“Survivor: Island of the Idols” concludes Wednesday, December 18 as the final five — Lauren Beck, Janet Carbin, Dean Kowalski, Noura Salman and Tommy Sheehan — duke it out for the chance to be one of only three that will plead their case to the jury — Jack Nichting, Kellee Kim, Jamal Shipman, Aaron Meredith, Missy Byrd, Elizabeth Beisel, Karishma Patel and Elaine Stott — that they are most deserving of the million dollar prize. Season 39 began with excitement as for the first time in many seasons the female players of both tribes were in control of early votes based on a shared interest of working together as women. That narrative quickly turned sour once the merge hit and Dan Spilo‘s season-long behavior of inappropriately touching women became a catalyst for the permanent fracturing of the female alliance we all wanted.
Dan’s ejection from the game (the first in series history) at the end of episode 12 for yet another incident (this one off camera and notably “didn’t involve another player”) has set the tone for a finale that seems to have just fallen into place for the final 5 as opposed to any of them defensibly earning their spots there. By all estimations had Dan been rightfully removed from the game earlier — if not in the first week when Kellee first voiced her concerns about Dan’s touching then certainly by the merge when she addressed it again and producers even issued him a warning — then the game would have played out completely differently. Tommy and Dean wouldn’t have had a final three deal with him to stick to, Lauren might have splintered from the men earlier and joined the girls as Missy wanted her to, and Janet probably wouldn’t have had such a big target on her back. Kellee, one of the season’s most apt strategists, would probably still be in the game.
But here we are and so it’s with this final five that we make our final ranking of who is best positioned to win the game. By our assessment, the winner’s edit we clocked for Tommy very early on in the season seems to finally have come to pass. All signs are pointing toward an easy win for Tommy, but who he beats and by how much is the bigger question. Let’s take a look at how we think it’ll play out:
1. Tommy Sheehan – 2/3 odds of winning
In a season with a lot of big personalities it’s crazy to think that the winner is going to be one of the smallest and least interesting among them. Worse than that, what has Tommy done to deserve the win? Barely anything, if anything at all. In fact his spot in the final tribal council is likely going to come down to what his progress all season has come down to — other players making moves against players other than him. And so he’ll essentially be a goat winner, which is something I could actually respect if it was his goal to play that game and if he and Dean hadn’t formed an alliance against what they called a “goat army.” Instead I think Tommy believes he’s played a calculated and strategic game and that he’s manipulated votes to his benefit. I suppose we can wait to see how he demonstrates this to the jury — which I’m sure enough of them will fall for since most of them worked on his behalf for a majority of the season — but I’m not expecting to be convinced that this was the work of a mastermind.
2. Noura Salman – 13/1 odds of winning
It’s rather amazing that Noura is going to sit in front of the jury and plead her case to win, but it’s also frustrating because we know a majority of those players spent an entire season annoyed at her presence at camp and feeling like she’d be the perfect goat to sit next to at the end. The one hope for Noura is that Elaine has always been firmly on her side (socially speaking) and may help sway others to see the positive aspects of her play. That’s why I think she might be able to squeeze out a few votes more than Dean (who I think should and will get none) to earn an official runner-up spot. Noura did win two individual immunities and played a much more aggressive strategic game than any of the other four here so there’s potential for her to make a rather compelling case for herself… as long as she doesn’t get as twisted up in her thoughts as she did when she had to use leaves to count out the votes in the final 8 scenario.
3. Dean Kowalski – 8/1 odds of winning
I’m curious to see what Dean has to say about his game now that he’s seen it play out on air. In the game he thinks he was super smart to make a fake advantage to lead everyone to believe he no longer has his real advantage. Outside of the game he’s now seen that he actually just made a fake advantage from a fake advantage, impressively made by another player in order to tank his chances. It’ll be a shame to miss out on the opportunity of him attempting to play that fake advantage (it was due at a final 6 which, as we know, never played out), so we’ll have to settle for watching him try to stretch the narrative of nullifying Janet’s idol as some great, win-securing move in the game. I’d be surprised to see Dean get a single vote in the end, but… maybe Jack’s? I can’t even remember who Jack is.
4. Lauren Beck – 35/1 odds of winning
Lauren’s biggest mistake of the season will be not taking Elaine up on her deal to turn the tides against the men and vote Noura out at the final 7. Had she done that, assuming Dan still gets rejected, she’d be in the final 5 with Janet and Elaine on one side and Tommy and Dean on the other with herself in the middle to pick which pair she wanted to venture into the final tribal council with. Instead this likely plays out with Tommy following through with cutting her before the final three out of fear that she’d beat him with the jury (she would). That means Lauren will have to build fire to earn her spot and that, well, could prove too tough of a challenge. It’ll be interesting to see where her loyalties lay when she’s on the jury, but that depends a lot on whether Tommy openly stabs her in the back or if he can get it done with very little blood on his own hands.
5. Janet Carbin – 9/2 odds of winning
Unfortunately the writing is on the wall for Janet — she has an idol and Dean won an idol nullifier that he aims to use against her after spying her find that idol. Both must be used by the final 5 and so here we are — Janet uses her idol, Dean nullifies it and Janet goes home. It’s a tragic ending for one of the few players this season that has had her finger on the correct pulse of both the game and the social dynamics. As the oldest female this season Janet knew she had a target on her back the second she hit the beach and so she worked really hard and competed really well at challenges in order to prove that age and gender do not determine value. When Dan’s misconduct became a sticking point in the game, Janet correctly stood by the women who wanted to see something done about it and then was unjustly thrown under the bus for it. At that point she was back on the bottom of the tribe, but still managed to inch her way closer to the finale.
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