Confessions of an Aubryholic: Dealing with the Kaoh Rong Outcome


The results of last weeks Kaoh Rong finale left many a viewer scratching their heads in the wake of Michele's victory. In particular the legion of Aubry fans were left wondering where exactly it went wrong for their favourite player, who despite losing a guaranteed vote in the jury elimination twist, still looked to be in pole position heading into final tribal council. In today's feature article Ozlet Nick Chester takes a closer look at the outcome of Survivor Kaoh Rong comparing Aubry and Michele's games and looking at the role the edit played in our expectations. Keep reading to find out why Aubry wasn't the sole survivor.

Survivor fans are prone to superlative. We quickly describe something we have just seen as the biggest and best – player, blindside, episode, challenge.  But in the aftermath of the Kaoh Rong finale I think its warranted to say that this is one of the most divisive outcomes amongst fans since Heroes vs. Villains. Many people were left feeling Michele’s story was underdeveloped, and Aubry was robbed of a win, and therefore the ending feels somewhat unsatisfying. I count myself as a big Aubry fan since the first episode so I would be lying if I said I was anything but bitterly disappointed to see her fall short of the title. But I am also a strong believer that there is no such thing as an undeserving winner and I stand by that – Michele earned it fair and square. But I would also be lying if I pretended I’m not left scratching my head. How did this happen? Aubry seemed to play a great game, and gave a very good final tribal council performance. What went wrong? How do we explain this outcome?

A Bitter Jury?

BitterJury?Were they bitter?

I very recently wrote a feature article on what jurors really want and I didn’t expect to be using it as an example quite so quickly. The thrust of my argument was that the jury aren’t really all that interested in the finalists. These people are chosen to play Survivor because they are type-A personalities, and a decent amount of ego comes with that. We have been treated recently to jurors generally voting for a winner who played the most obvious and correct strategic game, forgetting that it also happened to be the person the jury felt the most comfortable losing to. Because that is ultimately what it is about – the jury are deciding who they will be allowing to “beat” them. Aubry and Tai have now joined the ranks of people who didn’t win, and therefore the jury will see little difference in outcomes between the finalists and themselves. My theory is that for the likes of Scot, Jason and Debbie, who I am sure would all admit to having at least something of a big ego, that voting for Aubry is admitting she was better than them. A vote for Michele on the other hand, who didn’t make any outwardly big strategic moves is a statement that anyone can win if the right circumstances occur – thus taking away from the sting of their own win. If Michele won without doing anything particularly special, so could they. The end result is fairly random. An Aubry win is admitting her game was better – and she therefore did things they couldn’t to win. This may not be the case (and I’m sure they are unlikely to admit it), but any pretence that the jury vote dispassionately for the best player is naive – their votes are an expression of themselves and statement about their own game as much as, if not more than the finalists themselves.

Is Michele the New Natalie White?

NatalieWhiteIs Michele going to get the same shoddy fan treatment as Natalie?

The idea of an undeserving winner has raised its head once again. The audience backlash that occurred after Samoa when “Russell got screwed” was intense – and poor Natalie was made out to be a substandard winner. Michele must be feeling similarly. But the situations couldn’t be more different. First, it’s very clear why Russell lost. He had an abrasive and aggressive style that was hard to look past and vote for him to win. It’s also clear that Natalie had a deliberate strategy to let Russell dig his own grave, and sit next to him in the end to cash in on his mistakes. You don’t need to have a rap sheet of big moves when the person next to you has one so long that it’s unlikely to win them respect. Aubry seemingly was very pleasant and therefore I don’t think we can make this comparison to Russell. I think it’s probable that Aubry’s style was just not to the tastes of the Kaoh Rong jury. This is pretty unsatisfying, but a fact of life. I’m not sure she did anything particularly wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee her the win.  And Michele didn’t make any deliberate attempt to take Aubry or Tai to the end to win. Sometimes a jury just needs to ensure an underdog has done enough to justify their vote, and I think this is the case for Michele. To me, this makes her more similar to the likes of Jenna or Sandra.

