Day 12 on Tika dawns with the tribe’s remaining three members, Carolyn, Yam Yam and newcomer Josh, all still around thanks to Ratu’s Matthew departing the island because of issues with an injury he suffered at the beginning of the game.
Videos by Outdoors
Josh is especially thankful he didn’t have to face a vote, but he complains he’s “stuck on an island” with Yam Yam and Carolyn, who he believes are “very ridiculous and chaotic.”
Things are about to get even wilder for all three teams after everyone learns it’s time to drop their buffs and head to a waiting boat, which will whisk them to their new home.
Ratu’s Carson sums up what everyone seems to be thinking: “This idea that the game is changing up and I’m not just kind of in this calm peacefulness anymore kind of excites me, and I’m like, ‘Chaos is about to ensue!’”
Carson then makes the important point that the three tribes heading to the same beach means there are plenty of potential idols and advantages at play and the game could get shaken up in unexpected ways.
Once all tribes gather together on the beach, the remaining 12 players hug and meet or catch up with each other. Immediately the players start exchanging information.
Josh warns his former Soka tribemate Frannie not to trust Tika’s Carolyn and Yam Yam. But Josh also reveals the biggest pitfalls of the merge: having to now navigate all the lies and truths dispensed during the past 12 days of gameplay. “I have a variety of information and situations going on that I need to figure out [in order to] align my stories correctly,” he explains.
It’s a nice idea, but he quickly becomes a target, at least with Frannie, Jaime and Heidi. “The fact that Josh is still here concerns and alarms me,” Frannie says of the trio’s onetime Soka tribemate.
As the game’s dozen players continue to socialize, new revelations emerge, including when Matt tells Yam Yam that Soka wasn’t as cohesive a tribe as they appeared. He also spills how, like Yam Yam, Soka wanted Josh to go home. “The man definitely has nine lives,” Matt says.
Carolyn struggles to fit in and find her place. “So many people, it’s overwhelming,” she laments. “It’s day one all over again.”
While she still trusts Yam Yam, she hopes she and Carson can continue the great rapport they established before he moved from Tika to Ratu. Carson is onboard and hopes they can stealthily work together and swoop in for the win after strong players target and take each other out.
Matt and Frannie decide they need to go underground with their blossoming romance so they don’t also become targets. “That said,” Matthew notes, “it’s hard to leave each other alone! We have developed such a relationship of trust and support.”
Tribal Turing Point
Everything can change on a dime in Survivor, and the players all join Jeff Probst on Day 13. The host reminds everyone they’re no longer on separate tribes but not yet merged. They must earn their way into the next stage of the game.
Jeff takes back the two tribal idols and declares tribal immunity is no more. He adds there’s no individual immunity either.
Jeff tells the players they will be randomly divided into two teams of six. When he says ‘go,’ the teams must each dig up a massive boulder from the sand, push it through a series of obstacles and collect a key along the way. Each side must then all work together to get everyone to the top of a tall tower and use the key to unlock the pieces to a large tree puzzle. First team to win will earn immunity, get their buffs and enjoy a lavish merge meal. The winning team will cast votes at tribal council, but their individual players can’t be voted out.
The losing six? No buff, no food, no immunity. One of the six losers will be the seventh person kicked off the island.
“This really is a turning point,” Jeff says. “The people you end up with right here will have a hand in whether or not you have immunity and live to see another day or go to tribal council.”
The players draw stones, either purple or orange, from a bag to determine teams. The purple team is made up of Matt, Jaime, Carson, Frannie, Carolyn and Brandon. Orange consists of Danny, Heidi, Lauren, Kane, Josh and Yam Yam.
Off to the Races
The two teams start competing for buffs, immunity and the coveted merge meal. Orange takes an early lead but purple catches up and gets to the center section first. Purple unties their key with orange right on their heels. Purple loses their lead when Jaime struggles to get over the wall, allowing orange’s Heidi and Lauren to begin the tree puzzle first. Carson and Matt then get to the puzzle for purple and whip through the challenge while orange struggles. An emotional purple takes the prize after what Jeff calls an “absolute blowout.”
One of the six players on orange — Danny, Heidi, Lauren, Kane, Josh or Yam Yam — will be the next player voted out.
The losing orange team players begin scheming who should go home at tribal council. Yam Yam and Josh oppose each other and they both immediately put the target on each other’s back.
The purple team, with their new buffs, enjoy their merge meal and speculate about who they should vote to go home on the orange team. Josh’s name comes up, but the tribe decides they need a plan B in case Josh has an idol, like he’s told some players. Carolyn, clearly chagrined, reassures her dubious tribemates that Josh’s idol is fake and made up of beads he pilfered from treemail.
“At the merge meal, we all came up with the vote tonight being Josh,” Jaime later says, explaining they may throw a couple votes to Kane just in case. “So it sounds like we have an easy tribal council, however that’s not always the case knowing the game of Survivor.”
Kane gets wind of the plan and campaigns to get Yam Yam out instead. “It’s all a gamble, you have to make these calculated risks,” Matt says. “So far we have been playing Survivor. Now we’re playing Survivor with a capital S.”
Jeff welcomes the 12 players to tribal council and asks about what it’s like to have so many players now living as one big new tribe. “On your individual tribes, you’re kind of able to keep track of what’s going on,” Carson explains. “But when we’re all one beach, it’s chaotic! You can’t keep track of what anyone’s saying.”
Kane adds that he can only rely on information coming from those he believes in since the game suddenly has become so confusing.
Yam Yam concedes that he and his “big mouth” may be a big target.
Josh says the bond he believes he had with Soka before he got moved to Tika is a benefit now that there are no longer three tribes.
It’s time to vote.
Jeff asks if anyone has an idol or advantage to play but nobody makes a move.
Jeff reveals the votes one by one: Yam Yam, Josh, Kane, Yam Yam, Josh.
We’re tied: two votes Yam Yam, two votes Josh.
Yam Yam, Josh, Josh, Josh.
Seventh person voted off Survivor 44: Josh.
Jeff presents the remaining five players from the orange team with their buffs.
“I’m devastated; I’m sad,” Josh says of getting voted off the game. “This was something I really wanted it; I wanted to make it to merge. I was one vote away from making jury and I fell short so I’m bummed out.”