It took until the end of the season, but it seems like we finally have an intro. Try watching that and not getting goosebumps ahead of tonight's finale. It's impossible.
The day is here. Survivor Finale Day. My favorite day of the year. I wake up with the same feeling little kids do on Christmas morning. There's just something different in the air today. Not even quarantine can kill today's excitement. And this isn't any ordinary season finale. This is the finale of the best season ever of the best show ever featuring the best players ever.
Tonight we have a three hour season finale. A winner will be crowned who can make a strong case that they're the greatest player of all-time. And oh yeah, it's a TWO MILLION DOLLAR prize, the biggest in show history. Typically, the season finale itself is two hours and the reunion show is an hour. In recent seasons, the finale itself has run a little over two hours and shortened the reunion show. It seems like tonight will be the most drastic example of that yet. Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly:
"Well, what I can tell you is that our finale is damn near three hours in length! It’s the longest finale we’ve ever had, and it is packed with fantastic story. There is so much happening that we could not make it any shorter. There’s drama, there’s emotion, there’s surprise and then… we will read the votes and crown a champion to Survivor: Winners At War. I’m pumped for fans to see the finale I think it will be a satisfying conclusion to an epic season of Survivor."
That doesn't tell us exactly what the breakdown will be, but we could be looking at a 2.5 hour finale, the winner reveal, and a brief reunion show. Due to social distancing, the finale obviously can't be held in person, so it'll be done remotely. On Twitter, Jeff Probst previewed his set up.
Then three players in the finale will likely be on a video call from their respective households while Jeff reads the votes. My favorite part of every finale is when the winner runs to their family in the crowd as the Survivor theme song plays in the background. Hopefully, we get something similar tonight. Although they can't run off camera so maybe they'll just be on their couch jumping up and down. After that, I'm sure we'll get everyone on the call together for the reunion special. CBS has said that Jeff will connect virtually with all 20 players at some point during the finale. It's sad that we don't have a traditional reunion for such a fantastic cast, but I'm sure they'll make it work. The big question is what happens to Sia and Cochran?!?!
But enough about the reunion show, let's talk about the actual game itself. We have a ton of game footage to get to tonight. If all goes according to plan, this will be the rundown.
-Final 6 Tribal Council
-Final 5 Tribal Council
-Final Immunity Challenge
-Final 4 Tribal Council (fire-making)
-Final Tribal Council
That is JAM PACKED. I hope it doesn't feel too rushed because that's not how we want this incredible season to finish. I think there's going to be a lot of chaos. Tony and Ben still have idols good through Final 5. And if Natalie, Boston Rob, or Tyson come back from Edge, that means there will be three idols in the game. There are no other advantages left (that we know of) and fire tokens are now defunct. But that's still enough to wreak some havoc on the game's finish.
Here is the recap clip from last week's episode if you need any refreshing ahead of tonight's finale.
To preview tonight's finale, I'll start with the Edge challenge and then power rank the remaining players.
Who Returns From Edge?
Natalie has to be considered the odds-on favorite to win the challenge and get back in the game. After being voted out first, she has become the Queen of Extinction. She busted her ass for a month out there and collected more fire tokens than anyone. She has three advantages in the challenge. Nobody else has more than one. She also has an idol if she returns to the game. And she fueled up on some peanut butter. In addition to all that, I also think her edit has been the best of anyone on Extinction. She's gotten a ton of screen time, some emotional moments, and is always being praised by the rest of the players. I'd be shocked if she doesn't return.
While I do like Natalie, it is very unfair that she has such an advantage over everyone else. Weirdly, the earlier you get voted out, the better off you are. She's had more time than anyone to gather fire tokens. Look at Nick, who played a solid game and got to Final 6. He didn't have a single opportunity to get a fire token on Edge. How is that fair at all? I get they want to keep players on Edge involved with the game, but this is a major flaw of the system. It also makes the challenge itself less entertaining. It would be way more fun if all fourteen players were on an even playing field and it felt like anyone could get back. I hate the concept of the Edge to begin with, but they really botched it even further with these errors.
The big question is this: can someone come back from the Edge and win, like Chris did in Season 38? Chris winning Season 38 is the worst thing to happen in show history. Guy played 13 days and still managed to win. Hopefully, we don't have a repeat of that this time. In pre-game press, almost all the players trashed the idea of the Edge and said they wouldn't vote for a winner who came back. I hope they have too much respect for the game and the fans to sour the biggest season in show history. Especially if it's someone who got voted out early. If it's someone like Nick or Jeremy who were recent boots, I can maybe see a case being made. But I still don't think anyone who's been voted out deserves to win. The name of the game is Survivor. You have to survive and not get voted out. Once you get voted out, your game is done in my book.
However, players really do bond with each other on Edge. They grow to respect and appreciate each other's experiences. That's what happened in Season 38. Chris could relate to everyone on the jury after spending so much time with them. It's reasonable that someone like Natalie, who has spent more time there than anyone and has seemingly developed strong bonds, could steal some jury votes. We'll see. If the Edge returnee does win tonight, I will throw a fit and consider a show boycott. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Anyway, Natalie is my official prediction to return. If not her, I like Tyson or Boston Rob. Both have decently strong edits and are good in challenges. It's hard to imagine anyone else returning, as it doesn't feel like anybody else has had a "return story arc" set up as well as these 3.
