In Survivor‘s wild finale, urologist Mike Zahalsky doesn’t make the cut.
The second half of season 35 of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers dished out ample erratic behavior, unexpected twists, and lawless tribal councils, Mike Zahalsky ’95 MMS’98 MD’99 managed to survive them all.
But the “Survivor gods” squirreled away even more surprises for Wednesday’s season finale. In addition to two more player eliminations and a chance for the final three survivors to plead their case to a jury of former tribal members, the final winner was announced in front of a live audience in Los Angeles.
After Ben, the prime target for two weeks running, slid through last week’s tribal council by the grace of a second immunity idol, his teammates opted for some shut-eye. This left Ben free to search for a third idol—his only hope for surviving another elimination. Which he did. Again.
Unaware of Ben’s success, Chrissy, Devon, and Zahalsky planned to convince Ben they’d found an idol at the reward meal. But when Ben takes the “news” of Chrissy’s “idol” surprisingly well, Devon suspected he possessed yet another #BenBomb and decided to vote for Zahalsky at tribal council.
Removing all the votes for Ben left one vote for Devon and one vote for Zahalsky. After a re-vote, the tenacious Brown alum bid farewell to Survivor as a competitor, though he did get to stick around to vote on the season’s winner.
Finally, with no more idols for Ben to find, Chrissy won a last, fiddly immunity puzzle and got a new-to-the-series secret advantage: the power to pick one person to join her as a member of the final three, with the remaining member to be determined by a fire-building challenge.
Chrissy, Devon, and Ryan all agreed that Ryan is fairly useless at challenges, so she selected Devon to challenge Ben. Despite being the camp’s de facto campfire starter, Devon was unable to start a spark in the time Ben nurtured a big, burning flame, and he once again narrowly escaped elimination.
Before a jury of their former teammates, the final three pleaded their cases to be crowned Survivor and take home the $1 million prize: Ben, as a military veteran who overcame post-traumatic stress disorder to inspire his family and fellow veterans; Chrissy, as a mom who pushed beyond her physical limits and never gave up on her dreams; and Ryan, a superfan who insists that most of the power moves that happened were indirectly due to his machinations. Some arguments were more convincing than others.
Flash-forward to a live audience and a nicely cleaned up cast along with enthusiastic families: each of the final three received at least one vote from the jury, but Ben won in a landslide—and was promptly engulfed in hugs.
Keep an eye on Brown Medicine for Zahalsky’s inside scoop on the whole season.