A New Dawn

DawnShowing human emotions can be costly – just ask Dawn

I think we also have to look at what Aubry did that would turn people away  from voting for her, and if we are going to make a comparison to a former player, Dawn Meehan seems apt. I think Aubry and Dawn both had moments where they struggled with the game and the emotional toll it took on them, which they weren’t able to hide from other players. I think Dawn is a more extreme example and Aubry wasn’t overly emotional, but probably enough to irritate people. I think this also makes them hard people for alpha males like Scot, Jason, Reynold and Eddie to warm to. They are just too different and connecting on an emotional level is always going to be challenging. And as discussed above, I think it’s hard for such alpha males to consider losing to a Mormon mother or “nerdy” paranoid social media manager. I think both players also suffered from having a tight alliance that was unbreakable with another player. The difference here is that Dawn’s partner would eventually go on to beat her, whereas Aubry’s was unfortunately taken out of the game before she could cash in on it in a final vote.

The Problem With the Edit

AubryNarratorDid Aubry’s role as narrator lead to expectations of winning?

I don’t want to take a shot at the editors, who I think did an amazing job with this season. I think trying to show Michele’s social game is tricky. She also went to so few tribal councils and none before the merge. Survivor has always had a problem showing a female player with a good social game, if it isn’t in the Parvati mold of flirting to the top. However, I think it was inevitable that viewers would be drawn to Aubry as she was depicted on the show. Apparently Michele’s social game is what won her the game, yet we were shown how Aubry had a strong connection with Joe, and that her bond with Tai was so strong that Michele, who started the game with Tai and had two critical chances to be alone with him at the end of the game couldn’t turn him away from her. He even said they had no chemistry. So it’s easy to see why people struggle to see Michele’s social game as better given what we saw on the screen. The critical turning points in the game were nearly all seen through Aubry’s perspective and moments like the forming of the beauty women’s alliance and Caleb’s medevac that could have been shown through Michele’s view were not.  I appreciate that the story to be told was that Michele won the game on a great run of momentum toward the end of the game so early visibility was either unnecessary or not accurate. But winners with similar runs, like Chris or Fabio were better served through the course of the season’s edit. It’s not lost on me that Michele being a female probably has something to do with this. Whatever the rationale, it’s understandable that viewers are now confused and view Michele as undeserving, which is unfair on both her and Aubry.

The True Underdog?

MicheleMichele owned the underdog tag – and the end game.

The problem with an edited show like Survivor is that stories have to be told that are to some degree fabricated to explain the ending. I’m sure everyone in the game sees themselves as the underdog, and sometimes the person that can own this narrative the best can benefit from it the most. You only need to ask Mike, Fabio, Denise of Sandra how powerful that tag can be. To me, Aubry’s story was totally the story of an underdog, yet somehow Michele got to take this title by being down in the numbers late in the game. I’m really interested to know if Aubry made any attempt to claim the underdog tag. After all, she started the season off in a very rough spot, battling through early struggles to align with the right people to go deep into the game with. Many players battle back from losing allies, but Aubry is the only one to lose 2 of them to medical emergencies. One of them had an idol that could have saved her if she ever needed it to. She also wasn’t perfect – the crossing out of Julia’s name when she voted Peter out was a misstep, yet she recovered well to battle on in the game. And of course, by all rights, she should have been voted out at the final 4 but used a great social connection with Tai to save herself and then win a fire building tie breaker to advance in the game. That’s a pretty great story – and even with that, she controlled a number of the game’s key votes.  To put it simply, Aubry battled back from a number of setbacks, many of which were not of her making, and still made it to the end. Whether Aubry let Michele take the underdog tag knowingly, or if it got forcibly taken by Michele owning it better, it was used very effectively by Michele to get the votes she needed to win.

Embrace the Suck

EmbracethesuckShe didn’t win – but was great fun to watch all the same.

Ultimately, the season ended how it did and even as a big Aubry fan, I hope that in time, the viewers will accept that Michele is a worthy winner. As Cochran would tell you, timing is everything and Michele saved her best moments for last, when the jury were most able to see them. Winning a number of challenges (especially for someone who had an earlier weak performance that had her on the ropes) is also a big deal.  She deserves respect and congratulations for doing so. For us Aubry fans, we just have to accept that sometimes it doesn’t work out, and lets not rain on Michele’s parade. I for one am thankful that we got such a great season with Aubry at the centre of it. As much talk as there was about Tai being such a unique character, I think Aubry is every bit as unique. I think her story will be interesting to watch again in retrospect, knowing the outcome, and I fully expect we will see her back on a returnee season at some point. As Jason said earlier in the season, sometimes you have to “embrace the suck”, and seeing Aubry fall agonisingly short of winning really does suck. But it doesn’t change how fun the season was and Aubry was a major part of it. So give Michele her due and enjoy the role Aubry played in what has been a phenomenal season of Survivor.

Do you think the show did justice to Michele’s win? Was Aubry’s loss properly explained? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!


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23 Comments on Confessions of an Aubryholic: Dealing with the Kaoh Rong Outcome

  1. For me, I’m glad Michelle won. Possibly purely because I was sick to death with the number of seasons now back to back which have been so predictable at the end. I also have a feeling Michelle may have done more socially than her edit has shown, as the jury didn’t seem particularly bitter to me, and it just may have been Aubry had a more interesting game to air which the jury thought lost momentum at the end. Anyways, I guess it just shows you how much power the editors have over our view of the game.

  2. It was a case of 50% bitter jury plus 50% of michele luckily pinching the jury in their ride side.
    I just don’t get the fact that before they were put in the jury, everyone wants to take Aubry out cause “she’s gonna win” but then the fact she reached the final tribal council everyone decided, nope, she aint gonna win. It’s just the decision was mixed with bitterness. Just unfair for Aubry. I still think she is the deserving winner this season. But still, props for Michele and her performance in the FTC. She pulled it off.

  3. I think that in the case of Jason, Scot, and Julia (moreso Jason/Scot) not voting for Aubry it might be that she wasn’t open to working with them, whereas Michele was. I think that Aubry never was open to shaking things up and taking out Tai/Cydney/Michele who were big threats. Getting rid of ‘unlikables’ like Scot and Jason was probably a bad move in my opinion. I think Aubry played a great strategic game but her social game just wasn’t as good as Michele’s who was able to be open to everybody and manage the jury well. That’s a big reason why I think Aubry didn’t win. Should she have? Maybe. Either way it was a fantastic season and all of the final 3 could have won in my eyes.

  4. #ReturnOfTheBitterJury

    they are the 1st jury is 8 seasons to deny the best player the win. Mitchel was the new Natalie white because she did nothing but smile all game. Honestly she deserved 0 votes and its the worst ending since season 23.

    She owes aubrey 900k

    • Jordan Rose // May 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm // Reply

      Interesting you bring this up, as Jason (“Only Russell played Survivor correctly”) is a part of your “Bitter Jury”.

  5. I think Michele won purely because she was the pretty girl. Just like in life the Micheles of the world have an easier time even if they lack certain skills the Aubrys of the world have. Jason and Scot just couldn’t stomach voting for Aubry, the nerd they wanted to shove in the locker, over Michele the single, pretty girl. What baffles me is why the editors didn’t show Michele more. I understand her game didn’t come until late in the game but neither did Natalie Anderson’s and she was shown throughout and barely went to tribal council also. I wonder if the producers also couldn’t figure out why she won. I don’t buy her social game was superior because, as stated in the article, she couldn’t even get Tai to flip on Aubry.

  6. I was surprised at the winner, but not disappointed. For me, the final four contestants all played a good game and I was comfortable with any of them winning. I did feel like Michele would be second or third place, even after the final tribal council. But to see her win was refreshing. I agree that we’ve seen predictable winners in the past and to see the unpredictable pull it off is rewarding. Even in seasons where my favorite player gets voted out right before the finals, I still feel like whoever wins deserves it. That’s the beauty of this game. The jury picks the winner, not the fans.

  7. From what I’ve heard in post-finale interviews and social media, it seems that most of the jurors weren’t aware of Aubry’s moves and strong gameplay since she was so good at hiding it. She was a little too much “behind the scenes” to the point that no one saw what she was doing the whole time. In the jury’s eyes, Michele’s game was more visible, especially her social play. I’m sure looking back many of them wish they voted for Aubry but it is what it is. Michele’s a decent winner, I have no issues with her winning. I would’ve been more upset with Tai winning.

  8. Jason cleared this up on a podcast a few days ago. He said Aubry was incredibly secretive about how good she was playing, and basically left her entire strategy to be explained in confessionals. She was so subtle with her game that when she tried to explain it to the jury at the end, they didn’t completely buy it. The jury was in no way bitter (at least at the final three).They saw Michele speak her mind, win challenges, vote out a jury member and make good connections with just about everyone on the jury, whereas they saw aubry sliding on by. To me it is a completely different situation from Samoa and Michele completely deserved it.

  9. I think there would have been a very good chance of Aubrey winning, or at least have been a much closer vote had Tai not suck so much at final tribal. I personally think Tai played a great game, and Scott and Jason’s votes would easily have been Tai’s if he was able to articulate how he well he played his game despite having such a big target on his back for most of the season. That’s a 3-2-2 vote, and it easily could have swayed to anyone

  10. Aubry didn’t talk to Scot, Jason and Julia that much whilst Michele talked to them even when she didn’t like them. So they voted for who they knew over a stranger. Michele was aligned with Cydney since the swap so she voted for loyalty and that’s 4 votes and a win right there

  11. I was satisfied with Michelle winning this and after final TC I really understand how she did it. Aubrey didnt really own her moves and after that speaches i would also gave my vote to Michelle. She was likeble J.T sitting next to awkward Stephen.

  12. Jason has since the FTC, that after “seeing” Aubrey’s game, he would now vote for her. Her problem is she kept her strategizing under the radar from fellow tribe mates and jury members. Makes sense some. An unfortunate case of different perspectives, those who are on the jury, what they DON’T see and what the fans who see the show as it airs, are seeing. .

  13. I think Michele is a satisfying winner. I knew from the get-go that Aubry is gonna be Cagayan Spencer. Likeable, fan fave but not going to win. And my pick from the beginning are Michele, Anna or Cydney. Once Anna’s gone. I’m positive that It’s either gonna be Cydney and Michele.
    As much as Aubry is a very entertaining player. Michele played the most effective game. She showed once again the importance of social game. She kicked ass at the end winning challenges and solidifying trusts. She put herself back to the majority after voted against the majority. Voted out Julia to impress the majority and for them to trust her. And voted Neal out which is much more effective instead of voting Joe because Neal will vote for Aubry and will tear Michele apart. Michele played an amazing game.

  14. RB Liljestrom // May 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm // Reply

    I loved the season but it was either a shitty winners edit or a Fabioesque winner. Possibly a combination of both. Out of the 6 tribal councils she attended she only had a hand in voting out 2 people. She’s not the worst winner ever but by the edit she’s in the bottom 10. Top 10 luckiest winner for sure. Attending only 6 tribal councils and on the bottom of her two major alliances. Her biggest move was taking out her biggest ally when it was a foregone conclusion Julia was her alliances obvious target. The reunion was dreadful. Beyond dreadful. I didn’t know Cousin It from the Addams Family had a sister. Who the fuck is Sia?
    Never heard of her and she’s probably a lovely person but I don’t give 2 flying fucks about her hero worship of Tai. Who didn’t love Tai the cock whisperer? Him and his chicken were a big part of the season. I thought for sure Jason was going to chop the head off of Mark, eat him and put his head and bones on Tai’s pillow. I wanted to hear from Cydney and get Jennifer’s take on her ear worm. I don’t think this was a top 10 season but it’s real close.

