Queer Survivor Contestant Carolyn Wiger Shows You Can Be Emotional AND Strategic, Who Knew!!

In a lot of ways, very little happened in this week’s episode of Survivor. There was the reward challenge, the one that arguably resembles torture more than any of the other challenges — which Yam Yam won, handily! (Sorry, but I also love that for all of his breathwork and big talk throughout the season, Danny didn’t win a single challenge, not even one that’s ALL ABOUT BREATHING.)

Despite that extremely high-stakes and exciting challenge, this episode was mostly about social dynamics. The episode opens on Carolyn expressing how betrayed she feels by Carson and Yam Yam because they left her out of the Frannie vote. Carson and Yam Yam seem to understand Carolyn feeling this way, because they take the time to talk it through with her, apologize, and rationalize. In other words, they imply that her reaction is reasonable. I agree with them; it’s reasonable to feel upset when the people you thought you could trust are revealed to have been lying to you, even when that’s a known part of the game!

Meanwhile, Lauren, Jaime and Danny are gathered discussing Carolyn’s behavior. Jaime says she “feels bad for Yam Yam and Carson” because Carolyn is “like, yelling at them.” You know who actually yelled at his tribemates, over and over? Tony Vlachos, and we all know how that ended. Could it be that, because Carolyn is a woman, her firm voice is received as hysterical rather than assertive? I wonder!

Lauren opines, most generously of the three, that Carolyn just needs some time, at which point Danny smirks and agrees, “yeah, she needs a lot of things.” This is the same Danny who, on the reward with Brandon and Carolyn earlier this season, excitedly formed an alliance with Brandon, with Carolyn right there. It couldn’t be clearer then, and it couldn’t be clearer now: He doesn’t take her seriously. She’s emotionally available and feels a lot, and therefore is not someone who could ever be good at a game built on strategy and strength.

After the reward, the tribe discusses who to send home — Danny wants to take out Carson, to break up the Tika three. (Again, he doesn’t even think of targeting Carolyn, because she’s such a non-threat, isn’t she!) He, Heidi, Jaime, and Lauren try to convince Carolyn of some other plan, because they don’t want to tell her about Carson, whom Carolyn loves. But because of her extremely high EQ, which we’ve seen over and over again, Carolyn knows they’re lying! Something just doesn’t feel right!

(This is part of why Carson and Yam Yam leaving her out of the Frannie vote hurt so badly — because Carolyn is usually so good at reading the vibes. She got it wrong that time, and that doesn’t happen often.)

By the time we get to Tribal, we’re wondering if Carolyn has shifted the vote entirely. She told Carson about her idol, and despite my stance that you should TELL NO ONE ABOUT YOUR IDOL, I trusted she had a good reason to finally reveal that. As Carolyn has said all season long, she wants Danny out. So she’s considering playing her idol to protect Carson, and sending Danny home — a bold move.

So we get to Tribal, and I’m not gonna lie, it really got me riled up. This is probably the right time to share that it is possible (and likely) that I over-identify with Carolyn. I feel my emotions very intensely. I have for my whole life. Sometimes it’s nice, like when that emotion is gratitude or love. But a lot of the time, my emotions feel like wild horses I’m trying desperately, and often unsuccessfully, to rein in.

Yet, as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized my emotionality has actually provided me with a skill — I can get through high-emotion situations, because I’m high-emotion all the freaking time. It’s hard to be truly bowled over by emotions when you’re bowled over on a daily basis. My ability to feel my feelings means I don’t run from high-emotion situations or conversations. I might be scared, sure, but I know that even that fear is all part of it.

I don’t know Carolyn personally, but I think she knows this, too.

Back at Tribal Council, a weird conversation ensues. Carolyn talks about how wild the last few days on the beach have been — she’s not sleeping, she’s always trying to figure out the next move, and between all this, the whole tribe is meditating and telling each other how great they are. Danny disagrees and makes a bizarre metaphor about fighters (?), implying that some people, like seasoned fighters (I can’t make this up), have gotten into less emotional routines.

(Keep in mind, they all have the same amount of experience. None of them have been on Survivor before.)

After some back-and-forth, host Jeff Probst asks Carolyn if she’s annoyed, to which she responds a resounding, “Absolutely.” The audacity of this woman — to tell people how she really feels rather than mask her annoyance with politeness, for the sake of the group! Jeff quips back, “You get some sleep Carolyn, who knows how you’ll see things!”

