It was a great finish to Survivor: Worlds Apart, with the finale giving us some intrigue, some really good challenges, and it ended up with the fan favorite getting the title of Sole Survivor. The finale was a nice ending to a season of intense game play, a season that I really enjoyed, even though it seems like it’s one that some fans have disliked because of its less than lovable characters. The path Mike Holloway took to becoming the Sole Survivor was rocky and hard fought, but watching him win immunity after immunity, and becoming the kingmaker of a tribe that outcasted him was poetic and brilliant, making for a really memorable season. If that wasn’t all exciting enough, we also got the live revealing of the season 31 cast voted for by fans at the live reunion, a moment that was very fun and invigorating for the diehard fan base of Survivor. So here we go, for the final time this season, here are my thoughts on the episode that was:
- After Dan was unceremoniously voted out, Carolyn decided to regroup her alliance, the same people who tried to vote her out. She noted that people were gunning for her, but she smartly deferred any animosity and all attention to the guy who had been public enemy number one; Mike. Mike knew he couldn’t rely on his newfound partnership with Carolyn to carry him if he didn’t win immunity, and he had to stay laser-focused on winning every challenge. Before the reward challenge at final five, Jeff Probst revealed everyone’s’ loved ones who were there to help them with the challenge. The winner of reward got to have their loved one accompany them to camp for a night, and got to have them help recon the next immunity challenge. It was a touching moment, as most loved one visits are, especially for Rodney who got to share with his father that he was finally coming to peace with his sister’s death, but the reward of the challenge was very much the focus for everyone, since Mike knew he had to get that advantage for his immunity chances, and the other four knew they had to keep the advantage away from him. The reward went about as planned, with Mike taking a considerable lead and cruising to an easy victory. So, not only did Mike get the comfort of having his mom at camp for a day, but got to have her walk him through the immunity challenge. It was a really aesthetically pleasing design, with a large, colorful compass laid out in a field with a maze to work though to find medallions in every directional corner. It was a fun design, and an interesting challenge to work through, and Mike’s advantage was crucial as he got to get the hang of the challenge before anyone else knew what it was. As the challenge unfolded, we saw a very familiar story play out; Mike took an early lead and cruised to an uncontested victory. Rodney tried to help the others along the way to locating medallions, but it was too little too late for all involved, and the group was forced to turn on one of their own yet again.
- Another theme that started to become apparent, even though it had been going on in previous episodes, was the idea that Mike winning all the immunities he had was putting him in the position of kingmaker. It was Mike’s immunity fake that outed Tyler as a threat, and eventually lead to him get voted out, and Dan’s inability to work with Mike towards the end was the tipping point for him getting targeted and voted out. After his immunity win here, Mike again was put in the position of kingmaker, and his decision was between staying loyal to his newfound partner Carolyn, or working with Rodney for one more vote. The decision was between getting rid of the social threat Rodney, or Sierra, who had performed well in challenges. It was solely Mike’s decisions, as Will and Rodney were tight, and Carolyn and Sierra were seemingly in agreement, and Mike made the interesting decision in voting against Sierra, sending her to the jury. It was an interesting move by Mike, who clearly didn’t see much threat keeping Rodney around because of how weak and starved he was compared to everyone else around. Mike proved in that moment that he was truly running the show at Merica beach, something he wasn’t able to say since the final 9. It was setting up for a nail-biting final immunity challenge to see whether Mike could finish off his improbable run.
- The final immunity challenge was somewhat similar looking to last season’s, consisting of a tower to run up to retrieve keys, and a slide (replacing a pole) to get down to go back to the start to untie knots releasing a gate. The keys unlocked puzzle pieces that the contestants would eventually assemble to claim victory. At this point, I really don’t need to say what happened, do I? Mike won handily, completing an historic streak of 6 out of 7 individual immunity challenges won. His performance in challenges put him squarely in the discussion with the classic challenge beasts in Survivor history like Ozzy Lusth, Colby Donaldson, and Terry Deitz (who by the way was eligible for the second chance cast to be revealed at the end of the show), and with that win he had guaranteed himself a seat at Final Tribal Council. The only question was who did HE want to sit next to at final 3 (yes, it was totally his call again). On one hand, Rodney and Will were staying together and voting Carolyn, and on the other Carolyn was voting for Rodney and hoping Mike would let her build fire as the tiebreaker at final four. Mike, in another somewhat surprising decision, decided to grant Carolyn her chance to win her seat at FTC by forcing the tie. For all of Mike’s trouble giving Carolyn a chance to save herself, he effectively made them all suffer through almost an hour of Carolyn and Rodney struggling to make a fire, breaking their flints over and over again, and failing to properly build a fire when they got flame. Eventually it was Carolyn who managed to build her fire best, as Rodney apparently forgot his basic fire-making skills at the end. With that, the long running saga of who would get the best of whom between Mike and Rodney was finally settled, and as many of us predicted, it was Mike who got the best of Rodney. Rodney was great television though, and it would’ve been fun to see him plead his case in the end, but I think Mike knew Rodney could steal a few votes if everything went right. It was a fun move by Mike forcing the jesters in his court to fight for what was essentially his amusement though, it was sort of icing on the cake of his win that he could orchestrate the way things played out at the end.
- At Final Tribal Council, the final three got tom plead their cases for why they deserved the million dollars and title of Sole Survivor (even though there weren’t opening statements given). It seemed as if most of the jurors had their minds made up, so a lot of the lines of questioning were pretty basic (even though they were MUCH better than last season). Tyler had some pointed questions for Carolyn about why she had to take him out when she did. Her answers seemed fairly logical, yet Tyler ended up voting for Mike, further suggesting minds were fairly made up going into Tribal. Dan’s comments toward Mike made for a very interesting exchange between the two of them where Mike humbly apologized for going against his word with Dan at the Survivor auction and ruining their alliance. Dan, ever the showman, had sat down when Mike started apologizing, but got back up and thanked Mike for his genuine apology. The final juror was of course Shirin, who was set up to get the last dig at Will, as is typical on the show. She meandered around her points about her confrontations for a while, and finally came to the point of comparing the remaining contestants to animals. Mike was of course the howler monkey, Carolyn the stingray, and Will a dead fish. It was hilarious to hear that point from her, but overall her ramblings got really old a while back, and the grandstanding she put on both there and at the reunion show only make me like her less. Sorry if that’s controversial, I just have to be honest and just say it, I don’t like her as a player, I don’t get her appeal, and I lament the fact that she got voted onto the next season. In the end, what was predicted came to fruition when it came time for the jury to vote. The jurors overwhelmingly saw Mike as the best player of the season, and it was no real surprise when at the live reunion Mike was revealed to be the Sole Survivor in a 6-1-1 decision, leaving Carolyn and Will as co-runner-ups. The season ended very fittingly with the kingmaker being crowned king, unto much fanfare and applause. Whether you love or hate the cast, or love or hate the way this season transpired, I think one thing is clear; the season ended fittingly with the best player winning the game.
Yes, another season of Survivor is in the books, and this was a pretty fun one in my opinion. Sure there were some unpleasant moments along the way, but I love that this cast was so full of people desperately trying to win the game, because it made everything very exciting from Day 1 through Day 39. I love that Mike Holloway was named the winner, I think it’s vindicating to see a guy who was beleaguered and cast out of his alliance win his way into the final three with shear will power, and his ability to make moves and deals with the immunity necklace on really turned around his game, and sealed his victory. The reunion show helped tie together a few loose ends, but mainly ended up being about Jeff and the survivor producers giving Dan an earful about his criticism in the press of his portrayal by the editors of the show. That, plus the inevitable Will and Shirin discussion took up so much time o the reunion that we basically got to hear from no one on the cast, which is somewhat upsetting but also to be expected of the modern Survivor sensationalism. At least the episode got to end with the live revealing of the Season 31 cast voted on by America. I’m extremely excited about the cast that was picked (and gutted for the ones who didn’t make the show). I’m especially excited to see some of my favorites like Jeff Varner, Andrew Savage, Terry Deitz, and Woo Hwang make the show; I’ll be rooting for those guys come September for sure. But, before turning the page on another season of Survivor and looking towards the next one, I’ll finish up this recap with some final thoughts on Survivor: Worlds Apart and the finale:
- Just as I expected, poetic justice came to Carolyn, who burned her closest ally (and my favorite contestant) Tyler far too early in the proceedings. While she managed to make it to the end with the help of eventual winner Mike, one can’t help but wonder if she would’ve stood a better chance at eliminating Mike from the proceedings if Tyler stayed around. I think it was ultimately a million dollar losing decision on her part. It was a rough day for her at the live reveal, not only did she find out that she only tied for second with Will, who did nothing in the game, but she also wasn’t voted in to compete in Season 31. Even though I think she got what was coming for her in the game, I feel bad for her about how things went, she should’ve been the sole runner-up and she probably should’ve got a chance to play again…In a parallel universe, it would’ve been a very different story this season if Joaquin didn’t get voted out when he did. It would’ve been great to see a team of Tyler, Joaquin, Carolyn, and Rodney work some magic and take out both Blue Collar and No Collar along the way. I was pretty adamant around episode 2 that no one on Blue Collar would win this season, boy was I wrong about that one…I’m not entirely certain where to put Mike in the grand scheme of Survivor winners of all time. He played an amazing, dominating physical game, and a lot of impact on the vote-off order from 13 on, yet he did make a few social faux pas’ that forced him to work much harder for the win that guys like Yul Kwon, Earl Cole, or Tyson Apostol had to. I think time will tell how we remember Mike Holloway, but for today, I think what he did to win was fascinating, exciting, and extremely impressive.