We’ll all find out Wednesday.
So far, the 24-year old Unicoi County native has outplayed, outwitted and outlasted his way into a 1-in-6 chance at the big prize, and along with his bride Carly, won the hearts of “Survivor” fans everywhere.
In Los Angeles with his family for the season finale, live reunion broadcast and final tribal vote tally, Whitson told the Johnson City Press this week it’s the moment he has waited for his whole life.
Win or lose, the lifelong “Survivor” fan said his big takeaway from the game will be the all-new appreciation for the important things in life he gained during his 37 days as a castaway in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji.
In an email response to questions screened and relayed through the show’s public communications specialist, Whitson said, “I never realized how lucky I was until I played ‘Survivor.’ I have so much to be thankful for outside of the game and playing ‘Survivor’ allowed me to realize what’s truly important in life, which is family.”
For now, he said, “I am very excited to still be in the game and to have made it to the final episode of the season.”
And for family, friends and fans who will be watching the finale back home in Erwin, he said, “Carly will be in attendance along with my mom and dad, Kim and Anthony Whitson, my brother Gabe Whitson and cousin Grayson Goddard.”
Those who have not kept up with the smash hit reality series’ 38th season will be pleased to learn Whitson’s quiet and steely game play has lived up to host Jeff Probst pre-season assessment of a young man he described as an “understated and underestimated threat to steal this game.”
So far Whitson has won two immunity challenges to protect him from the ever-dreaded vote off the island.
He’s played a pivotal role in well-calculated blindside votes that took out two of the game’s most strategic players. And on the show’s recent family visit episode, the one-of-a-kind backstory of how and he and Carly were wed just two days before he flew away to Fiji for the show’s filming helped wrangle he and his bride a picnic lunch and a day’s visit on the island.
And while he is not the oddsmakers’ favorite going into the finale, those oddsmakers obviously don’t live near Erwin, where Whitson has become a regular hometown celebrity.
Since the season’s February premier, he’s made brief appearances at Wednesday night watch parties hosted weekly at hosted by Union Street Taproom downtown or by the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce in the auditorium at Unicoi County High School.
This Wednesday night the party will be at the taproom, with the three-hour “Survivor” finale playing on three big screens and surround sound and the Noli food truck parked outside serving dinner.
Taproom co-owner and Erwin Alderman Michael Baker said “We couldn’t be any prouder” of Whitson’s performance in the game.
And at the chamber, Executive Director Amanda Delp is equally excited and working on tentative plans for postseason community celebration with the Whitson family.