Survivor season finale recap: The Right Person Won
Wow. Another Survivor finale. Which means another Survivor finale recap. This is my time. It’s my moment. I’m gonna own it. All the cards are in my hand. It’s my call!!! In fact, the last few Survivor recaps I’ve been in the pole position. Me! You know, all my life in our house it’s been about Brad, Brad, Brad. But now I’m the one who feels like a first round draft pick. And yet all everyone wants to do is be mean to me. In the message boards. On Twitter. On Facebook. AND I’M NOT EVEN ON FACEBOOK! What is wrong with you people? Have you all ever met a nice person? Have you all never met somebody that isn’t selfish? I passed the test! I’ve opened up and it’s just, like, let’s keep punching him. What is your goal?!? IT’S MY TIME, DAMMIT!!!!!
Wow. Not sure what happened there. It’s like I became possessed by the soul of Monica Culpepper. It was a challenge-dominating, Kleenex-absorbing, heavily botoxed soul that keeps tantalizing you with talk of doing something bold and crazy without doing anything at all. But I’m better now. And it could have been worse. I could have been possessed by the soul of Kat Edorsson and gone and gotten myself a boob job that I could not stop bragging about. In any event, I’m ready to break down this Survivor: Blood vs. Water finale like a freakin’ recapping ninja. And this ninja must begin by giving respect where respect is due.
Tyson, I’m talking directly to you now. Don’t worry, nobody else is listening. Just you and me, bro. We met you on Tocantins, when you became part of the J.T. Thomas Infatuation Brigade. You were funny. Your game play was also kind of terrible. Then you came back for Heroes vs. Villains. I’m not sure why since judging by your actions one would have to assume that you didn’t really want to be there seeing as how you essentially voted yourself out of the game. That was embarrassing. Like super embarrassing. Like people arguing about whether it was the worst move in the history of Survivor embarrassing. (P.S. It wasn’t. But it was close.)
Why should it have been any different this time? Clearly other players I spoke with were biased against you before the game even began. And many of them pegged your girlfriend as the weakest of all the new loved ones joining you for this adventure. She seemed annoyed by bugs. That was a bad sign.
Another typical Tyson performance appeared to be in the works — crack a few jokes, help your tribe win a few challenges, and then get blindsided for the third time in three seasons. But that didn’t happen. Instead, you made the biggest, most impactful move of the season — flipping the script and getting rid of Aras. You found the only two hidden immunity idols that were found all game. You won the last two — and two most important — individual immunity challenges. You kept enough of your weak links in line (losing Ciera, but keeping Monica). You overcame an injury. You had a flawless final Tribal Council performance. You, sir, killed it. Absolutely killed it. And now you are a Survivor champion, joining such revered names as Natalie White, Amber Brkich, and some dude named Fabio. Ah, just messin’ with you, my man. How about this? Richard Hatch. Parvati Shallow. Tom Westman. Kim Spradlin. Tyson Apostol. It feels good, doesn’t it? It should. You earned it.
And it feels good for us as well. Once again, we have a worthy Survivor winner. And there are few things better than a great winner on a great season. Milwaukee’s Best, of course. Three Musketeers candy bars I guess are better. And the orgasmic, open-mouthed facial expressions Angus Young makes when he rocks the guitar in his little schoolboy outfit are hard to top. But that’s pretty much it. So once again Survivor wraps up strong. But wait! It can’t truly wrap up until we recap this three-hour extravaganza from top to bottom. So enough of this tomfoolery and let’s get to it.
