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Why the Survivor 44 jury voted that way

Why the Survivor 44 jury voted that way
Survivor 44's final four—Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, Carson Garrett, Carolyn Wiger, and Yamil “Yam Yam” Arocho—head to Tribal Council (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Survivor 44’s finale was a very satisfying conclusion to a very fun season.

It ended with a 7-1-0 vote, in favor of Yam Yam Arocho, who won $1 million, beating Carolyn Wiger and Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, after both Carson Garrett and Lauren Harpe went to the jury.

Yam Yam played a terrific social and strategic game, as part of an alliance of three that lasted the entire season, which is incredible.

Yet I am still baffled that Carolyn, the other member of the Tika Three/the Three Stooges who made the finals, was the player who received zero votes at the final Tribal Council. (I expected it might be Heidi, at the very least because of Heidi’s edit this season, not because of her game play.)

Not even Carolyn’s ally Carson, who was nodding vociferously as she talked, voted for her. Of course, he was also tightly allied with Yam Yam, too.

Thankfully, exit interviews today with Survivor 44’s final five—two of whom were on the jury—offer insight and pretty clear answers to these questions:

  1. Why did Carolyn get zero votes?
  2. How did Yam Yam win over nearly the entire jury?
  3. Would Carson have won if he made the final three?

Let’s look at them, in reverse order, just for fun. All of the quotations below come directly from the linked and cited interviews.

Would Carson have won?

A person puts a hand on the shoulder of another person, who's smiling and wearing an elaborate, large necklace
Jeff Probst congratulates Carson on his immunity win during Survivor 44 episode 10, in an image taken from the show itself, and thus filmed by one of the show’s camera operators (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Carson, to Gordon Holmes:”I had built really strong relationships with just about ever single person on that jury. … Me and Lauren were extremely close friends out there. … Me and Matt and Frannie had a ‘dorkus’ alliance.”

Lauren, to Mike Bloom: “…everybody knew Carson was a threat. And I think if Carson would have made it, Carson could have beat anybody in final Tribal, just because he was just that great of a player.”

Heidi, to Dalton Ross: “I went against Carson because I really thought Carson had the best relationships and the strongest game at this time. So if I was going to go against someone, I was going to go against whoever I thought had the strongest game.”

Carson, to Mike Bloom: “I think that everyone saw me as the front-runner. Even from a jury perspective, when I got there, they were all like, ‘Man, you would have won.’ And I don’t think that they were just playing that up. And I think it was because of my relationships with each and every one of the jury members.”

Yam Yam, to Dalton Ross: [If the Tika Three made it to the final Tribal Council,] “I win every time, Dalton, I win every time. I’m kidding! I don’t know. I don’t play ‘What if Survivor.’ What happens, happens. But it might have been closer. I don’t know. Maybe.”

Carson, to Dalton Ross: “Even if I practice fire for the whole year, I still don’t know if I would’ve beat Heidi. She was so fast. You saw her build it in like 10 seconds. That was legit.”

How Yam Yam won over the jury

A person hugs another from behind; the person being hugged has his hands covering his face
Yam Yam comforts Carson before teaching him how to use a flint to make fire on the Survivor 44 finale (Image from Survivor via CBS)

Yam Yam, to Dalton Ross: “I was not confident. And I think that was the reason I went so hard for it.”

Carson, to Mike Bloom: “it may look as though I was maybe closer to Carolyn, but I would say I started closer to Yam Yam. We really navigated Tika together.”

Yam Yam, to Mike Bloom: “I was going through every single vote in my head, what I was going to do, who did I talk to, where I voted, why I voted the way I voted. So I made sure when I talked to them that everything I did had a purpose, and I was able to put it into words”

Carson, to Gordon Holmes: “I think Yam Yam was just better than everyone, but I was worried going into the Tribal for Carolyn and Yam Yam to split the votes. … I wasn’t going to risk potentially the plurality vote giving someone else [Heidi] to win because I wanted a Tika to win.”

Yam Yam, to Mike Bloom: “Carson and I connected before I did with Carolyn about strategy.”

Lauren, to Mike Bloom: “Yam Yam formed that personal relationship with me and got to know me. You see how great of a human he was when he helped Carson make fire. So he was just an overall great human being and had the best jury management and social game, in my opinion.”

Why Carolyn got zero votes

A person smiling
Carolyn Wiger on Survivor 44 episode 9 (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Lauren, to Mike Bloom: “Carolyn played such a great strategic game, but I didn’t have a relationship with her. She was kind of behind the scenes. So I didn’t get to know her as well.”

Carolyn, to Mike Bloom: “My biggest fear was the jury. I was so afraid, like I was saying. I was just really scared, seeing them all looking at me, I slowly fell apart. I hate seeing that. But I did it! It was really really friggin hard for me to face them. All game I felt like the odd one out, or the one that people where you say, ‘What are you doing? What the hell?’ And that’s a part of my game. I don’t want them to think I’m playing. It’s unfortunate, but the way people looked at me, it sort of hurt me. So then seeing them at the end, I still had the fight. But I wanted to stand up for myself more and being able to be like, ‘No,’ and look at them and get that fire back. But I just feel like it fizzled a little bit.”

Carson, to Mike Bloom: “I don’t want there to be any risks that one of them doesn’t win, because I knew the game they played. And it just turned out that Yam Yam owned his game very well. And Carolyn was so awesome in talking about her journey. However, it didn’t as much translate to what I thought the jury would want to hear in terms of, ‘What did you do strategically to propel yourself?'”

Lauren, to Mike Bloom: “My vote really wasn’t that open. And it wasn’t really what they necessarily said; it was about the relationships, I think he had a really great way of managing the jury. He kept his relationships going. “

Carolyn, to Dalton Ross: “I thought Frannie might vote for me. I thought Carson might vote for me. But to be honest, those were the only two that I thought would vote for me.”

Carson, to Gordon Holmes: “Yam Yam was great at talking about his personal journey and also pairing with his strategic side … [Carolyn] didn’t really reflect a lot about how she used her emotions … to get her where she was. … She didn’t really tell that to the jury.”

Carolyn, to Mike Bloom: “I didn’t expect people to look at me like I was such a freak. I always said to Yam Yam, ‘You act like like a complete clown sometimes.’ But that’s Yam Yam. And everybody loves it. But I would ask myself—and I hate that I did this—’What is wrong with me? Yam Yam can do it and it’s adorable.’ And then I come in, and it’s like, ‘Ooh.’ I felt like that sometimes, but I did not expect that. I expected like how it is in my real life. For people to meet me and be kinda like, “Oh, she’s a lot,” but then to get to know me and be like, ‘She’s amazing.’ And I think people were really freaked out.”

Yam Yam, to Dalton Ross: “I really respected Carolyn’s game and I saw Carolyn’s game more than anyone saw it, because I was with her all the time, and she saw my game as well.”

Carolyn, to Mike Bloom: “I’m not gonna lie. It was hard out there being that person. Like, come on! Can I just get one of them? Can I not make a mistake? But who cares? I got to be me. And I’m grateful.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Friday 26th of May 2023

Excellent compilation, thank you!

I don't know about the other interviews, but the ones with Dalton Ross include video and the ones with Carolyn and Yam Yam are absolutely worth watching.