Survivor 33 ended with a satisfying, surprisingly emotional finale

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Previously on Survivor, the whole season happened. And most recently, Will and Sunday were voted out, leaving Adam, David, Hannah, Ken, Jay, and Bret still in the game.

As I look back, I see that I was a bit off in my early thoughts of the contestants, but not entirely. I predicted Adam would be in the finale, but also that Chris would end up there too. I got Will, Zeke, and David’s post-merge boot right but I predicted Hannah would be out early. I was sadly wrong on Mari, but also Figgy, whereas I did get Ken’s placement right. But it was all based on their interviews and profiles, so there was a lot I didn’t know yet.

I also feel like the characters were interesting enough that almost everyone would be fun to have back, depending on the season. Sure, we never saw Mari play at all, and she’s an early boot, so who knows if she’d be good? And Figgy was sunk by her romance, so she’s a tough one to bring back too. But what about the next season? I’ll get to that at the end.

The two hour finale was structured very well, without a lot of the fluff we normally get. Jeff’s season in review reminds us of his forced culture clash clichés, which led to a few decent moments, and the storm evacuation, which didn’t seem to have any lasting impact. But the other moments were great, Adam and Jay’s emotional connection, Bret and Zeke connecting, Idols played incorrectly, and the rare case of going to rocks and poor Jessica’s terrible luck.

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Dave had some great moves but also some not so great ones. By this point he had lost his paranoia and worry, but it was replaced by overconfidence. His final great move was stuffing a coconut with his fake idol, which really did look amazing. But it’s unclear if it really had an impact on anything, as Jay didn’t play much like he had an idol.

But I did notice some interesting hubris from both Jay and Bret this episode, with Jay calling the other players “losers” versus Bret calling them “morons.” For Jay it was because they missed Dave’s fake idol (which only Ken missed) and for Bret it was not targeting Dave. I think that’s why Bret only was okay voting for Adam, he didn’t respect Ken’s boring “loyalty and great challenge guy” style nor did he like Hannah’s “flipper flipping” style.

When Adam referred to himself as a compromise in styles, it was a great point. And I think it was the reason he won every vote, because everyone had an opinion of him as a hard player isolated from everyone else. Adam has said in follow-up interviews that he had personal relationships with most players, which we didn’t see much of, but it’s believable. Hannah really only had them with Michelle, Zeke, Adam, and Ken.

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Jay ended his game in a really great arc, showing himself as a fun, engaging player with no bitterness we could see. This guy probably looks the best of any other boots, even more than Ken or Hannah. Ken didn’t have much of an arc at all, he played decently but not that well. He had a few good insights and moves, but a lot of stupid ones. Adam had a mix too, but he had an overall growth towards success. Hannah did that too, but her game was more chaotic and sporadic, and the jury seemed to find Hannah’s perspective invalid.

It’s hard to convince the jury of what they didn’t see, and despite them not being that bitter, Hannah definitely had foolish mistakes. But I think the true error was not voting David out until the very last moment, while Adam didn’t have that issue. Because Hannah worried about backlash from Ken and thought she could manage Dave until voting him out at the end (which in fairness, did happen), the obvious target of Dave stuck around.

And the jury saw that as foolishness, and that only Adam was truly capable of playing well enough to get Dave out.

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The final immunity challenges were also nail biters, exciting and close, with enough variation that really anyone (other than Bret) seemed like they might win. Even Hannah got very close at the last one with Ken. I didn’t really think Ken would have a chance at the finals, but he and Hannah argued very well at the final Council, for the most part.

But Ken wasn’t respected and couldn’t win. And Hannah didn’t reframe the game successfully, which again, is super hard. But in the end, I do respect their games, as if we can be okay with Adam’s mistakes like telling Taylor about his advantage, we should be able to respect anyone taken to the end that aren’t clear goats.

Adam’s final reveal of his mom’s cancer was, to me, completely fine. I know some people found it distasteful or unethical, but it was the truth and his truth. It was a blowout of votes, and that may have swayed some people. Ken got emotional talking about his daughter, which is also fine. But Hannah was more robotic, and I think there’s a bit of a double standard there. If she had gotten super emotional, she’d have seemed weak.

I think Hannah couldn’t win against Adam or Dave or Jay. Adam versus the other two is closer, as all three had real shots at votes. But if even Jessica wouldn’t vote for Ken, who else would? But Hannah could maybe have beaten Bret, Sunday, or Will. Hard to say.

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At the reunion, I was surprised by how decent it was, with no weird interruptions from the crowd, and a lot of great topics covered. I wasn’t the only one with “onions cutting nearby” when Adam talked about his mother passing away an hour after he returned, which Jeff handled quite well. Many people got questions, and the crucial topics were covered, even if they made fun of Hannah in a way that was a bit dickish.

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So what about next season? They brought out Tony (great player), Tai (uneven but fun player), Caleb (hard player but cipher), Cirie (strategic master player), Ciera (decent player that Jeff loves harping on voted out her mom), Sandra (the queen of playing it subtle and the only two time winner), and Ozzie (emotionally uneven, strategically unsound, and challenge dominating). Michaela was also mentioned, and that’s great news.

In the clip, I also spotted Aubry (probably should’ve won her season), Malcolm (great player but with harsh weaknesses), and JT (he played a very good game the first time, a poor one the second time). The rumors are that Zeke also returned, which is also a great choice. Sorry Mari! When we get one of those “What might have been” seasons, maybe they’ll call you.

Overall, it was one of the better seasons in recent memory, but Survivor has been pretty good in general, a few iffy winners aside. Adam wasn’t the best player, but he played enough of a balanced game of strategy, social, and challenge work to feel a deserving winner. And I’m fine with that.

Survivor: Ponderosa 8

– Watch what happens when the latest cast-off from Survivor: Millennials Vs. Gen X heads to Ponderosa to join the rest of the jury and reflect on their experience.

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Survivor: Game CHangers 8

Survivor returns with “Game Changers,” coming this Spring.

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