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“Survivor 46” recap: A Tribal Council meltdown

One player loses it at Tribal Council, and somehow still doesn’t get voted out.

Years and years into the future, we’ll have stories to tell our grandkids about how tough we had it back in the stone ages. How we had to actually walk and drive to places before the advent of teleportation. How we had to type things onto what people called a “smartphone” until neural chip implants automatically putting our thoughts onto screens became commonplace. And, worst of all, how we had to endure getting by on — horror of horrors! — only hour-long episodes of Survivor each week. They won’t understand! They can’t possibly! Because it will seem completely unfathomable.

Thanks to the simultaneous writers and actor strikes, we finally got what seemed like the Holy Grail of 90-minute Survivor episodes last fall. Yes, I realize that last sentence consists of some very unfortunate wording that makes it seem like I was happy tons of talented, hard-working people voluntarily put themselves out of a job, but also… maybe if it meant longer Survivor episodes I kiiiiiiiiiinda, sorrrrrrrrrrta was????? No, no, no — perish those thoughts. Let’s just call it a silver lining to Hollywood’s long dark cloud of 2023.

Ninety minutes! Amazing! What could be better? Jeff Probst even called it the Survivor sweet spot, which, granted, maybe sounds more sexual than he intended. But Probst was wrong! Dead wrong! More wrong than he has ever been — and that includes his preference for a final three over a final two, which we will continue to respectfully argue about until the end of time. Because 90 minutes is not the Survivor sweet spot (I really have to stop typing that). Because I have seen the future, and the future is two-hour Survivor episodes.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 46'

Last week’s two-hour premiere was legitimately awesome, but that was a premiere. The extra-extra time was helpful for getting a good handle on all the new players we were being introduced to for the first time — unless you happen to be one of Liz’s online clients that have made her approximately 39 gazillion dollars last fiscal quarter, that is. But how would two hours feel for a regular episode of Survivor? Would it feel drawn out with extra, unnecessary confessionals repeating the same thing over and over? Would Tribal Councils — which have lost some of their pop in the kinder, gentler new era — feel like dead air? If 90 minutes is the sweet spot (DAMMIT!), would two hours feel like overkill?

Well, for one episode at least, the answers to those last three questions are a resounding no, no, and no.  This episode was so damn good. And think about all the stuff we would not have seen had it only been an hour, like it was a mere year ago. That means producers would have to cut out approximately 42 minutes of airtime. That means you don’t see as many blocks falling on as many heads at the immunity challenge. You don’t get Taylor Swift matched up in an epic duel against Metallica. You don’t get all the drama with Venus at the Nami tribe after the challenge because there is only time to go to the losers’ beach. And, most importantly, you get 50 percent less footage of Kenzie’s purple knee socks.

You get the point. This wasn’t filler! This was super entertaining and enlightening footage. Literally half of what you just saw on this week’s episode of Survivor 46 would not have made it to TV on Survivor 44. Will every episode warrant all that time if it doesn’t have people yelling at each other during a challenge, a man getting super emotional while talking about emotions, and a woman unable and unwilling to be led directly to a planted fake immunity idol? Perhaps not, but they just did a two-hour episode with only one challenge and no time-sucking Journey or other adventure, so it would be folly to think this could not be done on a regular basis.

Am I being greedy? Perhaps. But I have seen the future, and the future is two-hour episodes of Survivor. Maybe it’s for season 50. Maybe before then. Maybe after. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Okay, I guess we should actually hit on some of the things that made this episode so stellar. Let’s get to what went down with all the tribes this week, and while Survivor episodes may occasionally take two hours to watch, I’ll do my best to get you out of here in considerably less time. (No promises.)

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> The Yanu tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

The Yanu tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Three the hard way

When I was out in Fiji for filming, I remember being super excited to see what would happen with Nami having two huge personalities like Soda and Tevin on the same tribe. Little did I realize that Yanu had a threesome (please don’t let me inadvertently put that word in a sentence with “sweet spot”) that would put anything on Nami to shame.

