Another great season of Survivor has come to an end, and it finished just as powerfully and as strong as the cyclone that hit the contestants on Day 1! I joke about that of course, but the game really played out marvelously this season with so many likable contestants fighting hard and fighting clean for the million dollars, in a way that rivals some of the best seasons the show has ever seen. On a week to week basis I was left surprised by the constant turns in strategy, the nervous Tribal Council showdowns, and the unexpected twists in the game, making for a good game of Survivor and an even better entertainment experience. I’m very high on this season, and I’m very happy about the crowning of another great Sole Survivor, a person who I had errantly written off at the Merge! Here are my thoughts on the finale, the season as a whole, and the upcoming 34th season as well:
- The story of this episode from the start was pretty entertaining and inevitably a bit misleading too. We got to see the two guys on the bottom, Bret and Jay, start making overtures to the others about getting David out of the game once and for all. In a game where perception is key, the overwhelming perception of the players in the game for a while had been that David was controlling his alliance, that he was the lynchpin of the group of 5 that squared off at the rock draw. With Ken and Hannah staying loyal to David, it seemed like the only person willing to budge would be Adam. I thought the building story between Jay and Adam was a big foreshadowing moment from last episode, but it didn’t really come to fruition in a game shattering way. Jay lost the first immunity challenge, and it was a battle between Jay and Bret as to who could plead their case for staying better than the other. Of course Jay thought he had an out because he stumbled upon an “immunity idol” out in the open, but as we got to see on TV, it was David who had skillfully crafted the idol and planted it in plain view for Jay to find. So, while Jay thought he was going to shock everyone by saving himself out and sending Ken to the jury, he was the one who received the shock when it was revealed by Jeff that what he had was not an idol. The funniest part about that fake idol situation though is that if it were a good idol, the resulting vote would have been completely nullified by Ken’s legacy advantage. I had been patiently waiting since Episode 1 to see what the Legacy Advantage would be, and it was revealed on Day 36 that the advantage would be automatic immunity at Final 6. It was slightly underwhelming because I had hopes it would be even more powerful than all of that, but I was happy to see Ken move a little farther. I imagine it would’ve been total chaos if a re-vote had to happen there, missed opportunity, but oh well! Jay was very gracious on his way out, appreciating the game play and everything else, and I have to say I was very pleased with the game he played. He’s a fierce competitor and I hope Survivor does the right thing and brings him back to play again in the near future.
- I have to say that I really loved the majority of the players who made the Merge this season, but Bret was not one of my favorites. I think a lot of that has to do with his abrasiveness, which was featured pretty heavily at the final 5. He just kept on referring to the players in the game as idiots, something that really seemed disrespectful to me and even his nice scenes and fun scenes didn’t seem to offer much game value. So, after losing immunity at the final 5, I was pretty happy to see Bret leave the game. I respect the fact that Adam worked tirelessly with Bret to get him to flip sides on a number of occasions, starting with the Will vote, and he definitely made the right call to flip on David when he did, but I preferred to see David go to the end with a chance versus Bret. This season, more than some, I really developed a strong preference to certain players over others, and watching with that emotional mindset forced me to view the game as heroes versus villains (no pun intended, honestly). For me, David, Ken, Hannah, and Adam were heroes and that kind of left people lie Bret and Sunday as villains to me. It may be unfair to an extent, but it’s just how I viewed things through my lens, and I ended up being very happy with the Final 4 that emerged after the penultimate Tribal Council.
- The final 4 was kind of everything I wanted it to be for a while, with the exception of maybe having Jessica there, so for me the ending was all cake for me as a biased viewer. Now, as a blogger, I really had my eyes on who could outmaneuver the other for the votes at the end, David or Adam, considering Ken and Hannah were drawing dead from a social and strategical perspective. Adam had attempted to move against David at final 5, and while it didn’t work, he did have his targets set. David on the other hand really had to just sit back and rely on the strong relationships he had with Ken and Hannah to drive him on to the final 3. It was a bit of a cat and mouse game, made a little bit anti-climactic by Hannah and Ken showing down for the final immunity instead of either Adam or David fighting to earn it. It was sort of epic to see the whole season come down to who ken decided to sit with because he had shown a great deal of loyalty to both David and Adam in his first two tribes. I really thought Ken would stay the course and force a fire challenge between the two to fight it out for that spot, but in the end Ken kind of gave us the shock of the night by turning on his greatest ally, David, and sending him home one night sure of a certain crowning. As Ken put it later, he was playing for his daughter, not for David Wright, and you really do have to respect the “gumption” he had to take the vote into his own hands after 38 days of playing behind the scenes. I’m not 100% sure that this was the best call for him, simply because it sort of ruined his only great argument for the final tribal council, but it was a lose-lose situation anyway. I think it played out as it should have.
