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Survivor 44: The Three Stooges Are Running This Show

But there's one player who's on to them.
  • Jeff Probst on Survivor (photo: Robert Voets/CBS)
    Jeff Probst on Survivor (photo: Robert Voets/CBS)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for Survivor Season 44, Episode 9, "Under the Wings of a Dragon."]

    It feels darkly appropriate given this week's episode title that we lost the dungeon master of the tribe. Kane seemed to have a good handle on the game this week, even as it was slipping away from him. After expressing what turned out to be unwarranted confidence last week that his Ratu alliance was in the driver's seat, a wounded and wiser Kane enters this week a lot more wary about the players around him — and with good reason. Ultimately, Kane isn't able to do enough to change his fate, but it's all pretty much out of his hands. Because this game is being completely controlled by an alliance called the Three Stooges. At least that's what Carson is calling the group of three former Tikas that includes him, Yam Yam, and Carolyn.

    Last week, the Stooges went along with Danny's plan to play his idol for Frannie and blindside Brandon. But at the same time, Yam Yam and Carson cast butt-covering votes for Frannie in order to keep their options open to vote with the former Ratu (Kane, Lauren, and Jaime). This week, Yam Yam is reveling in the power that his alliance now holds. With the former Ratus and former Sokas set against each other, the Stooges can choose whichever direction they want this next vote to go. And Yam Yam has revenge on his mind: after the last three vote-outs (Josh, Matt, and Brandon) were all players who cast votes against Yam Yam, Kane is the next one on that list.

    Or else the Stooges could side with Ratu and vote out Danny. After last week's idol play, Danny has emerged as the most visible threat in the game. The players correctly intuit that another immunity idol has been hidden out in the jungle, and Danny hunts for it aggressively. It's actually Heidi who finds the idol, but Danny searches so overtly that everybody else has no choice but to entertain the possibility that he's found it. Carolyn is the one who pushes the hardest for the Tikas to vote Danny out, and she's probably right to do so. Danny has been runner-up in the last two immunity challenges, and he'll be a threat to win any of the remaining ones. They're only going to have so many chances to get rid of him.

    Besides the vote, the central dilemma of this episode comes before the immunity challenge, as Jeff makes the now-customary offer of rice to the tribe if four players will agree to sit out of the challenge. This kind of thing keeps happening on Survivor — what was once a spontaneous moment on the show (Angelina memorably trying to negotiate for more rice) has now been baked into the show.

    The players know it's coming, and their decision becomes as much about what they need as how they'll look. What they need is articulated by Carson, who has stopped puking but is now completely depleted and desperate for food that isn't gross unripe papayas. Danny, however, is concerned with how they'll look. He hates the players who give up immunity for food, and he wants this tribe to be the one that stands strong and declines Jeff's offer.

    When push comes to shove, though, the need for rice wins out. Lauren and Carson immediately volunteer to sit out, at which point it becomes a question of who will "take one for the team" and who feels like they need immunity. Jaime wavers but chooses the latter. Kane and ultimately Heidi choose the former.

    Danny and some of the other players make promises not to vote out the four who sat out, but nobody really buys it. Kane specifically interviews later that he's not about to trust the word of the same people who lied to him about the vote last week. After Frannie wins the immunity challenge (her second!), it's back to the beach to lobby the Tika Stooges for their votes.

    Notably, Frannie is the only one who voices a concern that the Tikas could end up playing the middle all the way to the end. She hasn't been privy to the TV edit of this season, but she's watched Survivor before. She knows how often these "weaker" alliances can last to the end while the "stronger" players knock each other out. Kane and Danny are presented as the big threats this week, and from a challenge and cleverness perspective that's probably right. But Frannie correctly sees the Tikas for the threat they are as well. Unfortunately, Danny shoots down her pitch quickly, and Frannie is left with a good idea and no one to help her execute it.

    At Tribal Council, we get our first "live" tribal of the season, with people getting up and whispering to each other and making everybody paranoid that the plans are changing. It's tough to tell exactly what's being considered here, but I don't think any plans actually change, making it more Survivor theater than actual strategizing. All three Tika members end up joining Danny and Heidi to vote out Kane (Frannie casts a just-in-case vote Jaime's way), and he joins Matt and Brandon on the jury. Suddenly, in a season that started with a dismaying streak of all women getting voted out, the women now outnumber the men 5-3.

    As for the rest of this week's happenings…

    Player of the Week: Gotta give it to Carson, Yam Yam, and Carolyn. All three are running the game now, with Carolyn's idol in tow and a rapidly vanishing number of chances for the other players to do anything about it. Carolyn also has some nice moments with the tribe at large as she explains her story — including getting clean from her substance abuse addiction — and ends up endearing herself to the other players. Keep that in mind if she ends up in front of the jury at the end.

    Honorable Mention(s): Frannie won immunity and has the right idea about the threat that the Tika players present. We'll see if she can get anything moving on that front in the next couple weeks.

    Sketchy Strategy: There is no Knowledge Is Power advantage this season that would allow a player to steal someone else's advantage. But the threat of it has the Ratu players scrambling to hide their advantages this week. Lauren gives her extra vote to Jaime, who proceeds to use it in vain to double-vote for Heidi. Meanwhile, Jaime hands her immunity idol (which no one knows is fake) to Kane, who gets voted out with it. Overall, just a real tough episode for the Ratus.

    Alliance Report: As Danny notes, the original tribal lines remain uncommonly strong. There are three Tika (Carson, Yam Yam, and Carolyn), three Soka (Danny, Heidi, Frannie), and now two Ratu (Lauren and Jaime). Something's going to have to give soon.

    Advantage Report:

    • Carolyn has an immunity idol.
    • Heidi now has an immunity idol.

    Coming Next Week: "The era of alliances is over," promises Jaime. We'll see!

    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, Carolyn Wiger, Jeff Probst