Survivor 43 recap: Noelle takes flight (and dives deep)

Survivor 43 recap: Noelle takes flight (and dives deep)

What the hell is this nonsense? Only one hour of Survivor this week? What a load of B.S.! And a note to CBS: You have no one to blame for my fury but yourself. That's because you totally spoiled us these past two weeks by giving us a two-hour mega-episode followed by a 90-minute super-sized follow-up. Spoiled us rotten!

Now here we are with a completely normal hour-long installment and it's like… that's it? Actually, you know who's to blame? JERRY O'CONNELL! That's right, blame O'Connell and his suspiciously high arching eyebrows, as if he's permanently about to send contestants on an amazing race around the globe. Only he's not. That's because instead, the former Kangaroo Jack and Piranha star is now hosting something called The Real Love Boat. I mean, I always thought "the real Love Boat" was PCP, but apparently, it's also a new reality show hosted by O'Connell and wife Rebecca Romijn — a new reality show that happens to be airing Wednesday nights on CBS, starting this week.


Robert Voets/CBS The cast of 'Survivor 43'

For all those who have been pining for longer Survivor episodes, guess what? So have Survivor producers! Why do you think they got rid of the opening title sequence and "Previously on..." segments? They always feel like they are cramming way too much action into way too little time. The problem is, CBS has only so much space they are willing to allocate on their schedule to Survivor each week, which is what happens when you have 318 shows with the initials NCIS or FBI in the title. And as much as I don't like it, I get it. Those shows are hella popular. But The Real Love Boat?????

If the dude who memorized every Charo appearance and can recite dialogue from the episode where Gopher and Julie McCoy had to fake being a couple and then hilariously fell in love for approximately 30 minutes is bummed about a Love Boat revival, then you have a problem. And when it's at the expense of the best show on the planet? Not unlike Jesse Lopez, I'm now ready to sign the divorce papers.

And look, I have nothing against Jerry O'Connell. Seems like a nice enough guy, but if you're going take away precious time from Survivor on a Wednesday night for a Jerry O' Connell project, couldn't we at least get a little Sliders reboot working? Let's get some John Rhys-Davies and Kari Wuhrer up in this beeyotch!

Whatever. One hour is all we get (really, 42 minutes once you take the ads out) so let's get into what went down in this totally normally-sized episode that felt way too short anyway.

Bag Ladies

I've been thinking about Gabler lately. Which is mildly disturbing. I should be busy thinking about my job, my family, how terrible the Washington Commanders are, and other important matters like perhaps putting together a supercut of all the times Vanessa Lachey has had to say, "Is love truly blind?" on camera. Instead, I'm thinking about stupid Gabler. And not just how much I hate saying his name.

But it has to be a bummer to get on Survivor, and get all the way out there, and then sit through a prolonged quarantine period, and finally get on the island… and then almost immediately feel sick and absolutely terrible. That's got to suck. I have a lot of sympathy for anyone not named Stephen Fishbach that has had to go through something like that.

But it wasn't all bad news for Gabler this week. That's thanks to Sami feeling threatened by an older woman in Elie taking charge. The stealth teen therefore decided to flip the script and tell Gabler that the ladies went through his bag to read his idol clue. This led to Owen playing dumb and acting like he didn't know they went through the bag, and Gabler playing even dumber and pretending he thought his idol was now powerless and only wanted to keep it to give to his daughter as a graduation present.

I wrote back on premiere week that I felt like the Baka tribe was filled with type-A personalities that would all insist on being the driver and not the passenger, and it appears that is exactly what is happening. Whether that car ends up being driven off a cliff remains to be seen.


Robert Voets/CBS The Baka tribe on 'Survivor 43'

On Second Thought…

Karla has been playing it cautious on Survivor, and I cannot overstate how much producers HATE that. They pretty much beat it into contestants' skulls throughout the casting process that they want risk-takers. They want people who aren't going to be afraid to make a move. They want people who are going to put themselves out there, because wallflowers do not make for good TV.

As a viewer, we can look at a decision like whether to risk your vote or pick up a Beware Advantage very objectively and strategically. We can run the numbers and come to a cold, calculated decision on what the best course of action is. But the contestants constantly have the producers' collective voice in their heads. And they want to have fun. And they want to experience the full spectrum of the game. And, yes, they want to make good television — which also translates to more of them on television. That's why sometimes you'll have a head scratching decision, like when Chanelle risked (and lost) her vote last season even though it was the only thing that could undo her position and alliance in the game. That voice was in her head!

Which is why I was so surprised when Karla took the safe and steady route last week at Journey Rock Island and did not risk her vote. And then she was at it again this week, in a very un-Xena like move, actually putting back a Beware Advantage because she did not want to risk it for the biscuit.

But then Karla had some time to time to rethink her drink, and hey, I totally get it. I've poured over some of my poorer decisions in life, like that time I showed up at a middle school dance in my sister's white suit because I thought it made me look like Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett. (Narrator: It did not.) Not only did Karla rethink her decision, but she even made like Jesse Lopez and started taking a survey, insisting that James settle on either numerical or descriptive responses to her questions.

Evidently, that was all the peer pressure she needed. She clearly understood that in this time of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil was crying out for a hero. She was Karla, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle. The power... the passion... the danger.... Her courage will change the world. Or, at least, the game.

