SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the finale of Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
The winner of Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers has been crowned, but only after a brand new twist enabled him to escape being voted out of the game. Ben Driebergen was awarded $1 million by the jury, but it’s a jury he would have been on himself had a format change not given him a second chance in the face of certain elimination.
After Chrissy Hofbeck won the final immunity challenge, she also received a note informing her that instead of voting out someone — as has happened at every non-final Tribal Council ever — she would be bringing someone (Ryan Ulrich, it turned out) with her to the end, and the other two people (Ben and Devon Pinto) would have to battle it out in a fire-making competition to advance. Seeing as how the other three players were all unanimously planning to vote Ben out because he was seen as the best player left, that meant Ben went from having zero chance of making the finals to a 50-percent chance.
Ben then defeated Devon and was rewarded with $1 million the next day by the jury for playing three straight immunity idols and surviving even when everyone wanted him out of the game for vote after vote. Those were accomplishments the jury deemed as more impressive than Chrissy sweeping the final three immunity challenges and tying the Survivor record for most individual immunity wins (four) by a woman. It was a final Tribal Council that also turned a bit testy as former island BFFs Chrissy and Ryan went at each other in the new open conversation format that replaced the standard Q&A setup starting last season.
Survivor nation will now debate whether the new final-four fire-making twist is a bold new stroke that adds both drama and another level of strategy and intrigue, or a cheat designed to give an extra boost to better players sure to be eliminated otherwise just before final Tribal (as has happened in the past to Malcolm in the Philippines, Kelley in Cambodia, and David in Millennials vs. Gen X). Some former Survivor players have already weighed in on Twitter.
Make sure to read our full Survivor finale recap as well as our interviews with winner Ben, runner-up Chrissy, finalist Ryan, fourth-place finisher Devon, and fifth-placer Dr. Mike. Also get some inside intel on NEXT season from Jeff Probst as well as Probst answering all the finale burning questions. And for tons more finale coverage, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.