Survivor: One World Review, Season 24, Episode 14,
“Perception is Not Always Reality”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
There have been only a few cases where the Survivor winner has been telegraphed so far in advance. A recent example was Boston Rob’s roll through the Redemption Island season, but his edge as a four-time returning player made it easier. Kim has played front and center since the merge and put a huge target on her back. She’s walked the line between staying loyal to her alliance and removing major challengers. During the two-hour finale, she has several opportunities to take out players who could steal the prize. The surprising part is that she resists that temptation and sticks with Sabrina and Chelsea to face the music. Her confidence in the Final Tribal Council is clear, and the only remaining obstacle is bitterness from the jury.
Strong competitors from the past have assumed this powerful group would reward the most worthy player. It’s a big gamble to stick with nice people even if their games have been weaker. Winners like Natalie White and Bob Crowley are already fading from our memory after winning because they faced hated players. Kim earned a bunch of immunities and made big moves, but it’s her likability that earns her a 7-2 victory and the million-dollar prize. Jury members like Kat have been glaring nastily at Kim for weeks, so it’s refreshing to see most players take the high road. In fact, they take such a nice route that the composers use an excess of piano music to spotlight it. Kat does a complete about face and gives a passionate speech about her heart condition and getting the most out of life. Tarzan also fails to disappoint with a ridiculous monologue about his wife. They both shine, but the true champion is Jonas for mocking every ultra-serious juror in the show’s history with a fun joke about calling him “master”. Nicely played.
Heading into the Final Tribal Council, the others need strong plans to thwart Kim’s rise to Survivor greatness. Unfortunately, their performances play right into her hands. Here is a summary of each player’s approach to charming the Jury:
Chelsea: Instead of clarifying why she’s different than Kim, she admits that they worked together on everything. She also tries to combat the impression she’s cold-hearted.
Sabrina: She explains her lack of effort in challenges or strategy because it kept the target off her back. She lost her job recently, which makes this money essential.
Kim: She owns the strategic moves and talks about being willing to do anything to win, even if it means angering the people who leave.
The two-hour episode begins with an exciting immunity challenge that incorporates several past contests into a fun combo. After untying ropes (again), cross a complicated maze, grab puzzles pieces, and then work to solve them to get three numbers. Chelsea and Alicia are extremely close, but Kim grabs immunity at the last minute. The deceptive editing suggests that Kim will flip on her pal Chelsea because she’s the biggest threat, which is the sensible move. Alicia seems confident she’s headed for the end, but Kim decides to stick with her alliance and boots her. Finally! This leaves Christina as the obvious goat to take to the finals. By winning the challenge, Kim avoids having to use her immunity idol at all. She wisely keeps that information secret to avoid grandstanding in front of the jury.
The final-four challenges have moved away from endurance and seem designed to deliver a more random result. This one requires serious concentration to keep from knocking down a stack of wooden bowls from the top of a tenuous structure. Kim grabs an early lead and receives a surprising test from Christina, but she never loses focus and takes the final win. It would have been interesting to see what the others would have done if Kim had lost. Instead, it comes down to keeping Christina or backstabbing an ally. It’s really easy to pick on Christina, who comes off terribly during her final day on the island. Jeff Probst and the entire jury spend Tribal Council looking down on her for giving up so easily. It fits with the way she’s played the entire game, so it seems fitting that she goes out with a whimper. It leads to pretty dull television, however. Thankfully, the Fallen Comrades walk returns before the challenge. Welcome back to a wonderfully cheesy delight!
Heading into the Final Tribal Council, the narrative is so direct that it feels like Kim must somehow lose the game. Sabrina gives a heartfelt confessional about her tough situation at home, which raises expectations that she might steal the crown. By taking fairly strong allies to the end, Kim risks making the error that Coach made last season by sticking with Albert and Sophie. The difference is her genuine likability, which leads to one of the more dominant performances in Survivor history.