Play the Game, But Don’t Play Too Hard (Or Else…)

If you’ve been watching the past few episodes of season 46 of Survivor, you probably have picked up on how it’s become a bit of a broken record. The same tribes keep winning and losing. While that inspires lots of drama, it does get old. Will this episode finally deliver a change? Let’s get into it.

Before we get into that, just a reminder that all season long I’ll be recapping every episode of Survivor 46. Make sure you subscribe to the Parting Shot podcast and my newsletter For the Culture for all things Survivor-related. (And everything else entertainment related.)

I would advise you to read my recap of last week’s episode before diving into this one, but in a nutshell: after a lot of drama involving Yanu’s Bhanu and his emotional verbal diarrhea, the tribe decided the best medicine was to flush the problem by voting Bahnu out. This likely won’t help their losing streak—the tribe is down to three members—but it will potentially lead to a tight alliance between some if not all remaining members of the tribe. (Consider Survivor 44’s Yam Yam, Carolyn and Carson, who also were the last standing members of their tribe before the merge, not only did the three of them make it to the finale but Yam Yam even won the season.) As for the other tribes, Nami’s winning streak continued and Siga is coasting just fine.

Let’s see where the tribes are on day 10 and 11.

Survivor 46: Ep. 5
Pictured (L-R): Jeff Probst. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS


Yanu returns to their beach after voting Bhanu out. While they know they made the right decision, they look around and realize there are only three of them, they don’t have flint to make fire, and they’re struggling.

“We’re going into day 10 without fire, which I think is a record. It’s definitely affecting us in a multitude of ways,” Kenzie says. Um yeah, of course it is. This right here, what Yanu is going through, is partly what makes Survivor such a compelling game. What do you do when you’re at your lowest both physically and mentally? It impacts everything, your thought process, your physicality, everything. They need to catch a break soon.

In fact, they’re so low that Q, the muscle of the group, hints to Kenzie that he may quit. He says it’s not giving up, it’s “accepting.” Even though he later says in a confessional he would never do that, even hinting at something like this on Survivor is a nail in your coffin. That said, Q sees telling her this as strategy. If they lose again—which, let’s be real, with only three of them, it’s likely—he wants Kenzie comfortable enough to not play her Shot in the Dark at Tribal Council so that he and Tiffany can blindside Kenzie and vote her out. This puts Tiffany in a tough spot because Q and Kenzie are her tightest allies.


We meet Siga on day 10 and it’s raining. (This is my Survivor nightmare. I hate being wet.) Ben is struggling the most it seems, but he still has the capacity to deliver the iconic quotes he’s become known for this season.

“Anytime you suffer, it’s another opportunity to learn the depths of your mind,” Ben. I mean, where does this man come up with these things? He’s a poet. A goddamn poet.

He’s become very close with Survivor‘s number one Taylor Swift fan, Charlie, and the rest of the tribe is starting to notice. Jem, Moriah and Maria are concerned that their alliance with Charlie—called Charlie’s Angels—is at risk because of Charlie and Ben’s budding bromance. (Survivor editors even gave us a glimpse of one of their song title battles and ended this little bit of footage with an adorable “I love you man” smile between the two of them. Are they Survivor‘s Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson? If so, who is McConaughey and who is Harrelson? Let me know on social media.)

Siga’s Charlie’s Angels alliance plot who of the men on the tribe are most vulnerable to be voted out first and which one of them have the idol. (Plot twist, none of the men have the Immunity Idol because Jem is keeping her Beware Advantage a secret. If they lose the challenge this episode, she could find the Idol.) They agree Ben or Tim are the first two targets to be voted out if they should go to Tribal Council.

The kicker is, Tim is on to Jem and he confronts her about it. He comes at her hard—a little too hard—and she turns it around on him. She confronts him about the boys alliance he’s trying to be in with Ben and Charlie. In fact, she relishes how good of a game she’s playing. This level of intense game play is fun to watch, but could potentially backfire on both of them.

