I’m a simple man. My two favorite days of the year are the season finale of Survivor and the other season finale of Survivor. So last night I went through my normal routine of going to bed early, hanging my souvenir buff by the chimney with care, and leaving milk and coconuts out by the fireplace with hopes that Jeff Probst will soon be here.
Survivor 43 has been a mixed bag of a season. The pre-merge was very boring and offered few interesting characters and no real surprises in terms of blindsides. Those early days are paying off now as much of the fat in the cast had been trimmed to the point that by the time we got to the final nine it really felt like the nine best players/characters were all still in the game. That kicked off several weeks of solid gameplay, big moves, plenty of memorable moments, and a Survivor Hall of Fame move that led us into the Final Five.
Here’s a breakdown of the final five, how each player can and can’t win, and how I think things will shake out in order of chances to win:
Gabler (2% Chance)
When we look back on this season of Survivor I think Gabler will no doubt be one of the faces of the season. Pre-merge the man was a total wild card and very much had the ‘village idiot’ edit. Between his strange behavior in camp, him dedicating his lone immunity win to more or less everyone he’s ever met, and his constant insistence that he’s hiding in plain sight and that he’s got the rest of the tribe where he wants them, Gabler is without a doubt a great character, even if he likely won’t go down as a great player. But if Maryanne could win last season, why can’t Gabler?
How He Could Win: Gabler has been saying a lot in recent weeks how he’s playing the middle man in order to keep his name off the block and to his credit it’s worked like a charm. At this point in the game, Gabler has never received a vote against him and he has voted correctly all but one time throughout the course of the game. He was the beneficiary of an advantage that made him immune through his first two Tribal Councils and he’s won an immunity challenge. Regardless of what happens at five and four, Gabler is probably the safest gamble to at least make it to end at this point. Obviously there’s still a lot of game left but the only way I can see him winning the game at this point is to win the final immunity challenge, give it up to someone else, and take out the biggest remaining threat in the game. Even then he’s going to need to convince the jury he won with a thin strategic game which I’m not sure if he has the charisma to do.
Why He Won’t Win: Simply put, Gabler just hasn’t done enough. Yes, his strategy of staying in the middle has consistently put him on the right side of the votes and kept his name off the chopping block but there’s probably a reason nobody is talking about voting him out: nobody thinks he can beat them in the end. At this point I think the only person he might be able to gain more votes than is Owen, in part because everything wrong with Owen’s game is where Gabler has thrived, but I can’t see him getting any votes if Jesse is at Final Tribal or being able to talk his way to a million dollars against Karla or Cassidy.
Owen (8% Chance)
Owen has been one of the stranger characters in recent Survivor history. One the one hand, he’s received a very favorable edit that has painted him as a likeable underdog and super fan that the show loves so much. On the other hand, he hasn’t played a very strong game. He compared himself to Charlie Brown trying to kick the football only to have it pulled away at the last second every single time and I think that’s a perfect analogy of his game. He’s won some immunities and is probably the biggest challenge threat remaining in the game but that may not be enough to convince the jury.
How We Could Win: Owen has won two individual immunities and with Cody out of the game he’s got a real shot to run the table and earn his way to the final three. If he wins at four, similar to Gabler I think he’ll have to pull a Chris Underwood and give up immunity to take out the biggest remaining threat, Jesse, in a fire making challenge. If Cassidy or Karla win final immunity I could see him telling either of them to let him go against Jesse in fire but I’m not sure if either would want to keep the other. So Owen definitely has a path to get to the end with an opportunity to win over some votes. The spin zone about his game is that Owen has a lot of friends on the jury. Since the merge, and I’m counting that as when the tribes started living together at 11 people, he’s only voting at a 50% clip, not including the one time where his vote was stolen. This means that if there’s a bitter jury, he doesn’t have a ton of enemies because he worked with most of the people on the jury. His social game gives him a puncher’s chance if he finds himself at the end without Jesse but he’s an underdog in every scenario. He should be able to be beat Gabler as he feels like someone who will at least be able to articulate himself well to the jury, even if he doesn’t have much to boast about. The great unknown with him though is that he’s gotten a really good edit but we as viewers don’t really know how he’s viewed within the tribe.
Why He Won’t Win: Like Gabler, he just hasn’t done enough compared to the competition. It took Owen a while to get on the right side of the numbers, having been in on the Sami and Cody votes, so it’ll be tough for him to brag about his strategic gameplay which most juries tend to put the most weight in. His big move to date was his role in Cody’s blindside but that was very clearly Jesse’s move. He’s also let his emotions get the best of him at times, most notably his blow up against James, so there could be a narrative that he was an emotional player. Again, in every scenario where he gets to the end, at least as of now, he’s an underdog.
Karla (19% Chance)
I think we all took the bait with Karla this season. She was undoubtedly one of the best players during pre-merge. She came into the game with a great grasp on what the past two seasons of Survivor showed us and she sniffed out a lot of twists and advantages in the game early on, won two individual immunities, managed to keep her idol a secret for a long time, and was on the right side of the numbers for five votes in a row prior to last week. However, the last few weeks have shown some cracks in her game. This is partially because as the field has whittled down she’s emerged as more of a threat and has had people gunning for her only to have an immunity win and her idol carry her to five. She’s also had a great edit from the show with several signature moments that would look pretty good in a winner’s montage.
How She Can Win: Karla’s formula for victory is simple yet challenging. Step 1: win immunity at five. She’s playing hurt right now so it won’t be easy for her considering the challenge at five is often the most physically grueling of the season. Step 2: beat Jesse. If she can get to four she either needs to win immunity or beat someone in fire making, ideally Jesse if one of the other three win immunity. If she is sitting at the end without Jesse, and in a perfect world without Cassidy, I think she wins the game. She’s won immunities, has played a strong social game, and can talk to a jury better than anyone remaining in the game.
Why She Won’t Win: Karla’s got a lot of “ifs” if she wants to win but none of that will matter if she doesn’t win immunity at five. Again, she’s playing hurt right now so she’s already at a disadvantage in physical challenges. If she’s vulnerable at five, she’s unprotected and target number one. She’ll likely try to spin up some chaos at camp and try to paint either Owen or Cassidy as a bigger threat but I just don’t see anyone buying it. Plus, even if she gets to the end I think she hasn’t looked great the last few weeks. Between her lie to Cassidy being exposed by Jesse and the fact that she got duped into playing her idol when she didn’t need to she isn’t looking great as she literally limps into the final.
Cassidy (21% Chance)
I was down on Cassidy for the first half of the season. I constantly had to remind myself that she was on the show because there was literally nothing for her to do up until the merge. Out of all five players remaining I also feel like we know the least about her as a character. She’s been alluded to throughout the season as a huge threat, particularly the last several weeks, but the show hasn’t done a great job of highlighting exactly how. A common comparison being thrown around for her is Erika from Survivor 41 though this is because she’s been under-edited but has a legitimate shot to win. I will add that she’s definitely been a much larger presence in recent weeks so seeing her win wouldn’t be as underwhelming as Erika.
How She Can Win: Cassidy is in the advantageous position of being in the final five with two larger threats ahead of her on the chopping block. She’s more than capable of winning challenges having already won two of her own immunities so if she wins at five Karla is likely gone. Even if she doesn’t win at five Karla is still the bigger name and Cassidy has clearly moved on from her former number one ally. If she’s at four she’s going to have to earn her way into the final, whether its with immunity or at fire. If she wins immunity, that’s potentially four immunity wins, voting correctly all but once, only receiving (to date) one vote against her the entire time, and if she chooses the right person to take out Jesse at the end she’ll have that feather in her cap as well. Cassidy will most likely win if she finds herself at the end against Owen and Gabler. I don’t really see a scenario where her and Karla are in the finals together but Cassidy knows where all the bodies are buried and could put a lot of heat on Karla if they’re facing off at Tribal.
Why She Won’t Win: She could win the final two immunities but if Jesse is there at the end, she’s going to lose. If Karla wins at immunity at five, and she’s won a pair of individual immunities before, then Cassidy is probably the biggest target remaining, especially since Jesse has his idol. While not quite a pair like Jesse and Cody, her and Karla’s games are going to be linked together and I’m not sure if she can separate herself enough from Karla to stand on her own. Again, I don’t see a world where her and Karla are at the end together as one of them is going at five, but this will likely be something she needs to answer to. If she deflects, similar to Mike from last season, she could potentially open the door to someone like Owen or Gabler to pick up some votes.
Jesse (50% Chance)
Regardless of the outcome of tonight Jesse is going to go down as one of the great strategic players in the history of the game. He’s been quietly ruthless throughout the game, having blindsided each one of his original tribemates, voting correctly every time he’s cast a vote (there was one time where he wagered his vote and lost but it didn’t matter because he had that group immunity from the merge), and he’s responsible for one of the great moves in Survivor history when he blindsided Cody with his own idol, flushed Karla’s in the process, and managed to keep his second idol that nobody knows about. AND he’s done all this without ever receiving a vote against him or really ever having his name on the chopping block. He still has his idol so barring an uncharacteristically dumb move at five he’s guaranteed a spot in the Final Four. Plus, what more would Probst love than for someone with Jesse’s background as an ex-gang member turned P.H.D. student to win the game. I’m already bracing myself for the ball washing we are about to watch for three hours tonight.
How He Can Win: Jesse has the straightest path to the end out of everybody. He’s going to play his idol at five and guarantee himself at least a shot at making fire. We’ve seen plenty of great would-be-winners meet their demise at the fire making challenge but if he can win that or individual immunity (the only remaining player to have not done so) and make it to the end he’s going to win unanimously. He’ll no doubt receive some heat for backstabbing so many people but in today’s day and age most jury voters will look past their personal feelings toward him and respect his game.
Why He Won’t Win: There’s one scenario in which he doesn’t win and that’s if he fails in the fire making challenge. If he loses immunity, nobody, not even Gabler, is dumb enough to take him to the end so the only thing between him and a million dollars is a 50-50 toss up at fire. Even if he gets to the end and doesn’t have the best performance in front of a jury his game should speak for itself but he would have to get completely bodied by Cassidy, Karla, or Owen (Gabler’s not outtalking him) and it would go down as the biggest upset in Survivor history. But that’s not going to happen.
My Official Prediction
Barring any unforeseen twists the vote at five is pretty straight forward: Karla or Cassidy. If one of them wins immunity, the other goes home. If neither of them win, that’s where it gets interesting. I think Karla’s got one more in the chamber and that’s trying to convince everyone that Cassidy is the bigger challenge threat if she makes it to four, and she’s not wrong. Regardless, I think those efforts come up short and Karla goes unanimously at five.
The challenge at Final Four tends to be one about concentration, particularly the one with all the balls flying through the metal grates. In a four with Cassidy, Gabler, Jesse, and Owen there’s no clear cut favorite, but it’s not Jesse. As he’s done so many times before, I think Owen will pull one out and we’ll get a big emotional super fan moment after he seals his fate in the finals. However, as I said before I think Owen will see the writing on the wall and that even if he gets to the end he won’t be able to beat Jesse. Knowing he’s a super fan and having seen this work previously, I think he gives immunity to either Cassidy or Gabler and takes his shot at Jesse in fire making…only to fail.
From there, Jesse goes on to win 9-0-0 against Cassidy and Gabler and cements a Top 10 performance in Survivor history.
Obviously there’s a lot that can happen between now and then but I’m hoping this season can right the past two seasons and actually give the best player the title. Show starts at 8:00 PM EST and I know where I’ll be.
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