Each week, Christine Pallon and Gia Worthy will round up the previous week of Survivor 44 as they list their top moments in various important categories. This includes the most essential information, the stand-out castaways, and the key moments from the week.
Here, Christine and Gia break down all the action from the season finale.
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Top 3 Moments
Carson and Yam Yam Go on Reward
Christine: After winning the Final Five immunity and reward challenge, Carson chose Yam Yam to go with him to the Sanctuary: Where Good Things Happen. The two enjoyed some much-needed food and comfort at the Sanctuary and weighed their options regarding whether to vote out Carolyn or Lauren. After Carolyn played her idol on Carson just a couple votes prior, I totally expected him to take her to the Sanctuary instead and wondered momentarily if this reward choice might cause some tension between Tika at the final hour, but they stayed united in eliminating Lauren as the biggest jury threat.
Heidi Puts Herself in Final Four Fire Making
Gia: As the only non-Tika member left in the final four, Heidi did what no one else could by winning immunity during the Simmotion challenge. It seemed obvious to everyone that Carson would be thrown into fire, but the question remained as to who would go against him. While Carolyn and Yam Yam both considered themselves likely candidates for the role, Heidi decided to take matters into her own hands and put herself against Carson. This was the first time someone has done this since Chris in Edge of Extinction, and Heidi won the challenge in record time as a result.
7-1-0 Again… But History is Made
Gia: I went into this finale expecting a Yam Yam win for many reasons. What I wasn’t expecting was the final vote to once again be 7-1-0, with Heidi in 2nd place and Carolyn in 3rd. That being said, these results led to a lot of Survivor firsts. Yam Yam was not only the first gay player to win since Todd Herzog, but he was also the first LGBTQ+ player of color to ever win. This is the first time two Puerto Ricans have finished 1st and 2nd, as well as the first time that the winner and runner-up spoke English as a second language. All finalists should be proud of themselves, but these facts make the results a little more special to me.
Gia: Many viewers (myself included) believed that the reason Heidi played her idol at final six was because she found the other idol as well, and the edit was waiting for the finale to show it. Well, the finale came, and it turns out she didn’t. In fact, no one had, as it was hidden in the branches of a tree on the beach. It looked like there was a possibility of Lauren finding it before the final five tribal council, but that was to no avail as well. On the plus side, it was refreshing to finally have an advantage-less finale, something we hadn’t seen in a while.
Christine: Congrats to our season 44 winner! Yam Yam played a fantastic social game and had a great built-in underdog narrative coming from his time on Tika and his time as a perpetual target in the early merge. It’s genuinely impressive how well he managed to navigate the mid-late merge with Carolyn and Carson without ever having it backfire on him, despite some close calls. Ever so funny and ever so likable, Yam Yam had no business making it to Final Tribal Council, but that he did!
His performance at Final Tribal sealed the deal for him as he was able to both convey the strengths of his game and infuse his answers with his personality and charm in a compelling way. Yam Yam was completely himself from start to finish, and it won him a million dollars. His win was well-deserved and fitting for the fun, wacky tone and energy of this season. Long live our reigning Survivor king!
Gia: The season’s runner-up had many ups and downs in her 26 days. Heidi was in a powerful position while on Soka, then found herself losing some soldiers as Soka members kept getting voted out. She found an idol and kept it a secret from everyone else, then finally took out the favorite to win in fire-making. She only got one vote to win, but it was enough to secure 2nd place and the $100,000 prize that comes with it. Even though she didn’t win, Heidi’s story arc was impressive and fascinating to watch as a fan.
Christine: I could not be more proud of Carolyn. While she couldn’t make the jury votes swing her way, she will go down as a Survivor legend after winning the hearts of just about every viewer with her authentic, emotional, and impressive gameplay. While I think it’s a shame that she didn’t get a single vote, this was always going to be an uphill battle for her. The jury liked her overall as a person, but going up against Yam Yam (who had a built-in narrative of being targeted in the early merge only to come out victorious) and Heidi (who had a built-in narrative of being the last Soka standing and winning fire) made this a difficult scenario for her to win.
So much of Carolyn’s game was defined by the other players underestimating her, and while that changed a bit towards the endgame as players began to see her as a legitimate threat, I think it was too little, too late in terms of that shift in perception translating to jury votes. We didn’t see as many of her Final Tribal Council answers as I would have liked. But it seems like her loss was less about her making an egregious mistake at Final Tribal and was more about her just being up against strong competition and not being able to overcome the longstanding in-game perception of her game. I’m positive that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Carolyn, and I, for one, can’t wait for Carolyn 2.0 when the time comes.
Gia: Going into the finale, one thing was clear, absolutely no one wanted to sit next to Carson in the final three. He was able to delay his fate for one more round by winning immunity, but Heidi got the best of him in the final four fire-making. Carson was beloved by fans throughout the season for many reasons, but he’ll be most remembered for his puzzle-making skills and his unwavering commitment to the Tika 3. I think it’s safe to say Carson has big things ahead of him, both in Survivor and beyond.
Gia: Lauren deserved a better edit, especially considering how far she made it in the game. She was an underdog, a challenge beast, and a force to be reckoned with from beginning to end. I don’t know if she would have won had she made it to the end, but I do think she would’ve garnered at least a few votes and stated her case well. It’s clear from the exit press that she was a much more involved player than what was shown, and it’s a shame production focused on her so little. Nonetheless, she played a great game and should be proud of making it as far as she did.