'Survivor: Worlds Apart' Finale Review: Surprisingly Suspenseful Finale Concludes Season 30

Recap and review of Survivor: Worlds Apart - Season Finale - It's A Fickle, Fickle Game:

Survivor: Worlds Apart is in the record books, and "It's a Fickle, Fickle Game" has crowned a Blue Collar as the winner for Season 30. And honestly? It ended up being one of the most satisfying, surprisingly suspenseful finales in recent memory.

Yes, while it seemed like a bit of a foregone conclusion that Mike would win the million dollars once he won the final immunity challenge, the editing of the episode did an outstanding job of keeping suspense alive, not just in the challenges but also in the tribal council votes. Like Tom Westman, Terry Dietz and Colby Donaldson before him, Mike's game largely relied on his ability to win challenges. Granted, it wasn't as smooth, socially, as Tom's, nor as divisive as Terry's, nor even as guileless as Colby's. But what Mike's game accomplished that the others didn't was creative a narrative uncertainty about the final conclusion. I mean, it seems crazy now to have ever bet against Mike, considering that the edit throughout the season didn't leave us with a whole lot of viable alternatives. And yet it seemed like such a long shot for him to go all the way, to keep winning challenge after challenge after challenge. It seemed inevitable that the ax would fall, and Carolyn would pick up the scraps, winning the million. However, that never happened. If anything, the opposite happened. Mike simply kept dominating, and so convincingly that it was hardly even close. Carolyn was his biggest threat towards the end, but the punishing nature of the final immunity challenge, in which the castaways had to repeatedly climb an impossibly high set of stairs, go down a water slide, maneuver through an obstacle course, untie bags, and solve a puzzle, made it difficult for anyone to really catch Mike. (Believe me, I'm exhausted just typing it all out) But saying that Mike was simply a challenge beast, and nothing more, does a disservice to his game. In fact, I'd argue Mike played a game that was far more well-rounded than the "gotta win challenges" edit he got.

'Survivor: Worlds Apart' Finale Review: Surprisingly Suspenseful Finale Concludes Season 30
Credit: CBS

On the one hand, Mike absolutely would have been voted out had he lost one of those challenges. On the other hand, the fact that he earned the respect of the jury for moves he made independently of winning all those challenges speaks volumes of the game he played. As Jenn said in her final tribal council speech, Mike was really the only person who Outwitted, Outplayed and Outlasted everyone. Carolyn played a fantastic game, to be sure, but I almost feel like it was a game that was too subtle to win, particularly with Mike there. The jury likes being able to see the moves, to point to each one and say, "This is what this person did. And this is why they're getting my vote." But Carolyn's game was largely for the cameras, it seemed. With Mike, what you saw was what you got, for the most part. With Carolyn? Well, people certainly felt like they could trust her, at first, but much like Mike at the auction, the overall trust in Carolyn began to erode with the Tyler elimination. That move seemed to indicate that, at a deeper level, she was playing a harder game than she wanted anyone to know. It read as duplicitous, whereas Mike's game read as far more straightforward. Although he was always on the chopping block after his boneheaded auction blunder, he managed to create friction in the rival alliance by illustrating, at crucial points, the hierarchy of that alliance. Each subsequent vote proved that he was, ultimately, correct in his assessment of who was loyal to whom, and which finalists were expendable to their alleged allies. Did it change the game? No. But it illustrated to the eventual jury that Mike was a keen observer, and was a straight-shooter with a mind for the game.

Mike Holloway wins Survivor Worlds Apart
Credit: CBS

Outside of the inevitable Mike victory, the finale offered up some all-time Survivor moments. For one, Carolyn and Rodney's tiebreaker fire-making challenge at Final 4 was the sort of nail-biting drama this show does best. The fact that Rodney came alive as a challenge competitor towards the end actually made things way more exciting, as he was giving Mike a run for his money on the final challenge in the early parts, in addition to nearly defeating Carolyn in the fire-making face-off. The reunion revealing that he actually would have gotten THREE votes (from Dan, Jenn, and someone I can't recall at the moment) was the biggest shock of the entire night, especially when you consider that Carolyn, who played a far superior game, in my opinion, ultimately only got one vote (from Sierra), tying her for second place with Will (who earned Rodney's vote). On the subject of Will, while he hasn't been the most popular contestant, I found his humility at the final immunity challenge pretty touching, particularly his final act, volunteering to place the immunity necklace around Mike's neck himself as a show of respect.

Survivor Worlds Apart Final 5
Credit: CBS

Smaller moments like those are the ones I love most about a Survivor finale, as it seems the humanity comes out in spades, the closer we get to the end. Case in point, Mike shedding tears during Shirin's final tribal council speech, in which she notes that Mike was her protector in her argument with Will. Or Mike apologizing to Dan for making him lose faith in their bond. Or Carolyn defending her game, or Will defending his with surprisingly passionate rationale. Those are the moments I loved, far more than Rodney lashing out at Mike after being eliminated, or Dan getting called out for his soundbites at the reunion show. Survivor is a game about people, about the connections they make, and about the deeper core of their personalities. The loved ones visits helped significantly in showing us the true hearts of each of the five finalists (with Mike's mother being particularly adorable, especially considering how close she and her son prove to be), while the final tribal council showed us their true acumen as competitors in this game. Some are more capable than others, of course, but this was a rare final tribal council where I didn't think any of the finalists embarrassed themselves with their performances, adding to the overall suspenseful nature of the final outcome, since you could see Carolyn and Will earning respect with some of their answers, while Mike stumbled on some of his. But, when it was all said and done, Mike won the game in a six-vote landslide to become the winner of Survivor Season 30. And I can't say it wasn't well-deserved.

Survivor Worlds Apart Mike Holloway wins, crowned Sole Survivor
Credit: CBS

"It's a Fickle, Fickle Game" was far more drama-filled than I was expecting it to be, allowing Survivor: Worlds Apart to end on a strong note. And, considering the iffy nature of this season and the unlikable nature of much of its cast members, that's a borderline miracle.

Congratulations to Mike Holloway and all the Season 30 finalists. And an extra congrats to the 20 returning castaways chosen for Survivor: Cambodia - Second Chance!

What did you think of the finale though? Sound off in the comments!

And if you missed the Survivor: Cambodia - Second Chance cast reveal, check out the list of finalists by following this link right here: ‘Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance’ Cast Revealed at Live Reunion Show

Also, if you missed the episode, check it out on CBS All-Access!

Lastly, for future updates, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTV

Thank you so much for joining me this season! I look forward to doing it all again when we come back for Survivor: Cambodia - Second Chance!