Survivor 45

Finale Recap – Love Conquers All

What went down in Episode 13?


After a season of 90-minute episodes, old-school throwbacks, two quitters, iconic Tribals, and some all-time great characters, Survivor 45 must come to an end. Last time, we left off with Drew storming out after a brutal blindside, leaving Austin out of the loop for the first time.

But Austin is quickly open to forgiving Dee, admitting he would’ve saved Drew with the amulet had she told him about the plan. Fair play, good move, and on we go as usual. But Julie, Jake, and Katurah notice how long Dee and Austin are away together, and Katurah becomes the voice of reason for splitting them up before they coast to the end in true Romber fashion.

The next morning, the final five compete in a scramble for a challenge advantage, and we get the return of the classic “run and count objects” challenge too! Jake’s slow and steady approach proves to be the key (as does using JT, Gabler, and Denise to help him remember the numbers to the combination), and now he’s got some momentum heading into these last three days. But all that momentum is quickly crushed as he commits two massive fumbles in the immunity challenge: leaving his keys behind and taking two trips up to the puzzle, then losing sight of a piece when he’s neck and neck with Austin.


Austin manages to pull off a win and kicks the puzzle in honor of Michele Fitzgerald’s iconic double victory on the same challenge. For his reward, he and a guest will enjoy a steak lunch at the Sanctuary, and Jake is his plus one. Why? He fought like hell, and Austin can’t afford to leave everyone but himself and Dee at camp to plot against them.

Back at camp, Katurah gets to work trying to convince Julie to vote for Dee. Julie gives the “fair and honest” answer that she’ll go to the end with Katurah for sure… but she wants to vote Jake out instead. Dee also agrees with the plan, so the vote seems set on Charlie Brown 2.0 himself. Meanwhile, Jake is hyped to use his idol to upset the status quo, but Austin reads him like a book. Jake can’t keep a secret to save his life, and he spills the tea: he’s got an idol and will play it for himself to vote Julie out. On the one hand, it should give Jake implicit immunity here. On the other, he just leaked key information to the enemy. Big upsides, big downsides.

Unfortunately for Jake, this afternoon will continue to fall apart in his hands. Austin pledges to keep the idol a secret, only to tell Dee ASAP. Together, the couple agree to target Katurah as a backup plan. Across the beach, Jake reveals his idol to Katurah, who convinces him to switch their votes from Julie to Dee. In fact, Katurah makes Jake swear on his grandmother to stick to the plan! And we know Jake loves his grandmother, so he means business. And just to spice it up, he might play the idol for Katurah now that his idol is public knowledge. But Katurah isn’t sure she can trust Jake, so that’s an issue.


But cut back to the Rebas, and there’s another step towards absolute chaos as Austin and Dee tell Julie about the idol, only to realize the safest move to protect Dee is just voting Julie off and avoiding the idol drama altogether. Take out a big jury threat, embarrass Jake in front of the jury again, and then come what may with both Belos left at the final four. The problem here? Dee doesn’t want to betray Julie, so she’s hoping to just throw a vote here.

Come Tribal, there’s no super heroic send-off like most final five votes these days. Because this vote isn’t a cut-and-dry 4-1 snoozefest, it’s the ultimate split vote with every non-immune player in danger. Jake surprises Katurah by playing his idol for her and seems to nail this move… until she only gets one vote. Then comes a Jake vote, a Dee vote, a Julie vote… and Katurah’s paranoid switch from her own Dee plan to Julie sends Mama J packing in a 2-1-1-1 disaster.


However, Julie does get in one last hilarious moment as she tells Katurah to go to law school, from one secret lawyer to another. And that night, it’s Jake vs. Katurah as the camp entertainment. Jake’s pissed that his big move got ruined by Katurah for the third time, and Katurah refuses to take accountability for bailing on the plan while throwing Jake under the bus for being hard to trust. And Austin and Dee are eating it up.

For the final immunity challenge, we have a hybrid of two challenges: stacking bowls with a long pole but with the wobbly trip ropes we usually see in the domino challenge. It’s not super original, but anything other than Simmotion for the millionth time is welcome. Katurah struggles from the jump, Jake disqualifies himself by literally breaking the challenge apparatus, and Austin puts up a solid fight. But Dee makes a perfect run without a single mistake and earns a spot in the finals with her third immunity win.

