Kaiser Island - Ryan Kaiser's SurvivorUK 3 recaps
Survivor UK: A trip across the pond and to the past
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: November 21, 2023
Survivor UK 3 Episodes 1-8 recap/ analysis

A trip across the pond and to the past

The Bitch is Back (Elton John, 1974)! I took a break from writing weekly about US Survivor because my recaps were becoming more and more just rants. For what it’s worth, Survivor 45 has been an improvement in the new era, but I almost exclusively credit that to the 90-minute episodes rather than any significant improvements to game design or casting (2 quitters... ). I hope for the show’s sake we can hang on to that extra time but we’ll see what happens after next spring ....

That said, Americans (and Canadians) aren’t who I’m here to talk about – it’s the Brits! With Survivor: South Africa “canceled” (at least on M-Net) and me yet to dive into the Australian catalogue, news of a revived Survivor UK piqued my interest many months ago and I was excited to check out possibly another fresh take on the Survivor franchise to see if it could fix any of the mistakes the US has been making in recent years.

In some ways, Survivor UK has been a blast from the past. The game is much simpler, the cast is more low-key and in less of a “gamer” mindset, and there have been several fun throwbacks that made me feel like I was watching the birth of Survivor again. At the same time, some of the show’s old school elements haven’t been welcomed with wide open arms. It’s still been interesting to me, though, because it’s almost like watching Borneo and witnessing the game evolve right before my eyes. I won’t cover every detail of episodes 1-8 which will now mark the pre-merge portion of the game, but with some time on my hands while on holiday (as those in the UK would say) I felt like sharing some thoughts on the season so far and its star players.


Simpler times

Here’s some of that old-school Survivor magic I’ve been loving since the start of Survivor UK:

Two tribes – it’s funny because after Cagayan, I thought starting with three tribes was the magic number. As Jeff likes to say, “there’s nowhere to hide” which accelerates gameplay, but like everything else, I’ve realized that’s best in moderation. The two-tribe format creates an immediate “us vs. them” dynamic and the tribes start to feel like families (with the equal amounts of love and dysfunction that come with them). It’s not so much about a game as it is building a small community and then having to boot people out of it. With only 6 people, you’re looking at only a slightly larger player pool than your average board game so it’s easy to not get as personal but instead game-savvy. With two camps, it’s also easier to bounce back and forth with the stories and it’s not like watching shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead going “oh yeah, I forgot about that person.” Two tribes also make challenges more high-stakes because “second place sends you home,” as Colby Donaldson remarked after the All-Stars tribe dissolvement.

“Alliances” – I don’t think I even clocked the word “alliance” until Episode 3 or 4, and even since then it’s been few and far between. I attribute this to the cast not being full of many “students of the game,” if any at all. We’ve still seen several key relationships (Ren/Doug, Tinuke/Nathan, Christopher/Ashleigh, Jess/Rachel) but I’ve loved that they’re presented as just that – relationships. Sure, they’re “allies,” but we’ve seen much more of little pairs working together with other pairs rather than big “alliances” driving the game. Even though we’re still looking at Caletón vs. La Nena going into the merge, I hope there’s enough movement among these little relationships to keep the dynamics shifting and avoid becoming stale.

Idols – We are eight episodes into a season of Survivor in 2023 and there has been exactly one idol found which only 2 people in the game know has been found….WHAT!!?? It’s wild watching the show without some kind of scavenger hunt every week or a new advantage to be confused by – I appreciate UK not going all in with this and letting the game be driven by relationships rather than advantages. There’s still half a season left, but I don’t see this production choice changing. We’ve joked about a “Back to Borneo” season in the US, so this may be the closest thing to showing us if we’d still like that (again, best in moderation).

Classic challenges – Admittedly, these have been heavy on the physical side, but I appreciate so many throwbacks to some favorite old school Survivor challenges like "Sumo at Sea," "Shoulder the Load," and most recently "When it Rains, It Pours" (though I’d have saved this for the merge). Plus, I’m always a fan of a big water slide, especially when it’s made into a 1-v-1 face-off with oiled-up players wrestling. These and many more have really added to the feel of watching classic Survivor which we watch for the plot.

