It’s been a few weeks now since the shocking ending to Survivor 43, which saw heart valve specialist Mike Gabler walk away as Sole Survivor after beating Cassidy Clark and Owen Knight in a 7-1-0 vote.
Gabler’s victory came as a surprise to many, Inside Survivor included, as lots had written off his chances long before final tribal council rolled around. The finale elicited strong reactions across social media, with many thinking runner-up Cassidy was “robbed.” Some disappointed viewers even directed their anger toward the seven jury members, questioning their decision and claiming it was a “bitter” vote.
Now, a couple of those jurors are finally speaking out and explaining the reasons behind their votes. In two separate post-game interviews with RHAP host Rob Cesternino, fourth and fifth-place finishers, Jesse Lopez and Karla Cruz Godoy, opened up about their thought process heading into the final tribal and why they ultimately chose to vote for Gabler.
“If you look at the social and strategic game, I think the [finale] episode does a really good job at highlighting what we would have wanted [the winner] to do,” Karla said. “In differentiating [the finalists] games, one of the things that stood out to me more about Gabler was he had an opportunity to take a risk, to make a move, we see that with Elie, he’s won an immunity challenge, and when we discover, especially at Ponderosa, that he had been working with Cody and Jesse, I’m like, ‘Oh.'”
Karla went on to explain it “clicked” for her at final tribal when Gabler revealed he was part of the Ride or Die alliance with Cody and Jesse. “I’m really piecing together that this guy really has relationships and had bonds with everyone in the game,” she continued.
Jesse shared similar sentiments, saying, “For me, at least, Gabler, the way he explained his game, the way he explained things, did fit well into that puzzle that I had mapped out in my head of the game… Gabler really owned his game; he really owned how he played his strategy.”
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Of course, both jurors admitted there was also a huge social aspect to the vote. “When it comes down to just the social game itself… you vote for people who you WANT to win,” said Karla. “Whether it’s they made you feel better; whether it’s you think they played a better game; whether you just like the person, whatever reason. A lot of that comes into play as well.”
“There is a social component to it, right?” Jesse added. “Gabler was really good at building these social relationships. He was just rattling off things that he knew about us. He did build very strong social bonds in addition to narrating his game in a way that was entertaining.”
However, Jesse made it clear that he didn’t just vote for Gabler because he “made me laugh,” noting, “Gabler explained his game, explained it well, and it fit with what we, or at least what I, saw of the game. Also, there’s always the underlying social relationships component; I think Gabler was very good at building those relationships with people.”
“Aside from him playing a really great, under-the-radar, social game, [he’s] an extremely likable man,” Karla added. “[I] love him to death. He was someone that surprised me out there. I thought he was gonna be 100% different from what he really was.”
While Karla and Jesse have explained their reasons for their Gabler votes, others have yet to speak on the matter, and that is something Karla and Jesse are well aware of.
“My vote is one vote, right?” Karla stated. “I sometimes feel like I’m being, not like, cornered, but like this person that has to respond for the entire jury. The jury can respond for themselves. I’m waiting for them to respond for themselves.”
Karla concluded, “Everyone uses that excuse of the bitter jury because their fave didn’t win. But that’s the jury. That’s the jury.”