And the season 32 winner is...

By Dalton Ross
May 19, 2016 at 02:31 PM EDT
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CBS
S32 E14
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This is an act of war, plain and simple. Only the naïve among us could not see it that way. Shots have been fired, ladies and gentlemen! Jeff Probst has officially declared war on all final two lovers, attempting to drive a stake through the heart of its fearless leader, yours truly.

How did we get to this place where the Hostmaster General would have no qualms with raising the hopes of all true believers by going to the finale with only four players — obviously setting up a final two situation — only to cruelly and callously dash those hopes and dreams with a wacky new twist instead? How long has he been plotting this nefarious maneuver clearly geared to publicly humiliate me? Did the idea first strike him after I made fun of the time he wore sunglasses during a challenge…in the rain?! Was it after the Survivor: Palau red carpet in which I asked him if he was going to convince Janu to quit the finale, as well? Or was it after one of my admittedly rambling and only mildly coherent diatribes against the Redemption Island twist? NO MATTER! THE GAUNTLET HAS BEEN THROWN DOWN!

#FINAL24EVA!!!! Wait, that doesn’t look right. That makes it appear as if I am lobbying for a final 24, which I think all parties can agree is plainly absurd. But I will never stop carrying the final two flag, Probst! It may not be as colorful nor as large as Debbie’s geek flag, but it suits me just fine, thank you very much. And neither you nor your highly publicized stunt can stop me!

But before we can get to Michele’s controversial million-dollar victory — and yes, we will get to it — we need to digest this new stunt of which I speak. Realizing that they would rather hand the title of Sole Survivor over to Mark the Chicken than stage the best way to end a Survivor season with only two players, producers needed something to help fill out the two-hour finale. Oh, I know! Thirty-minute Rites of Passage! Let’s do this! C’mon who doesn’t want to hear Aubry, Tai, and Michele wax nostalgic about people they never met before they were voted off? “Uh…yeah, Darnell. Ummmm…gonna miss ya, buddy. Hope you enjoyed the footage of you pooping on national television.”

Nope, that was out. Instead, producers momentarily confused everyone by offering up a reward challenge after the final three had already been set. What the what?!? And then Probst announced the reward: the ability to kick someone (and his or her vote) off the jury. In certain seasons, this could prove to be a million-dollar challenge with one vote changing the entire outcome. I suspected that would not be the case here and that we were getting ready for a blowout, but here’s how dumb I am: I was convinced that the entire exercise was somewhat inconsequential because Aubry was going to run away with the jury vote. Yes, Aubry. Even through the final Tribal Council and even through the voting I thought it was going to be Aubry in a blowout. That’s how far off I was.

Turns out it was Michele that would dominate the final vote, but let’s pretend for a moment that we were in store for a close vote. Let’s pretend that the juror eviction actually had the potential to tip the scales and change the outcome. How do we feel about it then?

I am going to set aside my ample anger over this replacing my beloved final two for a minute and attempt to judge this twist in a vacuum, independent of the thing it essentially replaced. And in doing so, I think I may surprise you by saying I actually kinda like it. I don’t know if that exactly qualifies as a ringing endorsement, but I can’t think of one good reason to object to its existence.

It is not inherently unfair in any way. It creates another level of strategy and guesswork, which is always a good thing. And there’s no need to cry for the juror who just had his or her power stripped because that person was out of the game and was not allowed to return to the United States until the season was wrapped anyway. While you may feel sorry for eventual evicted juror Neal, who ended up having to sit around all that time for absolutely nothing, he would have had to do that anyway, as all the pre-merge boots did. Dude got himself a nice paid oceanfront vacation after he left the game. Cry me a river.

And it’s not exactly like Aubry — who had a sure vote taken away from her — was wronged. If that had instead been an immunity challenge instead leading into a final two, then guess what? Aubry would have been voted out. No question. Therefore, when given the choice to have a vote taken away from the jury or to become a member of the jury, I am fairly confident that Aubry would have picked option No. 1. So I’m actually perfectly fine with the juror-removal twist. I just wish it hadn’t been used in lieu of going to a final two — even if going to that final two would have cut the most deserving player, Aubry, out of the mix in the process.

NEXT: Why the wrong person won

And Aubry was the most deserving player. Granted, she was saved by it being a final three and was even saved just getting to the final three thanks to a questionable decision by Tai to force a fire-making tiebreaker challenge (we’ll get into the pros and cons of that controversial decision later), but she was still the clear choice to win. She was solid in challenges, where I was especially impressed with her performance in water-based contests. She had a very strong feel for the game, knowing that Julia was double-dealing and cozying up to the men and having the social skills to pull Tai back over to her side not once, but twice. Like I said, the clear choice.

But not to the jury. They saw something in Michele. Maybe it was the fact that she won the final two challenges. That’s legitimate. When you step up and finish strong like that, it can go a long way. And it absolutely should be part of the formula toward determining a winner. Michele also seems like a lovely lady. Perfectly pleasant and nice. But I still can’t for the life of me think of one single move she made or even influenced in any way. I have been trying, and I just can’t. I’m not going to sit her and bash the woman, but I do think the jury totally missed on this one. I’m not saying Aubry was Kim Spradlin out there, but she did control the votes on most of the eliminations and did flip Tai. I thought it was clear, but I thought wrong.

Okay, so to recap the recap so far:

Final two > Final three

Evicted juror twist = Interesting new wrinkle not worth getting upset about

Aubry = Robbed

If you’re wondering whether the finale changed my Survivor season rankings at all (where I had Kaoh Rong ranked 16 out of 32 seasons), the answer is…yeah, probably. Again, I like Michele as a person, but as a winner, she leaves me pretty cold, and that could drop the ranking down a peg or two. Other than the outcome, my feelings on the finale fell pretty much in line with my feelings on the season as a whole — enjoyable but not quite spectacular. That’s not a diss. I liked this season plenty. There were just others I liked more. And winners I liked more, as well.

Okay, there are the big picture headlines. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty with our final Kaoh Rong recap of the season. The finale begins as all the finales begin, with a recap of what has played out this season, followed by the finalists each telling us how they are going to make a big push at the end for the million dollars. With just a few days left, the final four must put their respective game faces on because just one slip-up could mean… FOR CRYING OUT LOUD WILL SOMEONE PLEASE SHUT THAT CHICKEN UP?!?!

Mark the Chicken has won over the hearts of viewers with his can-do spirit and impressive survival skills. But while fans may love the pluck, the contestants could do without the cluck — especially at ungodly hours. Tai doesn’t want tribe anger at their pesky alarm clock to also fall on him, so he brings Mark down to the beach and talks to the camera while the chicken stands on his shoulder — making Tai look like some sort of demented pirate that could not afford a parrot. Don’t believe me? Check it out.

Tai and Aubry discuss the need to go to the final three with Cydney over Michele because “Michele is the only person that has not pissed off anyone on the jury.” She’s also the only person that has yet to make a single move in the game, but maybe they are anticipating an outbreak of BJS (Bitter Jury Syndrome). Their fear is not unwarranted, as the results will prove later. BJS has been known to strike down seemingly rational-thinking individuals at the most inopportune times. It is especially deadly during peak BJS season, which happens to occur during final Tribal Council voting.

But before we can get to a final three, we have a reward challenge that combines a bunch of familiar elements into a frantic physical and mental test. The players have to race under a net crawl to a table, where they must slide tiles to hit a target. Once they get them all through, they must use a machete to transport the tiles through a series of obstacles to another table where they have to sort the tiles into pairs. Three of the tiles will not match up, and those three tiles will provide a combination to unlock a box. First to unlock box and raise their flag wins, but that’s kinda stating the obvious, isn’t it? And what they win is fuel, in the form of steak, veggies, drinks, and a protein bar.

NEXT: Michele gets her kicks in

Tai is the first one through the net and to the slide table. “Everytime you hear a gong, that’s good news!” bellows the host, acting some like some sort of reverse-engineered Chuck Barris scarred by too many encounters with the Unknown Comic. Cydney gets through the slide table first but then proves to be about as proficient on the obstacles as my 145-pound weakling body would be at lifting weights, which is to say, not very.