The plot:

The plot

More of the plot

No more Fiji! – God, it feels good to see fresh beaches and not go, “Oh, there’s the rock that Matthew fell off and where Debbie freaked out on Tai.” Even though I wouldn’t say the show has used the Dominican Republic so as much as a “theme,” it’s amazing what a simple change of scenery has added. Despite new beaches, we still see the tribes with limited available resources and the physical toll is present. I’ve never been MOST interested in the “survival” aspect of the show, but it’s an important one to keep in focus given the name of the show.

34 Days – Okay, not quite 39, but we’ll take it! It’ll be Day 19 next episode when the tribes merge. In New Era Survivor, we’d be getting 6 tribal councils in the next 7 days. No, for real. Frannie was voted out on Day 19 followed by Danny on Day 21, then Jaime, Lauren, and Carson on Days 23-25, and Carolyn was robbed of votes on Day 26. HALF the eliminations happen in the last week of the game now, so I’m ecstatic to see UK’s second half take an appropriate 2+ weeks to play out.


Some things better left

Really, I just have one major complaint. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ALL THE WOMEN??? There have been 7 votes and only 2 men eliminated, bookending the entire pre-merge. Only two of those 7 votes weren’t a result of “keeping the tribe strong” – Ren and Shai. Recent Survivor seasons have been bad about this gendercide too and while I’m not going to give UK a total pass, it’s something that I would caution to look at a little differently.

As I’ve said, these people aren’t students of the game. I’m guessing they were familiar with the idea of the show and once they were cast, most probably watched a few seasons to get the gist but I don’t know if any of them are even close to superfan status. They know the name of the game is to not get voted off by avoiding tribal council, i.e., winning immunity challenges, and with so many of the challenges being very physical – sometimes literally dictated by the mantra “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” – I don’t completely blame the tribes for wanting to vote along lines of physical strength given the game design.

The issue with this isn’t that all the men are misogynists for voting out only women but rather the disparate impact of a game that’s been favoring tribe “strength” has on women’s chances of avoiding the chopping block. I appreciated the bigger guys Nathan and Doug stating very early on that there are other ways people can bring strength to the tribe ... unfortunately, that’s rarely actually mattered when it’s come time to put pen to parchment. The Ren vote was fantastic – not only was physical strength not even relevant, but it involved the La Nena tribe turning on one of its own in favor of keeping the entire Caletón minority because of what a strategic threat Ren was. Then we had the messy flip-flopping on NuCaletón that left us with a Shai blindside served up in the form of #JusticeForJess.

Happy Nathan

My satisfactory smile was like Nathan’s there ... I only wish it had come one episode sooner and Jess could’ve been there to flash her own.

So, we’ve seen such votes can happen, and I hope that with the merge, strategy will sort of reverse and what protected all the brawny, athletic men in the first 18 days will now make them targets in the next 16. However, that’d probably be just as boring, so I rather hope the dynamics aren’t so black and white on strong vs. weak or Caletón vs. La Nena for that matter.

If there’s one takeaway, though, if there’s a Survivor UK season 2 (err, “4”) on the horizon, it’s the need for more diversity in challenges to allow players with those other types of strength to shine and, wrapped in that, maybe some diversity in casting more folks with a less athletic background. The withering away of the women’s numbers due largely to physicality definitely has dragged this season down from being rated higher overall.

I loved seeing Caletón called out in Episode 8 for voting out Jess, and they immediately got smacked in the face by karma (whether pre-planned or if an individual challenge was turned into a tribe challenge ala Gabon, I don’t really care at this point) – I wouldn’t mind seeing some of these people who were all about winning tribal challenges realize, “oh shit” for making the individual stage of the game that much harder for themselves because of that simple-minded strategy. Looking at you Lee ...