NEXT: The final truel is a doozy
The finale begins with an extended recap (hey, that’s my job!) of the entire season. “Laura and I are blood!” exclaims Rupert in said recap, which is not technically true…unless they are kissin’ cousins, so to speak. We are also treated to lots of shots of various people flipping off Brad Culpepper and are informed that Ciera made “The biggest and most emotional move the game of Survivor has ever seen,” which I don’t really agree with, even though on paper voting out your mother does seem pretty gosh darn brutal. But I mean, it’s not like her mom found her teeth at the bottom of a lagoon or anything. Just sayin’…
We then get to the new stuff. Hayden arrives at Redemption Island and is not too thrilled with the power trio running the show. “If it’s Tyson, Gervase, and Monica at the end, I’m voting for Jeff,” says Kat’s ex-boyfriend (after all, she didn’t make it to the merge, so…). Hayden also likes his chances of winning the next truel to get back in the game seeing as how he is “competing against two grandmas,” although unless a caveman — for the sake of discussion, let’s just call him Vytas — somehow clubbed Katie over the head, dragged her back to his cave and impregnated her in the past few weeks, I am not sure if Tina has yet to achieve grandma status.
The final truel has Hayden, Tina, and Laura putting one foot on the end of a balancing board. At the other end is a ceramic vase. When the vase falls, you’re out. I love competitions like this. Simple, yet dramatic. Truel dominator Laura — who has won 5 out of 6 truels so far — looks shaky right out of the gate. But it is sure and steady Hayden who makes the mistake of wiping sweat out of his eye, which throws him off balance just enough to make his vase drop.
Too bad. Hayden turned out to be neither a strategic nor a physical threat in this game, but he played a great social game. He was well-liked by everyone and somehow able to be charming even as he was railing against people for votes. He did a strong job in convincing Ciera to flip and probably would have won had he made it back to the finals. But he didn’t. So Survivor contestants will not have to live with the ignominy of a Big Brother player coming in and winning the game they consider to be much far more challenging.
So it comes down to Laura and Tina. “Tina, let me have this please,” begs Laura. WHAT?! Yes, Tina is only still in this game because Laura helped her beat Vytas. And yes, Tina has already won. But if you think Tina Wesson is going to voluntarily give up her spot in the game, then you simply do not know Tina Wesson. A fire burns in that woman’s belly. “No way, sister,” Tina responds. “I love you, but this is a million dollar challenge, honey.” Results later will dictate that not to be true — and it will not be the last time we hear the phrase “million dollar challenge” in this episode — but it is important, and after 30 minutes, Laura’s vase does fall and Tina can celebrate her re-entry in to the game. Laura is crestfallen, saying she did not finish strong. And then come the tears from both mother and daughter. “You showed me how to be a better friend,” says Ciera, “and a better woman and a better mom more than anything. And I love you so much.”
NEXT: Tyson begins his march of dominance to the finals
“How can you walk away saying you lost after that?” asks Laura. Well, technically, you did lose. I’m sorry about that if that sounds mean, but I am a sucker for accuracy. However, Laura was a total beast this season in any and all competitions. She dominated the puzzles early on, and then dominated once she got to Redemption Island. She should totally hold her head high about how she did here. I was impressed, and I’m not the type of dude to be easily impressed. (It’s part of the price of being jaded.) So well done, Laura!
After Tina sticks the useless immunity idol clue into her boobs, she and the rest of Kasama return back to the beach, where the former winner gets busy looking for the idol that is still fit snugly in Tyson’s crotch. “For a 57 year old woman, she has no fear,” marvels Ciera as Tina climbs way up in a tree and then jumps back down to earth. “And she acts like a 20-year-old woman.”
But Tina has been far from flawless in this game, and she shows off another flaw in her first approach towards flipping Monica. Instead of coming in gentle and explaining the reasons why it would better for her game to side with the women, Tina starts going on and on about how “everyone is pissed at you. So mad at you.” She then goes on to say how nobody who has been voted out respects her because she has not been loyal. AND FLIPPING ON TYSON AND GERVASE AT THE LAST MINUTE WOULD BE LOYAL? This makes positively no sense whatsoever.
Thankfully, Ciera sees what is going on here and starts flashing the “ABORT! ABORT!” signal. Ciera boils it down to the most important point, and the only point likely to have a shot at making Monica flip. “If you don’t ever make a move, the jury will never vote for you,” she argues. And that generally holds true — unless, of course, you are facing Russell Hantz in the finals. With the frustrating exception of failing to invite Monica as her guest on the feast last week, Ciera has upped her game considerably over the past few episodes. Her maturation as a player has been a pleasure to see. She’s thy type of person I could see being very dangerous should she get another chance to play.
