‘Survivor 44’ episode 1 recap: Who was voted out in ‘I Can’t Wait to See Jeff’? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Wednesday night on CBSJeff Probst officially lit the torch on the 44th season of “Survivor.” Just like all of the post-Covid cycles, this year’s crop of 18 contestants have been divided into three tribes (Ratu, Soka, Tika) and come from diverse backgrounds and walks of life. In the two-hour premiere, viewers met the new castaways and found out who had the unfortunate title of being the first person voted out of Fiji.

Below, read our minute-by-minute “Survivor 44” Episode 1 recap/live blog of “I Can’t Wait to See Jeff” to find out what happened Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways on CBS’s reality TV show, who annoys you the most and who you think will ultimately join the “Survivor” winners list and take home the $1 million grand prize.

Here are the current “Survivor 44” tribe breakdowns (click on each name to be brought to their individual profiles):

RATU TRIBE: Brandon Cottom, Kane Fritzler, Matthew Grinstead-Mayle, Lauren Harpe, Maddy Pomilla, Jaime Lynn Ruiz

SOKA TRIBE: Matt Blankinship, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, Frannie Marin, Danny Massa, Claire Rafson, Josh Wilder

TIKA TRIBE: Yamil “Yam Yam” Arocho, Carson Garrett, Helen Li, Bruce Perreault, Sarah Wade, Carolyn Wiger

Keep refreshing/reloading this “Survivor 44” live blog for the most recent updates.

8:00 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” In last season’s finale, the Top 3 faced off against the jury in their final tribal council. Mike Gabler came away with a leading seven votes (and the $1 million prize), while Cassidy Clark nabbed one vote and Owen Knight failed to receive any. Gabler then announced he was donating the entire lump sum to charity. But enough about last year — it’s time to start Season 44!

8:03 p.m. – Already divided into their three tribes, the 18 players arrived on the beach to meet Jeff for the first time and to kick off the season with an ice-breaking reward challenge. In the opening contest, Jeff had the tribes race in pairs to collect six puzzle pieces from the other side of a short obstacle course. The six pieces would then be assembled in a puzzle and three players would finish by lifting three rings off of a very tall pole. The first tribe to finish earned their machete, pot and flint straight away while the other two tribes would have to complete a SWEAT or SAVVY challenge at their camp to earn theirs. The second tribe to finish would get to choose between SWEAT and SAVVY, leaving the other option to the last place tribe.

8:08 p.m. – In the first pair for the purple Tika tribe, Bruce Perreault bust his head open while diving to get beneath the mud crawl. Jeff asked Bruce to let him know if he needed to stop, but he finished his portion and let the contest continue. The green Soka tribe was the first group to collect all of their pieces followed by Ratu and then Tika. Matt Blankinship and Claire Rafson were on the puzzle for Soka, Yam Yam Arocho and Carson Garrett for Tika, and Lauren Harpe and Jaime Lynn Ruiz for Ratu.

8:11 p.m. – Before any of the tribe good make progress on their puzzles, Bruce fell to his knees on the sidelines and Jeff stopped the challenge to bring in medical. The medical team gave Bruce oxygen and shade and checked his vitals. Shortly thereafter medical cleared Bruce to sit up and then rejoin the game. The doctor explained that they’d check up on him throughout the day and Jeff gave Bruce the call to get the challenge back on.

8:14 p.m. – Tika was the first tribe to finish the puzzle, sending Carolyn Wiger to the pole to attempt to flip their first ring up and over the top. When Soka finished the puzzle they set Danny Massa to the pole and he threw the first ring off right away. Frannie Marin jumped in next and quickly threw Soka’s second ring over and then Josh Wilder came in to knock their third and final one off to claim the reward challenge win. Ratu finally finished their puzzle while Carolyn struggled at the Tika tole. Kane Fritzler lifted Ratu’s first ring off, followed by their second from Brandon Cottom and Matthew Grinstead-Mayle with their third to claim second place.

8:22 p.m. – After introductions at the Soka camp, Danny was impressed by the warmth and cheerfulness of his tribe. He said he was hoping there might be an outlier to make the first vote easy, but his first impression was positive on everyone. Josh, Frannie and Claire were the first players to come across the new twist, the secret packages hanging in an open birdcage. They returned to the camp and told the other three, but with no clues no one knew what the public advantage could be.

8:25 p.m. – At their beach, Ratu was given the option of SWEAT or SAVVY in order to earn their supplies. In SWEAT they’d have four hours to collect coconuts one by one from two piles on the beach. In SAVVY they’d have only 15 minutes to make one guess at a covered brain teaser puzzle. The tribe weighed which event would play to their own strengths against which would be toughest for the other tribe. Matthew and Brandon felt more comfortable with their skills in the SWEAT option and so they stepped up to collect the coconuts for the next four hours. It was especially important to Matthew to prove that though he’s the smallest and oldest guy on his tribe that he shouldn’t be underestimated.

8:27 p.m. – The Tika tribe arrived at their beach to learn that they were left with the SAVVY challenge. Helen Li confidently stepped up as one of two players to attempt the puzzle while Carson was reluctant to put his own foot forward in fear of failing. When the two uncovered the puzzle they discovered two spheres swinging from a hanger and the task of having to count how many full rings circled them in total. While they counted rings, the rest of their tribe explored and came upon their own advantage birdcage. Their cage was also locked with no sign of a key nearby. Meanwhile, Helen and Carson quickly came to a consensus of 18 rings in the spheres. Their cheering signaled to the rest of their tribe that they were correct and had earned supplies for the tribe.

8:31 p.m. – Back at Ratu, Brandon and Matthew realized that the more coconuts they added to their net, the tougher dragging them across the beach became. Their tribe was out out exploring camp and also came across the birdcage, but didn’t spend any time discussing what it could possibly mean. Lauren wanted to talk about it, but Kane was more concerned with being able to show Brandon and Matthew that they had done some work by the time they returned. Later, as the sun began to set and cramping set in for Brandon and Matthew, the two of them agreed to have each other’s back in the game because of the amount of work they were putting in. With only inches of sand left in their hourglass timer, Matthew and Brandon collected their final coconut and completed the SWEAT challenge on behalf of their tribe.

8:40 p.m. – Yam Yam took a leadership position at Tika, starting the fire for his tribe and showing how his comfort in the beach environment back home in Puerto Rico has prepared him for this experience. At Soka, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt showed that she shouldn’t be underestimated because of her smaller stature by proving that she could start fire and the tribe didn’t need to rely on Danny for everything. Matt and Frannie realized very quickly they had a similar sense of humor and in a private moment on the beach shook on being a tight two-person alliance.

8:44 p.m. – Later that evening, Sarah Wade and the rest of Tika realized that Bruce’s energy had shifted dramatically. Medical was brought in once again for a check-up, followed by the ominous boat trip in by Jeff, who comforted Bruce as his vitals were freshly assessed and it was determined that he needed more extensive observation at a hospital. In that moment, Bruce was medically evacuated and Tika was left with five members continuing in the game.

8:52 p.m. – By the next morning on Day 2, Matthew had positioned himself among the others as the go-to leader of the tribe. In a confessional he explained his natural inclination to be an explorer. He saw the show as a “mid-life challenge” (not a crisis) and vowed to do “everything” on his “Survivor bucket list.” One of those things involved climbing a cliff of rocks in the ocean, but as he neared the top the rock gave way and Matthew tumbled down into a shallow pool in the rocks. At first glance his hands were cut up, but then he realized that he may have also dislocated his shoulder and that he had a gash on the bottom of his foot. Once again, medical was brought in and ordered Matthew in to a make-shift sling and to keep all weight off of his shoulder as long as possible.

