We have a winner! But did the jury once again overlook the person who played the best overall game?
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Survivor | LOOK AT ME, I'M SANDRA D(IAZ-TWINE) She gets $1 million, Russell gets his hat burned. Fair and square.
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

”Russell’s keeping me around because I’ll never get a single vote. But I don’t know about that.” — Sandra

Ooops, he did it again. Once again, Russell brought along two people to the finals he figured he’d have no problem beating. And once again he was shocked — SHOCKED! — to learn that a jury wasn’t so hot on the idea of handing him a million bucks. I still think the jury in Samoa blew it. And I think the Heroes vs Villains jury got it wrong as well by awarding the title to Sandra. But Russell was not the deserving winner. Parvati was.

I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating.Everyone was after Parvati, even before the game started. And she still made it to the end with a deadly combination of challenge domination, super social skills (think about it: she got a player to give her two hidden immunity idols), and deft strategy (handing out two idols at the same Tribal Council to send J.T. home.) She was the best overall player out there. Even self-obsessed Russell admitted she deserved to win! That’s not to say I’m hating on Sandra. She tried to make a big move and engineer Russell’s ouster (only to be stymied by dumb Heroes) and also manipulated Russell into getting rid of Coach when she and Courtney were about to be sent home. Good for her. But she simply wasn’t as impressive as Parvati.

Okay, let’s start from the very beginning of the final episode. After Russell and Parvati argued like the dysfunctional married Survivor couple that they are, the final five went to their first challenge of the evening, a repeat of the final challenge form China in which the contestants had to balance a variety of dishes on a wobbly arm. I thought it was a lame final challenge there, but much better in the penultimate slot here. In the most shocking twist in Survivor history, Colby was not the first player eliminated. That would be Sandra. Colby actually put on a good showing here but just couldn’t topple the endurance queen as Parvati once again sported the ugly-ass immunity necklace.

Back at camp, Colby asked the other players to put him out of his misery, giving his ”surrender speech.” No doubt realizing that would achieve the impossible of making him appear even lamer than previously thought, Colby made a last half-hearted attempt to stay. His appeal to Russell was actually quite laughable and Colby insisted that if he stayed he could help beat Parvati in the final challenge. And he totally could beat the snot out of Parvati — in 2001! Dude, you can’t win anything. How are you going to help beat Parvati when you can’t even last 15 seconds in a challenge? Not happening. The only thing more confusing that Colby’s faulty logic was seeing Coach all prepped out at Tribal Council with a cardigan tied around his neck. It looked like my man has just stepped foot off Judge Smails’ yacht at Bushwood Country Club. (Caddyshack, anyone?) Colby was finally put down like an injured horse, and he spoke for all viewers when he commented that ”It’s disappointing, especially when the challenges used to be something I was good at.” I’ve given Colby a lot of flak this season for being such a lame-o, but I will say this: The guy owned up to his shortcomings. Let’s all say goodbye to Colby, who I can guarantee we will never see on this show again.

NEXT: Prepare to be shocked

Okay, I hope you all are sitting down right now (and I have to assume you are, because standing up while reading a computer screen just can’t be comfortable in the least, not to mention it definitely qualifies as ergonomically disastrous). I am about to say something that may shock you. Some may dare to even label it heresy. It’s no secret that I love to mock the Fallen Comrades segment, when the remaining players are forced to wax nostalgic about people they barely played with. This was best illustrated when the three Villains came across Sugar’s torch — who they never played with at all — and the best they could muster was just repeating her name three timea: ”Sugar, Sugar, Sugar.” But with all the standout moments this season, I actually kinda liked the Fallen Comrades montage this time around! Okay, ”liked” may be a bit strong. Perhaps ”tolerated” is better. I mean, there were confusing moments to be sure, like Tyson saying ”I’m still the winner” (really? Of what exactly?), Rupert bragging about being deserving of the Hero title, and pretty much every single word of what Coach said, but it was still mildly entertaining to see some of those classic moments again. So well done, Fallen Comrades segment! I’ll give you a bye this time around and get back to hating you next season.

Knowing how painful I think it usually is, it’s obvious that the producers don’t have me in mind when they edit together the Fallen Comrades portion of the show, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if they’re purposefully giving me stuff to work with. Like the start of the final immunity competition, for instance, when Probst announced, ”Parvati, give it up one more time.” Now, see, that is just too damn easy. It’s like they’re writing my material for me! I’m almost surprised he didn’t follow that up with, ”So, Parvati, do you like it rough and blindfolded?” Work with me, Probst! Work with me!!!

