A tense finale features a comeback, an emotional breakdown, a bitter jury, and — finally — a winner

Survivor Coach
Credit: CBS
S23 E15

Well, a satisfying season of Survivor came to a close this evening as…


Ummm, excuse me. Who is that? Sophie? What are you doing here? You just won a million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor. Shouldn’t you be out partying and avoiding encounters with a drunken post-finale Russell Hantz?


I don’t understand. I’m the Survivor recap guy. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years. I mean, that’s my thing, and I don’t have many things.”


I don’t know. I’m in a pretty decent spot here, Sophie. I got this riff on Albert I’m pretty excited about, and even plan to work in a Kardashian reference at some point. I’m afraid you’re on your own. Besides Probst says we’re not allowed to help each other with our recaps.


Okay, that was a bit weird, but at least she didn’t talk about honor and/or integrity. And in the end, that is what did Coach in. After selling being a man of Christ, and a man who honors honor and integrity above all else, he had to face the people he lied to and discarded along the way. That’s the dangerous thing about promising everyone you’re taking them to the end: It will get you there, but it usually won’t get you the million dollars. And when you do get to the end, your best bet is to own your deception, like Todd did in Survivor: China, not offer lame apologies that come off as insincere. That, combined with the fact that Coach didn’t bring people like Rick, Edna, and Cochran that would have been easier to beat, is why he lost. And Sophie having won three individual immunities, including two at key times — the trivia one that sent Whitney out, and the final one to beat the indestructible Ozzy — made her a worthy alternative and gave her the six to three victory in votes. Albert? Dude never stood a prayer…no pun intended (well, maybe a little).

Okay let’s recap this sucker from the very top. The finale begins the same way every finale begins, with a recap of all the exciting moments of the season, only this recap ends with a weird montage of everyone talking over each other. What the heck is going on? Am I hearing voices? How many beers have I had already? Whatever. Let’s get to the new stuff.

Ozzy welcomes Brandon to Redemption Island, but is shocked by the circumstances that led to him getting there. “He’s playing the game like he’s playing with God, and he’s not,” says Ozzy. “He’s playing with human beings that are greedy and want that money.” Speaking of people that are greedy and want that money, let’s check in with Albert! I mentioned last week that Albert lost any and all hope of winning once he refused to give Brandon his idol back, and Sophie sees it as well, taking pleasure in the fact that Albert looked cowardly and two-faced in front of the jury. And Coach is taking pleasure in blasting Albert to his face. “I’m not gonna have it,” yells Coach. “And when people bull—- me, you’re cut off. I’m not gonna be made a fool out here. I’ve been made a fool enough in my life. I’ve been made a fool out of so many times because of this game.” (Says the guy who one spun stories about being captured and almost eaten alive by pygmies.)

NEXT: Ozzy puts Brandon out of misery…only Brandon doesn’t seem miserable

Next we head to Redemption Island Arena, and I could not be more excited. That’s because Probst is rocking the orange hat, the most badass of all Survivor baseball caps. The final duel is a good old fashioned endurance competition, and seeing as how it involves holding onto a pole for as long as you can and Ozzy has seemingly spent half his life climbing and hanging off of tress, Brandon doesn’t really stand a chance. Then again, Brandon does have God on his side, but apparently after 40 minutes God gets bored and decides to go back to watching Tim Tebow highlights or something because Brandon finally falls off.

You might be tempted to feel sorry for Brandon…if he didn’t seem so damn happy! “You seem jubilant, even though you just lost,” notes Probst — leading Brandon to go on a tangent about having a revelation. This causes Sophie to stare at her nails rather than show a shred of interest in a person she will later ask to give her a million dollars. Of course, the real headline here is that after six straight duel wins, OZZY IS BACK IN THE GAME! Ozzy is a freakin’ beast. His strategic game may be bad and his social game may be even worse, but when it comes to competitions, no one is better. The impressive thing about his streak is that he did it in a variety of ways — and will continue to do so at the next challenge. Whoops! Spoiler alert!

Ozzy returns with the others back to camp leading to an entirely new — and entirely awkward — dynamic. The Upolu four don’t seem to know how to talk to Ozzy, and vice versa. It goes a little something like this:

Albert: “Sooooooooo, you, uh, sure did win a lot of duels.”

Ozzy: “Yeah, like, a bunch.”

Albert: “Ummmm,…so, Samoa. Pretty sweet, right?”

Ozzy: “Yep. Pretty sweet.”

[Awkward pause]

Albert: “Rick, you want to jump in here at all, buddy?”

[Rick refuses to speak in the fear that the camera might actually catch him talking.]

