Well folks, we’ve finally arrived: after three long months of summer absence, “Survivor” is finally back, with its 43rd season. With 18 contestants returning to Fiji – including a record-setting Olympian and the first-ever contestants from Hawaii – we will once more see three tribes of six start their adventure of a lifetime.
Without further ado, let’s begin our recap of the two-hour “Survivor 43” premiere, and see what Jeff Probst and CBS have in store for us this time.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ‘SURVIVOR 43’ PREMIERE AHEAD
All times Eastern.
8:05 – We’re being introduced to this season’s diverse cast, which includes a teacher who wants to make friends, a 19-year-old pet cremator, a 42-year-old 20-year “Survivor” fan, and a psychologist who plans to use her skills to manipulate (I’m getting serious Tori vibes here), among many others. Get ready.
8:10 – It appears as though we’ve got another season of superfans who have been watching for years (in some cases, their entire lives), just like the last two seasons. Jeff then gives the contestants an inspiring pep talk before introducing them to their first reward challenge, which seems pretty long and complex. But their reward is simply a pot, a machete, and flint. Nothing special; certainly no food. But also like the last two seasons, the other two tribes will have a chance to win their rewards when they arrive at camp.
8:15 – As Sami carries back his crate, we get one of the coolest (legit) drone shots I’ve ever seen in the show.
Anyway. It soon comes down to the wire as all three tribes get to the final portion of the challenge, but in the end Vesi gets it with a sneaky maneuver (Dwight hooks the key within the bamboo stick, rather than sliding it up on the side). Coco and Baka will have to earn their rewards back at camp. For Lindsay – who lost the challenge for Coco – this is a “huge wakeup call.”
8:30 – Cody gives us the title for this episode, as he tells us that he feels blessed to do some “L-I-V-I-N;” the rest of the Vesi tribe does a round of introductions. However, they quickly devolve when they realize that no one knows how to do construction, and as a result they may not have a shelter. Rough start.
On Baka, Mike Gabler already feels on the outs, given his age (52). We’re then shown that the two losing tribes are given another “Savvy” or “Sweat” challenge option, and Owen – one of the strongest – is not down to do “Sweat.” As a result, they choose “Savvy,” and they start brainstorming.
Coco, however, chooses “Sweat,” and the two hapless victims are Ryan and Geo. Ryan – who reveals he was born with mild cerebral palsy and had to overcome a stutter – ended up finding their supplies in only half an hour, when they had four hours. “I really feel like I can bring more than just muscle to the squad,” Ryan says. “I feel good about this one.”
Baka, meanwhile, does not feel confident about their challenge choice, and are pretty much freaking out about it. Sami felt like he wanted to do “Sweat,” partly to conceal his intelligence. He then dispenses with his façade entirely, however, by solving the “Savvy” challenge for them, much to everyone’s delight. However, he lies about his age, telling his tribe he’s actually 22. Nonetheless, 19-year-olds simply don’t have a great track record in this game.
8:45 – On Vesi, Cody makes an alliance with Nneka and Jesse, as Cody in particular is fearful of Justine’s job as a salesperson, despite being a salesman himself (though he’s telling his tribe he’s in “elevator sales”). However, Jesse – who is more of a loner in real life – is more open to exploring his options, basking in his newfound popularity.
On Baka, Owen is going around trying to make alliances with everyone, though he’s rather frustrated that others are more reluctant, analogizing his attempts to strategize to hacking at a coconut. Elie, meanwhile, is mourning her sister, who died of a drug overdose in 2020, and bonds with her female tribemates over her loss. As of now, they seem like a pretty strong group. “I feel my sister here with me,” Elie says, strengthening her drive to make some “girl power.”
Another girls’ alliance is forming on Coco, between Lindsay, Karla, and Cassidy; thinking ahead, Lindsay wants to draw in James for numbers. James sees the opportunity, but isn’t ready to rush into anything just yet.
9:00 – Baka may have flint, but they’re struggling to make fire. Sami, once again, moves to prove himself, starting the fire for his tribe. “Fire is something I know I can do,” he tells us, “just like the Shih Tzu I put in the incinerator.” Elie, meanwhile, pretends to bond with Mike based on an apparent “shared interest” (heavy metal music) which in reality was a passion of her late sister’s. However, she, like everyone else, isn’t ruling him out as a potential ally just yet.
On Coco, Karla and Geo bond over their shared sexuality and background, as either they or their spouses have basically lost their family on account of their homosexuality. Geo says he wants to play with his heart, while Karla is impressed with her social abilities. Despite already having her girls’ alliance, Karla is now leaning more toward the boys, surprised (and, I sense, a little dismayed) that she is apparently the one in the swing position.
