The "Survivor" Season 35 finale was a mess on so many levels.
"Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers" ended Wednesday, Dec. 20, with five players still vying for $1 million and the title of sole survivor. Here's how it ultimately broke down:
- WINNER: Ben Driebergen, 34
- Runner-up: Chrissy Hofbeck, 46
- Third: Ryan Ulrich, 23
- Fourth: Devon Pinto, 23
- Fifth: Mike Zahalsky, 43
Ben won over Chrissy and Ryan by a 5-2-1 vote. The end vote bled into "reunion" time, and host/producer Jeff Probst only spoke to a few players. Many questions were left unanswered, and most of the castaways were left just sitting there in silence. But hey, at least they made it to the stage!
Ben only made it to the final three thanks to a brand-new twist that Jeff Probst said is sticking around for Season 36. The twist basically punished final immunity winner Chrissy and, especially, Devon by forcing Chrissy to pick one person to take to F3 and having the other two remaining players battle it out in a fire challenge. Ben won against Devon.
It was a major advantage for Ben, who didn't even have to win anything to get that advantage, and who would've otherwise been voted out at Final 4 like every other castaway on previous seasons. That came on top of Ben finding (thanks to signs pointing to them) multiple idols. But that at least was not new. And it was the other players' faults for not following him and assuming he'd find more idols if left alone. That island was 90 percent idols/"advantage" twists, and 10 percent sand, trees, and insects.
The twist reeked to many fans of production manipulation. Even some fans who were happy Ben won didn't like the way he won. And many fans said they would be just as unhappy if someone else had gotten that Final 4 advantage.
It wasn't really about Ben, it was able the new twist.
Jeff Probst defended the twist in a post-finale Q&A with Entertainment Weekly:
This is a massive format change you did here at the final four in terms of having the winner of the last immunity challenge (Chrissy) bring one person (Ryan) to the end and having the others (Devon and Ben) battle it out in a fire-making competition. When and why did you all decide to forgo the usual final four vote, and is this something that is indeed here to stay, like you said during the live show?
This idea came about to solve a problem that has bothered me for years. If someone plays a great game and gets to the final four, it has always bothered me that the other three can simply say, "We can't beat him, so let's all just vote him out." So this year we decided to make a change. If you get to final four, you are guaranteed a shot to earn your way to the end. And if you are the one to win the final four challenge, you are in charge of who you take and who you force to fight for it in a fire-making showdown. And of course, it goes without saying, we got lucky with a huge million dollar showdown between Ben and Devon. It was electric. And yes, that will be a new format change and will appear in next season, Survivor: Ghost Island.
"Solve a problem"? No, that's the game. That's always been the game -- vote out the person you can't beat, if you can, when you can. Considering it a "problem" to solve is like Russell Hantz calling the need for a social game a "flaw" in the game.
Twists have always been a part of "Survivor" as the game evolves over time, but this one really did seem to change the entire function of the game. While Ben fans cheered for Ben -- who is easy to root for as a Marine trying to bring awareness to other vets with PTSD -- "Survivor" purists blasted this precedent-setting twist. One of those purists was last year's Season 33 winner, Adam Klein.
Super happy for the winner who played their heart out!! That being said, if that twist happened in my season, I would have come in 4th most likely. Players should be able to plan out their own endgame and know the basic format of the game they play. #SurvivorFinale#Survivor— Adam Klein (@AdamScottKlein) December 21, 2017
This twist is horrible. Never seen the producers try so hard to make a contestant win. #SurvivorFinale— Sarah Laeuchli (@SarahLaeuchli) December 21, 2017
Wow. Can you say 'RIGGED'? Ben won because of a last minute fabricated 'twist'. Chrissy won 4 challenges in a row and played the best overall game. Survivor lost all credibility.#SurvivorFinale— Johan van Berkel (@JohanvanBerkel) December 21, 2017
i wouldn't be so upset by Ben's win if he actually earned a spot in the F3. he didn't get there because of good gameplay or strategy but because of a poorly executed twist that he lucked into. a disappointing end to a disappointing season. #SurvivorFinale#Survivor#SurvivorHHH— Drew Boehmker (@IfUSeekDrew) December 21, 2017
Devon, who played a near-perfect game, saved himself from an idol blindside, lost because of an "advantage" that only favored Ben, the worst player this season. #survivor— Ryan #DevonWasRobbed (@Slytheryan) December 21, 2017
Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers vs a Bullshit Endgame Twist that Ruined the Season. #Survivor— Andy Herren (@AndyHerren) December 21, 2017
Imagine being Chrissy and learning that your 'advantage' actually means all your work is for nothing #survivor— Dom Harvey (@domhrv) December 21, 2017
It's hard to say who would've won in a Chrissy/Devon/Ryan showdown, which is what would've happened in a normal Final 3 season. Maybe Chrissy would've beat Devon? For the record, Chrissy took the high road and told EW she was not robbed.
"Survivor" Season 36 "Ghost Island" was already filmed last summer, right after this season, and they will also deal with this new twist. "Ghost Island" premieres February 28, 2018 on CBS.
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