Aubry eventually builds a lead, and even though she messes up one of the matching pairs of tiles, she eventually corrects herself and then is so excited about winning the least important challenge of the evening that she sprints across the field to envelope Jeff Probst in a tender embrace. Who does this woman think she is, Dawson? And if she does think she is Dawson, why is she not also shoving her tongue down the host’s throat?

Probst is so won over by the sudden outburst of passion that he tells Aubry she may bring someone with her to the feast. But should she? If she does, then it could leave bruised feelings among those she does not pick. Plus, the person she brings then also gets fueled up for the next challenge. However, Aubry wants to strengthen her bond with Cydney, and since they all want Michele out next, strengthening another player to help take her out is not necessarily a bad thing. Which is why Aubry makes the smart move and brings Cydney.

While Aubry and Cydney enjoy their feast — in moderation, we must assume, after what happened with Joe — Michele attempts to work Tai into betraying Aubry. In what has to be the least convincing alliance deal of all time, Tai shakes Michele’s hand and grunts a barely audible agreement. Newsflash for all future Survivor players: If someone cannot make eye contact with you while forging an alliance, then there is no alliance. Tai just may be the worst fake alliance salesman of all time. We saw it earlier this season with Debbie and now again with Michele.

So we head to the final immunity challenge — a challenge so important that Probst has deemed the occasion mighty enough to bust out the celebrated orange hat. In this one, the players must race back and forth between the water and a multi-level platform, retrieving keys and objects that allow them to climb the platform where they must solve a three-level puzzle.

Once again flaunting her superior physical skills, Aubry jumps into a big early lead. At least, that’s how I would describe it. Jeff Probst would say that Aubry is “full-tilt boogie on this!” And there in a nutshell is why he gets paid millions of dollars and I do not. Well, that and the dimples. Ladies love the dimples. I can’t compete with those. Or with anything, really.

So once Aubry from the Brains tribe gets to the puzzle first, this sucker must be over, right? Au contraire, mon frère, because Tai and Michele both complete the lower level of their puzzles first. And then their second levels! Even though you plainly see Aubry looking over at how they did it to copy their success — and why shouldn’t she since cheating on puzzle challenges is clearly encouraged on Survivor? — she can’t get it. Instead, it is Michele who wins, and then — in a fit of awesomeness that calls to mind Kurt Thomas’ decimation of the “Village of the Crazies” in Gymkata — kicks down her puzzle with the nastiest kung-fu strike imaginable.

So the plan to oust Michele is now kaput. Back at camp, Aubry and Tai hold hands and talk about how “we can save each other right now,” as Michele and Cydney discuss the need to get rid of Aubry because she will work the jury at the end while Tai “can’t talk.” (Cydney also says she and Aubry “have been ride-or-die homies,” which I can only assume is the first and last time Aubry will be described as that.)

But what if Tai does not go along with their plan to oust Aubry as Michele claims he will? “Should I start working on my fire-making skills just in case?” asks Cydney, anticipating a possible tie vote. “No,” responds Michele. “You can, but I’m telling you we’ll be here tomorrow.” Why anyone would go on Survivor without practicing fire-making with flint endlessly at home is beyond me. And why you would not make sure to practice while out there on the island is equally baffling. Yet people do it all the time. People like Cydney, it seems.

NEXT: Aubry lights a fire under herself

That’s because the vote at the night’s first Tribal Council does indeed end up being a tie as Tai joins Aubry in voting for Cydney. Let’s pause for the cause to break down Tai’s decision here. Is it a smart play, or did he — as Michele will state later — “literally just hand Aubry a million dollars” by keeping her alive in the game.

On the surface, it seems like a terrible move. Why in the name of Woo Hwang would you bring Aubry to the end with you instead of Cydney? It just makes no sense whatsoever. UNLESS… Unless Tai is betting on it being a final two. We saw Tai later guessing that it was a final two. He based this on Probst’s final words at Tribal Council, where he did not congratulate them on being the final three and make a whole speech about how to go get ready to face the jury. That was all very perceptive of him.

