With the last most obvious winner threat having now left the game, we're left with a somewhat fluid final six, which could end up breaking any number of ways.
Two of the final six (Nick and Mike) probably would have been their tribe's first boot if either had attended Tribal Council on Day 3. Between them, they've received zero votes the entire game, and are now probably the favorites to win. One of the final six (Kara) spent eight episodes worrying that Dan's alleged showmance was killing her game. She received zero votes against her before Dan left, and zero since.
Meanwhile, Angelina received votes at four straight Tribal Councils, but hasn't had a single one against her since way back before Dan stopped killing Kara's game. She's also been a new kind of quasi-villain for Survivor (more of a Michael Scott, really), always asking for the things and not getting them. (Except rice, she did get some rice. We didn't want to bring it up, but it sort of seems like it came up organically, so here we are.) The David-est of the Goliaths?
That leaves us with the two modest favorites in individual challenges, Alison (63% MPF, 1 IC win) and Davie (61% MPF, 1 RC and 1 IC win). The true Goliaths, if you will.
How do all these disparate parts fit together into a coherent endgame? Let's try to forecast that, from most likely to win, all the way down to least likely:
Nick: Your probable winner (but maybe not?)
The Nick and Mike (Rock Stars) plus Angelina alliance (the Jabeni Three?) has controlled the vote the last two times, and with two straggler Goliaths (Alison, Kara) eager to do whatever to eliminate a threat like Davie, there's no reason to think they'll be broken up at the Final 6 vote. Nobody would dream of voting against Angelina any more, and nobody has ever voted against Mike or Nick. Once they clear that hurdle, they'll have a clear path to the end, barring catastrophe at F4 firemaking. Or Angelina stunning us all with a Black Widow Brigade ending, picking off Mike and Nick at the very end. (We can dream.)
But realistically, staying Jabeni Strong is a crazy thing for Mike to attempt, because Nick is obviously winning, right?
Maybe. Perhaps Mike sees their games as similar, because they sort of are. Compared to Mike, Nick has taken the more advantage-strewn path, although like Mike, he's also forged some strong social relationships. His multiple named two-person alliances were an early feature of the season, although his one with Nick is the only one left standing (apart from "Team Dick" with Davie, which for some reason, did not make it on TV). Multiple people (not just Alec) tipped him off that Christian was a target prior to the Tribal where John was blindsided by Davie's idol.
Perhaps because he's been connected with everyone, Nick has coasted along in relative comfort for most of the game: He and Christian were the swing votes in the first David vote, and after the swap, Jabeni kind of had to keep him, since he was their only semi-decent challenge performer. After jettisoning Elizabeth at the merge, the Davids combined their advantages to retake the numbers lead, and Nick's only real trouble came when Gabby and Christian turned on the Davids to take out Carl. And even then, nobody voted against Nick. Furthermore, he had a Chekov's winner quote in the premiere: pointing out that, in the Bible, "David becomes a king."
Nick has had a lot of strategic success, although much of his work has been hidden, perhaps to maintain the episode-to-episode suspence. The Jessica boot was (belatedly) credited to him and Christian. His connections to the Goliaths were the information conduit that defused an Ep8 blindside of Christian. The vote steal/idol nullifier play that sent Dan to the jury combined his and Carl's advantages to perfection. The decision to split last episode's vote, and have two safety votes for Gabby? Also Nick. He even played an idol *and* a fake one, although they didn't do anything.
Nick's run has also had pockets of emotion: He eventually relented and talked about his mom during the Davids' Episode 1 late-night sad backstory sequence, and he's talked several times about his tribulations growing up poor. In the premiere, he was shown as like the other Davids, but also set apart from them narratively. That's the kind of complex character development you might expect for a Survivor winner. So with all this in-game success and additional editing depth, not to mention being one of just two original Davids left, Nick has to be the front-runner to win, right?
Maybe. Something stills seems off, though. Nick has also had some quasi-villain runs in the edit. In the first episode, he was shown in a poor light with his delight in shirking the manual labor around camp. He was convinced he was getting away with it, too, but the edit showed Carl and Pat were not the least bit fooled, and were in fact planning to take him out. After the Jessica blindside, Nick kicked into high gear, making the rounds of the tribe, pinning the blame for the boot on poor Gabby, who was at best the third-biggest driver of that vote.