Albert: “Sophie, a little help?”

[Sophie looks at her nails, up at the conversation, and back at her nails]

Albert: “Say, Ozzy, if you happen to win any immunity necklaces, I will totally take those off your hands for you. But don’t worry, ‘cause if I feel like you’re in any danger at all, I will definitely give it back. Just something to keep in mind.”

Ozzy: “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Albert: “Great! [Extended remix awkward pause.] Yeah, er…okay, I’m going to go get some firewood.”

Coach: “Albert, you haven’t collected firewood all season. What the hell are you…”

Albert: “Gotta go!”

This stilted conversation is later followed by a hilarious one-on-one between Coach and Ozzy in which the two returning players completely lie through their teeth while promising to bring each other to the finals. (Honor & integrity 4eva!) Coach says that he’s in a perfect position because everyone wants to bring him to the final three so it’s like he’s in the NBA Finals and he’s up by 14 points with only four minutes left on the clock. “This is my game to lose right now.” Unless, of course, commissioner David Stern intercepts the votes and blocks the naming of Coach as Sole Survivor “in the best interest of the game.” (Apparently Stern is no fan of returning players coming back to compete against newbies due to the inherent advantage they possess from having played before. He’d prefer more “young talent” in the mix.)

NEXT: Albert gets an earful from Sophie

Ozzy, however, knows that he’s a goner if he doesn’t win the next challenge. But things don’t look good for Oscar when the contest is revealed to be a house of cards building competition and Sophie admits to not only building houses of cards for fun, but even owning a book on how to make a house of cards. WHO OWNS A BOOK ON HOW TO MAKE A HOUSE OF CARDS?!? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be: Who the hell writes a book on how to make a house of cards? The problem with Sophie’s creepy book, however, is that it assumes an unlimited supply of cards will be available for said house-making, but those crafty Survivor producers have only given the contestants so many, causing both Sophie and Ozzy to have to dismantle and restart when their original towers do not go high enough.

Now, Sophie is getting nervous, and when Sophie gets nervous she reacts the way any logical thinking person would in such a situation — she begins yelling at Albert. Believing that a little teamwork is all it takes to take down Ozzy, she commands Albert to drop his stack of cards and assist her instead by picking up her pieces while she keeps building. “Uhhhh, I’m in a pretty decent spot right now,” says Albert, whose spot could only be classified as “less than decent.” “Drop your damn stack and pick up my pieces!” Sophie yells. “I’m gonna beat you!” This leads to lots of mumbling from Albert who clearly does not want to stop competing, but is also terrified of causing Mount Sophie to erupt. “Albert, just drop your stack!” Sophie orders yet again. Unfortunately, that renowned party pooper Jeff Probst then steps in to explain that this is an individual competition and there can be no teaming up. “If you want Ozzy out of this game — beat him.” That’s not going to happen. Ozzy’s fingers tremble as he places his last piece and wins — again. What an absolute warrior. (Damn, now I sound like Coach. My bad.)

Back at camp, Ozzy relives to the others how he won, which they are all simply thrilled to hear about. When it becomes clear nobody wants any part of it, he decides to have fun and stir the pot instead, telling Albert about how Coach gave Ozzy his word as a Christian man that he would bring him to the finals. With Coach targeting Rick, and Ozzy wanting Sophie gone (“she’s a frickin brat”) we head to Tribal. After Albert and Sophie tell Probst how they should not be voted out because they might be able to beat Ozzy in the final challenge, Rick zigs where the others zagged, explaining how he should stick around because he won’t beat Ozzy. Considering he already has Ozzy in his corner and doesn’t need his vote, this strategy makes about as much sense as a Kardashian getting married without a pre-nup. (See! Told you I’d get it in there.)

Tribal then devolves with Sophie calling Ozzy arrogant and Ozzy telling Sophie, “I think you act like a spoiled brat out here.” Probst then digs the knife in a bit further, asking Sophierce why she is upset that Ozzy talked behind her back when she did the same thing to him. “Are there other times in life where you find yourself in situations where people are commenting on your character, or is this unique?” And here come the waterworks. But this is more than mere tears. “She’s breaking down,” says Dawn, which kind of makes me wish that Dawn would start crying too so I could say she is “breaking Dawn.” But she’s right — Sophie is in bad shape. In fact, Sophie loses it so completely she beings hyperventilating like a 13-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert, unable to get single syllables out in between her gasps of air. (Oh, wait! Now Dawn is crying! She’s breaking Dawn! Alert Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson!)

NEXT: Ozzy finally meets his match!

