Survivor 44 Finale: Which Castaway Won the Prize?

Survivor 44 finale
Pictured (L-R): The Jury: Matt Blankinship, Brandon Cottom, Kane Fritzler, Frannie Marin, Danny Massa, Jaime Lynn Ruiz, and Lauren Harpe at Tribal Council. Photo: CBS ©2023

The season finale of Survivor 44 airs tonight on CBS. Read a live recap here.

The final five castaways arrive at a new beach for the last few days of the game. Heidi played her hidden immunity idol at the previous tribal council. Heidi didn’t end up receiving any votes, but she doesn’t regret playing it. She’s the last Soka tribe member standing, and she wanted to secure her safety. She also believes she has built a good enough resume to win the game. The other castaways believe a new idol has been hidden, so they all go searching for it the next morning. No one finds it yet, but we see it’s hidden up in a tree branch. There is some talk about strategy. Lauren feels like she’s on the outs after her ally Jaime was voted out. Lauren says Carson is the biggest threat to win since he has voted correctly at each tribal council. Carolyn agrees, adding that he’s articulate and could win over a jury. Carson is aware he’s a target, and he hopes to win immunity today.

It’s time for the immunity challenge. They will race through a three-level obstacle course. They must collect keys, unlock a chest, release a ladder, and then solve a puzzle. The winner will also go to the sanctuary and enjoy spaghetti and cake. The challenge begins, and everyone is fairly even. Heidi and Carson have a slight lead, but Carolyn and Lauren are close behind too. Yam Yam falls behind as the challenge progresses. Heidi and Carson remain in the lead and are the first to start working on the puzzle. Carolyn ends up falling behind as she struggles to get her last key. Lauren and Yam Yam pass her, but Carolyn finally gets her last key. Carson is only a few pieces away and eventually solves the puzzle first. Carson wins immunity! He’s allowed to bring one person with him to the sanctuary. He chooses Yam Yam.

While Yam Yam and Carson enjoy their time in the sanctuary, they talk about the upcoming vote. Yam Yam wants to vote out Carolyn, but Carson is hesitant. Carson doesn’t believe Carolyn is a big threat. He wants all three Tika tribe members in the Final 3. Carson believes Lauren is a threat with friends on the jury. Carson wants Lauren to be voted out. Yam Yam is disappointed, but he doesn’t think he can change Carson’s mind.

Back at camp, Lauren tells Carolyn and Heidi that she believes Yam Yam and Carson will target her tonight. She hopes she will find the hidden immunity idol before tribal council. As they’re talking, Lauren tells Carolyn that Yam Yam threw out Carolyn’s name before the previous tribal council. Carolyn thought she was going to the end of the game with Yam Yam, but now she has second thoughts. She wonders if she should vote for Yam Yam tonight.

Carson and Yam Yam return to camp, and Yam Yam feels the tension. He says Carolyn looks mad, and Heidi and Lauren are looking at him awkwardly. Carson says he’s voting for Lauren regardless what discussions happen before tribal council. Yam Yam and Carson talk later, and they agree that the vibe around camp is weird. Lauren hasn’t even approached Carson to talk game. They speculate that Lauren could play a hidden immunity idol tonight. Yam Yam says the plan is to vote for Lauren tonight, but he wants to sway Lauren to vote for Carolyn tonight in case she does play an idol. Before tribal council, we see Lauren searching for an idol. However, we don’t see whether she finds it or not. Carson and Yam Yam talk one more time, and Carson is wondering if they should switch the target to Heidi instead. In his confessional, Carson says the vote is up in the air and anyone other than him could be voted out tonight.

It’s time for tribal council. Jeff asks if it was crazy back at camp. Lauren says it wasn’t. She candidly tells Jeff she will likely be voted out tonight. She points out how the Tika 3 will stick together. Lauren says no one would talk to her, but Carolyn and Heidi disagree. Carolyn is shocked that Lauren would say that. Carson says that Lauren didn’t approach him either, so something could be at play tonight. Heidi says anyone could have an idol, including Lauren. There’s speculation that Lauren could be pretending to be certain she’s going home, but she actually has an idol in her possession. “We’ll see,” Lauren says cryptically. Jeff says no one seems sure what’s going to happen tonight. Either a big move will be made, or it will be Lauren getting voted out. Yam Yam tells Jeff that Lauren is Plan A and he’s Plan B. He says he feels hurt for how the vibe back at camp was. Lauren tearfully says she’s proud to have come this far in the game and how much she’s grown from the experience. Afterwards, it’s time for the vote.

