Type keyword(s) to search


Survivor 43 Finalist Owen Knight Breaks Down Carolyn's Big Move

Did Tika tribe outsmart themselves? Is everybody building puzzle replicas at home now? We're getting an expert opinion.
  • Owen Knight on Survivor Season 43 (photo: CBS)
    Owen Knight on Survivor Season 43 (photo: CBS)

    There was another tense outcome at Tribal Council in this week's Survivor episode, with Carson flipping on his allies Helen and Sarah to align with the erratic Carolyn and her closest ally Yam Yam and oust Helen. Elsewhere, Ratu's Matthew made incredibly quick work of the immunity challenge puzzle, a replica of which he'd had built in his backyard to train.

    We wanted to dig a bit further into the events of the March 8 episode, “Two Dorky Magnets," including whether Carson made the right call, the Tika tribe got way too into trying to read body language, whether Matt and Frannie beginning a flirty romance on the island is a good idea, and if everybody who wants to be on Survivor should be building puzzle replicas at home. So we reached out to Owen Knight, a finalist on Survivor 43 and a Survivor superfan long before that. What's the expert take on what went down this week?

    I think it's two-for-two now in terms of really entertaining, really fun episodes. I really like this cast.

    I do too. They're very dynamic and — I mean this in the most complimentary way — so much more unhinged than my cast.

    How are you enjoying experiencing the show as an alum for the first time? Have you noticed things in these first couple episodes that you wouldn't have before, having now been on the island?

    Definitely. Even in the first episode, I remember Josh's first confessional, he is sitting in the Baka camp and the merge camp from [Season] 43, and that immediately took me back. I was like “I've sat on that log before!” Eating my rice out of my coconut. And in the cold open of the premiere, that was Clark, one of the producers; that was really cool. Just hearing his voice really gets your head back in there. But I've enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I think part of me obviously was sad that 43’s time was up. But also for me, because I'm such a fan of the show, I'm never not going to be excited about a new season of Survivor.

    Getting into the events of last night's episode, the thing that I walked away with from the Tika tribal council was Carson as the middleman swing vote, with Yam Yam and Carolyn on one side and Helen and Sarah on the other. Last week, it seemed like he was a lot closer with Helen and Sarah. And then we find out that, no, he went the other way with the vote. Do you think he made the right decision?

    I think on the surface, when you're just looking at the people and not the game mechanics of it all, I think he actually might have been safer with Helen and Sarah. With Yam Yam and Carolyn, he stands out as being the third wheel, the last-arrived to the alliance, maybe in a more precarious position if they get down to it with just the three of them. Whereas he, Sarah, and Helen made more of an even trio, in my opinion. But I gave that caveat at the beginning because we saw Sarah lose her vote [last week when she earned the Inheritance Advantage], and I think the story she presented [at camp] was that she wasn't sure if she had her vote or not. So maybe the logical engineer brain of Carson was running through the scenarios, and the idea of a 2-2 tie in a five-person tribal council was not very appealing. So I'm sure that played a role in his decision making as well.

    And then over on Soka tribe, there's this maybe-flirting, maybe budding romance happening between Matt and Frannie. And they don't seem to be doing much to keep it a secret, which I think is interesting. You can see the rest of the tribe reacting to that. Claire—

    Her face was hilarious!

    Is that something that ever came up on your season? How do you think you would react to something like a possible romance between two people on your tribe?

    Well I am definitely here for this presumed showmance. I'm a big “Mannie” fan. I think their energy is really endearing to me. I don't know if I'd be making the faces Claire was making if they were on [my tribe]. However, that is extremely threatening. The closest thing we had on Baka, honestly, was Elie and Jeanine; obviously that was a very platonic friendship, but they were inseparable. Like when we merged, we told them “Y’all two need to not touch each other for two days. We gotta play it cool.” And of course immediately they're like hugging and cuddling.

    If a pair on my tribe was developing, I would be threatened. As to what I was just saying about Carolyn and Yam Yam being seemingly a strong pair and Carson being the third wheel, that's how I felt when I found myself feeling like I was the swing vote on Baka. Do I go with Gabler and Sami, or do I go with Elie and Jeanine, if push comes to shove? And to me, I was very scared of the prospect of staying with Elie and Jeanine, knowing that they would both prefer each other over me, even though I saw them as more logical game players.

    From the personal side of things, the human side of me, I think it's really sweet that they're starting this relationship. Clearly they get along and their personalities mesh. But sitting around camp and thinking about it, depending on the numbers. I would be scared that in a six-person tribe, the 4-2 split is, on the surface, not a great look for Matt and Frannie.

    Especially when you're Matt who doesn't have a vote for the next two Tribals.

    For the next two! Advantage Island really keeps just shaking things up.

