Some clever editing briefly throws the outcome into doubt, but in the end justice—along with good game play—prevails.

By Dalton Ross
Updated December 15, 2015 at 09:00 PM EST
CBS

Survivor

S29 E14
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  • TV Show
network
genre

I was this close to writing the following to kick off my Survivor finale recap: ARE YOU F&¢%ING KIDDING ME?!?!

It’s a rhetorical question, of course. And a somewhat crude one as well. But as Jeffrey Probst delivered the votes from Nicaragua to Los Angeles—neither by jet ski nor by skydiving, I might add—I had to wonder: Holy crap, is this jury going to actually vote Jaclyn as the winner of Survivor: San Juan del Sur. Is that seriously about to happen? Do these people honestly think that Jaclyn played a better game than Natalie, who made big move after big move?

There was no way, right? Okay, we knew she would get Jon’s vote. If she didn’t get his, then that five-hour silent treatment before that one Tribal Council could end up extending to a lifetime. Jon’s vote—fine. That’s one. But what the hell is Reed doing voting for her?!? Reed knows this game. He’s a huge fan. He too tried to make big moves. How in the name of the Medallion of Power could he actually vote for Jaclyn as the most deserving player? When they showed that vote from Reed I almost spit my Milwaukee’s Best halfway across the room. And then disaster scenarios started dancing in my head. Well, if Reed voted for Jaclyn to win, then his boyfriend Josh may do the same. Now Jaclyn is at 3 votes. And what about those knuckleheads Keith, Wes, and Alec? They are more clueless than Alicia Silverstone, so who knows how they’ll vote? For all we know they may vote for freakin’ John Rocker to win! But if they don’t, they just as easily could vote for Jaclyn. NOW WE’RE AT 6 VOTES! HOLY TYLER PERRY IDOL, JACLYN IS GOING TO WIN!!! This season’s one saving grace of a Natalie victory is about to be ripped away from us!

But it was all a ruse, as I hoped it would be. I am kind of guessing Reed just voted for Jaclyn to give her second place money over Missy. (Vytas did the same thing for Monica in the last Blood vs. Water.) In any event, Natalie indeed did take her rightful place as winner. Truthfully, when they kept cutting to Jon’s smiling face on the jury as the votes were being cast, I figured it was a pump-fake, but you just never know. And that Reed vote truly did throw me. I’m not writing all this to hate on Jaclyn, but there was no doubt who played the bigger game. It was Natalie, all the way. Even when her moves were questionable—and I still go back and forth on Natalie’s play to oust Baylor, because going to the end with Baylor and her mom seems like kind of a dream scenario, even if it would strengthen their argument that they played the best by getting both of them to the end—Natalie was always playing, always thinking ahead, always taking risks. That’s the type of game that should be rewarded. And, thankfully, it was. Had it not been—total disaster. As in Amber Brkich/Natalie White disaster. The other interesting thing about the final Tribal Council is that…

…We now interrupt your regularly scheduled Survivor recap to bring you live coverage of the current WSA meeting, already in progress…

Okay, looks like everybody’s here. I think we can begin. Welcome, everyone, to another meeting of WSA, or Wicked Stepmothers Anonymous—although we’ve allowed for EW.com to carry a portion of this meeting live, so not so anonymous anymore, it would seem. Anyhoo, I’d like to thank The Evil Queen for bringing tonight’s pastries. They truly are the fairest pastries in all the land. No doubt about that! Hey, watch out for those apples though, am I right? Anyone? Magic Mirror? Sneezy Dwarf? Anyone? Just a little scullery maid humor for you there. Okay, let’s see, I believe this week it is Lady Tremaine’s turn to kick things off. Tremaine?

“Yes, well, it’s about time! As she mentioned, my name is Lady Tremaine. And I am a Wicked Stepmother.”

Hi, Lady Tremaine.

“Although really, ladies, what’s so wicked about locking your stepdaughter up in the attic? After all, that little hussy was off dancing with strange men and hanging out with talking mice. Of all the nerve! Okay, so, technically yes, I tripped the royal footman with the glass slipper, but honestly, ladies—WHO HASN’T? Anyway, Anastasia and Drizella thought it was perfectly acceptable. I mean, it’s not like I poisoned anyone. [Shoots glance over at Evil Queen]. That’s all.”

