Previously on Survivor 18 new castaways were marooned on the islands of Fiji to start the (shortened) adventure of a lifetime. After losing back to back – or it is Baka to Baka – challenges, Baka went to tribal and tragically booted sweet Morriah from the competition. That departure set off a chain reaction of females getting targeted, with Justine, Nneka and Lindsay all following her out the door.
After a brief reprieve to blindside Geo from the game, the three tribes were dissolved and we entered the earn-the-merge phase of the game. Gabler led the charge against his nemesis Elie, booting her from the game before the Gaia tribe was formed. At that point Dwight was blindsided, seemingly with Jeanine’s idol in his pocket before Jeanine was booted to become the Queen of the Jury. In a split tribal council James and Ryan were booted back-to-back before Noelle proved too great a threat to leave in the game, before Sami’s double dealing saw him joining the jury right behind her.
At the final six things got feisty as Jesse pulled out Cody’s idol and played it on Owen to spook Karla into playing hers, allowing the tribe to blindside Cody from the game in a brutal fashion. That left Karla in danger at final five after Jesse played Jeanine’s idol to save himself, sending Queen Karla to the jury. Tragically that was as far as Jesse’s journey went though, as Cassidy took out final immunity, pulled Owen to the end with her and left Gabler to eliminate the biggest threat in the fire challenge.
The jury grilled the final three to figure out who they felt was most deserving of the win and while they each argued compelling cases, it was clear they were vibing with Gabler’s charming answers. Which ultimately left Owen finishing in third place and Cassidy as a very capable runner-up.
Thankfully despite sharing his plans to donate the entire prize to charity with us earlier in the episode, Gabler kept it a surprise to the jury meaning people couldn’t use it as a way to invalidate his win. As Gabler clearly articulated throughout the season, he played a stealth game, popping up to take out his rivals when needed and dropping back down to hide when he didn’t need to make a play. And while that isn’t always exciting to watch, it is effective and add in the fact he is a fun character, he makes a worthy entrant in the winner’s circle.
Plus the way he donated the prize to Veterans in Need in his fathers name had me crying. By the time he sweetly dedicated the win to everyone in the cast and how they all gave him something to learn and grow from, which is what compelled him to give back, I was a blubbering mess as I toasted his victory with a piping out tray of Mike Gabler Cheese Balls.
Gloriously gooey mac and cheese formed into perfect balls, chilled, coated and fried until crunchy, these are the perfect dish for providing you with culinary comfort or to mark a hard fought victory.
Mike Gabler Cheese Balls Serves: 6.
Ingredients 500g macaroni pasta ¼ cup butter 2 ¼ cups flour 3 cups milk 1 cup cream 2 tbsp dijon mustard 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated ⅔ cup gruyere cheese, grated ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated salt and pepper, to taste 3 eggs, whisked 2 cups panko breadcrumbs vegetable oil, for fryin’
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook macaroni according to packet directions. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir in ¼ cup of flour to make a roux. Remove from the heat and whisk in milk, cream and mustard before returning to the heat and simmering until thickened. Add ¾ of each of the cheeses and season to taste. Pour into a lined baking sheet and allow to cool before covering and popping in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up.
When you’re ready to go, take ¼ cup of mixture and roll into balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Roll each in the remaining flour, followed by the whisked egg and finally the breadcrumbs.
Pop about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and once scorching, fry each ball for about five minutes or until golden and crunchy. Remove to drain on some paper towel before repeating the process until done. Then devour, greedily.
Previously on Survivor the final four faced off in a massive final immunity challenge and while I’d love to say it was a hard fought four way battle, it really only came down to three. And then two, after Gabler faded away like Jesse and left Owen and Cassidy to fight it out for the final immunity of the season. After a late breaking drop from Owen, Cassidy earned her place in final tribal council and attention quickly turned to who would be the smartest person to potentially knock out Jesse in the fire making challenge. While both Owen and Gabler wanted the glory, Cassidy knew victory could give one of them the upper hand and as such, deemed Gabler the lesser threat to her victory, sending him in to the challenge to thankfully – for the rest of them, duh – eliminate the biggest threat of the season, Jesse.
The final three awoke on – shudders – Day 26, surprised to have made it all the way to the end. Owen was thrilled to just not have to worry about Probst snuffing his torch, while Cassidy was focused on prepping a compelling speech. Owen was nervous about what the jury wanted from their winner, though was glad to articulate how he managed to navigate the game as the underdog. Gabler was proud of how hard he worked to make it to the end and was hopeful his first votes of the season would be those needed to win. Cassidy meanwhile admitted she is living out her dream to have made it to the end, and was just hopeful she would be able to prove that she has been the dark horse all season and managed to get rid of everyone that came for her.
We pivoted to the final tribal council after some telling remarks from the jury, before Jesse kicked things off praising the trio on playing strong games, though reminded them they have to answer some tough questions honestly and with, dare he say it, fire. Noelle asked each how their games differed with Gabler articulating he focused on building trust and had so many alliances, he always had options to move forward. And it worked, given nobody has ever voted against him. Cassidy focused on the fact that she always knew who was going home before it happened and she built the right bonds at the right time to navigate to the end. Particularly since women were aggressively targeted pre-merge. Owen meanwhile opened up about how he had high hopes for the game as a super fan, though it all came crumbling down from the first tribal council and he has been fighting on the bottom since then And he has fought, every, damn, night.
