Survivor 45 Recap: The Underdogs Go In for the Kill

Listen, last week’s episode of Survivor left me angry. If you don’t recall what went down, I suggest you read my recap, but basically Austin let his emotions for Dee get in the way of his game, and because of that Emily got sent home. Everyone was basically like WTF?! (Including me.) So I’m coming into this week a little uneasy. To be honest, the only thing exciting in the Survivor universe that’s bringing me any kind of joy is that Carson Garrett from Survivor 44 is doing 3D-printed puzzles now. But you know what? I have a job to do, so let’s get to what happened this week on Survivor 45 (Ep. 12 “The Ex-Girlfriend at the Wedding”).

Before we get to any of the spoilers for this episode-you’ve been forewarned-sign up for my newsletter For the Culture for everything Survivor delivered to your inbox and check outThe Parting Shot with H. Alan Scottpodcast for loads of fun celebrity interviews.

OK, so after they all get back to camp post-Tribal Council, Julie decides to state the obvious. “This is awkward.” And it is. Because everyone voted for her, and now they don’t know what to do. This idea of Reba strong-the alliance of Julie, Dee, Austin and Drew-has been shattered, and they are all dealing with it in their own way. Drew is pissed, Dee and Austin are lost in their showmance, and Julie-smartly-recognizes that she needs to come up with a different strategy.

Because Julie played an idol, everyone knows that it’s likely it’ll be hidden once again. So the next morning Katurah gets up early to hunt, which, of course, Austin and Dee, snuggled up next to each other, notice. So they go looking for her and Austin catches her. She’s all like, oh no, you surprised me. (If there’s one thing that’s true about Survivor 45, they’re all horrible liars.) Anyway, they don’t find the idol.

Meanwhile, Julie tries to reconnect with her Reba buddies, to little avail. She’s still tight with Dee, but Austin wants her out, and Drew wants her removed from the planet. Honestly, the way Drew lets his arrogance and anger get in the way of his game is not only annoying, it’s a stupid game play. At the end of an exchange between Julie and Drew, Julie says the one thing we’re all thinking. “What happened to Reba strong? I’ll tell you what happened. Drew happened.”


They take a break from their awkward conversations to compete in a reward challenge. Basically, they have to walk on some barrels grabbing for keys to unlock and solve a slidey puzzle. Their reward is a picnic in the middle of the ocean. (It’s Survivor, of course the idea of eating on a bouncy water thingy is a fun.) Well, Austin wins the reward and he gets to pick two people to go with him. His first choice is his lovebird, Dee. But he carefully chooses his second choice. Drew wants it, you can feel his desperation, but instead Austin picks Katurah. Austin’s logic is that Drew can watch Julie and Jake back at camp to make sure they don’t go hunting for immunity idols. (Uh, obvious spoiler alert, they do.)

 Pictured (L-R): Drew Basile, Julie Alley, Katurah Topps, Dee Valladares, Austin Li Coon, and Jake O'Kane. Photo: CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Highest quality screengrab available.CBS Broadcasting,
Pictured (L-R): Drew Basile, Julie Alley, Katurah Topps, Dee Valladares, Austin Li Coon, and Jake O’Kane. Photo: CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Highest quality screengrab available.CBS Broadcasting,

So back at camp, Drew is fuming. He’s having a temper tantrum like a child, while Julie and Jake call out the obvious: they both know they’re leftovers to be watched. They’re next on the chopping block. So they kind of mock Drew for having to be the “babysitter.” (Drew calls them “demon children.”) As Drew complains, Jake offers an eye roll for all of America watching. Thank you, Jake.

So Jake knows he needs to act. Now is his time to find an idol. Guess what? He does. Well, he finds a clue to an idol. So he goes over to where the clue says the idol is. To make it look like he belongs next to a raft made of bamboo, he strips down to his underwear, because it’s Survivor and that’s what you do. (In fact, Jake’s whole moment here is hilarious. He starts with a strange yet funny story about him being in a play where he needed to be in his underwear, and then says to his new idol, “you are now my crotch idol,” because he puts it in-you guessed it-his crotch. There’s also a moment in this bit of the show where Jake says “peppers” quite a bit, and I don’t know why but it was kind of hot.)

