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Parvati Shallow is a Survivor champ and three-time competitor on the show. The OG Miss Survivor and Survivor Hall of Famer now covers health and wellness for CBS News in New York City. Find her on Twitter @parvatishallow.
Survivor: San Juan Del Sur has finally come to a close, and in my eyes, the right woman won. Natalie Anderson was a radiant ball of pride after accepting her win at the live reunion show. And, her “twinnie” Nadiya, was right there by her side beaming with sisterly love. It was a love fest, much like the way most of this season played out.
With a Blood vs. Water season, love is at the core of the game. People don’t typically come in to Survivor with open hearts, but when you have a loved one by your side — someone you can trust implicitly — it opens people up. This season was an emotional rollercoaster, beginning with Keith, the firefighter, openly crying over the love and pride he felt toward his son Wes competing by his side.
As the season unfolded week by week, we watched Natalie become a gamer with heart. Her warmth and authenticity shined through in every move she made, from giving up her rewards, to volunteering for Exile Island, to finding the idol with Baylor, to playing it for Jaclyn. Natalie was one of the few people who saw through her own emotional landscape and did what was best in each moment to advance her game. Because she was always on a mission to make her sister Nadiya proud and avenge the people that she loved, Natalie had a purpose greater than herself propelling her forward.
She played by heart and made real connections. And, this cast of players responded to that, respecting her game enough to award her a well deserved final victory.
Jaclyn played well and gave a compelling final speech in which she stated she wanted to use the money to fulfill her dreams of starting a family with Jon. She was poised and gracious, and she had her boyfriend Jon sitting on the jury bench campaigning hard for her. But, despite all of this and winning the final immunity challenge, Jaclyn just didn’t have the substance to compete with Natalie.
Missy, the “Mama Bear,” based her entire final jury speech and campaign on the idea that she played the role of nurturer or island mother. But, her companions didn’t see it that way. In a dramatic final speech, Reed absolutely vilified Missy, calling her a wicked stepmother and saying she took things that didn’t belong to her, and sailed into the final three.
As I see it, Reed was a bit harsh. He was clearly holding a grudge from his little spat with Missy and Baylor that happened after he watched them first crush his skull in the reward challenge and later crush his dreams of winning the game. Reed wanted this, and he also wanted to play with people who were open to work with him. Sometimes, people in power positions in Survivor can be seen as elitist or snobby because they avoid having conversations with people who are not in their alliances. This type of behavior is a defense mechanism that prevents the powerful people from feeling too guilty or badly about voting someone out. If you’re not close to that person then you can vote them out with a clean conscience. ?
I think Missy didn’t get close to Reed or try to befriend him or others because she genuinely felt bad about having to hurt them. She’s obviously a woman who values loyalty and cares about others. Her game of protecting herself, her daughter, and those she took into her trust tree made her comfortable. She missed a valuable opportunity to build bonds and connect with jury members that cost her $1 million in the end. But, I don’t think that makes her wicked.
Alright ya’ll, we’ve come to the very end of our road together. I’ll see you next time for a historical 30th season of Survivor!
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