James asked Owen if he ever put his neck on the line for an ally, which led to Noelle piping up and pointing out that he did the night he trusted her to use the Steal a Vote to get rid of James. Gabler spoke about bag gate with Jeanine copping to the fact she definitely went through the bag. He explained Elie painted a target on his back going out, but he expertly went back under the radar. Karla asked Cassidy what pre-merge move she did to propel her to the point, explaining trusting in James and Karla when they flipped on Lindsay was the biggest move. Gabler spoke about ducking back under water after Elie painted a target on his back was the biggest move, while Cassidy admitted she kept a mental list of everyone that came for her and as such, used her bonds to systematically eliminate them.
Jeanine pointed out that Cassidy’s core alliance was clear though asked the boys to explain theirs with Owen admitting to being close with Noelle, Cody and Jesse. Gabler spoke about how he had a bunch of alliances and while he tried to say he was only close with Jesse and Cody, which Sami called bullshit on. When he mentioned nobody had voted for him, Cassidy countered that maybe that is because nobody viewed him as a threat. And while Noelle and Jesse tried to defend him, it felt like a blow. Ryan turned talk to immunity wins with Cassidy surprised she won so many, particularly the final one, while Noelle admitted to being a Paralympian and assured her she should be proud of herself. Proud of herself, but wondered why she didn’t go to fire to prove herself. Which fired up Cassidy who felt that she played such a strong game that she didn’t need it and the most important thing was to take Owen with her to weaken him and take away the potential of him having another way to show he was an underdog.
Karla jumped in and asked how they all fought until they couldn’t go any longer. Owen opened up about the tragedy of Karla snatching the final advantage out from under him, though admitted the loss fired him up enough to take out that win. James jumped in and questioned how he felt about how he handled himself while on the bottom, with Owen wisely admitting that he wishes they never fought. Which lol, jurors, stop with those sorts of questions as they look petty. Queen Karla then asked them to point out their worst moves with Gabler worried about putting him neck on the line, Cassidy opening up about regretting how they spoke to each other before she was voted out while Owen felt he had a plethora of mistakes, though he doesn’t regret getting bamboozled since it carried him to the final tribal council.
Jesse then opened up about having a PHD in voting behaviours, asking them to articulate when they drove a vote their way. Gabler identified the Elie vote post-merge as his biggest move, while Cassidy turning people on Ryan was her move. Sadly for her, Ryan pointed out that wasn’t the case and the boys had been planning his demise beforehand. While Owen straight up admitted that he never drove any votes as he never had any sway or power in the game.
With that the jury voted and with a single vote to Cassidy’s name, the rest piled up and handed Gabler victory. Much to the absolute shock of Cassidy and Owen. And TBH, me. As Probst and Co. reset for the insta-reunion, I pulled Owen aside and into a massive hug, assuring him that he played a great game with the hand he was dealt and as such, should be super proud of all that he achieved. Plus, he had a killer mane of long, luscious hair and as such, is my new go-to for inspo when I go for my blow out. Which was enough to distract from the fact I am the reason he had such a shitty hand, given I cursed him pre-season by lining up a delicious Pepperowen Knight Pizza.
Rich and spicy, there is nothing better than a simple pepperoni pizza. I mean, it is just bread, tomato, pepperoni and cheese, but that combination is powerful enough to solve all the world’s problems. And warm your heart.
Pepperowen Knight Pizza Serves: 1 losing finalist and his curse-enacting bestie.
Ingredients 2 bases as per Pizsa Zsa Gabor ⅓ cup passata oregano and basil, roughly chopped, to taste 200g pepperoni mozzarella, to taste
Method Prep the bases as per Zsa Zsa’s instructions and preheat the oven to 180°C.
Smear passata over the prepared bases, sprinkle with the herbs, followed by the pepperoni before topping, generously, with mozzarella.
Transfer to the oven and bake for fifteen minutes, or until bubbly and golden.
Serve and devour immediately, eating through the pain.
Previously on Survivor the tribe competed for an epic overnight reward complete with snacks, a shower, a bed and the added surprise post-challenge of letters from home. Despite Noelle falling behind the pack on the balance beam, she powered through tears and her leg almost falling off to pull off the most epic come from behind win ever seen on Survivor. After taking half the tribe with her for the reward, those left behind started to plot, realising that while she keeps getting knocked down, she always bounces back and finds new allies. And as such, the tribe banded together to blindside Noelle for being too big of a threat to win.
Back at camp Sami was disappointed to be left out of the vote, feeling like his game is going to be difficult to salvage. But bless him, did he try! He tried to pretend that Gabler wrote down Karla’s name at tribal council and then when everyone told him that no, that was not the case, he eventually admitted he did it, but only to try and flush the idol. Gabler meanwhile was busy filling in Owen on what happened, assuring him that he still plans to go to the end with him and has a plan to take out the biggest threat/s – the duo that is Jesse and Cody. And while it sounded great, Owen was still frustrated, given once again he keeps being left out of votes and is essentially the joke of the season.
Which again, is why I would suck at Survivor because I am not this resilient and would totally have this happen to me.
The next day the tribe were feeling a bit more chill as Sami got the fire going, while Cody laughed about not wanting to participate in the fire challenge against him. Which totally means Cody is coming fourth or winning, right? We then had a deep dive with Sami who opened up about how desperately he wants to make his family proud and as such, he would hold his head high and fight. He approached Karla to apologise for voting for her, asking that they move past it and be open to working together. As such, he lied and told her that Cassidy was the first person to float her name and despite the fact she and Karla were solid, she immediately wanted to target her. We then learnt that Karla had told Cassidy about her idol and as such, she decided Sami knowing about its existence made Cass guilty. The girls then caught up, with Cassidy rightly flagging the fact she is nervous about Sami trying to sow distrust between them.