Thank you, Lady Tremaine. Okay, looks like Queen Narissa is next.

“Ugh. Fine. Queen Narissa’s the name.”

Hi, Narissa.

“And I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this Wicked Stepmother crap. I mean, yes, I may have morphed into a dragon and threatened to burn down all of New York City. Fine, point granted. But hellooooooo, are we all ignoring the fact that if it hadn’t been for me, my stepson Prince Edward would have married that animated floozy Giselle? Then he never would have met and fallen in love with his true soul mate, Adele Dazeem? And Giselle never would have shacked up with the pizza delivery guy from Loverboy either. Now they’re all happy, and why? Because of me! Narissa—out! [Drops mic on floor]”

Um, thank you Narissa. Well, ladies we have a new member joining us today. She comes to us via her sponsor, Baroness Von Schrader. Her name is Missy. She comes straight from Nicaragua, and she’d like to say a few words.

[Hobbles up to podium with makeshift crutches] “Yeah, hi. So, like the lady said, I’m Missy.”

Hi, Missy.

“Er…not for nothing but I did notice there are not a lot of men around. No big deal, of course, but, you know, I haven’t married someone in a few months, so, you know… running a bit behind quota, if you catch my drift.”

[Silence]

“Yeah, so, anyway… do you all have some rice I can cook and give to my daughter Baylor? That would be great. You can just hand it all over to me and I’ll take care of it. Rationing is my strong suit.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Survivor recap, still in progress…

…and so that is my story of how I beat Wes in a chicken nugget eating contest. Anyway, where were we? Oh, right. It’s time to take it from the top of the episode. Here is it, our last Survivor recap of the season. I don’t need no stinkin’ crutches. Let’s do this thing!

NEXT: Keith plays with his balls

After a live welcome from Jeff Probst to kick off the proceedings, we get a Cliffs Notes-esque look back at the season so far. Mostly we are treated to scenes that encapsulate the season so far and how we got down to the final five before us. I say “mostly” because said montage also includes the somewhat random moment of Wes interrogating Probst about being naked on Two and a Half Men. Whenever I look at Wes I am reminded of what the Oracle said upon meeting Neo in The Matrix: “Not too bright, though.”

After both review and preview, we park our time-travelling DeLoreon and get down to business in the present on night 35 (which is, to say, the past again, because this actually took place back in June, but whatevs). I would wax more poetic about the intricacies of the space-time continuum, but look! Natalie and Jaclyn are yelling at each other. Well, Jaclyn is doing all the yelling because Natalie said that Jon was not “loyal to a fault.” Much debate and discussion ensues as they parse the “in game” and “out of game” elements of Jon’s character in a nonsensical conversation that turns into an elaborate modern-day version of “Who’s on First?”

Almost as confusing is the argument between Missy and Baylor the next morning about whether their goal was to win or to make the final three. Unless one of them is implying that they should put a vote on the jury so that they also don’t have to worry about a possible split vote should they make it to the end—and they give no such indication to that effect—then I have no idea what they are talking about. But we have about 3,712 challenges and Tribal Councils to get to, so let’s get a move on.

The first challenge is not for immunity but rather that new thing they do where they make it a reward challenge where you win an advantage for the next immunity challenge. To win, the players have to untangle a rope they are attached to and then run to assemble a bridge and knock down blocks with sand bags. The whole “win an advantage in the next challenge” is something I have absolutely hated in the past, but it will shock longtime readers (not to mention Jeff Probst) when they find out right now that I hate it a little bit less here, and I’ll tell you why. My biggest beef with this when it was done in the past is that the final challenge should be completely 100% on the level. It is obviously the most important challenge of the season, and if you are gong to win yourself into the finals, you should have to do it without an advantage. That way when you walk into that final Tribal Council you can look at the jury and be all “Yeah, I did this.” When you have not been playing on a level playing field, however, then it is considerably less impressive. I understand all of this holds true for the penultimate challenge as well, but I don’t care. It’s just different. So giving the advantage on the next-to-last challenge as opposed to the last one is an improvement.