So Karla went back, and this time took the Beware Advantage. Like most viewers, I was excited by this development because I am a fan of Beware Advantages, thought last week's bracelet task was fun, and was looking forward to seeing what Karla's mission was going to be. Unfortunately, it turned out to be something of a re-run.

This is a mild complaint, mind you, but why not put three different Beware Advantage tasks on the three different beaches? That way we don't just have to watch the same bead procurement multiple times, but instead get three fresh missions throughout the pre-merge portion of the game. Instead, it felt a bit like a Big Brother competition where you have to watch players do the same competition back-to-back-to-back. And if you don't know what I am talking about because you don't watch Big Brother, then congratulations, you are a better person with more discerning taste than I am. Take a number.

Anyway, like I said, mild complaint. It was still fun watching Karla deceive her way to collecting all the beads and getting her immunity bracelet. Just would have preferred something completely new.

Beast Mode

Before we go any further, huge shout out to Dwight for continuing the long and proud tradition of world class Survivor belly-floppers. Make way, Omar! Step aside, The Wardog! Dwight is here, and his form is perfect. I don't know why I love watching players unable to dive into water during challenges. I mean, me just being a terrible person is most of it, but the joy it gives me really is a bit on the absurd side.

Now let's go to the opposite end of the spectrum on this challenge, which had players jumping/diving/belly-flopping into the water, and then diving down deep to unlock keys, and finally completing a turtle puzzle. And on the opposite end of that spectrum was… Noelle.

A lot of people are going to focus on how badass it was of Noelle to be hopping on one leg on those platforms to get through the course. And they should! It was badass. But what knocked my proverbial socks off is not what the above-the-knee-amputee did above the water, but under it.

Do you know how hard it is to propel yourself straight down underwater with only one leg? Hell, there have been a bevy of Survivor contestants (Sup, James Lim?) that could not do it with two legs! Kicking hard is essential to get down deep, so the fact that Noelle did it with only one is insanely impressive. Noelle keeps bragging about all the leg jokes she has, but let me tell you something, that was NO JOKE what she just did in that challenge.


Robert Voets/CBS Noelle Lambert on 'Survivor 43'

I love that Cody admitted to worrying if Noelle could keep up in competitions with her one leg, only to realize after watching her in action that she can not only get it done, but be an asset to the tribe in physical tests. We didn't need all the childhood photos and video to show us what a badass Noelle is. This challenge told us everything, and that shot of her submerging herself with only one leg was exhibit A. Hell, she even earned a "That's how you do it on Survivor!" from Jeff Probst — the ultimate sign of respect.

Unfortunately, Nneka and James did not hold up their end of the bargain on the turtle puzzle, and all the looking over and copying from the completed puzzle next to them could not save Vesi from a date with Tribal Council.

Loyalty vs. Strength

Cody and Jesse now had a dilemma. They had the numbers with Nneka, but they also had eyes. And their eyes told them the story that Nneka was struggling in challenges. So would they take out Noelle to keep their strategic majority, or take out Nneka so they would not be at a disadvantage moving forward in challenges?

For Jesse, there was an emotional component as well, because Nneka reminded him so much of his mother who always was always helping others and had passed away. Would Jesse pull a Ciera Eastin and vote his own mom out of the game? And, if so, would be it referenced by the show 512 times over the next few years?

Left unsaid in the edit (but what I have to assume played into Cody and Jesse's calculations) was the fact that Noelle had been chosen to take one of the "journeys" that often ends with the procurement of an advantage. Indeed, Noelle essentially begged James and Owen to give her the advantage because she was at the bottom of her tribe — telling them she was ready to do a final three if they threw her some help now. They agreed, and she received a steal-a-vote good through the final seven.

If I'm Cody or Jesse, and I'm torn between Noelle and Nneka, and Noelle is off possibly getting an advantage, I'm doing two things. First off, I'm voting out Nneka. But I'm also letting Noelle believe she might be going home. That way she plays whatever advantage she might have gained and flushes it out of the game. It looks like the bros did not do that, because Noelle held on to her steal-a-vote. I get why Cody and Jesse may not have wanted to play that card, because they wanted to build bonds with Noelle to forge a better tribe relationship moving forward. Makes sense. But what happens if they lose again? Now they would be locked 2-2 on the vote and Noelle can steal one of theirs and send Jesse or Cody home. WHOOPS!


Robert Voets/CBS Jesse Lopez, Nneka Ejere and Jeff Probst on 'Survivor' 43

Nneka went out of the game exactly the way most of us probably expected her to, telling the tribe that just voted her out "that was awesome," and then telling us in her final words that "they pulled it off really well…. I'm surprised I don't have any negative emotions…. This has been a dream come true."

Nneka seems like one of the nicest people you could ever hope to be lucky enough to meet. A super dynamic television personality? Probably not. A strategic mastermind? Not very likely. I don't think anyone had Nneka as their pick to win it all. But she's someone you rooted for nonetheless and feel sad to see go. But she seems happy enough, and I'm guessing viewers are happy to see more Noelle, so it's all good.

And we're not done with Nneka anyway! That's because we've got my exit interview with the third one out that you can watch and read right now. Oh, and we've also got an exclusive deleted scene starring Nekka and Dwight at the top of the recap. And did you see yesterday's video of the cast picking the most underrated Survivor players ever? No? Well, you should! And to keep track of all my Survivor coverage all season long, just follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss and Instagram @thedaltonross. (I know, different handles for different platforms — annoying.) That'll do it for now, but I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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