Holy cow. It’s actually happening. Carson Garrett, current Georgia Tech aerospace engineering student, made it to the finale episode of Survivor 44, and he’s done so in a convincing manner. I had high hopes for him, but as a lifelong fan of the show to actually see someone from my school make it this far has been more fun than I could’ve imagined. I’ve haven’t been this invested in a season for a long time, and it just keeps getting better. Alright enough about me, let’s dig in.
SURVIVOR SEASON 44 EPISODE 12 SPOILERS AHEAD
We open with the Va Va tribe returning back to camp after Danny went home after Carolyn played her idol to protect Carson (who in the end only received two votes), assuring the Tika three would make it to final six. Back at camp, Carolyn did a tell all about how she found the idol and the red stick maneuver that fooled Sarah early in the season, which no one remaining knew about.
Early the next morning, Carson catches that Heidi went out to go idol hunting.
“I wake up this morning and I see Heidi kind of stirring and checking the light to make sure it’s bright enough to see. And then she slowly gets up and walks around and acts like she’s gonna go to the bathroom. No no no, she’s looking for an idol...I believe there’s an idol out there, and so I immediately run over to Carolyn and tell her, ‘Heidi’s looking. We have to go,’” he said.
For Heidi, this is a solid move. She already has an idol no one knows about. If she could get a second one, she could at the very least guarantee herself a shot to make fire. No one finds it, but the players don’t even know if it got rehidden.
Later on, Carson, Yam Yam, Lauren, and Jamie have a conversation where Carolyn’s name comes up as a serious chopping block candidate. They all agree Carolyn said too much info the night before about her game so far, painting a target on her back. Carson goes along with it in the moment.
“I feel like Jamie and Lauren are buying what I’m saying, but in reality I want to stay with Carolyn and Yam Yam. I think it’s time for a Ratu member to go now. But, in order for Ratu to feel secure, I need Yam Yam and I to pretend that we’re working with Lauren and Jamie,” Carson said.
We get a reward challenge this week entitled “Roll With It.” There, two blindfolded players are navigated by a person inside a cage-like ball (not blindfolded) to roll the ball around obstacles to a table maze that the blindfolded people have to complete under the direction of the person in the ball.
Carson drew Yam Yam and Lauren on his team and performed excellently as the director inside the ball, running away with the challenge and earning some food and massages at the Sanctuary.
With Lauren and Yam Yam at the reward, Carolyn’s name comes up again, but Carson was playing a different side of things in the moment.
“At this point, my goal is to make Lauren feel as comfortable as possible because I want Lauren to think I’m working with her 100%, when in reality I’m not,” said Carson.
Back at camp while Carson and his reward team were enjoying the Sanctuary, Jamie throws out Carson’s name to Carolyn and Heidi, noting that she thinks he’ll win if he makes the end. For Carolyn, it’s a dilemma that has a simple solution for her game.
“I know Carson can’t go to the end with me, but we need him for at least one more vote,” said Carolyn.
Carolyn and Carson talk when Carson gets back. Carolyn explicitly mentions that Carson’s name comes up, but Carson wisely only states that the three non-Tika are just trying to split Tika up, leaving her name out of it. Still, it’s not a comfortable spot for Carson even with a significant amount of power right now.
“I hear from Carolyn that my name is out there. It is scary, but I know that Lauren and Jamie are just trying to split the Tika three up, and it’s very obvious what they’re doing...Luckily right now, Tika’s remained strong and somehow we were able to masterfully get to this point where we are finally in the majority. And now we can run this game,” said Carson.
At the immunity challenge where the players balanced a ball on a disc held up by ropes a few feet away, all three Tikas exit very early, and Lauren ends up winning. For Carolyn and the rest of Tika, this makes Jamie the obvious target.
Back at camp, Yam Yam and Carson eventually talk one on one and really discuss the Carolyn idea. Yam Yam is not convinced they can get her out easily enough after the final six vote. I personally have some push back on that, because she still is not a major challenge threat. Either Carson or Yam Yam should be able to beat her any given day on almost any challenge. But, Yam Yam does make the point that Carolyn has been practicing fire “until she was bleeding,” as he put it.