The other thing I want in an advantage is an advantage that does not simply give someone the challenge. When Cochran bought his advantage at the Caramoan food auction for $340, he confirmed to me later that it basically made the immunity challenge that followed no contest—there was no way he could lose on a challenge of holding a knotted rope carrying a third of your body weight because his advantage of moving his hand up two knots over everyone else whenever he wanted essentially made him an automatic winner. That’s no good. (Cochran then won another advantage for the final immunity and yes, won that one, too.) I bring up all these instances of it being basically impossible for people with advantages to lose just to make my boy Malcolm that much more depressed for blowing it with an advantage in the final Philippines challenge. Poor Malcolm. He can go drown his sorrows at Eddie’s dog bar.)

This time, by winning the reward, Keith’s advantage is not a head start or do over in the next challenge, but rather the opportunity to practice it all day in advance. Philosophically, I have gotten to the place where I look at these reward/advantage/immunity combo platters as two-part contests. Essentially, the reward portion is just the first phase of the immunity challenge. You win it, you earn some help in the second part. I get it. And I’m not completely opposed to that. But when that “help” makes the entire second challenge obsolete, then yes, I have a problem. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens. Don’t believe me? Just listen to Keith. “This is a big advantage—believe me,” he says. See! I do believe you, Keith! And I especially believe him after he finishes getting all three of his balls form start to finish before any of the other players—including Missy, who is trying it busted ankle and all—get a single one through. (Side note: For a challenge involving balls, and Survivor has had a lot of balls this season—ZING!—the play-by-play commentary was unfortunately lacking in double entendres. The best we got was probably Probst’s declaration of “Keith working that second ball,” and that’s just more confusing than anything else. Although Natalie did somewhat save us by pointing out after that “you’re good with balls, Keith.”)

So Keith wins his third individual immunity and at this point you’re kinda starting to think: Could this dude who has no earthly idea how to play this game actually win the damn thing? And then you probably find yourself spitting on the living floor because, what the hell—if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

NEXT: Natalie pulls out her biggest move yet

Now things get really interesting because it would seem that Jaclyn is on her way out. And why not? Keith has immunity. Natalie has an idol, and going to the end with a mommy/daughter pair that is not well liked on the jury could lead to a split vote situation (if anybody would even bother voting for them) that would seem to be an ideal situation. So that leaves Jaclyn. Jon’s girlfriend promises Natalie that she won’t vote her out next if the Twinnie keeps her around. So what do you do if you’re Natalie? Do you stay the course, or do you do put another big move on your résumé and not give Missy/Baylor the opportunity to strengthen their argument that they were so good that they both made it to the end?

If I’m Natalie, I stay put. The jury’s dislike for Missy/Baylor makes that an easy win. Why mess with that? Jeff Probst always says that big moves win games, but they can lose them as well, and this is a risky play to trust Jaclyn (who was just yelling and cursing at Natalie two days prior). And all is revealed at Tribal Council in front of the biggest sausage party this side of Hormel (which is to say, the all-male jury). After the voting, Probst announces that it is the last opportunity to use a hidden immunity idol, so Natalie walks hers over to the Hostmaster General. “I was going to play this for myself tonight,” she announces, “but I thought it would be more fun to play it for someone else. Jaclyn, did you vote for who I told you to vote for?’

When Jaclyn nods yes, Natalie plays it for her. BAM! A smart move? Maybe. Maybe not. But as a viewer, who cares? It’s yet another example of Natalie breathing life into this moribund season. “I’m going home,” says Missy. But no, it is Baylor who is sent to the jury after Jaclyn’s three votes are nullified, thereby ensuring that everyone’s nightmare final three of Missy-Baylor-Jaclyn will not come to fruition. Seriously, I would rather see a final three comprised of Dreamz (Fiji), Mick (Samoa), and Natalie (Redemption Island) than that trio.

