Sorry that this had to be two months late! I got caught up writing two treatments (scripts) for some video games I want to pitch to a game company, and then got lazy after they were done. But now, with the new season coming up next week, it's time for me to wrap this up.
Thirteen weeks ago, eighteen new castaways came to San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua for a chance to win one-million dollars. The castaways were divided into pairs of loved ones, some related by blood, and some related by romance. They were divided into two tribes, Coyopa and Hunahpu, and put through several weeks of challenges and Tribal Councils before the two tribes merged into one tribe, Huyopa. The challenges and Tribal Councils and even big blindsides continued, and along the way, thirteen castaways fell by the wayside -- Nadiya, Val, John, Drew, Kelley, Dale, Julie, Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon. This left the eventual final five castaways -- Missy, Baylor, Natalie, Jaclyn, and Keith.
The season finale of Survivor was tense and thrilling, for sure. It began with the five remaining castaways, fresh off Jon's long-awaited, well-deserved vote-off, resuming the game following the last Tribal Council. Natalie was giddy that her blindside plan had worked, that Jon was gone, and that Jeremy's vote-off had been avenged. But she had to deal with Jaclyn, who was pissed off. She knew that Missy, Baylor, and Natalie had screwed her. She vehemently tried to defend Jon to Natalie, but when Natalie tried to tell her that she disliked Jon based on what she knew of him in the game, Jaclyn fired back that she didn't know him in real life. She privately regretted going off on Natalie, though, and just wanted to refocus her efforts on trying to survive in the game without her boyfriend. The next morning, Missy and Baylor made their plans to go to the Final Tribal Council together, with Natalie. But they had to make sure that the big challenge threat, Keith, could be dispatched before their final three plans could be screwed up. But with Missy's ankle injury growing worse, it would be difficult.
The final Reward Challenge of the season saw the castaways being attached to a rope and racing to unspool the rope before heading out to assemble a bridge. Once complete, they could use sandbags to knock down a series of blocks. The first person to finish would win reward -- an advantage in the next Immunity Challenge. With Missy's injury, she could not compete. So only Baylor, Jaclyn, Keith, and Natalie could compete.
So here's how the challenge shook down. All four castaways were about neck-and-neck during the unspooling portion, but as the challenge went along, Keith and Natalie broke out into the lead, and it became between the two of them from the bridge portion to the sandbag throwing. But Keith pulled ahead and stayed ahead when he got to the sandbags, and . . . he won reward! So he would have the advantage for the next Immunity Challenge! In addition, though, he could choose the person to send to Exile Island. For her fit thrown the previous night, he chose Jaclyn. With nothing for Baylor, Missy, or Natalie, Probst sent them all back to camp with Keith.
On Exile Island, Jaclyn found the clue to the hidden Immunity Idol, but as Jon already had it and had undoubtedly been voted out with it in his back pocket, she just had to settle for getting comfortable there. Still, she likely looked for it just in case there was a new one. She got emotional while there, thinking about how she couldn't have children, and feeling alone without Jon. She knew the next Tribal Council would likely end with her or Keith voted out. If Keith won immunity, she'd be gone.
Back at camp, Baylor, Missy, and Natalie were all lamenting Keith having the advantage. They knew that him losing would be key when the next Immunity Challenge rolled around. Keith, meanwhile, got to find the advantage: a challenge table that'd been set up just for him in private so he could practice with it for as long as he wanted . . . but had to give up once he was done. It involved transferring balls through a series of obstacles using a set of large spoons, from one side of the table to the other. It would have to be done three times for him to win. Keith was determined to win for one reason. He, like Jaclyn, knew that Baylor, Missy, and Natalie were tightly bound and would vote either him or Jaclyn out -- and if he didn't have immunity, he'd likely be the target. But was that the case? Natalie, who still had her hidden Immunity Idol, was thinking about her ideal final three and was actually considering jumping to Keith and Jaclyn, if just for one vote, to split up Missy and Baylor.
The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways doing just what'd been hinted at by the challenge table Keith had received. They had to use a series of small paddles to maneuver three balls through a series of obstacles. The first to do so would win immunity and be guaranteed a one-in-four shot at winning the million dollars. The losers all be vulnerable at Tribal Council, where the fourteenth person would be voted out and become the seventh member of the jury, joining Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon. Since this just involved standing in place, Missy could participate in this challenge.
So here's how the challenge shook down. For quite a while, all five castaways had difficulties maneuvering their balls through the obstacles. It took many attempts before finally, Keith's practice time paid off, and he finally started making some progress. He began moving his first ball through the obstacles, and then his second, and, finally, his third before Baylor, Jaclyn, Missy, or Natalie even got one of them through! So Keith very decisively won immunity! He'd be guaranteed a one-in-four shot at winning the million-dollar prize! And he'd also guaranteed that the next juror would be a woman, meaning that the streak of male jurors would be broken that night! In other words, one of Baylor, Jaclyn, Missy, and Natalie would be voted out at the next Tribal Council and join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon as the seventh member of the jury.
Before Tribal Council, the obvious target emerged -- Jaclyn. She was targeted for being outside of Baylor, Missy, and Natalie's main alliance of three. And for being Jon's closest partner, of course. She was the only option since Keith's immunity made a vote-off impossible. Jaclyn had even shut down a bit, knowing that she needed a miracle to stay in the game now, and she tried to fight to avoid being snuffed. But Natalie still trusted Baylor and Missy. However, a verbal slip-up by Baylor made a new plan start to take shape. She asked Natalie if, at Tribal Council, she played her hidden Immunity Idol on Missy just in case Jaclyn and/or Keith tried something funny. That sent warning bells off in Natalie's head. She realized that Missy and Baylor might've been trying something of their own to get rid of Natalie. So it was time to make a big move to target one of them instead before they could target her. So the target -- or at least Jaclyn and Natalie's target -- had now switched to either one of Missy or Baylor. Jaclyn preferred Missy since she was injured and couldn't beat Keith in the final Immunity Challenge, something for which they'd need as many able-bodied women as possible, and Baylor would do whatever they wanted without her mother around. But whom did Natalie want to see go? . . .
At Tribal Council, the answer was made clear. First, the votes were cast. Then, before Probst read the votes, Natalie got up to play her hidden Immunity Idol since it was the last chance she could play it. She'd been back and forth on playing it, but at the last minute, she'd decided that she would. She asked Jaclyn if she had voted for their agreed-upon target, and Jaclyn said yes. After gettin ehr confirmation, Natalie played her idol on Jaclyn. And then, by a vote of 3-2, with the three votes not counting and two votes being the only ones that mattered, the fourteenth person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the seventh member of the jury was . . . Baylor. So Natalie did truly flip on her alliance. (Oh, and the three canceled-out votes were Baylor, Keith, and Missy's for Jaclyn.) So her torch was snuffed, and she was sent on her way.
This end result was result was sad for me. I mean, it would've been sad no matter which of the four women had been voted out. I liked them all, as well as Keith (although less so than the women). Admittedly, my love for Baylor was challenged a fair bit in the early weeks, when she immediately sold out the women of Coyopa to join Josh and the other men in voting out Nadiya and then still siding with them when Val was voted out. But I started to love her when she got away from Josh and started her genuine friendship and alliance with Natalie. I saw what a sweet, kind person she was. I don't know why the guys didn't like her around camp (according to many post-show press interviews). From what I saw, I'd be glad to have her as a friend, and so should any person who meets her. But she shot her mouth off with Natalie, sent up a red flag for her, and couldn't see her blindside coming because of that. If she'd stayed quiet, Jaclyn would've been tossed instead (as I'm sure Natalie would've just played her idol on herself, not on Jaclyn, for whom she'd have likely voted instead). But now her mother remains, as the final pair had finally been broken up. Bye-bye, Baylor. Glad you made it so far! I hope you're very happy going forward in your life! And I'm glad you're not bitter in the slightest toward Natalie!
Fresh off Baylor's vote-off, the four remaining castaways returned to camp following Tribal Council. Missy was shocked by Baylor being gone, but like her daughter, she wasn't at all bitter about the vote. She knew Natalie had to have her reasons for it. She did. Natalie realized that trusting two family members so close to the end was a bad idea. Plus, she'd gotten rid of half of a pair without looking like the big threat. Jaclyn, meanwhile, felt good to have a new lease on life in the game. She wanted to either have Natalie win immunity so she could take her to the Final Tribal Council . . . or win it herself so she could get Natalie there. Whatever happened, Keith was still the main threat, and he had to be stopped before he could win the final Immunity Challenge.
The final Immunity Challenge saw the castaways racing down a giant tower, maneuvering through a series of obstacles, and collecting three bags of puzzle pieces along the way. Once they had the first three, they would have to race back up the tower, deposit their pieces, and then head back down to get the last two. Once all five bags were in their possession, they’d then have to open the bags and use the puzzle pieces to solve a puzzle revealing three shapes. They’d have to go back down the tower again after that to match up the shapes with numbers, then use those numbers to determine a combination that would release a long pin, along with a flag. The first person to release his or her flag would win immunity, be safe from the vote, and be guaranteed a one-in-three shot at winning the million-dollar prize, as he or she would be sitting at the Final Tribal Council! The losers would be vulnerable at the next Tribal Council, which would see the fifteenth person be voted out of the game and the eighth and final member of the jury decided, as that person would join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, Jon, and Baylor. Since this challenge was so physical, Missy would once again be out of this, leaving it down to Jaclyn, Keith, and Natalie.