- The jury ended up being rather gracious with their complicated decision to crown a Sole Survivor. It was pretty clear during the game that Ken and Hannah just didn’t have the social game down well enough to win the game outright, but it was still interesting to hear everyone plead their case. The jury kept everything civil and respectful, which isn’t the case every season unfortunately, and the conversation back and forth was good. I thought Hannah and Adam did a very strange job attacking each others moves, considering they worked together for a lot of them. If anything, I thought the back and forth between the two of them was potentially detrimental to their cases, if any of the cases weren’t made up for the jury. I think Ken could have articulated his point a bit better, but with the jury he had to work with, it wouldn’t have done a whole lot of good anyway. Chris’ speech for Adam was the real disappointment in the end for me, because he made an argument based on no first-hand knowledge of the final vote. Chris didn’t need to make that case for Adam, because clearly it was a slam dunk, and all he really accomplished for me was to reaffirm by belief that I had spent the season rooting for the right side of the Gen X tribe. I have no interest in seeing any one of Chris, Bret, Sunday, Paul, or Lucy play the game again, but now I’m just getting off topic! The obvious grand moment of the whole Final Tribal Council was the very end when Adam finally admitted the secret he’d been carrying; abut his mom’s battle with cancer. It was a very touching moment, and while it didn’t really change anything, it definitely put a cherry on top of Adam’s case as being the most deserving of the title. He fought hard for his family, and never gave up, the same way his mother never gave up in her fight. Adam ended up winning unanimously in a 10-0-0 decision, becoming the Sole Survivor of Millennials vs. Gen X! I think Adam is the ultimate underdog hero, he was a guy who tried and failed numerous times in the game, but kept fighting; kept finding cracks, kept using the relationships he built with people to carry him far in the game. His emotional journey was something special to watch, just as a human interest story alone, but wrapping that in with his arc as a competitor and a strategist, and it’s hard not to feel pleased with how everything worked out. Adam may not go down as the greatest winner in Survivor history, but I think his story will be remembered for years to come, and the way he won will be a great blueprint for future players to use for seasons to come. Congratulations to Adam Klein on a well played game of Survivor!
- Overall, I think this was a really great season of Survivor. I look back now at how I felt after the first episode, and I’m really pleasantly surprised how well everything progressed from there. There were a lot of chances for this season to be a letdown for me, but the right people stepped up and took control, and I ended up really enjoying the game, and the strategy, and eventually the people who went deep in the game. There were so many people to root for towards the end with a chance to win the game, and it made the season that much better to watch because I found myself personally invested in these peoples’ stories, successes and failures. I loved how the Millennials played after Michelle and Jay flipped the first vote on Mari, but I also love how Zeke and Adam emerged from the wrong side of the numbers to be strong competitors for the long run. And I also love the bond that Ken and David formed on Gen X beach, and how their relationships and the ones they had with Jessica saved the Gen X tribe from the monotony that I thought Paul and Lucy and the others would bring to the game. The game evolved and changed from vote to vote, leaving me guessing and keeping me engaged in every minute of every episode, moreso than the average season for sure. I really love Millennials vs. Gen X, the game was fun, the theme worked out far better than I thought it would, and I actually wouldn’t mind if the show entertained this kind of theme again. It really all goes to show that Survivor will always be great if they find a diverse group of gamers ready to play and ready to fight for the title of Sole Survivor. As much as I had to applaud Adam for a game well played, I have to applaud Jeff Probst and the entire crew for the great show they put on air this season!
- At the reunion we got to see the reveal of Season 34, which will be titled Game Changers and feature a cast of 20 returning players. While I’m not sold on the title because the cast is only about half full of game changing players, I’m pretty excited about the prospects f this cast. There are some absolutely legendary players from all different times of survivor history on this cast, and watching them all come together should be something special. There are so many good combinations of players like having Malcolm and Ozzy play together, having juggernaut winners like JT and Tony play together, and it will also be wonderful to see Sandra try to go for a third win! There’s no way she could ever win a third season, right? Who knows, I guess we’ll have to wait until March to see how it all played out. This is a season full of sharks, and while Second Chance was, for the most part, a more nuanced game of strategy, I think this season has the potential to get cutthroat and heated, kind of like the original All-stars season. I’m excited to see how it’s going to go!