After Missy and Natalie hug it out, we head back to our final immunity challenge, which features a repurposed version of that giant tower we saw in the very first challenge. This time, the players have to race down a giant tower (via pole, rope, and slide) and then go through a bunch of obstacles collecting puzzle pieces. Eventually five puzzle bags have to be brought up 57 steps to then complete a logo puzzle that will reveal three numbers needed to solve a combination lock. First person to get the numbers and raise the flag wins. It’s a big and epic challenge to be sure—impressive in size, scale, and scope. However, I can’t help but miss the gold old-fashioned endurance challenge at the end. I write this every single season, but give me the elegant simplicity of seeing who can touch a pole the longest (Borneo), or hold coins while in a painful pose (Thailand), or stand on a stump while holding a wacky headdress up in the air (Amazon), or bob on a buoy (Palau). What those final challenges lacked in spectacle, they made up for in suspense. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

One of the good things about these multi-stage challenges, however, is that they always invariably seem to lead to a huge comeback. And indeed, Natalie and Keith enter the puzzle portion with a big lead on Jaclyn, who is too tired to even race up the stairs and too tired to even open her bags. (Missy doesn’t even bother competing.) Yet who gets the puzzle done first? Yep, Jaclyn. And after wiping out on the fireman’s pole, she soldiers on, gets her numbers, and wins the damn thing. Unbelievable. Hey, gotta give credit where credit is due. She was out of it. She didn’t give up. And it paid off with her first (and last, I guess) individual win of the season.

But I can’t concentrate on her victory because I am too obsessed with the hilarious reactions from the losers. Suddenly magically freed from the crippling pain of her busted foot, Missy runs over and exuberantly hugs the winner. Not to be outdone, Natalie busts out a smile as wide as Wes at a gas-passing contest—also running over and enthusiastically embracing Jaclyn. These over-the-top reactions remind me of pageant queens that have to stand there on stage looking positively delighted that they have just been told on national television that they are neither as pretty nor as talented nor as charismatic as someone else who was just handed a bouquet and had a crown awkwardly placed on her head. The only person not bothering to fake it until they make it is Keith. Presumably he’s too busy spitting somewhere.

There is lots of talk later at camp about the possibility of all three non-immunity holders going home so it’s left to Tribal Council #2 to find out. But something is terribly amiss: What’s this? An actual woman in the jury? Holy moly! Equal rights, finally! Start burning those bras, ladies! The last bastion of all-maledom has finally been breached! (Of course, this is one exclusive club that the women—and one remaining man—left in the game have no desire of joining.)

NEXT: Grading the opening statements

Once Tribal starts, Probst puts people on the spot by trying to trick the players into saying why the others should be voted out. It doesn’t really work as Natalie and Keith just sort of lamely compliment each other. Natalie only briefly trips up when Probst asks her if she can win this game—giving a waaaaaay too competent and direct answer when she should just be deflecting and saying something innocuous like, “Well, you never know with a jury. Hard to say, Jeff.” Instead she responds that “I can win this game” and proceeds to tell the people that are about to decide whether to keep her exactly how and why. ABORT! ABORT! But she keeps on going about how she kicked ass in challenges and made risky decisions. Here she is spooling out her entire final Tribal plea. Only it’s not the final Tribal!!! It’s the type of thing that makes you scratch your head, or, if you’re Alec, sit there with your mouth wide open for an extended period of time.

Miraculously, it does not cost her as Keith is voted out, and it takes him approximately 1.7 seconds to spit after leaving Tribal. I swear, if they ever decided to remake The Naked Gun, they should have Keith play every single baseball player and every single baseball player’s wife in the infamous spitting montage. “It was three women,” Keith says of his last day on the island. “I can barely handle one woman at the house much less three of ‘em here.” Well, you certainly don’t have to worry about that on the jury, buddy.

We’re going to make like a human DVR and fast-forward through the final three breakfast feast when the finalists tell us how awesome they were in overcoming adversity and get straight to the final Tribal Council. At this point a Natalie win seems inevitable, but you never know. Crazier things have happened, like the time…HOLY HELL WHAT IS GOING ON WITH KEITH AND THAT SHIRT?!? It looks like Tommy Bahama just ate a blue palm tree and regurgitated it all over Keith’s chest. Wow. Too bad that jury shirt is 10 times bolder than anything Keith actually did in the game.

