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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An infuriating twist determines the latest Survivor winner

Jeff Probst and the final five (Screen Grab/CBS)
Jeff Probst and the final five (Screen Grab/CBS)
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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Is it just me, or are these live studio intros by Probst getting more bloated and pointless with each passing season? We don’t need you to explain the premise of the show, dude!
  • The tribe dynamic following last week’s tribal council is unchanged: everyone against Ben. “He’s the bad guy in every horror movie who can’t be killed,” says Dr. Mike, owner of the filthiest shirt in Survivor history. Well, he can’t be killed if you just keep letting him look for idols, which they do. Guess what? He finds another one! You dopes.
  • Chrissy, who has played a much stronger strategic than social game, tries to do some belated damage control by burying the hatchet with Ben. That’s fine, but he’s not buying her transparent play to bring the three strongest players to the end. She’s his target, which means...
  • Chrissy wins immunity again, of course, because it comes down to a ball puzzle and she’s the puzzle queen. Her reward partner choices are Dr. Mike and Devon, leaving Ryan out in the cold.
  • In a brilliantly edited sequence, the rewardees concoct a plan to fool Ben with a dead idol from the beginning of the game, little realizing that he’s already found the real one. The best part is Dr. Mike wiping out on the beach for no apparent reason.
  • Ben plays tribal council beautifully, enduring the whole fake idol charade before dropping his latest Ben bomb. Devon saves his own ass by throwing a vote on Dr. Mike, sending the sex doctor to the jury on the re-vote.
  • The final challenge is an epic nail-biter of stacking blocks. It appears Ben is going to cruise to an easy million dollars, but he places his U in HUSTLERS upside down and everything falls apart. Blocks are falling everywhere after that, but Chrissy finally pulls off her fourth immunity win and a secret advantage, putting her in the pole position for a win. Which is fine, because Ben win would have killed any remaining suspense for the episode. (FORESHADOWING)
  • Okay, this secret advantage is garbage. It’s no advantage at all, just pure producer manipulation to keep Ben in the game.
  • Chrissy makes the only move she can (besides asking if she has to use her so-called advantage): She chooses Ryan to go to the end with her, leaving Devon to compete with Ben at the fire-making challenge. Ben wins easily, and this is simply maddening. Ben winning on his own merit would have been predictable but fine. Getting this do-over at the final tribal is bullshit.
  • This is ridiculous. There have never been this many commercial breaks, and the reunion show is going on during the real show. This finale has been produced to death.
  • On the positive side, the new free-for-all final tribal format introduced last season works very well. Despite Ben’s “I GOT A FAMILY” edit, things seem to be tilting Chrissy’s way, and at least Ryan is putting up a fight. Ben finishes strong by bringing up his family for the fiftieth time and making a moving statement on behalf of vets with PTSD. Chrissy fights back on behalf of moms. I think she killed it, but we shall see.
  • Nope! Ben wins, and....just nope. Even Probst’s “He really deserved it!” montage can’t get the bad taste out of my mouth. I’ve never felt this way in 35 seasons, but that might have been a shark-jumping twist.
  • But who am I kidding? I’ll be back in February for Ghost Island or Survivor: Bad Decisions, whatever it’s called.

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.