Survivor San Juan Del Sur Recap
Episode 15
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
December 21, 2014

Phil Keoghan must be so proud.

Previously on Survivor, the laziest player this season was sandbagged by her best friend, which we think speaks aptly about her character. Baylor has been one of the most entitled players we’ve ever seen. She’s done virtually nothing around camp, and on top of that, she’s let her mother boss her and everyone else around. We won’t miss her.

Also, Jim vented incessantly about what has proven to be one of the most interesting seasons in recent memory. It’s not about the destination, but the journey, Jim. For the first time in several seasons, there is no clear-cut favorite to win Survivor. Yes, that is partially because virtually everyone remaining is terrible. Still, the element of surprise is refreshing after so many seasons of “X is going to win, and it’s going to suck.”

Upon returning to camp, Natalie talks about her reasoning for eliminating Baylor. Although we’re pretty sure that if Natalie is sitting by Missy and Baylor in a final three, she’s a slam dunk to win, she believes that she’s better off splitting the two of them up in this situation since they’re family. In their alliance of three, she’s clearly the expendable one if it comes down to it. It’s a nicer way of saying, “The two of them have been treacherous all season long, so why would I expect them to be any different with me?”

When Natalie asks Missy if she’s mad, she says no. In fact, showing the type of person she is, she shows relief that her daughter is gone. She calls it “a lift off her shoulders.” Also, Missy has realized that her fate is in the hands of other people at this point, partly because she’s hobbled with a broken bone, but also because she’s close to the final Tribal Council, where the balance of power shifts to the people sitting on the jury.

For Jaclyn’s part, she’s thrilled to still be in the game. She and Natalie discuss the fact that one of the two of them must win the next Immunity Challenge in order to send Keith home. It was definitely dangerous to keep him around, because if anyone is a threat to win, it’s him. In looking at the jury composition, they’re right to determine that he’s the next one to go. The bro vote most likely goes to him, although Josh and Reed are potential wild cards.

Since we’re talking about the Immunity Challenge, it probably means it’s Probst time! Keith is reticent to give up his necklace and for good reason. The challenge has them racing down a giant tower. They have to navigate through some obstacles to collect a bag of puzzle pieces. They have to repeat this process five times. Once they get back with all their puzzle pieces and assemble their puzzle, there will be three pieces missing. Those three shapes will match numbers on a coded guide, and the contestants will have to use those numbers to open a combination lock. First person to do so wins immunity.

Due to the physical nature of the challenge, Missy is of course forced to sit out. Her fate is indeed in the hands of Natalie and Jaclyn, presuming that she really does intend to vote Keith out.

This is a brutal, long challenge. It’s windy, with sand blowing everywhere. Natalie is first back with a bag, followed by Keith and then Jaclyn. Then Keith comes back with bag #2, followed by Natalie and Jaclyn. He gets back with his third bag, but Natalie is so close that she passes him when they head up the stairs to put their bags in their designated spot.

There are still two bags to go, and Natalie and Keith are pretty close, but Natalie is able to establish a lead. Jaclyn is not far behind Keith, who seems completely worn out.

All three players are working on their puzzle, with Jaclyn utterly exhausted. All of them actually do a great job putting them together, and the race to the finish is incredible close. Ultimately, Jaclyn finishes her puzzle first, and heads back down the pole to go examine her guide to the numbers/shapes for the combination lock.

When she is sliding down, she loses her grip on the pole and falls hard. It looks as though she might be too injured to go on, but she somehow pulls herself together and limps to her guide. Natalie is finished next, while Keith is still not quite finished with the puzzle portion.

As rough as her journey to the shape/number guide is, you’d think that Jaclyn might forget the combination or be too rattled to get it right. But she completes the combination on the first try and WINS! IMMUNITY!

Keith is incredulous at this turn of events, and also pretty down in the dumps. He is fully aware that his time on Survivor is about to come to an end.

We supposed that the editors of the show may try to convince us that someone other than Keith is being voted out tonight. Keith tries to make a pitch for why Missy is a better boot than he is, and we have to say that at least the vote for the Final Three would be more interesting if it’s between Keith, Natalie and Jaclyn. Unfortunately, we don’t see that happening.

Jaclyn talks to Missy about voting for Natalie, and although Missy claims it’s a toss-up. She says that her gut tells her that she won’t win against Keith because of the bros, but that she thinks she may lose to Natalie as well because of gameplay. Honestly, she’s right. There is no good choice her for her. The better option would have been to not act like a petulant child when she was fighting with Jon, leading to Reed’s elimination. The largest point here is that Jaclyn has played a fairly good game overall, but because she and Jon were content to play in the middle, she was always outside the two alliances, meaning her options would always be limited.

When the jury members arrive for Tribal Council, Jon gets a big smile when he sees that Jaclyn is wearing the Immunity necklace.

The questions are pretty lame, really. Probst asks Jaclyn how she feels about wearing the necklace tonight. That’s a dumb one. He then asks Natalie if she feels like Jaclyn owes her in tonight’s vote. That’s a dumb one, too, because of course Natalie isn’t going to say yes. There’s a bit of discussion about whether Keith is the biggest threat to win or Natalie, and the honest answer here is just “yes.” To us, no matter which one of these two you eliminate, you’re still up against someone more likely to get the votes to win. The only sure thing is that Missy isn’t going anywhere.

