Survivor: Kaoh Rong - Finale Recap - Part 2
Episode 14 - Not Going Down Without a Fight
By Jim Van Nest
June 1, 2016

Yeah, I don't know how I won, either.

Hello, good people, and for the final time, welcome to the Survivor Kaoh Rong episode recap. This is Part 2 of the Finale, where we'll see the Final 2 twist thrown on the players and we'll see a sole Survivor crowned! Since I just saw you Monday, the review will be brief. Michele screwed up everyone's plans by winning immunity, which divided the camp in two. Michele and Cydney voted for Aubry and Aubry and Tai voted for Cydney. The result was a fire making challenge that Aubry won handily, sending Cydney to the jury as the eighth member. We have an hour of show left, which should include anther challenge, another regular Tribal and then the Final Tribal Council, where we'll get to see whether or not we have a bitter jury or one that will vote based on the best game play. With Scot and Jason involved, I think it could go either way.

We start this recap back at camp after Cydney went home. No one is happy about this. They all miss Cydney. Aubry feels good about winning the challenge an keeping herself in the game, but she's still a little bummed. Michele is not happy about Aubry still being there. She tells Tai that he just gave her a million dollars. She says that Aubry has been controlling the game for a while now, and she doesn't like her chances against her. She tells the group that she's happy to be there and can't wait to share breakfast with them and argue their cases at the end. Tai rains on the parade by telling them he doesn't think it's over yet. He tells them that Jeff never said anything about turning the game over to the jury or that they were the Final 3 or anything. He is convinced there's another challenge coming. Aubry poo poos this idea, telling him there's not another challenge.

The sun rises the next day and Michele comes back with Tree Mail announcing another challenge, just like Tai suggested. One last challenge and one last Tribal before we turn things over to the jury. I do appreciate a fan of the show actually playing the game and picking up on the little things like that. Nice work, Tai. Michele is worried that she has to, once again, fight for her life. Aubry chats it up with Tai and he is shady enough to make her feel like she HAS to win if she wants to get to the end. What I find so crazy right now is that Tai is the obvious goat this season and is a lock to plead his case to the jury. Either Aubry or Michele will take him to the end if they win. If I have to rank them in order of who NEEDS this the most. It's Aubry, then Michele, then Tai. Aubry is toast if she loses. Michele is only toast if Aubry wins. Tai is golden 'til the end.

Hey, how about a Probst sighting!! So Jeff takes the immunity necklace from Michele and tells them, "Today, Immunity is NOT up for grabs." Say what? He confirms with them that they are the Final 3 and they will all get to plead their case to the jury. He has more to say, but he's gonna have to wait out the crying and hugging first. They finally listen up and Jeff drops the bomb - the winner of today's challenge will get to vote out a jury member. WHOA! This is huge. With one vote, they can almost guarantee a win at the end (well, except Tai - he'd need to vote out three or four jurors to have a shot, I think.) We'll talk jury removal strategy later, let's get to the challenge.

Today's challenge will see the players standing on a wobbly beam, while using a pole to stack balls on a stand. They'll set a ball, then a spacer, then a ball, etc. until they get six high. This was the dexterity part of the very first challenge (which no one chose). First one to get their stack completed wins advantage and the right to vote out one juror. This is a back and forth challenge. Each player watches their stack grow and fall. Michele emerges in the lead with Aubry right behind. Tai has fallen out of the challenge. It comes down to a race with the last ball between Aubry and Michele. Despite getting there first, Aubry knocks her stack down at the last minute and Michele wins reward! Jeff gives Michele a packet which she will use for her vote tonight. She will also be the one to tell the jury what the deal is for tonight. As we head to break, Aubry is devastated that she didn't win this challenge. If Michele takes out the right juror it could totally kill her game.

