For how slow this season seemed by the end, you can’t deny the Final Tribal Council was a sight to behold, on all accounts. Truly, I cannot remember being that interested in a FTC since Yul vs Ozzy (vs Becky). Anyway, while this post will be on the shorter side, let’s get to it, and by it, I don’t mean wasting words on Sea Bass, Angela, or even sweet, sweet Don Don. No, let’s look at the final 3 that made this season end on the highest of notes.
All Right, I Understand You
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention something almost as incredible to me as finally seeing a FTC tie: I understood why Laurel did what she did—or why she didn’t do what she could’ve. Her plea at the FTC, while I don’t believe it was ever going to work, shed light on how difficult a position she was in the whole game. Taking out Wendell and Dom would’ve helped virtually everyone else more than her in many situations. While I still disagree with how she played, and while I still think there were some opportunities which would have been perfect for her (like taking out Dom at 7), I get Laurel’s position a lot more than I had. She’s not a bad player, but she’s just a safe one. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that in literal practice, but it did make Dom and Wendell’s jobs so much easier.
So, bravo, Laurel, for making it to the end and for pleading the best case you could’ve. You didn’t deserve to win, but it seems poetic you got to cast the deciding vote. Maybe you’ll get it right the next time you play—and like Michael, Dom, and probably Kellyn, I’m confident you’ll get another shot.
I Still Would’ve Voted for You
Okay. While I’m not upset that Wendell won—because he is a wonderful champion—I personally would’ve voted for Dom. Yes, he’s not someone I think I’d ever be friends with (certainly when compared to Wendell), but he played his ass off. The ploy at the Sebastian vote was masterful, and I hate that it potentially cost him votes. He was the proper amount of paranoid, and made up for his mistakes by zeroing in on targets and making the plan happen. I don’t think he was the sole mastermind (I think Wendell and he were pretty 50/50 with things), but I do think he was the one who often started the collective fires under their asses to make things happen. After all complacency never bodes well in this wonderful game. So, Dom, while I wish you would’ve won, no one will look at you and say you didn’t play your heart out. I might’ve disliked you at the beginning, but by the end, much respect, homie.
Also: Interestingly, the first five Jurors all voted for Dom, while the final five, plus Laurel, gave their votes to Wendell. I wonder if time removed from the game, time to process what happened and to take things less personally, allowed for them to not be offended or hurt by Dom’s abrasiveness? No way to know this for sure, but something to think about.
First: Congrats, Pitman. Undefeated in the draft. Whatever. I’m not bitter. Whatever.
Seriously, though, largest of props to Wendell. His social game was consistently superb, and he came through in the finale with the challenge wins. Additionally, I agree with his assessment that, while Dom might’ve been more outward about things, he was just as capable of a strategist. Again, much like Dom, I don’t think he was a sole mastermind by any means, but going up in front of a Jury and claiming an equal partnership is difficult to do if one wants to win. Wendell capitalized on the flaws in Dom’s social game just enough to force a tie, and once that happened, his close bond with Laurel was more than enough to secure him the win. He earned this, marking off a satisfying end to a season that was so great at the beginning, only to crawl at the Merge.
To summarize on our final 3, none of them played flawless, elite games, but especially given who was still around in the finale, the three most worthy players got to the end. How often can we say that happens? Maybe HvV? Regardless, we have a solid winner and met some fun characters along the way. At the end of the day, what more can you really ask for?
Okay, I know I’m not alone in saying taking away voting at the Final 4 is a fundamental shift in Survivor’s meta-game—a shift I strongly dislike. Yes, because of this twist, we were given that fantastic FTC. This is definitely the biggest plus to this change, but for the second season in a row, it dramatically changed the outcome of the winner. Both Ben and Wendell almost certainly would’ve been booted at four, but due to this twist, people like Devon, Chrissy, and Dom, people who really did everything correctly they could do for the game’s duration, suffered. The argument could be made that people just haven’t had enough time to properly adapt to this drastic change in the game, and in part, I think that’s true. That being said, taking away victories from others with this twist seems... cheap to me. While Wendell did deserve to win, I still purport Ben did not (relative to Chrissy or Devon, at least).
Besides, think about how many people would’ve won had they succeeded in fire making? Going back from just SJdS on... Keith, Kelley, and David would’ve all had great shots at the title had they played in this era of non-voting-Final-Fours. This isn’t a knock against Natalie, Jeremy, or Adam. Each of them positioned themselves quite well to force their biggest competition out at the Final Four, and that’s sort of the point. It’s not that Dom made a mistake at the Final Four that cost him, it’s that the game artificially took away his opportunity to win the way so many other great players have. Had Wendell won the last immunity and Dom had won fire and subsequently the game, I’d be saying the same thing. No, while extra votes really have never mattered since they were first conceptualized almost 5 years ago in Worlds Apart, this twist has had an immediate effect. Some of it is good, but largely, I want Survivor to do away with this twist like they did with Redemption Island. #VoteatF4 Get that shit trending, my friends.
The Place, the Myth, the Legend (?)
Wow, what a twist this season. Truly remarkable how all of these advantages utterly shifted the outcome of votes! There was Libby going home instead of Michael and... and... and... oh wait...
To be fair, the fact that Dom and Wendell were swimming in idols/advantages definitely changed how people played the game around them, but three of their five idols/advantages weren’t found on Ghost, the fourth was a present given to Dom, and Wendell Malcolm’d the one he got on Ghost. In short, while I guess I like the idea of Ghost Island as an homage to fans of the show... what was the point? Truly, Dom’s last trip to pick a voting urn encapsulated Ghost Island’s spirit at its core: a lot of flashbacks, a lot of fuss, but in the end, it was little more than smoke and mirrors. I think production’s idea here was well-intentioned, but just bring back Exile and only hide an idol or two on that instead of at camps. We don’t need more Ghost Island anytime soon—let the curses stay unreversed.
David v Goliath
I’m going to stop saying I hate the names of seasons because I just don’t think they’re going to get any better. I suppose that’s a function of not moving locations anymore (booooooo), but come on. Given the current political climate, this is an interesting choice for a theme. Basically “Adversity v. Privilege.” *sigh* Whatever. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the name of a season is not indicative of how it will be, but these themes are really wearing thin. Besides, this just sounds like another excuse for people to show their unflinching patriotism to proving they’re the David-est David or the Goliath-est Goliath. Maybe that won’t be the case, however, and all the contestants will view this division as arbitrary as any classic season, say the hell with OG tribal lines, and break away from being “David/Goliath-strong” at the first swap. I can dream, right?
Welp. That’ll do it for this season from me, friends. While I may not have won our Fantasy Draft, please remember I managed to get 2/3 of my team to the finale after my first draft choice became the first person ousted, so that’s neat (putting aside that Team Ghost managed to beat many of us outright—damn it, Angela). Anyway, I hope to be back here in some capacity next season—and future ones in general—but who knows how law school will be going by then? If nothing else, thank you again to Jeff Pitman, and thank you to all who took time out of their days to read my thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
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