So we begin with opening statements. Here’s the skinny on each:

MISSY

Missy makes a curious decision by telling the jury that the decision on their hands is “probably as big as a jury on a murder trial because what you decide tonight is gonna affect the rest of my life.” Okay, I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say that a Survivor jury is not as big as a murder trial jury. You know, Survivor is awesome in about 512 different ways, but it’s not about life and death. Instead it’s about crutches made to look like tree branches and—once upon a time—a place with a giant gong and trunk full of cash where people went for therapy sessions before voting each other out. Apparently Alec is confused by the whole murder trial thing as well because his mouth is wide open again. Either that or he is one of those dudes who sleeps with his eyes open.

But Missy attempting to turn the Survivor finale into a podcast episode of Serial is not even the weirdest thing about her opening remarks. That would be the fact that the big point she keeps hammering home is her trustworthiness. “My deal was loyalty,” she says. And she later finishes by proclaiming that she played with “integrity, dignity, and mainly loyalty.” Lady, I don’t care that you turned your back on Jeremy and then later turned your back on Jon. That’s fine by me. But then don’t go into final Tribal making loyalty your calling card. That’s just terrible game management. You would have been better off telling everyone your entire goal was to be the most wicked stepmother in the history of wicked stepmothers.

JACLYN

Jaclyn does the classic move from someone at the end that basically made no big moves worth talking about and cannot offer any substantive reason why anyone should vote for them—she just goes on about how she was underestimated and turned a negative to a positive. But what else is she going to say? She talks about being diagnosed with MRKH when she was 15, even though that has absolutely nothing to do with the game she just played out there. I don’t blame her. If you have nothing else, go for the sympathy votes. People shouldn’t be lame enough to let something like that impact their votes—but it’s worth a shot.

NATALIE

I really like Natalie’s opening remarks a lot. Instead of apologizing for backstabbing people, she is owning it. “I feel like I deserve your votes tonight,” she says, “and feel like I deserve the title of Sole Survivor. I feel like I have outwit, outplayed, and outlasted better than the two ladies sitting next to me.” She then goes on to outline all of her moves, makes a point of talking about how she made all those moves all by herself (unlike Missy and Jaclyn, who had their loved ones), and reminding folks how she also worked hard around camp. And then she finishes by deftly pointing out Missy and Jaclyn’s lack of strategic chops: “I feel honestly like the right person to go home last night should have been me, not Keith, if they had made the right decision.” Sorry, but that is a damn good opening statement. She touched all the bases and made it clear that if you are actually going to vote on who played the best game—the choice is clear.

NEXT: Jury questions, statements, and open mouth looks of utter confusion

Then it is the jury’s turn to speak. Let’s also jam through these one-by-one, starting with Captain America. And a warning in advance, the majority of the questions/statements are tremendously lame.

JON

Jon does what any good boyfriend should do: He tees up his girlfriend to brag to the jury. “I want to give you the opportunity to present a big move or decision that you were solely responsible for making and how did it affect the final three,” he says to Jaclyn. His bias and intentions are painfully clear, but what did you expect that guy to do? However, from a viewer’s perspective, it’s just kind of a waste.

KEITH

“Nat, how does it feel that the last words you ever spoke to me was a lie? How does that make you feel?” Oh, Keith, get over yourself. You lied about Jeremy having an idol that you had yourself. And who cares that the last words she spoke to you were a lie? In case you hadn’t noticed… IT’S SURVIVOR!!!! Clearly this guy is suffering from an extreme case of BJS (Bitter Jury Syndrome).

ALEC

Alec uses his question solely to give himself props by getting Natalie to say out loud that getting him out was her biggest move of the game. What Alec fails to grasp, however, is that the move had nothing to do with needing to get rid of him because he was such a good player. In fact, it was the exact opposite. She wanted to keep Keith because he was more able to beat Jon at challenges. Wow, these questions really do kind of suck so far.