But what if Probst’s lack of a dramatic speech only reinforced what Tai already believed? What if Tai had already been doing the Survivor math and realized that it was only day 37 and they had a whole other day before final Tribal time, which means there was most likely one more vote-out to come (which usually happens on day 38)? What if he figured that out and considered the record three medical evacuations and all that information led him to guess that a final two was more likely?

In that case, the decision to bring Aubry along is a lot more defensible because then he has another ticket to the possible final two. That’s because Aubry would rather sit next to Tai than Michele or Cydney at the end. So if Aubry gets through this vote, then Tai has a guaranteed spot in the final two, with everyone bringing him (because Michele would not bring Aubry). However, if Cydney makes it through and Cydney and Michele want to bring each other, now Tai is down to only a 33 percent chance of reaching the end in that scenario. That’s the case for Tai to side with Aubry, and it is a strong case. But again, that is all assuming that Tai is already guessing on a final two. If at this point he thinks it is a final three, then, yeah, it’s a terrible move.

So Cydney and Aubry must partake in a fire-making tiebreaker challenge. While Cydney opts to do her best impersonation of both Becky and Sundra from Cook Islands, Aubry gets a fire that keeps growing and finally catches the corner of the rope. “Goodbye, Cydney,” say Jason and Julia from the very animated jury box. But then, Aubry’s entire structure collapses “within seconds of burning through the rope,” according to Probst. Normally, this would spell disaster. (By the way, someone check with Joe to see if he can spell disaster. Right after he figures out immunity.) But Cydney is hopelessly lost, giving Aubry time to start over and win anyway. I also thought watching everyone on the jury clearly rooting for Aubry that it was a petty good indication as to how she would fare at the final Tribal Council vote. Again, I thought wrong.

Cydney tears up, telling Jeff how she wanted to win the money to help her mom pay off her mortgage and afford “just basic human necessities.” She’s bummed, but Cydney should hold her head high. She outlasted all other Brawn tribe members and played a solid all-around game. Her inability to learn how to make fire with flint after 37 days, however, could be the very thing that kept her from winning a million dollars. Or, more likely, losing to Michele in the finals.

Back at camp, Michele talks about how excited she is for their final three breakfast together. But Tai is seemingly the only one to pick up on the fact that Probst did not congratulate them for making it as the final three. Plus, and I hate to keep pointing this out but, it’s only day 37!!! “Are you sure there’s no challenge?” asks Tai. “There’s not another challenge,” replies Aubry before kissing the Vietnamese gardener, because apparently this is the season where everybody kisses everybody. “There’s not another challenge.”

Cut immediately to…another challenge! Which brings us to perhaps the second most confusing moment in Survivor history (the first being Phillip Sheppard’s pink undies). “Today, immunity is not up for grabs,” announces Probst to the contestants, who when they arrived must have assumed it is a final two. “You are not playing for immunity. You are the final three.”

And then it gets even more confusing. “You all will be voting someone out of this game tonight,” says Probst. What?!? You literally just said they are the final three. How can you have a final three and still vote someone out, especially without an immunity challenge? But then Probst continues. “It just won’t be each other. The winner of this challenge earns the right to vote out a jury member.” BOOM!

NEXT: The great disappearing Neal

The contest itself is the one everyone passed on doing back in the very first immunity challenge — the dexterity portion. Now, the final three must balance on a wobbly beam while using a pole to stack balls on a stand. Yes, it is a Survivor challenge incorporating both poles and balls. The play-by-play possibilities are limitless! The whole thing comes down to a millisecond — or at least is edited that way — as Aubry drops hers and Michele wins, providing her with the parchment, the note, and her second straight challenge win to end the season. See ya, Joe or Noel!

But maybe it is not that clear cut. I mean, it should be, but maybe it’s not. Because then Michele does a very odd thing and asks Tai whom he thinks she should use the jury removal on. And then she does an even odder thing and asks Aubry whom she thinks should be kicked off the jury. In the least shocking development since Captain Renault found out there was gambling going on in Casablanca, Aubry attempts to convince Michele that it is in her better interest to kick Scot off the jury instead of Joe or Neal. Yes, Scot. The same Scot who will later literally applaud Michele’s performance in the game at the final Tribal. That’s the guy she tells her to evict from the jury. How Aubry does this with a straight face without bursting into laughter is a feat in itself and likewise deserves a dramatic slow-clap from the Son of Poison.

