Finales nowadays fly by with so much crammed in and sometimes the story suffers as a result, but despite an easily predicted ending, David vs. Goliath stayed strong and gave us plenty of moments to keep us entertained on the last Survivor Wednesday of the year. I’m really going to miss this season and don’t feel ready to say goodbye, but as they say, nothing gold can stay. It’s time for my final take on one freaking fantastic season of the show we know and love ....
THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS
David vs. Goliath certainly saved its best idol search for last and appropriately kicked off the finale with the “star of the show,” Angelina. Months ago, Angelina pointed out the statistics of women finding idols on Survivor, and all season long we’ve watched man after man find idols and advantages, but again speaking to the strength of this season, this story finally got its proper closure when Angelina found that clue in the tree.
Of course, though, it was a clue and not an actual idol with perhaps the most labor-intensive set of instructions we’ve ever seen. Remember last week when Davie was told to just walk a couple hundred feet down the beach? Yeah, Angelina didn’t have that same kind of journey ahead of her. These idol instructions instead made her dig up an 8-foot ladder buried in the sand, prop it up against a slippery, wet rock wall which she then had to climb up to finally find the idol, all the while avoid being seen. It’s like the Survivor gods said, “Fine, we’ll let a woman find a clue. But we’re going to almost kill her if she wants to find the idol.”
Angelina climbed, and she climbed, and she climbed some more, but to no avail. She ended up calling it quits (for the time being) and upon climbing back down, she ran into Davie and Nick, forcing her to quickly make up a story about what she was doing. Being the almost-Academy-Award-winning actress that she is, Angelina had no problem pulling out another perfect performance. Bursting into tears over a supposed busted up back (still “too soon” after what happened to Pat?) Angelina was consoled by Nick and Davie and later given a full medical examination by Alison to make sure the “injury” was nothing serious. This was just ... an iconic finale sequence. I will be forever grateful that Angelina was the one to find this final clue because it honestly was the driving story of this finale for me.
IMMUNITY – PIECE BY PIECE
Seeing that this challenge involved more climbing, I thought for sure this was Angelina’s to lose given what we just saw of her. However, there was just a little more girl power coming from Kara who once again showed what a challenge beast she is by leading most of this challenge. The 63-piece puzzle (what a random number) was Kara’s kryptonite though, and keeping with the theme of the season, Nick the David came from behind to claim his first individual immunity win as well as the season’s last reward.
“With greater power comes great responsibility” as Nick would later say, and he was given the choice to share his reward with two people. There were both meat and vegetarian options, and being the only vegetarian, Angelina was Nick’s first pick to which he added “I’ll take care of the meat.” The best part of all ... SHE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO ASK! First, she found an idol clue and then she was brought on a reward — this triumphant day was truly the turnaround for Angelina’s game.
Nick’s second pick was Mike, since he was the last member of the “Jabeni crew” which should have been a red flag for Alison, Kara, and Davie that those three were a solid threesome. One wonders how this final episode would have went had there been some serious discussion about that back at camp ... if they had tied it up and forced rocks, then this season would have really had everything.
CAN WE HAVE CAKE FIRST?
The next several minutes of the show were probably the best of the night. Angelina told her Jabeni boys that they were marching into war and Mike asked the important question all soldiers do before a big battle: “Can we have cake first?” No time could be wasted, however, and Angelina proceeded to tell Nick and Mike that she found a clue and almost died trying to find the idol earlier that day. ALMOST. DIED.
Rather than letting everyone finish their spaghetti and cake, Angelina dragged the guys to help her look the idol. Nick was a little more eager to join, or at least he was better at pretending to be, but Mike wasn’t just about to walk away from unfinished wine, so he decided it was necessary to bring a glass with him on the hunt, and in that moment, I felt more spiritually connected to Mike than I ever will.
Angelina recruited Nick to carry her ladder and sent Mike to try to find the clue she dropped, wine glass in hand. Poor Mike just wanted to enjoy this reward but Angelina would have none of it. Like her, Mike had his own near-death experience soon getting stabbed in the face by a branch, a story he will likely tell for many years to come.
