‘Survivor 43’ finale recap: Did Cassidy, Gabler, Jesse, Karla or Owen win the $1 million prize? [LIVE BLOG]

Following last week’s shocking elimination of Cody Assenmacher from “Survivor 43,” just the Top 5 players remained in the running to win the $1 million grand prize. Of this group, only Jesse Lopez still possessed a hidden immunity idol, which theoretically secured him a place in the Final 4. The other four players — Cassidy Clark, Mike Gabler, Karla Cruz Godoy and Owen Knight — had to rely on immunity challenges and their social games to make it to the end. So which castaway did host Jeff Probst have the pleasure of anointing as the Sole Survivor of Season 43?

Below, read our minute-by-minute “Survivor 43” finale recap/live blog of Episode 13, “Snap Some Necks and Cash Some Checks,” to find out who won on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways on CBS’s reality TV show, who annoys you the most, and what you think of this latest addition to the “Survivor” winners list.

Keep refreshing/reloading this “Survivor 43” live blog for the most recent updates.

8:00 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” In the 12th episode, Cody, Karla and Owen shared in the reward challenge at the Survivor Sanctuary. Later, Cassidy just barely beat out Cody to win the immunity challenge. Back at camp, Cody hatched a plan to convince Karla not to play her idol so they could blindside her. But Jesse didn’t like that it would help Cody build his resume with the jury, so he masterfully used Cody’s own idol (which Jesse was holding) to both flush out Karla’s idol and vote out Cody. With only five players left on the island, who will be named this season’s Sole Survivor? Let’s go!

8:02 p.m. – The next morning, at their new camp, the finalists reflected on their journey to this point. Gabler, still referring to his position as “hiding in plain sight,” believes he has a good chance at winning because no one has their eyes on getting him out. Owen is in disbelief that he made it this far after being left out of so many votes and realizes he has to play perfectly here on out. Jesse sees his game as subtle up until the point he made the “crazy” and “historic” move to take Cody out, but knows he has a big target on his back now. Cassidy has been on the right side of every vote and thinks she’s the only one that has made the correct moves at every step. Karla is still struggling with injuries, but she’s shown the “heart of a warrior” to still be out there competing.

8:04 p.m. – It’s Day 24 when they receive Tree Mail with an envelope for each of them. Inside is notice of a final secret advantage. In order to search for it they have to individually unscramble a word puzzle that tells them where to look. Karla was the first player to solve the puzzle, but her ankle injury disadvantaged her from being able to move quickly. Owen is the second to finish and at full speed catches up to Karla on the far beach. Owen remembers that the clue says “knots,” hinting that the advantage is likely hidden in a tree. But Karla is already on that tip, scouring all the dead trees and while he’s busy looking at the roots, Karla goes for the knot of the tree he’s looking at and claims the advantage.

8:11 p.m. – At the site of the next immunity challenge, Jeff says that they’ll be maneuvering a buoy through obstacles in the water and then carrying balanced letter blocks to a puzzle board with the first person to solve the puzzle earning both immunity and a “protein burst” reward of a steak lunch at the Survivor Sanctuary. As the advantage holder, Karla earned herself the right to have 1/3 of her puzzle blocks already at her table, requiring less trips balancing them over a see-saw beam.

8:16 p.m. – Due to the advantage, Karla was the first player to get all of her pieces to the puzzle board, but Owen was right behind her. Gabler was the third to start working on the phrase, then Cassidy and then Jesse bringing up the rear. The seven word phrase they were looking to sort out was “You cannot hide in a dangerous game.” The word that everyone got hung up on was “dangerous,” but once he placed “game” after it, Owen was able to place “dangerous” and then minutes later pieced together the other smaller words to claim immunity! With that win Owen added to his win total, becoming a three-time immunity challenge winner. As part of his reward win he got to pick one other player to join him for lunch and he selected Cassidy.

8:26 p.m. – At the reward lunch, Owen and Cassidy discussed their options of going after Jesse or Karla on the next vote. They identified both of them as the biggest threats to all of them. By the end of their meal, Owen was leaning toward taking out “the favorite” Jesse while Cassidy still had her sights on taking out Karla in order to secure her position in the final as not having to compare her game to Karla’s.

8:29 p.m. – Back at camp, Karla and Jesse knew that they were the targets for the vote. Karla told Jesse that they should unite with Gabler to take out Cassidy, but in reality she wanted to talk to the others about going for Jesse. All along Jesse continued to keep the secret that he has Jeanine Zheng‘s idol so he allowed Karla to do what she’s going to do knowing that he’ll save himself no matter what. Later, Karla got her one-on-one time with everyone else to push the Jesse narrative, pointing out all the reasons why his big move against Cody made him too dangerous to leave in the game. Owen was still noticing how strong Karla is at debating and how that makes her a threat in front of the jury. Karla and Cassidy butted heads in their conversation with Karla condescending to Cassidy and Cassidy pushing back against the narrative that all their moves were attributable to Karla and James Jones and not her.

8:40 p.m. – At the first tribal council of the night, Jesse jumped right out of the gate by announcing that he’s as safe as Owen in this vote because he’s been hanging on to an idol since Dwight went home. When he pulled out the yellow bracelet, Jeanine’s jaw hit the floor and her head fell into her hands in bewilderment and disappointment. With that revelation, Karla turned the conversation to the chance to point the arrow at Cassidy or Gabler instead. Karla asked Jesse to go aside so that they could speak privately about pitching Gabler to vote out Cassidy instead. In a freshly live tribal, Gabler wanted to speak to Jesse and Cassidy alone, Cassidy confronted Karla about trying to go for her, and Owen and Jesse confirmed that they’re at least both safe.

8:46 p.m. – After casting votes, Jesse did play the idol for himself. Jeff read the votes: Jesse, Karla, Karla, Karla. On her way out she admitted to casting the vote for Jesse and said, “I wasn’t gonna let you have a perfect game.”

8:52 p.m. – The next day the final four gathered for their final immunity challenge, a test of balance, precision and endurance having to carry bowls in a long fork through a springed structure and then stack 15 of the bowls balanced on the structure. The winner earns immunity and the decision to take one of the others to the final three with them, leaving the other two to race to build a fire in front of the jury for the third spot.

8:57 p.m. – Gabler held on to an early single bowl lead, but in the race to add his 13th bowl his stack of 12 fell at the same time that both Owen and Cassidy were placing their 12th bowls. Owen snuck into the lead on the 13th bowl, but he dropped his bowl from his fork taking up his 14th bowl and then on his second attempt his entire stack dropped. Owen’s error left Cassidy alone in the front with only one bowl to go. In a flawless showing she was able to get her 15th bowl on the stack to claim the final win! The challenge win was a third for Cassidy, matching Owen’s total and guaranteeing her position as a finalist.

9:07 p.m. – After the challenge, Owen, Gabler and Jesse were greeted by fire making tools to practice with back at camp. The air in the group said that everyone knew Jesse would have to make fire because the other three recognize how unbeatable he’d be. The other mood was one shared between Owen and Gabler, both knew that they need a notch in their game to show the jury that they’re deserving of their spot in the finals and so they pitched to Cassidy that they should be the one to make fire against Jesse. Knowing his strengths in the game are not making fire, Jesse attempted to pitch to Cassidy that she, too, needs to prove herself to the jury and so she should opt to build fire against him. She realized he was simply trying to get himself in a position to go against the other person that can’t make fire so she denied him that pitch. Instead she had to focus on whether or not Owen or Gabler had a better chance of beating Jesse. She also considered who between them needed the challenge more in terms of jury impression. In that regard she saw Owen as getting the biggest boost from beating Jesse at fire and it could be what pushes him over her in terms of jury votes; whereas she didn’t think Gabler winning fire would be enough for him to beat her in the end.

9:18 p.m. – At tribal, Jeff wanted to know what each of the guys pitched to Cassidy in terms of getting Cassidy to make the decision that benefits them. Jesse admitted to his “hard sell” of telling Cassidy to make fire against him, but Cassidy shut it down by saying that she trusts in her own game and doesn’t need the desperate risk of trying to pad her game with that. Gabler surprised Jeff by saying he asked Cassidy to have him make fire because he wanted to “go down in a blaze.” Owen also shocked everyone by saying he, too, wants to make fire because he feels he needs to “go out swinging.” Cassidy said she took that all into account, but decided to go with the decision that benefited her the most. In that sense, Cassidy decided to bring Owen with her to the final three, pitting Jesse and Gabler against each other in the fire build.

9:27 p.m. – Sitting down at their stations, Gabler looked determined in his objective while Jesse kept his head down in silence with a look of dread and gloom across his face. Jeff pointed out that the fasted fire ever made was on season 38 and it took five minutes. Gabler sparked a flame first, but Jesse was right behind him. As Gabler’s flame got bigger, Jesse’s depleted and eventually went out. The reactions from the jury showed that they were all rooting for Jesse to win, but Cassidy and Owen were both entirely focused on Gabler’s fire. When Jesse finally got a flame back, Gabler was well underway building his stack up to a point where his flame was touching the rope. When Gabler’s rope finally snapped, setting a record at four minutes nine seconds, Cassidy and Owen applauded while the jury remained silent. The mood turned somber immediately as Jesse realized his time in the game was up and tears welled in Karla and Jeanine’s eyes. Jesse, also crying, was able to piece together for Jeff that his thoughts are with his family as they had been the entire game. He explained that he came to the show to set an example to his kids, but also to set them up for a future that includes a safety net he never got to grow up with. Cassidy said her decision was out of respect that she knew she couldn’t beat him in the end and Jeff backed her up, saying that it’s the biggest compliment you can get in the game.