Probst reads the votes, and it’s one for Keith, one for Missy and then two more for Keith. He played an… interesting game, but it’s time for him to go spit somewhere else. Even if he wasn’t the best strategist, we enjoyed him and his propensity to say the absolute wrong thing at Tribal Council.

Our final three is Jaclyn, Missy and Natalie. Unless she blows it in the final Tribal Council, Natalie should be our winner.

Keith’s final comments are pretty great. “So, uh, well, all three of ‘em voted for me, so it wasn’t a blindside. It was three women. I can barely handle one woman at the house, much less three of them here. No hard feelings. I love ‘em all.” And this statement also is telling when it comes to how he ignored Jaclyn at a critical time in the game, causing his own alliance to lose control.

There are only 24 minutes left until we announce the Sole Survivor, which means this is going to be a brisk final Tribal Council.

Back at camp, the women are celebrating their GRRRRL Power victory. For whatever reason, the fact that she’s part of a three-woman final three makes Missy talk about her three marriages again. We figure that her third marriage ended because she couldn’t stop talking about the first two. She follows that up by saying that she needs to present herself in the best light before the jury. Pro tip: don’t talk about the marriages anymore.

As they eat and drink alcohol to celebrate, Natalie talks about Nadiya and plans for her final speech. Jaclyn believes she was underestimated and says that the $1 million would mean more to here than everyone else because it would help her and Jon to start a family. Even more important to her is to win Sole Survivor to inspire other people who suffer from MRKH, the syndrome that prevents her from having children.

Since we’re suffering through the live segments during the show tonight, there is no portion of the show to honor the Survivors who were voted out. The fast forward button on our TiVo gets a break.

Probst blah blah blahs about the shifting of power from the players to the jurors and asks our Survivors for their opening statements. Missy claims to be humble, and then follows that up by saying that this Survivor jury’s decision is probably bigger than that of a jury on a murder trial. Yep, humble. You hear that, Serial podcast?

If that wasn’t awesome enough, Missy decides that she will emphasize one of her strongest points in the game – loyalty. We burst out laughing. And laugh a little longer. And some more. And…

Nope, still laughing.

And how did she demonstrate this loyalty? Anytime someone said they didn’t trust her, she eliminated them. That will teach them how loyal she is!

She also says that after breaking her leg, she brought her team to victory. This is about the same as if a running back had broken his ACL and said, “If I hadn’t gotten injured, my replacement wouldn’t have been able to rush for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns!”

She thinks this is a winning speech. How adorable.

Why does Jaclyn deserve to be Sole Survivor? She has been through ups and downs. She talks about having had to play the game in the middle with no alliance, and then her struggle after Jon was blindsided. Jaclyn also throws in her MRKH to elicit the sympathy vote. It’s better than Missy’s speech was, but still not compelling.

That should mean smooth sailing for Natalie, who at least can put together a smart argument. Natalie invokes the Outwit, Outplay and Outlast motto of Survivor, which neither Missy nor Jaclyn thought to do. She mentions that she Outwitted by making several risky moves, several of which she had to implement or instigate by herself. As far as Outplay, she was solid in challenges, volunteered twice for Exile Island, and was never accused of being lazy around camp. When it comes to the Outlast portion of her statement, she changed her plan when Nadiya was voted out to do everything with a purpose. Her only goal was to win the game. She feels honored to be sitting in front of them, and even notes that she should have been voted out instead of Keith at the previous Tribal Council.

She’s right about everything she says. We aren’t fans of the twins, but her speech is flawless here.

It’s time for the jurors to have their say. We start with Jon, who tries to help Jaclyn out. She asks her for a time she made a big move, and she says it was Josh. Her explanation is convoluted enough that we don’t know that anyone buys that she was pulling the strings instead of Jon. We’ll obviously give Jon’s vote to Jaclyn.

Next up is Keith, who asks Natalie how she feels knowing that the last words she said to him were a lie. She tells him that it was pretty much either her or him, so she had little choice. He mentions that he hated the lying throughout the game. He went to the final four with no alliance and no lies. It’s true, but it’s not like Jaclyn and Missy were paragons of honesty with him, either. He’s pretty inscrutable here, so we’ll call him undecided.

Now we have Alec, who asks Natalie to share her biggest single move in the game. She tells Alec that it was voting him out, which makes him happy. But she also elaborates by mapping out exactly how it led her to the final three, which is shrewd.

Alec also asks Missy what was so motherly about the way she played her game. She talks about staying in control and directing her people to do what she wanted them to do. That sounds motherly, we guess? Alec gets bored after about three seconds. He’s got nothing for Jaclyn, so we’ll call him a Natalie vote.

Now we have Baylor. She talks a lot, and the gist of it all is, “I love you, Mommy.” Free advice, Baylor. Stop letting Missy infantilize you. Anyway, she’s obviously voting for her mother. So that makes it 1-1-1 plus Keith, who we figure is unpredictable.

