The pressure in Survivor Season 43 is rising. With just 26 days of game play, the final seven was already on the horizon for the remaining competitors. And Survivor Season 43 Episode 10, “Get That Money, Baby,” saw the shocking elimination of one of the season’s strongest players.
Last week, Noelle orchestrated a successful James blindside. Ryan was sent to the jury along with him in the second of two eliminations, ending the season-long rivalry between him and Cassidy. Episode 10 began with the typical post-Tribal Council talks, during which Karla processed the fact that she was left out of a vote for the first time, Sami’s strategy came into question, and Jesse revealed in confessional that most everyone knows about Karla’s hidden immunity bracelet.
The show quickly cut to the Reward Challenge, which was a game of balance and luck. Players started off by spinning around in a metal frame that unwound a buoy. Once the buoy was reeled in on the ground, they ran across a net and over a thin beam to collect a sandbag. If they fell off the beam, they had to start it over. Once across, the first person to land that sandbag on the top of a tall pole won the sanctuary reward for themselves and three other players. Pizza, beer, a comfortable night’s rest, and letters from home were waiting for them at the sanctuary.
Noelle struggled greatly with the balance beam portion because of her prosthetic leg. After multiple retries, it looked like a loss was all but guaranteed. But in a stunning comeback that Jeff Probst praised as one of the series’ best, she caught up and won with her second hand toss. Fast-forward to the end of the episode, however, and Noelle was voted out. Here’s how her elimination came to pass.
Noelle chose Owen, Jesse, and Sami to join her in the sanctuary. While they relaxed and read letters from home, Cody, Karla, Cassidy, and Gabler began to make plans for Tribal. Noelle’s name was dropped several times as the players noted how much traction she was getting. After the successful James blindside last week and an impressive challenge earlier (and throughout the season), they feared being against her in the final three would result in a loss of $1 million.
Of course, the vote plans depended on who won individual immunity. But heading into the challenge, Cassidy became the next player to want to bring free-agent Gabler into her alliance fold. (He’s loving where he’s at, but how long can — or will — he skate by in the background?)
For the Day 19 Immunity Challenge, players used one hand to steady a balancing board while simultaneously building a house of cards with the other. The first to build a house of cards tall enough to reach the finish mark won immunity. It was an impossible task for a long time — it took 15 minutes for one player to get remotely close for the first time. The towers kept tumbling down until Cassidy won 30+ minutes into the game.
Back at camp, Noelle had to change her game plan. The original goal was to split the votes between Cassidy and Karla in case the latter played an idol. Gabler warned Noelle that Cassidy and Karla were coming after her, positing Sami as the one player who would potentially flip against the Paralympian. Even though she brought him to the sanctuary, Noelle’s trust in Sami was nonexistent. Still, she set her eyes on eliminating Karla because of her possible (confirmed) idol.
Jesse and Cody weren’t as sure-fire alliances for Noelle as she and Gabler thought. They both saw her as one of the best players in the game, making the target on her huge. “Every time we box her in, she finds a way out. We can’t have it,” Jesse told Cody, who replied, “She’s picking up speed for sure.” They rightly guessed that Noelle was trying to vote out Karla, and then theorized she’d come for them next. So a plan was hatched to get her out.
Jesse’s blindside checklist then popped up on screen:
1. Have a Cover Story
Jesse told Noelle that his talk with Cody was about returning an idol. He played along when Noelle told him to talk to Sami about a Karla blindside.
2. Throw the Fall Guy Under the Bus
Jesse made Sami believe they’d get Noelle out together. That was his intention, but what he didn’t tell Sami was that he’d do so by splitting the votes on him. Jesse threw Sami under the bus by telling Noelle and Owen about Sami’s voting plan. The new “plan”: the three Baka guys (Owen, Gabler, Sami) would go on Karla, and then Noelle, Jesse, and Cody would go on Sami.
In secret talks, Jesse informed Karla of Noelle’s impending blindside. They planned to vote for Noelle along with Cody and Cassidy.
3. Have a Backup Plan
To assure they had the votes, Jesse tried to bring Gabler into their plan. “I want him to envision himself in the power position” after this vote, Jesse told the cameras. He explained how smart Noelle’s voting has been all season long, pointing out that getting Noelle out would put them and Cody in a power position.
Gabler was game, but he’s already scheming to split up the Jesse and Cody “power couple” in the future with Karla. The competitors are now keeping the jury in mind at all times.
Did Noelle check the same things off the blindside list? She and Jesse both had the same fall guy in Sami. We didn’t see much of a cover story, rather just a plan to keep things quiet. What was her backup plan?
Tribal Council made clear that Noelle and Owen haven’t improved their social strategy despite big wins in recent weeks. They both were confident their joint plan could happen again, but we didn’t see any backup plans being made for any possible outcome by them.
“There must be constant lack of certainty that the last conversation you had is the last one you needed to have,” Jeff asked Cody. He replied, “Strategy talk changes throughout the day, person by person, hour by hour.”
The look on Noelle’s face just before the vote implied she was slowly starting to catch on, but then she brought up secret idols to highlight the secret Karla plan. But Karla’s idol was a threat to no one but Noelle this week. Her failure to realize she needed a bigger fish to fry resulted in Jesse’s blindside succeeding over hers.
The votes began with one vote each for Karla, Noelle, and Sami, followed by one more each for the women. Noelle received two more votes, which were enough to send her home. Jesse hugged her, apologized, and said “I had to do it” as she got up to leave. But as he told Jeff before the votes, if his plan succeeded, it would set up the rest of his game. We’ll find out next week if he realizes the target he just placed on his back, and if Owen and Sami realize people see them as expendable.
Survivor, Wednesdays, 8/7c, CBS