We come back from break and they start by celebrating that they made the end. Michele is super thrilled as she is in the end AND has the chance to vote out a jury member. She tells us that she has no idea what she plans to do with it. She starts by talking to Tai. She is thinking she needs to take out Joe. He's the obvious vote for Aubry. Tai agrees that Joe will never vote for Michele. But he suggests that maybe she should take out Neal. Joe is a definite vote for Aubry, but Neal might try to influence other jurors to vote for Aubry. And wow - this episode Tai is two for two on really astute observations. Tai tells us that he knows Neal won't vote for him and that his influence is way more likely than Joe's. He also says that he made Michele feel like it was her idea to get rid of Neal and he just hopes she sticks with that.

She also talks to Aubry and suggests that Joe is the only obvious choice. Michele also says that she thinks Neal might be an option. Aubry suggests to Michele that Joe is pretty harmless and that he won't maul anyone with his question/comment. She says she thinks Tai has more votes on the jury then he's letting on. She suggests that Scot might be the type to really destroy someone up there. Michele agrees and even suggests Jason as a possible boot as she doesn't see any way that he votes for her. She also tries to sell Michele on the fact that Tai is the bigger jury threat right now because of his story, so it would be better to take away a Tai vote. My personal thought is that I'm not sure Tai has any votes and other than Julia, any vote will likely take away an Aubry vote.

When the three get together to talk about it, Michele is leaning toward Scot. She thinks he or Jason might be more likely to try to be persuasive to the rest of the jury. Tai hates this idea and plays it off like he doesn't understand the concept she's giving him, despite the fact that it's the exact same logic he used to tell her that Neal should be the vote. This is one of those things I don't care for. He comes across as though he doesn't actually understand what she's saying. It's the same way that Abi Maria used the "English as a second language" excuse for being an ass to everyone. Tai uses it as a reason to question someone's logic. Like, if he can't follow it, it must not be good strategy.

As the jury comes in, Neal and Nick are quick to notice that no one is wearing the Immunity necklace. As everyone sits, Nick makes sure to point it out to the rest of the jury. It's NOW that Jeff goes through his "you've made it as far as you can go in this game" speech and reminds them of how they'll have to convince all of those jury members that they're deserving of the million dollars. But that's tomorrow night. At this point, you can tell the jury has NO idea what's going on. They're all smiling and happy and have no idea why. He tells them all that Michele won a reward today and that she should read it for the jury. She lets them all know that tonight she will be voting out a jury member. They will not be at the final tribal council and will not have a vote in who wins this game.

We see a whole bunch of shocked faces on the jury. Neal and Scot look the most concerned, which is actually kinda interesting considering they're the two that Michele is really choosing between. Julia whispers to Debbie that the vote will probably be Joe, as he's the single most obvious non-Michele vote on the table. I'm thinking that the smart move at this point might be to go up and cast a vote for Mark the Chicken. Or just leave the parchment empty. And when asked about it, the response is simple, "Jeff, everyone on that jury earned their spot. No one deserves to have their vote taken away and I'd rather face the full jury then send someone away that doesn't deserve it." If there's a jury member who's on the fence about who to vote for, that could be the push they need to land on your side of things. And it's the truth. Jury members DID earn their spot and DO deserve to have a vote to cast at the end. I think it's horribly unfair to whomever she votes out.

There's some talk about how this will work and the thought process behind it. Michele says she has weighed a lot of options and talked to Tai and Aubry for guidance. Jeff asks the obvious question. How can you trust anything they say? Aubry tells Jeff that what she and Michele talked about was the two different strategies you could take into this vote. You can take out the sure thing vote against you, or go for the potential for juror manipulation. He asks Tai what he's missing on this. Tai suggests that you can take out someone on the jury that might speak to the rest of the jury or that might throw you a tough question while throwing someone else a real easy question. Michele tells Jeff that she is confident in her decision as the person she is voting for was not going to vote for her and could be very persuasive to the rest of the jury.

And with that, it's time to vote. Obviously, they don't show us the vote. Jeff tallies it up and you can see the fear in Neal's eyes. And as expected, Michele votes out Neal (well, Neil, but if he's gone, I guess knowing how to spell his name doesn't really matter, right?). You can tell that Neal is a mixture of expectance and irritation at not only being med-evac'd but now voted off the jury as well. Tough draw for Neal on his on chance to play Survivor. He doesn't go out without at least a small comment against Michele, "You came into this game thinking you're a badass bitch, but you're more like a cute little puppy still suckling at the teat and I don't think you stand a chance."

Um, I totally understand the anger. I do. But Neal, if you were hoping to help your pal, Aubry, you should have used your 15 seconds better. You actually made Michele look more sympathetic and did nothing to help Aubry. Also, it's just bad form. If given the opportunity to build up one player or tear another down, you should always be a builder. Also, I should mention that a real nice speech here (rather than an anger driven insult) could have made you a candidate for a returning season. You may have just blown that out of the water too. As we head to commercial, Neal tells us that Michele was really smart to get rid of him. He also says he doesn't think it will matter as she's sitting there with two people who played a better game than her.

After the commercials, the trio returns to camp and they discuss Neal's exit. This is the first taste they all get of how the Final Tribal may go. Michele is glad to have removed Neal, but is worried if that's how the rest of the Tribal go. Aubry tells us that the worst case scenario actually played out with Michele dumping her best advocate. She's not giving up, but she is going to have to fight hard for every vote she gets.

The sun rises on Day 39 and Michele has Tree Mail that directs them to head toward the back of camp to see what toll the 39 days have taken on them. They get to a scale and a mirror. As they check themselves out, Michele tells us that her plan is to tell the jury that she didn't just slide through the game. She made slight moves and adjustments along the way and when she needed to win in challenges, she did. Next up is the traditional finalist breakfast. As they cook and dine, Tai tells us that it's up to him to explain his game at Tribal and to get them all to vote for him. He goes on to say that his biggest move was blindsiding Scot and that set the table for the rest of the game. He hopes that Scot gets over that and can see that he played the best game and still give him his vote.

While they pack for Tribal, Aubry tells us that she hopes people can see that she's grown from someone who was afraid to make a decision at the beginning of the game to the person who was running the game and didn't care if she was seen as the biggest threat. She took the game into her own hands and controlled a lot of it from behind the curtain (at first) to right out in the open (toward the end.) As they file into Tribal Council, I'll go ahead and say it. Aubry should win this game. Julia will vote for Michele, guaranteed. I would expect everyone else to vote Aubry. She played head and shoulders above these other two and I would think she'll be rewarded for it. Her only real competition was Cydney, and Cydney didn't make it. That only leaves one legit option for Sole Survivor.

So Tribal begins with Jeff giving his usual spiel. I should point out that Tai has brought Mark the Chicken with him to Final Tribal. Through most of the proceedings, Mark just sits in Tai's lap very calmly and quietly. Hell, this chicken is better trained than my dogs! There are no opening statements; we just go straight to the questions.

Nick starts us off, but he doesn't ask a question. He decides to "help" the finalists with what they'll need for the rest of the Tribal. He says that most of them have not made up their mind and that tonight's answers will determine the winner. From Michele, the jury wants to see her display intelligence and let the jury know that she actually did have a strategy. From Tai, they want him to show some awareness of what he did out there. And from Aubry, she needs to show confidence in her game if she wants to get any votes. He then sits down and we move on. Okey dokey. Can't call what his vote will be.

Next up is Debbie - this should be stunning. She congratulates them all. She tells Tai that he had some inexplicable votes and flip flopping, and what was up with that? He says that he doesn't really think that he did that very much. He tries to explain how he was with Aubry for a long time and his flipping was only one time, when he flipped on Scot. She turns to Aubry. She says that she was thrilled watching Aubry's metamorphosis. She feels that early in the game, she played a large part in keeping Aubry in the game. Her question is whether or not Aubry would have done that for her. Aubry says that she absolutely would have. She says that her only regret in the game was Debbie's ouster. The fact that they were so close made it all the more hard to do that. However, at the time, their games were headed in different directions and the hard decision had to be made. That seems to satisfy and Debbie congratulates her once again. Chalk that up as a vote for Aubry.

Third is Julia. She takes an interesting path toward her statement. She slams Michele as the weakest link. She slid through the game and then she became a number. She never really owned anything in the game and just floated - until the Julia vote. That, according to Julia, is where Michele started playing. But was it enough? First, can I just say that Julia was going home anyway. Michele's vote had no bearing on that situation whatsoever. She jumped on the coattails of Aubry and Cydney and joined them in voting off her bestie. But her vote was neither needed not masterminded. But by all means, give her all the credit for that. *eye roll* Michele answers by saying that it took her a while to find her footing. She was stereotyped as a beauty so she faced an uphill battle. Julia then moves to Tai, telling him that he was the opposite. He started off strong, and then he lost his momentum. Of course, his game was consistent, actually. But he voted her off and that's where she sees it as a weakness. This is obviously the statement of a bitter 19-year-old who can't stand that she was bested. Tai tries to explain himself, but starts to falter a bit. He once again mentions the Scot vote and says that he tried to be strong throughout the game. She has nothing for Aubry. Julia is a definite Michele vote.

Joe comes up fourth. He tells Michele that he has a pretty good idea of what her game was about, so he's only going to talk to Tai and Aubry. He tells Tai that he is a selfless, hardworking guy. He considers Tai a very truthful man. He wants to know why Tai should be considered over Aubry. He says that he found an idol, he earned the advantage and that he had more moves than Aubry - wait for it - including the blindside of Scot. He feels that they thought a lot of the same things throughout the game and he had more positives.

Joe then asks Aubry how her game differed and why she should get their votes. She said that she was lucky that Tai came to her throughout the game with ideas and information, but that without her to actually do something with it, nothing would have ever happened. She took that information and made the plans and the moves to execute on it. She was on the right side of every single vote, while Tai was wrong on three of them. At this, Cydney starts nodding. Without her in the game, all of the information and all of the ideas would have been whispers in the wind. Joe is a definite Aubry vote.

Now things should get interesting, Jason is up next. He starts with Michele. The night that Scot went out, Michele and Julia didn't vote for Scot. He says that was really the turning point in the game for her. He wants to know if that was luck of if she had something to do with that. She says that she was not let in on that vote, because the new alliance didn't trust Julia. She says she worked her way into that alliance after that vote and that the alliance trusted her more than Tai, and that's why he went home instead of her that night. He then looks to Tai and asks him for the real reason he left them that night. He just wants the truth. He says he got scared of their very strong bond. He says he was jealous of their relationship and how he didn't feel like he was fitting in with them. Not a bad answer, actually. But he could have taken it just one step further by mentioning that he didn't have a say with them. They talked over or at him instead of with him. He said at the time he felt he was being left out of the decision making process and being told what to do. He really should have mentioned that in this speech, but overall, a good answer from Tai. Jason might actually vote for him. But he could also go Michele. Too close to call.

Following up Jason is Cydney. She starts with Aubry and asks her if the plan was always to vote her out. Aubry says that the plan was to vote out Michele, but then she won immunity. She says that they were a pair through the game, organizing all of those votes together. She said that when Michele won immunity, she had to look to Cydney as the vote because, "That's what you would do." Well done - nice answer.

Cydney then thanks Michele for giving her the opportunity to make fire against Aubry. She could have just flipped her vote and been done with it, so that was much appreciated. Aubry interrupts right here to ask Michele if she had any idea at all that they were voting for Cydney. Michele says no. Aubry throws up her hands and then Michele goes on to say that if she HAD known, she would have tried to do something to save her. But the point is very simple here. When votes were made that changed the course of the game - the Scot vote and the forced tie vote with Cydney - Michele knew nothing about either. That's because she wasn't running the game, she wasn't controlling the game. She did an amazing job at rolling with the punches and hanging on to the game. But she was a reactionary player all season, while Aubry was a proactive player all season. That being said, Cydney seemed hurt by Aubry and didn't appear to appreciate being interrupted right there. I'll chalk her up as a Michele vote.

Hey Scot, how about you finish us off? He says he'll make this quick - okay, so he already knows who he's voting for. Let's hear it. He says he was gonna ask Tai a question but doesn't need to anymore. He tells him that he had an idol and an advantage and that despite all that, he botched using them all and he basically has no respect for that. Scot tells Aubry that he had his respect at the beginning of the game, but now she has to tell him why he should vote for her. She says that she would expect his vote because he's a competitor and as such, he knows that people compete in different ways. They compete to their strengths and even though her strengths don't match up with his strengths, he's the kind of person who would respect that. Nicely done. I don't think it matters, but a very solid answer nonetheless. He tells Michele that if someone would have told him four Tribals ago that this would be the Final 3, he would have considered her in third place. But as Tai and Aubry got weaker, she got stronger and then he applauds for her, tells her well done and sits down. He's a vote for Michele.

At this point, Jeff gives everyone a chance to say anything that they didn't get a chance to say throughout this Tribal. He starts with Aubry.

Aubry says that she came into the game with a really rough start. She made some tough decisions along the way and even won a challenge on her own. And then she had the ultimate Survivor experience when she won a fire making challenge in front of everyone. She feels she Outwitted, she definitely Outlasted and she thinks she Outplayed everyone. And I agree.

I'm not sure Tai had any votes coming into this. But he probably should have stopped while he was behind. He mentions an old proverb about water hyacinth plants and how they float and the wind blows them apart and he hopes to have great memories and the game demands too much lying and backstabbing out of you and I honestly have NO idea where he was going with this, but it didn't really register with me or with the jurors, I don't think.

Michele's last words are that people must not have thought she was playing an intelligent game, but she kept her cool and really fought her way to the end. No one else had faith in her. She believed in herself and trusted herself and *cue the waterworks* and she's proud of the way she played the game.

So, let's break this down. By my count, Aubry has Debbie and Joe. Michele has Julia, Scot and Cydney. Jason is between Michele and Tai...but considering that Scot and Julia are Michele votes, you have to think he is as well. That gives me four Michele, two Aubry and Nick as undecided. I think Tai is shut out, so the most likely finish is a 4-3 Michele over Aubry vote. I have NO idea how this can possibly happen, but it looks like it's going to. Michele just might pull this off, against all odds. I’ll reserve my comments until votes are cast and read...but my jury breakdown looks pretty solid to me.

We come back from break and Jeff sends everyone to vote. We see Julia vote for Michele, saying that she promised she would and she's sticking to it. As if she was ever going to do anything else. We then see Joe's vote for Aubry congratulating her. Again, a non-shocking vote here. Give me something else, Probst!! Alas, he does not. We see no other votes. All we get is a few seconds of Jason seeming to have trouble deciding who to vote for. Jeff goes to collect the votes. Before they sign off, though, Jeff has Tai set Mark out into the jungle to be free. And thus ends the story of Survivor: Kaoh Rong and Mark the Chicken. Let's get back to the states for the reading of the votes.

Jeff doesn't waste a lot of time once he gets to the stage. He thanks the castaways for a great season and then gets right to the reading of the votes. First vote: Julia's vote for Michele. Second vote: Joe's vote for Aubry. Third vote: Aubry. Fourth vote: Michele. 2-2. After this comes the run of Michele votes and the winner of Survivor: Kaoh Rong is Michele. Michele and her people go absolutely ape shit and everyone else in Survivor land wonders exactly how the hell that happened.

Before I go off on a rant here, I want to say that ANYone who gets to the end of Survivor and then gets the most votes from the jury DESERVES to win the game. Even the worst winners ever, deserved to win the game - because they got there and then got the votes. So please, Michele lovers out there, don't mistake what I'm getting ready to say here. Michele deserved to win, plain and simple. In my estimation, Michele played the third best game out there. Out of 18 people, that is really awesome and really deserving of the title of Sole Survivor. HOWEVER, when the person that played the BEST game of the season is sitting next to her, I take issue with the final result.

