The 43rd season of Survivor comes to a close this Wednesday, with a quintet of contestants duking it out to see who can become the latest champion of America's premier reality competition show. After a season whose production has been frustrating and whose editing has often been, frankly, lacking, we've ended up with a pretty solid final five, all of whom have compelling narratives and resumés to take into what they hope will be the final tribal council.
There's Jesse Lopez, the MVP of the back half of the season who's spent the last few weeks knocking out major threats to his game, culminating in last week's thrilling blindside to oust his closest ally, Cody. Jesse's personal narrative has also been one of the season's most compelling, as he's talked about his life's journey from teenage gang member who was sent to juvenile hall to a husband and father with a PhD from Duke University.
Jesse's top competition over the last few weeks has been Karla Cruz Godoy, the MVP of the first half of the season. Karla's proved to be strategically adept (especially early on) and competitively resilient, knocking out two immunity challenge wins despite repeatedly being injured. A win for Karla would be a huge moment for queer representation on Survivor, as she'd be the first openly queer woman to win.
Lurking behind these two has been Cassidy Clark, who wasn't much of a presence in the first handful of episodes. That would usually point towards limited prospects of actually winning the game, since Survivor winners historically have had a strong presence in the season's early episodes. But the last few seasons have seen the Survivor editors breaking their own rules, resulting in winners like Erika Casupanan, who was left out of a ton of early episodes. So Cassidy shouldn't be counted out, and her ability to pull out an immunity challenge win when she most needs it could be a boon in the finale.
Speaking of editing, Owen Knight would be a fascinating case should he end up winning the season. He's been on the losing side of nearly half the tribal councils he's been a part of, and he's turned being left out of the loop into his brand identity. It's going to make for a resilient narrative should he land in the final three, but it will also make for a tough case to sell to the jury as to why he should win. Finally, there's oddball heart surgeon Mike Gabler, who has spent the season poking around the margins of the major strategic alliances and then telling the cameras how much he's got this game on lock. Has he successfully lulled his competition into underestimating him? Or is he a classic Survivor goat?
Rooting interests among this final five can really run the gamut. So to get a better sense of where loyalties lie, we gathered together six illustrious former Survivor players to answer the question "Who are you rooting for to win Survivor 43 and why?" Our panel includes four-time Survivor contestant and eternal fan favorite Cirie Fields, arguably the best player to have never won the game; Eliza Orlins, who placed fourth in Survivor: Vanuatu and 10th in Survivor: Micronesia; Adam Klein, winner of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X; Victoria Baamonde, who finished 6th in Survivor: Edge of Extinction; Ricard Foyé, who finished 5th in Survivor 41; and Hai Giang, who finished 8th in Survivor 42.
I am rooting for Karla Cruz Godoy to win Survivor 43. Watching Karla play and represent for young, queer people of color this season has been surreal — but beyond that, it’s been inspiring to watch someone from my community play intelligently and fiercely, but also with humor and grace. We’re overdue for an unapologetically queer woman to win this game. Karla, bring home the money, baby!
It’s actually pretty rare for me to root for multiple people when we are at [the] final five, but here I am in love with both Jesse and Karla. I think I now am focusing on who I relate to on a more personal level with their drive to win. I can’t remember the amount of times I thought about changing my family's lives, my kids' lives, and being on the verge of bursting into tears during a confessional. Jesse and his determination to care for his family makes him my number one choice to take it all home this year.
It’s so hard to be both the “villain” of a season and also massively likable, and Jesse is walking that line masterfully. I love his game and how he’s not afraid to be cutthroat when necessary, but also I legitimately adore him and can’t wait to hang out with him in real life.
Also, how cool would it be to have the first formerly incarcerated Survivor winner? Go Jesse, go!
I am rooting for Owen!!! I’ve been in communication with him since 2017, and I know how hard he’s worked to make this dream of getting on Survivor a reality. And now he’s within striking distance of a win!! I love seeing other super-duper fans get their chance, and if he is somehow able to pull off an upset here it would be one of the greatest underdog stories ever!
I've been rooting for my boy Jesse from the beginning, and I'm not just saying that because of his killer episode last week. Pre-season he was my winner pick. I had a feeling he'd have the grit, social skills, street smarts, and sheer will to get himself to the end. He reminds me a lot of some of my family members, and who doesn't love an underdog success story? He seems like a genuinely good guy, but he's also become the closest thing to a villain we have this season. I personally will ALWAYS respect the strategist who puts winning over friendships in the game of Survivor. Backstabbing your closest ally to advance your own game and getting him to shake your hand immediately after? Winner pick all day.
I'm rooting for Karla. And Gabler. Because they're not your typical winners. I always root for the underdog, even though Karla is killing it. And Gabler is under the radar as well. But I just like the mix of the types of people who can win Survivor. You don't have to be the model type. You don't have to be the fireman type or the doctor. You can be just you. Anybody can go on Survivor and win this show. So I'm really rooting for Karla or Gabler. I like everyone, I don't have anybody I don't like or I'm not rooting for, but I'm rooting for those two in particular.
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, CBS, Adam Klein, Cirie Fields, Eliza Orlins, Hai Giang, Jeff Probst, Ricard Foyé, Victoria Baamonde