Not making that up. Mike literally called a tree branch “Bitch.” How did he know it was a female tree?
Eyes still safely intact after that encounter, Mike found Angelina’s missing clue and returned to her near the infamous 100-foot rock wall as he instructed her and Nick where they’d need to climb. Nick propped the ladder in the right place and started to climb, but HELL NO was Nick about to steal Angelina’s thunder, so even though Nick and Mike did the most of the work here, Angelina asked Nick to step down so she could climb up and claim the idol.
With that, Angelina found what she’d been looking for since Day 1, and as our own Mr. Pitman pointed out, 25 of the last 26 idols found were found by men, so this was a major moment in Survivor history.
A little drunk with power now, Don Cardona-Keeley came back to camp calling for a hit on Alison, even being so bold as to tell Alison that was the likely outcome of the night. Mike and Kara, however, felt that Davie was the bigger overall threat. They knew they could get Alison to vote with them, but since Nick and Davie were sticking together, they’d need Angelina’s vote to avoid a tie.
A very astute statement, and referencing his precious cake once more, Mike said that this would not be a cakewalk. With Mike and Angelina sharing opposing views, this vote would ultimately come down to who was the better negotiator.
ME OR HER
It’s funny that a big topic of this tribal council was how much of a sting a blindside would be this late in the game, but Davie and Alison were both aware that it was one of the two of them leaving, so I’m not really sure if “blindside” was the right word for what was about to happen. The bigger blindside of the night was how Christian managed to not only shave his face but shave off about 30 years of his life in the process.
He looks like he’s 12! Do they have some kind of fountain of youth flowing at Ponderosa?
Mike won out in the vote over Angelina and the Goliaths ganged up to get out Davie. Upon leaving, he indicated his jury vote would go to the person who orchestrated this boot which would have eliminated Nick, but eh, did anyone seriously believe he’d vote against the last one standing from the David duo?
Davie brought a lot of fun to this season and was strategically savvy to boot. Some of the biggest blindsides were majorly influenced by Davie: swinging Alec to vote Natalia, playing his idol on Christian to take out John, and saving Christian again by tipping him off to play the idol, resulting in Gabby getting ousted. Davie’s a great example of someone who can be both a big player and a big character — often times we just get one or the other. Davie is popular with the fans so I could definitely see the “blerd” back one day. People will know to watch out for “Devilish Davie” in his second showing, though, likely keeping a much closer watch on him and avoiding the question, “Where’s Davie?”
Nick was not a happy camper after being lied to by Mike and Angelina and protested loudly in confessional that he was TICKED.
Not quite the same ring to it as “I’m pissed” but I know that Nick was trying to watch his language this season.
With Nick’s temper tantrum, Mike felt a little threatened and worried Nick would try to blow up his game, so while Mike and Angelina assured Nick that Alison and Kara were the next to go, the Jabenis weren’t exactly jiving anymore.
IMMUNITY – OH, CHUTE!
Despite a shaky start at this, Alison took an early lead in the challenge, being the first to fill up that chute of water so she could retrieve a key. As Kass proved in Cagayan, this challenge is all about comebacks, so good on Alison for staying steady.
That lead wouldn’t last, though, as Nick was soon on Alison’s tail and eventually surpassed her to win his second immunity, finally breaking the streak this season of a new immunity winner every challenge — 8’s going to be a hard record to set, so David vs. Goliath may hold this one until the end of time. If only Nick could’ve let Angelina win and let that lead extend to 9 ....
THE STAR OF THE SHOW
Angelina had a vision, a dream, to have her be the star of the show by making this tribal council the most epic one yet (an ambitious goal given so many greats this season). With this being the last round to play an idol, she not only wanted to play hers but to also create a fake for Alison to play, admitting that it was “catty” but that the reason was personal.
Angelina essentially asked Mike and Nick to help her pull of this big charade to showcase herself in front of the jury. She’s asked for a lot of crazy shit this season, but this may have been the most “cockamamie” of all as Mike aptly put it. “Sure, Angelina, we’ll help you build your Big Move™ résumé to help you beat us in the end” is I guess the answer she was hoping to hear?