Aubry (and Cydney, for that matter) played a better game than Michele. You saw it. I saw it. Everyone but the jury saw it - if you're to believe all of their exit press. In fact, Jason has gone so far as to say that they did, in fact, pick the wrong winner, but that no one believed that Aubry really ran the game the way they saw on television. Having watched it back, he says he would now vote for Aubry. And I'm sure she's thrilled to hear that. But I have to call bullshit on that. Exactly who did he think MADE all the moves in the game? Who did he think came up with the ideas and executed on them? Who, of the three sitting on that panel, could he possibly have attributed such a large amount of game control to? Michele? I don't think so. The bottom line is, Aubry lost to one of the most unnecessarily bitter juries in the history of the game. Most notably, Russell Hantz lost to Natalie White due to a bitter jury. But HE poisoned that jury. HE made them bitter. HE got what he deserved because HE treated the other players in the game as lesser human beings with no regard for their feelings at all. Aubry, to say the least, did not do that.

I went back and watched the Jury Speaks videos after the finale and heard what every juror had to say prior to Final Tribal and neither Scot, Jason nor Julia gave Aubry even an ounce of credit for anything she did. For Julia, I get it. She's young and Michele was her BFF out there. Vote for your bestie, I get it. No hard feelings. But Scot and Jason - are you frickin' kidding me? Aubry beat you. Plain and simple. You came in with your bad attitudes and your "destroy the camp" strategy and then lo and behold, this tiny little nerd girl whooped your collective ass in Survivor. She watched how you treated people, specifically Tai and when the time was right, she stole him right out from under you. She made him feel comfortable and safe. Mostly, though, she made him feel like he had friends. He could make a move and not be alone out on a limb. So at Tribal, he voted for Scot and then told him not to use his idol. Tai didn't beat you that night, Aubry did. Then she took out Julia. Then she took out Jason. She kicked your asses and you couldn't handle that. THAT'S what I think happened.

She and Cydney were the only two people to be on the right side of EVERY vote (I don't count Final 4 - since they voted for each other). That is the mark of two people controlling the game. Then when it came down to the nitty gritty, Aubry took on her other half one on one in a fire making challenge and dominated. Does she get credit for that? Nope. But of all the bitterness on the jury, the one I just cannot understand is Debbie. You watched Aubry from day one. You saw her go from a complete miserable mess on day two to a dominant force in the game. You bore witness to it all and yet somehow, couldn't get over the fact that she had to vote you out. You took it so personally, that you took away her title and her money to give to a lesser player. All of you people talking about what fans of the game you are just witnessed a REALLY, REALLY good game and you took a big ol' shit on it. The only person on the jury, in my opinion, that really took his job seriously and stuck to his word of "voting for the person who played the game the best" was Nick, of all people. I've ripped on Nick hard all season, but at the end of the day, he put the pettiness aside and rewarded the person who controlled it all and played the best game.

Overall, when a season ends like this, it takes a little away from it. I really enjoyed the season and had the person I feel played the best game actually won, it would have been a great season. As it is, it's a very good season where the player who should have come in second won. And vice versa. Again, my rant above does not take away ANYthing Michele did. Michele played a near-perfect social game and she kicked serious ass in challenges when she needed it most. I can think of at least 10 Survivor winners who are less deserving than Michele. My rant is not to disparage her at all, but rather to call out the bitterness of the jury and to applaud Aubry for making this season a lot of fun to watch from a strategic standpoint. I sure hope the producers recognized her awesome game enough and will keep her in mind for a future All Stars or Fans v Favorites season.

And with that, kids, I'm going to sign off for this season. Thanks for sticking with me all season long and special thanks for hanging out while I take as long as absolutely possible to get this finale written. Until Gen X'ers v Millennials in Survivor 33 - y'all take care!