So here’s how the challenge shook down. In descending the tower, Natalie grabbed the early lead. But Keith took over the lead in going through the obstacles. Jaclyn lagged behind the entire time, not even coming close to catching up with them. After getting each of their first three bags, Keith headed back up the tower with Natalie right behind him. Jaclyn started to fall behind as she got her three bags, as well. Keith kept his lead, though, in going back down the tower again. But Natalie was right behind him in going for their fourth and fifth bags. Natalie actually overtook Keith in getting her fourth bag, and she took over the lead in getting her fifth and final bag. But Keith, despite falling behind due to age, kept close behind Natalie in getting his fifth and final bag. Jaclyn, however, lost so much energy and fell behind, despite getting all of her bags.
Now came the puzzle. Natalie had a lead in putting together her puzzle easily. Keith was close, though. Still, they got frazzled and stumped for a short time. But not so short that Jaclyn couldn’t catch up. And, to the surprise of many, she did! She solved her puzzle first, got the shapes, and hurried back down once more to see which numbers conformed to the shapes. She memorized them, came back up, and got to work in solving her combination. But Natalie finally solved her shapes and headed down to get her combination, as well. She made it to the numbers just as Jaclyn was heading back up. She reached her puzzle and started solving her combination. And . . . she did! Jaclyn won immunity! She would be guaranteed a one-in-three shot in winning the million-dollar prize! She was going to the Final Tribal Council! Meanwhile, one of Keith, Missy, or Natalie would be voted out at the next Tribal Council and join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, Jon, and Baylor as the eighth and final member of the jury. Obviously, it would be Keith, and Keith himself thought so, too, but we’ll see.
Before Tribal Council, the obvious target emerged — Keith. He was targeted as being too likable in the eyes of the jury. Even with his bad social and strategic game, there was still a chance he’d win a jury vote since, if Jaclyn sent Natalie packing, he’d be facing the jury with Jaclyn and Missy, two women who weren’t liked (Missy) or respected (Jaclyn) by the jury. Jaclyn knew that. Still, she tried to decide who would be ideal. She considered Missy, who already had Baylor’s vote, at least. But she knew that Natalie had Jeremy’s vote, as well as possibly Josh’s vote, Wes’s vote (if Keith ended up on the jury), Reed’s vote, and Jon’s vote. But Jaclyn was worried that, due to the overall sexist nature shown by a large number of the men this season, that Keith would have most, if not all, of the men’s votes, and six of the seven members of the jury thus far were men. It was really gonna come down to whomever Jaclyn wanted to see go. But who was it? . . .
At Tribal Council, the question was made clear. By a vote of 3-1, the fifteenth person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the eighth and final member of the jury was . . . Keith! Yes! (Oh, and the lone vote was Keith’s for Missy.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.
I was okay with this ending. I did like Keith, but he was by far the worst, weakest player left. He had no strategy, he had very little social game, and his only asset was that he was a challenge monster. He showed how unreliable he was as an alliancemate, though, with his “stick with the plan” screw-up that messed up Reed’s plan to blindside Jon sooner than he was, and also consigned Reed and Alec to their vote-offs. So despite what the women feared, I doubt the men would’ve respected him to give him their votes. But I can see Jaclyn’s line of thinking, anyway. So on some level, it made sense. Goodbye, Keith. You were a good, nice, decent guy. But you weren’t worthy of winning. You have a nice, lovely wife, though.
Fresh off Keith’s vote-off, the three remaining castaways returned to game following Tribal Council. Jaclyn, Missy, and Natalie were all happy and satisfied to have an all-female final three, especially after having had to start out in such a deep minority, what with ten men being there and only eight women (due to an additional all-female pair having to drop out of the game right before it started at the last minute). Missy even said as much. She wasn’t intimidated by seven of the jurors being men. She needed to try and sway them as well as she could. The women then enjoyed their final breakfast, provided to them by the show. Natalie was proud of herself for navigating through the game, even without Nadiya. But now she needed to say the right things to the jury. And Jaclyn wanted the jury to know that she did do things without Jon, and that she was underestimated from the start. But she really wanted the title of Sole Survivor than the money so she could inspire other girls and women with MRKH. With that, it was time to go to the Final Tribal Council.
