*Spoilers ahead for the entire 44th season of Survivor.*
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Survivor has been for the gays ever since Richard Hatch walked his naked *ss to a win way back on the reality competition show’s first season—23 years ago.
But we’ve been especially obsessed with Survivor 44, which kicked off in March, and featured one of the long-running show’s queerest casts ever.
Well, this week, the tribe has spoken once again, and we’ve got our exciting new winner: Yamil “Yam Yam” Arocho, the first-ever QPOC to claim Survivor victory!
Survivor 44‘s historic winner
The 36-year old salon owner from San Juan, Puerto Rico deftly balanced the show’s social game with its strategic game, claiming a decisive win with seven votes for the jury members/his fellow castaways. (Meanwhile, the runner-up, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, made a strong case for herself, but only wound up with one vote.)
Actually, Arocho’s win has made all sorts of history. As writer Mike Bloom noted on Twitter, he is the first-ever player from an American territory to win, the first LGBTQ+ victor of the series in 15 years, and the single player with the most “confessional” clips in the “new era” (post-pandemic hiatus) of the show. In other words, the show knew he was a star, and gave him all the screen time he deserved.
Congrats, Yam-Yam! You really did outwit, outplay, and outlast with the best of them!
The Tika Three steal the show
But it’s impossible to talk about this season of Survivor without also mentioning Arocho’s partners in
crime scheming, who were all initially in the same Tika tribe: Carolyn Wiger, the 35-year old drug counselor from Minnesota who is proudly pansexual, and Carson Garrett, the 20-year old NASA engineering student from Atlanta.
Together, they became the “Tika Three,” a.k.a. The Three Stooges—undeniably Survivor 44‘s most fascinating characters who drove much of the season’s narrative.
At the beginning, this trio struck up a fast friendship, and managed to stick around despite Tika’s underdog status, while many of their fellow tribe members were sent packing. Playing the numbers game, this should’ve made them easy targets when the tribes merged at the season’s midpoint, but Arocho, Wiger, and Garrett wheeled and dealed their ways to the finale, all without double-crossing one another (for the most part).
Carolyn, the people’s champion
If Survivor was voted on by the fans, there’s no doubt that Carolyn Wiger would’ve snatched the crown.
From (literally) the first seconds of the season, Wiger was the breakout star, and it all came full circle in the finale, ultimately placing third. Though she received zero votes for the win from the jury, she certainly earned the respect from her peers and the viewers at home by playing an emotionally vulnerable—but still incredibly savvy game—subverting everyone’s expectations.
Survivor superfan Sia (yes, the pop star!) even picked Wiger as her favorite, awarding her a $100,000 cash prize, as is now a strange but welcome tradition.
Along the way she became an icon, meme’d the world over, and a surefire slot at the top of the casting list the next time Survivor‘s looking to do an all-star season.
Carolyn, you’re a star, baby! We’ll follow you anywhere.
Goodnight, sweet twunk prince Carson
And though he ultimately came up just shy of the final three, Carson Garrett proved himself to be a real force in the competition, an incredibly strong game-player, and a new crush to thousands of viewers watching at home.
Bespectacled and with floppy brown locks, Garrett introduced himself to the world as an out and proud “space nerd,” but rather quickly revealed he was a secret hottie, too. Gay Twitter™ will never be the same.
This over-achiever came to the island prepared. Much has been made about the fact that, prior to the competition, he practiced for Survivor‘s many inevitable puzzle challenges by 3D-printing versions of them at home.
Similarly, Garret went into intense physical training mode prior to the show, putting on 30 pounds of muscle in just three months. Recently, he even posted a video sharing his bulking regimen, if you’re curious:
His time on TV might be over (for now), but the little sweetie captured our hearts. Just look at the way he stage-mom’s his way through his pal Carolyn’s plea to the jury—we have no choice but to stan.
And, with that, we’re officially snuffing the torch of Survivor 44. It’s been a total blast, which proves once and for all: Things are always more fun with the gays around!
Carson is all twink, not twunk
Haven’t watched it in years but congrats to Yam Yam Arocho!