Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Survivor 43.
After watching the Survivor 43 season finale, many fans took to social media to post about their shock. Mike Gabler’s claim to the title of Sole Survivor shook the Survivor fan base after he seemed like an unwinnable contestant based on both “edgic” and gameplay.
However, by the final tribal council, Mike “Gabler” was able to get the jury into his pocket and bring home the title and the $1 million prize.
Although Gabler decided to donate his $1 million to the Veterans in Need Foundation, he is still the winner of Season 43 after beating out Cassidy Clark and Owen Knight.
In fact, Gabler had almost a perfect game with his name never written down prior to the Final Tribal Council, and just one vote shy of a complete shutout. Gabler spoke exclusively with Distractify about how he secured the win, the hardest parts of the game, and what he’s up to now.
Gabler won ‘Survivor 43’ by playing his “AlliGabler” strategy as well as by playing “like a farmer.”
The jury explained after the votes were read that they were looking for each of the contestants to say certain things about their gameplay, and they wanted Gabler to show that he’s not just a kooky guy, but that he knew what he was doing.
And after we spoke with him at Distractify, that’s clearly the case. “I am a colorful character,” Gabler told us exclusively.
“So they chose to show me putting palm fronds on people, which I did, and it was funny. But there are other things that were left out like the Ride or Die Alliance with me and Jesse and Cody, or me and James actually had a very close relationship throughout the whole game until he had to go," he said. "I even gave him my idol to use for himself at the vote, but at the last minute, I had to take it back. Because I was like, ‘Bro I gotta show this to Jeanine so she doesn't play the idol for Elie.'”
While Gabler’s strategy was clearly under the radar, he made the right connections with the right people in such a way that he knew they would vote for him in the end.
“My favorite players are Rupert and Sandra,” he shared, who are both old-school players from Pearl Islands. "Sandra was obviously like, ‘Anybody but me anytime.’ And I kind of changed that strategy, where it was ‘Any threat any time they're available.'"
In doing so, Gabler was behind taking out some of the biggest threats in the game.
He said that he also played “like a farmer” by "planting seeds." We saw a few of those clips throughout the season, such as when Gabler told Karla that Cody and Jesse were dangerous, or when he told Cassidy and Jesse that maybe their games were too similar to their number one allies.
"A good assassin doesn't show up at the king's castle with an ax saying I'm here to kill the game,” he explained. "You have to slip in, poison the soup, and slip out,” which is exactly what Gabler did time and time again. “Seven out of eight votes don’t lie.”
Now, Gabler is living his best life and continuing his work as a heart valve specialist.
Although Gabler, who works as a heart valve specialist, looks like a new and improved man after we last saw him out on the island, he said that he was tired from celebrating the night prior. “Everything's been good since Survivor, since everything aired,” he said. “It’s been amazing. Survivor’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Gabler described being on the island as being an avatar in a game that you’ve been playing your whole life, but now, you’re really inside of the game.
“Survivor is such a powerfully raw experience where I really got to go deep into me,” Gabler revealed. “I'd go to sleep for an hour or two and then the crabs would come in and start crawling, wake me up and then I would stay there looking at the stars. And think about my wife, my family, my parents and I spent a lot of time going deep into Gabler and I came back wanting to be a better father, son, brother, friend, everything.”
Donating the $1 million is his first step, but what else is he doing? For starters, he’s gaining back the 38 pounds he lost in just 26 days. He’s now back to 100 percent, and joked that the first few weeks back were “awesome” because he could eat anything and everything.
“It's like midnight and I’m like I feel like eating macaroni and cheese,” he joked. “Now I'm like, pump the brakes, back to normal now.”
Winning Survivor was truly life-changing for Gabler, and now that he’s back to himself, he’s in a position to change the world too.