Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Just like John “The Mayor of Slam-Town” Hennigan told us from the jury tonight: It’s not necessarily how well you fought, it’s sometimes about that big, memorable finish. As one of the most universally beloved seasons of one of the most popular reality competition shows draws to a close, people were asking: Will the finale episode of Survivor: David vs. Goliath live up to the rest of the season? In other words, will the finish be as good as the fight?

Anyone watching tonight’s Survivor Finale and Live Reunion Show that followed knows that we were treated with something special this season. The ending did not disappoint. 37 (!) seasons now in the books, and this show is still firing on all cylinders. This is based on the strength of its cast and on the producer’s willingness to evolve. Not every new twist works, but when you match a great cast with a great theme, sometimes sparks fly. Or in Kara‘s case tonight, sometimes they don’t.

Before we dive in, as I do at the beginning of every Recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale. So if you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add too that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode. This is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap, and is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.


Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

First things first: Congratulations are in order. Congrats to Nick Wilson, the Sole Survivor of Season 37, David vs. Goliath and the 36th individual to win the game. It was impossible not to like Nick or root for him throughout this game. His ending was only fitting given the theme of the season…the fact that he – against all odds – had to win his way through the final three Immunity Challenges in order to get himself to the end. This “country boy” played a hard, aggressive game but had to battle through several bouts of adversity along the way. It was easy to forget that he is a lawyer, but he made us remember by arguing a strong case to the jury at Final Tribal, so much so that the writer and word-smith, Mike White, was left nearly speechless at the end.

If you’re wondering where Nick ranks among all of the other Survivor winners, or if you’re wondering where I might rank this season overall, be sure to check back in tomorrow. In addition to my final Survivor Podcast of the season (featuring interviews with all SIX of the final contestants), I’ll be posting my updated “Survivor Winners” and “Most Memorable Seasons” list. And although I have my thoughts on these, my mind isn’t totally made up until I read your comments below this article…so now is your chance to sway me! You have until Thursday morning!

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

I’ve been saying for weeks now that Davie was the game’s biggest threat, and one of the best overall players this season and apparently the other Final Five agreed. Davie was sent home first. I think it was the right move for the reasons I just described. And his exit just epitomized how an ideal player should be playing this game: Even in the moment of just being voted out of the game, he wanted to let the remaining players know that he values big moves and the game being played hard.

In fact, his attitude was echoed in this jury, which was perhaps the least-bitter jury I can ever remember in the history of Survivor. Finding out too tonight that Davie was actually not even chosen to compete this season – that he was an alternate that was selected just hours before the season began filming – makes his story all the more compelling and himself all the more likable.

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

His demise, of course, came at the hands of Mike, who perfectly timed his moment to go big. I loved watching Mike take control of the game down the stretch. Even though, using Mike’s car analogy – he wasn’t able to steer it home. Mike was an interesting player that I had simply dismissed all season long as far as winning the game went…he’s a rich actor/director from Hollywood, and although he provided several laughs and fun moments, he was non-threatening. Until he was!

There were several great social players this season. Mike’s big moves down the stretch really bolstered his resume. I had asked myself just last week, for the very first time: Wait a minute, could Mike actually win? He ended up with three winning votes (from Christian, Alison and Kara). But I had expected him to do much better at that Final Tribal…

…so let’s get into that Final Tribal! Was I the only one shocked with how things played out? First off, as I mentioned, I guess I remembered that Nick was a lawyer. Still, I never expected him to be so convincing and well-organized with his argument. I had feared the opposite, that he wouldn’t be able to articulate the moves he made in the game. I HAD expected Mike to do well, but he barely seemed to speak.

He was met with some eye-rolls and some vitriol from a jury that I thought would have considered him much more closely. Like, where was that whole “I’m steering the game from the backseat” analogy at Final Tribal? That was so well said, but it was said to us during a confessional and not to the jury who needed to hear it. Going into the Final Tribal, I was excited to know that it would be Nick and Mike going head-to-head. A David vs. a Goliath just as the game had intended. But after Final Tribal, I was all confused. I thought Mike may not get any votes, and – the biggest shock of all – that Angelina might get one or two?

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Before we get to Angelina (and we will…), a quick word on Kara. I really liked Kara! I was very sad to see her go. It seemed like she was the more skilled fire-maker between her and Mike. Kara was especially unique in that she played a stellar social game. If you were to ever re-watch the season, you would notice that almost every single player out there felt comfortable telling Kara the plans as to what was happening. Kara was almost always in the know. However, she was never a threat. She was too well-liked.