Upon returning to camp, Dee has a choice. And that choice is taking Austin to the end so Jake can beat Katurah, the more likable threat of the two. But when Austin learns Jake is seriously falling apart in his practice runs, he offers to go into sudden death with Katurah and avoid the risk of Jake flopping in yet another attempt to make a name for himself. But Dee has mixed feelings. Austin is probably better at making fire than Jake, but if Austin is the one to step up, it could change the jury’s perception of their games and cost her the win.


But at Tribal, she sticks to her guns and takes Austin with her, leaving Jake with one last chance to get a victory after a season of losses, all more humiliating than the last. And lo and behold, Katurah can’t even get a fire started. Jake easily defeats her, breaking down in tears as he achieves his first (and only) win. It won’t be enough to sweep the jury votes, but he’s been beaten down so low that even a sliver of success is enough to make the miserable journey worth it.

And so we bid farewell to Katurah, who got one of the rawest deals between her cartoonishly Bruce-centric edit and her post-Bruce edit that flopped between inspirational hero… and bumbling clown who ruined multiple plans out of self-preservation. It’s such a strange way to tell the story of someone with a genuinely compelling story outside the game, who did play with intention despite her mistakes, who got to the final four and actually scared mafiosa Dee as a potential jury threat. I hope we get to hear Katurah tell her own story about her experience because it was surely more than just Bruce this, Bruce that, and sabotaging Jake every other week.


So there we have it: our final three of Austin, Dee, and Jake! The showmance versus the straggler. The leading roles versus the supporting actor. The big snowballs versus the little snowball. Two threats versus the wolf in goat’s clothing. Dee and Austin were triple threats, with Dee holding more information and Austin holding more advantages. Jake was the ultimate underdog, enduring round after round of neglect on the bottom. And this jury seems open to all three of their paths being worthy of consideration.

Final Tribal was promised to be a war for the win, and it delivers. Kendra asks the finalists how they took Survivor by the horns. Jake obviously took the most hits in the game but never gave up and kept trying to make moves. Even his worst moments were worst moments spent on Survivor, which are worth gold to him. Dee came to win for her family but still appreciated the experience and lived in the moment without regard for the outcome. And Austin reveals he came in as an alternate and went for broke, hunting for advantages, eating fish eyes, catching fish, whatever chances the show provided him.

Katurah asks about their most fearful moments, and Dee and Austin agree that lying to their friends was difficult. Jake struggled with fear when he passed out over the fire, but he’s overcome so much despite his setbacks and emerged stronger. But he’s not strong enough, as the questioning shifts to the topic of the Reba Four, and Jake is mostly ignored moving forward.


Dee chalks her place in the alliance up to luck but clarifies that she was always making moves and calling shots the entire time from her gifted position. Austin tries to downplay her game as one of “anyone but me,” where surviving day by day came before long-term planning. And just to stick the landing, he takes credit for both Kellie and Kendra going home and bringing Emily into Reba’s alliance, which let them steamroll.

But Dee has shots to fire back with. She didn’t bring in Emily, but she did bring in Katurah, who spilled information time and time again, even when it didn’t benefit her own game. And to set the record straight, Dee called the shot against Kendra, not Austin. After all, anyone who came for Dee got sent packing without fail, as she pointed out time and time again.

The results will ultimately come down to the battle of head and heart, though. Who played emotionally, who played logically, and how that influenced the moves they made. Jake was playing with both at all times but couldn’t get any plans to work. A fair attempt, but he might as well sit this one out as Dee and Austin go toe to toe for the win.


Austin and Dee agree that their showmance was all heart and no head, but Dee outclasses Austin when it comes to making moves beyond their relationship. Her heart and head were one force, but her heart never stopped her from making tough choices. Austin told Dee about the Julie blindside, but he didn’t know Dee spilled the beans and got massive threat Emily out with her own plan. But when faced with a similar dilemma, Dee kept her mouth shut and let Austin’s number one walk out of the game when he could’ve been saved by an idol. Dee had the guts to go behind her partner’s back. Austin didn’t.

And with that one last point, the interrogation is over, and the jury votes. For the first time in ages, it’s actually close! Bruce, Drew, and, surprisingly, Kendra vote for Austin to win. But Katurah, Emily, Julie, Kaleb, and Kellie crown Dee the winner in a 5-3-0 vote, a fun result for a fun season.

While the edit might not have invested in Dee as much as it could have (I’ve already seen backlash at Austin and Jake losing despite this being the one New Era season where a complete shutout was honestly in order), we’re giving her some flowers here. She played a dominant game all season long, ran a tight majority alliance as the glue of the group, won three immunities, outwitted everyone, including her showmance, managed her threat level despite other players swearing she’d win for weeks, and walked away a millionaire because of it. She’s in the running for a top-tier game of Survivor. Right up there with the best of the best, perhaps. She earned this win every step of the way, and what a win it was.


That’s not to say Austin played badly. He simply made the mistake of letting his heart speak before his head, giving Dee all the ammo she needed to separate herself as the better strategic player. And had Katurah not chickened out and stuck to the Dee plan at five, Austin probably ends up with this million bucks instead. He was right there, but his lack of killer instinct at the worst time and a bit of bad luck cost him.

And then there’s Jake, a complete disaster but one you can’t help but love. It’s nothing new for our New Era third placers to be these sympathetic underdog figures, but Jake was the epitome of it. A modern jury will never reward that kind of game, it seems, but if anything, Jake’s earned himself a second chance. He played hard, fell harder, and only kept on playing when it seemed hopeless.

So ends a great season with a great winner and a great story. Survivor 45 wasn’t without some hiccups here and there. The final nine twist was genuinely terrible and probably killed a lot of endgame momentum, resulting in a Reba steamroll the editors tried and failed to cover up. The gameplay overall, while easy to understand thanks to 90-minute episodes, wasn’t all that riveting outside a couple of thrilling rounds. And we still had a handful of underwhelming casting choices, be it the quitters or background characters who didn’t pan out.


But we did get a ton of excellent production decisions that made this season feel unique, fresh, and old-school in an era known for being cheap, repetitive, and stale. Without 90-minute episodes, this season probably doesn’t work. It means less time to flesh out the cast, no intro, no auction, fewer character moments, and less impactful storytelling. But the 90-minute format saved the day, if not the show itself.

No episode felt like a rushed waste of time. No player left without some role to play. Every round of the game was explained, as we knew the how and why of every elimination with almost no missing pieces. Seriously, if the biggest mystery is why Kendra voted for Austin to win after preaching the gospel of a female winner all season, we’re in good shape.

And we’re staying in good shape because next season is slated for 90-minute episodes, too, and with a lively-looking cast to boot. If production continues to use that time wisely and learns its remaining lessons (mostly to stop stealing votes every episode and encouraging passive gameplay), we might be out of the new Dark Ages here.

The New Era got off to a rocky, if potentially interesting, start with some fantastic casting choices and unique winners, but the show is finally stepping out of its own way and letting those players shine again. Here’s to the great, redemptive season that was Survivor 45, and here’s to many more seasons following in its glorious footsteps.

Written by

Cory Gage

Cory is a writer and student from Texas. He's a die-hard Survivor fanatic who's seen over 50 seasons worldwide, hosted his own season in high school from scratch, and hopes to one day compete on the show himself.

4 responses to “Finale Recap – Love Conquers All”

  1. Casting could have been better for the men but overall a very good new era season with some great tribals and fun gameplay. Emily, Kaleb, Kellie and Katurah can return for a second chance season imo.

    Unlike the other new era season, I didn’t feel like the 26 day format made this season feel incomplete.

    The first new era season that has a satisfying and deserving winner with not just one winning move but many. Dee was so consistent! A combination between Kim and Sarah.

  2. This season was boring. Survivor Australia was ten times better and the relationship between King George and Simon was the most entertaining storyline.

  3. Agree with almost all of that, but why does everyone want Kellie to return? She wasn’t entertaining and she wasn’t “robbed”, she misplayed with all the other Belos. I kinda think if she wasn’t pretty people wouldn’t be loving her as much

  4. The cast of Australia was a lot better than the US seasons (goodlooking athletic people with personality, so refreshing). The only thing Australia should change is the number of episodes. Give us 15 good episodes of 90 minutes instead of the 24 episodes with those dreadful non emilimation twists.

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