Not that she’d ever be dangerous in challenges. Last week’s victory notwithstanding, Ciera is something of a challenge disaster. She even got smoked in ones that totally favored her body type (like the hold up your body weight — and Ciera has the approximate weight of a feather — over water one). So no chance she wins the finale’s first challenge, which has the players pulling a rope to level out an unbalanced table while they place 10 wooden blocks on it. “You’re looking for that spot between brazen and reckless!” exclaims Probst, which kind of mirrors my philosophy for writing Survivor recaps. Tyson wins pretty easily, and the reward is a forceful congratulatory slap on his injured shoulder by the hostmaster general himself.
NEXT: The Rites of Passage tribute to Fallen Comrades is neither by land nor by seaThe scene back at camp is déjà vu all over again as the majority decides whom to vote out from the minority, the minority attempts to flip Monica, and Monica tells us about how this moment is all 100% about her. Again, we are given a reason as to why Monica may flip — in this case, Gervase putting his hands on Monica’s shoulders when they can’t agree who should be voted out. He wants Ciera out. She wants Tina out. But since “the cards are all in Monica’s hand” and “it’s my moment” and “tonight’s it’s my call” and “I’m gonna say who goes home,” that clearly means it must be Tina, right?
WRONG! It’s Ciera! What the hell? If you were so insistent on Tina leaving, yet are instead getting rid of who Gervase wanted to get rid of, how in any way, shape, or form is this your call? That whole scenario is almost as confusing as Hayden’s new mustache! And almost as disturbing as Gervase handling Tyson’s crotch idol. Turns out Gervase didn’t need it, so Tyson could have in fact saved it and given it to Rachael. Or sent it to Monica’s kids. Or put it back in his crotch. Or put it back in his crotch and made Rachel go and get it. Whatever, I don’t want to know. Sorry I brought it up.
After a beautiful sunset seemingly only appreciated by the remaining women, we are off to our final immunity challenge. Of course, to get there they will have to burn the names of their fallen comrades they met on the field of battle and defeated along the way…Ummmm, I SAAAAIIIIIIDDDDD they will have to burn the names of their fallen comrades they met on the field of battle and defeated along the way. Hello? Anyone there? Cue the Rites of Passage. REPEAT: CUE THE RITES OF PASSAGE!
What? No tribute to the Fallen Comrades? As the guy that has spent more time mocking the Fallen Comrades tribute than perhaps anyone on earth, I do have to admit I get a bit sad when we don’t get the opportunity to watch players wax poetic about contestants they either barley knew or cared out. Like what the hell would these four have to say about John Cody? They never played a single day with him. They never even played a single day with his loved one! Poor Fallen Comrades tribute. You really can’t win, can you? If you happen, I mock you. If you don’t happen, I mourn the fact that I cannot mock you. [NOTE: They always film the Rites of Passage/Fallen Comrades segment, but now don’t necessarily air it every season, especially when Redemption Island is around. So somewhere in a CBS vault there is footage of Gervase being super-awkward trying to think of something deep to say about Laura Boneham. It exists. We must find it. Hopefully CBS has posted it on their website and saved us the trouble.]
Also, let’s just pause for the cause for a second to note that not only did this season not feature the Fallen Comrades tribute, but it also did not feature a Survivor food auction (where contestants invariably waste money on cheeseburgers and donuts instead of an advantage in the next challenge), a car challenge (which basically never happens anymore), a forced reward screening of a super crappy Hollywood movie (no Adam Sandler in drag this tine!), or a loved ones challenge (for obvious reasons). It should be noted that this is really an observation more than a complaint.
NEXT: Tina comes so close, but not close enough
So instead of a scenic shot of the final four trying to look pensive while staring at a burning tower of wood, the contestants just kind of walk into the final challenge. It is a wide, sweeping challenge in which they must race through obstacles to collect bags of puzzle pieces. Once they have all six bags they solve a puzzle that will give them a clue to solve a combination lock and release their flag. Best part about it? No lame advantages, like in the last two seasons. This time, everyone has to compete on an even playing field. As it should be. As spritely as she looked up in that tree earlier, Tina basically doesn’t stand a chance in this one, and sure enough, she falls behind quickly. It doesn’t matter. Had she up near the front of the pack, Monica would have just elbowed her over the stair railing anyway. Instead, Gervase is the one the receiving end of a Culpepper shudder while trying to pass the woman on her left. (Maybe she is like a first-round draft pick, after all. Hell, if Trent Richardson is worth a first-round pick twice, then MC should be good enough for one. Maybe the Colts will trade for her as well.)
But Tyson eventually catches up to the other two, and eventually takes over and wins the final immunity. Not the most epic of final challenges, but a decent enough one, I suppose. At least they weren’t stacking coins or something. Anyhoo, Tyson celebrates, because he knows he not only just punched his ticket to the finals, but he also just punched his million dollar ticket as well by adding the final two immunity victories to his already impressive resume. Memo to Gervase: Don’t let that fool you! Your chance of winning just completely evaporated!
We then need to go through another charade of a Tribal Council where Monica tells us how in control she is while seeming to entertain offers of flipping sides. In this case, that would mean joining Tina to force a tiebreaking fire-making challenge between Tina and Gervase. But she, we, and everyone else know there is no way that is happening, and sure enough, Tina is voted unanimously.
Weird game for Tina. She shined early, but made some tactical errors along the way, like when she basically told Monica in front of her face that they were moving her to the five spot in their alliance instead of Gervase (never tell a person they are fifth in your alliance). She was lucky when Laura decided to aid her in beating Vytas, but then came up big to win the very last duel. I always liked Tina as both a person and a player. She was far from perfect here, but hopefully this outing wipes away some of the sting of being the first one voted out of Survivor: All Stars. (Obviously all of this pales in comparison to some of the off-screen tragedy Tina and daughter Katie have had to deal with lately. I can only hope this finale and reunion has offered them both a small distraction from the heavier stuff they have been dealing with lately with the loss of their son/brother.)
Now comes the time in the show when the finalists sit on mountaintops and by the water and reflect on everything they have been though to make it this far while talking about what a good shot they have of winning. Of course, we know the game is already Tyson’s, but let the people have their moment before we head to final Tribal Council. But only a moment, because man is self-satisfied reflection boring as hell.
Okay, final Tribal. We begin with opening statements. “I used the best of old school and new school Survivor,” brags Gervase. (I have no idea what that means.) Monica claims that she was not “drug along like a puppy dog on a leash by these guys to get to the end.” (If you say so!) Meanwhile, Tyson opines that he owes his success to Rachel’s ouster. He also claims he’s not such a bad guy: “Everything I did was strategic. Nothing was done out of malice.” (We’ll see what Katie has to say about that.) Here’s a quick rundown of the juror-by-juror questions/statements that follow.
NEXT: The jury takes center stage
I dig Vytas. Smart guy. Interesting guy. I hope and expect to see him again on this show. And I have no problem whatsoever with him threatening Tyson to not vote for him if Tyson voted him out. You use every trick in the book to avoid getting ousted. But let me be clear: It is one thing to threaten to not vote for someone if they get rid of you. It is another thing entirely to actually go and do that. The fact that Vytas tells Tyson that he’s going to stick with that threat and now not vote for him to win is L-A-M-E. It is a like a heaping helping of BJS (Bitter Jury Syndrome) smothered in weak sauce. He even compliments Tyson’s play by telling Gervase that, “You linked up with dope new school player, who in my opinion kind of carried you through.” Yet he still ends up voting for Monica. This was Vytas’ worst move in the game. Vote for the best player. Period. [NOTE: Vytas tweeted me last night that “Tyson played the best game. I’d have voted for him had it been in question. Luckily, I had room to vote for 2nd place.” So at least he knew he wasn’t costing the best player the game. Still, why ruin the man’s unanimous vote?]
It turns out Hayden and Ciera were onto something as Katie still looks hot. She also alertly calls Tyson out on his statement that he did not do anything out of malice, reminding him of his taunt to her about the jury seat awaiting her after she pulled the white rock. Tyson apologies, yet it is an apology nobody in their right mind would buy — even if it was part of one of those stupid 3 a.m. Black Friday sales that people go and wait outside in freezing cold temperatures for. I don’t understand why people do that. Then again, they probably don’t understand why some idiot would write a 4,000 essay about an episode of a reality TV show, so in the words of Hayden Moss: touché.
I group these three together because the theme of all of their comments was basically to hammer Monica for no reason whatsoever. I say that because none of their gripes had anything to do with her gameplay. Instead they all talked vaguely about her needing to “answer from the heart” while forcing to say what’s ugly about her. Why? What the hell does that have to do with how she played the game? I’ll tell you: NOTHING! It has nothing to do with any of the moves she made — or didn’t make. And all it serves to do is make Monica cry more and feel miserable about herself. Unfortunately, this is a common trait among Survivor juries. They feel injured by being voted out so they want to inflict injury back. Monica didn’t deserve it. I’m not saying to vote for the woman. But you don’t need to needlessly make her feel bad about herself.
At least Hayden was part of a bit of comedy when he asked Tyson if he already had the idol when they drew rocks. “I found it in the bird’s nest in the tree,” replied Tyson. “One step ahead of you again.” Indeed.
I group these two together because their questions were kind of boring. Ciera asked Tyson if he saw himself as a villain or a hero, which was ground that had already been covered, and Tina made the finalists each describe themselves in a single word, which is just kind of pointless.
This is a question that is far from original, yet never fails: Whom would you vote for if not yourself? Gervase and Monica say Tyson, while Tyson says Monica. Just hearing the arguments for Tyson come out of their own mouths, Gervase and Monica must know they are sunk.
NEXT: Breaking down the reunion showSo now comes the saddest part of every Survivor season, when Probst eschews all form of motorcycles, jet skis, and skydiving to simply walk the votes into the climate-controlled studio in Los Angeles. This depresses me beyond reason seeing as how his super-dramatic entrances were my favorite things in the history of things. Probst has personally promised me that he will do another epic entrance at some point before this show goes off the air. At least the recent renewal announcement gives him a few more chances to make good on his promise.
Probst then reads the votes which all (save for Vytas’) come up for the tuxedo t-shirt wearing, Brazilian hair straightened Tyson, who processes the incoming information by moving on from gentle crying to pure uncontrollable sobbing. I should make fun of him. And I guess kind of just did. But I’m also proud of the dude. He played well. He deserved it. It may not be his ultimate dream of getting his own talk show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, but it’s close enough. Again, my compliments. But now let’s move on to the odds & ends from the live reunion show, shall we?
REUNION SHOW ODDS & ENDS
• “We get everybody back together live on one stage,” promised Probst before the commercial break leading into the reunion. Hallelujah! I had some harsh words about the decision last season to not let those who did not make the jury onstage (allegedly due to “staging issues” but more likely to conceal that Brandon Hantz was not invited for it). Probst and I actually talked about this while on location for this season. I told him that while I do not feel he needs to talk to every single person like they did in the old days, that I do feel that everyone deserves the respect of at least being able to sit on the stage for their own season. Plus, as a viewer, I LOVE seeing what everyone looks like a few months later. Who’s got a wacky dress on? Who’s got a fugly haircut? And in the case of this season, who’s got a new boob job? Viewers like seeing everybody, if not hearing from everybody. Glad they remedied that.
• 18 seconds! That’s how long I tweeted out that it took to get our first John Cochran mention and shot at the reunion. But I would like to say for the record that it wasn’t an entirely accurate tweet, and for that I apologize. It was not 18 seconds…IT WAS 16!!!! Of course, that was just the appetizer before the main course of Cochran, who truly has made like his dad and “gone Hollywood.” We heard all about his new job writing on The Millers and were treated to a skit in which Will Arnett rocked a red sweater vest. And then it got very, very confusing with Arnett trying to vote Cochran off the show (I think?) and Cochran then saving his job with an immunity idol (I guess?). Sure, it was silly, but watching Cochran awkwardly attempt to act made the entire thing worth it in my eyes.