Geo, meanwhile, an LA native, reveals that he came from a rough background and actually used to be in a gang in his youth. However, while in juvenile detention, he educated himself and discovered his intelligence, eventually obtaining a PhD in political science from Duke. A truly inspirational story, if there ever was one. He then shows off his tattoos to his tribe, while Coco reveals his own: the episode’s title once more, “LIVIN!!” … on his butt cheek. Also inspiring … in its own way.
On Vesi, as Dwight collapses the shelter, a fire somehow accidentally starts out of nowhere…until it gets put out…oof. One step forward, two steps back, guys.
Meanwhile, a boat arrives at all three camps…for another Summit trip? Well, we’ll see after the break.
9:10 – For Coco, it’s Karla who gets on the boat, while for Baka and Vati, it’s Mike and Dwight, respectively. They’re all greatly curious about what they might find on the other end of the journey. My question…haven’t they seen the last two seasons??? Some superfans…anyway.
The three itinerants have to traverse across the bay to get to a giant rock…where their prize (or punishment) awaits them. At their destination, we get a similar version of last two seasons’ choice to “RISK” or “NOT RISK” each of their votes. They will make their decisions in private, then reveal all at once. Karla makes the (wise) decision to not risk her vote, while Dwight and Mike choose to risk, and now both have a 50/50 chance of losing their vote. Mike sees his age as a crucial factor in his decision, reasoning that since there’s only been one winner over age 50 in “Survivor” history, he has to take risks in order to win. Well, we’ll see how that works out for him.
9:20 – We’re informed that Vesi has gone over 30 hours without fire…yet they’re still alive. In the end, it’s Justine who gets it for them. Dwight returns from the journey, and (mostly) tells the truth, but Cody doesn’t believe his story. Mike, meanwhile, tells his tribe the whole truth, and both seclude themselves to discover which one has their vote…and who doesn’t. And the winner is…Mike. Not only does Dwight have no vote next Tribal, but Mike even has an idol, valid for the next two Tribals. He even decides to share this information with his whole tribe, hoping to gain their trust…once again making a pretty risky choice. But – again – it may just work out for him.
9:30 – We’re finally witnessing out first immunity challenge, and Jeff continues to provide some colorful commentary. “This is a big, kickass first immunity challenge!” he exclaims, thrilled with his contestants’ excitement. However, unlike “41” (and what was intended in “42”), there are two winners, and only one tribe will be going to Tribal.
The challenge is intense, and hard. Coco is having trouble getting all of their (heavy) men up the wall, while Jeanine – probably the skinniest person on Baka – can’t slide under the log, pitting their tribe in dead last. Then, Mike completely fumbles when he tries to run up the wall…oof. This will require quite a comeback for them.
All three tribes get to the puzzle/maze, and they all choose different options. Ryan and Lindsay for Coco get two balls in before either tribe has one. And finally, they get the third. Coco wins immunity!!
It’s now down to Baka v. Vesi, and neither of them can seem to get a single one. Noelle and Geo for Vesi discover a new strategy, however, and quickly land all three balls before Sami and Mike have one. Vesi wins immunity! Understandably, Baka is pretty disappointed. Sami, however, is looking forward to finally getting to strategize.
9:45 – Back at camp, Mike is understandably worried about being the target. Bizarrely, he tells his tribe that instead of playing his idol, he will play his Shot in the Dark instead, because he feels he doesn’t deserve to hide behind an idol after such a poor performance in the challenge. Honorable, perhaps…but not great strategy. Owen and Elie decide with Mike that the target should be Morriah…shucks.
Sami and Morriah strategize together, and Sami throws Owen’s name out. Morriah talks about this with the girls, and Jeanine is tending to agree with her, wanting to keep the numbers with the girls. For Elie, though, it’s a tough decision. But, as she says, “Jeanine and I hold all of the power.” We’ll see what they decide.
9:55 – At Tribal Council, Jeff asks Owen – like Zach last season – to complete the famous sentence: “When your fire’s gone, so are you.” Portentous? We’ll see.
Baka talks about their closeness as a tribe, but agree that a “moral victory” is not good enough when Tribal is on the line. Jeanine compares the game and strategizing to dating, contrasting real-life and in-game attempts to reach out to people. When Jeff points out the palpable tension as the vote approaches, Owen says that “it’s the price we pay for trying to be kumbaya for too long, and I think whoever does go home is gonna wish they sent a few more texts out.” No doubt about that.
And now, it’s time to vote.
There’s a lot of hesitation at the voting booth, and even Mike appears to be unsure as to whether to play his Shot in the Dark. When the time to vote comes, however, Mike doesn’t play it.
Jeff reads the votes, and it’s unanimous. Morriah is the first person to be voted out of “Survivor 43.”
Which of the 17 remaining contestants will have what it takes to outwit, outplay, and outlast all the rest? Tune in every Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS to find out.