'Survivor' names Adam Klein winner over Ken McNickle and Hannah Shapiro in unanimous jury vote
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/15/2016
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X revealed Adam Klein as the winner of its $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Wednesday night's finale broadcast on CBS from CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Adam, a 25-year-old homeless shelter manager from San Francisco, CA, won Season 33 ofSurvivor in a clean-sweep jury vote. He played the game to bring joy to his family while his mother and best friend was home battling Stage 4 lung cancer after multiple failed treatments.
"My mom and I, and my whole family, have been huge, huge Survivorfans, and even just to be in this theater right now would've been a dream come true -- let alone to play the game, let alone to win the game... When an opportunity to make your dreams come true is in front of you, she would have never passed it up, and she wanted the same for me... My mom said, 'You have to go now,' and we needed something to look forward to, something to brighten her spirits," Adam said of his decision to compete on the show as tears streamed down his face.
"The hardest part of the entire thing is not the food, not the sleep. For me, it was being away from my family... She recorded videos for me when I was away... When I found those idols and when I won immunity, and especially when my brother came out [to Fiji], she was with me, and she's with me tonight."
Adam's mother tragically passed away one hour after he got home from the island. He was able to tell her that he loved her and he won the game. (He admitted to Survivor host Jeff Probst he had sensed his victory). Adam donated $100,000 of his winnings to lung cancer research.
Adam defeated Ken McNickle, a 33-year-old model from Denver, CO, and Hannah Shapiro, a 24-year-old barista from West Hollywood, CA, in the season's final jury voting results. Neither Ken or Hannah received a single jury vote.
Although he didn't make it to the Final 3, David Wright, a 42-year-old television writer from Sherman Oaks, CA, was a prominent figure in Survivor's two-hour finale. He finished in fourth place.
Bret LaBelle, a 42-year-old police sergeant from Dedham, MA, claimed fifth place, and Justin "Jay" Starrett a 27-year-old real estate agent from Fort Lauderdale, FL, finished sixth.
The finale began on Night 35 at Vinaka's camp with three Gen Xers and three millennials left in the game.
Bret was glad to have flushed Jay's idol, and Jay felt "barren and naked in this freakin' jungle." He could only fight for himself and look for another idol since he was vulnerable. Hannah told Bret it was the wrong time to get Dave out, but Bret completely disagreed, saying David was dangerous and could win the game -- along with Jay. Bret said both guys needed to go next.
David knew he had a huge target on his back so he decided to stir up some chaos. David assumed no idols were left in the game, so he made a fake necklace out of special pieces he had gathered from Tree Mail, challenges and more. He was focused on making the Final 3.
On Day 36, Jay went off looking for an idol, but Ken caught up him as he was looking for coconuts. David then also joined the pair, and on the way back to camp, Jay spotted a pink emblem on a nearby coconut. Jay thought he was the only one to see it, but David spotted it at the same time. When he got the chance, Jay quickly ran to the coconut, smashed it open and found another idol. He was thrilled and gained confidence.
Ken was tired and hungry but it was finally time to open the Legacy Advantage that Jessica Lewis had given him upon her ouster. Ken was guaranteed immunity at the next Tribal Council. Ken had no intention to share the news with anyone until at Tribal Council.
The Vinaka tribe then met Jeff for an Individual Immunity Challenge. Each castaway was required to race through a series of obstacles while collecting a bag of tiles. They had to use the numbers on the tiles to solve a combination lock that would release a key. Afterward, the players had to cover up their numbers, crawl under net, pull themselves up a wall and then use the key to unlock a set of puzzle pieces, which must then be assembled.
The puzzle looked like an upside-down 3D bat hanging from a branch. The winner of the challenge would be guaranteed a one in five shot of winning the game, while the next person voted out at Tribal Council would become the eighth member of the jury. Jay had a big lead but lost it because he failed to cover the numbers to his combination lock, which allowed his opponents to copy him and catch up.
In addition to receiving immunity, the winner would earn Reward in the form of a big, juicy steak back at camp with all the fixings. David and Jay ultimately battled it out for immunity, and in the end, David won it. Jay called himself a "bozo" for blowing his lead.
David seemed shocked by his victory and was able to choose two castaways to join him for dinner. However, Jay decided to play the Reward Advantage that Adam had previously given him during the loved ones' visit. Jay picked David to eat with him since he had won the challenge fair and square, as well as Adam, since he opted out of stealing someone else's loved-one visit. Jeff called it "a big political decision."
