I'm just going to say it, and it may not be popular, but I really don’t like that Ben won. I’ll explain myself in a bit, but after seeing the finale, he was the person I was most rooting against. Anyway....
We All Need a Doctor Like You
Doc, you seemed so confident that if you’d have made the FTC you would’ve won. I’m not quite as sold on that (though you certainly could have), but you were right about one prophecy: Ben was a threat to win. Mike was a prophet archetype this season. Many literary examples paint this character as eccentric and even crazy (or perhaps… nuts), when viewed by others, but often the prophet’s words turn out to be true—either literally or metaphorically. In this case, there were no metaphors to be had. Ben had to go, you knew that, and while others agreed, you were the one who spoke about it most often. You were right, and if Lauren, Devon, and Ashley had listened to you at the final 8, everything would’ve been different.
Devon’s archetype is tricky. On the surface, he appeared a rogue or antihero, ultimately sacrificing himself at the zero hour so the true hero or heroes could defeat the antagonist, securing victory for the side of good (and honestly, I thought that was how this thing was going to go down). Instead, it wasn’t Chrissy who was meant to be the hero, but Ben, and that leaves me puzzled as to what Devon’s role was. He didn’t quite seem to be the villain, but he sided with the losing/ “wrong” group. I’m still saying he’s an antihero, because, despite being likable, he betrayed a lot of people. It’s just a little murky considering his endgame alliance didn’t win.
Also, as an aside, I believe Devon to be the best player this season. I’m still not sure he could’ve beaten Chrissy in the end, but he played from the shadows and was smart enough to pad his own ass by voting for Mike at five. That’s a deft move by someone who knows the game. I didn’t praise him enough when he was in the game, and I really didn’t think he’d win (no confessional at the letter reward, dearest readers), but he’s a gamer and he needs to come back.
For as much as we all knew Ryan wasn’t going to win, he fought as hard as his little heart would let him at the FTC. I respect the hell out of that. He knew he was the underdog, and he argued like he had nothing to lose. More people should do that, I think. Unfortunately, we all saw the inevitable of Ryan getting third because he was an archetypal fool and a sidekick. His confessionals may have been hilarious and insightful, but when you’re Robin and not Bat(wo)man, you ain’t gonna win if your Bruce Wayne is still there with you. Sorry, bud. Still, good game.
Dude, Come On. You Were SO Close
Although Chrissy missed out on becoming my fifth preseason pick to win, she did join and even more elite club: my preseason winner pick becoming the runner-up! She joins Parvati and Tasha Fox, and much like Parvati, she should’ve been the champ (yes, yes, Sandra’s great, but Parvati was more impressive in HvV). So… yay?
Chrissy was the ruler archetype, and as I mentioned last season with Debbie and Sandra, turning that lust for control and power into a win is difficult work. Still, everything looked set up for Chrissy, and why shouldn’t it have? Although her social game wasn’t as good as Ryan’s, she did basically everything right including tying a prestigious challenge record (especially at her age!). Alas, this season’s secrets did not fall in your favor, and although I’ll fight until I die that you were the best player in the FTC, Survivor often comes down to luck. I could not be sorrier it wasn’t on your side this time around, and like so many other greats, I think you may have a tough run of things when they bring you back if the whole cast isn’t up to par (i.e. don’t bring back anymore Sierras, Calebs, Halis, or *cringes* Varners, okay?).
Side note here, I still had two fantasy people in the FTC. That’s a small win, right?
Painted as the Hero
My parents, because of some X number of degrees of separation from Chrissy, watched the finale. Although they didn’t watch any of the rest of the season, they know the basic premise well enough (my old man and I have even watched a few seasons together), I texted them this morning to get their thoughts. In short, they, along with my girlfriend, hated Ben and hated how he won.
Look, I may take flack for this, but I strongly dislike when winners are chosen because of who they are outside of the game rather than who they are as contestants. Ben, it’s great that you’re playing for your family, but you were sort of a hypocrite out there. You blasted Joe time and time again, and while Joe was more obnoxious at camp than you were, you played eerily similar games, relying on idols instead of relationships. You call out Joe for bringing up the Marines, but you leverage being a Marine to win? I get there’s a line considering Ben’s a Marine and Joe is not, but still. Furthermore, don’t say Chrissy gloated when you gloated very openly in front of Lauren (as you idoled her), Joe (when you participated in his blindside), and Chrissy and Ryan for them being so dumb as to believe you was with them. These are solid plays, homie, but the grandstanding is just so unnecessary. Yes, Chrissy was arrogant, but she did make enough connections with people to know Joe’s stance on marriage or Cole’s ACT score (which, by the way, I don’t believe for a second was 34). Because he was a Marine, and the ultimate winner, I think editing painted Ben as the hero, the lone wolf who battled his way to the end despite all the odds. That’s a cool story, in theory, but Ben made the whole ordeal feel slimy.
Putting aside, however, the fact that another artificial twist let Ben win (because I loathe the fact that one cannot simply be voted out at the final four, as it’s always been forever), what really makes me upset about Ben’s win is how he approached the Jury. Yes, contestants have been leveraging their family to win the game for years (most recently Jeremy and Adam), and while I don’t like this, I understand it and accept it as a part of the game. That being said, as the child of a combat vet, I’m really not comfortable with someone seemingly (because we can’t know anything beyond the edit) using PTSD to garner votes. That may not have been his unconscious intent, but it felt like that was the intended effect to me.
The Jury, in my opinion, didn’t vote on gameplay, but on who Ben was perceived as outside of the game. I don’t like that. Yes, three back-to-back-to-back idol plays are neat, but I really still don’t think finding idols should be one’s only strategy, no matter how flashy it may look. He was a better Joe from this same season and a much lesser Mike from the “Dirty Thirty.” He’s not a bad player by any means, but I think he was certainly worse than Devon and Chrissy. If he’d given a Ryan-passion-level speech about his gameplay, I’d be much more okay with this, but a lot of FTC address seemed to focus on how he did it all for his family. That’s important, but it’s not what I was looking for. Personal preference, I guess. Comment away and tell me I’m a bad person, but I don’t like Ben and I don’t like how he won.
I Guess This is a Better Name than This Season…?
Now, dearest readers, we turn our gaze toward the horizon and to another eh-named season. We didn’t get much in the preview (other than the assertion that Jay playing a well-made fake idol was as dumb as James holding on to two idols in China), so I’ll withhold a lot of my skepticism for now. I’ll just say, as much as returnee seasons seem to have been overdone the past few years, this twist seems much more equipped to handle veterans who could learn from past Survivor mythos rather than newbies who will still have to learn how to make a shelter and simply survive. I think a lot of this season will rely on how “Ghost Island” is utilized, but for now, seems like a lot of artificiality to me. As noted above, that ain’t my cup of tea.
Okay, folks. Thank you all so much for reading and your comments throughout the season! Also, sincerest thanks to TDT and Jeff Pitman for having me for another season. It’s been a blast, and I look forward to doing it again next season!
Finally, congrats to Jeff Pitman for winning TDT’s Fantasy Draft! Really stoked to do that again (assuming everyone else is down)!
Until next season, my friend, wish me luck on law apps.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki