this last episode - it seems more likely that Charlie will come out on top. In fact, if Maria does end up winning, that's just an atrocious fumbling of basic storytelling, since we've barely heard anything from Maria all season, despite her playing one of the most impressive, impactful games by a woman over 40 in the show's history. (Let's be honest, it's an atrocious fumbling of storytelling whether or not she wins.) So the most likely way the Charlie-Maria thing plays out is: One of them wins the Final 5 immunity, the other gets voted out, first boot of the finale.

That leads us to everyone's favorite event, forced final four firemaking. Honestly, it could be any of the remaining people going. If Charlie is out at F5, then it's probably Maria here (because again, her dismal underedit says she's not the winner). If Maria is already out, maybe Charlie leaves here. Maybe it's Liz or Ben. Given that the one story we've had about fire is that Yanu couldn't make one because they didn't have flint, your guess is as good as mine.

The only plausible winners based on the amount and complexity of screentime are Charlie and Kenzie. Ben and Liz seem like great people, and have had their moments, but the editors seem to have only had use for them when pushing forward Jeff Probst's favorite narrative, "OMG, you guys, the 26-day season is really damn hard!" (Never mind that most of Liz's hardship came because Probst himself decided it's hilarious to not give the contestants rice any more.) Of Charlie and Kenzie, Kenzie's story has been more about contemplating making moves then not following through, or of plans falling apart (the anti-Q thing with Bhanu and Jess; the anti-Q thing with Tiffany; her failed attempt to blindside Tiffany). In contrast to her mixed résumé, Kenzie's greatest strength has been her genuine empathy to people who were having a hard time (somewhat Bhanu, Venus, Ben). You could easily imagine Kenzie's kindness being repaid with jury votes. In a Kenzie-Ben-Liz final three, she's likely your landslide winner.

Meanwhile, Charlie is the fourth lawyer (/law student) to reach the final six in the past two seasons. If Charlie is in the finals, he should be able to sell a solid strategic case to the jury, one that should easily overshadow anything Liz or Ben can point to. There are valid fan worries that Charlie's game has been too stealthy, too hidden, and that the jury might not buy his pitch because of that (as with Stephen Fishbach in Tocantins). But if he can point to back-to-back boots of Q and Maria that he personally drove, especially after people had been trying to get Q out forever, that should be enough. Let's not overthink this.

So who wins if *both* Kenzie and Charlie are in the finals together? That could be an interesting matchup. The two have played very different games. While you would think Charlie's superior strategic/physical CV would be the best fit for this particularly move- and credit-focused jury, Kenzie can point to Yanu's horrible pre-merge as evidence she's come the farthest (even if Siga was barely ahead of Yanu for second place almost every time). Kenzie hasn't really betrayed anyone (even though she wanted to), whereas Charlie turned on Maria. I always root for a close jury vote, and it almost never happens. But it might in that scenario?

One more time: Jeff Probst doesn't understand how Survivor works

Jeff Probst doesn't understand how Survivor works

In talking up Maria's accomplishment of now being just one immunity win shy of the record for women (4 wins), Jeff Probst tried to accentuate that achievement by adding "and that's [a record set] in seasons that last 39 days." Maria's IC wins are great, but Probst's comment makes no sense. The season length has nothing to do with the total number of immunity challenges, because if a 39-day and a 26-day season have the same number of contestants (let's say 18), Final Tribal format (2 vs. 3), and jury size (say 8), there will be exactly the same number of immunity challenges. You still have to eliminate the same number of contestants to get to the end, there are just fewer days in which to do so.

That said, there *are* some recent format changes that do take away individual challenge opportunities, though. One is the team challenge at mergeatory (Ep6). Another is forcing people to sit out of an IC in exchange for rice. Another is the (now-defunct) Do or Die scenario, which actively encouraged people to sit out. Another is split immunities/split Tribals, usually at F12/F11 (which actually started back in S36: Ghost Island). Way back in S23: South Pacific, the approach to a post-merge double-boot was to hold a regular IC, vote, then have a surprise second trivia IC right there at Tribal, then another vote. (Why can't we do this still?) Even though South Pacific had zero post-merge reward challenges (because of stupid Redemption Island), Albert, Coach and Sophie each competed in 10 individual immunity challenges. In Survivor 42, thanks to the abundance of sit-out-induction and other new era twists, Maryanne competed in just six.

