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Survivor 42 Winner Maryanne Oketch Explains How Having An On-Screen Crush Actually Helped Her Love Life

Season 42 of Survivor is officially closed out. Maryanne Oketch was crowned the winner in a 7-1-0 vote next to fellow finalists Mike Turner and Romeo Escobar. Oketch’s frank and exuberant personality undoubtedly helped her make a more persuasive case to the jury, and as it turns out, it also helped her real-world relationship status. The 24-year-old explained after the finale episode how her infamous on-screen crush actually improved her love life – just not in the way fans might think.

Very early on in the game, as many will recall, Maryanne Oketch made a huge love proclamation about another castmate in front of all three tribes, Jeff Probst, and the rest of the world. His name was Zach Wurtenberger, and her confession came right after he had been eliminated on Day 3. Oketch had never formally met or talked with him, given they were on separate tribes, but she sincerely lamented the departure of what she considered her ideal white guy. Unfortunately, the two didn’t ever link up in the way that she perhaps daydreamed about during filming. Instead, the Survivor 42 winner’s candidness inspired a different opportunity altogether, as she revealed while speaking to Entertainment Weekly:

So Zach is a very sweet person. We are just friends, but coincidentally, because that aired with Zach, that actually led into me meeting my boyfriend because he reached out. So I guess I have to thank Zach about that.

After the on-air confession did indeed come out, Zach Wurtenberger had a hilarious reaction himself on social media about their potential future. (And there was a stellar Survivor throwback in it, to boot.) Maryanne Oketch has kind of kept that moment going as a running bit, with her Twitter name of Maryanne Wurtenberger still holding strong as of this writing. Yet, she insinuated to the outlet that her new boyfriend is a different white guy. She clarified:

After the episode aired, there was someone who reached out to me. He reached out before kind of, but nothing happened. And after I confessed my love for skinny white guys, he reached out again. He was more personable, so we got to chatting and then, you know, we basically started talking and we never stopped and he actually was here for the finale party. So he got to experience that with me.

However, the question turns (as it always does) to whether or not she deserved that title of Sole Survivor. Personally, at the point of Final 5, I put her in the top two contender spots next to Mike Turner. I theorized that Turner would probably earn more jury votes in the end, as he was a (relatively) likeable player who strategized more openly than, say, someone like Maryanne Oketch. Unfortunately, the oldest player in Survivor 42 had a hard time owning up to more cutthroat moves of his throughout the game, which in turn led to his downfall, I think.

But don’t expect any wedding bells immediately, which means fans also shouldn’t expect Oketch’s Survivor winnings to go toward any huge ceremonies. At least not yet. In her words:

It's a new relationship, so I think it's a little too far ahead to thinking about that, so no, the winnings will not be paying for any wedding.

As for Survivor 43, what we know so far is that some of the new twists that have wreaked havoc are here to stay (and so too is the live reading of the final votes). I congratulate Maryanne Oketch for making her mark in this new and arguably more difficult era of the game. I have just one question, though – is her new boyfriend that former Disney Channel alum who was spotted on her Insta…? Inquiring minds want to know these things! 

Fans can check out Season 42, including its finale, and all the past seasons streaming now with a Paramount+ subscription.

Lauren Vanderveen
Lauren Vanderveen

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.