While Survivor is filled with cutthroat moves, there are always moments for fun. Maria teaches the tribe to salsa dance, resulting in Charlie swaying his hips in a way that will embarrass his future children for years to come.

Survivor 46: Ep. 5
Pictured (L-R): Charlie Davis. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS


Over at Nami, their number one concern is finding the Immunity Idol. Well, everyone except Liz.

“I’m not gonna search for an idol. I can barely find my shoes,” Liz.

The one person who needs an Immunity Idol is Venus. Even though they’ve been winning, she hasn’t really been able to form any alliances except with Randen who had to leave the game due to medical reasons. (He also left with knowledge of a Beware Advantage, which he shared with Venus.)

She encounters Hunter Idol hunting and decides to spoil his fun by following him. She tells him that even though he’s a threat, she wouldn’t vote him out because he’s a meat shield for her. (Translation: Somebody strong that can carry you through the game.) Honestly, Venus’s whole vibe is a mood and I’m very here for it. She just says it like it is. Goals.

But right after she leaves, Hunter finds the Beware Advantage. Like past players, he finds the buried box, which says the same thing it’s said for other players: he won’t find the key to the box until the tribe loses an Immunity Challenge and until he finds the Idol he’ll have no vote at a Tribal Council.

Immunity Challenge

When you’ve got so much of an island to work with, why not construct insanely large challenges? Well, in this episode they go big. For the challenge, tribes must individually race through a three-level obstacle course, collecting keys along the way. Once everyone finishes, one person uses a key to unlock a hook which leads to the release of sandbags. They’ll then shoot those sandbags at a series of targets. The first two tribes to finish win immunity from Tribal Council. They’ll also play for a reward a food. The first-place team gets pastries and fruit, the second tribe gets a smaller sampling.

Before they start the challenge, host Jeff Probst must inform the Yanu tribe how badly they’ve been doing. He tells them they’ve not only broken a record in the new era of Survivor for the tribe to go the longest without flint—11 days—but if they lose this challenge, they’ll also be the tribe with the most immunity losses in the new era. Let’s hope this information inspires them to win this challenge.

Siga gets an early lead, but Nami quickly pushes past them. Yanu, as always, is in third place.

But wait, Q gets the hook out early, but it’s not enough. Hunter and Tim are able to get the sandbags dropped before Q.

Nami takes an early lead with the shooting of the sandbags. Hunter brings the win home, continuing Nami’s undefeated streak.

Survivor 46: Ep. 5
Pictured (L-R): Kenzie Veurink, Q Burdette, and Tiffany Ervin. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

Eventually Q gets the bags dropped for Yanu. Tiffany hits one target, then Kenzie. In the end it becomes a showdown between Yanu’s Q and Siga’s Tim. As Q pulls the sling back to shoot, everything goes into slow motion. This moment is almost cinematic. Yanu needs this win on so many levels. Q shoots the sandbag through the air and boom, it hits the target. Yanu finally won immunity, bringing them into second place behind Nami.

For the first time this season a tribe other than Yanu will be at Tribal Council. Who will Siga send home? Well, before they can start plotting, the tribes will need to go on a journey.

The winning tribe chooses who will go from each tribe. Hunter goes for Nami, and then they choose Tim from Siga and Q from Yanu to join him.


They arrive by boat. Q begins to tell Tim and Hunter how difficult it’s been for the Yanu tribe, but then the conversation shifts to strategy. They talk about the merge coming soon, and this is where it begins to feel a little deja’vu from the last journey. If you remember, part of Bhanu’s downfall was that he shared too much information with other tribes at the last journey, and now it seems like Q is doing the exact same thing. It leads to a soft alliance between them in advance of the merge, but honestly, I feel like this is going to become something that might haunt Q.

The journey leads them to an Advantage Challenge. They must choose from among the three of them one person to have their Survivor knowledge tested. If this person isn’t successful, the player loses their vote at the next Tribal Council. Tim doesn’t want to risk his vote, considering he’s going to Tribal Council, and Q doesn’t feel like he’d do well, so the task goes to Hunter.

