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Vecepia takes the million

Vecepia takes the million. Ken Tucker recalls the finale’s coolest (and least cool) moments

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Vecepia Towery
Vecepia Towery: Monty Brinton/CBS

Vecepia takes the million

It was really cool that genius producer Mark Burnett made ”Survivor: Marquesas” finalists Vecepia Towery and Neleh Dennis wait five months and then sit through a chilly Central Park evening last night before counting up the votes that gave Vecepia the ultimate ”Survivor” prize of a million bucks.

It was much less cool that, closely following the announcement, Rosie O’Donnell, hosting the post-game show, sang a version of the ”Gilligan’s Island” theme song with special (i.e., cornball) lyrics.

It was really cool that, once he hit Manhattan on the live, final-hour broadcast, Jeff Probst asked the cab driver for a receipt as he left the vehicle.

It was much less cool that the two-hour taped part of the finale was padded out with too many greatest-moments montages and the sequence in which Vecepia, Neleh, and Kathy bathed with some yellow gunk in a hokey purification rite — it was like CBS’ test to dare us not to turn over to NBC’s Bill Cosby special, or to check out David Duchovny’s return to the final installment of ”The X-Files.”

It was really cool that Vecepia took full advantage of being the first African-American to win the contest, dedicating her win to ”people of color.”

It was much less cool that, by the end of the night, O’Donnell had turned the show into a tiki-torch-lit version of ”The Price Is Right,” giving every ”Survivor: Marquesas” participant — as Bob Barker would say — a new car!

Coolest post-”Survivor” makeover? Kathy, with her new Marg Helgenberger hair.

Least cool post-”Survivor” jurist? John, with his new John Corbett hair. No sex in the big city for John with that ‘do, I’d wager.

How fitting that, on a Sunday night, ”two Christian women,” as Paschal put it, should end up the finalists. Except that on this Christian day of rest, we heard a lot of virulent anti-religious sentiment expressed by the losers. Among the final-jury statements, Tammy excoriated Vecepia and Neleh for their ”holier-than-thou attitude,” scheming ”under the guise of Christianity.” John — better known as John The Guy Whose Hand Got Peed On — scorned ”these Bible-thumpers.” Only Paschal — the kindly judge who (I admit my prejudice) should have been the winner — remarked neutrally, wonderingly, ”I don’t know what caused these two Christian women to be left” as the finalists.

”Survivor: Marquesas,” remember, started out pretty dull, full of moderately attractive people of less than moderate abilities to articulate their philosophies of life. But the game is a machine that Burnett is always tinkering with, and he souped up this slow-mover until the last few weeks just flew by, with last night’s delayed-finish-line surprise, when all was said and done, a triumph.

What did you think about the results?