“Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers” came to an end with a two-hour season finale to remember. Ben Driebergen, Chrissy Hofbeck, Devon Pinto, Ryan Ulrich and Mike Zahalsky faced off for the $1 million prize and the title of Sole Survivor of the show’s 35th season. Gold Derby odds leading into the finale had Devon winning the grand prize, beating Chrissy and Ryan in the Final 3, with Mike coming in fourth and Ben coming in fifth. So how accurate were our predictors? Read our recap of the “Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers” to find out.
And We’re Live The finale opened with host Jeff Probst contextualizing the season live outside the CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles and promising this will be one of the most epic finales ever, with a battle to the end.
The Final Five Returns to Camp — Ben, Chrissy, Devon, Mike and Ryan returned from voting out Ashley Nolan. Ben took off for the jungle, looking for another Hidden Immunity Idol into the wee hours of the night. Chrissy solidified her Final 4 with Devon, Mike and Ryan and none of them bothered to follow them. As dawn was breaking, Ben managed to find the Idol, showing that the other four did not learn their lesson from last week. Chrissy reached out to be friends with Ben again, for gameplay reasons. Ben wasn’t buying her intentions, and wanted her gone next.
Immunity Challenge #1 — The castaways competed in a combination Immunity and Reward Challenge, in which they were tasked with swimming out to a platform, climbing up a stack of crates, leaping off and retrieving a set of keys, crossing a balance beam, attained a second set of keys, unlocking a puzzle, and maneuvering colored balls to match a corresponding colors on a wheel. The first to match all the colors on the the wheel would win Immunity. Devon and Mike reached the final stage first, followed by Chrissy. The colored wheel came down to Ben, Chrissy and Mike, and Chrissy won the challenge! This was her third Immunity win, putting her close to the all-time record of four, for women. She also won the reward of chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies, wine and cheesecake, and when Jeff asked her to share with two others, she selected Mike and Devon.
The Super Idol Comes Back Into Play — Chrissy, Mike and Devon looked for an Idol clue at their Reward table, to no avail. Chrissy devised a plan to pretend her Super Idol from the premiere, which no longer works, was a real Idol to trick Ben into not looking anymore (little do they know). Chrissy used some acting skills in front of Ben, who reacted in shock. Of course, away from camp he had a good laugh about it, saying he was one step ahead of everyone. Ben noted that both Mike and Devon are good at challenges in their own ways, suggesting he’ll be voting for one of them. Devon worried about Ben being too comfortable, and wanted to send a vote towards Mike just in case. Ryan told him not to worry about it. Yikes.
Final 5 Tribal Council — Talk revolved mostly around Ben and how they were fooled by him having an Idol at the last Tribal Council, little did they know. Chrissy made a big show of pulling out her Super Idol and putting it around her neck. Some of the jurors seemed impressed. Ben played along and pretended to be upset about it being inevitable that he’s going home. After the castaways vote, Ben pulls out the Idol and blindsides them yet again, playing his Idol. When the votes came in, there were three votes for Ben which did not count, one for Devon and one for Mike. It’s a tie! Ben, Chrissy and Ryan were all instructed to vote for either Mike or Devon, and when the votes came in, Chrissy and Ryan voted out Mike, making him the seventh member of the jury. He got a hug from all four remaining players. Devon clearly saved himself by voting for Mike in the first vote, because Ben’s sole vote for Devon would have sent him home otherwise. Jeff revealed there was one more twist in the game to come. Strap in.
Final Four Return — Chrissy, Devon and Ryan were clearly perturbed to still have Ben in the game. Ben noted that he has no protection now, so he has to win Immunity or he’s going home.
Final Immunity Challenge — For the final Immunity Challenge of the season, Ben, Chrissy, Devon and Ryan had to stack letter blocks on a wobbly platform, and spell out “Heroes,” “Healers,” and “Hustlers.” Jeff also revealed that the winner would earn the final secret advantage of the game. Ryan was off to an early lead, with the other three dropping their blocks frequently. Ben then caught up to Ryan and then surpassed him as he spelled out “Heroes” and “Healers.” He filled out “Hustlers” and locked in, only to realize he had the “U” in “Hustlers” upside down. This opened the door for others, and after all four continued to fail and try again, Chrissy emerged and won the challenge! This ties her with Kelly Wiglesworth, Jenna Morasca and Kim Spradlin for the most individual Immunity wins by a woman in “Survivor” history! Meanwhile, Ben was clearly crushed, knowing his fate was sealed. Though with the one secret advantage in play, who knows what might happen?
Secret Advantage — Ben was visibly upset, tearing up over feeling like he let down his family. He campaigned to Chrissy, who heard him out but did not seriously entertain the idea of taking him to the end. Chrissy read her secret advantage — only Chrissy will vote, but her vote will be for the person she wants with her in the Final 3. The other two would then battle it out in a fire-making challenge, where the winner would join them and the loser would become the final member of the jury. Chrissy told Ryan she was taking him with her, and let Devon know he should start practicing making fire. She smartly did not tell Ben about the twist. Both Ben and Devon are in this for their families, so this would be an intense battle.
Final 4 Tribal Council — Ben was still bummed about that upside down “U,” saying it would haunt him, but he knew he did his best. Chrissy read her advantage aloud to everyone, shocking Ben and the jury. Chrissy officially announced that she would be taking Ryan to the Final 3 with her, and he was thrilled. Devon stated that his fate was in his own hands now, and Ben said this twist was a second chance for him.
Fire-making Challenge — Ben and Devon proceeded to the fire-making challenge, and Ben quickly managed to get a flame. Devon was unlucky, striking his flint over and over but it was not to be. Ben’s flame grew higher and higher and it was clear who was winning the challenge. Ben’s flag flipped up and he officially clinched his position in the Final 3 alongside Chrissy and Ryan. Devon became the final member of the jury. This twist may cause some mixed feelings within the fanbase.
Day 39 — Ben, Chrissy and Ryan reflected on Day 39 and consumed their congratulatory breakfast. Ryan said he wanted to convince the jury he had control of the game, which he admitted was a complete lie. Chrissy said she wanted to show that moms could thrive. Ben spoke of the deck being stacked against him and wanting to provide for his family. And off they went to the Final Tribal Council.
Final Tribal Council — Final Tribal Council continued the “Game Changers” format of an open forum, so the jury got to talk freely with the Final 3 about how they outwitted, outplayed and outlasted their competitors, rather than individual questions. Right away, the jury wants to know how Ryan outwitted the other two, noting that everyone thought they could beat him. Ryan talked of his social game, which Ashley noted wasn’t accurate, as they never had a strategic conversation. Joe said Ben had a horrible social game because of their conflict, while Ben noted that bringing up the Marine Corps was personal. Chrissy said her social game involved getting to know personal details about everyone. Things got heated between Chrissy and Ryan, but Desi reminded everyone that it was all just a game. Ashley praised Chrissy for her incredible challenge prowess. Desi asked why they all let Ben find the Hidden Immunity Idol three times, and Ben noted he was always one step ahead. For final thoughts, Ryan said he relied on his social game and his various deals to get to the end. Ben said he had a hand in voting everyone out, which the jurors weren’t impressed by. Digging deeper, he talked about having his back against the wall and also having PTSD and wanting to be a symbol for the Marines. Chrissy talked about underestimating herself and being a hero for being a mom, and applying to the show for 16 years and never giving up. The jury proceeded to cast their votes. Lauren voted for Ben, while Devon voted for Ryan and Ashley voted for Chrissy. No zero-vote-getters this season!
And the Winner Is… — Jeff carried the votes into the live auditorium to a roaring crowd. Jeff reads the votes — Ben. Ryan. Chrissy. Ben. Chrissy. Ben. Ben. And the winner of “Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers” is Ben Driebergen! Chrissy Hofbeck takes second, while Ryan Ulrich places third. Until next season!