Review: Survivor, "Absolute Banger Season" | Season 44, Episode 13
Okay, "absolute banger" is an exaggeration, but it was pretty good, yes
In the wake of Carson’s early immunity win that takes arguably the easiest dissolution of the Tika 3 at the final five off the table, Carolyn returns to camp with Heidi and Lauren, and the Survivor editors needs this to be a potential turning point. For weeks, the show has feigned the breakup of the trio, but when the votes were actually cast it was clear that it was all for show—they’ve always felt confident with one another, and what we’ve been sold by the editors has been an extended performance.
But this time is different, we’re told: Yam Yam feels it when he and Carson return from sanctuary, and Carolyn’s confessionals make clear that she’s starting to sense a separation she didn’t before. As ever, though, the confessionals themselves are tools the producers can use to construct the stories they want, and there’s a telling moment where Carolyn admits that her paranoia may not be based on reality: “even if it’s 1% or 2%” of a chance, she explains, “it still scares me.”
This culture of paranoia is the dominant theme of the end of any Survivor season, but I definitely appreciate it more in a season where it feels like there will be a worthy winner of the game regardless of how tonight’s finale shakes out. I also appreciate it because while I resent the re-insertion of an idol at the Top 5, and continue to find the fire challenge to be a bad structural decision, this particular group of players brings enough chaos to that environment that even the increasingly predictable patterns of a late Survivor season have new life to them. I never fully trusted the edit that something unexpected was going to play out at the Final Five vote, but the possibility was a greater draw than we’ve seen in the previous post-COVID outings.