This time, I never had to entertain thoughts of turning off this season of Survivor. Jeremy went poll-to-poll in first place this season. From his sweet confessional in episode one on how he was playing for his wife, the mother of his 2.5 children, Val, through his unwavering loyalty to Stephen Fishbach, to his disbelief that his trusted ally Kimmi would turn on him, this was a guy who played old school Survivor under the new school rules. He used trust and loyalty, friendship and camaraderie, to build alliances. Yet he was flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities to assemble and then break down various voting blocs to get him farther in the game. He was only briefly in trouble, but had prepared for the worst by finding not one but two idols. And he went into the final tribal council with the strongest, most compelling, and most heart-felt story to tell.
But before we crown this season's winner, there is a matter of getting from six down to one. At the first tribal council of the episode it became clear why they started the final episode at six rather than the usual five. This was a tribal council for the record books. After Spencer won a puzzle-based immunity challenge (insert shocked expression here), it at first looked like the strong four of Tasha, Jeremy, Spencer and Kimmi would target either Kelley or Keith. But Kimmi, back after nearly fifteen years, did not want to be the last juror, the only one of her alliance not to make it to the end. She saw, perhaps correctly, perhaps not, that she was at the very bottom of the four. And so she made her move.
Kimmi formed a KKK, wait, how about a triple K alliance (yeah, that's better) with Keith and Kimmi. She would join with them and vote out Jeremy, who they viewed as the leader and biggest threat of the remaining threesome. The plan was for Kimmi and her former allies to split their votes between Keith and Kelley. Now, this was dumb because if I understand the rules of the split vote, if there had been two votes against Keith, Kelley and whoever they targeted, those three wold have been exempt from the next vote and then the only people who would have been at risk would have both been from the majority alliance. Spencer was 100% sure that Kelley did not have another idol (as he told the idol-hiding Jeremy, what were the odds that someone would find both idols) and so he pushed for not splitting the vote.
There was much back and forth with Tasha and Spencer trying to warn Jeremy that Kimmi was up to no good and Jeremy completely reading the situation wrong. He was convinced that Kimmi was not turning on them and that there was no reason to panic. But, fortunately, just in case, he went to tribal council with his hidden immunity idol. At tribal, Spencer called out Kimmi. He outed her plan to turn on her allies and join with Kelley and Keith to target either Tasha or Jeremy, most likely Jeremy. Kimmi feigned shock at this accusation, but she was as convincing as was Spencer when he wrong-headedly tried to convinced Kelley that she was completely safe this vote.
|Final three? Sounds good to me.|
She barely had time to let the big smile fade from her face when Jeremy decided to "me too" her. And that's when the craziness started. All six votes - three for Jeremy, three for Kelley - were negated. We had a 0-0 tie. With a tie, there is a revote Those who have immunity - Spencer - and those who were voted for - Kelley and Jeremy - are not eligible to be voted for. That left Kimmi, Tasha and Keith as the only ones to be considered. Having identified Kimmi as the one who voted for him, Jeremy, along with Spencer and Tasha, voted for her, while Kimmi, Keith and Kelley voting for Tasha. Again, a tie vote. The rules state that under these circumstances, the remaining four voters can agree unanimously on who to vote out. If they do not, it goes to rocks. The only player(s) without immunity draw rocks - in this case, just Keith.
Spencer and Jeremy are NOT changing their votes. Keith and Kelley are asked to agree to vote out Kimmi or Keith goes. Kelley wants Keith to stay but in what is either the most magnanimous moment or the dumbest one in Survivor history (move over Erik Reichenbach) Keith offers up his spot in the final five to Kimmi, the single mom. It brought tears to my eyes that he would sacrifice his game and a shot at $1M for her, but Kelley was having none of his chivalry and snapped Keith out of his gallant stupor. And so Kimmi Kappenberg, lover of chickens, made it far deeper in the game than she did in Australia, becoming the eighth member of the jury.
Down to the final five, the rest of the show was rather predictable. With Kelley winning the next immunity challenge (which was a combination of stamina and puzzle solving and which Keith of all people was not that far behind), the obvious vote was Keith. Kelley tried to work some magic and created a fake idol for Keith to use at tribal to try and get the three to panic and turn on each other. But Keith did not go through with the ruse and so he was voted off 3-2 with a colorful necklace parting gift from Kelley.
The final four immunity challenge involved, as is a requirement in at least one challenge per Survivor episdoe, Jeff mentioning balls. The challenge itself required timing and the ability to stay calm and it was the first and most important individual immunity challenge win for Jeremy all season. His immediate reaction to realizing that his Survivor Second Chance dream was about to come true was one of the great moments of the season - raw, emotional, honest. And you also felt for Kelley who in the moment her ball dropped, had the opposite reaction, realizing her dream was going to fall one spot short.
Kelley did make a valiant attempt to sway Jeremy's vote, but it was never really in doubt. Kelley had played a great game - from her individual immunity wins, to her finding and playing two idols, to fighting from the bottom the whole game - and she was almost universally loved by the jurors. It would be, to quote Jeremy, "so dumb" for someone to take her to the end. Spencer, who had a good narrative to sell of having voted out his cerebral counterpart and taken over his spot as Jeremy's right hand man, did not have the same close connections as Kelley had with the jury. Maybe he'd get a vote of two for his scrappy fighting, but he was not the potential threat that lovable spunky Kelley was.
And so Kelley became the last member of the jury and we had our final three. The jury questioning segment was unusual as it did not begin with opening statements and for the most part the questions ran the gamut from tame to lame. Kelly Wiglesworth made a nice callback to the first ever jury vote on Survivor asking the finalists to pick a number between one and ten and Jeremy showed that he's never watched The Price is Right by choosing 2. Andrew "have I told you my wife is a super model" Savage had his pot-kettle moment asking Jeremy and Spencer about their arrogance and I spit out my hot chocolate. And the unsubtle Abi-Maria asked the three their most subtle moments in the game. But then the very last question gave us the most memorable jury answer in Survivor history as Kelley Wentworth asked the final three what their second chance story was.
Jeremy, who had been holding a secret for 39 days, let it rip. His story was that he was playing not for himself but for his wife Val, his beautiful daughters, and the new baby they are expecting - his son. As Jeremy and the rest of us with any shred of human emotion teared up, Spencer and Tasha realized that their hope of becoming the sole survivor had just evaporated. If there was any question how the ten jurors would vote, it was eliminated when the producers were unable to show us any of the votes. They only do that if it's unanimous.
And it was. Jeremy Collins was the winner of one of the best seasons of Survivor we've ever seen. He outlasted a field of players who each came prepared to right the wrongs of their season, who played their hearts out and who wanted this season to be memorable. And it was.
Want more Jeremy:
Local newspaper article
More of the eliminated players:
Kimmi the day after
Kelley the day after
Keith the day after