Jeff. My sweet, sweet Jeff. You misstep so rarely.

Jeff’s response implies that Carolyn’s emotionality is unwarranted and is the result of sleeplessness. Sure, maybe she’s extra sensitive because she’s not sleeping well (or eating, and is on a reality tv show in the jungle, sure). But she’s also allowed to feel annoyed! The crazy thing about life is you can be annoyed by anything, even if you’re well rested! Sometimes things are just annoying! And you know what’s genuinely annoying? Some macho guy implying that because you experience and express emotions, you lack strategy.

Carolyn is emotional, and she’s strategic. WE EXIST!

Back to Tribal. Jeff asks Carolyn if she’s mad at him now, to which she answers, “Yes,” followed by, “This is awkward, but I’m good.” Here we see Carolyn comfortably wading in the waters of many people experiencing emotions all at once! Look at her go!

Before Jeff reveals the votes, Carolyn plays her idol to protect Carson. Danny’s face falls, as it should. The votes come in — two for Carson, two for Heidi, and three for Danny. Yes, Danny, Carolyn shifted the vote to you, and played the idol you never knew she had just to make extra sure that her ally didn’t go home.

Carolyn shows us that feeling and expressing your emotions isn’t a weakness. Just like critical thinking, strategic reasoning, and probability-based planning, it’s a tool — one that some people know how to use, and some people don’t.

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Anya Richkind

Anya is a writer, a Pisces, and a huge fan of Survivor. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner Jess and their kittens, Buckett and Tubbs. She writes a substack called Questions I Have in which she explores questions big, small, medium, and more. Check it out here: anyarichkind.substack.com

Anya has written 37 articles for us.


  1. Is anyone else worried that everyone will now finally realize that Carolyn is really good, and turn on her next episode?? I’m very nervous that Yam Yam will turn on her, and my only hope is she will turn on him first!?

    • That’s my exact fear! I think she needs to let go of both Yam Yam and Carson in order to lock in a win. Seeing Danny leave was hugely satisfying but I can’t help wondering if a simple consensus vote-off of Carson would have benefited her more…

      • Yeah… I imagine Carolyn is thinking that she, Yam Yam, and Carson are an alliance, so it was strategically valuable to her to keep Carson around. Of course, we all know what happens to most alliances in Survivor, though…

        anecdotally, i feel like in the more recent seasons, there almost AREN’T alliances, people turn on each other so fast. so the biggest twist of all would be if actually, they DO stay aligned!

        in my ideal world, heidi goes home next (I like heidi, but she just doesn’t seem to be aligned with anyone rn), then carson, then yam yam (because that would be so savage! getting rid of him that late!), and carolyn goes to the end with Lauren and Jaime, who I think she has the best odds of beating in final three. we’ll see!

    • I’m choosing to believe that Carolyn will go all the way to the end! Being underestimated has become her superpower. Let everyone think she doesn’t know what she’s doing and she blew an idol on someone who wasn’t going home anyway! She can laugh her way to final council!

  2. So worried! The only smart move for both of them is to turn on each other next episode — I don’t think they benefit from sitting next to each other for the win. I really hope Carolyn sees the wisdom in jumping ship to an all-girls alliance like they toyed with at Frannie’s reward meal. I think if she goes to the end with any combo of the remaining women, she’s got it in the bag.

    Glad to see some Carolyn coverage on here – she and Karla have made Survivor must-see-TV for me over the past couple of seasons. Thanks!

  3. Coming back here because I’m so excited for tonight’s episode… and I just want to have it in writing — I think Carolyn is going to final three, and I… think she’s gonna win the whole thing. I hope against hope that this is how it shakes down, in terms of the order of eliminations:

    – Jaime
    – Lauren
    – Carson (this is slightly insane of me, but I sort of can imagine Carolyn winning immunity at final four, choosing to take Yam Yam with her, and Heidi and Carson make fire, and Carson goes home. I know it sounds crazy but I have a vision!!!)

    So that leaves us with a final three of Heidi, Yam Yam, and Carolyn. And I’m gonna say now, I think Carolyn will win it all.

    If I’m wrong!! So be it! If you feel like it, share your predictions!

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