9:40 p.m. – On the final Day 26, the finalists were treated to a grand brunch while we were treated to confessionals from the jury members. Karla said that Owen “embodies what it means to never give up” and Noelle Lambert said she’s rooting for him because she rather vote for an underdog. Ryan Medrano said that Gabler played a good game and Jeanine pointed out that he needs to explain what parts of his game were intentional. Cody called it impressive that Gabler was able to connect to cast members much younger than him. James liked that Cassidy didn’t rock the boat and aligned herself with bigger threats. Ryan recognized “the danger in the sweet girl” that pitted him against Cassidy for much of the game. Jesse said that she might be able to earn his vote if she can prove she survived being targeted.

9:50 p.m. – Jesse opened the Final Tribal Council by telling the finalists that they all played amazing games, but they’ll have to speak with confidence about their games. Noelle wanted to know how they differentiate themselves from each other. Gabler said he played a relationship-based game, building alliances with every single one of the jurors and those allowed him to get deeper into the game with each elimination and meant no one ever wrote his name down to go home. Cassidy said that all of her votes were the right vote because she was always working with the majority to make the decisions of who would go home. And then at the end she had to ditch the stronger players she was aligned with and created bonds with Gabler and Owen in order to get to the end. Owen admitted that he was the underdog that had to claw his way from minority alliances just to survive.

9:54 p.m. – Noelle gave Owen an opportunity to talk about the trust they built in order to orchestrate the James vote and Gabler opened the door to clear the air with Jeanine about her and Elie going through his bag early in the game. Gabler effectively spoke to how important it was for him to get Elie out and then sit back and chill afterward. Cassidy even found a chance to talk about her “mental checklist” of all the people who she heard were attempting to get her out of the game and how she was able to get each of them out to protect herself.

10:03 p.m. – When talk of alliances came up, Sami Layadi pressured Gabler to speak more about the “Ride or Die” alliance that he formed late with Cody and Jesse and how locked in he was for that. Gabler said that he trusted them and he was with them “to ride or die” and to keep from getting votes. Cassidy challenged that he didn’t get votes because people weren’t threatened, but Noelle and Jesse backed Gabler up by saying he actually built trust and had intention to not be seen as a threat.

10:04 p.m. – To address the physical aspect of the game, Cassidy said she never thought she’d become a physical threat and so she never felt like it was something she had to minimize. As a Paralympian, Noelle applauded Cassidy for all her wins and especially because she’s a woman. But Noelle wanted to know from Cassidy why she wasn’t willing to build fire against Jesse and gave that chance to Gabler instead. Cassidy told them that she had already won immunity in order to make it to the finals and she didn’t want to give Owen the boost to his underdog story. She added that she thought Gabler winning wouldn’t be enough to beat her, but when she said that Jesse started shaking his head.

10:06 p.m. – Karla’s question asking them what their lowest points in the game were gave Owen a chance to make amends to James and apologize for his role in their flare-up, Gabler a moment to say that he almost got himself voted out in the game very early on, and Cassidy a chance to apologize to Karla for their final conversation. Jesse asked the final question, asking them to speak to one time when they persuaded other people to vote a certain way. Gabler returned to the Elie vote and said he planted the seed with everyone that she couldn’t be trusted because she went through bags. Cassidy wanted to talk about the Ryan vote during the split tribals, but Jesse and Cody looked at each other and Ryan wanted them to explain how he’d heard they planned it not her. Cody, Jesse and Gabler explained to Cassidy that “Ride or Die” was formed then and that they had already made the decision that if James was voted out first that they’d take Ryan out, but if he wasn’t then they’d take Cassidy out instead and she had no role in that decision. Owen admitted to not having any persuasion in any of the votes because he was never in a position to make the calls.

10:14 p.m. – At the ballot box, we were shown the votes of James for Cassidy and Karla for Gabler. And as has come to be true in the current age of the game, Jeff revealed the votes to the finalists there on the spot: Cassidy, Gabler, Gabler, Gabler, Gabler, Gabler. The official vote count was 7 for Gabler, 1 for Cassidy and 0 for Owen. That makes Gabler the undisputed champion of “Survivor 43” and the million dollar winner!

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