After a string of days waking up late, my body this morning said we were getting up at 5:30 a.m. to seize the day without any warning. So, sitting in my living room, one cup of coffee down, the sunlight just starting to break past my view of the North Avenue apartments on campus, and a flannel scented candle burning, it’s as good a time as ever to write about Survivor.
Welcome to the fourth installment of my weekly recap series covering Carson Garrett, a current Georgia Tech student who participated on Survivor season 44 last summer, with his season currently airing on CBS and Paramount+.
SURVIVOR SEASON 44 EPISODE 4 SPOILERS AHEAD
Before I start, if you are reading this and happen to work on Survivor, the fact the season & episode numbers only include fours is making my brain very happy, and I hope the show lasts to S444E4.
Anyways, this was a very important week for Carson’s game. After thankfully not falling for Carolyn’s fake immunity idol trap* at Tika camp (RIP, Sarah), we were treated to a double-challenge episode, leading with “Air Raid,” one of the classic slingshot challenges.
*Sidebar: I truly don’t know if Carolyn has the real idol or not. When she showed the idols during a testimonial, she said the coin idol was real and the beaded idol was fake. At the other two tribes, the coin is fake. It would be perfectly in line with her on-screen character to forget which one is real or just rip them out of the package like it’s Christmas and immediately lose track of which is real. If I have this wrong, someone please correct me!
Tika, or really just Carolyn, was truly awful at the challenge, causing them to lose out on taking home a tarp. Soka, as winners, were able to send a person from each tribe to a walking journey on a separate island, of which they chose Carson to represent Tika.
At the end of these journeys, there usually is a decision for the players to make. In previous seasons, it’s been the choice to risk or not risk their vote, which could result in gaining or losing a vote depending on what the other players on the journey decide. This season, each journey has presented new twists.
This week, the twist was the gift of an immunity idol to Carson, Josh, and Jamie, but with the catch they would each be joining a new tribe. Carson drew the orange buff, becoming a Ratu member, instantly altering the outlook of his game.
Carson called the journey the “pinnacle of my Survivor experience” so far, notably because he hasn’t done much beyond camp life, challenges, and tribal. Since he didn’t steal the idol out of the bird cage, this was his first chance at any advantage. He was aware that this usually is a risk/reward kind of situation, and given his situation at Tika, he said he wouldn’t risk his vote if it came to that.
Of the three that went on the journey, Carson likely came out in the best situation. He leaves a struggling Tika (who later would lose again at the immunity challenge) with wild characters that haven’t fully found complete trust in each other, and enters a far more settled, established tribe in Ratu, and an idol in hand.
Upon arriving at his new camp, much to the surprise of an obivious Ratu with no expectation of Jamie not coming back home, Carson immediately spins a false tale of the power structure at Tika, framing Yam Yam as the strategic leader.
The single-person tribe swaps are rough, serving as game manufactured ways to slot people at the bottom of a tribe hierarchy in a second. The idol Carson was given does help as a counterweight, but it doesn’t guarantee anything if Carson doesn’t use it well, especially since his idol only has power until the merge. Carson was smart here to hide some of his gameplay at Tika where he crafted a blindside and ultimately was a swing vote amongst a group of players who have let the game happen to them. He gets out of that, for now, by framing himself as a potential number and approachable ally for his new tribemates.
From there, Matthew saw an opportunity with Carson and doesn’t keep him out of the loop, giving him the download on what’s happened at Ratu, but with a slight story change by telling him that Jamie found the birdcage idol, when in reality she found the fake idol planted by Matthew.
If you have the feeling hidden immunity idols are all over the place more than usual, you aren’t wrong. According to Survivor Wiki, there were six active immunity idols in the game, the most ever for a single episode (three birdcage idols, and the three idols from the journey). Granted, only the birdcage idols have power after the tribe merge.
At the immunity challenge, Carson gets slated for another puzzle, which he completes with Lauren as part of a comeback effort after Ratu had trouble in the swimming and balance beam portion of the challenge. So far, Carson looks to have made good first impressions with Ratu.
At tribal, Josh ended up playing his journey idol, saving himself while teaming with Carolyn to vote out Sarah from Tika, leaving them at three people.
So, where does Carson’s game sit? We’re getting close to the merge with only 13 people remaining. He has a temporary idol in his pocket, and from the limited info we have of his time at Ratu, he may not necessarily be at the bottom. He’s proven his value over and over at puzzles, and hasn’t been a physical liability yet either, making him a challenge threat if he makes it to the individual stage of the game. If Ratu goes to tribal next week, Carson will be a target, and we will get to see new gameplay from him in a situation he hasn’t yet faced before.
Questions for Carson: Slingshot challenge, how hard was that? Were you happy to hear you were going on the journey? How long is that walk? Did you have a preference of tribe once you read the note? What was your thinking when figuring out what story to tell Ratu when you arrived? Do you think they believed you up front? How much trust did you have in Matthew when he gave you the lore download?