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Survivor 42 Has A Winner: Full Recap And Breakdown Of A Great Finale

And that's a wrap on Season 42 of Survivor. I thought last night was a very good ending to a very good season. It did a great job of wiping the bad taste out of our mouths from the disaster that was Season 41. I hope any new viewers to last season stuck with it this season and were rewarded with some awesome television for the last few months. I think all the new twists and advantages actually enhanced the season instead of taking away from it, and we got some great characters. Credit to the editors for doing a way better job at building character arcs this season. At its core, Survivor is about people more than anything else. And when you cast engaging people and showcase that, it's going to be good television. 

I'll get into a written recap here but for a long, in-depth discussion on everything that happened, listen to Snuffing Torches on Apple or Spotify. And watch the full recap on YouTube.

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Here are some main takeaways from the evening.

-I thought it was odd how mad Lindsay was at Jonathan after the Omar vote off. SHE VOTED FOR HIM! She clearly had a personal vendetta against him all season that I never really understood but I'm sure there's more to it than we saw. This was the beginning of Lindsay playing really poorly in this episode. 

-Romeo made a fake idol bracelet because.... well why not? He was always on the bottom and figured he needed to do something so he told everyone he had an idol. However, nobody seemed to care even a little. 

-Just like last season, the final five went to a new camp and were given a word unscrambler/riddle to solve that would help them get an advantage at the next immunity challenge. Lindsay figured it out very quickly because she has a brain in her head. The trio of Romeo, Mike, and Jonathan got like one total word combined which was impressively dumb. Maryanne wisely chose to not help them because she was hoping Lindsay got it, so she sandbagged it. 

-Lindsay figured it out even though the stone really looked nothing like the toes of a sleeping giant but whatever. 

Immunity Challenge

-The challenge was a long obstacle course then big puzzle. Lindsay only had to untie one knot at each station instead of six. But it wasn't enough as Mike ended up finishing the puzzle first by a nose and winning immunity. He chose to take Jonathan for his reward feast because I think he has feelings for Jonathan. Dudes rock. 

Pre-Tribal

-Mike had told three different people (Maryanne, Jonathan, Lindsay) he'd give or consider giving them his idol, so he was in a tough spot. Maryanne also had decide if she'd use her idol, maybe to save Lindsay unless she found her to be too big of a threat. 

-It was clear Lindsay was on the chopping block being seen as a big threat to win. And she couldn't have played it any worse. She went with the mopey "please save me because we like each other" strategy which is just horrible gameplay this late in the game. Her better chance would have been to try making a strong case against someone else to be voted out, but it didn't appear like she did that. She was a decent player for some of the season, but she really screwed herself with this strategy. 

Tribal Council

-At tribal, Mike got up and played his idol on Maryanne, staying true to his word after he promised it to her last episode. Maryanne then had a tough decision to make. Does she play her idol on either Jonathan or Romeo so the jury could see another big move from her at tribal? It would be impressive to have an idol played on you then play a surprise one on someone else. But that also would've painted a bigger target on her back as a winner threat and put her on the chopping block if she didn't win the Final Immunity Challenge. So I think her decision to save it out and whip it out at Final Tribal Council was the right move and may have won her a million dollars. 

-Then we had maybe the funniest moment in 42 seasons of Survivor. Romeo got up and played his fake idol and it was hilariously anti-climactic. 

-Just so god damn funny. Poor Romeo. His one chance to make a respectable move and he just got laughed off the island. The "good for you buddy" from Mike was so unintentionally demeaning. 

-Lindsay got sent home with a 4-1 vote which was a smart move for all. She was a threat to win who needed to be eliminated while they had the chance. 

Final Immunity Challenge. 

-My favorite final immunity challenge by far. It's everything the FIC should be. It's basically a mental endurance test. After 26 days where you've been mentally and physically broken, can you keep your focus and concentration on the prize? I'd much rather have something like this with a level playing field than a big physical obstacle course and shit. And I loved hearing the backstory from Jeff about how it came together with a producer just trying to kill time behind the scenes.

-Mike dropped in the warm up round which was hilarious. Jeff seemed mad. Then Maryanne went down. It came down to Jonathan and Romeo and Romeo pulled it off. 

Pre-Tribal

-Romeo needed to decide who to save. It came down to Jonathan or Maryanne because Mike was seen as the biggest threat to win. It was a two-fold decision. Who is more likely to beat me in the end? And who is more likely to beat Mike in fire? If I'm Romeo here, I'm saving Jonathan 10 times out of 10. He was the only person Romeo had even a slight chance of beating just because of how disliked Jonathan seemed to be with the jury. Now he'd maybe have to beat Maryanne AND Mike if he won fire. And Maryanne also looked to be better at making fire than Jonathan. 

Fire Making Challenge

-Romeo is not as smart as me though so he saved Maryanne and had the two alphas face off in fire. I thought this was an awesome ending to their bromance story arc. Similar to Tony vs. Sarah in Season 40. The firefighter won easily. You'd think maybe Mike's instincts would've kicked in and he would've just put the fire out. That's Mike's main job. Literally make sure fires don't exist. But he won and was headed to the Final 3. Farewell to our sweet prince Jonathan. One of the best challenge competitors in recent memory and he literally beat a hurricane with his barehands that one time. But he proved to lack in both the strategic and social aspects of the game. I'd be fine with never seeing him return because we all know what game he'd play. But I'd imagine he makes a return just to please the casual Survivor Facebook fans who also love people like Ozzie and Joe. 

Final Tribal Council

-After the Day 26 final breakfast, which I dream about more than anything in my life, it was time for final tribal. Romeo claimed he played the best game which was very funny. Mike needed to own up to his lies. And Maryanne needed to prove she actually did stuff and wasn't a goat. I liked seeing clips from the jury before FTC to see where their heads were at.

-Maryanne won this game at Final Tribal Council and Mike lost it. It was one of the more entertaining and meaningful FTCs in recent memory. Romeo had no chance and that was clear from the start. But Mike really cost himself. He still tried to play the honor and integrity card, claiming he only lied to Rocksroy which just wasn't true. The jury wasn't buying it. If Mike came in and went the Tony route of owning his game and saying "Yeah I built these social bonds and then I broke them because this is Survivor and that's what happens" then he'd be am millionaire. But he didn't do that. And I will say that I don't think he was putting on act of trying to be Mr. Nice Guy. I think he genuinely believed he played the game with honor and integrity and was surprised to hear so many other people thought differently. He even admitted as much towards the end but it was too little, too late. 

-Meanwhile Maryanne had one of the best final tribal council performances of all time. It was Todd-like. Wilt Chamberlain shit. 

-She explained herself enough to show she wasn't a goat. The big moment was whipping out the idol nobody knew she had. She explained how it set herself up to guarantee a Final 4 spot and have a great chance at going to FTC. She also just came off as very likable. While she was annoying at some points this season to the audience, it's clear that the cast didn't feel that way. She told a raw and emotional story about how she self-sabotages herself and it came off as genuine and endearing. I usually hate the forced tears and sob stories at FTC, but this one was effective. It was an overall amazing performance that won her a million dollars. 

-I do wish they'd bring back opening and/or closing statements. But I don't mind the open discussion format. 

-Maryanne proved to do enough and won in a 7-1 vote with that one vote going to Mike and Romeo getting shut out. 

-They did the vote reveal live on the island which shocked the cast since they hadn't seen 41. Personally, I'd love to have the spectacle of the live finale being all dressed up with my family in the crowd, but I guess just knowing right there is nice. 

-The reunion was fine, nothing too crazy happened. I did love how well Mike took the loss. Said Maryanne will do a lot with the money and he was fine with how he played. He's got that firefighter pension. Mike is just a genuinely good dude and it was awesome to have someone like him on this season. 

Final Thoughts

-Maryanne was ultimately a deserving winner. There will be people who disagree and that's fine, but she did enough to win. Early on, she got in the numbers and then when was on the outside of an alliance, she kept the target off her back and crawled her way back. She also made people like her despite how it seemed initially. I do think her early edit was strange and she got the dodo music of like the tribe annoyance, and that person never wins. But there was clearly something more to her social game that the audience didn't see until later on. And then in the endgame, she did just enough to pad her resume and earn the win. Some people are calling her an all-time great winner which is ABSURD. But she's no Natalie White schlub either. She's probably somewhere in the middle of the road. I'd say her game is pretty similar to Sophie who was also next to a strong male competitor in Coach who played a really good game but ultimately didn't own it at FTC and cost himself the money. 

-People will say the game should matter more than Final Tribal Council, but FTC is a MAJOR part of the game. It's the first time you get to address everyone else and talk about the game and earn their votes. I'd argue that FTC actually doesn't mean enough sometimes and feels like a formality when the jury has already decided, but last night was how it should be. 

-My biggest takeaway is I think the playbook on how to win Survivor is once again evolving. For awhile we were seeing very strategic players who controlled the game win it all. But new school Survivor is filled with so many superfans of the show that a lot more people play that way and they're on to each other (see Hai and Omar. Or Ricard and Shan last season). In another season, one of them is maybe able to win. But in this season, they were seen as the threats instead of someone like Jonathan who ten years ago would've been taken out right at the merge for being a physical threat. But these days, people realize "Alright Jonathan is big and strong but he's not good at the social and strategic game of Survivor so why not just keep him around?" And instead it's proven to be better to fly under the radar for awhile, keep the target off your back, not play too hard, and then strike late with some big moves that will be fresh in the jury's minds. That's what both Erika and Maryanne did. Will it work again next season? We'll have to see. But stuff like that is fascinating to me. It's truly the best show in the world for reasons like that. The social and strategic layers to the game are ever evolving. 

-An overall really good season. I'll need some time to digest before giving it an official ranking. But I really liked it a lot and thought it was driven by a ton of great characters. One of the better casts in recent memory. Jeff can throw in all the new twists and advantages he wants, but at the end of the day, Survivor is a show about people and human interaction. If you have good people, you'll have a good show. Scratch that. You'll have the best show ever made. 

Thanks to everyone who read these blogs and listened to or watched Snuffing Torches all season long. Please subscribe on Apple and Spotify. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram. And subscribe on YouTube. We're going to provide some interviews and other content to help speed the offseason along. Can't wait for September.