Survivor debuted over 17 years ago (!!!) and has just put the wraps on its 35th season. The Finale Episode of Survivor: HHH was one for the ages, but wasn’t without controversy. Heading into the episode we had Chrissy, Ryan, Devon, Ben and Dr. Mike all in the running to be this season’s Sole Survivor…so who ended up winning the million and the title?
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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Of course it was Ben Driebergen, the 36-year-old Marine from Boise, Idaho, who, against all odds, became the latest winner of Survivor. It wasn’t pretty: Ben never won Individual Immunity and the 11 votes he received this season breaks a record for most votes against a Sole Survivor (Aras Baskauskas of Survivor: Panama was the previous record-holder with nine votes against). Still, he managed to find three straight hidden Immunity Idols and played them all perfectly down the stretch to reach Final Four. There, with his hopes all but crushed, he was given one more chance when the game introduced a fire-making twist…Ben was able to make fire quicker than Devon and he put himself in the Final Three. The rest is history.
People might forget though, that Ben didn’t just “get lucky” down the stretch. Ben was calling the shots for a great majority of the game, leading others to even refer to him as the “King” and the leader of the “Knights of the Round Table.” He was able to survive after the tribe swap despite being the only Hero on his new tribe, and his “double agent” episodes showed that he was one of the more cunning players in the game, willing to do whatever he could to win the game for his family and children. His season’s story was that of a true hero, one that was battling real demons after his time in combat, and he ended up being a vocal spokesperson for PTSD, showing that there is life and happiness for soldiers returning home from war. Despite an abrasive social game, Ben won the final vote 5-2-1 over Chrissy and Ryan.
Speaking of Chrissy and Ryan, they ultimately stayed true to their alliance that formed across tribal lines on just Day Three in the game. It was then that Ryan chose Chrissy to receive his “Super Idol,” and even though Chrissy ended up not needing to use it, the gesture made the two fast allies. Talk about abrasive game-play, Chrissy rubbed many people (mostly fans!) the wrong way, but she was in total control of the game throughout much of it. She won four Individual Immunity Challenges, which is tied for the most ever in one season by a female. Her heated rivalry with Ben was one of the strongest elements of this season, and neither player relented. Ryan on the other hand, became a fan-favorite with his funny one-liners and due to the fact that he is a “super-fan” of the show, but even though he appeared to know the game in-and-out from the beginning, he made some bad moves along the way and wasn’t perceived as having much of a chance to win the game in the end…but that being said, Ryan did manage to earn one final vote from his original ally, Devon, who gave it to him after he felt Ryan gave a strong Final Tribal performance.
Before we had reached Final Three, the game lost two other fan-favorites as well. Dr. Mike had been slipping by for most of the game and was rarely involved in the majority vote, but he showed a true resilience and eagerness to play the game. When Ben played his record third-straight Idol, Devon should have gone home, but Devon – in what ended up being a great move – cast his vote for Mike to ensure I tie vote should Ben actually play his Idol. Well he did, and the gut-decision kept Devon in the game and sent Mike out after the re-vote. Devon’s fate was then placed in his own hands – literally – when in a Survivor first, he had to beat Ben at a fire-making challenge in order to make Final Three. He practiced, then he tried relaxing and focusing, but he was unable to stop the immovable force that Ben became late in the game. With no votes against him – and Ben’s single vote being the only vote he received the entire game – Devon was the final player sent to the jury.
I had a chance to speak with FOUR of the five Final Survivor contestants on this week’s mega-sized edition of the FilmSurvivor Podcast (the full audio of which you can find and download below). I spoke to Ben one-on-one, and then was on a shared call with Devon and Mike…I then was set to have a shared interview with both Chrissy and Ryan, but due to a last minute cancellation (a flight issue), Chrissy was unfortunately not available…but I was able to still have a one-on-one with Ryan. As for Chrissy, I’m being told that they are trying to re-schedule her with me, but as this sometimes goes, I’ll have to wait and see. If I do end up getting a chance to chat with Chrissy, I will post that interview in a future Podcast.
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 on Friday.
TELL US: NOW THAT IT’S OVER, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS SEASON OF SURVIVOR AND ITS WINNER, BEN?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira