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Survivor 43 Crowns Cody the Season's 'Big Character'

Meanwhile, the power of pairs highlights the season's strategic game so far.
  • Cody Assenmacher (Photo:CBS)
    Cody Assenmacher (Photo:CBS)

    SPOILERS for the outcome of Wednesday night's episode of Survivor ahead.

    The alternate title to this recap could've just been "BEADS?!", considering the fact that the last half-hour of the episode was dominated by Cody's late-breaking Beware Advantage and its requirement that he get the other tribe members to gift him the beads from their bags in order to (in many cases unknowingly) grant him a) an immunity idol and b) the ability to vote in tonight's tribal council. This was important, because with Dwight having already lost his vote due to last week's advantage gamble, Cody's vote was seemingly all that stood in the way of a deadlocked 2-2 vote that would've required the dreaded and unpredictable drawing of rocks.

    Through the first two episodes of the new season, Cody has emerged as the Big Character of the season. Not every season has one to this degree, but most do: the peculiar oddball of the season who's either a likable goof or an unpredictable wild card (often both). Cody's charm has thus far been an eye-of-the-beholder thing: the "Livin'" tattoo on his butt, the jumping off of cliffs, the Tiger King aesthetic. It's a lot. He's a lot. But this week's segment where Cody tells his tribe (and the home audience) about his friend who died of cancer and has thus inspired him to live every day to its utmost was a huge tip-off to the fact that Survivor sees him as very much a lovable goofball.

    Any time the Big Character of the season finds an advantage, it's an occasion to raise an eyebrow. To be clear, there is every reason to believe that Cody found his Beware Advantage by pure coincidence and without any production-aided shenanigans. But there's a history of Survivor's Big Characters finding plentiful advantages out in the wild, from Russell Hantz's immunity-idol run in season 19 to Ben Driebergen pulling off a miracle run of found idols when his back was against the wall in season 35. The hardcore Survivor audience has historically raised an eyebrow at these fortunate turns of events that have kept so-called "production faves" safe. And while conspiracy theories among reality TV fanbases are a dime a dozen, it doesn't help matters when the "hidden" advantage is essentially propped up on a log practically with a spotlight affixed to it as it was when Cody found his advantage this week. It's not like Cody was in severe danger of going home this week (really only if Nneka had played her Shot in the Dark and won). But giving Cody the bead-seeking quest so shortly before Tribal Council gave the season its first jolt of electricity as well as a supreme gag of a moment just as the votes were being read.

    Survivor has been playing increasingly fast and loose with editing, holding back key developments until they can be revealed as flashbacks at the most dramatic moments. This week's reveal was the first time that such a flashback was shown during the reading of the votes. As far as the audience knew, Cody's bead-seeking quest had run into the brick wall of Noelle wanting to keep her beads as a bracelet, and thus either Jesse would have to flip sides and vote Nneka out or the votes would indeed deadlock at 2-2. But as the votes were being read, Cody flashed us back to a last-minute change of heart where Noelle gave up her beads and unknowingly sealed her closest ally's fate, with Cody joining Jesse and Nneka to vote out the self-professed good liar and Cody-described evil sales rep Justine.

    Whether producers gifted Cody with his Beware Advantage (the juicier scenario) or he simply found it on his own (the duller but more likely scenario), the fact remains that Cody was the main character of episode two and will likely continue to be for however long he remains in the game. This is good news for all the Cody fans out there, and less good news for everybody else who wishes they could go on L-I-V-I-N in peace without him.

    As for the rest of this week's happenings…

    Player of the Week: I mean… it's Cody. He got the beads. He secured the vote against Justine. He proved to be the stronger alliance-builder on his tribe by keeping Jesse loyal even as Jesse had other options.

    Honorable Mention(s): Props to Nneka for being an ideal wingperson for Cody on his bead donation drive. She managed to egg the others on without tripping anyone's suspicions, and as a result, she helped Cody secure his vote, helped save her own bacon at tribal, and (likely) helped to cement an even stronger bond with Cody as her closest ally.

    Sketchy Strategy: Justine did get blindsided, yes, but she did herself no favors. As her exit remarks made clear, she knew that Jesse was "visibly playing both sides." And yet she first antagonized Jesse by telling him to his face that she didn't fully trust that he was voting with her. And then she and Noelle opted to split their votes between Nneka and Cody in case Nneka rolled correct on her Shot in the Dark (despite the fact that no one has successfully scored on their Shot in the Dark in over two seasons).

    Alliance Report: Were the word of the week not already beads ("BEES?!"), it would have been "pairs" because on Survivor 43, it's all about pairs thus far. At the Vesy tribal council, Justine laid out the tribe's strategic terrain as a collection of three pairs: herself and Noelle (RIP), Cody and Nneka, and the somewhat uncertain bond between Jesse and Dwight, which got a whole lot shakier after Jesse voted Justine out, if Dwight's opposite-of-a-poker-face is anything to go by.

    Elsewhere on the island, Baka tribe's strategic center appears to be Elie and Jeanine, who seem outnumbered by the boy alliance of Owen/Sami/Gabler, though it's telling that Owen helped the women search Gabler's bag so they could read the fine print on his immunity advantage (see below). And on Coco, Karla is currently rocking with the women-plus-James alliance, but this episode made a point to shine a spotlight on the bond between outsiders Ryan and Geo, which feels like a significant piece of storytelling going forward.

    Advantage Report:

    • Cody's successful bead drive means he now has an immunity idol.
    • As Jeanine, Eli, and Owen's rummaging through Gabler's bag helped them confirm, Gabler's immunity advantage keeps him immune for his first two tribal councils, not the overall first two tribal councils, which means he will be able to play his idol at the next Baka tribal.

    Coming Next Week: Dwight and Jesse undergo a trial separation, while Sami rats out the Baka bag-searching to Gabler.

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    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