After the challenge, back at camp, Jay, David and Adam enjoyed their meal. Jay wanted to sway the guys to vote for Bret so he could save his idol for a later Tribal Council. Jay said he was the perfect shield because as long as he was in the game, they'd be safe. Adam asked Jay what would happen if he kept winning immunity, and then Jay promised he would take the both of them to the end with him.
Jay guaranteed Adam and David that Bret would not take either of them to the Final 3, and David said Bret flat out hated him. Meanwhile, Ken, Hannah and Bret were worried Jay would be swaying the two guys to keep him.
Bret said the vote needed to be five against one for Jay. Adam knew Bret was a threat since he had so many friends on the jury, but all Jay needed to do was win two more Individual Immunity Challenges to make it to the Final 3.
Adam told Hannah and David that Jay needed to go next. Bret and Jay even talked to each other about how one of them was going home. Hannah told Jay that Adam wanted him out but Hannah and David were willing to move forward with him. Jay was persistent and tried to convince Adam to give him a chance.
Jay said even if he won the next two challenges, he'd take Adam to the end because they are "brothers for life." Adam agreed to give him a shot, but he was still unsure. Adam said they were "bitter rivals" but developed a "brotherly love" at the same time. Adam wasn't sure whether he could beat Jay in the end.
At Tribal Council that night, Bret announced that if Jay wasn't going home, it was himself. It was clear they both had a lot of friends on the jury. There was talk of an idol, but Ken said it was tricky for people to go and look without anyone else noticing.
After the tribe members cast their votes, Jay played another hidden Immunity Idol. But to his surprise, Jeff said it was fake and did not count. It was the idol David had made to stir up some trouble. Jay was absolutely shocked but impressed with his tribemates. Ken then played his Legacy Advantage, explaining to everyone that it granted him immunity on Day 36 of the game.
Jeff then revealed the votes in the following order: Ken, Jay, Jay and Jay. All the votes for Jay counted, so he was eliminated.
"You're all warriors. It was mad fun!" Jay yelled out. "Go ahead, Jeffrey, snuff my torch! It was a million dollar lock combination."
After a big laugh in his final words, Jay confessed, "Man. You got me, you got me. That sucks to go out! I tried my best -- beg and pleaded, fought and scrambled. But I had a lot of fun, man. It was a great experience. Much love for everyone."
On Day 37, the Vinaka tribe met Jeff again for another Individual Immunity Challenge. David felt he was the biggest target now that his shield was gone. David thought he needed to win the challenge but he's not good at swimming.
For the challenge, each castaway was instructed to maneuver a buoy through a series of obstacles and then use two handles to transport puzzle pieces across a teeter-totter. Once they had all the pieces, they must solve a word puzzle. The winner would earn an automatic spot in the Final 4.
Ken won immunity. The puzzle phrase was "not a participation trophy," which is a reference to how Gen Xers tend to believe everything is handed to millennials and they're rewarded for things they don't actually deserve or earn. Bret was happy because he didn't want David to win. Bret was nervous the tribe could be targeting him next, but he hoped David would be going home instead since he's an obvious threat.
After the challenge, everyone returned to camp, and Bret announced he wanted it badly. Ken slightly apologized for not being a humble winner, but no one faulted him for yelling and cheering at the time of his victory. Adam said he dropped the ball at that challenge but needed David to go home.
Adam said keeping an idol from David's grasp was more important than strategizing, so Adam frantically looked for it. Bret covered for Adam, insisting he felt sick to his stomach.
While Adam was gone, David pitched to Ken and Hannah about voting out Adam next. David thought he was Final 3 with Ken and Hannah, saying Bret or Adam needed to go one after the next but Adam was the player with a better chance of winning immunity the next day. Hannah seemed onboard, and David had doubts an idol even existed.
When Adam least expected it, he found another idol in what appeared to be a chunk of coral in the sand. He felt so much joy in knowing his mother would be proud to watch him succeed in this game. Bret told David that he'd write down Adam's name as long as he can make it to the Final 4.
Bret realized it was Adam vs. Dave, but he was absolutely on Adam's side. Bret insisted to Adam that Hannah was on their side, but then Adam said it didn't matter because neither of them was going home that night. Adam told the cameras he was safe just as Ken and David decided to gun for him. Adam told Hannah that he found an idol, and she pretended to be happy for him.
