'Survivor: Kaoh Rong' crowns Michele Fitzgerald its "Sole Survivor" and million-dollar winner
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/19/2016
Survivor: Kaoh Rong -- Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty revealed Michele Fitzgerald to be 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.
"I played a really social game. I think that's pretty evident. But I think my social game was not based on emotion, it was about getting to know people on a personal level and making friendships first. I played in the middle a lot. I played in the middle with [Nick Maiorano], I played in the middle with [Julia Sokolowski], I played in the middle with [Cydney Gillon], which is kind of a dangerous place to play," Michele said during the live broadcast after her victory was announced.
"But at the same time, I wasn't being blamed for anything and my name wasn't being written down often... The key is absolutely knowing when to hop. It's knowing whom to trust, it's knowing if the vibe of camp shifts, it's knowing how to remain calm enough to feel that shift and trust your loyalty and who you're with... I guess I did have a bit of an underdog story... Brains and Brawn come in as people who are known to be smart or known to be tough, and as a Beauty, you have to prove those things."
Michele, a 24-year-old bartender from Freehold, NJ, beat runner-up Aubry Bracco, a 29-year-old social media marketer from Cambridge, MA, and third-place finisher Tai Trang, a 51-year-old gardener from San Francisco, CA, in the 32nd season's final jury voting results, which Survivorhost Jeff Probst revealed during the live broadcast.
Jeff revealed six votes during the live reunion show. Two castaways voted for Aubry, and four people voted for Michele to win. Because Jeff did not show the additional vote, it's probably safe to say Michele got it.
In an amazing twist, famous singer Sia made an appearance at the reunion show and decided to give Tai $50,000 for being such an amazing example of humanity and truth this season. She also admired his love for nature and animals, therefore donating an additional $50,000 to an animal charity of Tai's choice.
Although she didn't make the Final 3, Cydney, a 23-year-old body builder from Douglasville, GA, was a prominent figure inSurvivor's two-hour finale. She finished in fourth place.
The Survivor broadcast began on Day 36 in the Dara tribe with an exhausted and irritable tribe. Tai was desperate to protect Mark the chicken but felt tight with Aubry again. The pair decided they needed to get close to Cydney, which shouldn't have been hard for Aubry since they had worked together for most of the votes.
Aubry said Michele Fitzgerald was the only person who hadn't pissed anyone off in the jury and had built many personal relationships, which made her a dangerous threat.
Michele knew Aubry wanted to go to the end with Cydney, but Cydney was close with Michele also. Cydney was just happy that Joe Del Campo was gone because it meant everyone wanted to take her to the end instead. Alliances were being reshifted and everyone was scrambling for power.
The Final 4 castaways then met Jeff for a Reward Challenge.
For the challenge, the castaways were required to race under a net crawl, make their way to a table, and then slide tiles into a target. Once all the tiles were gathered, they must use a machete to transport them through a series of obstacles to a finish table. Afterward, the tiled needed to be sorted into pairs.
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Three tiles would not match up, however, those tiles would hold the combination to unlock a box. The first person to unlock his or her box and raise a flag would win Reward in the form of a meal designed to refuel his or her spirit and body. The meal was comprised of steak, vegetables, refreshing drinks and a protein bar.
Aubry won Reward and had the opportunity to bring one person with her or no one at all. Aubry decided to have Cydney join her in the hope they could get stronger and beat Michele at the next Individual Immunity Challenge. Aubry's goal was to maintain Cydney's trust, and it worked. Cydney felt the Reward solidified their bond. Cydney's ideal option was herself, Aubry and Tai. Her second option was the three girls going to the end together.
Meanwhile, Tai and Michele discussed being on the outs of the Cydney and Aubry duo. Michele told Tai they should join forces, trying to think outside of the box. Michele said they needed to gain control from Aubry and ultimately vote her out. Tai said he liked the idea, but he told the cameras afterward he wasn't giving up on Aubry just yet. Tai needed to decide which option made more sense for his own game because he wanted the $1 million more than anything. He was ready to betray his pact with Aubry if necessary.
On Day 37, the castaways met Jeff for an Individual Immunity Challenge.
Each castaway was instructed to race out into the ocean, retrieve a key, use the key to unlock a set of stairs, climb the stairs, retrieve a second key, head back out into water, use the second key to unlock a ball that was attached to a rope, use that ball to drop a ladder, climb the ladder, and then find a third key. The third key would ultimately release a pole, which would then be used to knock down a bag of puzzle pieces from above. The puzzle pieces would finally be used to solve a three-level puzzle.
Aubry had a massive lead, but Cydney wasn't far behind her. However, once everyone was working on the puzzle at the same time, Tai and Michele jumped ahead of the pack. In the end, Michele won immunity and a guaranteed spot in the Final 3.
Cydney said in a confessional that Michele would've been the easy vote if she hadn't won, so she just needed to make sure someone got thrown under the bus before herself. Michele was excited about being in a power position after feeling like the next target for so many days.
Meanwhile, Aubry thought she and Tai had no choice but to take out Cydney. She needed Tai more than ever. The pair discussed throwing two votes on Cydney and then one of them making fire for the tie-breaker. However, Tai gave Aubry a "funky feeling" and she feared he was going to turn on her. Aubry acknowledged she'd be "screwed" if Tai flipped again.
Afterward, Michele and Cydney talked about wanting to keep Aubry but being afraid she'd get the votes to win. Michele was also banking on the fact Tai wouldn't be able to make a great speech in front of the jury. Cydney felt bad to write Aubry's name down because they had been "ride or die homies," but she was more concerned with changing her mother's life as well as her own with $1 million.
Michele insisted Tai would vote with them as long as his name wasn't on the chopping block. Michele guaranteed Cydney's safety. Tai worried he was on the bottom and the girls were going to the end together, but Michele told him that she was voting for Aubry. Tai was surprised but thrilled to hear such news. Michele argued they'd be on a level playing field in the Final 3 and could just duke it out, and then Tai told the cameras Aubry was the obvious vote.
At Tribal Council that night, Tai announced it was an individual game and alliances were out. Aubry appeared devastated by Tai's words.
After the players voted, Jeff read the votes aloud in the following order: Aubry, Cydney, Aubry, and Cydney. Michele and Tai agreed their votes were locked in, so the tiebreaker came down to a fire-making challenge. Aubry had a steady lead on Cydney the whole time and ended up winning. The two girls hugged it out and cried together. Cydney therefore became the eighth member of the jury.
"It's definitely been everything, plus some," Cydney said in tears of the game following her ouster. "I came here to play the game and played one of the best games out there. I guess I wasn't as slick as I thought I was. I made all the big moves, and Aubry was a part of those moves, so that's the reason I was trying to get her out as well."
On Night 37, Aubry admitted she was so proud of herself but also felt awful for being responsible for Cydney's elimination. Michele knew her chances of winning the game against Aubry were much worse. Michele told Tai that he had just handed Aubry $1 million, especially since she just fought for her life by making fire.
Because Jeff had said little about the "Final 3" fighting for $1 million, Tai debated whether there was going to be another challenge, meaning there could be a Final 2 instead of a Final 3. Aubry didn't think that was the case.
On Day 38, the tribe received Tree Mail. They learned there would be another challenge, and Aubry felt she absolutely had to win immunity in order to survive.
Once Tai, Aubry and Michele met Jeff for the challenge, they discovered they were definitely the Final 3 and would not be fighting for Individual Immunity. The castaways were completely confused until Jeff explained the winner of this last challenge would be able to vote a person out -- but not one of their own. The winner would be able to vote out a jury member, a twist which has never been done before in the history of Survivor.
The winner of the challenge would be afforded the opportunity to discount one jury member's vote. The idea was to eliminate a jury member who planned to vote for an opponent to win.
The challenge required each castaway to balance on a wobbly beam while using a long pole to stack balls on tiny stands. If the balls fell at any point, that person must start over. This challenge happened to be "Dexterity," which neither Brawn, Brains or Beauty opted to play in the very first challenge of the season.
