The final four examine where they stand after Joe’s evacuation.
Aubry says Michele is a threat because she’s the only one who hasn’t crossed anyone else. Meanwhile, Cydney tells Michele that the three girls should be the final three.
The next challenge is for the reward of a meal. Aubry wins and picks Cydney (for the second week in a row) to join her.
By the way, I just realized there has been no “loved ones” challenge this season. I really hope they have gotten rid of those for good, though I doubt that’s the case. Also, what a likeable final four this is! And the same is true for the final five for that matter.
While the two women are gone, Michele campaigns with Tai once again, and Tai pays lip service to her idea of taking Aubry out. I am not buying it for one second, though.
The immunity challenge ends with a puzzle that’s quite interesting: the players need to make columns by stacking cylindrical pieces of many different lengths. Each column must be the same height so a platform can rest on it, then another set of columns must be started and so on. This seems to be the kind of puzzle that you either get your head around or don’t, and alas Aubry doesn’t. Aubry has a good lead, but it comes down to Michele and Tai, and Michele wins. In celebration, she kicks her own column down.
Aubry and Tai hold hands on their way to get water. Aubry wants to take Cydney out, but knows Michele won’t be so inclined. So the best they could do is force a tie. But Aubry is by no means sure she has Tai’s collaboration in the bag: “Tai and I have been like a zipper that doesn’t quite zip for the whole game.”
Michele and Tai are talking too, and they both think Aubry would get the most votes, since Tai is not much of an orator and probably wouldn’t be able to sway the jury.
As Mark the chicken chases a crab around, Michele tells Tai that she’s going to vote Aubry.
At Tribal Council, Tai tells Probst “alliance out the door now.” Aubry’s face is very tense, as it has been during much of the episode. The votes are cast, and there are two votes for Cydney, two votes for Aubry. Probst asks if there is any possibility either Michele or Tai will decide to change their vote. They both say no. The question I’m asking at this point is, why did Tai not vote for Aubry?
Since no votes are changed, the tie will be resolved by a fire-making challenge. Aubry gets out to a lead pretty quickly, and before you know it there’s a high stack of wood that’s about to burn through the rope. But as she tries one minor adjustment the whole thing collapses and she has to start almost from scratch. We see a number of jury reactions during the challenge, and every one of them seems to be cheering for Aubry. If you needed any proof that Tai made a huge mistake sticking with Aubry, you have it right here. Cydney gets a few embers going a few times, but never anything beyond that, and Aubry rebuilds her fire and wins the challenge.
Rather than immediately ushering Cydney out, Probst first asks for a reaction. She said she is sad mainly for her mother who has a hard time affording even basic necessities. She would have liked to win the money for her.
As Cydney exits the game, we cut to the live studio audience, and Probst feels the need to interview Cydney’s mother who just found out seconds ago that she would not be getting a life-changing amount of money. Quite understandably, it’s all the poor woman can do to say a few words. Pretty sorry, Probst.
As we come back from commercial, we see a shot of an absolutely huge scorpion as the remaining three players go back to camp. “I think you just handed Aubry a million dollars,” says Michele to Tai, as I nod in agreement watching at home. Surprisingly, Michele and Aubry take it for granted that the three of them are going to the final tribal council. But Tai points out that Probst said no such thing. “There’s not another challenge,” Aubry asserts definitively. But soon they are in fact summoned to one.
Confusingly, when they get to the challenge Probst tells them that all three are in fact going to the finals. But they are playing a challenge anyway, and the winner gets to remove one of the jury members from the game! This is a Survivor first.
The challenge is a “leftover” from earlier in the season when there was an option to choose between multiple challenges. This is the one no one chose. It’s a dexterity challenge and the winner is Michele.
She goes back to camp and thinks about which jury member she wants to vote out and comes up with the obvious choice: Joe. Makes sense: he was Aubry’s closest ally and it seems inconceivable that he would vote for anyone but her to win the game. However Tai says: what about Neal? He’s presumably almost as pro-Aubry as Joe, and he’s more likely to campaign for Aubry and win over others to his cause. Oddly, Michele even asks for Aubry’s feedback on which jury member it would make sense to vote out.
At tribal council, the unsuspecting jury is confused to see no one wearing an immunity necklace. Michele is tasked with reading the explanation to the jury. Then Probst wants to talk it through … endlessly. They really want to milk this twist for every bit of drama they can.
Finally, Michele casts her vote in the voting booth and Probst reads it out: Neal! Obviously Michele agreed with Tai’s line of thinking. Neal walks past Michele on the way out and says something to the effect of, “You think you’re a badass bitch but you’re a little puppy. You don’t stand a chance.” Wow, this is coming from Neal who was one of my favorite players of the season. And I do mean was … what a jerk! Obviously, this was something he had written to use at the final tribal council and felt it was too good to go unused. And by the way, now Aubry has been robbed of Neal’s assistance twice in the same season.
Nothing else of interest happens before the final tribal council. And frankly, not that much interesting stuff happens during the final tribal council. Nick, who starts the questioning off, takes an interesting tack as he forgoes questioning in favor of giving each contestant advice on what they can do to win over the jury. Another unusual moment comes when Michele is answering a softball question: Aubry interrupts to ask Michele if she knew that Aubry and Tai were voting against Cydney.
When it’s time to vote, the only votes we see are that Julia votes for Michele and Joe votes for Aubry, both of which were pretty much locks. We also see that Jason seems very torn about what to write, but not which name he finally chooses.
The whole time, Tai had been holding onto Mark the chicken, who amusingly even began to flap his wings restlessly when Tai was asked a tough question. Now before we finish up, Probst tells Tai it’s time to let the chicken loose, which he does.
Now we go to the live studio show. We see the final three and the one inescapable fact is that Michele is smoking hot. She looked very good even after 39 days on the island, but real life is something else altogether.
The votes are read, and the winner of Survivor: Kaoh Rong is … Michele? Wow, I did not see that coming at all. I was so certain Aubry was going to win that I was only half paying attention when the votes were read. Not that I thought Michele had no shot — you’ll notice that I had ranked her as the #2 favorite — but I didn’t think she could win if Aubry were one of the other finalists. Aubry did so much more in the game. But Michele didn’t really have any “blood on her hands,” and sometimes that’s enough.
Also, I guess congratulations are due to the producers: Michele was barely seen or heard from until the sixth episode of a fourteen-episode show. They resisted the temptation to feature her in favor of showing the more interesting things that were going on.
At the reunion show, we don’t find out much more information to help us understand what happened. For instance, when Probst brings up Aubry, he’s mostly interested in comparing her to previous winner Cochran than asking her any questions about the season. Then all of a sudden a crazy woman wearing a hat with hair or fabric hanging down that obscures her face takes the stage to start talking about Tai. She looks like something out of a Comic-Con-goer’s nightmare, but it turns out she is a pop star named Sia. This goes on for a far too long, and then we get to see Probst talking to Drew Carey about a recent appearance of reality stars on “The Price is Right.” Groan.
Also, we get to see a preview of Season 33. It will take place in Fiji. Probst calls it one of his all-time favorite locations and says there will be lots of great underwater shots. And the theme of the season is — I kid you not — millennials versus Generation X.
I’ll be back before long with final thoughts on the Kaoh Rong season.