However, Hannah said in a confessional that she was in control of the game -- not any of the boys. She said she was in the middle and therefore had the power. She could vote out David or tell David to switch the vote to Bret. Her choice came down to whom she could trust to get her to the end and whom she could beat at the end.
At Tribal Council that night, Bret said he wasn't thinking about whom he'd sit with in the Final 3. Instead, he was just trying to last one more day.
Hannah announced David was a threat and everyone else agreed. David repeated that Bret was also a threat to sit next to in the end. David said he hoped he could rely on loyalty and trust from his allies. Adam said David's story on the island was beautiful, that he was afraid of birds at first but then he won challenges and made people laugh and cry with him and for him.
After votes were cast, Adam decided to play his hidden Immunity Idol -- a real one this time -- for himself. Adam assumed a couple bullets were coming his way.
Jeff then read the votes aloud: David, Bret, David, Bret, and Bret.
Bret whispered to Hannah on his way out, "The flipper flips again." Adam looked at Hannah stunned, but she didn't appear phased at all.
"David, congratulations. The rest of you just lost a million dollars," Bret said after his torch was snuffed.
"Oh my God," Adam said.
Jeff pointed out that the number of blindsides must mean the castaways still in the game believe every single person is a legitimate threat to win the game.
"Going out like this sucks. If those were two people that had some sort of a brain, they would've learned that David is going to eat them alive and they would've voted him out tonight. But I will say this is a great game. It brought me out of my shell finally. I mean, how lucky am I to have actually been a part of Survivor after being a fan for so many years?" Bret said following his ouster.
Adam and Bret voted for Dave, while it turned out that Ken, Hannah and David voted for Bret.
That night, when Vinaka returned to camp, everyone was reeling from Hannah's blindside. Adam was impressed by the lack of loyalty. Ken explained to Adam that Bret was the uncle or best friend to many members of the jury, and while Adam understood that, Adam said Bret was much less likely to win a challenge than David.
"I should not be standing here talking, yet here I stand," David told the cameras.
Adam talked to Hannah about how she possibly could have voted out Bret and kept David. Hannah said that she didn't want to betray Ken and make him mad at her, because Ken was set in his ways. Hannah knew it was a gamble and David was a threat, but she didn't believe Bret would've taken her to the end. Hannah therefore believed she had to make the move in order to try to win.
Adam told Hannah they had to win immunity the next day or else they'd be screwed.
On Day 38, it became time for Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X's final Immunity Challenge.
Each player was required to use a long pole to maneuver a bowl through a channel. Once they got a bowl to the top, they had to place the bowl and head back for their next one. The entire structure sat on a spring, so if the structure was hit too hard, it would wobble and the bowl would drop. The first person to stack 13 bowls or the first person to stack the most bowls in 30 minutes would win Individual Immunity and an automatic spot in the Final 3.
Wind and the wobbly structures caused many castaways' bowls to come crashing down, especially when small towers were built. Adam and Hannah developed defensive strategies, meaning they often waited for other players' bowls to fall rather than spend time trying to stack as many as possible.
With two minutes left in the challenge, Hannah was in the lead with 10 bowls, Ken had nine, David was working on his sixth, and Adam was sitting on eight. Ken managed to rest his tenth bowl in place, tying Hannah.
The challenge then came down to a tiebreaker between Hannah and Ken, and the pair hugged it out before starting. At the end of five minutes, the player to stack the most bowls would win. If a castaway could stack all 13, he or she would automatically claim victory. Hannah went slowly as Ken aggressively stacked. David helped Ken focus and gave him advice.
In the end, Ken won by one bowl and a matter of seconds. Jeff called it "an epic finish to this season." Ken cried tears of joy in the sand.
"Four times after the merge, I was able to walk away with this necklace," Ken noted, telling the cameras he had a big decision to make about whom he should sit next to in the Final 3.
David was happy Ken won because he had faith in Ken's loyalty and trust. Hannah and Adam were hell bent on taking out David, but they needed to convince Ken to join them or else it would come down to a fire-making challenge between herself or Adam against a man who had been making fire for the tribe all season long.
Hannah told Ken that although she was called a "flip-flopper," she had never betrayed him. Ken told Hannah that he was closest with David, that they bonded on Day 1, and he was all about playing a game of loyalty and friendship. Ken acknowledged, however, that they would probably lose to David in the Final 3. Ken asked Hannah to trust him and not underestimate him.