After a good fight, Michele won the advantage, and Aubry called it a "game-changer." Aubry realized Michele's victory could mess up her entire game.
Back at camp, Michele discussed her options. She noted how Neal Gottlieb could persuade people on Aubry's behalf, while Joe was also a definite vote for Aubry since they were No. 1 allies the whole way through. Aubry, however, argued that Tai had more votes than he was letting on, and Michele agreed Kyle Jason and Scot Pollard might vote for Tai, unless they were bitter about his betrayals.
Aubry mentioned to Michele how Scot could flip the game upside down and convince the jury to vote his way. Michele began questioning whether Scot's unpredictable and forceful nature could hurt her in the end. Michele was afraid to look stupid, especially since it would be the last thing the jury would remember before the final vote.
At Tribal Council that night, Michele -- with her fourth individual win -- explained her advantage to the seven-person jury, which was missing Neal. The jury member she chose to remove would not be present at the Final Tribal Council, nor could he or she vote for this season's winner. The Final 3 acknowledged Michele could take out the obvious vote against her or someone who had the potential to make a huge statement, raise hell and influence his or her peers on the jury.
The person Michele chose to remove from the jury was Neal, probably because he loved Aubry but also has a persuasive personality. On his way out, Neal joked around about how it was great to finally have his name written down, referencing his medical evacuation.
"You came to this game thinking you were a badass b-tch but you're more like a cute little puppy still suckling at the teat, and I don't think you stand a chance," Neal told Michele on his way out of the game.
Neal told the cameras it was a smart move on Michele's part because he would have been a big advocate for Aubry. Neal, however, said it didn't matter because Michele was facing two stronger competitors. Aubry later said Michele's decision was her "worst nightmare."
On Day 39, the Final 3 followed a trail to find one additional surprise. They got to look at themselves in a mirror, observing their physical transformation.
At the Final Tribal Council that night, the Final 3 got to address the jury and explain why they deserved to be crowned the "Sole Survivor" and win the $1 million. Aubry, Tai and Michele had to argue how they outplayed, outwitted and outlasted. The jury also got to confront the remaining players.
Tai told Debbie Wanner he didn't flip back and forth because he didn't turn on Scot and Jason until they wanted to vote out Aubry and he felt they were running the show. Tai said his only true flip was Scot but it was a big move he needed to make. Debbie then pointed out how Aubry had blossomed from a "neurotic nerd to a geek warrior."
Julia called her best friend Michele out for "getting lucky" in that the Beauty tribe didn't need to attend Tribal Council for the first 22 days of the game. Julia then said Michele got dragged in the second half of the game and was just a number until her own vote-off. Julia was proud of Michele for taking her out, and Michele explained how it took her a while to find her footing, but once she did, she excelled.
Julia then commented how Tai did the exact opposite in that he started the first half of the game strong but had a deteriorating finish. Joe noted that Tai's game went haywire after the merge and Aubry's performance was more controlled and calculated.
Scot surprisingly vouched for Michele, saying that Tai found advantages in the game but didn't use them -- or at least didn't use them wisely. He said Michele "out-toughed" Aubry and Tai because she got stronger as they got weaker.
Tai told Jason the only reason he betrayed him and Scot was because he was afraid of their bond and male comradery.
Aubry argued that while she had an emotional and rough start, her game evolved and she managed a lot of different personalities. Aubry said she tried hard in every challenge and won a fire challenge to survive. She added that she played her heart out and really feel she outplayed the others.
When Tai had a moment to speak to the jury, he compared their journey onSurvivor to plants floating together in the water as they faced the blowing wind and waves attempting to pull them apart. He was endearing and sweet, bringing tears to many eyes.
Michele then cried about how she played an intelligent game despite criticism, overcoming Roadblocks to get to the end and people telling her that she was constantly on the bottom. Michele said she dodged and weaved when necessary and won immunity and rewards when they were crucial. Michele was very proud of her overall game and hoped the jury would see how far she's come.
When it became time to vote, the episode showed Joe voting for Aubry and Julia voting for Michele.