After 39 days, 15 Tribal Councils, 14 episodes, and 2 Russell Swan meltdowns, a winner of Survivor: Philippines was finally crowned on Sunday night. Would it be bartender Malcolm, sex therapist Denise, Facts of Life star Lisa, or the man with the most famous hands in reality TV history, Mike Skupin? Well, we’re about to tell you who won, so read no further if you have yet to watch Sunday’s finale. [SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading now unless you have already watched the finale of Survivor: Philippines.]
She set a Survivor record by attending every single Tribal Council in a season, but the last one was the sweetest for Denise Stapley as the 41-year-old was crowned the winner of Survivor: Philippines, beating Lisa Whelchel and Michael Skupin after a tense final Tribal in which Penner told Denise, “You shared with me once that the one thing you were afraid of being seen as was a bitch. You can rest assured that you have now shown the world that side.” (Penner than proceeded to give her his vote for the million dollars. Go figure.)
The episode started with an obstacle course reward challenge won by Malcolm, whose reward was an advantage in the final immunity challenge. In that immunity challenge, the contestants had to use handles to hold pieces of wood together with a ball in the middle that could not drop. Malcolm’s fell first. But the advantage allowed him to start over. Didn’t matter — he dropped first yet again. It eventually became a duel between alliance-mates Mike and Lisa, with Mike eventually winning.
Although Skupin was sorely tempted to bring Malcolm to the finals so he could “beat the best,” Lisa talked enough sense into him so they ousted the favorite to win at the next Tribal Council, setting up the final three.
Although there was not nearly as much lying and backstabbing as we have seen in previous seasons, many members of the jury remained bitter for having been bested, and unloaded on the final three with their questions. Former actor Jonathan Penner used the stage to give what he no doubt viewed as his grandest performance yet, blasting Denise and Skupin before going out of his way to reveal Lisa’s past on The Facts of Life — a move that had nothing to do with the game itself and only served to guide votes away from the actress for reasons which I still do not fully understand. (If anyone was going to do that, it should have been Skupin, who was still actually trying to win the money.)
In the end, Denise came out on top, leaving us to ponder how Penner’s last second bombshell may have affected the voting. As for Denise, all she has to ponder is how to spend her new money.
Check out all the rest of our ‘Survivor’ finale coverage, including Dalton’s full episode recap, Jeff Probst’s take on the finale, interviews with the final four, and exclusive intel from the host on next season. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop all year long, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.