Season 43 • Episode 12
In Survivor Season 43 Episode 12, alliances meant nothing. The longest alliances of the season were tossed into the fire in order to land a spot in the final five. And because Survivor knows what it’s doing, the challenge in “Telenovela” (truly, the only fitting title for this installment) was all about blind trust in your teammates — literally.
In the December 7 episode on CBS (the Survivor Season 43 finale airs December 14), remaining players Cody, Karla, and Owen were put onto Team Blue and Cassidy, Gabler, and Jesse onto Team Red in the Reward Challenge. All but Owen and Cassidy were blindfolded the whole way through, and the split between Jesse and Cody and Cassidy and Karla became a fitting metaphor for the entire episode.
Heading into the first challenge, Owen and Jesse sowed further division between the season’s last two women, with Owen telling Cassidy the truth that Karla intended to vote for her the night before (Sami went home instead). Cassidy confronted her, and Karla went into “telenovela” mode, crying to pretend she was hurt by the (correct) implication. When Karla asked Jesse to vouch for her, he threw her under the bus.
For the Reward Challenge, Owen and Cassidy strapped inside of giant ball (think the bone cages in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, minus the whole swinging under a bridge over a plummeting chasm thing) pushed by their two blindfolded teammates through a long, winding course.
The course led to a table maze that Owen and Cassidy verbally guided them through. The first team to finish, Team Blue (adeptly led by Owen), won a trip to the sanctuary where iced coffee, iced tea, and an array of pastries awaited them. There, Karla broke out the fake tears again to convince Owen and Cody she didn’t have an idol. It worked, but Owen still saw her as the one to cut. She wanted the guys to vote Cassidy with her.
Over at the Gaia camp, Gabler was aware of the strong players he needed to eliminate to have a chance in front of the jury. He pitched being the final three with Jesse and Cassidy, saying they each had very different games. Jesse and Cassidy agreed voting out Cody and Karla (their biggest “allies”) was a smart move. Cody and Jesse have always known they’d have to go against each other eventually, but Jesse is increasingly willing to make that happen sooner rather than later. Gabler thought his game was slicker than anyone else’s. Time will tell.
All the cards were coming onto the table in this campfire chat. Jesse confirmed Cody had an idol (which wasn’t really a secret, but Jesse buried the lede), and Cassidy confirmed Karla had one. Their plan was to get the idol-holders out.
What no one else but Cody knows is, Jesse still has Jeanine’s idol believed to have been flushed out with Dwight’s elimination. To the cameras, Jesse said he and Cody were in a good position. But the tables would soon turn.
For the Immunity Challenge, players raced through obstacles collecting a bag of number tiles. The tiles unlocked a combination, which unlocked a key, which unlocked a set of puzzle pieces waiting atop a platform reached by climbing up a cargo net. The first player to solve the hanging bat puzzle would be safe at Tribal Council.
After multiple injuries in challenges and 23 days of exhausting game play, Karla’s hands began to go numb and cramp. Cassidy won in the end, with Cody and Karla just seconds behind her. And with Shots in the Dark no longer in play, the idle idols became the stars of the show.
Karla and Cody came clean about their idols to each other, with Cody devising a plan to threaten everyone with them. But the plan was a smoke screen to convince Karla not to play hers. He got everyone on board, but the plan was going so well, it made Jesse change his tune.
“Cody’s plan is good for him, but taking out Karla — the biggest threat in the game — would absolutely boost his resume,” Jesse said in confessional.
As Jesse feared appearing as “Cody’s No. 2,” Cody still seemed hellbent on bringing Jesse to the final three. Of course, everyone on Survivor is playing to win. But their dynamic all season long made it seem like Cody wanting to win with Jesse by his side was a genuine dream. Jesse didn’t see a path to victory with Cody next to him. Could Jesse be as cutthroat as he needed to be to increase his chances at $1 million? He grappled with that question through tears.
Jesse ultimately decided to betray Cody, trusting Owen (an increasingly common move!) with the plan to use an idol against his friend. Cody entrusted Jesse with his idol earlier in the game, and he still had it. At Tribal Council, Jesse would play it for himself, spooking Karla into playing hers, and getting all the remaining votes onto Cody. But then, Cody asked for his idol back to give Karla visual proof of its existence. He was none the wiser that he had just thrown a wrench into the plot against him.
“Tonight’s blindside will be the biggest of the season for sure, no doubt about it,” Cody told the cameras. He was right, but for the wrong reasons.
At Tribal, Jeff Probst and the jury were informed of the Cody-Karla idol plan by Jesse. The show’s edit was heavy-handed with examples of Cody’s confidence, but Jesse pretending he wasn’t one of the “apex predators” drew eye rolls from the jury. When the votes began, Karla’s vote for Owen was highlighted. Jesse then played Cody’s idol in favor of Owen, prompting Karla to play hers for herself.
The first votes for Owen and Karla didn’t count. But Cody’s name didn’t even need to be read for him to know exactly what was happening. Cody gave Jesse an “Et tu, Brute?” look as three votes in a row were read for him, making him the 13th person voted out of Survivor 43 — and marking the best blindside in a season full of them.
After a brief, stressful pause, Cody shook Jesse’s hand before he walked out. The shock on the Jury’s faces as they whispered “Jesse did that?!” spoke volumes. Next week’s Survivor 43 finale is Jesse’s game to lose.
Survivor, Wednesdays, 8/7c, CBS