Final Winner Rankings
Will the llama become the GOAT? This is Tony's game to lose. He's played the best game of anyone by far. Tony learned from his mistakes in Game Changers. He started the game lying low and working on his social game. He lowered his threat level and implemented a bit of a "meat-shield' strategy. Eventually, the real Tony came to play and he started dominating. Spy nests. Idols. Three immunity challenge wins. Blindsides. The Sophie blindside was a brilliant move and is when he really took control of the game. The most impressive part though has been his social game. Despite being such an obvious threat, he's managed to make deep, genuine connections with people that prevent them from voting him out. He's never really been in trouble. He has not had a single vote cast against him all game. That's incredible when you consider what a threat he was coming in.
Him and Sarah have an alliance that goes beyond the game. I don't see them turning on each other. They have also roped Ben into a Final 3 deal somehow. Michele is the only one left who sees what a threat Tony is. What could hurt Tony is someone returning from Edge and telling them everyone thinks Tony is running the show. That might be the only chance to get him out. But remember he does still have an idol and has shown the ability to win challenges. My gut says Tony just figures out a way to get it done. If he gets to the end, the jury will have to respect his game. I don't think it will be a bitter jury. If Tony pulls this off, he's officially the greatest player of all time. His win in Cagayan was one of the most impressive wins ever. If he wins a season of all-winners, there is no debate. Sandra can no longer tout being the only two-time champion and the crown belongs to Tony.
I'm rooting hard for him. He's a great player who is even more entertaining to watch. And he's a good person too. In my freshman year of college, I emailed him tips about a Survivor audition video and he responded with sound advice. I'll always remember that. If he wins tonight, we're putting up a t-shirt in the Barstool store to honor our new king.
If Tony doesn't win, I think it's Michele. She hasn't played a great strategic game. She's voted incorrectly six times, including the last three tribals. But much like in her winning season, she's relied on her social game. She has friends on the jury, as evidenced by her consistently getting fire tokens. She doesn't really have any enemies and can pitch her underdog story. She was trashed online after winning her season and people said she didn't deserve it. She came into this season with a chip on her shoulder eager to prove that she belongs. Despite dealing with an ex-boyfriend and people not wanting to work with her, she's manage to stay alive and make it to the end. That's a powerful speech to deliver to the jury. If we're looking at "edgic" then I do think she's had a winner's edit at moments. I think back to her conversation with Boston Rob early on where he tells her to ignore anyone saying she didn't deserve to win. She'd had some other emotional moments as well. I know she's been referred to her as a "goat" in a season of "GOATs" but I still think it's very possible that Michele, my winner pick when the cast was leaked, can pull this off.
I think there is a huge drop-off after Michele. I think Tony will win. If it's not him, Michele gets it done. That's really how I see tonight unfolding. If there's a wildcard pick, I honestly think it could be Natalie/someone else returning from Edge and winning. But I'll still rank the rest.
Sarah's game is interesting to me. She's a really smart player, but I don't think she's played her best game. We hear other players talking about what a threat to win she is, but I don't personally see it. I don't think she's had much of a winner's edit. I also don't really see a path to her winning. She doesn't want to betray Tony. So if she gets to the end, I assume it will be sitting next to Tony. And I just can't envision her beating him. She's played a very similar game, except Tony has done it better. He's played a more flashy game and is the one calling the shots, and I think the jury knows that. He also has the Sophie blindside to hold over her head.
Here's a bold prediction that I think would be awesome to watch: Tony vs. Sarah in the Final 4 fire-making challenge. The two best friend cops have to make fire to survive and get to the end. That would be a pretty awesome way for the Cops-R-Us story arc to end.
Denise may have peaked too early. She had the huge double idol move to slay the queen (Sandra) but has been relatively quiet since then. She is still a strong social player, and that move is a huge one for her resume, but I don't know if that's enough to win a season like this. I also don't think her edit has given us much reason to believe that she's our winner. I do think she will be very important in tonight's episode though. Does she team up with Michele and the edge returnee to take a shot at Tony and break up that alliance?
Ben's chances of winning are almost zero. I'd put him far behind Denise. He has rubbed people wrong for the entire game. The jury doesn't respect him much. He hasn't played a good game. He's become Tony's puppet and Woo 2.0. I don't know how he thinks he has any chance of beating Tony and Sarah at the end in their Final 3 deal. Maybe he'll make a big move early on tonight, he does still have the idol, but I don't see it happening. His fire-making ability does help his chances of reaching the end, but he's likely a goat if he does get there. Additionally, his edit has mostly been other players talking negatively about him, further hurting his chances.
And that's it. So to recap my official predictions tonight
Edge returnee: Natalie
Back up winner: Michele
Bold prediction: Tony beats Sarah in fire-making at Final Four tribal council.
I cannot wait. Three hours and then Survivor is off our screens for the foreseeable future, with the filming of Seasons 41 and 42 being delayed. That's extremely depressing to think about so let's just focus on tonight's incredible finale.
I will be live tweeting the episode on Twitter tonight @TomScibelli. If you're watching live, feel free to follow along. If you are on the west coast and don't want it spoiled, feel free to mute me. We will also put up the Tony shirt if he wins.
Additionally, some combination of myself, Jeff D Lowe, Glenny Balls, and Jake Marsh will be live tonight at 11 PM EST when the episode finishes for an aftershow. We'll be streaming somewhere on Twitter likely so keep an eye out for the details.