Looking to the future

As long as this season doesn’t fall too far into Borneo territory with a Pagonging (Caletónging?), I think we can still save this to be a nice little reboot of the Survivor UK series, enough to warrant a season two and where hopefully the social gameplay grows a little more complex. Realistically, my gut says we’ll see something a little more like The Australian Outback – La Nena will be the “Ogakor” who holds onto their majority but from time to time will sacrifice one of their own as those numbers allow (hoping Lee is the initial “Jerri”) to give us hope for a Caletón/Kucha underdog comeback but ultimately, it’ll be a La Nena top dog taking home the prize.

I hope the merge inspires more players to emerge, but I think those that have carried the season so far will continue to do so ... or get cut trying. The exciting part is that I could probably make a case for seeing most of these folks win, and while I obviously have a few names in mind as top contenders, I don’t think the prediction game is necessarily “easy,” but I’ll talk about the 11 remaining anyway to see how right or wrong I am in the end!


The Nathans of Survivor are never my “type” – alpha male athlete who is untouchable in the pre-merge because of the physical assets they provide to the tribe. However, Nathan has been a breath of fresh air in this field. He’s very much been the alpha of Caletón and responsible for a lot of their success in challenges, but I don’t get any sense of arrogance from him and I loved the latest episode highlighting him as a dad to let us know that he’s playing this game for his family. His heart’s appropriately as big as his chest as Joel’s pointed out.

With how much the game has been focused on physicality, though, what’s saved Nathan from elimination in the first half I think will make him target #1 in the second half. Caletón is down in numbers and La Nena will look immediately to widen that gap, so Nathan is such an obvious target to go after – sure, Doug and Pegleg voted with him against Shai but only because Shai was seen as more strategically dangerous. I think Nathan or Doug were destined to be the merge boot depending on which original tribe had the power, and while I have hope that the later game will become more complex than “vote out the biggest challenge threat,” I’m expecting the merge boot to be simply that. Nathan has shown an impressive social game for remaining high on the totem pole at original Caletón, but I think that’ll only add to his threat level in this new merge tribe.

Prediction – 11th place


Laurence has been an interesting one to watch. He came out of the gates strong and felt a little like a sort of parallel player as Christopher on Caletón, but he dipped a little in visibility and seemed to only pop back up when he became strategically relevant – the decoy boot during the tribal council where Rachel was voted out and then one of the “snakes” with Shai who voted out Jess. While he made a “hero” move in taking a big fish over an idol when he had the opportunity, I think his comeback has confirmed he’ll be in his “villain” era for as long as he remains.

Unfortunately for Laurence, I don’t think that will be very long. If Nathan is next to go, I still see another Caletón getting the chop before La Nena looks to their own, and I think it’ll be between Laurence and Matthew before Tinuke and Leilani. Laurence did do Doug and Pegleg a favor by voting out Jess, but for the same reason they didn’t stick with Shai very long, I think Laurence will be soon to follow. He never really climbed to the top of Caletón like I thought he could, and now that he’s been associated with shady Shai, I don’t expect him to make many new friends with the rest of La Nena. At this point, Matthew, Tinuke, and Leilani will all have deeper bonds with La Nena than Laurence, so I could see even Caletón being aligned to lose Laurence to protect themselves for another round. Laurence just didn’t pick the right ride or die to make it deep in this game.

Prediction – 10th Place


Lee’s about as strategically shallow as they come, all in on the narrative of “the men are stronger than the women.” His voting record is an impressive 0-3 which also does not bode well at all for him becoming any sort of strategic powerhouse post-merge. I was hoping for a blindside sooner, but I may have to wait just a little bit longer. Eventually, La Nena will eat one of its own and I think the recent clash with Christopher was the big clue that the first self-sacrifice of that tribe will be Lee.

Lee’s by far my least favorite of the season for his general narrow-minded attitude and sourness, but I will say it was nice to see a softer side when he read his loved one letter and shared about his mother and brother. It at least explains why he’s a little rough around the edges and easily irritable. He wants a “win” in his life after suffering so much loss, and I do feel for that, but I’d be lying if I said I still won’t cheer when he leaves. He’s blindly La Nena-strong but he’s also its biggest crack – all of it just spells a big blindside for Lee coming sooner than he realizes.