Michele is not seriously going to fall for that, is she? We head to Tribal to find out, and while there is lot of back and forth guessing about who among the jury is going to be kicked out — with Scot and Jason typically making it all about themselves and assuming Jason will be the one to go — ultimately the right call is made, and Neal is booted. But damn if Neal is not going to get his moment of glory on his way out. “It’s an honor to finally have my name written down,” he says in a cooler-than-thou way to remind everyone how amazing he would have been in this game had it not been pulled for a bum knee.

And then, clearly reciting from Jonathan Penner’s official guidebook on How to Steal the Spotlight at Tribal Council With an Animal Related Analogy to Denigrate a Perfectly Nice Person for No Real Reason Whatsoever, Neal unleashes this doozy on Michele on his way out: “You came to this game thinking you were 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.”

Okay, so clearly Michele made the right call on that one. Although I suppose she could have even removed one of her own votes in Julia and still tied Aubry, which is kinda insane. The next morning, the final three enjoy their day 39 feast, scale, and mirror and tell us why they think they should win. But it’s not about what they think; it’s what the jury thinks that matters, so let’s head right back to Tribal Council — which appears to be hosting scorpion battles in its off hours — to get to it.

The finalists all arrive and take a seat. They’re all here: Michele, Aubry, Tai, Mark… Wait, Mark?!? What the hell is he doing here? Was dashing my dreams of a final two not enough for Probst? Has he decided to twist the knife even more and not only refuse to contract the finals to just two people, but instead expand it to a final four? That is so lame! And so unfair! I mean, no way Mark would have won the fire-making tiebreaker? (On second thought, against Cydney, my money is actually on the chicken.)

Bringing Mark is actually a strong strategic move on Tai’s part. While it does run the risk of infuriating people who were starving at the time and yet could not kill and eat Tai’s island BFF, it also reminds them of the contestant’s gentle and loving nature, which may have gotten lost with all of his alliance flip-flopping. Tai has to hope the act of bringing his pet chicken to Tribal emotionally moves the needle with the jury. It’s manipulative as hell, but possibly effective — kind of like when you watch a movie where you know you are being emotionally manipulated during some schmaltzy reunion scene between a disabled youth and his missing golden retriever, yet you still bawl your eyes out anyway. You know you’re being manipulated, but just don’t care.

NEXT: The jury speaks!

Okay, let’s get to all the jury questions and comments. I’m warning you, it’s a fairly tame affair. No major kicking and screaming unfortunately. See, this is why I am the ultimate hypocrite. I rail on and on against bitter juries and then in the very same recap complain when jurors are too nice and boring. But I think you all probably feel somewhat the same way. I guess what it comes down to is you want the jury to vote for the best player but also make that player work a bit for the vote. But what is so infuriating is that here they did neither! They were restrained in any attacks but then went ahead and voted for the player who did less. I DON’T GET IT! I’M SO CONFUSED! In any event, let’s get to it one by one.

NICK

Apparently, Nick has taken it upon himself to commence open auditions for Jeff Probst’s hosting gig because, instead of asking a question, he just dispenses some faux-sage wisdom about what is to come and how they should handle it. I cannot emphasize enough how useless this opening salvo is.

DEBBIE

“Is there more than one personality in your skull?” Debbie asks Tai, though I think that is question more for the Survivor psychologist — who meets with all the contestants after their game is over — to pose. But Debbie mostly uses her time to praise Aubry for her “metamorphosis from a neurotic nerd to a geek warrior.” She then blurts out “We let our geek flags fly, girlfriend!” for seemingly no reason. For the record, I’m pretty sure Debbie’s geek flag is roughly four times as big as Aubry’s, but if geek sisterhood is going to win Aubry a vote, who is she to argue?

JULIA

Julia looks like she is dressed more for a sorority girls’ night out than Tribal Council. DELTA GAMMA KEGGER AFTER THE FINAL VOTE, Y’ALL!!! Julia predictability gives her former Beauty tribe BFF props and tells Michele that getting rid of her was her biggest move…which is a bit sad because wasn’t that “big move” just going along with the majority? It’s not like she engineered anything; she just jumped in the boat that had taken on the least amount of water. But I digress. Julia then tells Tai he had “a strong first half of the game and a deteriorating finish,” which actually is a pretty rock-solid description of his gameplay.