    • I think Jeff said that the whole Sia thing was unplanned and he explicitly regrets not being able to talk to Cydney on twitter.

  15. Michele’s win has more to do with her momentum with the jury then the jury being bitter. It starts with the Julia vote out. Michele has immunity and votes out Julia. She appears visibly remorseful but still does it. Next tribal she verbally eviscerates Tai in front of the jury. Then Joe goes home and the next time Michele appears in front of the jury she again has immunity. And finally she appears with the vote cancel. She had been showing up victorious at the last 4 tribals. I loved Aubry and Cydney and was rooting for them, but I will defend Michele’s win.

  16. Idc what anyone says buy both Michele and Aubry deserved to win in different ways. I loved both of them and didn’t care who won. It was a good winner and runner up with a robbed 4th place queen. Michele played great and was nothing like Natalie White. Aubry was an amazing player as well, but just didn’t win. We need to give Michele more credit. I want the Michele haters to go back and focus on her game after the merge. You’ll see how well she did with her social game.

  17. I think something people forget is that even while Aubry got unlucky with Joe and Neal being medevaced, had Neal not been evacuated, she would have probably gone out then. So I feel both her and Michelle had a bit of luck with medevaced, even if Aubry;s was kinda a loss as well.

  18. I’m sorry but I despise anyone who says Michele is a sucky winner. Michele owned that final episode!!!! I find it really annoying how people always base who should win off of edit. It’s like after the first couple of episodes, people decide on their minds who’s gonna win and who won’t win. I love Aubry and I think she played one of the best games in recent survivor seasons. But Michele is also deserving. People tend to overlook the social aspect of the game and the final tribal council when really, that could be the difference between winning and second place. Just because the so called “best player” doesn’t win, doesn’t mean the jury is bitter. Michele deserved to win!!!

    • RB Liljestrom // June 1, 2016 at 11:43 pm // Reply

      Anyone who wins this game is deserving. It’s an incredible feat and they should be applauded. People like myself who are critical of Michele are probably placing too much emphasis on her MEH edit. She was great at challenges and her social game was top notch. However, what control did she have in the game? What was her biggest move? You can’t say getting rid of Julia because she was going regardless of what Michele did. Her biggest move was getting Neal off of the jury. I may have to rewatch to fully appreciate her game but from what I’ve seen she’s in the bottom 10 of winners on my eyes.

  19. I’m going to all the Aubry edit, ‘Mama C 2.0’.

    As we were nearing the end of ‘Worlds Apart’, with America’s pick right around the corner, a lot of us felt that whoever won, between Mike and Carolyn, the other one was going to be a shoe-in to return for Survivor: Second Chances. But here’s the thing, Carolyn’s edit throughout the season was minimal since the big edit went to underdog winner Mike. You could say Carolyn was robbed of the edit that would lead to her being voted into Survivor: Second Chances. (Had Mike lost the season, his edit would have made a second chance certain)

    I see Aubry’s edit as a course correction. It wasn’t a winner’s edit in this case, because they knew she wasn’t the sole survivor, it was a returnee’s edit. I’d say they were already looking towards the next ‘America’s vote’, setting Aubry up as a memorable player that we’d want to see again. They didn’t want her to be the next Carolyn…

    Oooh, let’s see an article about the role of the edit over the years, see if there is a shift from an edit that sells us a winner to an edit with an agenda in this era where the viewer is being called to cast the show once in a while! =)

  20. Aubrey went up against most of the Jury. She conviced Tai to flip. There goes Jason, Scot and Julia. Nick was never with Aubry and he liked Michelle. She did not want to vote Tai out so she went to fire with Cydney. Right there is why Aurby did not win.

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