And while she was correct, I’m worried Karla isn’t vibing with her anymore.
We fast-forwarded an entire day when a boat arrived at sunrise advising them all to run into the jungle to find a hidden advantage. So they obviously did as told and immediately went hog wild trying to find the needle in the haystack. Sami literally walked past it multiple times before Cassidy dropped by and missed it too. Gabler then suggested they band together to try and find it war style, this time with Owen and Gabler also missing it. As Jesse, Karla and Cassidy spoke about giving up, Owen stood in front of it alongside Gabler and Sami before Cody straight up leant against the advantage. Before he eventually noticed it, quickly grabbing it off the tree and pocketing it without anyone noticing.
He learnt that to win immunity at the upcoming tribal council, he would simply have to guess who would win the next immunity challenge, the infamous last gasp! Meaning he can either just win the challenge himself, or guess the one least likely to panic as water lapped at their face.
The tribe pivoted to Probst in the ocean where they took their places under the grate in the ocean to wait it out as the tide rapidly made things more difficult. Well, after Probst explained the challenge to everyone but kept the person Cody bet on secret from everyone. Gabler was the first to drop out of the challenge before the swell became too much for Sami and he followed. Jesse was next to drop before Cody fought valiantly for a couple of minutes before ultimately exiting. After two hours of absolute hell, Cassidy exited leaving Karla and Owen to battle it out and well, they were insane. So good at the challenge that after three hours the tide literally started to turn, meaning the challenge would either have to go for another 12 hours or they could both have immunity. Which is obviously the option Probst and Co. went with. While Cody looked on with a big, telling grin.
Back at camp Sami was very nervous about there potentially being three people immune at the upcoming tribal council. As Karla and Owen spoke about how proud they were for making history, Cassidy felt heartbroken about the fact she tried so damn hard and still came up short. She was also very nervous about the fact people may target her to weaken Karla, given she is immune. She approached Karla to float the idea of getting rid of Sami and while she said she was on board, Karla immediately went to Sami and locked in the vote against Cassidy. We then got a supercut of telephone as Sami locked in Cody, Cody went to Jesse and then Jesse spoke to Gabler.
Sadly for the plan, Jesse wasn’t so sure it was best for his game and after confirming with Karla that she wants Cassidy gone, he immediately decided that getting rid of Sami is safest given he is so good at making fire. As Jesse filled Owen in on the plan, he floated the idea of flipping it on Sami instead, given it would have Cassidy and Karla fighting each other in the final six and make it easier for them to go to five. Which is genius. Owen agreed to go talk to Gabler while Jesse caught up with Cody, who agreed that making Karla look silly would be good though he still finds Sami more trustworthy than Cassidy.
Oh and Cody told us that he is immune after correctly backing Owen in the challenge.
At tribal council Probst gave a monologue about tides before Gabler spoke about the importance of the final seven tribal council at setting up the end game. And given three people are immune, it is even more terrifying than usual. Karla admitted the dance is both confusing and scary, while Owen was even more nervous, though maybe because he is always left out of the plans. Sami spoke about clearly being on the bottom and he reiterated he is a free agent, while Jesse mentioned it is crucial to never rule out someone as an option. Cassidy felt like the closer they got to the end the game changed to not just who needs to go but who you can beat, which makes every decision even harder.
Sami then straight up told everyone he would be playing his Shot in the Dark tonight and that if everyone told him the truth, his vote wouldn’t matter anyway. This irked Karla who called him out and told him it was offensive, while Gabler gave zero fucks and literally said he was planning to vote the way he was going to either way, so doesn’t care if Sami is performing. While Jesse reminded everyone he could also just be bluffing. With that the tribe voted and it wasn’t a bluff, as Sami played his Shot in the Dark – which didn’t give him safety – Cody announced his immunity to the tribe which was unnecessary as the tribe banded together to boot young Sami from the game. Meaning their gamble paid off.
As Sami arrived at tribal council, I licked a handkerchief and started wiping the dirt off his face as my long-lost parental instincts kicked in. I assured him he is a very good boy and that me and his family are so proud of not just the young man he has grown into, but the game that he played. While like young Julia from Kaoh Rong he got run over for playing in the middle, the fact that he managed to make it that far was impressive. As such, I gave him a pat on the back and toasted his run with a fresh and healthy Tofu Sani Choyadi Bow.
This vegetarian version of san choy bow is jam packed full of veggies – hidden for the kids, obviously – and even more so with flavour. Plus, you can feel super smug when you eat it since it is so healthy. Which is a personal fave flavour enhancer.
Tofu Sani Choyadi Bow Serves: 4.
Ingredients 1 ½ cups long grain white rice 1 tbsp vegetable oil 450g firm tofu, crumbled 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced 1 red onion, sliced 2 celery stalks, finely diced 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced 1 red capsicum, sliced 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced 1 tbsp palm sugar 2 tbsp soy sauce 3 tbsp oyster sauce 1 tsp sesame oil 3 tbsp shaoxing rice wine 1 iceberg lettuce, leaves removed 1 long red chilli, sliced small handful coriander, leaves picked sriracha hot sauce or hoisin, to serve
Method Pop the rice and 2 ¼ cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Once rollicking, reduce to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Set aside, covered for 5 minutes to steam.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat and add the tofu and cook, stirring for about five minutes, or until golden brown. Add the veggies and cook for a couple of minutes or until just tender. Add palm sugar, soy, oyster sauce, sesame oil and shaoxing, and cook stirring for a couple of minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly.
To serve, divide the lettuce leaves among plates, top with rice, followed by the tofu mixture and a sprinkle of chilli, coriander and any sauces you like before devouring.
Previously on Survivor the non-merged tribe officially merged and immediately new factions were formed. Jeanine was feeling left out given her closest ally was blindsided, though Noelle and Dwight assured her that it will only free her up to play a better game. Sadly for her though, Jesse and Cody were becoming nervous of their fellow Vesi’s growing power and were ready to make a move. After Gabler took out immunity and James found the Knowledge is Power advantage, chaos ensued leading to many a name being thrown out and advantages trading hands to avoid being stolen by James, resulting in Dwight’s exit.
With poor Jeanine’s idol in her pocket, no less!
Back at camp Cody and Jesse were thrilled to have taken control with the Cocos, but were kinda shocked that Sami had joined them. Unaware that he is somehow now in the majority. Talk turned to the fact that James’ Knowledge is Power led to a game of advantage roulette and how confusing it was, with Jeanine particularly heartbroken to lose not just an ally but her idol. Sami tried to play damage control with Owen and Jeanine, assuring them that he only flipped because he knew it was a done deal and as such, he wanted to earn the majority’s trust. Oh and he assured Jeanine that now she is idolless it only makes working with her more enticing. Sami then spread the word that Jeanine’s idol went out of the game alongside Dwight before Jesse surprised us by announcing that he had actually collected Jeanine’s idol and given he also has Cody’s, he is holding all the power now. Specifically two idols.
Secretly, which is important given the Knowledge is Power is in play.
The next day Karla and Jesse were bonding over their Latino heritage before Owen opened up to them about how he was originally born in Korea and adopted at 4 months old. He spoke about how growing up he felt like an outsider and that being left out of two votes in a row, it was bringing up trauma. Though trust and believe he was going to try and find those cracks and take control with some other underdogs. He immediately caught up with Noelle and Jeanine to talk about who to align with, with Jeanine hopeful in their chances with Gabler while Noelle wasn’t so sure the seven that voted together the night before will stick together for long. Jesse, Karla, Cassidy and James caught up, hopeful that they would be able to stick together, with James wanting them to target Owen next given he voted for him at the first merge tribal.
The groups game together, with Karla opening up about her dreams about Probst making ramen during a gross food challenge and then crowd surfing. While it was weird, it got everyone talking about food and how damn hungry they were, fantasising about new food combinations and well, this is why Probst drags me to Fiji twice a year, I guess. Rather than just talking about food, Ryan went to go find some, fishing for hours to feed the tribe and make sure everyone was well fed. And therefore a little reliant on him. He opened up to Gabler about how proud of himself he is, particularly for a kid that grew up with CP and as such he is hopeful being a provider counteracts the fact he is a massive physical threat. After locking in his place in the alliance of seven, Sami approached the outsiders to try and align with them, given going to the end with the others is far more risky. He then returned to Jesse and James to keep them feeling about aligning with him, but trust, he was ready to make a move.
The tribe reconnected with Jeffrey where they would each have to balance a ball on a disc on the end of a tall pole, with the last one standing taking out immunity and guaranteeing their place in the top ten. Before getting to the challenge though, Jeff offered the tribe a bag of rice if five people were to sit out of the challenge and if nobody takes it, it will only be more expensive. Thankfully James, Sami, Jesse, Cassidy and Karla opted to sit out for the rice, despite James trying to assure Owen that he is TOTALLY safe if he were to sit out. Which is definitely not the case. The six players lined up for the challenge with Jeanine and Noelle dropping back to back when adding their third length of pole. Gabler dropped on the next round, Ryan dropped on the next before Cody dropped out of nowhere on the next transition, handing Owen a much needed victory.
Back at camp Owen was thrilled to have some much needed safety because despite the fact the 7 may not stay aligned, he is still on the bottom. As evidenced by James assuring him he is good. Gabler meanwhile was just trying to keep himself safe, hanging around Ryan and James as they locked in the vote against Jeanine. Ryan went person to person to fill them in on the vote, trying to get things unanimous before disappearing to fish for everyone to remind them how great eating is. Cody and Jesse meanwhile were confident that getting rid of Jeanine was the best for everyone, while Sami kicked it into high gear to save his fellow Baka, as such, floating Ryan as another option.
Knowing he had to play things carefully, he floated whether getting rid of Ryan makes sense to Karla. And while she was obviously keen, she knew it would be a tough sell with the rest of the alliance. Particularly since he is spending his afternoon fishing, rather than strategising with his allies. The Ryan vote spread like wildfire with Jeanine growing hopeful that she would be saved, until Cody and James started to turn things back around. James then went person to person, with Cassidy in particular frustrated to see yet another woman voted out particularly since she is clearly a sitting duck and they will be able to get rid of her whenever. Oh and Ryan has burnt her multiple times, whereas Jeanine hasn’t.
At tribal council Jeff spoke about how each season has a unique vibe, with Gabler talking about theirs being focused on the social connections. While Karla countered that while the social games have been subtle, eventually someone has to make moves to claim victory. Ryan meanwhile suggested everyone was laying low for now and just enjoying themselves, while Owen admitted he doesn’t care what happens as long as he is voting with the group. Sami pointed out that the last two votes have been blindsides, while Cassidy reminded everyone that subtle games aren’t weak and James suggested everything is fluid within the game.
