Survivor season 35: Who wins if the Final 4 twist didn’t happen?

Photo: Screen Grab/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Screen Grab/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Imagine a Survivor season 35 where everything that happened didn’t play up to the winner’s will. Who would win at the Final Tribal Council without Ben?

Congratulations are in order for Ben Driebergen; the winner of Survivor season 35, Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. After blowing up Lauren’s gaming in a historic Tribal Council, he had the biggest target on his back. Thankfully, he played idol after idol after idol to save himself, won a fire-making challenge and outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the jury on the way to a million-dollar prize.

How he got from the Final 4 to the Final Tribal Council, however, has to be the biggest slap in the face to Chrissy, Devon and Ryan. As soon as Ben lost the Final 4 challenge, those three players should have been practicing their FTC speeches to the jury. Instead, unlike any of the previous 34 seasons, Chrissy won an “advantage” that removed her opportunity to take out the biggest threat in the game, even though every single player on that island knew Ben would win if he made it to the end.

There is much to be said about Ben’s path to victory (and the bumps along the way) in the future, but one question has been burned in my mind since the finale; who would win Survivor season 35 if the Final 4 twist didn’t happen?

Must Read: Survivor Winners: Ranking All 34 Sole Survivors By Season

First off, in that scenario, 100% there’s no chance that Ben makes it to the Final Tribal Council. Pure and simple, each player doesn’t want Ben there, as we saw firsthand that he wins handily over all the other players (including Devon, likely).

Moving on, we now have Ben as the final member of the jury, Devon in the game and his vote for Ryan knocked off the board. Considering Ben’s relationship with Chrissy and Devon’s elevated gameplay, there’s no way he votes for Ryan, and I don’t think having Devon as an opponent strengthens Ryan’s game.

As such, we have a two-horse race in Devon and Chrissy. Whereas Devon backed up Ryan on the jury with certain aspects of his play, Devon greatly benefits how well he played, strategically, by having Ben on the jury. Devon gets to talk about how he was the one who whipped the Hero/Hustlers alliance at the merge and how he convinced Ben to act as a double agent, opening his eyes to Joe about how will he is to make moves that even he didn’t know about at the time. Plus, Joe and Chrissy don’t get along with each other as it is.

Without Ben, Mike’s vote for Chrissy remains while JP falls in line with who he’s most familiar with as an alliance member. Desi has made it clear from her exit interviews that she does not like Chrissy, so her vote very likely goes to Devon. Lauren loved the kid, too, while having modest, at best, words to say about Chrissy (plus he was in an alliance with Devon), hence her vote for Devon. Ashley may have denied Devon a hug at the time, but for sure she votes for her number one ally in the game.

In this Survivor season 35 winner hypothetical, it all comes down to Cole and Ben. While Cole acknowledged Chrissy’s dominance in challenges (since he was the only man to win one in the season), he still voted for Ben. His interactions with Devon are limited, but Cole was targeted at the merge because of Ben and Chrissy exaggerating the truth against him and his “found” idol from the spaghetti reward.

On the other end, Ben and Chrissy go all the way back to the Heroes tribe, working as an alliance to get to the end as it was. Even when Ben was thought to have punched his ticket for fourth place, Chrissy made sure to hear him out ahead of Tribal Council, nurturing goodwill ahead of the vote. I believe Ben votes for Chrissy, even though Devon’s social play and underhanded strategy are still recognized by him.

More from Heroes Vs Healers Vs Hustlers

Without the Final 4 twist, here’s how I see the Final Tribal Council votes go:

Devon:  Ashley, Lauren, Desi, Joe, Cole

Chrissy: Mike, JP, Ben

Ryan: blank

Of course, we’ll never know for sure exactly how this situation would have turned because even if you asked all the players right now, the months of separation from the moment itself, as well as their lack of willingness to think deeply about this question, make it hard to get an honest, concise answer.

Next: Survivor: Ranking all 34 seasons

While I believe that Devon Pinto should have gone on to win Survivor season 35, it’s possible that Chrissy could have won, even if Devon pulled off a strategy that kept the two completely in the dark. Unfortunately, because production felt it was best to fundamentally change the Final 4 rules without telling the players ahead of time, we’ll never truly know the answer.