Week 14 - Finale
After Joe's medevac, the tribe dynamic shifts again. With his immunity idol expired, Tai is vulnerable for the first time. Michele has been the bottom of the four for ages. Cydney is feeling her spot for final three is looking good since she's tight with the girls. Aubry is feeling refreshed from her first solo Reward Challenge victory, a mix of balancing and mental cognition, that refuels her and all Cydney with a delicious meal of steak, veggies, drinks, chocolate cake, and a protein bar. But truly a hug from Jeff Probst is the re-energizing anyone needs. As Aubry and Cydney talk strategy over cake and Luna bars, Michele and Tai have time to bond more and talk about backup plans to save themselves. But in true Survivor fashion, the target wins immunity when Michele kills the three-layered puzzle after a grueling physical obstacle portion. Suddenly the game is afoot again. Aubry and Tai don't want to break up, so they have to turn on Cydney and likely end up in a fire-making tie. Michele tells Cydney they'll have the numbers to vote out Aubry, the bigger jury threat, so don't worry about fire. The big question is, does Tai want a tie that betrays his #1 ally?
Tribal Council time! With limited voting options, Tai says it's all individual and alliances are out the door now - cue Aubry's "oh crap" face. Cydney says "It's a me game, not a we game" which is oh so true at this moment. Aubry thinks the person heading to the jury in this last vote could change the course of the game. The question of the night is not only who do you eliminate, but which person are you agreeing to bring to the end? The answer to that question results in a tie between Cydney and Aubry which means we're going to fire! Whoever builds the fire that burns a rope first wins, and it's terrifying to watch. Cydney struggles to get a flame, while Aubry gets a fire growing but it's reaaaaly tilting left from the wind... then it all crashes down. Aubry restarts her disappearing fire and it's stronger, faster, and furiouser than ever. The rope burns and Aubry saves herself in the game, an emotional send-off to Cydney in this game who came to the game to make her mom's life better. But in the reunion audience, her mom is so proud of her strong daughter.
Hope you like twists, because there's still one more. The final challenge isn't to narrow it to a final two, but instead to win a massive reward: the ability to vote our a jury member. Yup, someone will be booted from the jury and won't get to vote at the final Tribal Council. One last knife in the gut and a decent twist to make the final three a little more exciting than it usually is. The challenge is to balance on a wobbly beam to stack balls on stands with a big ol' fork thing. It's oh-so-close but right at the end Aubry's fork wobbles and knocks down her stack. Michele wins the advantage and the choice of who to vote off the jury. Michele's initial reaction is to vote for Aubry's island BFF Joe, but Tai recommends Neal, a persuasive speaker who was ride-or-die Aubs until that hole in his knee took him out. Aubry urges Michele to vote off Scot, as he is likely to make a scene at the final Tribal and is a possible vote for Tai. Michele listens to both sides, but she is threatened by Aubry sitting beside her at the end since she played one of the strongest games and built relationships. The jury is shocked by the twist and a couple a little nervous that they've been sitting on the sidelines for nothing. While for a second it seems like she might vote out Scot, Michele chooses to eliminate Neal from the jury. Neal walks out but makes a stop for one last burn: "You came to this game thinking you're a badass bitch, but you're more like a cute little puppy still suckling at the teet and I don't think you stand a chance." Oof, I might've just soiled my ice cream pants.
On day 39, Aubry, Michele, and Tai receive their final celebration brunch and get to look at their emaciated selves in a dirty mirror. But the fun is quick before heading into one last Tribal Council. Aubry, Michele, Tai, and Mark the Chicken (yup that happened) take a seat on their stumps and get ready for the interrogation. Tai has to defend his flip-flopping, which he explains was largely because Jason and Scot were so close and he wanted to break that up. While he flipped on them once, from then on he was true to his ally. Debbie calls Aubry a "geek warrior" and Aubry uses her responses to defend her big moves, but credit those she considered threats (Debbie and Cydney). Aubry reminds the jury she was on the right side of every single vote, and Michele didn't know final four would end up in a tie. Basically, Aubry ran the show with the help of Tai delivering information. Michele defends her underdog status that no one had faith in. She was viewed as the weakest link and just a number for a long time, but won challenges and saved herself when it was necessary. She defends voting out Julia as a way to gain trust and stay in the game. Tribal Council comes to an emotional end with Mark the Chicken being set free, a moment that made even the bird hater in me verklempt (let's be honest, I cried a lot during this finale). With the votes tallied, it's time to jump back to real-time for the results at the live reunion show.
The urn of votes is opened and Jeff Probst reads off the votes which reveal that Michele is the winner of Survivor Kaoh Rong. The reunion is a great time to hear people awkwardly ramble about their game and big moments, but the thunder is stolen when elusive pop star Sia pops out of the audience to give Tai $50k for himself and $50k for a charity of his choice. Then Drew Carey hypes a Survivor-edition of The Price is Right (I'll DVR it because duh, Bachelorette premiere). All these interruptions leave the show with little time to address a fire-scorned Cydney, Neal's gaping leg wound, or the Brawn tribe battles.We did get to see Aubry's tweet where she dresses like Cochran, Caleb is alive and well, Dr. Joe gets a feature since the cast all kept passing out, Jason/Scot felt left out to dry with the Super Idol, Jason wears an amazing floral blazer, Debbie has had a lot of jobs, Julia is wise beyond her years, and Joe got it done at 71. The night ends with a revealing preview of Survivor 33: Gen X vs Millennials, so get ready to hear about how old people are the worst or youths these days have it easy. Easy reunion to recap - I like it!
Before I get to the pre-show winner prediction trophies, I wanted to share a little more about this season of Survivor from a personal perspective. As a longtime blogger of this show, I spent all season writing as objectively as I could and I hope I succeeded, as this season one of my very best friends competed for the title of Sole Survivor. I knew Aubry before she went on the show, and our friendship has only gotten stronger as I have seen Aubry evolve into such an amazing person. Seeing her play this game with so much heart, strategy, and strength has been an honor and inspiration. I was part of Aubry's entourage at the Survivor finale and being able to sit in the second row and see my best friend celebrate the journey she went on is a memory I'll cherish forever.
Ok, onto the winner prediction results. Another loss for me, but I don't care because I backed my BFF with my heart and soul. But others of you nailed it and for that great work, you've all earned your [picture of a] trophy. Congratulations to all who selected Michele as their pre-show winner prediction.
[All images credited to CBS]