BAYLOR

Another waste of air time. Baylor throws a girl-power shout out into the mix (actually using the word “represent” at one point) and then just talks about how proud she is of her mom while super emotional music plays underneath. But again, what she is saying has nothing to do with the outcome of the game. I guess I was supposed to be moved by this—and maybe I am just a terrible person—but I wasn’t .

JOSH

Josh appears to take a subtle dig at Jaclyn, asking her if she got to the end “because of your own merit or choices by better players is why you’re sitting there?” She says merit. Okay.

WES

Surprisingly, Wes’ question has nothing to do with farts, eating contests, or what other CBS sitcoms Jeff Probst has appeared naked on. Unsurprisingly, Wes asks the worst question of the evening: “What was it like getting to play with your loved one?” C’MON! Are you serious? That’s the best you got! You’ve had well over a week to come up with your big question, and that’s all you could muster? Natalie didn’t even play with her loved one! Wes, you are infuriating on so many levels right now.

JEREMY

Jeremy uses his time to make a plea to the jury to not be babies or idiots and instead vote for the best player, Natalie. We’ve see this tactic used several times before going all the way back to season 1 and Sue Hawk’s infamous “rat and the snake,” speech. David did the exact same thing on behalf of Boston Rob on Redemption Island. Kat on One World also pleaded with her fellow jurors to not vote out of spite. And just last season Spencer passionately explained to the jury why Tony was the only acceptable winner. On one hand, it’s a bit condescending for someone to tell everyone else why their opinions are wrong if they don’t match yours. On the other, sometimes you need someone not blinded by petty rage to open others’ eyes to what needs to happen. If only Survivor: All-Stars had someone like that. (Side note: Alec’s mouth is wide open again.)

REED

So, as a whole, these “questions” were pretty terrible and completely drama free—not a surprise considering this cast. But the producers always save the fireworks for the end of the show. Much like Jonathan Penner’s epic takedown on Philippines, I am always of two minds when it comes to things like what Reed is about to say. On one hand, it is petty and the time clearly spent preparing and rehearsing it in front of a mirror is a bit painful. On the other hand, if you are given one last chance to speak, you might as well make the most of it. I mean, why wouldn’t you prepare? Also, as viewers, we love the drama, and who better to bring drama than a Broadway star? Anyhoo, here is Reed word-for-word dropping a nuclear bomb all over Missy, with her daughter sitting just a few feet away:

“Missy, you cast yourself as the motherly figure. However, fans of classic literary fiction will see through very quickly to who your true character was, which is—the wicked stepmother, really, of the tribe. It’s the eccentric woman who comes in and makes demands on everyone for the things to which she feels so entitled. She spoils her children by perhaps giving them more rice at dinner and the best places to sleep at night in the shelter. She takes things she’s either not entitled to or didn’t earn herself, which was always evidenced by the fact that you got more gimmes in this game than anyone, and performed the worst out of anyone at challenges. Lastly, you made the quintessential wicked stepmother move by abusing the help, which in this case was the minority alliances in the game. You always made sure they felt inferior. You always kept them in their place. You always made it imminently clear that they weren’t coming to the ball that is the Tribal Council this evening here with you. So that, to me, feels like your fatal flaw in your whole plan, because unlike life, in the game of Survivor, the outcasts are the ones who get the final say. So in a sweeping moment of poetic justice, the people to which you were so rude and terrible to before relegating them to the jury with the help of your alliance are going to decide your fate this evening. This is why I love fairy tales, because they always have a happy ending and the wicked stepmother never wins.”

NEXT: We have a winner! Plus: random observations from the finale

Judging by the questions, it feels like a Natalie runaway for the win. But then we see that vote for Jaclyn from Reed—who just moments earlier had been telling Natalie how much he loved watching her gameplay. All of a sudden, up is down! Black is white! Cats and dog living together! Mass hysteria! Except not. Natalie takes the million dollars, which is a very satisfying conclusion to an otherwise unsatisfying Tribal Council. Look, San Juan del Sur will certainly not go down as one of the great Survivor seasons of all-time, but at least we can feel good about the winner. That’s definitely worth something in my book. Okay, let’s get to some thoughts on what went down at the reunion as well as those other various live look-ins we got during the broadcast.