Carson was actually surprised in the moment with Yam Yam about the idea, having seemingly truly believed that the Tika three final three was the plan. Carson though does admit that Carolyn has been proving her game.
He says, “Carolyn could win this game. At the same time, Carolyn’s a loyal player. And I like loyalty, especially if it’s to me. We’ve been together this whole game, so it’s a difficult decision.”
In the end, Yam Yam and Carson stick with the plan to vote out Jamie, leaving Carson, Yam Yam, Carolyn, Heidi, and Lauren as our final five for the finale next week. Carolyn did get votes from Lauren and Jamie.
The final five will relocate to a new beach for the remainder of the game, where Jeff Probst said on his podcast, On Fire with Jeff Probst, that there is a hidden immunity idol there for the players to potentially find.
I believe a Tika will win this game. If Lauren can win out the final two challenges, she may have a pretty good case. But, one Tika is guaranteed to make it to final tribal council and have a shot to convince the jury they should win.
Carson’s avenue to final three isn’t impossible. At the moment, Yam Yam still sees Carolyn as the biggest threat to eliminate. If he and Yam Yam can come together and get Heidi or Lauren on their side to vote her out, they can do it at five. The final five challenge historically is a very large structure with a bunch of puzzles and obstacles, which does not favor Carolyn. If they can pull that move off, I expect to see Carson and Yam Yam go head to head at final four for power over who makes fire, and possibly even make fire against each other if neither wins immunity. If it comes to that, I’d put my money on Yam Yam to win fire.
Regardless of what happens, I think Carson needs to see that getting his other Tika members out is the priority now. Dominant alliances that hold all the way to the very end have to break, especially now because all three of them can make a convincing case that they should win. If somehow all three of them made it to final tribal, I honestly don’t know who I’d pick right now. I just hope Carson avoids a Tony Vlachos situation where Woo brought him to the end in Survivor: Cagayan, essentially handing him $1,000,000 because he wanted to be by his friend. Any Tika voluntarily bringing another Tika to final three could cause that to happen again.
On On Fire, Probst made a point that Carson is the only Tika member with actual relationships on the jury because of his time with Ratu, and his voting history has allowed him to still not make any enemies. Compare that to Carolyn and Yam Yam, who both were disadvantaged up until now having few previous relationships to work with, and had to squirm their way into majority votes (which, great resume boost to say you voted out everyone on the jury).
This was Jeff’s take on Carson’s game so far: “He clearly has chosen chaotic [Carson], but I thought it was interesting because he’s done it in a pretty calm way. It doesn’t appear chaotic, but he’s played a very clever game and he has not played it safe. Everyone knows Carson is a legit, major threat to win this game if the Tika three stay together and if Carson can get to the end.”
I think that’s the main point now. If Carson can get to the end, he has a shot at the $1,000,000. The resume is there: he’s good at challenges, he was excellent at the social game, and he voted out the majority of the jury after only participating in the Helen vote during the tribe stage. He has checkmarks in outwit, outplay, and outlast.
The wiggle room to get who you want out is so small now, and it very much depends on who has immunity. At final five, everyone is a threat, so toss that factor out of the window. The only question that matters now is “can this person beat me, and do they have immunity right now?” Alliances pretty much go out the door at this stage of the game, so in the same way they “restart” by going to a new island for final five, the strategic relationships will effectively reset as well.
While it is an incredible feat that Carson, Yam Yam, and Carolyn have been able to stick together and make it to final five, they now are each other’s biggest enemies in the game.
Questions for Carson if I had the chance to ask: How seriously were you considering the Carolyn idea at the front end of the episode? What is it like to be the one being rolled around in the huge ball? Did you take the Carolyn idea seriously with Yam Yam? How quickly did you cement the Jamie idea as the plan?
Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From The Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus