Type keyword(s) to search


6 Survivor Alumni Tell Us Who They're Rooting for to Win Season 44

It's a very likable final five, but one major favorite has emerged.
  • Survivor 44's final five (Photos: CBS)
    Survivor 44's final five (Photos: CBS)

    Survivor's 44th season comes to an end on May 24, with the final five competitors entering the endgame. Ever since the show returned from its COVID-dictated year off the air, Survivor has proven to be quite unpredictable when it comes to its ultimate champion, crowning under-the-radar winners in two of its last three seasons.

    If it's become harder to predict who will win a given season of Survivor, it's far easier to know who we want to emerge triumphant. Season 44 offers an incredibly likable final five, each of whom took an unlikely path to the end. The Tika tribe got beat up in the challenges in the early stages of the game, leaving original members Carolyn Wiger, Yam Yam Arocho, and Carson Garrett at a numbers disadvantage at the merge. But by playing the other two alliances against each other and taking advantage of their low profile, the so-called "Tika Three" are now in a power position heading into the finale.

    Carolyn has been a live wire of a contestant, but she's won over her tribemates with her openness, particularly on the subjects of her family and her hard-won recovery from drug addiction. Yam Yam's been an active social player from the very beginning and has voted out almost every player who has written his name down at Tribal Council. Carson, the 21-year-old NASA engineering student, prepared for the season by 3D-printing out many of the show's puzzles, turning himself into a challenge beast.

    Lauren Harpe and Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt have been lower-profile players this season. Heidi played the second-in-command role on her original tribe, cleverly using Danny as a shield up until his ouster two episodes ago, while Lauren has stayed under the radar and won immunity challenges at exactly the right time.

    With plenty of reasons to root for any one of these players, Primetimer once again reached out to previous contestants to get a better sense of where loyalties lie, and got a very clear picture of who the experts are pulling for. We asked six illustrious former Survivor players "Who are you rooting for to win Survivor 44 and why?" Our panel includes Survivor: China finalist Courtney Yates, who later returned in Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains; Eliza Orlins, who placed fourth in Survivor: Vanuatu and 10th in Survivor: Micronesia, and whose forthright opinions and animated reactions shots made her a favorite of the fan community; Owen Knight, Season 43's second runner-up; Brian Corridan, who burned brightly in the pre-merge phase of Survivor: Guatemala; Teresa Cooper, who finished 5th in Survivor: Africa; and Hai Giang, who finished 8th in Survivor 42.

    Eliza Orlins

    This is the first season I can remember in many, many years where I would be fine with everyone who is left winning the game! This has been a phenomenal season with an amazing cast! If I had to choose, I think Carolyn may be one of my favorite people to watch EVER so I would love to see her win it all.

    But truly I love every member of the Tika Three, and their storylines have each been compelling — it’s extraordinary that they all made endgame after being so badly outnumbered at the merge. I am so impressed by the way they stuck together to take out everyone else and managed to all remain so likable. Carson should be the gold standard for preparation from this point forward. There’s no excuse to not know how to do all of the puzzles that have been repeated over multiple seasons, but he really took that to the extreme and I hope he gets credit for that. And Yam Yam really has been a lovable mastermind. Such a fun season, and I’m sad for it to be ending!

    Owen Knight

    I love this final 5! I am no edgic wizard, but I think most people would agree that it seems like a Tika is going to take home the W. I am rooting for it to be Carolyn! I respect her immensely for her strategic instincts, and I love that she is not afraid of her emotions. As an emotional player myself, I love seeing her being unapologetic in her feelings, while still having her finger on the pulse of this game. While I don't think she is the favorite, I can't help but root for her. While I'd also love to see Lauren or Heidi pull off some big moves to take it home at the end, I'd be surprised given the story we've been told for the past 12 episodes.

    Brian Corridan

    It's hard not to say Carolyn. The edit really wants us to love all five of these people, but Carolyn just pops from the screen. She's so infectious. Even her online presence is just so bubbly, and it's hard not to root for somebody who's gone through that much and come through on the other side. She's not a player that I would ever call myself like; she's so emotional and so visceral, but it's paying off really well for the season. I think we need more contestants like Carolyn to keep the show from being too robotic. Especially in an era when the show has become pretty stale, I'd say, with contestants just playing against the producers rather than against each other. You kind of miss that emotional component of the show, and Carolyn just injects that back into it.

    It's hard to root for Carson when I'm just gonna forever be bitter about young superfans getting very far in the game [laughs]. But how lovely for him that he's done this well. Yam Yam's great too. Lauren and Heidi probably suffer from the edit, which is too bad. The show has really wanted us to love the Tika Three, obviously. From what the viewers have been fed, at least, the agency has largely been on Yam Yam, Carson, and Carolyn's side more than Heidi and Lauren.

    Hai Giang

    I am rooting for Carolyn to win it all. I don’t remember ever being so enamored by a player before. I’m impressed not only by her gameplay, but I’m also captivated by her personality. In a series like Survivor, a competition where people have not been historically kind to players like Carolyn, she has not compromised her character or beliefs to fit in, but rather she earned veneration from both her tribemates and the fanbase at large by sharing her spirit. A rare accomplishment in itself. I hope Carolyn’s journey in Fiji culminates with her being crowned the sole Survivor. I want her story to motivate others into living their lives confidently and without filter because it’s contagious and a joy to witness.

    Courtney Yates

    I've only seen one episode this season, but I was very easily won over by Carolyn, because she made the best faces and was annoyed by the same things that I find annoying. So clearly we're rooting for her. There was definitely an echo, when Carolyn was sitting with the two alpha dudes, and they're pretending that she's not a valid human being, that very much felt like a throwback to [in Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains] Russell saying "We should get rid of Courtney or Sandra," and we're literally sitting right there. I'm like, "Hi, we're literally right here," and Rob was like "Are you serious, they're literally right here."

    Also, from what I saw in the episode, she's sober. I have such admiration for people who can go on that struggle and be triumphant in working with their own addiction and can speak on it so articulately, so I support that as well. Carolyn also seems to be the general consensus of everyone whose opinions I value. Usually my Twitter feed is very curated, so I trust their opinions.

    Teresa Cooper

    This is the situation: Because I have met four of the five — Carson, Carolyn, Lauren, and Yam Yam — I spent the evening with them at an event at Ron Clark Academy. It's easy to pick people you think you like, but once you meet 'em, all bets are off. The four that I met, I like so much. So much! In all totally different ways. So any of these five are probably gonna be great. But who doesn't love Carolyn? And by the way, I loved her from the very beginning. I know a lot of people learned to love her– not learned to love her, but some friends of mine were like, "I wasn't sure about her at first but now I like her." I always liked her. I love that she's eccentric and colorful, and she's herself.

    Sometimes when you see people doing these confessionals, you can tell they've rehearsed these confessionals. Just like the Big Brother people. Carolyn is a wild card, a beautiful wild card. Yam Yam, I love him too. Their personalities are just so fun. And Carson is from Atlanta, and Lauren, I met her cousin, and he works for Delta, so we had that in common. There's just a whole lotta things going on that make me say I'd be so happy with any of these. With that being said, probably the two that are standing out for me are Carolyn and Yam Yam, just because I love that they're colorful, colorful, colorful personalities.

    Also Carolyn's backstory, that she's come from where she's come. I wanted to win Survivor: Africa, but I didn't. And I thought, "If I can't win my season, who would I want to win my season?" And who better than Ethan Zohn? And with this season, who could best represent this season? Carolyn's got such a story with her addiction and how she's overcome that with sobriety. That's powerful for people. That's a story that might touch and help a lot of people, and that's a beautiful thing.

    The Survivor 44 finale airs Wednesday, May 24 at 8:00 PM ET on CBS. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer 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.

    TOPICS: Survivor, Brian Corridan, Carolyn Wiger, Courtney Yates, Eliza Orlins, Hai Giang, Owen Knight, Teresa Cooper