There has also been a breadcrumb trail of hints over the past few episodes that maybe Nick isn't the slam-dunk winner the edit has spent most of the season building him up to be: When Christian apologized to Nick last episode, of all the responses the editors could have included, they went with "I didn't think I'd be such a sore loser." This episode, he briefly celebrated a victory in the reward challenge that fell just short, as his final block didn't quite leave the table (above). Then the editors made a big deal about his idol mis-read and mis-play at Tribal. ("I wasted it.")
Nick has clearly been a main character throughout the season, and the editors have taken pains to establish that, despite his being a lawyer today, he's a bona fide David. It's a bit odd that some of his moves have been played down in the edit, or have been shown going awry. But odds are, if he reaches the Final Three, he's going to win.
Alison: The Wonder Woman who could surprise us all?
The next best chance to win probably lies with Alison. She has a solid case to make to the jury: she's been a target for so many votes, that making it to the end would be an accomplishment in and of itself. She was identified as the most Goliath-y woman on Goliath in the opening minutes. She hasn't really pulled off any stunning moves, apart from her role in the Carl blindside (ding!). But there are still two votes left (and a decision if she wins F4 IC).
She has a fair number of good connections with people already on the jury. She helped Tiva avoid Tribal Council, alongside John, Dan, Gabby, and Christian. She and Alec were the two Strike Force members who got the merge vote flipped away from Christian and on to Elizabeth (and Alec flipped her a shaka sign as she left the last Tribal Council). And she was a key partner with Gabby in finally blurring tribal lines to take out Carl. That's five votes where she should have a solid shot.
Getting to the finals is still a long shot, though. She's been a target mostly because she's smart, she's a fan, and she's the leading performer in individual challenges, and has been since Alec left. None of that is likely to change soon, since the preview shows the F6 IC combines athleticism and puzzles, and shows her in a second challenge, last seen as the F4 IC from Cagayan. In both of those challenges, Alison should be the odds-on favorite. She might win once, maybe even twice, but can she win three straight? She'll probably have to if she wants a guaranteed spot in the finals, although unlike Davie (below), she has a little more wiggle room, as an original Goliath.
In all, Alison has a narrow path to the end, but if she can navigate that, she's well positioned, at least against fellow Goliaths. It's certainly not impossible, but it's also not very likely.
Davie: Probably not the last David standing
Davie's in the same boat as Alison, but with less room for error. He's a challenge threat (Alison's at 63% MPF, Davie's at 61%, both comfortably ahead of the field), he's made a huge impression on the jury via two successful idol plays, and he's neither part of the Jabeni Three, nor an original Goliath. As such, he's the most likely target at the very next Tribal Council. His only real options are another idol (which would tie the all-time record for a single season) or winning immunity.
That sort of fits with Davie's edit this season. While he's had his share of confessionals, they've mostly been idol-related or challenge-related, not game-related. Unlike Nick, he hasn't been shown building relationships with other people, he's mostly been off on his own. Say, on a rock, doing a cane-twirling routine. This episode was the first time he's had a one-on-one conversation with anyone who wasn't an original David (apart from the hammock scene where he convinced Alec to flip, back on Vuku). This under-editing seems like a huge tell that Davie is not the winner, even though on paper he should be the overwhelming favorite. He'd almost certainly be a lock for all four David votes already on the jury, and probably also for Nick's, if he ends up there. People like Alec, Dan and John would probably also respect his idol-wielding hustle, too.
Basically, Davie needs to run the idol/immunity tables to reach the finals. That's probably not going to happen.
Kara: Too little, too late, unless the Davids are wiped out
This episode, Kara gushed about how participating in a blindside would kick her game up to the next level. Not a blindside she organized, mind you, just participating. (Apparently she forgot about the Carl boot — ding!) She did end up participating, although that blindside ended up not being the one she was initially pushing for. So Kara's overall game is basically an inferior version of what Mike's was before this episode: She's well-liked, but she doesn't really have much of a story to tell the jury. Luckily, there are still two votes to go, and there's a chance the jury will reward late-game strategic heroics, as long as they are unable to reward past Big Movers instead.