Speaking of acting, that’s something Jeff Probst talks about on the latest episode of his official Survivor podcast On Fire. Basically he goes over the theater of Survivor. It’s fascinating.

OK, so Austin, Dee and Katurah get to take a helicopter to their reward. They fly over their camp-which only pisses Drew off more-and Austin and Dee are all hand-holding and what-not during the ride. The quote queen of the season, Katurah, immediately observes that she’s a third-wheel on this reward. She says in her confessional, “Do what y’all need to do. Keep your head in that lover’s lane. I’m gonna be over here thinking about how to win this million.” This line had me cackling.

So during the reward, there’s a series of confessionals from Dee and Austin that confirm (again) their showmance. We even get a rare line from a producer during one of Dee’s confessionals, where they ask what’s going on between her and Austin. While she’s blushing, Austin is gushing about how wild it is that a cool girl like Dee would like him. I’ll give the Survivor producers some credit here, they almost won me over to this showmance. Almost. But I still hate. (I just hate it less now.)


Now they’ve got to fight for immunity. During this challenge, they need to balance a ball on a board with their foot. (Sounds easy, but it’s not.) One by one they drop out, and in the end it’s a battle between Drew, Dee and Austin. First, Drew drops out. Now it’s down to the lovebirds. They’re smack-talking each other in playful ways. In the end, Dee wins.

So now back at camp it’s a bit of a snooze because everyone wants Julie out, or do they?

Before we get to that plot twist, the producers felt we needed more Dee and Austin being cutesy. They had a whole moment of playful bickering about their performance at the challenge. (Gag.)

OK, so now for the plot twist. Austin and Drew want Julie out. Cool. But Jake has something else in mind. He talks with Katurah about taking Jake out. She’s on board. Then both Katurah and Julie reveal that Dee is secretly on board to get rid of Drew. So it looks like it’s going to be a Drew blindside.

But before they leave for Tribal Council, Dee is torn: should she tell her boyfriend Austin about this secret plan? (a.k.a. make the same mistake Austin made last week.) It’s like, of course she shouldn’t, she needs to plays her game. But I feel like producers added this bit in just for me to hate her and Austin even more as a couple. She leaves for Tribal Council without revealing if she told Austin or not. I’m nervous.


So there’s a lot of talk about alliances and the changing nature of the game now that the top three is within reach. Honestly, I often find myself bored as Tribal Councils in this 90-minute era of the show, because so much of what they discuss we already know because it’s been so heavily documented. At this point I’m just like, yeah, yeah, yeah, it hurts your feelings to be lied to, let’s just get to the vote.

But I will say Julie’s performance at Tribal was different, because it seems like she’s visibly playing a different game. She’s more open, more relaxed. In fact, this whole episode Julie felt like a different person. I think I like Julie more now that she’s a free agent and not weighed down by some of the Reba strong folks.

So they vote and it goes exactly according to plan, Drew got blindsided, and he’s pissed about it. Oh, and Dee was smart and didn’t tell Austin about the vote. You could just see it in his face. It almost looked like that cute kid in the hallway who asked a girl to prom and she turned him down. (But don’t worry, this little moment of empathy hasn’t lessoned my deep distrust of his game.)

Before they leave, Jeff Probst announces that they won’t be going back to their camp, because they’ll be going to a brand new camp in preparation for the end of the game. That’s right, next week is the season finale!

Who Needs to Get Snuffed?

I want Austin gone. That’s it. He’s gotta go.

Who Should be the Sole Survivor?

Jake or Katurah, but I’m leaning towards Katurah.

Watch Survivor every Wednesday on CBS or anytime on Paramount+ to follow along as I react to every episode this season.


This story was originally published December 13, 2023, 8:30 PM.

source: star-telegram

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