• The Culpeppers like to talk. A lot.
• Ciera got a big ovation from the audience. I was really down on her for a big part of the season, but she definitely stepped her game up near the end, to the point where it would not surprise me in the least if they brought her back again. And Probst couldn’t have been more psyched talking about the guts Ciera and Hayden showed in pulling rocks, even looking straight to the camera and telling America that “That’s how you play Survivor!” The entire audience cheered, save for the rock-phobic John Cochran, who at that point was probably hiding under his chair.
• Best line of the night comes from the hostmaster general to Colton after he complained about being on the “AARP tribe.” Ladies and gentlemen, Jeffrey Probst: “You’re the one making jokes about AARP when the AARP kicked your ass and stayed out there the entire time.” Beautiful.
• Rupert spoke some.
NEXT: Kat wants to talk all about her new boobs!• Once Cochran pimped his Twitter handle at last year’s reunion and got 100,000 followers overnight, the floodgates were pretty much opened. As a result, tonight was a shameless display of Twitter promotion. Aras got the ball rolling by confusingly mentioning how he has one-upped his brother by buying a bunch of Twitter followers, which was a weird thing to do because A) He hasn’t. And B) Is there anything lamer than buying Twitter followers? Why would you want to tell people you are doing that? Especially when you’re not! But then Hayden did him one better (or worse, as it were) by not even attempting to come up with a reason or jokey way of doing it. Instead, he straight up shilled: “And everybody out there should follow us on Twitter!” he mentioned. Okay.
• THIS JUST IN! Kat has a boob job! Evidently, she got the boob job because she was petrified that her boyfriend would dump her for not making it to the merge so she made it up to him by scoring some clown boobs. What I really don’t understand about all of this is, why get the boob job, then wear an outfit that completely covers the boob job, but then make a point of making sure that everyone knows that you got a boob job? No wonder Probst was so confused.
• How classy is Tina Wesson? Her son was tragically killed just two weeks ago, but she shows up anyway to use the Reunion as a platform to remind people to use their seat belts so they don’t have loved ones die as she did. And Katie matched her class act with her plea to donate to Philippines disaster relief. Love those ladies and wish them all the best as they continue to deal with their loss.
• I guess some people are bummed out there was no Fan Favorite award this season. Not me! It saved us all from weeks of shameless begging for votes from the contestants, so I say good riddance!
• Survivor: Cagayan! Its brawn vs. brains vs. beauty. The preview didn’t show a whole lot except for the letter “B.” But I can tell you a bit more about it. Such as: All new players! Want some more scoop? Then check out my interview with Jeff Probst.
Okay, this has reached truly absurd levels, this recap has, as we close in on 5.000 words (another reason to excuse the army of typos you likely have already encountered), so I need to wrap this bad boy up. But before I do, a word of thanks to all of you for once again joining me on this journey or blood, water, snark, and strategy. Hope you’ve had as much fun as I have. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and for all your nice comments. And we’ll do it all again for Survivor: Cagayan come February. A few programming notes though. In addition to the aforementioned Survivor: Cagayan preview article, go check out my Q&A with Jeff Probst about the finale and reunion and keep your eyes peeled for exit interviews with the finalists. [UPDATE: My interview with the victorious Tyson is now live!] We also have an exclusive deleted scene from the finale in the video player below as well as my pre-game interviews with the final seven (look how far they came!). And let me do my best Cochran/Aras/Hayden impersonation and remind you to follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
But now it’s FINALLY your turn. Did the right person win? Did the jury get too personal with Monica? And how do you feel about Kat’s new top heaviness? Hit the message boards to let us know. And have yourself a very merry scoop of holiday crispy. See ya in 2014, y’all!
Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"