I think Nick wins unanimously if he sits next to Kara and Angelina. Still, Kara played a heck of an “under-the-radar” game. In fact, Kara now holds what I find to be one of the most miraculous of Survivor records. Kara became the first player ever to be eliminated from the game without a single vote against her. This excludes players who left due to a medical evacuation or quit. And she lasted 38 days. Kudos to Kara!

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

This recap wouldn’t be complete without talking about everybody’s favorite “diabolical villain,” Angelina. Wow is she a trip. There was a lot of talk this season about gender, and how women are viewed as “bossy” or “emotional” in the game, when if a man did the same things they would be viewed differently. It’s a fair point. However, male or female, if someone played the game Angelina played and said the things Angelina said, I think it’s safe to say that the person would be viewed as a villain in the game of Survivor. Male or female, they’d also be accurately described as having terrible self-awareness. I was shocked – SHOCKED – that the jury didn’t put her in her place, and instead seemed to really consider her.

The whole “jacket-gate” ordeal, her repeated reminders of how “selfless” she was in scoring rice for her tribe and making comments like she did to Alison – about feeling like a mob boss – have nothing to do with her gender. These things have more to do with her actions. The cherry on top of her evil-cake was her attempt to humiliate Alison by making her a fake idol. Then, she immediately tells the jury that she was the one responsible. That was a move too far. Oh, and by the way, I absolutely LOVED Angelina on the show. She should be asked back in a heartbeat. She was endlessly entertaining and added to the show in ways few contestants can. Again, male or female. She also made what could have been a mundane last few Tribals thoroughly exciting. But how did this jury not call her out for her crap?

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Episode Take-Away: Here’s a quick take on the age-old Final Two vs. Final Three debate that Survivor fans have talked about forever. Is it time to get rid of the Final Three? I know that Jeff Probst always defends it and claims to like the dynamic it brings to the game, but did you know that the third-place finisher has only had a TOTAL of ONE vote over the past seven season? Three over the past nine?

The argument for a Final Three has always been, well, there is less a chance of a tie, but these numbers show that to be false…add to that, we had a tie-vote last season despite their being a Final Three. While I do like the new fire-making challenge twist at Final Four, it’s starting to feel stale to have that third person sitting there at the end without any chance to win whatsoever. Just a thought.

I have strong opinions on this season and on Nick Wilson as its winner, but I’ll save my takes for my upcoming ranking articles that will post on Thursday. But in general, I feel like the finale held up well with the rest of the season. However, I did feel somehow that the Final Tribal was lacking a bit…there was too much Nick and too little of Mike, which sort of tipped the jury’s hand as to who they were going to vote for.

It’s a pleasure recapping this show and I’m so pumped to know how well-received this season was by its fans…I truly appreciate you reading this and am looking forward to another strong season when Season 38 premieres in February (more on that in a bit!)!

Immunity Wins: Nick won all three Immunity Challenges of the evening.

Vote #1: No Idols were played. 4 – Davie (Alison, Kara, Angelina, Mike), 2 – Alison (Davie, Nick)

Vote #2: Alison plays a fake Idol, Angelina plays a real one on herself. 4 – Alison (Mike, Angelina, Nick, Kara), 1 – Mike (Alison)

FINAL VOTE to win Survivor: 7 votes for Nick (Elizabeth, John, Dan, Alec, Carl, Gabby, Davie), 3 votes for Mike (Christian, Alison, Kara), 0 votes for Angelina

Winner: Nick Wilson

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Live Reunion Show Recap: With the finale running over two-hours, this season’s Reunion Show was cut short. It had a total of 32 minutes of air-time, even shorter than last season’s 40-minute run-time. That being said, it felt like one of the best, more efficient reunion shows we’ve been given in a long time. There were no celebrity appearances, no in-show promotions of other upcoming CBS shows. It has long been accepted that Probst no longer uses this show to check in on each and every player. Instead, he uses it to just highlight some of the key moments or players. I think he pretty much addressed the topics and the people that fans were hoping he would. Here are some of the main highlights of what we learned from the Survivor: David vs. Goliath Live Reunion Show:

Perceptive viewers noticed right off the bat that this was not, in fact, a full cast. Missing was Alec Merlino, confirming the rumor that he had been uninvited to the Live Reunion Show after breaking the rules of his NDA. Probst never made mention or reference to Alec’s absence. Still, it was a silent message to future players: don’t post anything to social media or otherwise spoil this show, or you’ll pay (Alec was also stripped of all of his appearance fees, but it could have been worse for him, as the NDA can penalize up to 5 MILLION dollars if someone is found to be in violation).

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Nick had tried for years to get on the show. He thought that it was fate that he would have been chosen for a biblical-themed “David vs. Goliath” theme. This is because he had discovered Survivor at his church. As for the money he just won, some would use it to get out of their small towns and try to make the big-time. But that’s not Nick. Now he can focus more on his “calling.”

Nick wants to help those with drug addictions. He plans to stay locally in Kentucky without a worry so much about getting rich.

Mike White has been at the center of a last-minute controversy on Twitter. Before the finale a rumor came out that he should have been disqualified. Apparently, producers found that he smuggled some weed onto the show…according to the rumor, this knowledge was just found out by producers, putting them in a bit of a pickle as to how to handle the live vote. Well, not only were these rumors not proven, but the show didn’t mention this in the least. Instead, we only got one boring question aimed at Mike, dealing with how he plans to turn his Survivor experience into something life-changing (yawn).

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Angelina was one of the most “polarizing” players this season according to Jeff. She addressed all of the haters she has gotten on social media. She also acknowledged that she just had to laugh at a lot of her antics this season. Angela mentioned that learned some things. She hopes to one day play again.

The break-out “all-star” of the season, Christian, gave us a lovely analogy about how playing Survivor is like going to school for the first day: You end up throwing out your game-plan, and things unfold in unexpected ways. Also, that he and Gabby remain friends despite the in-game betrayals.

Maybe the best exchange of the Reunion Show was when Jeff Probst gave Natalie the floor, who had told producers that she was unhappy with the way she had been portrayed on the show. Probst let her say her piece, but then challenged her on a few things. Needless to say, no one is going to be able to convince Natalie of that in which is not already in her head.

Davie took home the record for weight loss this season. He lost over 30 lbs. Meanwhile, Alison lost a whopping 27 lbs. Probst reminded that these totals don’t even come close to the all-time Survivor record. Big Tom Buchanan, lost 80 lbs on Survivor: Africa!!

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

The big news of every reunion show comes towards the end when Probst reveals to the world the concept and name of the NEXT edition of Survivor. So here it is: Season 38, which is set to air on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 (on Wednesday nights again) will be called “Survivor: Edge of Extinction.” It will feature 16 all-new castaways PLUS four returning players: Aubry Bracco (“Survivor: Kaoh Rong,” “Survivor: Game Changers”),  David Wright (“Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X”), Kelley Wentworth (“Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Blood vs. Water,” “Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance”) and Joe Anglim (“Survivor: Worlds Apart,” “Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance”). The game will feature a new twist that has not yet been revealed. It is said to make contestants “go deeper” than ever before. What does everybody think of the new concept and twist?

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Finale and Reunion Show Recap: And The Winner Is…

Coverage Ahead: This marks my last Recap of the season. I just wanted to once again thank all of you who have followed and read this column all season long! But the season-end coverage is not over ye. Tomorrow I will have my final round of exit interviews with all SIX contestants from tonight’s finale. I’ll speak to Nick and Mike each one-on-one. Then, I will have a joint call with Angelina and Kara. After, I will have another joint call with Alison and Davie.

RELATED: Exclusive Survivor: David vs. Goliath’s Christian: “I Didn’t Go Out There To Pretend To Be Anyone Buy Myself”

All six of these interviews will appear in their entirety in a mega-sized FilmSurvivor Podcast on Thursday. But that’s not all, because also on Thursday I will be posting my updated season-end Rankings – Most Memorable Seasons and the All-Time Winners List – with Survivor: David vs. Goliath and Nick factored in. Where do you think this season should place among the 37 seasons of Survivor? One of the best? One of the worst? Somewhere in the middle? And where should Nick fall on the Winners list? I’ll keep an open-mind until tomorrow. So if you want to influence me at all, please comment below and plead your case!

Of course, once we move past this season’s coverage, please follow me –  on Twitter, @tomsantilli or on Facebook – for any breaking Survivor news as we head towards the Spring and towards Season 38 (!!!).

Again, a big thank you for watching Survivor and for reading my recaps, and an even bigger thanks if you’ve been listening to and/or following the Podcast! It’s a blast covering my favorite shows. I love interacting with fellow Survivor fanatics. I truly appreciate you support. Have a great New Year. We’ll see you to do this all over again in February!


[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe]