Spoiler alert: Mike wins.
Family Portrait: You can say what you like about Rodney, and he’s probably done quite a few things wrong over the course of this season, but dude knows how to build a resilient alliance: despite having received votes from literally everyone apart from Mike and herself at the previous tribal council, Carolyn decided that her needs would be better served by returning to the fold. It’s actually been really interesting this season to watch how a group of people can rabidly turn on each other at tribal council and then be all smiles the morning after; I’d say that this demonstrates a really healthy sense of perspective if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve seen everything else they’ve said and done over the course of this season. And of course, that meant that poor Mike was flying solo once again, though I imagine Mike was fully anticipating something like that happening, and ready to do another immunity sprint.
And from one dysfunctional family to a series of families whose functionality I won’t attempt to analyse because I haven’t seen enough of their dynamic (wow, what a segue!), the episode opened with the obligatory reward challenge involving everyone’s loved ones: Carolyn’s husband Joel, Mike’s mom Deborah, Rodney’s dad Rodney Sr (of course), Sierra’s dad Danny and Will’s wife Monifa. Pop psychologist Jeff Probst saw Mike’s reaction to being reunited with his mother, especially at a time when Mike has no one to confide in, and suggested that there is no love greater than that of a son and his mother, which suggests to me that Probst is going to have some very heated conversations with Terry Deitz next season. The challenge involved sliding a bunch of tiles down a makeshift shuffleboard, then balancing those tiles on a machete and carrying them on an obstacle course (a glorified egg-and-spoon race, basically) and then fitting them into a puzzle and using the ones that were left to generate numbers and solve a combination lock. Understandably, there was a very strong “stop Mike from winning” energy to this challenge, but nope, Mike scored yet another win, meaning that Deborah got to come back to camp and stay the night. There was no choose-who-else-gets-a-loved-one-visit twist here, because Mike’s got enough working against him without the possibility of getting Brendaed.
The Blind Leading The Blind: The additional bonus for Mike (beyond getting some quality mom-time, which I’m sure is a real tonic at this stage in the game) was getting a sneak preview of the immunity challenge. The challenge in question was one of those classic Survivor ‘make your way around a maze while blindfolded, getting medallions from four separate areas and then making your way to the immunity idol’ efforts, and Mike got to have some time with Deborah leading him around the maze, helping him to familiarise himself with the layout. It didn’t appear to go so well, with Mike getting lost a few times and Deborah fretting that she’d only made things worse. When they actually started on the challenge proper, however, it became clear that Mike’s advantage was serving him well, as he navigated the maze with ease and was generally around two medals ahead of anyone else at any given moment. Sierra, Carolyn, Rodney and Will ended up banding together, working together to point out where the medals were in the hope that a group effort might stop Mike from getting individual immunity. It was an interesting strategy, but I think this actually made them slower as they tried to co-ordinate each other, and it certainly did very little to inhibit Mike’s progress in any way. So Mike won individual immunity yet again, and the Rodney alliance was forced to cannibalise itself once more.
Threat Matrix: Theoretically Mike could’ve just sat back and chillaxed at this point, knowing that he only had to win one more immunity to basically have the whole season on a lock, but Mike’s never really been the laissez-faire type, so he decided to go around and do some deals. He negotiated a final three deal with Carolyn and Sierra, and then another with Rodney and Will. I’m not entirely sure how seriously anyone was taking any of these, but full marks to the guy for trying. It was around this point where Sierra’s dangerousness suddenly started becoming a point of contention: even though she’s been a bit of an afterthought in the edit, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Sierra’s not really pissed anyone off, and there are probably several people on the jury who at least regard her with moderate warmth, so if she ended up in the final three with the right people, she could probably walk her way to the $1m. (She’s not getting Dan’s vote, obviously, because the very idea that Dan could ever vote for a woman to win is fundamentally ludicrous.) So when they got to Tribal Council that evening, the target that previously sat on Carolyn’s back was moved over to Sierra’s as everyone decided that they didn’t really want to take the risk of sitting next to her at final tribal – she wasn’t a guaranteed threat for the popular vote, but she was enough of one for it to matter at this stage, and so everyone else voted for Sierra and sent her to the jury where she no longer posed a threat.
Slip Sliding Wahey: The final immunity challenge was much as we’ve come to expect at this point: a lot of running up a very tall thing and then sliding back down it again and doing that again and again until your legs can no longer support you. That’s never easy at the best of times, let alone after a month of malnutrition. It was actually quite painful to watch in places as the survivors really seemed quite pained in the later attempts (although watching Will fall down awkwardly will never not be funny, especially after he was so awful to Shirin). Mike took the lead early on and never really lost it, clinching his position at final tribal – and also his ultimate victory, let’s be real here. Knowing that Will and Rodney would stick together and vote out Carolyn, Mike went to her with a proposition: they should both vote for Rodney and force a firemaking tie, with Carolyn having the advantage of knowing it was coming and being able to prepare for it.
A great idea in theory, not so huge in practice: it ended up as arguably the most embarrassing fire-making challenge since Cook Islands as both Rodney and Carolyn failed to make much progress. Both of them shattered their flints repeatedly and had to get new ones from Jeff, and the jury’s initial excitement at this dramatic turn of events soon gave way to “good grief we’ve been here for over an hour and there’s barely even been smoke and my butt hurts and I really need to go to the bathroom and maybe have a little nap”. Interestingly, Rodney was the first one to get actual flame, and his fire reached all the way up to the string that he had to burn through – but just when it looked like Carolyn was toast, hers caught alight too, and her pile turned out to be much more soundly constructed, burning through quicker than Rodney’s and clinching immunity for her, sending Rodney to the jury.
Endgame: Final tribal was rather anticlimatic in the way that final tribals often are these days, especially when the edit has made it very clear which of these people is winning. We didn’t even get opening statements from the final three for some reason (I assume they did actually give them, but they weren’t broadcast) and went straight to the juror questions, which were typically either bland, self-serving or both. Jenn used hers to address the jury and tell them to take the sticks out of their butts and not be bitter about Mike putting them there, Shirin used hers to remind us that Will sucked and was useless at all times, Tyler used his to get Carolyn to tell him how awesome he is, Dan used his to force Mike to apologise for what he did at the auction, and when Mike did so, Dan claimed it was a real authentic moment, which just goes to show that it only requires the absolute bare minimum of flattery to hoodwink Dan into believing whatever you tell him, which puts everything in perspective.
In the end, Mike won 6-1-1, with Carolyn getting Sierra’s vote and Will getting Rodney’s. And really, there is no universe in this world where Will deserves anyone’s vote at all to win (and maybe Carolyn deserved a couple more votes considering how hard she played), but Mike winning in a blowout is at least the correct outcome for this season. As for the reunion, this year’s players were poorly served in terms of how much time was given over to announcing who’d won the viewer votes to play next season (SHANE POWERS WOZ ROBBED), but more time was spent running over what happened to Shirin and Will and it still ended kind of ugly in that way where someone tells someone else to forgive them, and also Will’s wife’s opinion was sought despite being utterly irrelevant to this particular incident.
Post-game: So: a decent season of Survivor overall, but one that suffered from a leaden mid-section where the worst people always had the upper hand, and also arguably from being completely oversold before it aired. I get that they wanted to do some damage control after the lukewarm-to-hostile reception that San Juan Del Sur got, but this still wasn’t really a top-tier season, just a middling one with a decent winner. Much like San Juan Del Sur, in fact. It’ll be interesting to see who gets invited back (beyond the ones that have already been recruited for Cambodia), if anyone. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hali or Carolyn play again (or Jenn, but I get the feeling she’s kind of done with this show).
So that’s it for Survivor: Worlds Apart. Join me in October when I’ll more than likely be back to run through Survivor: Cambodia and scream incoherently at bloody Spencer some more. #teamkass