'Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers' crowns Ben Driebergen winner after surprise finale twist
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/21/2017
Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers crowned Ben Driebergen 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.
Ben, a 34-year-old former U.S. Marine from Boise, ID, was shown winning Season 35 of Survivor with four jury votes, (probably with five because one vote was not unveiled by Survivorhost Jeff Probst during the live reunion show).
"It was so hard. Having my back up against the wall, I had to fight every single day -- every morning, every night. You have to go out and find the idols. If you're not looking, you're not going to find it. And so, every morning, I'd go out and look for the idol before everyone else, and I was just able to find them. I never gave up, I never quit, and the early bird gets the worm," Ben said following his well-earned victory.
Ben, dubbed "Public Enemy No. 1" towards the end of the game, defeated Chrissy Hofbeck, a 46-year-old actuary from Bernardsville, NJ who currently resides in Lebanon Township, NJ, and Ryan Ulrich, a 23-year-old bellhop from North Arlington, NJ, in the season's final jury voting results.
Jeff revealed that Chrissy received two jury votes to win, while Ryan received one vote.
Although they did not make it to the Final 3, Devon, a 24-year-old surf instructor from Carlsbad, CA who currently resides in Solana Beach, CA, and Mike "Dr. Mike" Zahalsky, a 43-year-old urologist from Parkland, FL, were also featured in the two-hour finale, followed by the one-hour live reunion show.
Devon finished in fourth place, while Mike placed fifth.
The pre-taped portion of Survivor's finale began on Night 26 of the game. The Solewa tribe was returning to camp after voting Ashley out at the previous Tribal Council session.
Mike thanked the tribe for keeping him safe, and then everyone agreed Ben -- who took off into the woods -- absolutely needed to be the next person to go. Ben was the biggest threat left in the game, and his tribemates needed to prevent him from finding another hidden Immunity Idol or winning Individual Immunity.
Ben was playing a "ferocious" game, according to Mike, but no one followed him into the woods as he looked for another idol. No one seemed to worry about Ben getting lucky again since he had no protection or alliance to back him up this time, but the former Marine's vulnerability and desperation made him work that much harder to stick around.
"This is more than a game to me. This is a mission; this is a job," said Ben, who was playing to win money for his family, not just to win the title of "Sole Survivor," like Mike.
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Ben spent the whole night searching high and low for an advantage in the game, and right when he was about to give up and get some sleep, he found the word "DIG" and discovered another hidden Immunity Idol buried in the sand. This marked Ben's third idol of the game.
On Day 37, Chrissy admitted her relationship with Ben was incredibly complex because they had started the game as friends but then grew to hate each other. Chrissy decided to work things out with Ben and hug out their resentment, but she admitted to cameras she was only burying the hatchet for strategy purposes.
Chrissy wanted to ensure herself a spot in the Final 4 in case Ben won Individual Immunity. Ben, however, confessed to cameras that he was never going to let Chrissy finagle her way in to the end with him.
Ben thought Chrissy was his "biggest competitor," and he no longer wanted her in the game.
"That woman's gone, period," Ben noted.
It then became time for the castaways to compete in an Individual Immunity Challenge, which would also serve as a Reward Challenge.
The players were required to swim out to a platform, climb a stack of crates, leap off, retrieve a set of keys, cross a balance beam, retrieve a second set of keys, and then use those keys to unlock a puzzle. The puzzle required the castaways to maneuver colored balls on a wheel so they would match the corresponding colors.
In addition to being safe from the next vote and making the Final 4, the winner would receive Reward in the form of comfort food -- chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies, wine and cheesecake.
Chrissy, who is excellent at solving puzzles, ended up winning Individual Immunity, her third immunity win since the merge. Chrissy got to pick one person to join her, and she selected Dr. Mike. Chrissy then got to choose another individual to join her, and she picked Devon.
"Chrissy is unbeatable. I'm bummed she won because I was gunning for her, so I need to make a decision on what's the best way to use my idol and who's going to be my next target," Ben explained in a confessional.
When Devon, Mike and Chrissy sat down for their chicken feast, Mike immediately suggested they look for a clue to an idol in order to prevent Ben from finding it, but there was nothing. The trio then came up with a brilliant idea. Well, it would've been brilliant if Ben hadn't already found an idol.