Prediction – 9th Place


Matthew’s another one like Laurence who we sometimes see and sometimes don’t. I’d probably say he’s the least developed Caletón left in the game. We’ve checked in with him, but I can’t really recall much that’s made an impact. He’s fun, likable, he’s been a help in challenges, but as the Caletón numbers dwindle, I think Leilani will be looked at as far less of a threat, and while Tinuke could possibly be seen as bigger one for being stronger socially and strategically, I also see her having the ability to maneuver better than Matthew. It may not get her all the way to the end, but I think she could be the last Caletón standing at least if she plays her cards correctly.

After a big Lee blindside, there’ll be hope of a Caletón comeback, but I don’t think La Nena will be “all bets are off” quite that early, so I’d expect the vote to swing back at one of Tinuke and Matthew and for reasons stated above, I think it’ll be a sad sendoff for youngest player left in the game.

Prediction – 8th Place


If Caletón went into this merge with the numbers, Tinuke would my instant winner pick. She has (almost) everything it takes to be a Sole Survivor. On Caletón, she had it all. She was calling the shots with Nathan, but while living the high life at the top, she was always shown in conversations with those on the lower end which made it clear that everyone was coming to Tinuke to decide which way the tribe should go. I don’t know how much of a fan Tinuke is of the show, but she immediately understood the assignment and has been a force in the pre-merge. We never saw what would’ve happened if Christopher’s attempts to throw challenges were successful, but I think she’d have made sure the vote wasn’t her.

The one thing Tinuke doesn’t have is power anymore. Shai made sure of that, and to be fair, Tinuke can partially blame herself too. Poor Jess and Rachel knew exactly what Shai and Laurence were capable of, but Tinuke and Nathan played a little blind with keeping them around for challenge strength when they’ve now lost both Rachel and Jess who would’ve helped Caletón keep its numbers. I still think Tinuke can make a bit of a run and I’ll be rooting for her all the way, but unless La Nena completely self-destructs, I sadly don’t see Tinuke as the winner as much as I saw even just before the last two episodes. She may try to pitch with Leilani an idea of a women’s alliance with Hannah and Ashleigh, but I think the latter will still be a little too in love with La Nena to jump ship. Tenacious as she is, Tinuke will do all she can to claw her way out of the Caletón hole, and with a more strategic cast, she may have been able to, but I do unfortunately feel her fate will be in La Nena’s hands and eventually they’ll realize she’s too strong to hold onto in the game. They won’t want to be wiping her ass all the way to the bank.

Prediction – 7th Place


A little like Matthew and Caletón, Hannah is the most under-developed member of La Nena. I’ve mostly liked what I’ve seen of her, but she too was a little guilty earlier of the simple-minded strategy of prioritizing physical strength over all else. She’ll stay loyal to La Nena to a fault when I think while jumping to Caletón at some point would probably be her best move. Christopher and Ashleigh are a tight pair and they were working before the swap with Doug who now has Pegleg probably tight, so I see Hannah falling to the bottom before she realizes it’s too late to reposition herself.

As Caletón numbers dwindle, that core La Nena four will probably weigh keeping Hannah around for the sake of tribe loyalty vs. voting her out over someone who poses less of challenge threat like Leilani. Hannah will likely end up with a few woulda/coulda/shouldas but that’s Survivor.

Prediction – 6th Place


Leilani’s journey has been a wild one with her name being written down at every tribal council she’s attended, including, of course, the one where she was “voted out.” I’m still confused exactly what happened there. To me, I consider her booted from Caletón. She was saved by the twist, but I don’t understand why Caletón tried selling it – and Leilani bought it – as her being “sent” to La Nena as some sort of spy. If not for Joel’s last-minute mic drop, Leilani would’ve been the 4th person sent home. Somehow, she continued believing Caletón had her back when I would not have felt the same.

Ironically, I do think Leilani will be the last Caletón standing. Her physical underperformance compared to others in the pre-merge will make her an easy choice to keep around post-merge – funny how the game works like that. She’s super sweet and I think she’s taken more shit than she’s deserved, so it’ll be one last hope I think to root for her to go from being voted out of Caletón to being the angel of death for La Nena, but there’s just no way I see her doing that on her own.