9:00 p.m. – With Bruce out of the game, Tika’s Day 2 didn’t have the best start either, but things looked up for Carson, Sarah and Helen who recognized they were on the same page and bonded in a three-person alliance. While those three were connecting, Carolyn became keenly aware that no one was coming to her to build a connection. She confessed to Helen that she hadn’t connected with anyone yet, but she essentially managed to confess to “always being seen as the weird one” in her experience. In a confessional, Carolyn was at least self-aware enough to know that she was struggling to find a balance between being annoying to her tribe and wanting to play aggressively enough to get into a safe position in the game.

9:02 p.m. – Boats arrived at each beach that afternoon to request that one member get on the boat to be returned later in the day. All three tribes agreed to draw sticks to determine who would go on the journey. The sticks gave passage to Sarah at Tika, Matt at Soka, and Lauren at Ratu.

9:04 p.m. – While Lauren was away, the rest of Ratu decided together that they should go on a key hunt to figure out the birdcage. They explored in groups with the thought that no one would be able to find the advantage in private. A short distance from Maddy Pomilla, Brandon found a package in the leaves and attempted to conceal it in his pocket without telling her. Realizing quickly that there’s no way she didn’t see him pick it up, Brandon made the decision that he had to confess it to her so that she couldn’t return to the others and sow distrust about him among the tribe. Away from the others, the two of them discussed their options. Maddy suggested that they open it together and keep it a secret from everyone else. But her suggesting secrecy spooked Brandon to Maddy’s sneakiness and so he called out to the others that they found it. Together, all five players opened the birdcage and Brandon read the clue. It said he found a hidden immunity idol along with a dummy idol. With that, the Ratu dummy idol was neutralized and Brandon now had a public idol in his possession.

9:12 p.m. – At the beach on their journey, Matt, Sarah and Lauren introduced themselves on a short walk into the jungle. Eventually they reached a fork in the road with instructions to make their own decision on separate paths. Each player found a bag that contained three packages. Two of the packages were a “Lose Your Vote” disadvantage and one of the packages was an advantage. Each player would have to draw a package. If on their first draw they plucked out a “Lose Your Vote” then they’d have a chance to draw a second time for a 50% chance of claiming the advantage (and maintain their loss of vote). In that regard, a player could potentially draw two vote loss disadvantages and earn no advantage at all. On first draw, Sarah and Matt both drew the disadvantage while Lauren drew an advantage. Lauren’s advantage was the new Bank Your Vote Advantage. With this advantage she could opt out of casting a vote at a Tribal Council and keep the voting parchment to use as a second vote at a future Tribal Council. On second draw, Matt drew the disadvantage again, resulting in his vote being lost at his next two tribal councils. Sarah drew and advantage on her second draw, earning the new Inheritance Advantage. With this advantage she could play at a Tribal Council to “inherit” all advantages and idols already played at that Tribal Council.

9:17 p.m. – Back at their camps, Matt told Soka that he lost his vote. In his explanation he showed the tribe the clam shell and the note that said he lost his vote. He did not confess to the second lost vote. Sarah told Tika a half lie that she risked her vote and she’s not sure if she’s going to have a vote at the next Tribal Council. Lauren told Ratu a fuller lie that she drew from a bag to either lose a vote or gain a Bank Your Vote. She had intended to tell the truth, but in the last moment decided to tell them that she lost her vote.

9:24 p.m. – Day 3 began with the first immunity challenge of the season. This was the first time Soka and Ratu were learning of Bruce’s removal from the game. Understandably everyone was devastated that he couldn’t continue in the game and Jeff made it clear that he needed the further testing, but that he’s recovering well now and in no danger of resulting damage from the injury. For the challenge, the tribes had to paddle into the water to push a heavy chest to shore. After dragging the chest over a ramp, the tribes would have to solve a giant (and heavy) slide puzzle in order to claim one of two chances at immunity. The losing tribe would go to Tribal Council and have to give up their flint. With one extra player on their tribes, Ratu sat Matthew on the bench and Claire sat out for Soka.

9:26 p.m. – All three tribes were just about even after the first stage of padding around the buoy, but Soka pulled ahead by pushing their chest up the shore quicker than the other two tribes while Ratu and Tika quickly fell behind. Ratu and Tika were placing their chests on the ramp track at the same time that Soka was finishing the ramp and starting on their puzzle. After managing to lead his tribe to the chest pull through the ramp, Brandon showed signs of slowing down while Ratu attempted to slide the heavy puzzle pieces around the board. As the three tribes worked on the puzzle, Claire asked Matthew on the sidelines if Lauren had shown his tribe anything when she returned from the journey. He told Claire that Lauren said she lost her vote and that they didn’t know for sure. Claire said Matt had shown them the actual parchment that said he lost his vote. She also told Matthew that she likes him, hinting that they might connect to work together later.

9:32 p.m. – Eventually Brandon gassed out on the puzzle, retreating to the shade and prompting Jeff to pause the challenge. The medical team was brought in for a third time to give Brandon water and check his vitals. The doctor explained that he was showing early signs of dehydration and that he just needed to rest in the shade and continue to rest with water. The decision was made to leave Brandon resting and resume the challenge with Ratu one player down. Soon after, Matt led Soka to a win as the caller directing the movements of their puzzle. Left with only one more shot at immunity, Ratu and Tika continued to fight, but Ratu could not keep up with Tika who solved their puzzle and claimed the second immunity.

9:40 p.m. – Brandon apologized to Ratu for not being able to finish the challenge, but no one was placing blame on him. Matthew pulled Brandon and Kane aside to let them in on the secret Claire told him during the challenge. Jaime walked up at that point and heard the decision from the guys to vote for Lauren as the biggest threat on their tribe. Meanwhile, Maddy had pulled Lauren aside to suggest that Brandon is too big of a threat with the idol and for thinking he’s the kingpin of the tribe. Maddy did not like that Brandon was unwilling to work with her when they found the key and so he was her biggest personal threat. Lauren and Maddy pulled Jaime in to vote out Brandon, but Jaime brought up possible playing her Shot in the Dark advantage out of nervousness. If she did that she’d lose her vote and put the girls at a disadvantage. Later, Maddy told Kane that the girls want to flush the idol and they’re voting Brandon. Kane was nervous about making the move against Brandon, but Maddy was convinced that he wouldn’t play his idol and that they’d be safe to throw their votes on him. Matthew was looped in to the plan later by Maddy. Closely aligned to Brandon, Matthew was put in a tough position against wanting to protect him and knowing that the numbers were going against him in the end.

9:50 p.m. – At Tribal Council, Jaime told Jeff that the vibe around the tribe is “tense.” Matthew echoed that uncertainty by saying that multiple names came up as options and it was hard to know which way everyone was truly going. Lauren was open about having “a few alliances here,” but Brandon’s snake metaphor about truth and lies made her nervous. Jeff was surprised to hear that the whole tribe found an idol, but it was made clear that the idol belonged to Brandon and that it was diluted because knowledge of it was public. Brandon said he was trying to build trust with his tribe by opening the package with them rather than hiding it, but it wound up putting a bigger target on his back.

9:54 p.m. – Prior to voting, Jaime stated to the tribe that she would be playing her Shot in the Dark and forfeiting her vote. She claimed that if everyone was putting their vote where they told her they were then her lost vote wouldn’t matter anyway. Privately at the voting booth, it was revealed that Lauren opted out of casting a vote and banked the parchment to use in the future and that Jaime did in fact draw a Shot in the Dark. After the votes, Jaime revealed her scroll and then Matthew revealed his scroll for having played his Shot in the Dark as well. After the two of them made their declarations, Jeff opened Matthew’s scroll that said “Not Safe” and Jaime’s scroll that said “Safe.” Any votes cast for Jaime would not count. Once their fates were decided, Brandon was convinced that he’d need to play his idol because it was clear that there was too much going on at camp and he couldn’t trust the votes. Jeff read the votes: Brandon, Brandon and Maddy. The two votes for Brandon did not count and so his vote for Maddy was the deciding factor to send Maddy home.

NEXT TIME: Matt declares having “found an incredible connection” in Frannie while Carolyn’s antics at camp grate on the Tika tribe.

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