My thoughts exactly.
Angelina planted the fake idol and all went according to plan with Alison soon finding it. Angelina and Mike were staged and set to see this all go down, so Angelina played her planned part of acting surprised while Mike ... did not.
Angelina was the definite star of this finale, but with the wine, general snarkiness, and that face, Mike gave her a good run for her money.
While Angelina was writing in her “Diary of a Mad Freaking Castaway,” Mike was trying to save a little face and separate himself from her madness by telling Kara what was afoot. Mike was with Angelina in voting out Alison, but he wanted to preserve his relationship with Kara by not blindsiding her. This was evidently a mistake because now knowing the vote was for Alison, Kara felt her best move was to tell Alison, try to swing Nick, and flip the vote against Mike. Nick was still a little hot from getting blindsided by Mike just the last night, so that scenario wasn’t actually that impossible to imagine. Maybe Mike would have been better off playing along with Angelina’s antics instead of basically doing this to himself hours before tribal council:
A SHRED OF DIGNITY
Mike continued making mistakes by fighting for his own spot in that “Villains vs. Villains” season he mentioned when he got unnecessarily nasty with Alison. Mike’s vote was going toward her, and she knew it thanks to his own loose lips, so she did what any Survivor would do and tried to rally the vote against him, pointing out that he was a definite threat in the game. Mike didn’t appreciate being called a threat and blatantly called the statement “incorrect,” further going on to say that Alison was leaving the game without dignity by coming after him like that.
I didn’t really understand where this attitude was coming from, and frankly it just made Mike look like an ass. Also, how rude of him to try and be the biggest villain of this tribal knowing what Angelina had up her sleeve, and what she placed up Alison’s.
Alison even admitted that she thought the idol was fake, but in the spirit of the wise words of Cirie, “If you got, play it.” Alison was kind of just like “here,” yet all the while Angelina thought she had just masterminded the most magnificent move at any tribal council ever, making sure to look over to the jury to let them know this moment was all hers.
Being sure to stay in the spotlight, Angelina then got up to play the real idol, negating any votes that were cast against her ... of which there were none. Still, she was proud to hand that baby over to Jeff after risking life and limb, literally, to find it.
All the votes went to Alison, including Kara’s, so with that the doctor was out, thanking the tribe for letting her be a part of their dysfunctional family for 37 days.
I guess Alison “wins” the title of most under-edited player of the season, but again speaking to how well the story has been told, she still had plenty of great content and came nowhere close to being “purple.” I found Alison to be charming and funny, and she was one of the first to suggest shaking up the game and mixing Goliaths with Davids, leading to a lot of wild action. She was endearing to watch and I think had she been just a little more committed to playing with the Davids as she seemed to be right at the onset of the merge, she could’ve been the one in Mike and Angelina’s shoes, dictating whether it would be a David or a Goliath going home each week. Odds of Alison returning are probably slim, but her showing here is nothing to be ashamed of — there was always plenty of pulse beating through her body.
IMMUNITY – THE BALLS ARE BACK IN TOWN
For the last time, immunity was back up for grabs. With that, it’s also time to reveal the winner of Kaiser Island’s biannual Debbie Donato Wanner Award for Best Performance on a Balance Beam. I was sad to see no last-minute contenders in this finale, but I’m not sure anyone could have topped the clear front-runner all the way back from Episode 6, and in a real GAME CHANGER of a decision, we have not one, but FOUR winners this season! Drumroll please…
Congratulations to the entire Jabeni tribe of Nick, Angelina, Mike, and Lyrsa for doing what no one else could do, or rather not doing what everyone else could do, and sucking so hard at this balance beam that they couldn’t even come close to finishing the challenge. After losing all the water they were trying to transport, these four balancing bozos just simply gave up and accepted their fate featuring a date with Jeff at tribal council. I know Debbie’s proud to see her torch passed on once again, but I’m sure no one was prouder with smug satisfaction than the person who Jabeni voted out just before this disaster of a showing — there’s no doubt that would Natalie have been able to carry the entire tribe across those beams and busted ass toward victory.