At the Final Tribal Council, Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, Jon, Baylor, and Keith were all brought in to hear Jaclyn, Missy, and Natalie all make their cases. Missy, Jaclyn, and Natalie, in that order, made their opening cases, and by far, Natalie made the best one. Then, the jurors questioned them, and it was a generally non-bitter jury. All except for Reed, that is, who spewed all sorts of bile at Missy for claiming to be honest and loyalty, yet backstabbing Jon, and also being an “evil stepmother” due to the favoritism she’d often shown Baylor over others and fighting her battles for her (she’s her mother, you dick, so of course she would!). it was basically a bitter, nasty diatribe that made Baylor cry upon seeing her mother trashed. But after that, it was time to vote.
So then, it was time to vote, and Probst took the votes to Los Angeles for their live reading. It was time for the season to be put to bed with the reveal of the winner. And by a vote of 5-2-1, the winner of Survivor: San Juan del Sur was . . . Natalie! Whoooooooo! Jaclyn came in second, having received Reed and Jon’s votes, and Missy took the show position in third, having only gotten Baylor’s vote.
So let’s start with the third-place-finisher. I loved Missy from the beginning and thought she played a good game. My love wavered a bit when her favoritism toward Baylor showed itself in week five, but ultimately, I held on to my good feelings of her. But apparently, she must’ve been a horror around camp for the jury to not even respect her game, even despite many of them either thinking or outright knowing that she was at the center of her alliance. Also, she shouldn’t have claimed loyalty when, yes, she did betray Jon (and Jeremy, who also felt betrayed by her). So in a lot of ways, third place was deserved by her. Good job, Missy! But I can see why you didn’t win this season.
Now for the second-place-finisher, the runner-up. I liked Jaclyn a lot, but despite her claims of being a strong player, I can see why so few jurors disagreed with her. She and Jon did make their decisions together, but they played in such a way that Jon looked like he was the one playing and Jaclyn was just being carried, and Jaclyn did nothing to change that perception. I think she herself realized that, too. But she spent the back half of the game coming off like a spoiled princess who felt entitled to come have people talk to her, and took it badly when Jon was voted out and she was left alone. All of that had to be a turn-off to the jury, and deservedly so. So congratulations on second place, Jaclyn, but like Missy, I can see why you lost this one.
Finally, the winner. I’ve loved Natalie since she and Nadiya were both on The Amazing Race 21 and The Amazing Race 24. She was a smart racer on her first season (not so much her second season), and she turned out to be a surprisingly smart player on Survivor! She played her heart out, having to navigate the game after her loved one was the very first person voted out. She formed a good, tight alliance with Jeremy that blossomed into a real, genuine friendship. After he was voted out, she played masterfully to avenge him by getting rid of Jon. And she made just the right moves at just the right times for both the jury and the other players to see! Her win was very much deserved, and it was a good way of avenging her Amazing Race losses! Also, it’s pretty cool that the “Twinnies” bookended the standings of this season, basically — one of them, Nadiya, was the first one gone, while the other one, Natalie, won the whole thing! Congratulations, Natalie! You’re probably my favorite female winner in a long time (and the first one since Denise won Philippines)! Way to go!
In other news, we had a reunion that basically was much ado about nothing. We learned the nature of Missy and Baylor’s relationship, the nature of Jon and Jaclyn’s relationship, more about the third-booted John being harangued by natalie, even though that revisitation was totally unncessary, learned about Keith’s inability to play the game (kudos to Jeremy for pointing out how bad he was at the game, despite his fourth-place finish), and finally, that Reed wasn’t sorry about his tirade toward Missy. Jerk. (And he confirmed after the reunion that despite knowing that Natalie was far and away the best player of the three, he purposely voted for Jaclyn just to put Missy in third place out of spite.) And except for John, Probst spent no time talking to the early boots of Nadiya, Val, Drew, Kelley, or Dale. He also skipped over Julie the quitter. Though quitters don't deserve respect or acknowledgement, so I'm fine with that. Then, we learned of the theme of next season, our thirtieth one — Survivor: Worlds Apart, a season that would have three tribes once more, this time based on profession and income level — the preppy White Collars, the hard-working Blue Collars, and the freespirited No Collars. It’s interesting . . . yet also worrisome to me. Not something I’d revolved the thirtieth season around, to be sure.
And so the sun sets on Survivor: San Juan del Sur. We’ve had good challenges, great castaways, a solid elimination order, a near-perfect group of finalists, and an absolutely amazing, deserving winner in Natalie. Will Survivor: Worlds Apart be just as good when it starts in February? (In this case, this coming Wednesday?) Three-tribe seasons usually turn out to be great — just ask Philippines and, before it became way too obvious that Tony would win, Cagayan — but we’ll see then!