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Survivor Crowned Its Most Shocking Winner in 43 Seasons

Wow. Wow. Wow. 18 hours later and I am still speechless about what we witnessed last night. I have watched all 43 seasons of Survivor. Every second of every episode. And I have never been more shocked than I was last night when the AlliGabler won Survivor 43, just one vote away from playing a perfect game. The most absurd and jaw dropping ending in show history. I still don't believe it. Feels like the whole season was a scripted bit to pull a prank on the viewers. Here are some things Gabler did this season: He woke his tribe up in the middle of the night to put palm fronds on them. He asked to be voted out at the first tribal council despite having an idol. He dedicated a challenge to the state of Idaho. He didn't know how to spell the word "rock." He tried to use a sideways "C" puzzle piece as a a "U." He calls himself the AlliGabler. And then he won a million dollars. Simply incredible. 

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Before we go any further, please watch the full Snuffing Torches recap here. It was a very fun episode as we were all shocked and in awe over what we just witness. Just raw reaction to the most insane Survivor moment ever. 

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And here was my reaction just seconds after Gabler was crowned the winner last night and I still hadn't fully processed it. I still haven't. 

I am not going to do a full second by second recap of the three hours. But I will hit some major points and takeaways I had from the finale. 

-So first of all, I really liked this season. Definitely the best of the new era. I would rank it 43, then 42, then 41. The season started off slow, but the merge on featured a lot of good gameplay and exciting tribal councils. There were also some truly dynamic characters. Jesse, Cody, Gabler, Noelle, Sami, Elie and others really made the season pop. If Jesse won, I think we are considering this a fairly top tier season. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But I do think Gabler winning makes this season memorable in a "what the fuck" kind of way? If Cassidy or Owen won, it would've been perhaps more deserved but also more underwhelming. Either would've been a forgettable winner. Now we'll remember this as the pretty good season that somehow ended with Gabler winning. I think it'll be a very fun re-watch. Watching it back with the perspective of "Gabler is going to win this game" will be very funny. Almost Gabon vibes, except Gabon had truly no gameplay, whereas this season did. A very Gabon ending though. So we'll see how it ages, but overall I enjoyed watching it and genuinely was looking forward to every episode down the stretch. That means it was a good season no matter how absurd the ending is. 

-This is the third straight surprising winner we've had. Erika came out of nowhere to win Season 41. She had no edit and we knew nothing about her besides that she was Canadian. In 42, Maryanne was the classic annoying tribe member pre-merge who people wanted out. She ended up playing great down the stretch and won. And this season Gabler was also the annoying tribe member pre-merge, who basically had a free pass to the end because everyone thought he was the goat. The term "winner's edit" and "edgic" is now completely out the window. Gabler was in my 0.0% chance tier and then he was in his OWN TIER below that. The Gabler Tier. I don't feel that dumb for it because it was completely justified. Everyone in the Survivor community was on the same page. It would be like if Rocksroy won last season. Part of me thinks "I wish the editors did a better job not making the winner so surprising." It feels like maybe they're intentionally trying to surprise us since the audience has gotten so good at figuring out the edit. But then part of me thinks that the editors are just telling the story of what happened. They didn't force Gabler to go put a palm frond on people in the middle of the night. They didn't force him to do all those challenge dedications. He was truly a weird old guy and they just showcased that. So I don't blame the editors. I think the reason we've had so many unexpected winners is because……..

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-The way to win Survivor has changed. The game has evolved. It's no longer the "best player" winning. Playing a really strong social and strategic game now makes you too big of a threat to get to the end. From these last few seasons we've had: Shan, Ricard, Omar, Hai Jesse, Cody. All were playing really, really "good games" and that was their ultimate demise. It's almost like the way to win now is laying low for awhile, keeping the target off your back, and then making a big move or two at the end to solidify your resume. A wolf in goat's clothing if you will. It almost feels like these last few winners have won by accident. But that just shows how the games changes. I think this is mainly due to casting. The show is casting a lot more superfans. Basically everyone knows the game inside and out. So they all know that the Jesses of the world can't even sniff Final Tribal Council. In the old days, when there were more oblivious dummies who knew nothing about the show and just got cast because they were a model or something, it was easier to play the "good game" and get to the end and win. There were less people who actually knew what they were doing. Basically everyone is too good at Survivor now. It'll be interesting to see if we either see a change in the casting OR if we see people just adapt to this and the strategy of the game just evolve even further. 

-Now some props for Jesse. The best player we've seen in this "new era" of Survivor starting with 41. By a country mile. A great strategic mind, but it was his really his social game that made him so dangerous. I loved watching him play. He was the driving force in every vote, had the cool "How To Do A Blindside" montage, pulled off one of the best Survivor moves EVER at Final 6, was a likable guy, and just overall very fun to root for. I was rooting for him like it was a Yankee playoff last night. Unfortunately, his utter lack of a physical game did him in. I prefer the social and strategic players by a wide margin, but we can't completely forget about challenges even if I don't really care about then. There is a physical aspect of the game. And Jesse was HORRIBLE at challenges. Really never came close to winning. Didn't win the one he needed to most and then had a poor effort in fire (albeit Gabler did set a record). That's ultimately what did him in. Well that and also taking Karla out instead of Cassidy at Final 5. I like him taking the idol out at Final 5. It was a showy move for the jury and let him say "we're voting how I want." But he should've taken out Cassidy. Karla was a bigger threat to win than Cassidy, sure. But she wasn't beating Jesse. Nobody was. Karla herself that tribal waxed poetic about how amazing Jesse was. He was beating her easily. He needed to think more about who he could beat in the FIC and fire making challenge. Cassidy was a way bigger threat than Karla in that department. This decision ultimately cost him the game. But it was still an incredible performance from him, and we'll surely see him back on another season. 

-Speaking of that final challenge, I didn't love it. I like the Simmotion challenge we saw the last few seasons. This was meh. Not horrible but not very exciting either. And the Final Tribal Council was incredibly forgettable. I'm glad they scratched the whole "outwit, outlast, outplay" sections though. That was dumb. I do like the open forum jury discussion, but it does rob us of iconic jury speeches like Sue or Corinne. I really can't figure out why the jury voted how they did. I personally would've voted for Cassidy. She was on the right side of every vote, got herself off the chopping block multiple times, and won three challenges. Owen was a likable underdog but he really didn't do anything. He admitted this himself. And Gabler was Gabler. I mean sure I guess he was on the right side of many votes and had alliances but like COME ON HE WAS FUCKING GABLER. I don't know. Maybe if he was a normal looking 30-year-old we'd view his game differently. But it still feels insane he won. Maybe the jury was bitter towards Cassidy and just really didn't like her. We know Karla didn't. She told Cassidy she'd sour the jury on her (a horrible move that exposed Karla as a really really bad social player) and I guess she followed through on that promise. 

-Cassidy's jaw dropping reaction when Gabler won perfectly encapsulated how we all felt. Even when Gabler had 3 or 4 votes, I assumed he was still losing. I still don't really believe it. But MASSIVE credit to Gabler for donating the entire prize to a veteran's charity, Veterans In Need. He said he would bring it up at FTC but I'm glad he didn't. The jury should never vote based on how someone is going to spend the money. It should be kept to gameplay. So the fact that Gabler didn't use that for why he should win, still won, and then still donated it afterwards was a very cool moment. Also kind of the perfect ending for Gabler to just say "A million bucks? No thanks. I'm all set." The most AlliGabler ending ever. 

And that's a wrap on Survivor 43. An absurd yet fun season. Congrats to Gabler. Thanks to everyone who read the blogs and watched/or listened to Snuffing Torches. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify to Snuffing Torches and to Tommy Smokes on YouTube.

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