I usually like the final challenge to be an endurance one. That’s because endurance challenges are tests of the will. Who wants it more? How far are you willing to push yourself to make it to the end? So I didn’t know how to feel about this run-around-blindfolded-in-a-maze-and-collect-a-few-necklaces affair. It could have been just okay, but the Survivor gods — who have been smiling down on this entire season — gave us one last wonderful gift, and that gift was the most suspenseful end to a final challenge ever. Russell, Jerri, and Parvati were all neck and neck and neck, getting to the pole with the immunity necklace at the exact same moment, with Russell nabbing it just in time. (Sandra was off doing her best impersonation of Colby Donaldson impersonating Sandra Diaz-Twine and sucking in last place somewhere.) The end of this challenge was so intense I literally jumped off the couch and yelled like a crazy person, leaving my poor reality TV-hating wife to run downstairs thinking I had been stabbed by an intruder. (What sort of intruder stabs anymore anyway when you can get much more range and inflict much more damage out of a 9mm Luger? That’s just poor home invasion planning, if you ask me.)

NEXT: Two’s drama, three’s a crowd

As much as I loved the challenge, I hated the fact that it being the last one meant we were stuck with another final three. I’ve delivered this spiel too many times to mention, so I’ll keep it brief, but with a final three all the drama about picking the person you bring to go against you in the finals is gone. With a final three, two of the other people left can still force a tie, meaning the final challenge winner doesn’t have the full power to make a decision that could cost them a million dollars. Also A vs. B is just inherently more dramatic than A vs. B vs. C. It’s far more impactful to have a jury voting between two options as opposed to simply picking one of the above. This remains my biggest Survivor pet peeve. I don’t care if great players don’t make the finals if you go back down from three to two. It’s just better! Okay, I kept that rant pretty concise this time so yay for me.

After winning the final immunity (second straight season he’s done that) Russell worked out all the voting options in his head to determine who should stay and who should go. Poor guy. I just wanted to reach through the TV, grab him and say, ”Dude, it doesn’t matter! You’re not getting any votes. They could make the final three a final one and you still would get a single person to write your name down.” Ultimately he wrote Jerri’s name (or ”Jerry” if you want to get technical) but only after he and Parvati engaged in yet another married couple squabble over who had been protecting whom throughout the game. (For the record, my married couple squabbles center more on my wife trying to figure out why a grown man feels it necessary to jump off the couch yelling during reality TV programs.)

Usually the last night with the final contestants is pretty boring stuff, where they all reminisce to the camera and each other about what a long exciting journey it’s been, but this time we were treated to something special (two things if you include Sandra channeling Parvati and exclaiming that ”I’m gonna have to undo my pants”). And that something was Sandra’s decision to burn Russell’s hat — ironic and appropriate considering that Russell began his time on Survivor by burning other contestants’ socks. ”That’s how much game I got,” Sandra informed us. ”He has a big bald patch he don’t want nobody to know about. Screw it. That’s payback for everything he’s done to me in this game.” You know what? That was almost worth giving her the million for right there.

NEXT: C’mon, Probst, give us some excitement!

I was anticipating great things at the final Tribal Council, but while there were some definite firecrackers, I’m not sure there were any huge fireworks. It was pretty much what we expected: Russell proclaimed his greatness, jury members told Russell how mean he was, and Rupert made no sense whatsoever (”I want to say thank you for all the Heroes” — what the hell?!?). Courtney greatly disappointed me by using her time to lob a big old softball over the plate to Sandra to help her garner more votes, and Danielle actually made the most astute comment when she told Russell, ”It’s clear there’s a lack of skill in your jury management.” See, the problem with Russell is not that he owns up to all his dirty dealings. I actually admire that a lot more than all the apologetic groveling that usually goes on at final Tribal Councils (Amanda Kimmel, anyone?). But he has to learn how to lace some well-placed flattery in there. The best final Tribal performer ever was probably Todd fromChina. He owned up to everything he did, but then told the jury members that he simply had to do it because they were all such great players that that was the only way he could beat them. He managed to stroke all their egos while still taking responsibility for everything he did. That is Russell’s fatal flaw: He simply can’t credit anyone else for anything. Although even he admitted that Parvati should have won this time around. And he’s right. But Parvati simply couldn’t get enough votes from the Heroes who had tried so desperately to get rid of her even before they had merged — think about how incredible that is. Has anyone ever been that targeted while on the other side of the island? Yet they then couldn’t bring themselves to vote for her after they were so unsuccessful in their attempts. Also interesting to note: In terms of the Villains that played with Parvati and Sandra from the start, Parvati got three votes, Sandra got one.