Maybe she ends up a swing vote between competing La Nena pairs near the end, but this cast is a little too “good” for the game to really get ugly, and I could see La Nena wanting the story of their tribe taking it all the way to the end rather than risk a Caletón sneaking in and snatching the win. Still, if Leilani manages to make it this far, it’ll be a fun overall journey given how close she was to being the first boot – a testament to never giving up in the game of Survivor.

Prediction – 5th Place


Pegleg is kind of just…there for me. His name is about the only memorable part of his character. He’s like Lee and Hannah – he’ll be loyal to La Nena at his own peril. Best case scenario: he tags along to the final four or maybe even gets taken to the end as an easier opponent. Worst case scenario: Pegleg is the victim of a blindside like Lee if Caletón does manage to completely flip the game around in their favor. Either way, I don’t see Pegleg as this season’s winner. While I don’t think a jury will be SO in favor of a super strategic player over someone who’s just a good bloke, pretty much anyone Pegleg faces would be able to speak to a bigger strategic resume, so it’s hard to imagine him beating anyone unless it’s like a Christopher who the jury hates for being too cocky.

Prediction – 4th Place


The remaining three on this list – Christopher, Doug, and Ashleigh – is where it gets very difficult to predict because their endings are going to rely entirely on how exactly the rest of the game goes. Christopher was an early standout and while I think I’ve seen him share he only watched a few AU seasons before the game, he picked up the social/strategic aspect very quickly and paired with bringing physical assets has placed him in a very powerful position. I expect Christopher to remain the biggest “player” for the rest of the season. The biggest question, then, is whether he will be like a Richard (Hatch) and dominate his way to a win or if the other players’ brains are just a little more evolved than in Borneo and the “king” will be cut right before the end.

Christopher winning would make a big statement in Survivor UK and emphasize the importance of playing flexible with strategy and not so stuck on winning challenges. We’ve also seen him in all sorts of different conversations so aside from the spat with Lee, he’s probably playing the best social game too. My only reluctance in rooting for a Christopher to win would be how much that would inflate his already large ego. Don’t get me wrong – I love the guy who talks himself up in confessional (Tyson being my all-time favorite male player), but Christoper winning would almost be a little to “easy” for me to see, so I’d like something a little more surprising.

My read is that Christopher will very much be the driver of the game, but at the end, his allies Ashleigh and Doug will realize he’s too tough an opponent in front of a jury, so Christopher will need to win the final immunity to win the game. He’s definitely capable of doing so, but for the sake of making a prediction ... I’m going to say he won’t. It’d be really fun to see Ashleigh make the most cutthroat move of the game and take out her long-time ally, but realistically, I’d probably say Doug does it as kind of a hero slaying the dragon of the game.

Prediction – 3rd Place (Final Juror)


Ashleigh’s story at La Nena was a little like Leilani’s in that she was close a couple times to being voted out for – unfairly – being labeled as “weak.” Like Leilani too, though, Ashleigh’s received a very positive edit. I think we’re meant to be on her side in that “argument” as she’s shown herself to be a very capable player from whom we hear a lot of strategic insight. This may not be a totally spot-on comparison, but her relationship with Christopher is a little like that of Tony and his with Trish and Sarah – the softer side of those pairings responsible for reeling in the wild card when his ideas get a little too crazy.

Working against Ashleigh is how much this has been a male-dominated game and while I hope a jury doesn’t vote down gender lines, whether she’s sitting next to Christopher or Doug in the end, she’s going to have a massive uphill battle if she wants to win. Her closest allies are going to be her toughest competitors and while she’s shown her strategic chops and has had some A+ reads on situations, I fear these two will be her blind spots. When she has the chance to pull the trigger to take them out, I worry she’ll hesitate.

