Read on to find out the winner of season 42 but be warned of spoilers.
And the ‘Survivor 42’ Winner Is…
Maryanne Oketch, who is just the ninth person of color to win “Survivor” and, minus Erika Casupanan last season, the first woman to win since Sarah Lacina in season 34. She is also the first black female to win since Vecepia Towery in season 4, “Marquesas,” almost exactly 20 years ago (the finale date was May 19, 2002), and only the second black female winner overall.
Quite surprisingly, she is also the second Canadian winner in the show’s history, coming right off the heels of Erika, despite seasons 41 and 42 only having four combined Canadian representatives. Both hail from the Greater Toronto Area. Canada is basically 2 for 2 now.
This is not the only way in which Maryanne’s win mirrors Erika (whom she, of course, did not know existed at the time of filming). Her win, like Erika’s, was also nearly unanimous, and both are lifelong superfans who have dreamt for many years of appearing on – and winning – the acclaimed show.
After her nearly unanimous win (we have to presume the lone stray vote came from fourth-place finisher Jonathan Young), Jeff also dropped the bomb that the live reunion would take place in the jungles of Fiji too. There, Maryanne, still reeling from her surprise win, said that she was at first nervous during Final Tribal, because she wasn’t being asked many questions. “But honestly, I knew that the pivotal moment would be telling [the jury] about my idol,” she said, “because I knew that compared to other people, I didn’t play a big strategic game.” She couldn’t help but add, “I still can’t believe this is happening.”
Later on, Probst spoke about how, when he met Maryanne for the first time, he knew she would be television gold, but never expected her to play the game the way she did:
I remember meeting you, I remember the first time we spoke, and I remember thinking, “She’s gotta be on the show!” … What I didn’t know about you, or didn’t expect about you, is how good you would be! I think you were really good at this game, I think you worked people at the right time, I think you used your charm maybe more than you’re saying. I think you were a very impressive winner.
Maryanne responded by revealing that she never even considered that she might actually win until shortly before she came out to the game. Reflecting on what it was like in the beginning, Maryanne said:
It still feels like this isn’t happening. I feel as if it’s like, I always knew that I was going to go on the show, but I remember going and literally leaving and writing my bucket list and having my sister look at it, and she’s like, “Why isn’t winning on this bucket list?” And I truly didn’t think I was going to win … I was already thinking about all my cool jury outfits … because until, like, the day before I came out here, I didn’t think I had the ability to win
Then to still pull it out and be able to win, it’s like when I told you how I [felt] like I’m dreaming at the marooning; it feels like I’m dreaming right now.
The Finale Breakdown
Maryanne started out the finale on a high after voting out Omar, her first real move in the game (likely her winning move, given that if she sat next to most of the Taku 4, she probably would’ve been drowned out by their strategic dominance).
Maryanne never won a single individual challenge, but she didn’t have to, as her strategic and social game did the work for her. After making the difficult choice of not playing her hidden immunity idol (which was indeed hidden from the rest of the cast) for her ally Lindsay Dolashewich, the latter was voted out unanimously at the final 5. From there, Maryanne cruised to victory after Romeo Escobar, winner of the final immunity challenge, decided to take her to the end, and she was able to present her case best against her opponents: Romeo and Mike Turner.
In essence, though she didn’t label it as such, Maryanne played a similar “lion dressed as a lamb” game to Erika’s; underneath her upbeat and bubbly personality was indeed a secret strategic mastermind all along; and for a while it seemed as though Maryanne was able to hide it just as effectively from the audience as she was from the cast. But despite everyone – herself and Probst included – not thinking she had a chance when it all started, the 23-year-old student proved herself a worthy winner in the end, not least by giving, again like Erika, one of the best Final Tribal Council performances we have seen in a while.