Survivor 43 Review: A New Era of Survivor Struggles to Find its Footing

Owen Mitchell ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Spoilers ahead.

Season 43 of Survivor, simply titled Survivor 43, aired on Sept. 21, 2022, with new episodes dropping weekly on CBS and Paramount Plus. Stranded on the gorgeous islands of Fiji, where the show has been set for the past 10 seasons, Survivor 43 featured 18 new contestants split into three tribes: Vesi, Coco, and Baka. 

Fans of the show may know that starting with season 41, host Jeff Probst has reinvented the game from scratch, implementing a series of new twists and gimmicks that differentiate the new era of the game from previous seasons. While seasons 41 and 42 have been met with mixed reviews, the new era of the game finally starts to find its footing in Survivor 43

With a cast of interesting, intelligent superfans, every castaway has come to play hard. Standouts include Noelle, a one-legged paralympian who had a particularly inspiring moment during a reward challenge when she persevered through a balance beam and overcame her disability in one of the biggest come-from-behind wins in the history of the show. 

There’s also Cody, a Hawaiian dude-bro whose intrepid spirit and catchphrase of “Livin” make him the perfect contestant to embark on the adventure that is Survivor, and Jesse, Cody’s closest friend, a father and brilliant strategist who will do whatever it takes to win the million dollar prize.

Cody Assenmacher and Jesse Lopez in Survivor 43.

Last, but not least, is Gabler, a 51-year-old veteran whose aloofness provided hilarious moments and drama throughout the season as he struggled to adapt to the elements and fit in with a much younger, sharper crowd. 

The new twists, while flawed, are at least more entertaining than the previous two seasons, and make for interesting gameplay. Some of the new gimmicks work, such as the wildly amusing hidden immunity idol twist that forced players to barter for beads from their tribemate’s bags to activate the idol. But the shot-in-the-dark twist is still frustratingly useless, and devoid of a theme; the season feels unmemorable, stale, and repetitive at times.

Jeff Probst hosting tribal council in Survivor 43.

Probst is as charismatic as ever, but his new approach to hosting seems more detrimental than beneficial. He’s forgotten one of the most basic rules of television, one that made Survivor so great previously: “show, don’t tell.” At its best, Survivor is unfiltered, raw, and authentically human; but instead of letting emotional moments ride their course and come out in a natural way, each contestant in Survivor 43 is fitted with a dramatic flashback explaining their tragic backstory. This new editing style comes across as exploitative and forced.

Take a moment from episode seven’s immunity challenge: Noelle’s prosthetic leg gets caught in a net and she can’t get untangled. As the other contestants unite to help their competitor, Probst over-explains how powerful and inspirational it is. This approach takes away from the honesty of the moment by capitalizing on themes that are already present and do not need tedious explanation. 

Heading into the season’s finale, Jesse cemented himself as a Survivor legend by taking out his closest ally and the biggest threat in the game, Cody with two immunity idols that weren’t even his, flushing all other contestant’s advantages in the process. This move was not only one of the best in the entire game, but was also the pump of adrenaline the season needed, leading to a completely unpredictable final two-hour episode.

Mike Gabler, Cassidy Clark, and Owen Knight in the Survivor 43 Finale.

In one of the most shocking wins in Survivor history, Gabler defeated sure-bet winner Cassidy and lovable underdog Owen, earning him the title of Sole Survivor and the $1 million dollar prize in a 7-1-0 vote. While Gabler’s edit throughout the season demonstrated his character and his gameplay, it was still a surprising win, as Cassidy played an objectively better social, strategic, and physical game. In a Survivor first, Gabler pledged to donate all of the money he won to charity, cementing him as an unexpected, but memorable winner. 

While bogged down by the lack of a clear theme or direction, Probst’s overly exploitative hosting, and more hit-or-miss twists, Survivor 43 is a definite step in the right direction for the new era of the show, reminding fans both old and new exactly why this show is worth sticking around for.

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