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A Sad Survivor Episode Introduces the Threat of a Bro Alliance

Injuries, fake idols, and male bonding dominate a possibly pivotal episode.
  • Josh Wilder, Carolyn Wiger, Yam Yam Arocho (Photo: Robert Voets/CBS)
    Josh Wilder, Carolyn Wiger, Yam Yam Arocho (Photo: Robert Voets/CBS)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for Survivor Season 44, Episode 5, "The Third Turd."

    If there was any doubt that Carolyn Wiger is the star of Survivor's 44th season, reflect on the fact that she's provided the episode title two weeks in a row, last time with a reference to a Friday quote, this time by declaring herself the "third turd" in the former Tika alliance. After making her power move last week, teaming with tribe newcomer Josh to oust Sarah, Carolyn is in a power position, even if she doesn't always seem like it.

    Carolyn's is the type of power we don't see too often on Survivor. She gives off an erratic energy, she makes impulsive decisions, she has never been a part of an alliance greater than three people, and she's not particularly strong in challenges. And yet that unpredictability is pretty much the reason she enters this episode at the top of the heap on Tika, leaving Josh and Yam Yam to have to hope she decides to side with them when they next go to tribal.

    That next Tika Tribal Council seems like it's going to come very soon, after the decimated purple tribe loses badly at the immunity challenge. Carolyn is sent to Advantage Island, along with Soka's Danny and Ratu's Brandon, but just when you think Survivor is going to pump three more advantages into the game, the twist this week is that there is no twist. Carolyn, Danny, and Brandon get to enjoy a feast at the Survivor sanctuary, then try to convince their tribemates back at the beach that they really didn't receive any advantages.

    At first, this seems like a great opportunity for Carolyn. She's on a three-person tribe that's about to be two people. What she needs most desperately are allies after the merge. Unfortunately, that's not what she finds in Danny and Brandon, who immediately lock onto one another in a great and hideous display of a classic Survivor "bro-down." The two brawny dudes begin making post-merge plans and openly muse that Survivor players who fit their profile — alpha-type athletic challenge threats — tend to not make it to the end. Now they can ride together. Meanwhile, there's Carolyn, very much the third turd in this scenario, as if her words at the beginning of the episode were a curse she'd placed on herself. As Carolyn interviews, these two guys assume she's already out of the game, so they're not wasting time including her in any of their post-merge plans, and they don't even seem to care to keep it a secret from her.

    In a season that's already been heavily criticized for exclusively voting out women over the course of its first four episodes, this episode offers an interesting reflection on the idea of male bonding on Survivor. Clearly, Brandon and Danny's instant alliance offers one look at how alpha males tend to operate. We also get a peek at Ratu, where Carson and Kane have formed a bond over their nerdy interests (even if Carson's bonds on Ratu are far more opportunistic than he's letting on). And then there's Tika, where we see Yam Yam and Josh find their own common ground. The two of them start out the episode as enemies, on opposite sides of the Carolyn divide. Yam Yam is on the outs after the vote, while Josh is wounded that Yam Yam voted for him. But the ground between them begins to thaw after they share their coming-out stories with each other.

    With Survivor only recently having made a commitment to diversifying casting, we haven't had a very deep history of queer characters bonding on the show. In Millennials vs. Gen-X, Brett and Zeke bonded on a reward challenge when Brett surprised Zeke by revealing he was gay. Two seasons ago, Hai and Romeo had a scene together where they talked about their experiences as gay men of color of different generations. It's refreshing to see Yam Yam and Josh find this common ground and share their queer experiences, almost as a tonic to the more traditional Danny/Brandon bro bond.

    When Carolyn returns from her reward trip, she's newly energized to re-team with Yam Yam. She's seen the bro-pocalypse that lies on the other side of the merge, and she needs to defend against it. Danny and Brandon had mentioned bringing Josh into their team after the merge, which is all the excuse Carolyn needs to drop Josh like a hot potato and pledge her loyalty to Yam Yam. Josh tries to sell the two of them on the threat that he has another immunity idol, though Yam Yam gets one look at that beaded little arts-and-crafts project and knows it's a fake. It looks like Josh is on the road to get chopped. The short-lived gay male alliance between Josh and Yam Yam seems like it's over before it began.

    The good news that saves Josh's bacon actually comes at the expense of another queer player. Matthew, who dislocated his shoulder in the season premiere and has been walking around with his arm in a sling ever since, is finally pulled from the game. The pain in his arm was ultimately too much to bear, not to mention the threat of his injury not healing properly in the un-ideal island environs. It's sad to watch Matthew go, as his love of the game was palpable, and he was sitting in a pretty good position in the game. Meanwhile, for seemingly the 30th episode in a row, Josh is spared after seeming like he was the next to go. And with the merge upcoming, the bros might be riding in to scoop him up.

    As for the rest of this week's happenings…

    Player of the Week: It never ended up coming to a vote, but kudos to Yam Yam for working his way from the bottom of the Tika tribe to a position where he was going to essentially choose which side, Carolyn or Josh, to vote with.

    Honorable Mention(s): Carson continues to make inroads on Ratu tribe, though one of the players we see him bond with is Matthew, who's now gone. Still, we're seeing this strategic angle from Carson for a reason, so it's a good bet it pays off in some way.

    Sketchy Strategy: Oh, Josh. First the needless lie about being a "physical trainer." Now it's this hastily assembled fake immunity idol which was debunked by Yam Yam and Carolyn in a matter of seconds. With each of these failed gambits, he comes off looking less and less trustworthy.

    Alliance Report: If this bro bond between Danny and Brandon is real, it'll be interesting to see who else they pull in. Josh, seemingly, is one option. Danny still has non-bro Heidi in his corner. Is Brandon still allied with Lauren? Have we heard from Lauren at all since the season premiere?

    Advantage Report: Some quick clarification on the real idol/fake idol situation here, because the show has been unnecessarily confusing. This tweet clears it up: inside the birdcage on each tribe was a satchel which contained one real immunity idol and one powerless trinket (which was obviously meant to be used as a fake idol to trick some unsuspecting tribemate). But the distinction of which trinket is a real idol and which is powerless is different on each tribe. So here's how it stands:

    • Danny has the real immunity idol on Soka (which is a medallion).
    • Matt has the fake immunity on Soka (which is a silver coin)
    • Carolyn has the real immunity idol on Tika (which is a silver coin)
    • Sarah got voted out with the fake immunity idol from Tika (which was beads)
    • Jamie has a fake immunity idol that Matthew made himself from items at Ratu camp
    • Lauren has an extra vote to use whenever she wants.
    • Matt still can't vote at his next tribal council.
    • Matthew exits the game with the Ratu immunity idol in his pocket, which means it will probably get rehidden at some point.

    Coming Next Week: Merge! Or the thing they do now where they go live on the same beach and there's a twist and a Tribal Council before they officially merge.

    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, Carolyn Wiger, Jeff Probst