Of course, far more disappointing than the final vote result was the fact that Jeff Probst delivered them not by helicopter, nor submarine, nor jet ski, not even by plain ol’ New York City taxicab! Nope. He just walked them in from backstage. LAME!!!! The lack of creativity lately with the cross-continent vote delivery is my second biggest Survivor pet peeve. As far as I’m concerned, the cheesier the better. I won’t be fully satisfied unless there is a pool of Velveeta congealing under my TV set when Probst is finally arriving in New York with the urn. While the final Tribal Council didn’t have major fireworks, the Reunion was a super lively affair. The highlights:

· I’ve argued here that — love him or loathe him — Russell is a great player, and I think if you make it all the way to the end twice in a row, that proves that point, but he simply has to learn how to let it go at the reunion show. He sulked his way through the Samoa reunion (even trying to buy the title of ”Sole Survivor” from Natalie) and this time he just couldn’t stop dissing everyone and everything — even stating that ”there is a flaw in the game” and that America should be allowed to help vote for the winner. I actually think that is a pretty awful idea, and completely negates what the show is about. (It also did not work out so hot in the debacle that was season 1 of Big Brother.) I did, however, love that he took the time to laminate the letter that J.T, wrote him.

NEXT: See you next season in…

· Sandra and Russell had some nice bitchy back-and-forths. Russell called the two-time winner ”maybe the worst physical player to ever play the show,” while Sandra claimed to the toothless wonder that ”the only people that like you are right there” while pointing to his family. She was off base on that one, however, as Russell won the $100,000 fan’s choice award for the second straight season. I was actually very surprised by this. I thought fans had really tired of his act as this season wore on and that Boston Rob would be a shoo-in for it. Show’s you what I know.

· Is it just me or did Tyson look like a gay Jesus Christ sitting there with his long hair, beard and pink shirt? No judgments, just observations.

· Sorry, America, but you got it wrong with the Dumbest Move Ever vote. Erik giving away individual immunity in Micronesia remains the stupidest thing any Survivor has ever done. And he no has the stupidest haircut to match.

· The Boston Rob vs Russell feud remains the best thing about this very amazing season and it was great to see it heat up again the reunion. When Russell pointed out that Boston Rob was in no position to give him advice on how to win the game since he had never won himself, Rob replied that, ”Given the opportunity, I’ll gladly go back and kick your ass all over the island.” He then refused to shake Russell’s hand. Does he really hate Russell or was he just making good theater? Most likely a little from column A and a little from column B.

· Holy crap, Coach just dry-humped Colby on live television.

· It was nice to see Jerri redeem herself and reclaim her image this season, but I do have to admit to missing the days when she was literally booed off the stage at reunion shows.

· I would like to be nice and diplomatic, but I don’t think there is any way of getting around saying what is about to come next, and that is this: The Survivor ultimate winner composite photo was the stupidest thing I have seen in my entire life. It reminded me of one of those dorky Big Brother challenges where contestants have to figure out which of them has been put into a composite with an alien and a Chihuahua or something equally idiotic. And the point of that was what exactly?

And the next Survivor location is…Nicaragua! I’ll be heading there to bring you guys all the behind-the-scenes scoop on everything that goes down. I am your personal Survivor servant! Thanks again for joining me for another season of excessively longwinded recaps. Hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing. BUT WAIT! Don’t go yet! We have an exclusive deleted scene below of Courtney discussing her thinking heading into the final Tribal Council, as well as clips of the final five before the game started, talking all about how they planned to win. Jeff Probst is going to try to blog his thoughts on the finale and reunion, but that won’t be until Tuesday morning so check back then for that. But now it’s your turn. Did the right person win? Was Parvati (or Russell) robbed? And did you find the Fallen Comrades montage to be somewhat bearable this time as well? Hit the comments section and let us know. And for continuingSurvivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. See ya in the fall for Survivor: Nicaragua!

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