Woulda coulda shoulda.
In spite of all that, the surviving three Jabenis from that challenge made it all the way to the last one and while it may have looked like a case of a David vs. Goliaths, I think the real story here was Kara vs. Jabeni. Mike and Angelina’s balls dropped first, and while Kara had a strong showing as always (and if there was another award I named for the season’s best performer, she’d be in the running) it was Nick who won his third straight immunity win and everyone’s new favorite “advantage” of getting to pick one person to take to the final three with him.
I expected Nick to make the end regardless, so I suppose winning immunity feels better to me than losing and fighting his way there with fire, but meh. A streak of immunity wins in the finale to make it to Day 39 has never exactly been exciting. I’d have loved Kara winning here to, if only briefly, disrupt the inevitable, eventual outcome. But ... balls.
NEGOTIATING WITH NICK
Nick acknowledged Mike and Kara as bigger threats in the end, so the decision seemed already set that he’d be taking Angelina. However, he still gave everyone the opportunity to make their pitch, but after a round of that, his mind remained made up and he let the tribe know he’d be taking Angelina to Day 39.
This is the point where the finale was losing some steam, but Angelina kept the fire going by going on about she was proud of herself for being a “closer” and “persuading” Nick to take her to the end. She ... she actually thought ... she actually thought that this was 100% her doing ....
“Star of the show” — my god, yes.
Tina getting Colby to take her to the end was some master-class manipulating, but had he taken Keith instead, no one would be calling Keith a “closer.” They’d just be calling Colby “not a complete idiot.” That said, Nick’s not a complete idiot so no one should be surprised by his Day 38 decision, but bless Angelina’s heart for taking the credit on this.
Remember when there was so much tension in the air at the Day 38 tribal council, wondering what million-dollar decision someone was about to make? Yeah, me neither. It’s been too long.
This is another reason to hate the fire-making challenge. It’s just ... not all that exciting. In its three appearances, we’ve never seen anything close to a real fight. Ben’s was a blowout, Wendell wiped the floor with Angela, and even this Goliath vs. Goliath showdown wasn’t as well-matched as it sounds, so Mike did end up getting that “cakewalk” to the end. This was probably the biggest case of flaming out in the finale for me, just kind of a golf clap for Mike and being sad for Kara.
Kara officially becomes the first person to be eliminated from the game on Day 38 with 0 votes ever cast against her ....
WHAT THE FUCK. I don’t think she was a “shoo-in” to win and probably would have only picked up the same votes Mike did, plus Alec’s, but for lasting this long in the game, never being voted out, never getting a single vote, what a shitty sendoff. Kara was absolutely wonderful and a joy to watch, probably the most pure-hearted person of the season. She was always smiling, everyone loved her, and she was an unsung hero in every single challenge — just beautiful inside and out. On one hand its devastating that she went out with no votes to her name, but on the other, if she didn’t win the game, maybe it’s fitting that she “lost” this way — perfectly unscathed.
THE FINAL THREE
It’s wild that these three reached the end together. Seeing as how they all met at Jabeni, it makes sense, but for the longest time after the merge, these three weren’t exactly a united front, so maybe a little predictable near the end, this final three was far from a sure thing. Even though the fire-making still sucks, at least we’ve had some very strong final threes the last few seasons. Mike, Nick, and Angelina all played hard — that’s undeniable. Whether their hard work paid off, that was for the jury to decide, but as standalone players, I think any of the Jabenis would have made for a fine winner to represent this fantastic season.
FINAL TRIBAL COUNCIL
These final tribal conversations all just blend together for me now. Nick and Mike gave expectedly strong showings and Angelina brought up what the entire Survivor fanbase was hoping she’d bring up with the mention of her getting more rice for the tribe, going on to say she wouldn’t have known what horrible fate would have befallen the tribe had she not done that ... what was she implying? Death?
