‘Survivor’ 45 Recap: Did Austin Just Kill His Game?

Austin Li Coon competes in 'Survivor' Season 45 Episode 11
Spoiler Alert


This Game Rips Your Heart Out

Season 45 • Episode 11

rating: 5.0 stars

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Survivor Season 45 Episode 11, “This Game Rips Your Heart Out.”]

Survivor Season 45 may be the best of the new era. The last two episodes stand out in a season full of captivating television, proving that if we must have the shortened, 26-day format as opposed to the previous 39, the 90-minute episodes make up for the sorely lost time. Fans have been treated to extra time at the camps with the players in Season 45 because of the extended episodes, and in Episode 11, this became vital to understanding the stunning Tribal Council results.

The episode began with the Dakuwaqa tribe celebrating Bruce’s elimination. Emily wowed them all when revealing she single-handedly convinced Bruce not to play his idol and protect himself, fabricating a Julie blindside to do so. The possibility of a Julie blindside became a reality in Episode 11, however, testing the strength of the Reba alliance. Austin, Dee, Julie, and Drew found themselves in the true majority at last in this installation, with their foursome outnumbering the other three remaining players (Jake and Katurah from Belo, Emily from Lulu). But bonds were tested when a new majority started to form and eyed Julie as their target.

Before Julie’s name ended up on the chopping block, her closest allies, Dee and Austin, shared a romantic moment on the beach. Their potential showmance has been teased in recent episode trailers, and now their feelings were addressed head-on. Austin brought up the Survivor couple, Boston Rob and Amber, to Dee on the beach after Tribal, saying he fantasized about finding his own Amber during filming. Dee said she came into the show swearing off all showmances, but their feelings for each other prevailed, proving to be Austin’s Achilles heel.

To protect the trust between him and Dee, both in a romantic and strategic sense, Austin made a decision that may have destroyed his chances of winning the $1 million. For several episodes now, the Reba alums have been saying they want to take each other to the end and battle each other fair and square for the $1 million. But Drew won his first individual immunity in this episode. With his protection in place, he decided to try to break up the Reba alliance earlier than they had planned.

Castaways walk to Tribal Council in 'Survivor' Season 45 Episode 10


He does so by offering to work with Jake, whom he got into a fight with in Episode 10, and Katurah, who’s showing more strategic prowess as each episode passes (whether she has enough time to execute enough moves to impress the jury is the main question for her game, and the same goes for Jake). Emily was a good option for elimination because of her powerful display with Bruce’s blindside, so she and Julie became their targets. Everyone acknowledged that at this point in the game, eliminations are all about voting out people who could win in the end. That made Julie a bigger target in Drew’s eyes, and he wasn’t alone.

Everyone but Dee and Julie were locked in for a Julie elimination, including Austin. He gave his idol to Julie in Episode 10 for protection, and she won’t return it. This presented Austin with a difficult choice. Does he blindside Julie and Dee together by not telling Dee of the plan, thereby making sure Julie doesn’t play the idol? They had the votes to send Mama J to the jury without having to tell Dee of the plan at all. Or does he try to keep the trust of Dee, whom he promised to take to the end (and may mean it more because of his romantic feelings for her)? Viewers didn’t know his decision until he spoke privately with Dee on the beach, and the editing of this moment produced some fun suspense.

Ultimately, Austin couldn’t blindside Dee. He made the choice to tell her that the majority was voting for Julie, and he hoped he could convince/trust her not to inform Julie of the plan. But he underestimated Dee’s loyalty to Mama J. She kept it cool with Austin, saying she would go along with the plan. But she wasted no time telling Julie that she needed to play her idol and why.

Julie, the savvy strategist she is, immediately approached Jake and Emily and offered a deal, saying that if she didn’t go out tonight, it was one of them on the outs. They asked who she wanted to vote out with them, and she told them to pick a name. With Drew immune, Julie set her sights on Austin as retribution for the betrayal. In her talks with Dee, the pair planned for Dee to join the majority Julie vote, and Julie would vote for Emily in addition to playing her idol. This was a protective measure; if every single vote was for Julie, but Julie played her idol, then whatever name she wrote would become the next member of the jury.

Emily Flippen competes in 'Survivor' Season 45 Episode 11


It was a good plan for the night, but Julie did not like that Dee was telling her how to act. She also didn’t love that Dee called Austin her No. 1 to her face when they had been an unbeatable duo all season long. Dee’s feelings for Austin may have caused this slip-up, and Austin’s similar feelings seemed to give him a false sense of confidence in Dee’s loyalty.

Dee is still committed to Mama J despite voting for her. As they planned, every single vote but one went to Julie, but she had played her immunity idol, canceling out all six of the votes. Her one vote determined who would get eliminated, and she chose Emily, somehow still siding with the Reba alliance that has been proving to be loyal to everyone in the group but her for several episodes now. But Julie’s reasons will no doubt be revealed next week.

It was a crushing way to see Emily go home after seeing her redemption arc this whole season (and after seeing her smartly protect her vote on a solo journey earlier in the episode). But she said in confessional that she was happy with her ending and told the tribe on her way out that she was “voting for the best player,” seemingly gesturing to Julie. When Julie played her idol, there was a look of defeat on Austin’s face. He learned then and there that he made the wrong call with Dee, and Katurah even called it in her voting booth confessional, saying that if this plan didn’t work, it would be because of Austin’s feelings for his teammate.

It’s hard to imagine how Austin comes back from this strategic blunder. He does have one idol left, his amulet, but it’s only good for one more episode. Unless something goes weirdly wrong, he’ll most likely play it next week to lock in his place in the final five. But now, he could be a player that someone brings into the final three because he no longer stands as big of a chance of winning the jury’s favor. He now has the least impressive resume of the Reba alliance and, like Jake and Katurah, will need to pull off some big swings if he has any hopes of winning it all.

Who do you think stands the best chance of winning Survivor 45? Let us know in the comments below.

Survivor, Wednesdays, 8/7c, CBS