There's your problem: It's not the days, it's the game design.

It's so bizarre that Probst has this lack of understanding, too. He's the same guy who was so irate that Claire Rafson sat out three consecutive challenges in Survivor 44 - in different episodes! - that he changed the "you can't sit out back-to-back challenges" rule so that the ticker no longer resets with each Tribal Council. Never mind that Claire was in that position because: (1) there was a medevac on Day 1 (forcing two people to sit out the Ep1 IC), (2) three starting tribes almost always means at least one tribe has to sit someone out after Ep1, and (3) production has steered away from reward challenges in Eps 2-3, because three tribes and 18 newbies made it impossible to keep track of who was who in a 60-minute episode with two challenges. All of these problems could have been fixed by simply starting with two tribes! But no, it's Claire who was wrong. Nobody is allowed to expose the show's design flaws, even when other deliberate flaws by the same designer *encourage* people to sit out of post-merge challenges.

But this is how it's always been. Jeff Probst has taken great pains to let fans know that he hears our complaints about the every-season-follows-the-same-rigid-schedule "new" era, but when confronted with that, he throws up a smokescreen and changes the topic to how the fans are upset about 26 days, but they can get over it, because 26 days is staying!

*Sigh* The problem is not 26 days. The problem is not that we don't like change! The problem is: every fucking season in the new era is the same. It's stale. We *want* variety, different formats, different themes ... not excuses, misdirection, and gaslighting.

So anyway, fellow Survivor fan, after your four-month hiatus between 46 and 47 (where presumably you'll be catching up on SurvivorAU, which has now surpassed the US version in every aspect, just as Maria zoomed past Ben on the puzzle in the IC), you'll get to enjoy another season of 18 people, three small tribes, mergeatory, split Tribals at F12/F11, forced sit-outs for rice, forced F4 fire, people starving, and at most one new challenge. And then you'll do it again in 48. And then four months later again in 49.

As Q would say, we can "count to Christmas" if we think anything is ever going to change while Probst is in charge.

Shorter takes

Shorter takes

Charlie is it: It took almost five full episodes to get there, but we finally got the long-anticipated payoff for Charlie (who was "it") saying to (the then-in-charge) Q as the Hide and Seek game started: "I'm coming for you, Q!" In the end, it took Charlie explicitly turning on his closest ally, Maria, being blocked from voting against her by Maria winning immunity, and being forced to then (actually) vote for Q, as her lieutenant. Let's ignore that in getting the numbers together, he sort of let Liz and Kenzie call the shot initially, or that Ben had been wanting to do this forever. Charlie did it! Mission accomplished! (Just as everyone else seemed to be doing the actual finding in Hide and Seek.)

Beast update: To handicap the Final 5 immunity challenge, which will be the crux of the finale, we look to Mean % Finish in individual challenges, and Charlie and Maria are in a virtual tie, as they were last week. Charlie remains at 70.6%, with Maria a hair behind at 69.3%. Both have three individual wins. These are very good numbers, around roughly the 80th percentile historically (Owen Knight finished at exactly 70.6%, as a recent example). Nobody else is close, with Kenzie at 54.1% (44th percentile), Ben at 47.9%, and Liz at 46.4%. So either Charlie or Maria is the favorite to win at F5, and whichever one of those two doesn't win is probably the #1 target to be the F5 boot. No pressure!

That's a relief: One of the most common suggestions about my overall scores for Survivor has always been, "you should give people credit for finding an idol." That always seemed a bit silly in light of James Clement doubly demonstrating how meaningless that actually is, in just the second season with modern idol rules. But now I can safely just say "No" and point to this season. Thank you, 46!

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