Who Wins Survivor 45 Spoilers

Spoilers for this season (and last) of Survivor As much as I love Survivor, I have been complaining for the last decade that mediocrity too often rises to the top. Players are so focused so early on taking out threats, often against their own interest, that many—or most—are removed by the time the show whittles its numbers down to the last five. This was true even of the wildly entertaining season 44 because, as fun and socially adept as Carolyn and Yam Yam were, they weren’t particularly great all-around players.

Season 45 of Survivor, however, felt as close to one of those old-school seasons as we’ve seen in a long time, and something almost miraculous happened: Two of the season’s best players made it to the end and appropriately came in first and second in the closest vote of the post-pandemic Survivor (Austin and Dee were one vote away from a tie). Dee did something we haven’t seen since the days of Parvati: She controlled the game without alienating everyone else. Dee was a huge threat post-merge, and everyone seemed to know it, but until the final vote, no one seemed brave enough to take her on.

What Dee, Austin, and Julie did this season is something we don’t often see anymore on Survivor: Instead of allying with weaker players they wanted to drag to the end to improve their chances, they aligned with each other and were secure enough in their ability to win at Tribal against stronger opponents that they kept their alliance alive until the final five.

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In the end, two of the biggest social, physical, and strategic players made it to the end, even as a showmance, which never happens on Survivor anymore. I’m still not sure how Austin never got a vote. I’m still not entirely sure why Katurrah put a vote on Julie instead of Dee in the final five. All the same, there was never a real threat to the Reba four until the final six (when Drew was voted out), and if Jake—lovable, useless Jake—had not stumbled upon an idol, the game’s other major threat, Julie, probably would’ve made it at least the final four, if not the end.

Katurrah had the best story; Emily had the redemption arc, and Caleb had the most joyful personality on the island this season, but Austin, Dee, and Julie maintained control over the game post-merge. In the end, it came down to Austin and Dee — the two who tied for most challenge wins with 10 — and Dee ultimately won for a very simple reason: She did not confide in Austin when Drew was targeted, while Austin did confide in Dee when Julie was. When Austin found out during the final Tribal that his own girlfriend had betrayed him, the energy immediately shifted toward Dee. Austin is hot, but $1 million is hotter.

Good for Dee.

— There was a lot of drama surrounding the final five because Jake had that idol and the advantage in that immunity challenge. Jake was a lost cause, but if he hadn’t messed up that puzzle by misplacing a piece (right next to him!), Jake could have the immunity necklace, given his idol to Katurrah outright, and changed the dynamic of the game. Jake would not have won, but if he’d taken out Dee, Julie might have.

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— So many lawyers this season! It was sweet that Julie and Jake (lawyers themselves) encouraged Katurrah to go to law school, though little did they know that she was a Georgetown law graduate and an NAACP lawyer. What I found most amusing, however, was Jake lying about being a defense lawyer when he was a prosecutor. What? Why?

— I had wondered all season long why two of the three lawyers lied about being lawyers, but after seeing all three make it to the final five, I guess I understand why now.

— In case you’re wondering, Austin and Dee are “keeping it low-key,” which sounds like Austin and Dee are no longer together.

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