Hannah explained that Ken "works by a different code" even when it's not the smartest game move. Adam told David that he gave up his own shot at immunity to ensure David wouldn't get it. Adam declared that David would win unless Hannah and Ken vote him out. Adam said he only had a chance to win if David was gone.
Adam's "Plan B" was beating David in a fire-making challenge, and he made sure to practice. David told Ken to write down Adam's name, that his fate rested entirely in Ken's hands. Ken had to vote out his closest friend or watch two men fight for a spot at the top.
At the penultimate Tribal Council, Ken announced he wasn't going to change the person he is just because he was wearing the immunity necklace. Adam also disclosed his sole purpose in the challenge was to make sure David didn't win, expressing how David had played the best game overall. David pitched he had made a Final 3 deal with Ken on Day 3 or 4 and he was a man of unwavering integrity, honor, loyalty and trust.
Adam explained that it was time for Ken to make a decision for himself -- a decision about something other than loyalty that could ultimately win him money for his family.
After votes were cast, Jeff read them aloud in the following order: David, Adam, David and David.
Ken had tears in his eyes, as the choice was clearly very difficult for him to make.
"So close, so close!" David said with a big smile across his face. "Great game, everyone."
Adam told David that he had done an "awesome" job. Ken apologized to David and hugged him, saying, "I love you, man."
"Playing Survivor is the biggest dream I've ever had, and I'm so grateful that I got to play it with all of you. Vinaka!" David admitted to the group on his way out.
David said in his final words, "Obviously I wanted to be the 'Sole Survivor.' I wanted to win the million dollars. But I had so much personal growth from this experience that I'm going to walk out of this game a new man, really, and that is worth more than a million dollars. So, in a way, I really did win."
On Day 39, Ken said it felt "damn good" to be the last Gen Xer standing. He played the game the old-fashioned way and showed a level of loyalty most players don't utilize or respect anymore. His motivating factor was his daughter, and he wanted to give her a better life.
Hannah started the game neurotic and anxious, but she grew into a player that's resilient and strong. She was learning how to hold her own. Hannah was convinced she played a better game than both Adam and Ken.
Adam, on the other hand, played a very hard game. He found idols, won immunity, and blindsided others while never becoming a target. He couldn't imagine how happy his success would make his mother, and he wasn't about to let that chance slip away.
Taylor kicked things off and asked them to pitch why they deserved to win the game. Hannah said she played a strategic, cutthroat game. Ken was all about loyalty, and Adam was about making the moves while staying under the radar. Sunday made it known her vote was going to be based on which player was adaptable and flexible. Ken pointed out that he was pretty rigid, but an adaptable player is often the flipper.
Hannah and Adam argued a bit over who spearheaded decisions they had made together, and Ken cried about how difficult it was for him to vote out David. Ken explained that David was his "No. 2 alliance," but his daughter was "No. 1." Will acknowledged he respected Ken more for voting David out than he did listening to him talk about respect and loyalty for the first 38 days.
Will noted that Adam was on the wrong side of the vote multiple times, but Adam explained those were times "Hannah went rogue" and made choices he believed were poor. Adam said keeping David in the game after Bret could've easily been a million dollar mistake.
Zeke said Ken was a loyal provider who contributed nothing to the evolution of Survivorstrategy. Hannah said she felt responsible for most of the jury although Adam liked to take credit for many moves they made together. Hannah was only on the wrong side of one vote, the [Michaela Bradshaw] vote, and said she made strategic choices that got her to the Final 3, regardless of whether Adam argued they were bad ones.
Ken told Bret that he began playing the game right from the start. Adam then burst into tears when talking to Jay, telling him that they became brothers but he was playing the game for one reason only. Jay was the only person who knew about Adam's mother and her cancer battle.
Chris, a trial lawyer, advocated for Adam to win the game, complimenting his ability to convince Ken to vote out his best friend in David. Ken argued he had the gumption to make that move, that it was his choice and under no one else's persuasion.
When it came to David's final question of each castaway's evolution, Hannah explained overcoming anxiety, Ken revealed he tackled social-interaction terror, and Adam finally revealed he was playing Survivor to bring his mother joy as she fights Stage 4 lung cancer. Adam bawled his eyes out, and most of the jury cried with him.