In the battle of Survivor: David vs. Goliath, the premise delivered on its prophecy of a David walking away with the title of Sole Survivor. Nick, the lonely original member of the Davids tribe, defeated both Goliaths, Mike and Angelina, in a 7-3-0 vote at the final Tribal Council. Nick rode a finale momentum of immunity challenge wins to secure his spot and make his case, but it was his social relationships and way with words that ultimately snagged him the prize. Kara, Alison, and Davie rounded out the final episode coming in fourth, fifth, and sixth place, respectively.
Survivor: David vs. Goliath’s finale was a well-rounded and upbeat three hours that came close to capturing the spark of previous finales from the past. In the most recent seasons, Jeff Probst and team tweaked things a bit in the final episode to try something new with its format. This move resulted in uneven conclusions, like the disaster of the fire-making twist, imbalanced and self-serving reunions, and skewed editing. While most of these elements were still present, attention was made to fix these issues. In particular, the reunion was treated like a reunion again (i.e. past castaways talking about the game and their strategies). Survivor still has a long way to go to rectify all the issues, but this finale gave a hopeful start.
Davie’s elimination needed to happen for the other castaways to have a chance at winning. Davie was one of the most liked players with some of the best relationships on the jury. If he had sat at the final Tribal Council, he would’ve had a great shot to win. The Goliaths made the right call in taking the opportunity to knock out a threat. Nick was the only person who benefited from keeping Davie around since it meant keeping around an ally for him. At the end of the day, people still looked to original tribal lines for some form of security. More Goliaths meant more security for their tribe.
The post-Davie Tribal Council exposed the true personality of Mike. For the second week in a row, Mike turned his back on Nick by flipping the plans and blindsiding his “friend.” But, the revelation was Mike’s smug and egotistical attitude over making his move that showed who he really was in the game. Of course, Nick would be hurt that his friend got voted out and that his supposed other friend lied to him again. Mike didn’t need to laugh and act like “game-will-be-game.” You don’t win votes with this heartless approach.
His same mentality went into Alison’s vote off. For someone who was supposedly his ally, Mike was cold and detached to Alison at Tribal Council–it’s almost like we were watching a completely different person. I would’ve loved if Kara and Nick had blindsided Mike because it would’ve been a karmic move that fulfilled his storyline (i.e. getting too comfortable and spilling plans to someone else that then turned the tables on him). We missed out on a great move.
Still, Alison was an equal threat. Even though she didn’t have a big Survivor resume, her reputation and relationships propelled her further. Everyone perceived her to be this masterful competition and strategic threat–she could’ve ridden that reputation to the end to get some winning votes. Whether we realized it or not, Alison was a front-runner to win Survivor: David vs. Goliath.
Kara, on the other hand, wasn’t going to win Survivor: David vs. Goliath. Sure, some jury members could’ve given her some votes based on her relationships, but she hadn’t done much to truly get the prize. Kara didn’t lead any strategic votes, she didn’t manipulate the players, and she didn’t push the game’s momentum–she more so went with the flow. That type of gameplay can get you to the end, but it won’t win Survivor. Hopefully, if Kara does return in the future, she plays with a more competitive and killer attitude to make the tough moves. She has the potential to be a winner.
Regarding the final Tribal Council, this finale was the first time in a long time where all three castaways put in the same amount of effort to debate their case. Angelina, Mike, and Nick had a war of the words to explain their gameplay and convince the jury members. Their fire and competitiveness were admirable to watch. We need more finales like this because anything could happen at the end, and after 39 days, the players shouldn’t give up. None of the finalists threw in the towel, regardless of the vibes the jury members gave off.
As I’ve discussed in the past, Angelina had no shot to win. She had rubbed too many of the jury members the wrong way, and she had made terrible moves that dug her grave deeper, like making the fake immunity idol just for Alison to look like a fool. What did surprise me was the cordial and pleasant attitude the jury members gave to Angelina. The jury respected her enough for making it to the final three and putting in the effort to keep fighting. She may not have won, but she did win respect, and sometimes that’s enough.
Mike’s chances to win were up in the air. He had the strategic and competitive resume to go against Nick, but ultimately the jury would settle the score. Mike didn’t have the same bonds with the jury as Nick did and it showed when it was put to the test. If he was more welcoming and open to his fellow tribemates, the outcome most likely would’ve changed. Mike made the better strategic moves. He had stronger control of the game and all the pieces to win, but he needed the social aspect to convince the earlier jury members.
Nick, on the other hand, had the social aspect wrapped up in a pretty bow. He made the moves to push himself further, he had the alliances cemented, he had the challenge wins, and he had the luck that protected him in dire moments. That’s not to say his game was perfect because his Survivor path had plenty of holes in it and he lost control of the game several times throughout the season, like when Karl and Davie got the boot. Still, Survivor changes round-to-round and he regained control again to set his path.
Nick was a good winner and his victory ended Survivor: David vs. Goliath on a high note. Season 37 reshaped the game of Survivor and recaptured the fun elements we loved from previous years. The editing provided full stories for each of the castaways (unlike Survivor: Ghost Island), we liked most of the cast, and there were no shady twists that put an asterisk on the season (unlike Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers). The concept of Survivor: David vs. Goliath should return again for the future.