SPOILERS for the outcome of Wednesday night's episode of Survivor ahead.
The Survivor king is dead, long live the… queen? After a season's worth of being central to the TV show Survivor while not being all that central to the strategy game of Survivor, Maryanne finally made the big move that justified the winner's edit she's been getting. With the new power duo of Lindsay and Omar looking pretty solid with Lindsay winning the immunity challenge and in possession of an immunity idol that she could easily bestow on her ally, it was looking like the bell was finally going to toll for challenge beast Jonathan. But Maryanne knew that if she was going to have any kind of claim to a win this season, she was going to have to make a big move, and that big move would have to be against the previous big-move-maker Omar. The only problem would be convincing the alpha males Jonathan and Mike to take a chance with her rather than just going for the safe play of a Romeo vote-out.
Ultimately, the risk paid off, helped immensely by Lindsay's (foolish!) decision to let the immunity idol die with her rather than risk it returning into circulation next week. And with Omar now vulnerable, Maryanne marshalled her extra vote, Romeo, and dragged Mike and Jonathan kicking and screaming towards toppling the best player of the season. (EDIT: Yes, technically they voted for Romeo to guard against an idol play, but this was Maryanne's executed plan.) We'll miss you, Omar.
Queen Maryanne, meanwhile, has finally arrived, and just in time. She now sits at the final five with a pair of challenge dominating meat shields in Jonathan and Lindsay, an easy-to-beat finale goat in Romeo, and Mike, her only real competition for the title of sole Survivor.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the five remaining players and try to assess their chances of winning the game. Not every finalist has an equal shot at the million, with factors like resumé, threat level, and editorial narrative all coming into play.
In alphabetical order:
Jonathan's Survivor 42 run is the closest we've come to an original-recipe Colby Donaldson-style alpha-dog run to the finals in some time. He's at most two immunity challenges away from making it to the final three, at which point he can remind the jury of his physical dominance and camp-provider nature. The question then becomes: does a modern (or post-modern, if that's a more accurate term for the era we're now in) Survivor jury value challenge beasts and camp providers the way they used to? We've already seen plenty of evidence that Jonathan's brand of alpha-dogging has rubbed people like Drea, Lindsay, and Maryanne the wrong way. All three could end up on the jury that would decide Jonathan's fate.
Of the five players headed into the finale, Lindsay was the least visible before the merge, usually showing up as a strategic sounding board for someone on her Taku tribe. Since the merge, however, Lindsay has asserted her independence from Jonathan, proved willing to make strategic alliances with the likes of Drea, Hai, and Omar, and established herself as the true challenge beast of Season 42. That said, after this week's shocker at tribal she's looking very much like the last person standing in musical chairs. She'll probably have to comp her way into the finals.
The more we think about it, the more it seems like it'll probably be Maryanne's name on that million-dollar check. Even before this week's strategic fireworks, all signs had been pointing to a Maryanne win. She's been one of the season's main narrators since minute one, Jeff Probst seems to seek out her opinion at every tribal council, and in one of the biggest dead giveways of the classic Survivor "winner's edit," we've seen a ton of Maryanne even when she ends up having little to do with any given episode's outcome. Then came this week, where Maryanne actually was central to the outcome. Now the players on the jury have finally caught up to what the Survivor editors have been saying all season: Maryanne's a winner.
Mike seems to be the player who everybody loved, and because of that, they're willing to talk themselves into thinking he's played a great game. To that, we say "has he??" considering we've seen him in recent weeks get led by the nose by Hai and then Omar. Mike's narrative is closer to an old-school Survivor narrative than even Jonathan's: the blue-collar guy who expands his horizons by getting to know people from different walks of life, who tries to play an honest game, and whose decency gets rewarded. Drea definitely put the whammy on him last week by pointing out that he'd definitely win the jury vote, so don't expect the others to lay out the red carpet for him into the finals.
I made this prediction about Heather last season and turned out to be wrong after she lost the fire-building challenge, but here I am again: take it to the bank that Romeo is a lock to make the final three and get zero votes to win. At this point, he's the player everybody wants to be sitting next to, because nobody thinks he's done anything, either strategically or physically, to advance himself to this point. He's a classic Survivor goat. We'll know for sure in a week's time.
As for the rest of this week's happenings…
Player of the Week: Maryanne, obviously. She made the biggest strategic move of the season at the absolute best time to do it: when it's too late in the game to be targeted for being too strategic. She targeted the right player — Omar, the guy who'd been playing the kind of game she wants to claim as her own — and managed to convince her otherwise too-cautious allies to follow her lead.
Honorable Mention(s): It's tough to credit Mike or Jonathan with a good move considering how opposed they both seemed to be to make it. Good on Romeo for once again eagerly hopping to the winning side?
Sketchy Strategy: Omar was the one who paid the price, but he was mostly making the right moves, even if he was tempting fate a bit too much with those interviews about how their plan this week was foolproof. The dunce had belongs to Lindsay for not playing her idol on Omar — on the last day it could be played — on the grounds that she didn't want the idol to be re-hidden afterwards for someone else to find. For one thing, Survivor will find a way to hide a new idol out there anyway, as evidenced by the preview footage of Lindsay scrambling around the island looking for an idol. Use your advantages while you can!
Alliance Report: All alliances at this stage of the game have the lifespan of a gnat, but Maryanne and Mike's bond is stronger than ever.
Coming Next Week: A winner (Maryanne) is crowned!
People are talking about this week's Survivor in our forums. Join the conversation.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.