Season 36 of Survivor is now officially in the books, and it was an unprecedented finish. Heading into the night, the game was being dominated (no pun intended) by Dom and Wendell, with Laurel, Donathan, Angela and Sebastian all still vying for the million dollar prize and title of Sole Survivor. To say the finish was epic would be an understatement.
Caution, as spoilers from this week’s episode are to follow! Turn back now! If you want to get caught up, be sure to check out the Finale Episode Recap here.
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When the dust finally settled, it was a 33-year old furniture designer from Philadelphia who narrowly came out on top. Wendell Holland beat his closest ally and fiercest rival, Domenick Abbate, in a 6-5 vote. Laurel had also reached Final Three, but when the jury ended in a tie 5-5 vote between Dom and Wendell, it was announced that Laurel would become a member of the jury and would cast the deciding vote. And while it was a tough decision and she had a close relationship with both Dom and Wendell, it was Wendell’s social game that gave him the slight edge in her decision-making, and Wendell became the show’s 35th winner.
I had a chance to speak with all six of the Final Survivor contestants on this week’s mega-sized edition of the FilmSurvivor Podcast (the full audio interviews of which you can find and download below). I spoke to Wendell and Dom each one-on-one and then was on a shared call with both Laurel and Angela, and Donathan and Sebastian. But here are some excerpts from my conversations with the Final Three:
On his mentality heading into Final Tribal Council:
Wendell Holland: I went in there and I sort of knew certain people would vote for me, but I also knew that Dom had played such a strong and a visible game, that it would not be a cake-walk for me. So I knew I would have to do some serious convincing as I sat in front of the jury.
On how he plans to spend the million bucks:
Wendell: I have to pay off my law school loans, and that will be a lot a lot of money, and then with the two dollars remaining, maybe I’ll be able to get a sandwich or something.
On how the first five jury members voted for Dom, while the final six jury members voted for Wendell:
Domenick Abbate: I think the first five jury members, maybe had a little more time to sit back and realize that maybe even though I had come across a little brash at times, it was more for strategic reasons, it wasn’t because I was trying to come off assertive with people. The second half of the jury maybe didn’t have the time to absorb that and I think that they were maybe, you know, kind of still hurt by some of the things that went down with me and them. So a lot of it is timing, or whatever it may be. But I also think it could have just been the personalities, it could be just a coincidence that the first five gave me their votes and then the second five did not…I don’t really know if there was a mathematical equation for it (laughs).
On why she should not be blamed for Donathan’s game:
Laurel Johnson: I was frustrated by that, I saw a lot [online] that I had ruined Donathan’s game, but Donathan could have made a move without me. He didn’t have to stay loyal to me, he could have flipped on me, there were other people in the game if they wanted to make a move. So I don’t know why it was just me or nothing…I was making decisions that I thought were best for me, and Donathan decided to go along with that. He didn’t have to go along with that, but he chose to. And obviously he got taken out sooner so maybe it would have been a better move for him to flip, but that’s on him. I don’t think I owed it to him to make a decision that was best for him, I had to make the decisions that were best for me.
On that note, be sure to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – and on Facebook, for all of the latest Survivor coverage, interviews, and movie reviews, including my updated “Most Memorable Seasons” and “All-Time Winners” Lists posting SOON.
TELL US: NOW THAT IT’S OVER, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS SEASON OF SURVIVOR AND ITS WINNER, WENDELL?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira