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Survivor season finale recap: Friends... to the End?

The J.T.-Stephen alliance holds all the way into the final Tribal Council, and despite some fireworks during questioning, the end was never really in doubt: J.T. claims $1 million, plus the fans’ bonus

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JT Thomas
Monty Brinton/CBS


TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Jeff Probst
Current Status:
In Season

Strategy is awesome. I probably obsess over strategic play more than I should. And then there are the crazy characters. Crazy characters can make otherwise yawn-worthy stretches of a season entertaining in their own bizarre, delusional way. And there’s almost nothing better than watching someone get whacked in the face during a challenge. Their pain is our gain. I love all that stuff. But occasionally we are reminded that Survivor is chiefly a social experiment and we are treated to a fascinating social scene, and that’s what was served up at the final Tribal Council. Two best friends who hadn’t had a cross word in 39 days suddenly ripping and clawing at each other for a splash of cash. Honestly, is there anything better than that?

It started when Stephen told Debbie that he would have brought Erinn instead of J.T. to the final two. J.T. looked positively pissed. It continued later when Stephen said that ”I voted for every single one of you. I never took the weasel way out,” clearly differentiating between himself and J.T. What I had assumed would be a happy, boring love-in of a final Tribal Council was suddenly getting very interesting. And it only got better. Stephen then proceeded to tell Taj how J.T. had talked about taking her out early and he had been the one to keep her around. Oh, it was now officially on, leading to delicious exchanges like these:

J.T.: ”Is this the same guy I brought with me?”

Stephen: ”Oh, come on now. You have been slandering me all night…. Our friendship means more to me than winning does.”

J.T: ”But you would have taken Erinn…. I just feel like a fool now.”

The questions from most of the jury were extremely tame by finale standards. There were no huge fireworks. And it was clearly obvious who was going to win. But watching a friendship potentially crumble on national television was riveting. No, unfortunately it did not crumble, as we saw at the reunion show. (Yes, I am the sort of person who actively roots against friendships for my own personal entertainment.) J.T. even said he was merely playing up his disappointment for the jury, but I don’t completely buy it. If I took a huge risk to bring my buddy to the finals and then he went right ahead and said he wouldn’t have done the same, I totally would have been bummed. Not quite as bummed as I am that Jeff Probst no longer delivers the votes stateside in an awesomely ridiculous manner, but bummed nonetheless. (Seriously, check out the clip below from the Vanuatu finale. Start at the three minute mark and enjoy seeing Probst bushwack, skydive, and motorcycle his way into Los Angeles. Simply amazing.)

[Sorry, video not available]

So, while the Survivor bromance survived, it was pretty brilliant for a few minutes there when it appeared it wouldn’t.

NEXT PAGE: Dalton’s finale observations: The obstacle course, Taj, and Erinn