‘Survivor 43’ finale spotlight: Villainous turn sets up Jesse Lopez as front-runner to win

Let’s not beat around the bush — when Jesse Lopez pulled off the blindside of the season against his number one ally Cody Assenmacher in the penultimate episode of “Survivor 43,” he not only became the clear front-runner to win, but also a likable villain on par with masterminds Parvati Shallow and Sandra Diaz-Twine. Like them, can he also come out on top and win the million dollar prize despite backstabbing jurors? We think so. Below, we take a look at how he’s going to get there in our “Survivor 43” finale spotlight.

Jesse worked closely with Cody since the beginning of the game, systematically playing the fence between competing forces where together they had ties on both sides. At the start of the merge, they decided to equalize Noelle Lambert‘s growing power in the game by taking out her closest ally at the time, Dwight Moore — both Noelle and Dwight came from their same original tribe. After that, they made moves to take power away from original Coco, pulling Karla Cruz Godoy and Cassidy Clark closer to them, while still having strong ties to Sami Layadi, Owen Knight and Mike Gabler from Baka. Jesse and Cody were the tightest pair in the game and shared ideas with each other to determine their best move.

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That all changed when Jesse caught wind from Gabler that the jury might consider Cody the shot-caller between the two, leaving Jesse in a number two position that wouldn’t be able to beat Cody. Determined to do anything to win, Jesse realized he’d have to blindside his best friend in the game if he was going to secure the respect of the jury. That’s when he put into motion one of the most devious backstabbing moves in series history. Entrusted by Cody to protect his hidden idol, Jesse used it against him by playing it for Owen, spooking Karla into using her own for herself, and then executing his plan to have Owen, Gabler, Cassidy and himself vote out the exposed Cody. The jury took notice, saying “Jesse did that.”

Going into the finale, Jesse is now the most threatening player to sit next to at the end so the other four should be gunning to take him out. That will be difficult to do because Jesse has an idol that no one knows about and should be smart enough to use it at final five. The idol will get him to final four where at worst Jesse will be forced to make fire quicker than one of the others — a decision made by whoever wins the final immunity challenge. In that sense, Jesse’s chances will come down to his ability to make fire.

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Sitting in front of the jury, Jesse will have to be clear about his intentions in the game. In his communications he’s been portrayed as a family man that came to Fiji to earn financial security for his wife and kids. To us, his motivation is clear and honorable, but to jurors like Cody and Noelle that Jesse turned against, Jesse is a classic reality TV villain that they may or may not be willing to vote for. Jury bitterness would be a tough pill to swallow if it prevents us from getting an exceedingly rare win from a villain.

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