There are still several scenarios in which Kara could end up winning, though: Winning at F4 firemaking will help her a lot, and she's well-positioned in an all-Goliath final three. There she looks like quite the David next to Mike's or Alison's outside-the-game successes, and she's far more beloved by the jurors than Angelina (even if that love is mostly from Dan). She'd probably also be competitive with Alison if someone could engineer an all-female final three. Get those Black Widow pots stirring!
So there are paths to victory for Kara. But they require some lucky breaks, or at least for enough people to be smart enough not to let Nick or Davie reach the end. Are they?
Mike: Too little (too much?), too late
Mike pulled off perhaps the biggest move of the season in blindsiding Christian. Certainly the most important for the victory chances of everyone left. The problem is (as we pointed out last week), it came on Day 35, when six people were already sitting on the jury. And even after being booted, Christian wasn't completely sure who turned on him. Before then, Mike was, as he told Josh, "playing the middle" the whole game. That's the problem. While he made an impact once he finally had the immunity necklace, what did he do that enraptured the jury in the previous 17 days?
On the plus side, everyone likes (85-year-old!) Mike. If the jury vote breaks down to a pure popularity contest, and ignores that Mike is already a wealthy, successful Hollywood actor/ writer/ director, who got to play in the first place (in part) because Jeff Probst considers him a friend, who has already twice played on CBS's own The Amazing Race, and ... well, you get the picture. There's well-liked, and there's "we'd rather give you a million dollars, because it will change your life"-liked. Is that fair? Not really. But given a choice between three people who played similar games (which would be all the Goliaths at this point), the jury will probably reward someone who doesn't already have a million dollars. Also, there's no way Mike (or any Goliath) can beat Davie or Nick.
Mike's played a solid strategic game, though. He's well-connected, and he's assembled a potentially winnable set of final three options. But he's also playing with fire. What if ... he makes the smart move of taking out Davie first (at F6), but then Nick wins F5 immunity? Then Nick wins at firemaking, guaranteeing himself a spot in the finals? Even with a jury that doesn't hold any of Mike's pre-game success against him, there are still a lot of ways this could all fall apart for Mike. He could win, but he probably won't.
Angelina: It's been fun, but...
Poor Angelina. She sacrificed so much to ensure the tribe would still have rice on Day 39. And the thanks she gets? Probably ensuring that she stays in the game until Day 39.
It's been clear since shortly after the Natalie boot that Angelina just hasn't clicked with her tribemates. While she's generally been a straight-up player and truthful, every tiny attempt at a move made out of self-interest has been immediately flagged by everyone around her, and she's been roundly criticized for even trying. It's a little bizarre that in a game that lionizes Big Moves, Angelina's been eaten alive for even attempting little moves (Jacket-gate, jury management with Elizabeth, the rice thing).
That said, we did see Angelina (and Nick) making fire at the very birth of Jabeni, back in Episode 4. Could that be a preview of ... Final 4 firemaking? (Sadly, with considerably less input from Natalie.) The past two firemaking champions have gone on to win the game. Could Angelina make that a three-peat? Let's hope we find out! That would give her the best chances of winning, and it's possible that things could fall just right vs. say, Mike and Kara?
(Still, Angelina would be a curious choice as someone to force into firemaking, though.)
Numbers note: Christian and 'enough' votes
Christian correctly identified the all-time most votes against for a single season during this week's episode (Laura Morett's 19 in Blood vs. Water), which was fun to see. But we have to quibble with his including votes against him that were voided by idols in his own totals (which gave him 15, as he stated, before he picked up three more with this episode's vote). If the seven votes he received at the Ep. 8 Tribal Council had counted, Christian would have been the second juror (and left the game with just seven votes against). Counting those seems a little bit like having your cake and eating it too. Isn't it more reasonable that being saved by an idol allows you to pick up votes again at the next Tribal Council, thereby padding your totals that way?
That said, it *is* impressive that a whopping 12 votes against Christian were erased by idols this season. That's the same number Kelley Wentworth wiped away in Cambodia, the most ever by an idol player in one season. Maybe a fun offseason project would be to re-calculate VAP as two stats: VAP (actual) and VAP (intended) to add back in the idol-voided votes.Who knows, maybe Christian will indeed come out on top for VAP (intended) while only being voted out once? (But Phillip Sheppard's 17 votes without being voted out in Redemption Island still seems like the total to beat.)
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes
Other David vs. Goliath Episode 13 recaps and analysis
Exit interviews - Christian Hubicki