Survivor: Island of the Idols came to an eventful close last night. Following the long-overdue ejection of Dan Spilo from the game, the finale had room to breathe with its focus only on five people rather than the six that we’ve had in the finales as of late. As such, each elimination leading up to the final tribal council held some extra weight, and we got some more character moments that I don’t know if we’d have gotten otherwise.
We started with the final five all arriving to the aforementioned Island of the Idols, where eventual champion Tommy Sheehan learned of the island’s secret – he was, after all, the only one in the finale to have visited the island. Tommy was the only one with the hunch that there was some advantage on the island for them to find, and after we learned that he’s colour-blind, he ultimately told his ally Dean Kowalski about what he’d discovered so far. In a rather amusing segment, we see Dean secretly use the clues Tommy told him about to find the Idol for himself, in addition to the Idol nullifier that he already possessed.
Afterward, the finale was pretty business as usual. We saw a challenge where Dean won his second consecutive immunity; Janet was voted out after her immunity idol was nullified in a heartbreaking segment; Noura won the final immunity challenge and decided to have Dean and Lauren face off in firemaking. And, in a move that I think we all anticipated, Tommy and Noura both decided to help Dean learn how to make fire to take out Lauren, whom they all saw as the biggest threat. In the final three, Noura was pretty much shutdown by the jury, making it clear that it was between Tommy and Dean for the million dollar prize.
In an ironic twist of fate, it was Tommy – who never went to the Island of the Idols until the final five all went at once – who became the winner, becoming Survivor’s first champion since Natalie White all the way back in Survivor: Samoa to win without ever possessing individual immunity or an advantage of any type, which is a sign of just how great his social game was. Though I was a fan of both Tommy and Dean (they were, interestingly enough, my two favourites from the cast announcement), I was a bit bummed that Tommy’s edit seemed so toneless. He was an obvious winner, but it seemed like he never really got any positive or negative content. In a sense, his edit reminded me of Sarah Lacina’s edit when she won Survivor: Game Changers, despite that she played a far more villainous game according to her fellow castaways, compared to Tommy’s more clean approach to the game.
However, it won’t be Tommy, nor Dean, nor even Noura and her loveable zaniness that this season will be remembered for. Rather, it will be the unfortunate storyline of Dan Spilo’s inappropriate touching of the young, attractive females, and Survivor’s lack of action in the process that this season will be remembered for.
All of the props and love go to the merge-boot Kellee Kim, who wisely spoke up about it on the island and has consistently raised her concerns via her own personal Twitter. It was her speaking up that’s since made CBS make several overhauls to situations like this, which will hopefully cause production to make much more pro-active decisions going forward. As it was, it would’ve been up to Kellee to say she wanted Dan pulled, which would’ve wound up negatively impacting her game even more. The segment of her and host/producer Jeff Probst in the finale was much needed, and while I was one of those dragging production for their handling of the situation initially, he seemed genuinely apologetic and acknowledging of the errors they made.
And such will be Survivor’s lasting memory of its thirty-ninth. Which, I imagine, is why the upcoming fortieth season – the much-anticipated all-winners season – is premiering earlier than most spring seasons do, with a premiere date of February 12th.