JOE

I realized when I spoke to Joe last week that the old fella is actually a pretty funny dude, and he shows that off here when Tai says that he and Aubry have the same computer brain. “But your computer is a little more haywire than her computer,” interjects Joe. Nice. Aubry also does a good job of pointing out how Tai was on the wrong side of several votes while she was on the right side every time, proving he did not have his finger on the pulse of the game the way she did.

JASON

“It’s truth time. I don’t know who I’m voting for.” Liar. You can milk your time at the voting urn in an Eliza Orlins-esque display of pained decision making all you want, but I’m not buying it. We’re expecting big fireworks from Jason, but instead we just get handheld sparklers. He asks Michele whether she got into the majority alliance through luck or skill. She says it was skill, which is totally true…as long as that skill is just being more trustworthy than obviously double-dealing Julia.

Tai then explains that he flipped on the fellas because they “talk about men stuff.” Yes, “men stuff.” You know, just dudes being dudes — simultaneously manspreading while scratching themselves, talking about the big ball game, catcalling at women as they walk by (when not belching, that is). Ugh, men. During all this, Mark starts ruffling — excuse me, rustling— his feathers, so apparently Mark hates men stuff, as well. Either that, or he’s nervous the Tribal Council set crew is going to eat him for dinner.

CYDNEY

Cydney pulls a classic juror maneuver and, like Jason, wants to know all about why someone in the finals voted for them to leave (because heaven forbid it be about how the person actually played the game). She asks Aubry if it was always the plan to get her out at the final four, and Aubry of course says no, which I suppose is only a half-lie because Aubry was indeed planning to cut Cydney loose at four. But that was before Joe got evacuated, and then the plan was to get rid of Michele instead. So again, half-lie.

Cydney then attempts to give Michele props for giving her a chance to advance by letting her go to fire, but this makes absolutely no sense because of course Michele would have rather faced Cydney in the finals instead of Aubry. That’s why she told Tai he “literally just handed Aubry a million dollars” when he voted to keep her. Plus, as Aubry astutely cuts in to point out, Michele had no idea the other two votes were going to Cydney, so she didn’t think she was even in the position to “save” anyone anyway. Michele’s response to this is to say, “I could have flipped,” which possibly makes even less sense than Michele’s “props” to begin with

NEXT: More jury nonsense and our final verdict

SCOT

Apparently, Scot thinks he is playing Jeopardy! because he says that, instead of asking Tai a question, he is going to give him an answer. “You got an idol; you didn’t use it. You got an advantage, and you used it in a really dumb way. None of the advantages you earned in this game did you any good. Because you didn’t use them.” Ooooh! Ooooh! I know! I know! Can I buzz in on this one, Alex Trebek? What is a way to come off like a super bitter crybaby juror? Is that the question? Because it sounds like that might be his question.

Scot then follows that up with the most awkward dance I have ever seen in my life before bursting into applause for Michele because “you got stronger as the game went along.” If he is talking about challenges, then he is absolutely correct because Michele won the last two contests and deserves ample credit for doing so. If he is talking about strategy, however, then I have no idea what his is talking about. And I’m pretty sure Michele does not either since she has not been able to pinpoint one single move she made while pleading her case.

Well, now it’s time to vote so let’s… Wait, what’s this? Closing statements! Wow, we have not had these for awhile. This gives Aubry an opportunity to say the phrase “at the end of the day” for the billionth time and gives Tai an opportunity to cry while telling a super-depressing story about a Vietnamese plant floating on water and gives Michele an opportunity to see Tai crying so she starts crying herself. And then the voting begins. And then the voting ends.

While the players themselves will have to wait over a full year (from time of filming to live finale) to find out who won, we get to find out the fate of Mark the Chicken right now. Tai attempts to release him into the wild, but instead Mark just sort of hangs out on set. Maybe he’s hoping he can replace Neal on the jury and at least throw one vote Tai’s way. Regardless, while many will be happy to see Mark survive all 39 days, I can’t help but be disappointed at the clear missed opportunity at play here.

