Survivor Winners at War finale: Why _____ finished in third place

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

The second runner-up in Survivor: Winners at War proved why they were deserving of the opportunity to address the jury and we explain why more votes should have gone their way.

Spoiler alert: This article will discuss the results from the Survivor: Winners at War finale.

Thanks in part to the massive jury this season, Tony Vlachos received the most votes at Final Tribal Council in Survivor history. The third-place finisher, Michele Fitzgerald didn’t have any votes go her way. With the release of the first few Winners at War exit interviews, plenty of hidden details rose to the surface, especially involving the jury.

Were you at all surprised that Michele received absolutely zero votes? Maybe you were thinking that some of her allies like Nick or Wendell would show her some support? That’s actually how they were thinking as well. On RHAP, Michele revealed that Nick, Wendell, Danni, and Adam all went up to her after that Final Tribal Council.

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They told her that they were planning to write her name down until they heard that the case for a Natalie victory was gaining steam. A core group of jurors believed that Tony played the best game, so they were worried if they put some of their votes on Michele, Natalie might be closer to gaining a majority. That begs the question, did Michele deserve more votes than Natalie?

Comparing Michele and Natalie’s performances

Let’s compare their respective games. Michele had a strong first part of the season, rebounding from an early blindside and developing a tight bond with Jeremy. On the Sele tribe, she took the lead in pulling off a masterful move to take out Ethan, weakening the old school presence. She didn’t have that degree of control over the second half of the season, but she won two clutch immunities that were necessary to her survival and was able to shift her allegiances to stay in the game.

Survivor: Winners at War
“It All Boils Down to This” – Jeff Probst awards Michele Fitzgerald with the Immunity Necklace on the three-hour season finale episode of SURVIVOR: WINNERS AT WAR, airing Wednesday, May 13th (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Natalie got voted out first and played an impressive game on the Edge of Extinction amassing handfuls of Fire Tokens, but she didn’t have to worry about strategizing or getting voted out for 30 plus days. She ended up making it to the end, winning the Edge of Extinction challenge, playing two idols, and coming up clutch at the Final Immunity Challenge.

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With that being said, even though Natalie was immune in her final three Tribal Councils, she never controlled the game to her success. At the Final Six tribal, Ben blocked her vote with an idol, and they decided to send Denise to the jury. At the Final Five, Natalie played her idol incorrectly and Sarah was credited as the person who took out Ben. Finally, Natalie didn’t put herself up against Tony in the fire-making challenge. In her RHAP interview, Natalie regretted how she mishandled these pivotal moments.

I’m not trying to say that Natalie didn’t deserve her spot in the Final Three. She worked hard to get back in and survive to Day 39. However, I can’t ignore the fact that she was never able to take control of the game, even with her two idols. So Natalie really didn’t do anything extraordinarily special in the game that Michele didn’t do. Michele was able to escape far more Tribal Councils with her name on the block and even controlled a key vote.

With those factors in mind, I think it’s logical to reason that Michele played a better overall game. Part of the reason why Natalie received four votes had to do with the relationships she built on the Edge of Extinction. The fact that her four closest friendships voted for Natalie to win is telling us something. You could say that it was due to her social game, but it’s far easier to bond with people when you don’t have to worry about voting them out.

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Additionally, Michele’s performance at Final Tribal Council might have been the best out of the three finalists. Even Survivor legend Russell Hantz, who has been hating on Michele this entire season, loved how she handled her plea to the jury. It was realistic and honest, while still highlighting the strong game she played. As good as her performance was, it still wasn’t enough to catch Tony. He simply had more control over the game and pulled off a bunch of masterful blindsides without getting targeted. Regardless of Tony’s stellar performance, Michele Fitzgerald deserves to go down as one of the greatest finalists to receive no votes.