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Eulogizing Survivor: Winners at War

Here we are, the morning after another season finale of Survivor. In many ways, it’s hard to believe this season even happened. This show has been on for 20 years, an accomplishment in itself. We got 20 winners to come and play again for the long-fabled all winners season. It also gave us an ending that felt very satisfying in a way not all of the all-stars seasons do.

Congrats to Tony Vlachos, the second ever two-time winner of Survivor. He’s the guy no one thought could do it. He was too dangerous, too shifty. Everyone knows his game, and no one could trust him. I was on a pre-season podcast talking about Tony. We all thought it would be fun if Tony could make it far, but we just didn’t see a path for him.

Tony was able to adapt his game for season 40. It was impressive to watch him build alliances with people he wasn’t able to get on the same page with before. He laid low when he needed to, and then ramped up his game when necessary. He made solid alliances with the right people, and trusted his gut along the way. It was really fun to watch Tony play again, and win.

I was really excited to see Michele play again. It was very satisfying to see her make it to the end. She was constantly on the bottom, and rarely on the right side of the vote. While she was my rooting interest going into the finale, I can understand why she didn’t end up with any votes to win.

One of Michele’s story lines throughout the season was fighting the notion that she didn’t deserve to win the first time. I think she proved that her social game is unmatched. There was a reason she made it to the end. She never gave up.

She was not alone in thinking that she didn’t deserve to win her first time around. No, we heard that from quite a few of the women on the season. It broke my heart that so many of these women had been told so many times that they didn’t deserve it, that they believed it. I’m firmly in the camp of ‘if you got the most votes at the end, you deserved it’.

There was an interesting discussion on last night’s episode about the gender bias in Survivor, and in life. It’s very obvious to see that often times women are held to a different standard while playing Survivor. I mean, let’s all take a moment to remember how Dawn was treated in the final tribal of Fans vs Favs 2. I was genuinely shocked to hear Jeff acknowledge that he himself has played a part in this over the last 20 years. It kind of never felt like Jeff was listening when the collective talked about it.

We still have a long way to go in Survivor and life when it comes to gender AND racial biases. Just acknowledging that it’s there isn’t enough at this point. Saying sorry isn’t enough. There needs to be some actual shifts in our outlook on these issues.

Natalie man. Wow, what a gal. I was so devastated to see her voted off first. I’m so glad she just kept fighting and fighting to make it to the end. Sure, it’s hard to justify someone never making it through a vote without immunity winning the season, but I would have done it had Natalie won!

I loved that this final three really exemplified the 3 aspects of Survivor – the strategic game, the social game, and the physical game. In the last few years, people have really put a lot of weight on playing a great strategic game, which I totally understand. I just prefer a great social game!

Did Edge of Extinction work well in this season?

I had gone into the season not being super excited for this twist to come back. Last time it was in play, it lead to a winner being crowned that no one really expected, and worse, no one could really understand the path because we didn’t see him at all.

I did like it here. It gave us the opportunity to hang out with some of our favourites for a lot longer than we would have otherwise. I can’t imagine having to lose Ethan early and then not being able to see him again.

I was fine with the ginormous jury!! It was really cool for all of these winners, who have made a huge impact on the game throughout two decades, to have an impact on this season.

I do believe that Edge of Extinction was a way to be rewarded for going out early. It means people could form bonds without the pressure of the game.

I hope that we don’t see Edge of Extinction again, even though I was happy for both Tyson and Natalie to get another chance to play the game.

Oh yeah, and Sandra didn’t quit. Being able to leave Edge after being voted out was a function of the game that everyone had available to them. Sandra knows her strengths, and challenges aren’t included. I don’t blame her for a second.

Was this a good season?

Yeah, I think so. Was it my favourite of all time? No, certainly not. But I do think this was a pretty entertaining season. It was crushing to see all of our old school favourites that we’ve been dying to see for years go out so early.

Yes, I was heartbroken seeing my favourite player, Kim, get voted out for the first time. I loved what Kim said last night, which is that she gets to go home feeling free in her imperfection in playing the game.

I hope that all of the players on this season were able to return home with a sense of peace about what happened on the island. It’s been so wonderful seeing how all of these people have grown so much over the years.

I can’t wait for another 20 years of Survivor!



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