Jeanine opened up about trying to go with the momentum and keep navigating around the uncertainty, while Gabler was concerned about how quickly things change. Cody admitted he is nervous whenever he feels safe, while Ryan reminded everyone he caught 21 fish today. Jeanine spoke about not feeling safe, at all, given she was on the bottom last tribal, though was hopeful to trust her gut before Cody spoke about distances and reading body language and well, I was confused. As was Sami, given he was expecting everything to blow up pretty soon whether they were feeling safe or not. With that the tribe voted and despite their best efforts to feel Ryan, poor Jeanine found herself exiting the game as the Queen of the Jury.
Which, as you know, is my favourite placing.
As soon as she arrived at the freshly transformed Ponderosa, I pulled her in for a massive hug and congratulated her on a game well played. I told her that I was concerned that the women were having such a tough time this season due to the back-to-back success of Erika and Maryanne, and as such, there is an element of her being screwed by what was fresh in everyone’s mind. Which proved to be enough to dull the pain. Although maybe it was the piping hot Pork Jeanine Schzheng that made her feel better?
Delicate, melt in your mouth pork, coated in a gloriously crunchy crust, this little schnitty is perfect – particularly with some Dwight Moorshroom Gravy to wash it down! Add in a little mash and you have a comforting meal, easy enough to slot into your mid-week rotation.
Pork Jeanine Schzheng Serves: 2.
Ingredients 2 pork steaks, flattened to about 2cm thick 1 cup panko breadcrumbs 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped 2 sprigs thyme leaves 3 garlic cloves, minced salt and pepper, to taste 1 egg, whisked flour, for dredging olive oil, for fryin’ lemon, mash and Dwight Moorshroom Gravy, to serve
Method Take the pork out of the fridge and leave to come to room temperature while you prepare your crumb. Combine the breadcrumbs, rosemary, thyme and garlic in one bowl with a good whack of salt and pepper, the egg in another and flour in a third.
Dip the pork in the flour, followed by the egg and finally the crumb.
Heat a lug of oil in a large skillet and cook the schnitzels for a few minutes, or until golden and crisp. Flip and cook for a further few minutes or until golden, crisp and perfectly cooked through.
Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon, some mash and a generous amount of Dwight’s gravy. And then devour.
Previously on Survivor Baka finally got in on the excitement of bead idol-palooza as Jeanine stumbled across an ant covered note. She immediately looped in Elie and went to their allies to convince them to hand over their beads, while Sami waited until after the idol was powered to tell Gabler just what he had done. After Coco lost their second immunity challenge, Jeanine, Jesse and Geo were selected to go to Journey Island where they all risked their votes before Geo jagged the advantage. And Jeanine popped a bigger target on her back as Sami wondered why she would risk it when she already had an idol. When it came to Coco, it came down to Cassidy and Geo as the targets, and while Ryan thought he was valiantly pretending to be the one to go out, he was blindsided by the departure of his only ally Geo.
The next day Coco discovered treemail announcing the (non-)merge, offering them ten minutes to pack their things and get on a boat to leave camp. While everyone was feeling thrilled to have made it to the next phase, Karla wisley knew that Jeffrey would have some sort of shenanigans to officially make it to the merge and as such, was tempering her expectations. Over at Vesi, Jesse was ready to prove himself while Baka just got to stay at their camp, waiting to greet the other tribes and all their spoils. And while everyone was excited to meet new people, Cody knew it was about to descend into chaos and as such, wasn’t that happy to have new friends.
As everyone got together to kiki and get to know people, Noelle was nervous about the fact they don’t have buffs nor a feast. Because duh, that is the go now, listen to Karla! Owen meanwhile was concerned about all the potential advantages floating around their new mega-tribe. Noelle meanwhile dropped by Elie and Sami to talk about how wild Cody is, sharing an anecdote about him making a hat for tribal council, which did nothing more than announce that Cody is the one that owns the Vesi idol. A little fact Elie quickly took back to Jeanine.
Jeff made an early appearance to announce that once again they need to earn their place on the merge tribe, though this time, there would be no stupid hourglass of doom. The group would be split into two teams for the first opportunity to merge, racing to release a sled buried by sandbags and then drag it through obstacles to collect large blocks. They would then build a staircase to release a key, then climb up a platform, release puzzle pieces and then solve a word puzzle. With the winners officially part of the merge while the losers have to survive the upcoming vote to get there. And given there are 13 people left, someone would land in the middle and be given the chance to bet on the winner and if they were right, they would also be immune and get to partake in the merge feast with them.
Ultimately Noelle landed in the middle, opting to believe in the blue team, made up of Gabler, Karla, Jeanine, Ryan, Jesse and Dwight. Which seemed like a great choice, given they got out to the earliest of leads. Not to be outdone, the red team picked up the pace and overtook them while collecting their blocks. Things got worse for the blue team and Noelle as Karla crushed her hand on a block and started to bleed profusely as she tried to finish out the challenge. As the red team extended their lead and started to work on the word puzzle, the blue team worked together to get the bleeding Karla up the wall. And then completely dominated the puzzle, narrowly taking out immunity just ahead of the red team and proving Noelle was wise to back them. And hopefully Karla would soon get a bandaid.
Back at camp the losing team were heartbroken to be potentially going home tonight, with Elie in particular breaking down about bombing the puzzle. She rallied though and caught up with Owen, suggesting they lie to OG Coco and tell them that Cody is the target, and then split the vote on Cassidy and James, continuing to get rid of Coco. Elie quickly locked in Cassidy and James and while she thought they had bought it all, James felt she was being a little suss and as such, thought she could be the better option.
