“I was a David the entire game and I had to find whatever slingshot I could, whether it be the social game, the strategy game, the immunity wins, an advantage, an idol, new relationships, old relationships. Whatever it took, I had to find my slingshot and I had to find as many stones as I could find because I think I was the underdog most of this game.” — Nick Wilson, Survivor: David vs. Goliath winner
Survivor has always been about storytelling, creating the perception that you are the true protagonist to the tale.
We’ve heard a lot of the Biblical story of David vs. Goliath this season, as it has been the theme. David took down Goliath with a slingshot, despite all the odds being stacked against the little dude. And ultimately, in a season based off of a story, the winner came down to who could pitch the best tale of heroism.
In a season of truly remarkable storytellers, like the ever-witty Christian Hubicki, it was Nick Wilson who was able to craft himself into the protagonist role.
The Final Days
The finale is about the final reveal. Like a 60-plus piece Survivor puzzle, the audience finally gets to see what the picture was. Watching Survivor is like opening a novel and not finding out who the protagonist is until the very end, making for a juicy last couple of chapters.
When I played Survivor, I had a motto out there: “These people are the only people that exist, this world is the only world that exists.” By the final days of Survivor, most contestants are transformed — not only in their mindset, but in their removal from reality. These last few votes, challenges and moments feel bigger and more important than anything else. We watched in these last few days as contestants began to lose their masks of calm— whether it be Angelina Keeley demanding to be taken on a reward or Nick being vocally upset about the blindside of his ally.
Alison Raybould fought until the very end — with her back up against the wall — and was a class act no matter what was thrown at her. Davie Rickenbacker was a true joy to watch play, his glee tangible through the screen. He had built a resume that no jury could argue against. And Kara Kay, our fallen angel, was level headed and intelligent despite conditions that drove many others to insanity. These contestants who made it to the final days — and just fell short — definitely earned their island stripes.
The Final Three That Never Got Snuffed
“It’s not ’cause I think I can beat you, it’s ’cause we all played different games, and we all have a shot.” — Angelina Keeley to Mike White and Nick Wilson
When Angelina said this, I became certain that we were looking at our final three. The way an alliance at the end stays together is that each member believes they have a chance. Loyalty is not a noble thing at the end of the game — it is based on perception of the jury and each other. Every decision is based off of what you believe the jury will value, despite not knowing for certain where their head is at.
“It was never about the pot of gold for me, it was about the rainbow.” — Mike White
I loved Mike throughout the season, and his wit and intelligence became even clearer in the final episode. As a writer, Mike told an incredible story.
From his quick one-liners — “Diary of a mad freaking castaway” (about Angelina) — to his ability to shift the David vs. Goliath narrative into his favor, he was a true wordsmith. In addition, he played a fantastic and underrated game, staying in the middle of almost every alliance, and orchestrating many blindsides. If the Survivor winner were determined solely on who controlled and affected the game the most, Mike would have the title.
Ironically, it was his own perception of his journey that appeared to be his downfall. He let the jury know that it wasn’t about the pot of gold, seemingly a reference to the money, but about the rainbow (or journey). Next to Nick, discussing the hardships of growing up, it became an uphill battle for Mike. But hats off to Mike — consider me a fan.
Described as “polarizing” throughout the season, Angelina ruffled more feathers in the final days.
On one hand, as a woman who went to the end, I can empathize with her challenges. Gabby Pascuzzi eloquently spoke on gender at final tribal. She said that similar to the world, females face a variety of double standards. Society often teaches people to see men as the heroes and female as the sidekicks. Many people on Survivor feel societal double standards on the island; race, sexual orientation and even where you’re from can all contribute to unfair perceptions.
With that said, I think Angelina struggled in the final days. It was uncomfortable to watch those around her laugh to the side as she spoke, seemingly unaware of how she was coming across. I support her as a strong feminist while also recognizing a bit of a Michael Scott (lead character on The Office) lack of awareness. From needing help finding the final idol and then bragging about it as a feminist achievement, to the somewhat personal attack fake idol, it was difficult to watch.
Angelina was a different flavor — a self-proclaimed villain in a season of likable underdogs. And she held her own and owned her story at final tribal. I’m curious what her return will look like, and don’t doubt it will come.
Nick, the underdog attorney who remained sharp and persistent despite numerous setbacks, took the title of Sole Survivor. His slingshot was his gumption, which he was able to translate into a compelling narrative.
He did a lot of things right throughout the season: he built deep relationships and had fun nicknames to solidify alliances. From the Mason Dixon alliance to The Thoroughbreds, he combined strategy with storytelling. Nick was willing to blindside allies and successfully orchestrated votes, like booting wrestler John Morrison. He not only got rid of players, but he did so in a flashy and visible way, with advantages and idols.
He didn’t play a perfect game, but in some ways that almost helped him. Many of his closest allies, Davie for instance, did not feel the string of betrayal because Nick himself was also blindsided. But despite a series of blindsides, he didn’t give up and won three individual immunities, ramping himself up for a slingshot-filled victory.
The golden slingshot, of course, goes to Nick. But the Fishy, or in this case the Shappy, goes to the entire cast and production, who managed to reignite fans’ love of Survivor with unique storytelling and a truly remarkable season. Because in the end, while the finale is about one person claiming protagonist title, it is also about every voice that contributed along the way to the tale of David vs. Goliath.
In the final tribal council vote, Nick was awarded seven votes, Mike was awarded three, and Angelina received zero.