The Survivor: Nicaragua Winner Is...

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During the first tribal council of tonight’s season finale, Dan gave his reasons for why he felt Holly was a bigger threat than him. 

Whether it made sense to you, me, the jury or anyone, Jeff Probst correctly pointed out that Dan’s perception of why Holly is a threat matters more than if she really was one.

Jud Finds the Rum

This conversation very neatly summarized the way that Jud, Holly, Dan and, even to some extent, Chase, changed throughout the course of the season.  If a vote took place even halfway through the game, none of these four would have been in the top three vote getters.  Ironically, the one who would have been, Sash, was blanked in the finale.

Although Chase and Sash tried to argue otherwise at the final tribal council, the way Jud played the game most definitely is a viable way to play.  Going with the flow, making friends and winning challenges absolutely qualifies for the Outplay aspect of Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. 

Many survivor fans and players - myself included - talk so much about how strategic players should be crowned winners of Survivor.  Russell Hantz made a fool out of himself in being a sore loser, twice, because he thought Survivor justice was not served when he didn’t win. 

However, there is more to Survivor than conniving and scheming.  I’m sure Russell would argue that manipulating the players to do what you want is more difficult than winning challenges and he may be right.  That same Russell Hantz will also tell you that Survivor is a game, backstabbing is part of that game and should not be penalized for hurting people’s feelings in the process. 

Jud/Fabio winning three straight immunity challenges is not different.  Winning your way in to the final three is simply another way to play the game.  The beauty of Survivor is that it only gets you in to the final three; it does not guarantee you victory.  That much was very evident in Chase’s performance at the final tribal council.  Chase’s way of playing the game got him just one vote shy of winning.

Wind Swept Jud

Whether you believe his (and Sash’s) claims that they were waiting until the end to make their presence felt in challenges, Jud did exactly what he said he was going to do.  He waited until the end of the game to start winning challenges and rode it all the way to the finals.  Some people will call it lucky because it’s a dangerous way to play the game.  Is it any more dangerous than the way Sash played?  That got him zero votes

Jud went from a 21-year old ditsy blonde - as Shannon famously referred to him as, despite being a guy – who’s nickname became Fabio to an immensely likable man who’s energy others fed off of and who’s emotion was contagious.  In fact, I’m surprised the vote was even as close as it was.  After his performance at the penultimate and final tribal councils, I thought he was a shoo-in for the million dollars.

For my money, Chase’s transformation took place as late as possible, in the final tribal council.  But, hey, as the saying goes, better late than never.  To his credit, Chase recognized his flaws in the game and wanted to use the final tribal council to change people’s perception of him and how he played the game.  Even if he was basically faking it the entire time.  It worked – Alina gave him her vote after being impressed - and he almost pulled it off. 

Similar to Jud, Dan went from a complete liability to someone the other competitors were legitimately worried about winning over the jury.  There’s almost no reason Dan should have survived the tribe portion of the game, but he did and went from someone who seemed aloof and indifferent to someone’s who’s calm demeanor turned him into a respected father-figured.

Whether Dan was actually a threat to win or not, we’ll never know.  For my money, I don’t think he would have been.  As much as Jud’s way of playing the game is viable, Dan’s, sitting back and doing nothing to move the game along, was not.  I can’t imagine the jury would reward him for simply being a non-threat to win challenges.

Survivor Nicaragua Final Five

(Speaking of not winning challenges, the tightness of the Holly-Chase-Sash alliance was confirmed by them voting out Dan and not each other.  Even if you think Dan is a threat to win the game, he’s not a threat to win the final immunity challenge, so they could have voted him out at the next tribal.  With Jud and Dan’s votes available, one of those three could have advanced their agenda, but none of them took the opportunity).

Finally, Holly’s change was the most notable and documented.  After literally drowning Dan’s $1,600 shoes and then confessing, Jimmy Johnson had to talk her in to staying in the game.  Holly goes from that low point to navigating Brenda’s ouster and becoming a power player in the game.  Her mother-like presence became so powerful; the guys were worried she’d win the game and prevented her from having the chance. 

That brings us back to Sash, Russell Hantz and any other player who feels that strategy is the most important aspect of Survivor.  Ever since Richard Hatch took advantage of the jury’s ignorance and won with strategy, very few players have been able to use their own ability to manipulate the other contestants.  Whether fair or not, consistently juries will not award one million dollars to someone who’s sole strategy is strategy alone. 

More from the finale of Survivor: Nicaragua:

  • I was shocked at Dan’s venom for Chase, Sash and Holly after he got voted off and at the final tribal council.  He was always so calm throughout the show and then out of nowhere he’s furious at everyone.
  • What do people think of the Rites of Passage?  Is it doing anything for anyone anymore?  Personally, I don’t mind it, but probably wouldn’t care if it was left out either.
  • The final immunity challenge seemed like a lot of luck to me.  At least more than my favorite types of final immunity challenges, the wanting-it-more challenges.  Survivor has moved towards focus-based challenges for the final challenge.
  • Where did Jud find that wood-type throne that he sat in for a confessional?  Why haven’t survivors been using that all season?
  • The scene where Sash tries to convince Jud that he was going to take Jud to the final three was pathetic and hilarious.  Even though Jud will believe a lot, Sash still couldn’t convince him.  When Sash was far less than convincing, Jud’s incredulous smirk was awesome.
  • How was Chase shocked by Sash lying to keep himself in the game after Jud won immunity?  What did he think was going to happen?  Sash, Chase and Holly were all going to sit back and let Jud decide for them?
  • I was a big Marty fan throughout the season, but basically lost all respect for him and his ‘game’ with his jury question.  Beyond how ridiculous it was, by requiring that Chase couldn’t name him, all he did was make himself look more foolish than he already did.  However, kudos to Chase for sending the question right back at Marty and coming out shinning on the other end.
  • Isn’t Alina telling Jud that she wants to give her vote to a man not a boy the pot calling the kettle black?  Jud’s 21.  Alina’s 23.  Huh?
  • Does anyone buy that NaOnka was a different person within the challenging confines of the game of Survivor?  I don’t.
  • Jeff’s telling us not to be, but I’m very skeptical of Redemption Island next season.

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Survivor Season 21 Episode 14 Quotes

Chase: I'm missing a piece.
Jeff: Must have fell out when you dumped them out.

I'm trying to find as many avenues to make the final three as possible. If that means making promises with every person left on my tribe. That's what I'm gonna do.