Meanwhile the victors and Noelle were busy smashing their feast and downing beers, before Karla floated the question of what they should do at tribal council. Ryan immediately suggested they could just lock it in as the final 7 at this point, which obviously annoyed Jeanine, who wanted to stick with her allies. The group pivoted, instead talking about who they wanted to protect with everyone trying to save their OG tribes. Except for Gabler, who admitted that she does not care for Elie and outed her for going through her bag. Which made Jeanine even more furious.
The two groups came together and filled each other in on the plans, with Elie throwing Cassidy under the bus for floating Cody, which was actually her plan. As they caught up with Dwight and Jeanine, the duo filled Elie in on the fact Gabler is coming for her which made her just as furious as Jeanine. Elie obviously went to confront Gabler, denying the fact she looked through his bag, though try as she might, he had no interest in listening. She cut her losses and instead went to confront Sami and Owen for outing her with Gabler and while they both denied it, they also offered to help clear her name. Well, until she was gone, when Sami decided that Elie was too dangerous to last another day.
Gabler then caught up with Jeanine and while she was just as angry, she calmly suggested they talk to Owen and Sami to try and reiterate the importance of staying Baka strong. With Sami eventually getting through to Gabler after Jeanine left, when he reminded him that Jeanine has an idol and as such, could save Elie and screw one of Owen or Sami if he doesn’t pull his head in. Vesi and Coco meanwhile were busy catching up, locking in Elie as the biggest threat. And after Ryan straight up told James and Cassidy that they were Elie’s actual target, it looked like everyone would be coming together to get rid of Elie.
At tribal council the soon to be merged tribe took their seats before Gabler spoke about the chaos of the day, failing to mention the fact that he was the one that kicked it off. Cody agreed that it was overwhelming, while Sami spoke about how nerve wracking it is to be one of the few options to go home within the broader group. Cassidy and Owen were nervous and unsure who to trust, while Jeanine said it was hard to even try and fathom what everyone else’s priorities were. Elie opened up about the fact her name was put out amongst the tribe while Karla spoke about the fact that there are a large number of potential advantages and as such, there is even more they have to worry about navigating. Sami mentioned how difficult a position it can be if you know about an advantage, given there are pros and cons to keeping your mouth shut, while everyone agreed that paranoia – about everything – is the most difficult thing to deal with.
With that the tribe voted and despite the chaotic afternoon pre-tribal, the final plan appeared to be solid as Vesi, Coco and Gabler banded together to boot Elie from the game. While Probst officially welcomed the other five castaways to the merged tribe.
Elie was obviously super disappointed as she arrived at Loser Lodge, particularly given she had only just been talking up how well she had been playing the game. Which I calmly explained is exactly what happens and to not let her down, particularly given she is a lock for a second chances season (sorry Lindsay) given she had an iconic feud with Gabler which cost her her game. Which proved enough to cheer her up as we plotted her second go over some fresh Cherry Eliespresso Biscotti.
While sometimes I worry that they will chip my teeth as I get older, there is nothing better than biscotti. Light and crunchy, these numbers pack a glorious punch of coffee alongside the chewiness of the cherries to create the ultimate textural sensation.
Cherry Eliespresso Biscotti Serves: 4.
Ingredients ¼ cup espresso powder 2 tbsp vanilla extract 2 ½ cups flour 1 cup raw caster sugar 2 tsp baking powder ¼ tsp kosher salt 3 eggs, lightly beaten ¾ cup walnuts, roughly chopped ¾ cup dried cherries
Method Preheat the oven to 180C.
Combine the espresso powder and vanilla in a bowl and whisk to combine. In another bowl, whisk the flour, raw caster sugar, baking powder and salt. Finally, beat the eggs and espresso-vanilla mixture in a stand mixer until thick and golden. Fold through the dry ingredients, walnuts and cherries, and beat until just combined.
Split the dough in half and form into two small, flat loaves. Pop on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for half an hour.
Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf into 4mm thick biscuits and place on a lined baking sheet. Once the biscotti are shaped, return to the oven to bake for a further 15 minutes, or until perfectly crisped. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. Then, devour.
Previously on Survivor – as you have already heard me gush – we were graced with the presence of one of the greatest personalities to take out the game, arguably since Sandra 2.0. Or maybeTyson. Maryanne was funny, emotional and oh so charming, and watching her work her way to victory was downright delightful. Sadly though, we’ve got to drop the 2 as 43 kicked off – see what I did there, Probst – with three speedboats jetting through the water with 18 new castaways. And let’s just say, they aren’t the only things that are new – the editors have some tricks! There were drones, there were joke chyrons and even an intro for one. And it was fun.
But that isn’t what we’re here to discuss, though you know I’d gladly dedicate 2000 words to it. Survivor 43 is here and we first met Ryan, who looks like a total zaddy and I will already follow him to the ends of the earth. Nneka is cute and Morriah, for some reason, is here for RuPaul’s Best Friend Race. Sami meanwhile is my hair twin and makes up words, Lindsay is an adorable, iconic frontline hero and I stan her already, no wait, Karla is even more up my alley. Lindsay and Karla final two, please. Cody looks like a potential day 4 zaddy, Elie is going to see if she can use her psychology background better than Tori, and Owen is perfect, he is hair goals, he is THE moment.
The boats eventually made it to shore where Jeffrey proudly welcomed them to the Survivor family which immediately made Elie overwhelmed and a little shocked that it was actually happening. We first spoke with Jeanine who called Survivor a total dream for her and her immigrant father and well, I guess there needs to be more room on my stan card because I love her too. Sweet James was hoping to follow in his hero Earl’s footsteps while Gabler is the right kind of kookie to win my heart, while Paralympian Noelle spoke about how losing her leg was the best thing that ever happened to her and, gag of the season, she actually applied before she lost it. And the fact that she wants to make some leg jokes along the way makes me love her even more.