I think an all-girls thing could be her best move if it’s presented, but I don’t know that she’ll have the heart to take out her best boys. I’d love to see it for the sake of making that kind of statement after such a boys club game, but I thinks he’d worry about her chances of making it to the end with people she’s not as close with – in short, I think she’s guaranteed to be sitting at the end if she sticks with Christoper and Doug, as they’d surely both take her to final two (I’m not sure if it’s confirmed a two or three, but I’ll guess a two since this is a “classic” season), but I think to win Ashleigh needs to avoid that at all costs. I hope she at least gets votes, however, because she’s had quite a comeback, and I think she’ll be hand-in-hand with Christopher in making big game decisions.

Prediction – Runner-Up


Last but not least, Survivor UK’s main character – Doug. I feel like it’s safe to say the audience is supposed to be in love with this man and I am very much in that category. I wasn’t sure how much “game” he’d bring when we first met him, but he made a critical connection with Ren that put an idol in his pocket which he’s somehow managed to hang onto despite entering NuCaletón at a huge disadvantage. I think Doug is just one of those people a little like JT where they don’t have to do much in terms of social game to be well-liked and attract allies. It’s just going to happen naturally, and people are going to have a hard time emotionally voting Doug out.

Doug’s downfall could be his impressive physical ability, especially if his only competition in size, Nathan, is the first to go at the merge, but Doug is protected by La Nena numbers, and all he’ll need at the end is two clutch wins or so, and he’s golden.

It took a long time to bring back Survivor UK, so I’m sure the producers want a “good” ending to the season that will leave the audience satisfied and wanting more seasons. Doug is the epitome of that which is why I’d make him my winner pick at this point. Of course, he could very easily be an early target, but this season has slowly been shaping into Doug’s story. While his play at NuCaletón was impressive, I’d hope he does a little more than win some challenges if he’s going to win the game, but as long as I feel like Doug has made big decisions in the second half, I’ll be satisfied with him as the Sole Survivor.

Prediction – Winner


I did just want to say a few words about the robbed goddess Caletón queen Jess. I felt sooooo good about Jess right up until her final episode. She may not have been calling the shots, but she felt like the face of Caletón for me – we were always hearing from her and her confessionals were so fun and delightful. She also showed strategic chops in retrospectively what would’ve been Caletón’s best move in splitting up Shai and Laurence before the swap, but sadly, she was another victim of the whole “strength” bullshit.

I know it wasn’t just that since she had voted against both Shai and Laurence previously, but come on. Anyone suggesting Jess wasn’t performing enough in challenges is delusional.

Winning Jess

Battling Jess

Loaded Jess

I’m not sure I’ve ever been as upset to lose someone before the merge since Gina Crews. Well, maybe Natalie Cole, but the writing was kind of on the wall there. Jess’s boot had me GUTTED and I’m rooting for anyone who wrote her name down to lose the game (sorry Doug ... ) – I don’t think we’ve seen any kind of reaction to an elimination quite like we saw to hers at the next challenge but the kind of post-boot praise she received was 100% warranted.

Jess reminds me of one of my good friends who is just a beam of light and sunshine 24/7. I love my Survivor villains, but Jess is a rare hero who I had as my #1. If Survivor UK gains enough traction for an eventual returnee season, Jess is currently at the top of my list as someone who had so much more potential. She deserved to make the merge and I think she could’ve been a low-key assassin who’d have been underestimated all the way to the end. She could’ve been there if not for stupid Shai.


Merge IC?

I see pink! That’s fun. Survivor UK hasn’t been the fastest start to a Survivor season, but I’ve overall enjoyed the light ride that it’s been. We can’t fairly compare a third UK season to a 40+ season in the US, so with the negative critiques I have, I must remind myself that it really is a “new” show and isn’t immediately going to be what modern Survivor is – plus, there are many reasons why I would not want it to be that.

The simpler strategy could be bad thing, but the lack of gamers playing with a (Boston Rob) playbook could instead make for a game we haven’t seen in a long time. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the simpler things in life, and we have other franchise still giving us those WOW moments that UK may be lacking a in little thus far, but give it time to evolve. There’s a sweet spot somewhere between the slower pace UK and the insane, hard-to-follow dynamics of US seasons 41-44, and with time, UK could find that.

Bob’s your uncle!

Ryan KaiserRyan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser