Maryanne Oketch won Survivor 42 in a decisive vote, winning $1 million after convincing the jury with an impressive performance at Tribal Council.
She beat Mike Turner and Romeo Escobar 7-1-0; Romeo received zero votes, while Mike got one vote.
Maryanne is the second Canadian winner, and only the second Black woman to ever win Survivor. Her victory aired exactly 20 years and six days since Vecepia Towery became the first Black woman to win the show.
Mike, incidentally, would have been the oldest winner ever (Survivor: Gabon’s Bob Crawley was 57; Mike is 58), and Romeo would have been the first gay winner since Todd Herzog won in season 15.
While lots of juries say they’re undecided, it really did seem like the jury was unsure, and that Maryanne clinched her victory with her answers and strong performance at Tribal Council.
“I can’t in good faith just give someone money because I like them,” Drea told us, saying she needed to be convinced.
“We all came in wanting your strategy,” Hai told Maryanne during the reunion, “and you did it so eloquently.”
The “pivotal moment,” Maryanne called it later, was when she revealed that she had a hidden immunity idol that she never played, and how she navigated the past few votes knowing that she had the best chance to win.
“By taking you out, Omar, I gave myself the best position,” Maryanne said.
“I was so, so close to playing my idol,” Maryanne told Lindsay and the jury about the final-five vote. But she did not, because she knew she’d lose to Lindsay. “I knew I had to take that chance to lose because I deserve that chance to win.”
Jeff Probst, who has typically ignored female winners during the reunions, took time to praise Maryanne repeatedly, calling her “a very impressive winner.”
Omar suggested Maryanne actually had a “sloppy social game” early on, and Maryanne owned up to that, saying “I didn’t realize” it until the merge. (She later said she applied for Survivor without expecting she could win.)
Mike, on the other hand, had a much more visible strategic game, but resisted acknowledging his faults, and didn’t make a strong case for himself.
During a surprisingly productive jury conversation, the jury seemed sour on Mike’s I have integrity! insistence.
Even Mike’s buddy Jonathan challenged him: “You just claimed that your claim was to be honest and have dignity. That is not what it’s sounding like, Mike.”
After Chanelle said, “Mike, I don’t think I hear you owning up to what we’re asking you,” Mike said he stayed true to his word “until they deceived me first.” Not the best argument there, friend!
In a throwback to old seasons, we saw the jury members talking briefly about the final three, before the final Tribal Council.
That’s when Omar asked, hypothetically, “Why is it more impressive to be an elephant than a cockroach who’s going to survive the apocalypse?” Comparing Romeo to a roach is not exactly a winning metaphor!
Romeo did pull out a last-minute win at the most-important challenge, winning the final individual immunity and thus the power to decide who he’d sit next to at the final three.
He chose Maryanne, saying “I felt she didn’t have a strategy.” That left Jonathan and Mike to make fire in Jeff Probst’s Reindeer Games, which should really have been left behind in Survivor 1.0.
Romeo did make an interesting and emotional case about how he fought to survive from the bottom of the pack, always getting votes as the back-up. But he was also left out of most votes: since the merge, but before the finale, Romeo voted for the person who went home just twice.
During one of his answers, Romeo also talked about embracing himself as a gay man, despite the fear of rejection from family members, and thanked Hai for being a gay mentor.
One of the benefits of more-diverse casting is that we get to see the diversity of people within groups. Survivor 42 had two men who identify as gay, but who have very different experiences. It’s fascinating, too, how they bonded as people but not as allies in the game.
Did the Survivor 42 finale need three hours?
Even with a 35-minute post-Tribal discussion (PIZZA MORE PIZZA OMG WE HAVE PIZZA), the three-hour finale felt super-padded. There was so much filler!
At the second Tribal Council, Jeff Probst started talking about what happened before the previous Tribal Council. Before the jury members talked to the finalists, we had a commercial break before and after which Jeff Probst told the jury members to talk to the finalists.
This was, at best, a 90-minute episode, stretched way out.
Probst opened Survivor 42 by talking to us from a fire-lit beach, saying “so many players that have a legit shot to win,” which was kind of true. Lindsay, Maryanne, and Mike seemed like they had a chance; Jonathan and Romeo did not.
But three potential winners is an improvement, and I think that’s thanks to the editing, which improved so much it helped make Survivor 42 much more enjoyable than season 41.
Yet Probst also pointed out how little game play was left: Mike and Maryanne were guaranteed a spot in the final four, which means they were guaranteed a chance to make at least fire to get into the final three. So there were only a couple variables.
The final five went to a new beach, where they had nothing. “This is bizarre. Is there more to look at?” Lindsay asked.
Maryanne was “on cloud nine” because “everyone on the jury knows Maryanne is here to play,” while Lindsay was dismayed that she had to deal with Jonathan, who was mad about Lindsay voting for him.
“I can’t stand how he talks to me. I’m frustrated that I have to kiss his ass and grovel just for the sake of getting through the next few days, and this cockiness he has just drives me up a freakin’ wall,” she said. “He’s just so freakin’ righteous.”
Lindsay was also upset because she knew she was the most-likely target, especially with Mike’s idol in play. “If something doesn’t happen, I feel like I’m screwed,” she said.
Cue “something” from the producers: an advantage in the immunity challenge, solved with a riddle. Lindsay was the only one to solve the riddle, but spent 40 minutes looking for it—and eventually figured it out while talking to the camera.
She won “a slight advantage in today’s immunity challenge,” which seemed like a big advantage: instead of six knots, she had one knot to untie to get each of six bags of puzzles.
Yet most of the players arrived at the puzzle at the same time, and it came down to Mike versus Lindsay—Jonathan just gave up and watched—and Mike pulled ahead by one piece and won his first immunity challenge. “I’ve waited 21 years for this,” he said twice.
That challenge was an awesome build, an elevated obstacle course. “Come on, how cool is this challenge?” Probst asked. It was an impressive-looking version of a challenge that’s been around since Borneo. Speaking of: Please bring back more challenges from those early seasons! Enough with the standing and balancing zzzz.
Mike’s challenge win meant he could give his immunity idol to someone else, though he’d previously promised to play it for Maryanne. He told Jonathan he’d play his idol for him if Lindsay had an idol.
Lindsay made her case to Mike, while Maryanne and Romeo talked about working with Lindsay. Romeo pointed out “we have a better shot of beating” Jonathan. Yep.
Tribal Council was a lot of nothing talk—that’s kind of a trend this season, though I suppose that’s better than whisper-fest Tribal Councils, either. The most-interesting part was a discussion of whether to keep good players (Lindsay) versus keeping goats around (Romeo and Jonathan).
Mike played his idol for Maryanne, saying he wanted to “repay somebody’s loyalty.” She hugged him, and did not play her idol, either for herself or for Lindsay.
Romeo pulled out a bracelet that he’d shown us, insisting that the only way he could get to the next Tribal was to pretend he had an idol. This momentarily freaked out the jury, but it ultimately fell flatter than his game as he said, “Jeff, I will not be playing this for myself because it’s a fake idol that I made at camp,” and threw it in the fire.
From there, we went directly to the final immunity challenge, which was another familiar one: balls on metal tracks. That challenge determined who’d go to the final three, and who’d make fire.
Mike was out first, with just one ball; Maryanne was out second, with just two balls. “Lots of kids watching could do this,” Probst said, jabbing the knife into Maryanne and pandering to kids since he can’t do that during live reunions any more.
Before the challenge, Jeff Probst hosted a talk show segment, asking them all to check in. “What are you feeling right now? What are you drawing on to get you pumped up?” he asked Maryanne. He got an emotional moment.
“One of my family members is not talking to the rest of my family,” she said, saying that she knew they’d all eventually be watching her on the show, even if they still weren’t talking to each other. Jeff Probst read that as “you being on Survivor could bring your family back.”
“I want it more than a million dollars, Jeff,” she said, crying. “I want it more than a million dollars.” She added, “Sadness doesn’t take you anywhere. It’s what you do with that. What am I going to do with my sadness? I’m going to turn it into passion and drive so that I push myself and I do the best that I can, and I win this competition.”
The challenge win was a late-game surge for Romeo, who has seemed sidelined most of the season. “Every single Tribal” Romeo said. “It’s exhausting.”
With Romeo deciding who made fire, he realized that he’d be sitting next to “the two most likable people in the final three” if Mike and Maryanne were there. Yet he still chose Maryanne to go with him—perhaps because he underestimated her strategic game.
“My fate is in my own hands,” Mike said about making fire, insisting he’d win the million and “this is for me to lose.” He didn’t lose, making the strongest final three possible with those four players.
Mike beat Jonathan, building a roaring fire rather quickly, and sending Jonathan to the jury.
Incidentally, it’s been 14 years since Jonathan was a 14-year-old contestant on Endurance: Fiji, on which he also didn’t make it to the end game.
“Cheers for the most unlikely final three,” Maryanne said on the morning of the final Tribal Council.
Yes, and cheers to Maryanne for her commanding victory, and to Survivor 42 for being so much more entertaining than its predecessor.