Jelinsky, Jess, and Bhanu on the same tribe? Are you kidding me???? One self-proclaimed legend/monster. One person so out of it she tried to put her Tribal Council vote into the Shot in the Dark bag instead of the voting urn. And one person wearing a “Be Kind” t-shirt who constantly looks like he is trying to reach through the television screen to shake me violently by the neck while he tells me how emotional he is. I LOVE THIS TRIBE! Such a beautiful mess. Unless two of them quit, Yanu probably does not stand a chance of catching Lulu for the title of Worst Survivor Tribe Ever, but at least original Lulu had one challenge where they did not come in last place.

The tribe dynamics of Yanu are so awkward. I mean, you know things aren’t going swimmingly when one tribe member says she is eating ants — and I quote — “so I don’t have to talk.” I think my favorite pre-challenge scene on Yanu was when Kenzie tried to cover her bases by making a backup alliance with Jess and Bhanu, but the on-the-outs duo apparently refused to commit to joining.

What? Why? Not saying yes to an alliance — any alliance! — makes about as much sense as hurling an hourglass across the beach so it breaks and leaves glass in the sand you will be walking across every day. It doesn’t matter if you want to be in an alliance with Kenzie. Just tell her yes anyway! That’s Survivor 101. I also love how Jess only waited for Kenzie to get… oh, about 2.5 inches in front of her before telling Bhanu how they should vote her out. STEALTH MODE!

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> The Nami tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

The Nami tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Unlikely allies

Is Soda’s Sodar malfunctioning? On day two, she was sketched out by Randen being worried about Venus, but next thing we know Soda is ripping immunity idols away from Venus and saying she was too busy ALL DAY to talk to her. Do you know how busy you have to be on Survivor to not talk to someone ALL DAY? Especially on a day that does not have a challenge, a journey, a Tribal Council, or a random trip to a place where “good things happen”? Like, it is actually impossible to be that busy. It’s a full day! On an island! With nothing to do!

I honestly don’t know how I would react in that situation if someone told me they were too busy to talk to me all day. I mean, I suppose your only options at that point are to laugh or to cry — possibly simultaneously. The good news is, if you are on the receiving end of such treatment, it means you get a gauzy backstory package complete with family photos and baby pics showing everything difficult you have overcome in life.

But no! Real Survivor players don’t laugh or cry. They do something else. They go looking for idols. Unfortunately for Venus, she wasn’t the only one, as Randen found the Beware Advantage, which for some odd reason is not called the Beware Idol, but I’m just going to let that one go. And I’ll let it go because I’m a really easy, laid-back kind of guy. I don’t stress out about things like, say, if my wife is making tons of money as an online entrepreneur, loves to refer to herself in the third person, and has done “300 podcast interviews in the past two years.” Hold on, 300 podcast interviews in two years? Is that even possible? Who does this woman think she is, Rob Cesternino?

Clearly intimidated by a woman named Liz saying that “everybody wants to be with Liz,” Randen decided to tell Venus about his advantage, throwing her a lifeline — which, honestly, was the least he could do before running over her foot in a challenge.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> The Siga tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

The Siga tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Taylor made

Literally, the very first thing out of Ben’s mouth this week was a rock lyric, as he went full Springsteen with “Can’t start a fire without a spark.” (The fact that Maria did not take the opportunity to jump onto an imaginary stage and immediately start busting out some Courteney Cox dance moves is super disappointing.)

So much musical nonsense happening over on the Siga tribe, especially during the T. Swift vs. Metallica song-title name-off between Charlie and Ben. And I’m sorry and did not want to do this, but I have to throw a major penalty on Charlie during this one. No way can you include “Taylor’s Version” tunes as separate songs. That’s doubling her entire catalog! That would be like me entering the competition with Prince and rattling off the following as my first 11 entries:

“Get Off”
"Gett Off" (single remix)
“Gett Off" (UK single remix)
"Gett Off" (extended remix) 
"Gett Off" (House Style)
"Gett Off" (Flutestramental)
"Gett Off" (Urge Mix)
"Gett Off" (Urge Single Edit) 
"Gett Off" (Thrust Mix)
"Gett Off" (Purple Pump Mix)
“Gett Off” (Damn Near 10 Minutes)

I know it sounds like I made some of those up, especially when it comes to “Thrust Mix” and “Flutestramental,” but I swear to you the same way everyone was swearing as Jess during the immunity challenge that those are all completely legit. I don’t know how Siga judges allowed the “Taylor’s Version” one to count unless they are indeed part of the Swiftie Army themselves. I CRY FOWL! And you may think I’m playing favorites because I went and saw Metallica live twice back in the 1980s and sat there mesmerized as 20,000 people banged their heads and yelled “Die! Die! Die!” at the top of their lungs in unison, but I have also seen Taylor Swift multiple times, and she was so unbelievably kind when she met my daughter that the woman could pretty much murder puppies and I would still be a massive fan.

Not only was Charlie deemed the winner of that particular battle, but he may be winning the war as well, at least when it comes to alliances. That’s because Charlie is good with the guys, has an alliance with the women that is literally named after him, and has also formed a pivotal sub-alliance with Maria modeled after the Malcolm and Denise duo of season 25. And they have now positioned themselves as the power players on the Flock of Siga tribe.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> The Siga tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

The Siga tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Blockheads

Okay, confession time. I did this immunity challenge during a run-through with the Dream Team when I was on location, and let’s just say it did not go well. Awful is probably a more accurate description. And it was all my fault. Nobody that was part of my team — which included celebrated Mark & Stacy fan-fiction author Mike Bloom — will believe what I am about to say, but I’m usually pretty decent in challenges. Not the best, maybe, but certainly not the worst either. I’ve done more than 20 of them and am generally happy with how they’ve turned out.

Not this one. All I had to do was chop that stupid rope that released the wheels for the cart. One of the guys I was competing against did it in a single chop. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that it probably took me over 100 swings. I was so busy on that day chopping rope I wouldn’t have even had time to talk to Venus! It was truly pathetic. Then again, I’m not exactly known for my upper body strength.

But there is actually a reason I am telling you this besides general public humiliation. Because it is quite illustrative in that not only was my team hilariously behind in this challenge due to my utter ineptitude, but our cart also broke (no fault of ours), so we just had to sit there for a few minutes while someone from the crew with tools ran over and fixed it — and yet we still somehow did not end up in last place. Because, as always, the puzzle is the big equalizer.

And what a puzzle it was. A huge 11-letter arch puzzle spelling the word "persistence" that had to be held up to be completed. Brilliant. Brilliant because the only thing I like more than watching reality contestants go through painful emotional suffering while watching an entire stack of carefully arranged objects fall to the ground is watching reality contestants go through painful phsyical suffering while watching an entire stack of carefully arranged objects fall right on their heads.

And it kept happening! The blocks kept falling! Time and time again. The blocks fell so many times they had to go to a commercial break in the middle of the challenge! They even gave us a super slow-mo montage of misery which I mainlined directly into my veins. GOD BLESS YOU, TWO-HOUR SURVIVOR EPISODES!!!

In the end, after putting the letter P sideways, almost decapitating each other multiple times, and repeatedly screaming at Jess (who apparently did not eat enough ants before the challenge), Yanu lost again. The irony is, the one person who could have saved them in a contest that required tall people to help hold up the middle of the arch was the guy they just voted out: Jelinsky.

But props to Soda for starting to steal the immunity idol from Venus again before showing remarkable restraint in reversing course and letting the wounded warrior hold onto the trophy. Probst should just start handing immunity idols and necklaces to Venus at every challenge from here on out regardless of who wins to see what happens. In my personal Survivor Sanctuary, that is going down on a repeating loop, and it never gets old.