Angelina also pointed out that she scaled a 100-foot rock wall to find that idol which was obviously a mismeasurement, but in Angelina’s mind, it wasn’t, and that’s all the matters.
Way to burst her bubble, Christian.
But yeah, this jury back-and-forth was otherwise just “fine” for me. We didn’t see any hard feelings really which I guess is nice, but I also like some fireworks at the end as long as they don’t cross any lines. The final three clearly all played impressive games, and even Angelina didn’t take the beating we thought she had coming, so even if it meant a little less drama on Day 39, I’m content with a final three that seemed to all be respected by the jury.
For the briefest moment when Jeff read the votes and the tally was Nick-1, Mike-3, I thought Mike actually pulled off the upset on Nick, but the David was just too much for the Goliaths to overcome, and in a 7-3-0 final vote, the Kentucky public defender was crowned the new Sole Survivor. Mike finished in a respectable second place with Angelina getting no votes and being the robbed g.oddess of the season.
This episode solidified Angelina as a Survivor icon in case there was any prior doubt. These final results were very predictable, but Angelina (with some support from Mike) saved this finale from being a total snooze-fest. From scaling mountains to planting fake idols and masterfully manipulating her way to the final three, Angelina killed it in the season’s final hours. I sadly expected her not winning the million, but in so many other ways she’s a winner. She’s up there with other legendary players whom I could watch every season and never tire of, so I hope she accepts that guaranteed offer to come back. For once, someone will be asking her for something, and she better say “yes.”
Obviously, I’d have wanted Angelina to win in any final three that could have come out of this finale, but between Mike and Nick, after examining their games throughout their season and hearing what they had to say at Final Tribal Council ... I think I’d have cast my vote for Mike. Mike’s game was a little less flashy than Nick’s, but I felt like he had more control over what was happening, and he didn’t have any idols or advantages in his pocket to earn him that power. Mike faced an uphill battle going up against a David who was a charming, Southern gentleman with a compelling story both in and out of the game, but Mike gave a great performance and also hanging in there as the oldest member of the cast at a whopping age 85 is impressive as hell too. Mike really did all he could do to win this game — it just came down to sitting next to someone who had that pesky David slingshot in his pocket.
Nick’s a solid winner who after a horribly haphazard start quickly recovered and maintained major influence on the way the rest of the game played out. He dug himself out of the hole he made on the original Davids tribe, integrated himself with the Goliaths to survive Jabeni, and at the merge did a great job at winning favor from both sides, never becoming a target again. We may not be sure what Nick’s fate would have been without immunity those last three votes, but I think he was at least safe until four where it would have come down to Angelina and Mike staying Jabeni-strong or dumping the last David so that the jury would be forced to vote for a Goliath in the end. I think a lot of players would have made excellent winners this season, and Nick is one who represents this season well. As far as a “character” he was a little plainer compared to others, but that’s more speaking to how much of a knockout this cast was. Kudos to the redneck lawyer from Kentucky for ultimately knocking out them all!
HARD TO SAY GOODBYE
I don’t want David vs. Goliath to go away, especially knowing what’s following in its footsteps. I begged the show in my final words at the end of Ghost Island to “reverse the curse” of the abysmal editing of the season, and I can safely say the editors fixed all of their mistakes to not just make this season of Survivor better than the last but one of the best ever. The cast, the tribal councils, and most importantly the memes — they all delivered. Whatever the hell happened in casting to bring this season to life, they need to keep doing as to not avoid extinction.
I go down the list to see how many all-star contenders we could have, and save for a few, hell, I’d just bring back the same 20 and watch the Natalie napalms drop all over again. Even having played together once, I think this cast would find new ways to deliver another “best ever” contender season. I honestly have no overall complaints about the season — even someone like Dan had his charm for me (if only for mocking purposes, but still). Though I know we’ll be talking about it for years to come, its time to formally leave behind David vs. Goliath, and the only final words that come to mind are these:
WHAT!? IT’S NOT NATALIE??? WHO’S THE ROBBED G.ODDESS NOW???!!!
I know, as president of the Nat Stan Nation, this probably comes as a bit of a shock, but hear me out. David vs. Goliath for me can be summarized in two parts: the Natalie Napalm Era and the Angelina Asks Era. Natalie was the queen of Part I but then passed the crown to Angelina for Part II which was technically longer than the former’s reign (of terror). My heart will always lean a little more toward Natalie, but in terms of labeling someone “Player of the Season” I’ve got to go with my girl Angelina.
I knew Angelina would play with a fierce aggression, but I thought given her highly educated background that she may end up a little on the gamebotty side, but holy hell was that not the case. Not in the exact same way, but Angelina shot up in the ranks of Survivor “characters” with the likes of Coach and Debbie for giving us such high-quality TV gold literally every single week.
First, Angelina set up the “women finding idols” story which came full circle 13 episode later in the finale. Next, Angelina was the person most responsible for blessing us with 2 more weeks of Natalie by flipping *cough*strongarming*cough* that first Goliath vote to Jeremy. She broke my heart a little by siding with Mike to then dethrone my queen, but as if Natalie’s soul moved into Angelina in that very moment, we were gifted with #jacketgate to assure us that life was still worth living even with Natalie gone.
The merge is when Angelina transcended to new levels of goddessness, trying to force her Goliaths once again into a vote (for Christian) that no one wanted, claiming to be bullied when that didn’t pan out for her. She then flipped the script on them by telling Elizabeth what was going down and allowed for chaos to ensue, setting the stage for what the post-merge tribal councils were supposed to look like. She convinced, no, demanded that her arch-nemesis Dan play one of his idols on her, ultimately leaving him vulnerable to be taken out by Carl’s nullifier the very next round.
Jesus, then came the rice negotiation where she prevented her entire tribe from legitimately dying of starvation by “negotiating” her way out of a shot at immunity in exchange for more rations which she would go on to bring up countless times as reasons to be brought on various rewards and ultimately win the game, making sure this success was the first thing she shared upon seeing her mom during the loved ones visit. She later boiled that precious prize in a serving of “revenge rice” when her efforts went underappreciated by the tribe.
Never losing any steam, Angelina sped into the finale in full force, finally finding perhaps the most dangerously-placed hidden immunity idol ever, risking her life to climb a Mount Everest-esque rock wall so she could flawlessly play the idol at final five — another feat she’d use to argue for the million bucks on Day 39, a day she’d reach by again whipping out her Yale-influenced negotiation tactics to convince Nick to bring her to the final three where she’d be robbed and receive 0 votes from her jury of peers (/peasants).
Take out all of this, and we have far less of an entertaining season, folks. Sure, there was some other fun stuff happening, but holy fucking shit at everything Angel-ina blessed us with these last 13 weeks. Even Probst agrees, PROBST, that she would be his first pick to bring back over the likes of fan favorite Christian or his BFF Mike White. Normally when Probst is on board with something (such as the entire premise for next season) it’s bad, but this time in spite of his horrible opinions, this correct one he actually supports.
Angelina, thank you so much for being authentically you. You didn’t win the game, but you won in so many other ways and gave us fans a lot to rave about, firmly placing you in the history books with the game’s most iconic legends. I wish you all the best in life between now and the next time you play Survivor which won’t come soon enough for me and many others.
Jeff, is there any way we could have Angelina on the next season?
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
Ugh, do I really have to end on a such a sour note? Pre-emptive congrats to Joe for making it to the final four “against all odds.” What a fucking joke of a story that’ll be, him playing close to 37 or so days on a wasteland beach, not actually participating in the game of Survivor. You know they probably stacked the cast with a bunch of Joe stans too, so as to increase his chance of winning a jury vote despite never actually surviving a vote by his own merit. Just ... kill me now.
I’m happy to see Aubry, David, and Kelley again, but just not like this ... not like this. In contrast with this last season, I know I’m going to have a LOT of negative shit to say about Edge of Extinction, so I’m making sure to warn everyone now. It’s gonna be like, “Why does he even keep watching the show if all he does is complain about it?” I don’t know. Because I like bitching about things.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser