Survivor 43 — Season Finale Reaction

7 min readDec 15, 2022

And that’s Survivor 43… who could’ve guessed who came out with victory! I don’t know how to feel about it! Was everything a lie! Alligabler! Let’s unpack!

Karla Tries To Cause Chaos To No Avail

Final five is pretty clear cut targets-wise. Everyone sees Jessie as a big threat to win because of the big move he pulled against Cody. Everyone is also still honed in on voting out Karla as her strategic game is well respected by everyone in the jury. So the immunity challenge is a huge deal, and despite Karla snatching an advantage right under Owen’s nose, Owen is able to pull out the victory. That quietly set up perfectly for Jesse: as a prime target tonight it makes the secret idol he had in his pocket much more effective. He pulls it out in tribal council, breaking Jeanine’s brain, setting the tone for the vote.

Meanwhile, Karla was really scrambling to make sure people were voting for Jesse and not her. It got especially tense between Karla and Cassidy, as Karla was pushing for Cassidy to do what she wanted and Cassidy felt she needed to vote out Karla to bolster her game. Karla was going as far as to say to Cassidy that she would campaign against her in the jury, which means that conversation was probably a lot more fiery than we saw on the screen. Once Jesse pulled out the idol however it was curtains for Karla, and a hastily put together live tribal council couldn’t save herself. Karla finished with an overall good game and definitely gained the respect of her fellow castaways, regardless of how her game broke apart at the very end.

Jesse’s Firemaking Heartbreak

With Karla out of the way there was now only one favorite left in Jesse and his resume was heads and shoulders above the other three players remaining. But as beautiful as Jesse’s game has been all season there were two weaknesses he had that reared its ugly head. One: Jesse was bad at challenges. From the physical to the mental to the dexterous, Jesse struggled, and in the final four challenge he was out of it from minute one. The other weakness became clear after Cassidy pulled out a huge win. Jesse’s firemaking skills were passable but not exceptional, and he got washed by Gabler at the firemaking final four (To be fair though, Gabler got that fire done in four minutes… that’s fast). It’s an incredibly emotional exit for Jesse, a man who put together a fantastic strategic and social game and who the jury wanted to see win the game. With such a strong game that couldn’t be closed out, I would write Jesse’s name directly into the next returners season to see if he can prove it with some of the best.

Cassidy’s Stock Crashes Like Crypto

This final three looked to fall perfectly in the lap of Cassidy. The big hitters are out which left Cassidy, who was on the right side of the vote all season, going up against Owen, who was a perennial outcast with no positive moments to his name, and Gabler, whose been strategically silent since the merge. It should be a perfect moment for Cassidy to stake her claim on the million dollars. But the final tribal council played out very differently. The jury wasn’t looking at Cassidy as quite the strategic powerhouse as she thought she was, and her answers just didn’t carry the same punch as the more passionate Gabler, or even Owen in my eyes. The momentum Cassidy had gotten from her final immunity challenge win was sucked away and she only received a single vote from her former ally James.

One factor that you can definitely point to now in hindsight is the decision to not volunteer herself to take out Jesse in firemaking. It seems this would have been the one move to make to put her stamp on the season and earn the complete respect of the jury. There was no highlight move for any final three to point to in their argument except for Gabler’s crusade against Elie, which definitely bolsters his stock. She is right that she didn’t have to put herself at risk since she won immunity, but it looked like the jury (especially Jesse) wanted to see Cassidy step up for her winning moment and she didn’t. She also might have been bolstered as a stronger player than she really was by the edit because of her adjacency to Karla and the constant targeting of her in the post merge. It made Cassidy seem like a bigger player than she really was.

All in all, this is crushing for Cassidy’s legacy for the season… this has got to be a tough pill to swallow to lose to a person she felt was easy to beat.

The Alligabler Rises to the Surface

And the winner of Survivor 43, coming out of left field to swoop in at the final moment, is none other than Gabler. He put together a great jury performance validating his passive gameplay, and the jury looked to be more excited to vote for the uniqueness of Gabler over Cassidy and Owen. He really was the Alligabler: he made his move at the merge to get Elie out, went underwater and stayed low while making connections with strong players, and rising up to swoop in at the very end with a firemaking win and an eloquent explanation of his thought process in the season. He’s one of the few players we can say won the game at Final Tribal Council… but the immediate impression is that Gabler is one of weakest winners in recent memory. For me it’s right at the bottom of the new school era with Fabio and Chris Underwood. Gabler really did the least and earned the most… and the great players of the season Cody and Karla were merc’d by Jesse before he fell short at final four.


The L I V I N Award: Gabler Donating the Money

With all that being said, I admire Gabler’s decision to donate all the winnings to a cause he really cares about. That’s so cool to me that he is giving it all away, only keeping the title of Survivor winner and the memories of his time on the island. It takes a big man to see that check and be so generous with it, and I hope that people can follow his example in whatever way they can to pay it forward in their own lives. I know I was moved.

The Kodak Moment Award: Jeanine’s Reaction to Seeing Her Idol in Jessie’s Hands

The hands down best moment of the episode. She’s cemented herself in the Survivor history books with an all-time shocked face.

The J.D. Robinson Superfan Oversaturation Award: Owen

The Charlie Brown of Survivor 43 went home a loser (not a failure though… thanks Jeff) and a goat. Owen’s one strength was in challenges and he never found any traction in the strategic game. His jury pitches were filled with how much he failed which doesn’t spell well for victory. As a character I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again as he follows the trend of recent “superfans whose personality is how much they love Survivor” castaways, which is getting old.

The Returner Heat Check


Jesse put together a Rick Devens season. He won over the hearts of the jury but fell just inches short, so I think you can pencil him in for the next returner season. I think Survivor also loves Noelle’s story and shining positive personality, and she also backed it up with some good ideas strategically. Cody has L I V I N tattooed on his buttcheck. And Cody was the most unique personality on the season, coupled with a strong game, coupled with a brutal exit at the hands of Jesse. I think he’s the least likely to be back on his own merit (he rarely spoke on the jury which is a big detail to me and he doesn’t have the same level of inspirational story Survivor loves right now) but if Jesse is on they will pencil Cody in too to have that history,


She got the second most shine as a strategic player behind Jesse. I think the show likes her too. Personally I’m fine with Karla being a one season player because I think she falls in the Ricard category. Not a particularly scene-stealing personality, but had a strong enough first season from a gameplay perspective to garner another chance.


Three of these players didn’t do enough on the season to guarantee another chance, but I think there’s potential for a breakout sophomore season in each. Sami and Cassidy are young and could flourish with maturity and growth with a second chance. Elie’s my early boot pick for a second chance as she was a big character early on. And Gabler won the season so that always gives him a chance for another go if the format is right, but as winners go he just feels like a one season guy. After his incredibly passive gameplay I don’t think anyone’s clamoring for more of the Alligabler. He should go out on top and leave it at that.


The “How in the world did they make a Game Changers cast?” tier of players. I don’t think they deserve a second season, but maybe Survivor wants to reach out to them if a few players they actually want back say no to the call.

NO WAY: Owen, Ryan, Dwight, Gio, Lindsay, Nneka, Justine, Morriah


Survivor 43 is over. Final impressions of the season: it ended up being good. Had some strong moments from start to finish, high level strategy, and some good challenges. My main complaints are a somewhat underwhelming cast filled with motivational speakers, a weak winner, and constant reveling in “selling Survivor” and inspiration porn at all times. Expect me back for Survivor 44! Until then, enjoy the offseason!




Reality TV connoisseur writing about the shows I like, especially Survivor. I also watch the Challenge, the Bachelor, Love is Blind, and more.