Jeff reads the votes. The first vote is for…

Yam Yam

Lauren

Heidi

Lauren

Lauren

Lauren is voted out and the seventh member of the jury.

It’s time for the final immunity challenge. Carolyn is overcome with emotion for making it to this point in the game. For this challenge, they must drop a ball into a spiraling contraption and catch it before it hits the ground. They will drop the ball back into the chute, as well as add more balls as the challenge progresses. If a ball falls to the ground, then they are eliminated. In addition, they must compete with one hand tied behind their backs. The last one remaining in the challenge will win immunity. The challenge begins. Everyone makes it to the stage that requires two balls in the contraption. Before they must add a third ball, Carolyn drops one of her balls. She is the first eliminated from the challenge. Eventually, the rest add a fourth ball. Yam Yam is the next to drop a ball. It’s now a showdown between Carson and Heidi. Who will win immunity? Carson drops a ball. Heidi wins immunity! Heidi is thrilled to have won her first immunity challenge, but she hints that she’ll consider giving up immunity to compete in the fire-making challenge.

The Final 4 return to camp after the immunity challenge. Heidi asks if anyone wants to make fire tonight, but she says she’ll make the decision that is best for her. Everyone starts practicing making fire. Carson isn’t very good at making fire, and he’s worried he could be eliminated from the game tonight. Yam Yam says it would be a good addition to his resume if he wins the fire-making challenge. He says it would be emotional if he’s forced to compete against one of his Tika allies Carolyn or Carson. Carolyn thinks she’s good at making fire, and she proves it by making a fire quickly. Yam Yam knows Carson isn’t good at making fire, so he helps him practice. While Yam Yam is teaching him, Carson breaks down in tears as he struggles making fire. Carson appreciates Yam Yam helping him, especially since it could be Carson and Yam Yam going up against each other in the fire-making challenge. Heidi is still undecided whether she will put herself in the fire-making challenge or not.

It’s time for tribal council. There will be no vote tonight. Instead, Heidi will decide which two will compete in the fire-making challenge. The loser will be the final member of the jury. Jeff asks Heidi her thoughts. She tells him she contemplated putting herself in the challenge or not. She’s still unsure at this very moment too. Jeff asks them if they made any pitches to Heidi. Yam Yam says it’s complicated. He’s confident in his fire-making skills, but he wants to be safe too. Carolyn says a lot of people came forward in wanting to make fire since they were confident in their skills. Carson admits he’s not as confident in his fire-making skills. He says it would be in Heidi’s best interest to put herself in the fire-making challenge. Jeff asks for Heidi’s decision. She first reveals that Carolyn is the first person safe tonight and won’t be making fire. She next reveals that Carson will be making fire tonight. Heidi also decides to put herself in the fire-making challenge against Carson. Yam Yam is safe and in the final 3. Afterwards, the fire-making challenge between Carson and Heidi begins. The first to build a fire that cuts through a rope and raise a flag will win. Heidi is the first to create a flame, but Carson eventually gets a flame for himself too. Heidi’s fire is growing bigger, but Carolyn and Yam Yam are still encouraging Carson from the sidelines. Heidi’s fire burns through the rope. Heidi wins the fire-making challenge! Carson is eliminated and the final member of the jury. Jeff gives Heidi kudos for winning the fastest fire-making challenge in Survivor history with a time of 3:02.

Before the final tribal council, we hear the jury’s thoughts on the Final 3. Kane calls Yam Yam perceptive. Matt says he was the middle man. Brandon says every move Yam Yam made was deliberate. Carson says Heidi put herself in a vulnerable position to take him out. He gives her kudos on the fire-making challenge. Danny says Heidi took out the king (Carson), which makes her the queen. Jaime says Heidi never gives up. Frannie says Carolyn proved a player can be both emotional and strategic. Lauren says Carolyn played well while being authentically herself. Jaime says Carolyn was “all over the place in the most masterful way.”

It’s time for the final tribal council. The jury will question Carolyn, Heidi, and Yam Yam before casting their votes for the winner. Kane says everyone’s votes are up in the air. He asks what he thinks their perception is and if it’s accurate. Yam Yam says he’s perceived as a happy-go-lucky person, but he doesn’t think he just followed Carson’s steps every way. Yam Yam says he knew how every single person was going to vote before tribal council. Heidi says she might’ve been perceived as a coattail rider, but she was trying to be strategic and integrate her social game. Carolyn says she was quirky, but she connected with Carson and Yam Yam early on. She was underestimated, but that played to her advantage.