Josh starts with Jaclyn, and wants to know if she believes she is in the final three on the strength of her own merit or if she’s there because other of stronger people in the game. She says that all of the discussions between her and Jon were complex and complicated and that they argued back and forth about what to do. Since she didn’t really give him much, he asks her if there was a move that she made where she made the decision solely on her own. Jaclyn tells Josh it was her idea to vote him out, which isn’t exactly the same as making a decision on her own. Still, we’re not quite sure what he’s thinking here, because he doesn’t as Natalie any questions at all.

Wes, who is probably thinking about eating some chicken wings, asks the women what it was like to play with their loved ones. Nice of him to throw them a softball. Missy takes this opportunity to tell him how much she loves his dad, which we believe. Jaclyn says that a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is different than father/son, but it was all about communication. Natalie tells him that it was really hard for her when Nadiya was eliminated. They’ve never been apart this long. But it was Nadiya’s elimination that made her very determined to win the game. We think we’ll score this round to Natalie.

Now we have Jeremy, who campaigns for Natalie. He tells his fellow jurors to not be mad at her, but to give her credit. That comment appears to register, too. Obviously, his vote goes to Natalie and based on facial expressions during Jeremy’s appeal, Josh’s does, too.

So that means were at 4-1-1 and undecided, which is going to be enough to give Natalie the title of Sole Survivor if we’re calculating correctly.

We close it out with Reed, who… whoa. He uses his moment as an opportunity to eviscerate Missy. He starts by telling Natalie how much he loved her gameplay. Then, he tells Jaclyn how much he enjoyed getting to know her and trying to play the game with her.

Back to Missy.

“You cast yourself as the motherly figure. However, fans of classic literary fiction will see through very quickly to who your true character was, which was the wicked stepmother, really, of the tribe. It’s the eccentric woman who comes in and makes demands of everyone for the things to which she feels so entitled. You know, she spoils her children by perhaps giving them more rice at dinner or the best places to sleep at night in the shelter. Um, she takes things that she’s either not entitled to or didn’t earn herself, which was always evidenced by the fact that you got more gimmes in this game than anyone, and performed the WORST out of anyone at challenges. Lastly, you made the quintessential wicked stepmother move by abusing the help, which in this case was the minority alliances throughout the game. You always made sure they felt inferior, you always kept them in their place, and you always made it imminently clear that they weren’t coming to the ball that is the Tribal Council here this evening here with you. So, that to me feels like your fatal flaw in your whole plan, because unlike life, in the game of Survivor, the outcasts are the one who get the final say. So, in a sweeping moment of poetic justice, the people to which you were so rude and terrible to before relegating them to the jury with the help of your alliance are going to decide your fate this evening. This is why I love fairy tales, because they always have a happy ending, and the wicked stepmother never wins. Nat, Jaclyn, good luck.”

Let’s call him not a vote for Missy.

This is the first moment in the game when Reed’s Broadway training was on full display. By the end of it, Baylor is sobbing, which is admittedly tough to watch.

And now it’s time to vote. We see Jeremy’s vote for Natalie, Jon’s vote for Jaclyn, Reed’s vote for Jaclyn (perhaps that Josh vote is in doubt), and Baylor’s vote for Missy. We still think it’s Natalie’s win, but Reed’s vote for Jaclyn does muddy the waters a bit.

Probst walks out on stage with the urn containing the votes, and when he reads them out the order is: Jaclyn, Natalie, Jaclyn, Missy, Natalie, Natalie, Natalie. One of the twins from The Amazing Race has won Survivor. What fresh hell is this?

Ultimately the final voting breakdown was five to Natalie, two to Jaclyn and one to Missy. And looking at Reed’s Twitter feed after the fact, he says that the only reason that he voted for Jaclyn was because it was clear Natalie was winning and he wanted to be sure that Missy finished in third. Since there’s supposedly some monetary impact to his decision to do that (second place earns more than third), it’s proof that in Survivor, you have to try to be decent to the people you’re voting out even if you are dominating them. Even so, we bet future players won’t have learned that lesson.

The doomsday scenario we envisioned at the start of the season was that John Rocker, the future ex-Mrs. John Rocker or one of the twins would win Survivor. Despite the fact that exactly this eventuality has occurred, we largely enjoyed this season. There was a tremendous amount of unusual game strategy, some treachery and some extremely savvy players. In the end, Natalie outplayed all of them. As much as we are annoyed to admit it, she deserved the win. Oddly, she benefited from the early elimination of her twin and the unexpected elimination of her primary ally Jeremy by people in her alliance other than herself.

We do find it interesting that everyone is dismissing Missy’s performance in this game, because as little as we like her on a personal level, she meticulously followed the Rob Mariano/Brian Heidik playbook by largely determining the elimination after the merge and winding up with weak players in the end. The problem is that she was also Russell Hantz-like in that none of the people on the jury liked her except for the one she brought into this world.

Season 30 of Survivor will be themed “Worlds Apart,” featuring a white collar tribe, a blue collar tribe and a “no collar” tribe. So basically it’s the one percent versus the people they convince to work for them and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Join BOP as we recap this hot mess when Survivor returns in February.