My evil hard-as-stone heart wants to mock Sophie for such a display, but instead, two things go through my mind. 1) It’s nice to see this woman who clearly prides herself on her strength show a little vulnerability. The other players and audience see Sophie as cold. It’s important sometimes to show that you are not a robot. Which leads us to the second thing going through my mind… 2) She just may have won herself a few jury votes. Call ‘em sympathy votes if you want, but votes are votes. I’m not suggesting that Sophie’s emotional breakdown was a calculated ruse. But instead of hurting her, as she probably viewed it, this may have actually helped her.

In any event, Rick is voted out, pulling a Stacey (remember her?) and refusing a goodbye hug from Coach along the way. “Ozzy’s got my vote,” Rick says after having his torch snuffed. It’s a bummer to hear this, because what that means to the savvy Survivor viewer is that Ozzy will lose the next challenge and not make the finals. Because if he were to make the finals they never would have just shown us Rick tipping his hand on the vote. Oh well. Sucks for Ozzy.

After Tribal, Coach and Ozzy have a one-on-one where Ozzy makes up some phony baloney about ratting out Coach because he was burned by Cochran. He then says he’d like to see Albert and Sophie make fire to see who is worthy enough to join the longhairs in the finals. Of course, we already know Ozzy will not make the finals. Still, there are many questions yet to be answered: What will the final challenge be? Who will beat Ozzy? How many times will Sophie yell at Albert? AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE FALLEN COMRADES TRIBUTE?!? The answers are 1.) A race though a flower shaped obstacle course that ends with a puzzle. 2) Sophie. 3.) Twice when he blocks her way on various bridges and passageways. And 4) On the editing room floor, since the addition of the duel means not enough time for the final four to wax poetic about contestants they couldn’t care less about while the throw their names into a fire.

Sophie’s victory sends off a wild celebration among the Upolu three. “Coach told me he wanted to take me to the end,” says Ozzy. “But something tells me he’s going to change his mind.” You mean like the whooping and hollering taking place a few feet away from you? Ozzy tries his best to hold Coach to his mantra of honor and integrity. “If you want to have this be the real warrior battle that you say you want to have that we both talked about, then this is the way to do it,” Ozzy tells him, hoping he’ll let Ozzy and Albert battle it out in a fire-making tiebreaker. “It’s also the word of a Christian man that you gave to me.” All this does is cause Coach to pretend like he’s all tortured and pained about the tough decision he has to make, when he knows all along what that decision is.

So even when Probst calls Coach out for talking about playing with honor all three seasons and wanting to take the biggest warriors to the end, Coach still isn’t stupid enough to actually go against Ozzy in the finals. One thing I’ve loved about Ozzy this season (besides the fact that he won six duels and two individual immunities) is that every single time he has been voted out — and how ridiculous is it to have someone voted out three times in a single season? — he hasn’t just taken it in stride. He’s taken it at full sprint! After receiving an ovation from both the final three and the jury — another thing I can never recall seeing before — and having his torch snuffed, Ozzy does his customary full speed run into darkness while yelling “Yeeeeeeehaw!” at the top of his lungs. No bitterness here from Ozzy. Sure, that may just be because he’s saving all his bitterness up for the final Tribal, but it’s still a cool way to go out.

NEXT: Who let the dogs out?

All that’s left is for the final three to receive their customary breakfast feast — not delivered by jet ski, unfortunately — talk about the final Tribal Council strategy, and burn down their camp. Then, it’s time to face the music. And this music is being played by the jury. And this jury is not very good at playing music. (I have no idea what that means but I kind of worked myself into a corner there with that whole “face the music” thing, and it’s late so…) Anyhoo, the festivities begin with opening comments. “It’s not a game about chess pieces, it’s a game about people,” says Albert. And he’s totally right in that it is a game about people — people who make lame references to chess pieces. Coach talks about leading with compassion and love, while Sophie insists that “I’m not a used car salesman” — a clear dig at chess-loathing Albert.

Now let’s move on to the jury. Oh, Ozzy’s up first. He was so happy when we last saw him being voted out. No way he could have anything bad to say, right? “The good news is, this game’s not decided.” See! “The bad news is, nobody wants to vote for any of you guys.” [Insert record scratch noise here.] “Sophie I still think is a privileged, pretentious brat. Albert, you’re just the person that happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Okay, so much for happy-go-lucky Ozzy!