After a quick recap of the design of the game, Jeff announced they would be forming the Vesi, Baka and Coco – literally, coco – tribes. And would immediately be competing together in the first reward challenge where duos would run off one pair at a time to retrieve crates before the final duo build a cube and retrieve a key, with the first to finish earning a flint, a pot and a machete. Baka got out to the earliest of leads while Vesi nipped at the heels before they started to overtake in the water. It was then that Coco powered ahead out of nowhere, building their cube and working on retrieving their key way ahead of the others. Sadly, that proved super difficult which allowed for everyone to catch up before Dwight was given some good advice and able to jag victory for Vesi.
We first checked in with the victorious Vesi where Cody was all energy and on cloud nine about their victory. He shared that he binged Survivor during the pandemic and upon decided he had what it takes to win, was ready to live it for real. As the tribe introduced themselves, I immediately fell in love with Nneka and Justine – who is stunning – while Dwight got the clown music as he struggled to build the shelter which I hope is only the beginning of an underdog edit. Over at Baka, Gabler was nervous to already be at a disadvantage, given he is so much older than his fellow castaways, before they discovered their two options to earn their supplies, one a mental puzzle and the other to isolate two people to work hard. While Sami offered to sweat, the tribe chose to do the puzzle which required them to move two bones from a shape to create the largest number possible.
While they battled their wits, over at Coco Ryan and Geo offered to dig for four hours and while it seems like a stupid move, Ryan stripped down to his undies and as such, I’m moister than an oyster. Specifically the ones that spat on Kimmi and Monica in Second Chances. Ryan then opened up about his cerebral palsy and well, I love him even more and want him to win so bad. And that was before he even heroically dug out their reward in less than half an hour. Back at Baka the tribe continued to struggle over the puzzle, until Sami gamed the system out of nowhere and solved it for them at the exact moment I was smugly proclaiming how obvious the answer was. Which proved to be incorrect. While I sulked, Sami opened up about how proud he was to solve the puzzle despite being the youngest on the tribe and shared with us that because he is 19, he is totally planning to lie about his age to his tribe.
We returned to Vesi where Noelle was living her best life, glad to have not needed to go through another challenge to get their supplies and to have quickly aligned with Justine given they were vibing so well. Sadly for them, Nneka, Cody and Jesse noticed how tight they had become, immediately locking in their own alliance and well, Justine girl, you’re in danger. And no, please don’t make her the Jessie Camacho of the modern era because I can’t take that kind of pain again. Oh and Cody was busy targeting her for being in sales, despite being in sales himself which will totally come back to bite him, right? Right on queue, Jesse admitted he isn’t exactly sold on the alliance and as such, is willing to work with the girls, begging the question, what about Dwight?
Over at Baka as the tribe tried to build shelter, Owen was focused on building alliances. And by alliances, I mean assuring anyone in sight that he would let them know if he heard their name come up at all. Which is a great non-promise, but could still come back to bite you if people start talking. Meanwhile Elie and Morriah were bonding over their families with the former opening up about her older sister dying of an overdose during 2020 and ugh, it is heartbreaking to hear but seeing how it rallied the women together, I live. Because, duh, I always root for the all female alliances.
Coco’s shelter building meanwhile was looking to be going ok, but like Owen before her, Cassidy was more focused on building alliances. Hearing my call, those alliances were specifically with the women on her tribe and the fact that they know how difficult the game is for women, I live for it. Sadly for my love Ryan, though, they wanted to bring in James to take control over the tribe and ice out my zaddy. Baka meanwhile had changed their focus as the men started working on building a fire as Sami explained that cremating pets is not murder, but disposing of their bodies. Which I thought was obvious, but great! In any event, he made fire while Gabler wandered off to try and form a bond with Elie over heavy metal bands and do I ship this? Probably. Do I ship it as much as the two all female alliances? God no.
The next day Coco were living their best lives, getting camp set up while Karla and Geo bonded over being queer, married members of the Latinx community and fuck me dead, THIS is the final two I want now, please and thank you. Despite the fact it kinda means my love Ryan is screwed. Well, unless Karla sides with the boys, given she clearly holds all the damn power in the tribe. We pivoted to Vesi where Jesse was opening up about growing up in gangs as a teen before he turned his life around while in juvenile detention. He now had a PHD with two adorable kids and is proud to be a hope for other people and ugh, he is the sweetest. Oh and while Jesse formerly had gang tattoos, Cody had LIVIN tattooed on his butt.
After the tatt talk dissipated, Justine focused on trying to get fire started for their tribe and while she was struggling, she was happy the shelter was doing good at least. At that exact moment, the shelter collapsed before she sparked a flame. Which sadly then went out, which gives off big retrograde energy. Thankfully they were distracted by the arrival of a speedboat directing them – and the two other tribes at the same time – to select one person to get on said boat for a little adventure. While Lindsay wanted to bounce at Coco, they drew numbers with Karla winning out, Gabler won Baka’s random draw while Dwight was just allowed to go, rather than any game of chance.
The trio met up at the famed quest island – formerly the Edge of Extinction – where they were thrilled to discover they didn’t need to walk up to the top of the island, instead wading through the shallows to a large rock. Shallows that were riddled with moss and oysters, so actually more dangerous than a stroll up a hill. Eventually they made it, learning that instead of a ship wheel, they now get to openly announce whether they want to risk their votes at the first tribal council, with them each selecting their fate out of a bag corresponding with how many people chose to risk it. Ultimately Gabler and Dwight opted to risk, while Karla was wise to play it safe. And more importantly to her, avoid painting a target on her back.