    Did you go to Advantage Island on your season?

    I did, but I did not participate in the game. I used that more to gain trust with Noelle, and since I felt I was in the swing [position], I thought it would be dumb to risk my vote. They always say your vote is the power you have in the game. To give that for a rinky-dink advantage…

    And sometimes you have to tell everybody you have it when you get back to the beach! I think that’s so funny, you risk all of this to get the advantage, and it's like, “Well, I’ve got to tell them, because they're going to know that I got something, because I went to Advantage Island.”

    Exactly, it neuters any element of surprise you have.

    It does seem like in recent Survivor seasons, there are recognizable signposts that the season goes along. I thought of that when Matthew told Jeff that he had the replica of the [Immunity Challenge] puzzle built in his backyard. And then you saw Carson, on the sly, talk about 3D-printing puzzles from Survivor. And this is all because Survivor recycles and reuses puzzles from time to time. It’s part of Survivor lore at this point, that there are these [elements] that you can expect in the game. I don't know if you're a Big Brother fan, but I find this is the thing on Big Brother too, where it's like everybody knows—

    The wall comp! Yeah. The memory [competition]. OTEV.

    Yeah, exactly. You know what to expect, so you can prepare for these things a lot more concretely. Is that something that you did on your season? Is that something that you found that a lot of people on the newer seasons are doing?

    Yes. Short answer is yes. I mean, there are a lot of superfans in the new era, and that was something I was a little nervous about going into the show. Because I knew one of the main elements of my casting story was my superfan energy. So I was a little nervous about revealing that. But that became apparent on the first day, what big fans my cast [all were]. And you saw that on [Seasons] 42 and 41, and now 44 as well. So a lot of us had practiced and bought some replica puzzles from Vexle or Outplay Puzzles, I think it's their name. There are these great people on Etsy or whatever that are making replica puzzles and selling them. For me, I had three at my house, but I didn't view it as like studying so I would be able to copy the test.

    But I thought it would be a good way to develop those spatial reasoning skills and practice. But it is kind of funny to me that if I just bought the damn bat [puzzle] instead of the tree, I could have won the Final Six [immunity challenge] guaranteed. So that's kind of a crapshoot, and I suppose if anyone had the resources, they could buy every single replica puzzle and practice all of them. So, yeah, I don't know if I love that. I mean, I do like that they're rotating and changing, and I understand they don't have an unlimited budget of time or money for puzzles, but that is kind of crazy that you can make an educated guess of what kind of thing would show up. My advice to future players would be to just kind of practice the general skills and hope that it translates.

    I would imagine getting good at puzzles in general just helps you across the board.

    Right. Puzzles in general. Balance in general. These certain skills are going to translate to a lot of the challenges. But whether you've memorized the bat or the beads or the tree or whatever, that's just kind of dumb luck at that point.

    Back to Tika for a second, because during the idol-hunt portion of the episode, Carolyn finds it, nobody else knows, and there's a lot of talk about reading other people's body language. Carson thinks that Helen has it because of her body language. Sarah and Yam Yam each suspect the other one has it. They're all wrong. Everyone's wrong. So I wanted to ask about the tendency to outsmart yourself a little bit or overthink things on the island. I imagine with all of that time just being out there that there’s a huge temptation is to get ahead of yourself mentally.

    Absolutely, absolutely. First of all, I thought that sequence was hilarious, with Carolyn [finding the idol] and mistaking the fake idol for the real idol. But regarding overthinking and analyzing things, yes, you have so much time, your brain is running through all these scenarios, and you're simultaneously trying to galaxy-brain everything and feel like you're a step ahead of everyone. But you're also trying to talk yourself out of overthinking it, or feeling paranoid that someone is trying to use reverse psychology on you. And all day your head can go in circles of like “Oh, I think I got them here! I think they're trying to pull a fast one on me! But maybe they're trying to make me feel uncomfortable!” And you could just talk yourself into or out of anything.

    It's very mentally taxing. You're already physically so depleted, but when it comes to body language or lying, for me, you saw on the show that I am a little tightly wound, and I can get frustrated easily. And I knew that if I overthought things too much or I got too paranoid, I would A) do probably much worse in the game, but B) just drive myself insane. So I think one of my flaws on my season was that I was too trusting, you know? I wanted to believe people, I wanted to take people at face value. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole of “What if people are lying? What if this? What if that?” I didn’t go too many layers deep on that. But watching this unfold on Tika I thought was really funny, because I think there are moments out there where you convince yourself you're this genius who's cracked the code. And you're like, “I caught them! She crossed her arms!” You know? Like, “Busted, Helen!”

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM ET on CBS. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Survivor, CBS, Jeff Probst, Owen Knight