The challenge requires Hunter to put a series of Survivor logos in chronological order of the seasons as they aired. As he puts the season titles together, we get a fun montage of past players. For a Survivor superfan it’s fun because it’s a trip down memory lane. (And hopefully it’s a sign of a future All-Stars season. PRETTY PLEASE!)

Well, he gets them wrong and loses his vote at the next Tribal Council, but he doesn’t have much to be worried about. He has this new alliance to look forward to post-merge, and he’s close to finding the Beware Advantage. Hunter is going to be fine.


Finally, we get to see another tribe in the hot seat this season, and Siga is really feeling it. They’re depressed about the challenge but also it isn’t entirely clear who is on the chopping block, because they’ve never really had to consider this before. There are a few things we know: Maria has an extra vote because of an earlier journey, Ben doesn’t have a vote because of a past journey, and now Tim doesn’t have a vote. Oh, and Jem doesn’t have a vote because she found the Beware Advantage, but she could still find the Immunity Idol—and she’s going to need it.

They make a decision to go Idol hunting and Jem is the first one to run into the forest. She gets the clue to finding it. Basically, she needs to measure things at camp and then use those numbers to do an equation. (It would be in this moment I’d be like, ‘OK, cool, it’s math, I guess I’m going home.’) Well, Jem is a smarter person than I am, because she does it, and the math problem leads her to the Immunity Idol. She might not have a vote, but if she’s smart, she’ll play her Idol and avoid going home.

Survivor 46: Ep. 5
Pictured (L-R): Maria Gonzalez. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

Charlie’s Angels meet and think Tim is the one with the Idol—LOL Jem—and decide Ben is the one to go. This poses a problem for Charlie, because Ben and Charlie are close. Charlie wants to find a way to keep Ben around.

Jem needs more information though. She corners Ben to see what’s going on between Tim and Ben, and it doesn’t sit well with Ben. He knows something is up. (And is a little terrified because Jem is just casually walking around with a machete.) She does the same thing to Tim. Ben calls it “chaos mode” and he has a point. It’s like how Kenzie from Yanu was playing early on, just coming on a little too strong. (Especially when she doesn’t need to, she has an Idol, just be chill.)

Meanwhile, Charlie is trying to convince Maria—who he has a secret alliance with—that Ben can be used as a shield, and they should keep him. Maria is struggling because she doesn’t trust Ben and Tim.

Who’s going home? Let’s find out.

Tribal Council

Naturally the quote king of the season, Ben, starts things off at Tribal comparing the tribe’s experience to being at Tribal Council for the first time with Ozzy Osborne being wild.

Maria makes a good point that it is harder to be at Tribal Council for the first time 11 days in, because they’re so close. But now they’re beginning to feel the heat.

But Maria is keeping it honest. She says she thinks everyone is lying when they say they don’t know who they’re going to vote for tonight. (And she’s right. There’s so much lying happening on this tribe.)

Maria was a big focus of the camera during this Tribal Council, which I loved. It shows how much power she holds, but also how important she might become in future episodes.

As Jeff reads the votes, the tribe looks shocked. Clearly Charlie’s campaign for Ben worked, because Jem was blindsided. She’s the first member of the tribe voted out. She should have used that Immunity Idol. This just goes to show you, play the game, but don’t look like you’re playing the game. This also means Maria is playing a more strategic game, which I am very here for.

Who Needs to Get Snuffed?

The merge is upon us, and I’m worried for Venus. But I would like to see either Tim or Kenzie go. I’m not digging their games. Like Jem, they’re playing too hard.

Who Should be the Sole Survivor?

Listen, I love my Hunter, but he’s becoming a little too good at this game. I need some strategy. Which is why I’m loving this Maria and Charlie combo. There’s something there, and it’s exciting to watch. I can feel myself starting to root for them.

Watch Survivor every Wednesday on CBS or anytime on Paramount+ to follow along as I react to every episode this season.