The trio agreed they'd use the necklace from Chrissy's "dead super Immunity Idol" dating back to the first Tribal Council and allow Ben to see it -- along with the instructions from Ryan's previous idol he had played -- to make him think the idol had been found at the Reward and he should stop searching for it.
Once the tribe reunited, Chrissy wore the necklace around her neck just so Ben would notice it, and then Ben put on his best acting performance to make them think he was disappointed and crushed by the sight.
Ryan and Chrissy laughed about how Ben "bought it hook, line and sinker." But Ben had the last laugh because the genuine idol was in his boot all along.
"Now I don't need to fake look for idols anymore. [Chrissy] just made my life easier," Ben said with a chuckle. "This four think they're so smart, but it's just a bunch of blind mice running around and bumping into stuff. I do think they underestimate me, and it's hilarious for me."
Ben thought the vote was going to come down to Mike, who was good at solving puzzles, or Devon, who was great at challenges.
But before Tribal, Devon got a weird feeling from Ben because the former Marine was acting like he had given up on the game -- something Devon never expected Ben to do. Devon therefore considered writing Mike's name down on the off-chance Ben might play another idol and write his name down.
Devon approached Ryan with the idea, but Ryan insisted Devon shouldn't write Mike's name down because the urologist would get mad. Devon realized Mike probably wouldn't take him to Final 3 if he followed through with this strategy, but Devon needed to look out for himself first and foremost.
At Tribal Council that night, Ben pretended like he was upset Chrissy had found an idol while Chrissy beamed with her necklace around her neck, making everyone think that she had also found the idol that was hidden at camp.
It wasn't until everyone cast their votes that Ben dropped a "Ben Bomb," and once again played his hidden Immunity Idol. He bragged to his fellow castaways that "the early bird gets the worm" and he discovered it while they were sleeping.
Jeff then read the votes in the following order: Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben, Mike and Devon.
Devon admitted to Mike that he had written down his name, and Mike appeared incredibly frustrated and disheartened. On the re-vote, Mike and Devon could not vote, and everyone else could only vote for one of the two guys.
Chrissy, Ryan and Ben voted as a result, and Chrissy and Ryan voted for Mike, eliminating him from the game. Ben had voted for Devon, who appeared very thankful he had made a big move to save himself.
"Good game, guys," Mike said on his way out, before Jeff announced a big twist in the game was coming.
"I was the final Healer left standing. I think they felt like they needed Devon more than they needed me in order to beat Ben, and I get it. If I made it to Final 3, I would've won Survivor, but I made it 37 days in the greatest game ever invented on the face of this earth," Mike said in his final words.
On Night 37 after Tribal Council, Devon pointed out that Ben was the only person who had written his name down all season long. Devon just had that feeling that Ben was playing all of them.
Meanwhile, Ben was so excited about what had just transpired, but he acknowledged the only way he'd get to Final 3 would be by winning Individual Immunity since no idols were left in the game.
On Day 38, the Final 4 met Jeff for the final Individual Immunity Challenge of the season.
Each castaway was instructed to stack letter blocks on a very wobbly, tiered platform. The first person to spell "Heroes, Healers, Hustlers" would win immunity, an automatic spot in the Final 3, and a final secret advantage.
The next person voted out of the game would become the eighth -- and final -- member of the jury.
Ben thought he won the challenge because he technically finished the task in first place; however, he had placed the "U' in Hustlers upside down. Once Ben tried to fix his mistake, all of his blocks went tumbling down.
After each castaway dropped letters and had to start over and over again, the challenge came down to Chrissy vs. Ben. Ben had all the letters in place once again, but just as he attempted to secure the structure, the letters came tumbling down.
Chrissy was then able to catch up, and she won her fourth Individual Immunity Challenge of the season, tying the Survivor record for most female Individual Immunity wins. Ben could barely contain his grief and heartbreak, as Chrissy cried tears of joy.
Once everyone returned to camp, they all hugged it out. Ben called the challenge "a butt kicker." He knew he had to win in order to stay in the game and that "one silly mistake" cost him $1 million and his family's dream. He hated the idea of letting money slip away for his kids' college educations and retirement.
In a last-ditch effort to save himself, Ben asked Chrissy if there was any way he could stay in the game because he'd love to sit next to her in the Final 3. Chrissy told Ben that she'd be willing to listen to his argument, but she told the cameras afterward there was no way she was going to let that happen.
Chrissy subsequently snuck away from the group to read the secret advantage she had won at the Immunity Challenge.
Chrissy learned that she would cast the sole vote at Tribal Council that night for the person whom she wanted to sit next to in the Final 3. That meant the other two castaways could battle it out in a fire-making challenge for the last remaining spot in the Final 3.
Chrissy was shocked by the turn of events, because she knew the twist meant Ben had another chance to make it to the end of the game. As a result, Chrissy determined Devon must battle Ben in the fire-making challenge since he was really good at it -- and she'd give him a heads-up so he could practice.
Devon was actually "excited" and "pumped" to make fire because it would give him a chance to impress the jury and add to his Survivor resume.
Chrissy and Devon then told Ryan about the fire-making challenge, and Ryan was so relieved because he didn't think he could beat Ben doing such a task.
Ryan, being a Super Fan ofSurvivor, thought it was completely "ironic" his inability to make fire would actually save him in this game.
At Tribal Council that night, Ben announced an "upside down U" would haunt him for the rest of his life but he was still very proud of his game.
Chrissy then read her advantage out loud, and Ben was pleasantly surprised. Chrissy revealed she'd like to take Ryan to the Final 3, forcing Devon and Ben to face off against one another and make fire. Both men thought it was awesome and exciting.
Ben and Devon were given the exact same supplies, and they had to build a fire high and hot enough to burn through a cord. Ben sparked fire first, and it roared high before Devon could even spark a tiny flame.
In no time, Ben's cord snapped, and he became a member of the Final 3 with Chrissy and Ryan, who appeared devastated. Devon therefore became the eighth and final member of the jury.
"Man, it's a bummer to go home at this point. One day short of making Final 3, but congrats to Ben," Devon said in his final words.
"He killed it in that fire-making challenge. Even though I lost, at least my fate lied in my hands and I went out with a big bang. No matter what happens to me, I'm a stronger man. I'm very blessed to have had this experience, and I'm walking away happy."
On Day 39 of the game, Ryan gushed about how his dream had come true to make the Final 3. Strategically, his game wasn't perfect, but he hustled his way through the ups and downs. He considered himself "the underdog," so he needed to convince the jury he had control of the game the entire time.
Meanwhile, Chrissy thought she deserved to win and played a very heroic game. She hoped to set an example for other moms out there, and Ben said he was "full throttle" in the game from Day 1. Ben knew Ryan was a good talker and Chrissy won more Immunity Challenges, so his plan was to walk into that final jury questioning humble and confident.
It then became time for the final Tribal Council of the season, when the power shifted to the jury, who would decide who deserved to be crowned "Sole Survivor" and win the $1 million. Ryan, Chrissy and Ben had to explain how they outwitted, outplayed and outlasted their Final 3 opponents.
Ryan convinced the jury he had been a "puppetmaster" for most of the game by talking through Devon, a big physical threat, so he'd stay under the radar.
Ryan argued that his social and strategic game was always on point, and that no one carried him to the end. Ryan said his name was barely ever written down at Tribal Council and his secret advantage at the very start of the game allowed him to build a lasting alliance with Chrissy.
Ben had little to tell the jury except he never gave up trying to win immunity and look for idols when he was in trouble or on the outs of the tribe.
Ben seemed a little exhausted, but when Joe called him out on an unimpressive fight when it mattered most, Ben's speech took an emotional turn and he told the jury that -- as a person suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- he wanted to prove to military veterans that they can find happiness and light at the end of the tunnel.
Joe called Ben's social game "horrible," but Ben said personal relationships have been a challenge for him since returning from war andSurvivor was a complete learning experience for him.
Chrissy insisted at the Final Tribal Council that she had the most complete game of all the Final 3 castaways because she had gotten to know each and every player on a personal level and made it to the end by actually remaining loyal to her alliances and not trying to blindside or betray people at every opportunity.
Chrissy added that she outplayed the others by tying the record for most Individual Immunity wins in a single season by a female.
Chrissy, whom Ashley called a "genius," also tugged at the jury's heartstrings by explaining that she represents and epitomizes this season in that -- as a mother and 47-year-old woman -- she has proven herself to be a Hero, Hustler and Healer outside and inside of the game.
Chrissy said the jury should be proud to crown her "Sole Survivor" because it would be a beautiful ending to their season, but the majority of the jury apparently believed Ben played the best game.