After making Coach squirm through a lame defense about playing honorably, Ozzy decides that he wants to rock a little Baha Men and let the dogs out. And the first dog out of the kennel is Jim, who asks Albert to diss the people next to him and, no matter what, not start with a compliment. “I love this question,” Albert responds. “I love your approach to the game.” This can’t help but send the barefoot Ozzy into a fit of hysterics. (Did Jim the medical marijuana dispenser hook him up with some free samples before leaving Ponderosa?)

A few other highlights from the Q&A session:

* After being asked by Dawn why she made an alliance with Coach and Albert, Sophie gave perhaps the quote of the season: “When I saw Coach, I saw him as the equivalent of a young girl.” I could give the context for this quote, but I think I’ll just let it stand on it’s own. But not before I type it again because I love it so much: “When I saw Coach, I saw him as the equivalent of a young girl.” Sophie pretty much earned her million dollars right there.

* “You guys lived with me for 37 days,” said Rick in his angry comments. “You know how I feel about liars.” How do you feel about liars, Rick? Because considering you told Albert you all were good for the final three, then later told Brandon and Sophie that was a bunch of Hong King Phooey, I guess that makes you a liar. Does this mean you hate yourself too?

* The best question was actually posed by Brandon, who asked Albert whether he knew Lil Hantz was going home when he refused to give the idol back. “Yes or no?” Brandon kept barking while Albert stammered. Poor Albert thought he was good to go at the final Tribal, and he couldn’t have been more wrong.

* Edna was totally the voice of reason, telling the jurors not to be bitter Bettys and hold the fact that they got beaten against the people that beat them. But you know what? The voice of reason is boring! Go talk some smack, Edna. Or at least make the finalists sweat a little bit. Have fun with it, woman!

* Great move by Sophie during Keith’s question to Coach about the idol to point out how they had duped Brandon into thinking it had been found later. All that can do is possibly give Brandon a reason to turn on his God alliance with Coach and Albert. The only thing that could have made it any better is if she called Coach a young girl again.

NEXT: Hantz family reunion smackdown!

After the voting, all that’s left is for Probst to deliver the votes. Will it be via jet ski, skydiving, motorcycle, taxi…? Nope, those glory years of voting delivery are clearly gone. Instead, the host just saunters out of Tribal Council and onto the CBS set in Los Angeles. (Lame!) He reads the votes, announces Sophie as the winner, and the next thing you know Papa Bear is bounding onto the stage like a lunatic. A big, hairy lunatic.

Unfortunately for us, the reunion is free from pretty much any bickering among the cast. Sure Jim takes a nice parting shot at Cochran for playing to get further in the game instead of playing to win the game, but we don’t get to hear whether Rick is still pissed at Coach. In fact, we don’t get to hear from Rick at all! Probst doesn’t take any chances with the snoozemonger, completely skipping him (the same way he also snubs Semhar, Mikayla, Papa Bear, and Elyse).

That’s not to say there isn’t some deliciously uncomfortable friction, only this time it is between Brandon — who explains that no one from his family is there and that “I don’t think a lot of people are proud of me” — and his uncle Russell, who tells us how “I made greatness. I brought the game to a level that you can’t even comprehend.” A level of modesty?

Other headlines from the Reunion:

* Edna is pregnant. See what a night in Ozzy’s Pleasure Dome will do for you!

* Ozzy actually says “For all the kids out there…” not once, but twice! For all I know his next few words may have been “smoke tons and tons of weed,” because I was so shocked to hear him talking to the kids that I pretty much blacked out after that.

* “I know what next season is,” says Probst. “Russell on one tribe. Brandon on the other.” Ha! Ha! Very funny, Jeff. You are kidding, right, Jeff? Jeff…?

* Little girls from the audience should not be allowed to ask questions. That is all.

* Ozzy takes home the $100,000 fan vote, so at least winning all those duels was worth something. He’s doing it for the kids, ladies and gentlemen!

In actuality next season will be the Survivor: One World and feature two tribes living on the same beach. Initial reaction? I like it! Cool, interesting new dynamic. Now we’ll just have to see how it plays out. Speaking of seeing things, check out our exclusive deleted scene starring Ozzy (in which he devours the competition — literally!) in the video player below, as well as my pre-game interview with Sophie. And check back Monday for interviews with Coach, Ozzy and Sophie, as well as my regular Q&A with Jeff Probst. Until then, hit the message boards to let us know what you think? Did the right person win? And are you happy with the season as a whole? As always, it has been my pleasure to serve you this Survivor season. To keep the reality ramblings coming, just follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. And I’ll catch you next spring with another scoop of the crispy. Thanks, ya’ll!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols


Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst looks at his feet while telling them to "COME ON IN, GUYS!"

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  • 40
  • CBS
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