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Survivor 43 Premiere Recap: The Season’s First Idol Enters the Game, as ‘the Monster’ Claims Victim No. 1

Eighteen new castaways, 39 26 days, one… yeah, you know the drill.

It’s been a long summer of bingeing old seasons on Paramount+, but Survivor 43 is finally here! It’s a new game, with fresh twists and, well, the same ol’ Fijian beach. And maybe a monster lurking in the jungle? I’m actually not quite sure what the latest update is on said monster, but if we know just one thing, it’s that it is very (you guessed it) dangerous.

In the two-hour premiere’s first few seconds, we meet Ryan, a man with cerebral palsy who doctors claimed would never walk; Nneka, a woman born and raised in Nigeria; and Noelle, a record-breaking paralympian who lost her leg above the knee in a moped accident. There’s also Lindsay, a mom and pediatric nurse who’s been applying to the show for 22 years, and Sami, a BYU student and pet cremator who claims he’s a very “energable person” (not a word, but nice try!)

After Jeff asks players when and how they got into the show, he tells them how “dangerous” the game is. (Yep, that drinking game is back on.) He says they’re going to be tested like never before. It’s the adventure of a lifetime, one that may change how they see themselves going forward. From the looks of it, this crew is ready to accept the physical challenge.

The red tribe is Vesi, yellow is Baka and blue is Coco. And they’re about to dive right into the season’s very first…

REWARD CHALLENGE | Two players will race down the beach to bring back two heavy wooden crates. Two others will run out to the water, pulling in a boat with even more crates. The remaining players must build a cube, climb on top and claim their flint. The first tribe to get it earns the flint, a machete and a pot. No food. No other help. The other tribes, as we’ve seen in seasons past, will have to try to earn these basics another way when they get back to camp.

It’s a fight to the finish, with Coco first to correctly construct their cube, but losing their lead when Lindsay struggles to retrieve the flint with the bamboo pole. The other tribes catch up, and thanks to a great suggestion from Cody, Dwight is able to get his flint inside the pole and tear it off, making Vasi the first triumphant tribe of Survivor 43.

VASI | Unfortunately, nobody on this tribe has any construction experience, but hey, at least they remembered they have a machete! Dwight watched some shelter construction videos online, but apparently watching YouTube clips just isn’t enough to become a pro. (I can verify this because that’s exactly what I do whenever I have car trouble. Then I give an intelligent and capable mechanic all of my monies.)

Noelle and Justine click right away, but Cody, Nneka and Jesse pick up on that right away, and form the season’s very first alliance. Cody then says he thinks salespeople are “manipulative” and “BS-ers.” (Who ripped you off in the past, dude? Are salespeople really that conniving? Well, maybe they are if they work for a cable company — the worst!) Then in a thrilling turn of events, Cody reveals (to us) that he is, in fact, a salesperson! The shock! The horror! The manipulation! I guess he kind of proved his point?

BAKA | Upon arriving to camp, they must choose one task to complete: Savvy (a brain teaser) or Sweat (a digging challenge). They pick Savvy, where they must move two bones in order to form the largest whole number possible. Thanks to Sami’s puzzle skills, they successfully complete the task. Sami later lies to his team, telling them he’s 22 when he’s actually 19. He’s hoping to become the youngest person to ever win the game, a record that’s currently held by Survivor: Nicaragua winner Jud “Fabio” Birza (who was 21 when he cinched the check in 2010).

After Elie shares the story of how her sister passed away, the girls share a group hug and celebrate “girl power.” Does that mean they’ll be a locked-in threesome? (Sidebar: I love that Elie pretended to be a Mastodon and Dead Kennedys fan to Gabler. It’s a solid social move, especially in these early days, and it keeps her options open should Baka head to Tribal.)

COCO | Tribe No. 3 decides to Sweat, selecting Ryan and Geo to do the grunt work. (That square area is HUGE. I’m not so sure I’d be chomping at the bit to exert all of that energy so soon.) Thanks to his X strategy, Ryan finds the goods in just 30 minutes — impressive!

The ladies of Coco also seem to jibe, and Lindsay wants to pull James into their alliance. He seems into it, or so he says. But after bonding with Geo, Karla forms another side-thang with him and Ryan. The middle might not be a bad place to be come Tribal No. 1, but eventually, she’s going to have to make some tough decisions.

James shares with his tribe that he was formerly in a gang as a teen. After getting arrested and going to juvie, an educational program helped him turn his life around. He wound up shifting gears and working toward his future, eventually getting accepted to Berkeley. Now, he has a Ph.D in political science. He wants to represent for kids like him who think they can’t make it. One aspect Survivor has absolutely been crushing these past few seasons is the telling of people’s stories, which really all boils down to stellar casting. Less recruits and more diehard fans with life experience to share? Yes, please!

BOAT RIDE | Each tribe picks one member to go on a boat ride, and everyone knows it’s time for the advantages to start flying. Karla, Gabler and Dwight become the lucky three. They wade through the water to a giant rock, where they arrive at a table with three bags. Each player decides if he or she wants to risk his or her vote. Depending on how many want to risk it, that decides which bag they draw from. It could lead to an advantage, or it could lead to losing a vote. Karla protects her vote, while the two men risk it.

When they get back to camp, Dwight decides to tell his tribe the truth, but Cody doesn’t believe him. Gabler also leads with the truth, and when he checks his parchment, he learns he won an immunity idol good for one of the next two Tribal Councils. As a result, Dwight loses his vote for his first date with Jeff.

IMMUNITY | For the first immunity challenge, players will race through obstacles to collect three balls. One player then digs to get under a log and release a ramp. Working together, they have to get up the ramp and across a beam. Then, they must sink the balls in a table maze. First two tribes to finish win immunity.

It’s a tight race until Janine gets stuck under the log. While Coco gets every member up and over the wall, Janine is still stuck in the sand. (Can I just say that Jeff screaming at people is my favorite thing in the world. I need Jeff to scream in my face on an almost daily basis as I do menial everyday tasks.) Coco gets to the table maze first and selects what they perceive to be the easiest option. The table mazes are all different, but it’s up in the air whether any one is “easier” than the next. (They all look hard to me!)

Coco sinks two balls before any other tribe can get on the board… and then they win immunity! Vesi then sinks their first ball, then the second right after! Gabler and Sami can’t get it together on the table maze, allowing Vesi to snag the win and sending Baka to the season’s very first Tribal Council. And to rub salt in the wound, Jeff commandeers their flint.

STRATEGY SCRAMBLE | Since Gabler was one of the ones to lose it on the table, he tells everyone that he doesn’t want to hide behind his idol (?) and that as a result of his performance, he’ll play his Shot in the Dark and leave it to chance (??). I realize the guy hasn’t eaten in a few days, but allow me speak for Survivor fans everywhere: WHAT!?

Elie talks some sense into him, saying she doesn’t want to lose a workhorse on their tribe. She and Jeanine both agree that they need to keep all of the men, which unfortunately paints the target on Morriah. Sami tells Morriah that he’s spoken the least to Owen, and she seems on board for that. They make the pitch to Elie and Jeanine, and since they know he doesn’t have an advantage, it seems like a clear shot. Plus, Jeanine’s having second thoughts about losing a female. This could go either way…

TRIBAL COUNCIL | Despite the tribe feeling like one happy family (and Morriah trying to convince a bewildered Jeff that they actually won, since they gave it their all) the tension starts to rise as they talk about making connections, reaching out to each other and keeping the tribe strong. After the votes are cast, no one plays an idol or advantage, and Morriah becomes the game’s first victim.

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