Jeff Probst bringing the votes to America via jet ski, subway, skydiving, and motorcycle was glorious, but him doing any of those things with a chicken? MIND BLOWING!!!! Probst and Mark the Chicken could be the next great comedy duo. C’mon, CBS! Fire Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon immediately, and sign Probst and Mark up because they could be America’s new Odd Couple. Probst has promised me one more insane vote delivery montage before Survivor wraps up for good, and he could have paid his debt in full with this one. Alas, we must wait yet again.

But no more waiting for the big winner reveal! Probst arrives on stage with the urn to make someone a million dollars richer. And that person is Michele, who gets five out of the seven jury votes. Hugs and tears are exchanged between the victor and a group of people who are either her family or complete strangers that somehow scored sweet fourth-row seats.

And then it was time for the Reunion hour. Only the Reunion hour is not even close to an hour anymore. We all complain every season about how not enough time is spent talking to the contestants. There were a few seasons there were that was definitely the case and little kids in the audience were being interviewed about why they thought a particular contestant was so nifty keen. But the reality is that Probst has done a much better job of keeping the focus on the players lately. (Sure, we got our requisite Cochran-in-audience shot, but it’s not like he went out to talk to him this time. And the Drew Carey bit was basically just a network ad to promote the Survivor edition of The Price is Right. It’s foolish to think the network would not take that opportunity to let Survivor fans know about that.)

NEXT: Highlights from the Reunion show

No, the real issue about the lack of time spent with the contestants is that the Reunion hour is truthfully only 45 minutes, and that is before you take out all the commercials. The actual finale has been bleeding more and more into the Reunion show over the past few seasons. Probst did not ask his first question until 10:15 p.m. last night. When you lose 25 percent of your show to extend your finale, that’s what’s going to happen. So ultimately, the question you have to ask yourself is: Would you rather have a shorter finale or a shorter Reunion show? I’m honestly torn, and my answer may change from season to season. Anyway, here are some of the weird and wacky things that did happen in the finale.

  • The Reunion stage was literally bum rushed by an international pop star when Sia stormed it out of nowhere. This was not a staged event. You could hear her yelling from the back of the studio, and then she ran up on stage. Don’t believe me? Look at this:
  • Anyway, to make things even weirder and more wonderful, she then gave Tai $50,000, with another $50,000 to the animal charity of his choice. Probst is right; that’s the beauty of live television. I loved this moment for multiple reasons. But how the hell does she see through that wig?
  • What was the deal with Jason’s jacket? It looked like someone chewed up a bunch of flowers and then barfed them onto his coat.
  • But Jason’s jacket was nothing compared to Caleb’s hair, which reminded me of a certain 1990s film character.
  • And then there was the greatest moment in the history of Survivor moments. I will be seeing this in both my dreams and nightmares for months to come.
  • The only neglected things I really wish Probst had touched on would have been asking Neal about his thoughts on being removed from the jury, as well as the Alecia-Scot-Jason feud because there still appear to be some raw feelings there. That probably would have been time better spent than chatting with Dr. Joe. (And I love me some Dr. Joe.)

Okay, we have officially passed the 6,000-word mark, and that is just plan insane, so it’s time to put a bow on this sucker. Once again, it has been my pleasure to be your rambling tour guide for yet another season of Survivor. Thanks for playing along. But we’re not done yet! I already have a Q&A with Probst talking about next seaosn’s Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. And I’ll have a separate Q&A with the host up soon answering all your burning questions about both the finale and reunion.

I will be talking with the final three Thursday morning on EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105), and you can read/listen to those interviews later right here on the InsideTV Podcast. Oh, and make sure not to miss the exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode below. And for more Survivor scoop year round, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, that will do it for me, but now it’s your turn. Do you agree with me that Aubry was robbed, or did the right person win? Did you like the juror-removal twist? Are you a final two or final three type of gal or guy? Hit the message boards to weigh in. As for me? I’m all out of the crispy.

Episode Recaps

Survivor

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 40
rating
genre
network
  • CBS
stream service

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