Survivor: Island of the Idols Finale Recap: Who Won the Big Money?

Survivor Island of the Idols Finale Recap Final Five

Survivor: Island of the Idols has been an extra stormy season and no, we aren’t talking about down-pouring cyclones. Racially-charged issues and sexual harassment allegations led to apologies and an early ejection, but as they say in the biz, the show must go on!

So which castaway walked off with a million dollar check and bragging rights as the newest Sole Survivor? Let’s dig deep and get into it.

THE FINAL FIVE FORGES ON | Following Dan’s abrupt exit (byeeee), five castaways were still in the running toward becoming America’s Next Top Model the next Survivor champ: Janet, Lauren, Noura, Tommy and Dean. Before we see reactions from our current contestants, of course we’re treated to a Rob-and-Sandra-retrospective where the two wax poetic about finding love, money and the thrill of a lifetime. But as soon as their celebratory glasses clink, a boat grabs the Final Five and away they go to the Island of the Idols. The former winners reveal the castaways will now live in Rob and Sandra’s jungle palace, which clearly looks like it was made with actual tools. It has a swing and food and everything you’d want if you were stranded on a desert island with four people who wanted you dead.

As the newbs get new buffs and scope out their new digs, Rob tells us that he hopes “someone’s been paying attention.” That someone is Tommy who’s been studying the images on his spanking new buff. He notices a picture of a machete which leads him on a goose chase all over camp. Tommy clues Dean in on what he found and shortly after, finds the next puzzle piece: a symbol that looks like the letter H. Dean takes this information and finds the symbol etched into one of the shelter’s bamboo beams. Nestled inside for his taking: a hidden immunity idol. Dean’s got a nullifer and an idol? I’m worried for Janet, you guys.

IMMUNITY IS NOW UP FOR GRABS | The first challenge is a relay race where contestants collect ropes to build a ladder. At the top of the climb is a table-top game we’ve seen before where gamers have to sink two balls into sockets while trying not to fall off the board. Tommy and Janet hang in and almost secure the win, but Dean ultimately sinks ball numero dos to win the coveted immunity necklace and secure his eighteenth-or-whatever advantage of the season. He chooses Noura to share his reward with (a steak dinner with tons of goodies), which surprises Lauren, but also clues her in on Dean’s intentions. Dean and Noura scheme about ditching Janet, but Janet is confident. She has an idol in her pocket that would’ve secured her a Final Four spot, but she has no idea what Dean has up his sleeve. (That nullifier basically means Janet is, well, screwed.) Unless someone has a different plan brewing…

TRIBAL COUNCIL | At Tribal, Jeff starts with Dean asking if there’s any sense of relief with immunity around his neck. (Only a bit.) Lauren talks about “pandemonium” around camp despite an easier camp life in their upgraded pad. Attention focuses in on Janet’s fire-making skills and that idol in her pocket perhaps gives her a little too much confidence. (Voting her out before the fire-making challenge is honestly a good play for everyone.) Before the votes are read, Janet plays her idol and Dean plays his nullifier correctly on Janet, leading to Janet’s 4-1 ouster. (Somebody please get Sia on the phone ASAP!) Real talk: Janet is a hero and I miss her already.

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR | With only one immunity challenge left, the attention turns toward the Final Four fire-making-twist. (For the record, I hate it.) Dean talks about his final-two deals with both Tommy and Noura and seems to think he won’t have to make fire come next Tribal. Tommy attempts to manipulate Noura by pretending he doesn’t know how to make fire, while simultaneously trying to turn her against Dean. And who even knows what Noura is thinking because she’s too distracted during her interview staring at Dean or dolphins or…OMG, it’s time for another IMMUNITY CHALLENGE!

Players have to stack letter blocks on a wobbly platform. The first person to spell “Island of the Idols” will earn a spot in the Final Three, bring one person with him or her, and doom the other two to the fire-making challenge. After seemingly countless drops and a whole lotta shaking, Noura wins her third individual immunity, officially making it to Day 39. Noura will face the jury.

NOURA’S BIG DECISION | Despite the fact that she has a million-dollar decision to make, Noura just wants to eat pineapple and have some fun. She then goes full Noura, doling out compliments to everyone and talking a mile a minute in a completely nonsensical fashion. (Producers have really captured Noura’s essence with their editing magic this year—kudos!) After we all age just a little bit, Noura tells the group that Lauren and Dean will be the (un)lucky Survivors going head-to-head in the next Firepalooza. Lauren is pissed. She immediately starts crying before having harsh words with Noura. She vows to use this newfound fire to…uh, make fire.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE | At the penultimate Tribal Council, Noura makes it official. She doesn’t want to risk her game by being “dumb enough” to bring her number one, Lauren, to the final. “She better hope I don’t come back. That’s all I have to say,” replies Lauren. Dean and Lauren both get a fire going—and fast!—but Lauren can’t get hers high enough. Dean’s rope burns through securing his spot in the finals; Lauren’s dream of winning crashes to the ground. (Did I mention that I loathe this new-ish Survivor rule? I did? Moving on.)

‘YOU CAN’T COUNT OUT NOURA’ | The fallen comrades segment may be long gone, but we still get to hang with the surviving three before they’re led to the slaughter that is the jury. The trio reminisces over how they played the game and how they feel achieving their dream. “I can conquer anything that comes in my path,” says Tommy. “This is the most proud of myself I have been in my entire life,” states Dean. “I did it the Noura way. That’s how you win the million, be a disrupter,” declares Noura. I don’t know when it started, but am I the only one rooting for Noura!?

THE JURY SPEAKS | The grilling begins and Dean explains his strategy of never wanting to be the smartest, loudest, most athletic, etc., person in the room. Noura takes heat from the jury for letting emotion take over her strategy. Tommy discusses how he always wanted to make people feel comfortable with him. He played the middle, keeping his ears open to both sides, while still making big moves. Dean takes shots at Tommy’s social strategy by highlighting Tommy’s broken promises; Tommy then fesses up to using Janet and Elaine as social shields, but tells Janet she changed his life.

Other Final Tribal notables: Tommy tells the jury how he conned Noura to get to the final, Noura talks about coming alive in the individual challenges, and Dean focuses on Tommy’s lack of advantages and immunity wins. “Anything you can do, I can do better!” blasts Dean. It’s a crossfire of words and clearly a battle between the two men (sorry, Noura). A rainstorm soaks the cast as the jury exposes Dean’s multi-alliance shenanigans. Are the tables turning against the front-runner? I honestly can’t even tell how this jury will vote.

SO WHO WON, ALREADY!? | The winner of Survivor: Island of the Idols is…Tommy!

What did you think of the Survivor: Island of the Idols finale? Grade the episode via the poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

GET MORE: Finales, Polls, Reality TV, Recaps