With Survivor: Winners at War well underway, fans are starting to place bets on who will be the ultimate winner of Season 40.
Many have their eyes set on Michele Fitzgerald as this season's winner. A champion of Survivor: Kaoh Rong, Michele's win was marred by controversy, as fans challenged her win over Aubry Bracco and suggested Michele didn't play as strong of a game.
The gossip and trash-talking made it hard for Michele to even enjoy her victory, but now that she's back on screen for Season 40, she's proving she deserved her win the first time around, and she's ready to do it again.
What controversy was Michele involved in?
When Michele was announced as the winner of Survivor Season 32, many fans were appalled by the fact that she got three more votes than Aubry. Viewers felt that Aubry had played a much more aggressive and strategic game, and that she deserved to win over Michele.
During the Kaoh Rong season, Michele started out on the Beauty tribe, and spent the majority of the first half of the game in the shadows. She herself admitted that she came into the game weak, and blamed her weakness on the fact that she was in the ill-defined Beauty tribe.
But Michele stepped up during the second half of the season and proceeded to play a levelheaded game without angering any fellow jury members too much. Her social game paid off, and with the help of a last-minute twist in which she gained the power to vote out a jury member before the final vote was cast, she won the final Tribal Council and beat out fan favorite, Aubry.
The Aubry vs. Michele debate, explained.
The debate about whether Aubry or Michele was the deserved winner of Kaoh Rong will probably last forever. Aubry made many more moves during the game than Michele did, taking risks and forming alliances strategically. She was an extremely shrewd player who struck a balance between appearing to be non-threatening, while also revealing that she was pulling strings behind the scenes.
Michele, on the other hand, basically went into the game as a pretty face that audiences expected to see voted out early. However, once she started to really get into her role in the tribe, viewers were quick to realize that she was exceeding all their expectations. See for example, the time she ruthlessly betrayed her best friend, Julia.
While this kind of behavior would have labeled many other players as untrustworthy backstabbers, the moved worked in Michele's favor, as fans realized she had both beauty and some brains.
Even Jeff Probst weighed in. "I love that [fans] have opinions, and I actually agree with them...I think had the audience voted, Aubry wins, he told Entertainment Weekly. "I also think had the show been structured differently and the jury could see all the moves that Aubry was making, she wins."
Unfortunately, the controversy really didn't do any favors for actual winner, Michele. When she joined the rest of the world in watching the playback of her season, she began to take a lot of the fan criticism to heart and began to second-guess her entire performance. "It's sad to say that that really impacted my experience, but it did," she confessed in another interview with Entertainment Weekly.
That's why this season, Michele won't be letting the fans or viewers get her down. She said of being on Winners at War that "this time, I want to go in and no matter what happens, I'm going to enjoy every single step, because most people don't get a chance to have a do-over, and I am lucky enough to have that."
We wish Michele and the rest of the cast in Fiji the best of luck and may the best "outwit, outplay and outlast!"
New episodes of Winners at War air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.