Davie Rickenbacker could be the second person with Atlanta ties to win "Survivor" in its 37th incarnation. CREDIT: CBS

Did Atlantan Davie Rickenbacker win ‘Survivor: David v. Goliath’ season 37?

Originally posted Wednesday, December 19, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Nick Wilson, the Kentucky good ol’ boy, took home the $1 million in the 37th edition of “Survivor: David v. Goliath.”

This season was exceptional for many reasons, mostly because the cast was colorful and packed with strategic players. The standout: Christian Hubicki. But a half dozen others were delightful as well. 

The jury was ultimately impressed by Nick’s ability to scramble while being on the minority tribe for most of the game. He found Idols. He made friends and multiple alliances. While he lost some of his closest allies, he finished the game strong by winning three immunity challenges in a row.

That final kick probably helped him win over seven jurors to beat actor/producer/writer Mike White, who received three votes. Angelina Keeley didn’t have a chance and received zero votes. 

Nick Wilson, the winner of "Survivor: David vs. Goliath."

Davie Rickenbacker of Atlanta played a solid game, but he got upended by the same person who got rid of former Georgia Tech post-doc student Christian Hubicki last week: Mike.

Davie finished sixth, receiving all four Goliath votes. After his torch was snuffed, Davie promised he would vote for whoever orchestrated this move - unless someone tops it. (And yes, Nick won him over and he voted for him.) 

“I had a hellified time out here playing this game of Survivor,” Davie said right afterwards. “I don’t know who orchestrated the move but I’m satisfied with my ‘Survivor’ game. I want to see a good season. I want to see someone playing this game hard, hard, hard because that’s what I respect.”  

Indeed, Davie played a solid game across the board but once Christian was gone, he quickly became a target. In fact, he came across as a stronger player than Alison, another perpetual target. Mike convinced Angelina to switch her vote to Davie so there wouldn’t be a tie.

“The fan response this season has been overwhelming,” Davie said during the live show. “I wanted to speak particularly to the black audience. I wanted to make them proud because they don’t really watch ‘Survivor’ as much as they should! I wanted to change that!” 

He talked about how when he was eight years old learning about “Survivor” and wanting to be on the show. He said he was a “blerd” - a black nerd - in school and always chose to be himself, not what others wanted him to be. That led to him actually ending up on the show.

Jeff Probst admitted that Davie was not originally meant for this cast but 40 hours before the start time, someone else dropped out. They called Davie and asked if he could get on a plane quickly and fly to Fiji. He quit his job at the CDC and was off to the Pacific. 

In the end, he was a great contestant.

Davie’s departure left Nick in a serious bind. He was blindsided as much as Davie. He thought Angelina and Mike had promised he would be join them in the final three. As the last David, he felt like he had no one he could trust. 

“Put on your big boy pants,” Mike complained out of Nick’s ear shot. 

“He’s a child,” Kara said.

But at the next immunity challenge, Nick won his second one in a row, thanks to an impressive performance on two jigsaw puzzles. So he was guaranteed a spot in the final four.

Angelina, who had the immunity idol that had to be used that night, wanted to finally get Alison out once and for all. She tried to orchestrate it in a way that made her look the best in front of the jury. She wanted Kara and Alison to vote against her, then have their votes negated. 

Angelina also wanted to create a fake idol for Alison to find.
“We don’t need theatrics,” Mike said. 

Mike decidesd to tell Kara about Angelina’s grandiose plan. His opinion: “She’s like a cruel psychopath.” 

The final six on "Survivor: David vs. Goliath." CREDIT: CBS

Kara, up to this point, hadn’t been much of a strategic threat but she finally came to the realization that Mike was one to beat. Perhaps he should be blindsided.

“He is a threat to win and he could beat me,” Nick said. 
“Angelina’s not the threat. Mike is,” Kara reasoned.

Mike during tribal council didn’t help his cause by treating Alison with disdain when she called him a threat in front of the jury. “That is incorrect,” he said. “Anyway, whatever. To me, there’s something about leaving it all out on the island and leaving with a shred of dignity.”

That condescending remark made some of the jurors raise their eyebrows. Alison said he valued his relationship with Mike and Mike again utters, “Whatever.”

Alison played her fake idol - just in case - knowing it was fake. Angelina then made a big show revealing her idol, which was real. Gabby noted how much Angelina was making a big deal out of it. It’s fairly obvious Angelina will get few if any votes, making her an ideal person to place in the final three.

In the end, Kara’s blindside of Mike did not happen. So much for burnishing her resume. In fact, Kara changed her mind and voted for Alison, along with Nick. 

Instead, Mike and Angelina’s target Alison finally went home.

So the final four featured Nick and three Goliaths: Mike, Kara and Angelina. 

We jumped to the final immunity challenge, a reprise of a ball dropping challenge from a past season. It offered plenty of tension and required super concentration and timing.

Mike White during the final immunity challenge on "Survivor: David vs. Goliath."

Angelina and Mike dropped out first. But Kara didn’t last long either. Nick won three immunity challenges in a row. He was guaranteed a spot in the final three.

He got to pick one person who will be with him in the final three while the other two fought it out in a fire-making challenge. 

Nick picked Angelina because she was the player least likely to win. 

Angelina doesn’t realize how poorly she was perceived by others and that it made total sense to bring her into the final three because she could very well get zero votes. She somehow thought her amazing negotiating skills led to Nick’s decision. 

Mike was not confident of his fire-making skills. “I’m in this anxiety loop,” he said. “I have to summon my inner Goliath.” 

He did. He easily beat Kara in the fire challenge. 

So really it came down to Nick vs. Mike. 

In terms of strategy, Nick sold himself on his social game and getting rid of John but acknowledged he himself was blindsided by both the Carl and Davie blindsides. Mike had final two deals with several people. He also admitted his condescension toward Alison was uncalled for, that when she called him out, he got defensive. 

Nick had to scramble more than Mike because the Davids were usually on the defensive.

Gabby tried to throw Angelina a bone, noting that sexism can come into play during “Survivor.” Angelina also found an immunity idol near the end. Women, she noted, only get idols 15 percent of the time.

But surprisingly, Nick fashioned a better story at tribal council than Mike, who is a storyteller by trade.

Mike: “I never really felt too nervous. I wanted to play a good game. It wasn’t like I wanted to go to the end who wasn’t playing. I felt like I did play.” Ultimately, “what do I stand for? Every rainbow as a pot of gold at the end. It wasn’t about the pot of gold. It was the rainbow. Taking a risk, embarrassing yourself, having an adventure. I’m no saint. It was more about the struggle that this was a worthy endeavor to win this game.” 

Bottom line: he’s a rich man. He doesn’t need the $1 million. 

Nick noted that he was the only one who won more than one immunity challenge and that he is a natural people person. He played a well-rounded game. He noted that his mom died of drug addiction and he works to help others avoid her fate. “I had my slingshot and I had to find as many stones I could find,” he said, using the show’s thematics to the hilt. 

Bottom line: he really deserves the money. And he did. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.