‘Survivor’ 43: Two Rivalries Face Off in Heated Double Elimination (RECAP)

Survivor Season 43 Episode 9
Spoiler Alert


What About the Big Girls

Season 43 • Episode 9

rating: 4.0 stars

Survivor knew what it was doing this week. In last week’s episode (which saw Jeanine become the first member of the jury), growing rivalries between Owen and James and Ryan and Cassidy were highlighted. Survivor Season 43 Episode 9, “What About the Big Girls,” stirred those pots even more with a Double Immunity Challenge leading to two Tribal Councils.

In this week’s Double Immunity (and Reward) Challenge, the remaining 10 players were split into two teams of five. On one team was Owen and James, and on the other was Ryan and Cassidy. Each group would send one player home in split Tribal Councils, setting the stage for these two rivalries to possibly end. And throughout the episode, these rivalries grew even more bitter. The debate over who would become the second and third members of the jury made for one of the season’s most tense episodes yet.

Going back to Night 16, post-Jeanine elimination, Owen pulled his fellow former Bakas (and now, the only other Bakas), Sami and Gabler, aside to figure out why he was the only person left out of the vote again. Owen’s patience was running thin after realizing James lied to him about who to vote for (Ryan, when the real vote was Jeanine). Sami, wanting to keep Owen as an ally, told him that everyone wanted to bring Owen into the vote fold except James. Gabler and Sami seem to be Owen’s true allies, given Gabler told Owen of the Jeanine vote moments before Tribal. One thing there’s no denying is Owen is rearing up to challenge James’ growing power.

Survivor Season 43 Episode 9


For the Immunity Challenge teams, the players were split down the middle by the show, no drawing rocks or anything of the sort. On Team Blue was Karla, Noelle, Sami, James, and Owen. On Team Red was Gabler, Cody, Jesse, Ryan, and Cassidy. Their prompt was to hold a bar that was keeping a ball wedged between a wooden plank above it and a metal tunnel below it. Should their arms falter, the ball could slide off. If it did, they were out. The last player standing on each team won individual immunity, and the last player standing between those two would win two rewards for their team. First, a PB&J sandwich meal for all five, and second, going last in the two Tribals and getting to know who the other voted out.

After a long game (though not the longest of the season or series), Karla won for Team Blue and Cody won for Team Red. Cody won overall, meaning Blue would vote first. With that knowledge, strained deliberations began.

Over at Team Blue (residing at the former Vesi camp for now), Owen and James’ growing tension came to a boiling point. Left alone at the well, Owen asked who James was voting for, and James (doing little to hide his lack of interest in building a bridge here), said he didn’t know. This was Owen’s last straw.

Survivor Season 43 Episode 9


He chucked civil strategy, pointing out the elephant in the room that was James’ refusal to work with him. James’ beef with Owen is that he voted for him in prior Councils — a fair reason not to like someone. Owen’s beef was that James lied to him before the last Tribal. But James’ defense was just because he told him a vote that differed from the majority didn’t mean it wasn’t the vote he wanted him to cast. Owen made his frustration clear that following James’ directions didn’t build a bridge, so he started to burn it instead. James was indifferent over the fate of the bridge, but was still trying to keep things civil between them.

It didn’t work. The fight extended down to the other players at the camp, ending with Owen walking away to the beach alone. James told Karla he didn’t like that Owen publicly lost his temper when seeing the votes weren’t going his way. In fairness, he was mad because he felt the votes were going for him. And after this conversation, it definitely seemed they were. The four Blues seemed primed to vote for Owen with no interest in sending James home. In an interesting contrast, both Cassidy and Ryan were the only names being considered over at Team Red.

Cassidy apprehensively believed Cody and Jesse to be her allies, hoping she could trust them to vote Ryan. But in private talks, Cody and Jesse weighed the pros and cons of her and Ryan. The latter they believed to be a good shield for them. But taking out the former would displease James and Karla over at Blue, two of their seven-vote majority established in last week’s episode.

They saw Cassidy’s good social game as a pro and a con, and Ryan being a “challenge beast” was the same. “But Ryan isn’t a strategic threat, so it’s a tough one,” Jesse told the cameras. They also considered their vote order. Who Blue voted out could inform their game-time decision. If they vote out Owen, Jesse said, they may want to cut Ryan and keep Cassidy to stay on James’ good side. If it’s James, they may vote out Cassidy “because then Karla’s on her own completely.” In confessional, Cody made the stakes of the double elimination clear: “This vote is about setting up the final stages of the game.”

Survivor Season 43 Episode 9


With only five votes on the table, choosing the right allies for a majority vote is crucial. Cody and Jesse chose to put their trust in Gabler, telling him the full truth about their plan. Gabler was in “100%,” excited that his social game so far set him up as a desirable free agent to approach for alliances.

James felt confident that Owen was going home tonight. But Noelle came in with a strategic plot twist: She’s been following the Owen plan while secretly plotting a James blindside. “My plan is to make James feel confident enough not to use his Knowledge is Power. I woke up this morning wanting to make a big move. I have a Steal-a-Vote advantage, and I’m hoping that I can pull off a major blindside on James.” With only three votes needed, orchestrating a blindside tonight is likely the easiest it will be all season.

Her chosen allies on this scheme were Owen and Sami. She convinced James she would play her Steal-a-Vote against Owen. And this is the actual plan. With Owen’s approval, she would steal Owen’s vote, making James and Karla confident in voting Owen. With her two votes and Sami’s one, they would vote for James. Will the smoke screen work?

It may not. Sami built an alliance with the immune Karla, who wanted Owen out. “Owen and Noelle believe that I’m ready to take out James, but Karla’s opinion matters to me more than anyone’s right now,” he told the cameras. To keep both of these alliances, Sami tried to get Karla to turn on James. Karla agreed James would need to go eventually, but wasn’t convinced that now was the time. She also believed she would be the deciding vote, assuming Sami was still voting Owen. This marked the first time Karla may be going into Tribal Council on the wrong side of a vote.

In Tribal, Owen told Jeff Probst he had a bad afternoon, alluding to the fight with James. James was level-headed in response, saying hunger and stress likely put Owen in a bad mood; fights are to be expected during times of hanger. The fight was a main talking point of Council, all of the players breaking down why they thought it happened. Owen admitted he lost his cool. James said Owen voting for Ryan did prove he could trust Owen, but was this truthful or a front?

Noelle did, indeed steal Owen’s vote like she said, making both James and Owen smile. In the booth, James voted for Owen, and viewers saw Noelle begin to write James. When Jeff pulled the votes, two votes for James with similar handwriting came back-to-back. “Oh, baby,” James said just before the third and fatal vote was read, making him the second member of the jury. He took it as a vote of respect for his strong game, but added “we’ll see how far y’all get now.”

Red was shocked to see James in the jury, but no one on that team seemed stressed like Blue. That made their Tribal talk fairly simple, and their votes — though loaded with meaning — easy as well. Ryan voted for Cassidy, saying he was trying to get power back after being left out all season. Cassidy called her Ryan vote the final piece of her “poetic revenge” plot. No advantages were played, and in the end, Ryan became the third member of the jury. It seems James’ elimination didn’t prompt Cody and Jesse to vote Cassidy out like they said before. Next week will hopefully reveal why.

Survivor, Wednesdays, 8/7c, CBS