Back at Vesi the tribe were still heartbroken to not have fire before Justine once again managed to get flame, and this time managed to keep it alight. As Dwight returned to camp he opted to keep things truthful, knowing that everyone knows what those journeys are all about anyway. And while he was totally honest, Cody was not buying any of it and as such started sowing seeds of doubt about him amongst the tribe. At Baka, Gabler also told the tribe the truth before going for a walk and discovering he had jagged an idol for the next two tribal councils and while everyone else celebrated with him, they seem to be ignoring the fact it means he is safe and they are not. Which is never good.
Speaking of safety, Jeffrey returned for the first immunity challenge of the season where the tribes would have to race through obstacles to release three balls, dig under a log, climb up a ramp, cross a balance beam and solve one of three table mazes. With them getting to choose which one, based on the order they arrive. Oh and sticking around from last season, the losers not only go to tribal council but have to forfeit their flint. Coco got out to an early lead while Vesi and Baka struggled to get under their logs. Specifically the latter as Jeanine got straight up stuck. As Vesi and Baka tried to close the gap, Coco landed all their balls and jagged immunity leaving the other tribes to desperately fight for the second win. Which eventually went to Vesi after they got their eye in, sending a defeated Baka to tribal council.
Back at camp the tribe quickly pivoted from disappointment to scrambling, with Sami in particular looking forward to getting their games started. Knowing he was kind of responsible, Gabler knew the target would be on his back and as such, mentioned he will not be playing his idol and instead, decided he would play his Shot in the Dark instead. Which Elie obviously thought was a terrible idea, instead telling him that they can’t afford for him to lose his vote and that he needs to pull his head in. With that out of the way, Elie, Jeanine and Owen went off and locked in the vote against Morriah, while Morriah and Sami were locking in their votes against Owen instead. Mainly because Gabler is too unpredictable to be able to trust or target. When the duo caught up with Jeanine and Elie, Elie assured us that while saying she wants to keep women strong, she wanted to focus on tribe strength. And just like that, this female alliance is already looking to be DOA.
At tribal council Sami spoke about how wonderful the vibe was at camp before losing the immunity challenge, ready to ride it out until the final 6 together. Owen agreed things were great, though suggested it instead had more to do with the fact nobody wanted to paint a target on their back. Gabler admitted that while not scrambling earlier could put them at a disadvantage, he is still glad they bonded as a tribe. Oh and then Morriah suggested they were all winners, because they tried. Sami rightly pointed out moral victories don’t keep you in the game, while Elie agreed but suggested they still need to form the right bonds too. Talk then turned to some sort of text analogies – don’t tell Teresa Giudice – before Sami reminded everyone that while they are friends, someone is about to have regrets.
Which obviously meant it was time to vote where Gabler surprisingly kept hold of his Shot in the Dark before Morriah was surprisingly chill to discover that she had become the latest member of the Sonja Christopher club. Or in Drag Race terms, the Porkchop.
As soon as she arrived at Loser Lodge, I pulled Morriah in for a massive hug and assured her that while Survivor may not be the best place to make friends, I will always be proud of the positive, kind, spirit that she brought into the game. Within a small tribe situation, it is even harder to navigate the pre-merge section of the game and when everyone is getting along and contributing like the tribe were, it almost becomes a game of lucky dip. And let’s just say, after that little peptalk and a Morriahti Young or two, she was feeling 100 again.
Despite how the kinda clunky name makes it sound, these roti – not raita – are completely delicious. Fresh, fluffy and melt in your mouth, once you’ve tried a roti from scratch, you’ll never go back to pre-bought. Particularly since they are so damn easy!
Morriahti Young Serves: 4.
Ingredients 300g flour ½ tsp kosher salt ¼ tsp black pepper, ground 250ml chilled water 30g butter, melted vegetable oil
Method Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Stir in the water until it all comes together, before transferring to a floured surface and kneading for about 5 minutes.
Split the dough into 8 equal portions and form into balls. Working one at a time, roll a ball to form a 20cm wide disc and brush with some melted butter. Roll into a cigar, then roll parallel to form into a small scroll, kind of like Inception of rolling or a quick laminate of croissants. Now flatten the scroll into a disc and roll back out to form a disc. Repeat the process with the remaining portions.
To cook, pop a heavy skillet over medium heat and brush with the oil. Add the roti and cook for a minute or two, before flipping and cooking for another minute or until golden on both sides and nicely puffed. Repeat with the remaining bread then, obvi, devour.
While I will gladly complain about the entire drop the 4 schtick and the permanent reduction in days – please Probst, I like my traditions sweet angel – I am sitting at an impasse, wondering how we’re ever going to get a more majestic winner than last season’s iconic Maryanne.
I mean, sure, I will fall in love with the latest batch of 18 new castaways Probst and Co. have dumped on a myriad of islands in Fiji to battle it out. But Maryanne was a star. She was messy, she was emotional, she was passionate, she was kind and honestly, she was a damn delight to watch.
I know I’m meant to be here reminding you that yes, I am still on Probst’s personal payroll to provide culinary comfort to the castaways to ease their post-boot pain. But could you imagine a world in which Maryanne had won but four seasons earlier – don’t worry about dropping that one – and competed on Winners at War.
It. Would. Have. Been. AMAZING.
That being said, I have high hopes that if we can still find an icon like her after 42 seasons, we surely will find someone to love in the 43rd. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride while awaiting my post-boot catch-up/s next week!