• Probst rocking the suede jacket. Bold choice.

• The live look-ins were a bit of a mixed bag. In theory, I like getting them. Of course, the comparison between what a Survivor eats and what the average American eats in a day was borderline horrifying. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much in a single day in my life! That plate of spaghetti alone would kill me. And, contrary to popular belief, my heart is not completely made of stone, so I liked the bit with the Make-a-Wish kid Austin. I have to say from all my visits on set, the Survivor crew is so damn cool, and I’m sure they treated Austin like royalty when he visited. Getting a glimpse into that was fun. The one live segment I could have done without, however, was the one with the random Joes and Janes talking all about “date night,” “girl power night,” and how one guy “changed careers, changed boyfriends.” This told us absolutely nothing about the show, how it’s put together, or the people on it, so was pretty useless. I get what Probst is doing with this, though. He genuinely does appreciate the support from loyal and longtime fans of the program, which is great. But wasting three minutes hearing from them? Not so great. (By the way, did Olivia Feldman finish her half a cup of rice yet?) On the flip side, Keith’s wedding photo? Amazing.

• As suspected, Probst confirmed with a hands vote that Keith would have won had he gone to the finals instead of Natalie against Missy and Natalie, getting four votes to Missy’s three and Jacyln’s one. How crazy would that have been? Keith did well in challenges and did well enough socially—those are two of the three aspects of the game, so you have to give him credit for that. But he would have definitely rivaled Fabio for most clueless strategist ever among all winners had he gone the distance.

• Probst made mention of how John Rocker tried to befriend a gay guy and a black guy on the show (in the wake of his past racist and homophobic comments). Look, I don’t know Rocker. I talked to him a few times, that’s it. But I do know this: People on the cast actually seem to like him a lot. Even folks like Jeremy and Natalie who went after him in the game have hung out with him since filming wrapped. So take from that what you will.

• Is it just me or was the reunion REALLY heavy on Reed. I mean, I like the guy well enough, but who thought he would be the big go-to guy? Whether it was Reed talking about his religion, Reed’s reaction to Jon and Jaclyn’s tiff, or Reed discussing his big takedown of Missy, the dude was everywhere! It got so ridiculous I was half expecting him to go steal that poor little girl’s rice and start bragging about what collar he was. As for the Missy stuff, that was super icy and awkward, especially when Missy revealed that she actually was a stepmother at one point and when Reed refused to apologize (“I stand by what I said for within the game.”) for his brutal comments.

• I’m not sure if it was necessary to bring three “collars” up from the audience to stand there awkwardly with microphones, but the good sign is that Probst is totally stoked for Survivor: Worlds Apart. We need a strong season after San Juan del Sur, and Probst seems to think this could be one. Check out the intel he gave me about season 30 right here.

• No oversized novelty check? Bummer.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I think that’s going to just about do it. Kind of a weird takeaway, I realize that. Bad season, pretty good finale, leading into a pretty lame final Tribal Council, with a strong winner. So I don’t know what the hell to think. But I want to thank you for once again taking this journey with me. I’ve been doing these here recaps for more than a decade now, and your kind words and comments keep me going. So thanks again for reading and playing along.

And we’re gonna keep on playing! Not only do I have that intel from Probst about season 30, but we also have the Hostmaster General weighing in on the finale as well. Plus, the entire final five will be calling into Entertainment Weekly Radio on Thursday morning so we’ll get those interviews posted here on EW.com as well. In the meantime, you can check out our pre-game interviews with them in the video player below, along with an exclusive deleted scene in the video player below. And I have one other special tidbit I’m holding on to and will get out there on Friday. Of course, for year-round Survivor scoop, just follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, 6,000 words later and it’s finally your turn. Have at it on the message boards with your thoughts on the winner, the finale, the reunion, and everything in between. Thanks again, all. I’ll be back in February with your first 2015 scoop of the crispy!

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Survivor

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

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