Carson gives kudos to Yam Yam and Carolyn for building relationships, but he asks Heidi about her relationships. Heidi says it was harder for her since Yam Yam and Carolyn were on a high throughout the game, but Yam Yam disagrees. Carson agrees that Tika were at a disadvantage at the merge, but Heidi says Carson is just defending them. Danny wants to know how did Yam Yam and Carolyn use Carson. Yam Yam says he used him to get info, but he did that with everyone. Heidi is asked if she used anyone to her advantage, and Heidi says she used Danny as a shield to get herself further.

Frannie brings up emotional and intellectual players, but she says people can be both. She asks how they managed their emotions. Carolyn said she needed people to trust her. Yam Yam says people were bland with him. He would build relationships with them to figure out who to trust. Heidi wants to represent people who look like her, and that comes with a lot of responsibility. As a result, she’s used to controlling her emotions. Matt gives them kudos for being themselves throughout the game.

They ask about the challenges next. Carolyn thought she would do great at the challenges, but she had embarrassing moments. Carson gives Heidi kudos on the fire-making challenge. Heidi says she believes Carson was the brains behind a lot of the plans, and she wanted the credit for taking him out of the game. She thinks taking him out in the fire-making challenge will give her the best chance to win the game. Yam Yam says he’s not a physical person, but he tried to channel his athletic family to motivate him.

The last topic of discussion is strategy. Carolyn says her strategy was putting her trust in Carson and Yam Yam. She also played her idol on Carson to guarantee Danny was eliminated. Yam Yam says Carolyn didn’t need to use her idol since Carson wouldn’t have been voted out that night anyway. Danny asks for clarification too. Carolyn explains that she couldn’t trust how Lauren and Jaime were going to vote, and she needed to make sure Danny left the game since she viewed him as the leader calling the shots of the other side. Yam Yam says his strategy was getting people to help him vote out people who already wrote his name down. He’s not good at challenges, but he’s good at talking. Heidi says her strategy was to keep adapting to survive. Finally, it’s time for the vote.

Jeff reads the votes. The first vote is for…

Heidi

Yam Yam

Yam Yam

Yam Yam

Yam Yam

Yam Yam

YAM YAM WINS SURVIVOR 44!

It’s time for the reunion show. Jeff asks who voted for Heidi. Danny raises his hand. He likes big gutsy moves, and he appreciated how Heidi gave up immunity to take Carson out of the game. Frannie said Yam Yam swayed her with his narrative on how he maneuvered the post-merge game. Kane gives Yam Yam credit for gaining control and influencing the trajectory of the game.

Jeff asks about the idols and fake idols. Matt admits he realized he found a fake idol planted by Danny. Carolyn details how she planted a fake idol that was later found by Sarah. Jaime says she found her hidden immunity idol by the well while Matthew was with her. She admits she gave her idol to Kane in case of a Knowledge is Power advantage, and he ended up getting voted out with her idol in his possession. Jeff reveals to everyone that the idol Jaime found was actually a fake idol planted by Matthew. Matthew left the game with the real idol. Everyone is shocked and beside themselves to learn this.

Jeff says Yam Yam and Carolyn’s relationship throughout the game was fun to watch. He also points out Matt and Frannie’s relationship, and he asks them if a showmance developed between them. Matt and Frannie admit that they are a couple now, and everyone is excited for them.

Jeff discusses the physical and emotional aspects of the game next. Brandon details how bad he felt during a challenge that medical needed to tend to him. Kane says they push themselves with adrenaline since they’re “running on empty.” Carson gained thirty pounds before the show to give it his all. Jeff asks if anyone cried during the game, and everyone raises their hands. Lauren and Danny say the game forces them to deal with things without distractions, and Frannie says the game tests them in ways they never experienced before.

Jeff talks to Carolyn and Heidi about coming up short. Carolyn says she knew her biggest hurdle would be herself. Frannie tells Carolyn that she changed her life. Seeing how open and unapologetically herself Carolyn is has changed Frannie’s understanding of how to move through the world. Lauren agrees and tells Carolyn to be proud. Heidi is proud how she played the game. She wanted to show her family to do the best with what they’re given. Jeff talks to Yam Yam last. Yam Yam is so happy he can’t believe it. He says he’s made friends he’ll have for life. The finale ends with a preview for Survivor 45. We hear snippets of some of the new castaways’ backstories, and we see Bruce (who was medically evacuated on Day 1) will return for a second chance.

And that wraps up the finale of Survivor 44. Thanks for reading, and come back in the fall for Survivor 45!

About Steven Curtis 562 Articles
Steven is a graduate of the University of West Florida with a bachelor's degree in communication arts. He enjoys watching reality competition shows, such as American Idol, Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race.