“You don’t want to see a pissed-off version of me,” Venus warned back at camp. “I’ve been sad the past three days. Now I’m just pissed.” Bring. It.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Q Burdette on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

Q Burdette on 'Survivor 46'

Inmates running the asylum

This Yanu tribe is messier than Marvin, and I’m here for all of it. Tiffany is telling Q that Kenzie doesn’t like that he is her number one, thereby incentivizing him to get rid of her own ally, Bhanu is slicing open his own fingers and oozing almost as much blood as tears, and Jess is getting lost while being directly led to a fake immunity idol. Even though Tiffany did everything in her power short of buying an electric generator and plugging in a big blinking neon pink arrow pointing directly at the spot where she hid the fake idol, Jess walked right past it, Mr. Magoo style.

“Sis can’t look for idols to save her life,” Tiff declared, which I suppose is not quite as harsh as Kenzie’s assessment of “She’s just a bad Survivor player. It is what it is.” Finally, Q just had to give the fake idol to Jess so that she would think she was safe and would not play her Shot in the Dark.

With the vote seeming pretty obviously on Jess, and Jess correctly not being convinced it was even a real idol she was playing, I expected Tribal Council to be a relatively mild-mannered affair. What I did not count on was Bhanu making some bizarre Sith Lord Force-push maneuver with his hand, acting like he was trying to choke out Probst.

Bhanu was getting emotional talking about how emotional he was, which is kind of akin to of doubling down and truly committing to the bit. That’s fine, but what is not fine is once again telegraphing the vote. As I wrote in last week’s recap, Bhanu was even more obvious with his vote at the first Tribal than what you saw on TV, at one point gesturing to Jelinsky and saying, “I can’t be with this kid. I can’t handle him anymore.”

He essentially did the same thing here with Jess, and when Q took him to task for airing all the dirty laundry and making Jess more likely to play her Shot in the Dark, Bhanu’s response was that “I’m training myself.” And then, as if to prove how much training he still needed, Bhanu openly in front of everyone asked, “Kenzie, how am I supposed to vote?”

See, that’s the type of thing usually best asked in private. Or, perhaps, you know, not at all. Then, apparently deciding the scene was not quite awkward enough already, Bhanu sauntered all the way over to the other side of the Tribal Council set to ask Tiffany if she was voting him out. “Stop making the block hot,” replied Tiffany. Bhanu clearly took this to mean he should continue the conversation for as long as possible and now involve Q in the discussion, to which I am sure the former college football star was positively thrilled!

The only thing weirder than all of this is the fact that that the Yanu tribe has evidently taken it upon themselves to inform Probst each week when it is time to vote. Last week it was Bhanu, and this week Q told the host, “Jeff, it’s time to vote.” I love how it is not even a question, but a statement. As if they are trying to pull some sort of Jedi mind trick and convince the host that it actually is time to vote. I’m not quite sure if Q was paying homage to Bhanu’s previous Tribal Council move with the greatest comedic callback since Enrico Palazzo, or if he legit just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but if Kenzie doesn’t announce next week, “If anyone has a hidden immunity idol or advantage they would like to play, now is the time,” then I will be truly bummed.

In the end, Jess indeed was voted out, and all the ants in Fiji are now safe from her savage consumption laying waste to entire communities. You may not mourn the loss of Jess since she never really got her footing in the game, but the intoxicating mixture of chaos and confusion that the power trio of Jess, Jelinsky, and Bhanu have provided should be cherished evermore. I thank them all for their service.

Perhaps most upsetting of all, Jess never got to say her catchphrase of “tough titty” before leaving the game. For shame! Make sure to check out the entire cast’s picks for the catchphrases they were going to try to sneak onto national television. We also have plenty of other goodies for you, including an exclusive deleted scene showing a Siga cooking disaster, our exit interview with Jess, and Probst’s take on the episode. Enjoy all that bonus content and I will be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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