Survivor season finale recap: The Right Player Won
The most shocking development in Survivor history! It immediately caused a huge uproar online, with people tweeting each other messages like, “What happened?” “I can’t believe it!” and “OMFG!” The last time a finale moment caused this much of a scandal was when Russell Hantz lost to Natalie White. I’m speaking not of Boston Rob’s victory over Natalie and Phillip, mind you, but rather the omission of the Fallen Comrades montage! Usually the only drama involved with the Fallen Comrades tribute is whether it will be by land or by sea. Not this season. Perhaps there simply wasn’t time because we had to hear from Rob 683 times about how he played for 10 years, never won, and it had all led to this…blah, blah, blah. Or maybe they just realized that having players wax nostalgic about people they never even played with or cared about was absurd (“Krista…uh, yeah, she was…um, a girl…blonde, I think?”). Either way, no awkward remembrances or burning of wooden name planks up on a mountaintop with a dramatic 360 degree helicopter shot for us.
You know, no one has made more fun of the Fallen Comrades montage over the years than me, but at least it would have been a little more unpredictable than the final result. Make no mistake, I’m not complaining about said result. I always want the most deserving player to win, and it is impossible to argue that Rob was not the most deserving player. (Of course, I said the same thing about Russell Hantz in Samoa, and people still take issue with that.) The problem was never Rob: He was brilliant. The problem was the competition — or complete lack of it. Rob was treated like a rock star the second he showed up and then the adoration only grew form there. As a result, there was not any real drama since Matt was voted out for the second time. I really do wish we could rewind the entire season and Rob and Russell would have picked opposite buffs. That could have been fascinating to see, because the Zapatera tribe would not have given Rob the free ride that Ometepe did. We can’t do that, of course. But we can rewind this final episode and reunion show to see how the final chapter went down in a season that shall from here on out be retitled Survivor: Rob Takes Candy From Babies.
Things start off with Grant’s arrival at Redemption Island. He’s unsure if Rob or Phillip betrayed him. Try both! Meanwhile, Andrea is unsure on how she is going to beat three athletic studs in Grant, Mike and Matt at the next — and final — duel. The last Tree Mail gives the RI inhabitants some time to reminisce about their stay at the Loser’s Lounge. Matt, who looked like he wanted to kill himself a few episodes back, calls it a “special place” and Mike says he’ll miss it as well. Evidently, it is not special enough to burn to the ground like they always do with the regular camp shelter at the end of every season. Every season except this one, that is! No Fallen Comrades? No burning down shelters? What the hell show am I watching anyway?!?
NEXT: The final duel
Everyone arrives at Redemption Island Arena, including Jeff Probst in a bitchin’ orange hat (easily my favorite color in his closet full of chapeaus). The challenge is a very cool one, with all four players having to balance one foot on a board holding a vase. I’m a sucker for a good endurance challenge, and this fits the bill. Plus, we have a former NFL player versus a Marine and God’s chosen warrior. Who will win? None of them! Grant, Matt, and Mike all go down and out, their chances for a million dollars with them. This also ensures Rob victory in the game. Had Matt or Mike made it to the final Tribal, they would have pulled a lot of votes. With them out of the way, and Andrea heading back instead, the path is clear.
But give Andrea some (belated) credit. Once she was back in the game, she did her best to convince Natalie and Ashley that they didn’t stand a prayer in the finals against Rob because everyone at Redemption Island thought they were puppets. She even embellished a bit and said that people would even vote for Phillip over them, although I suppose in the case of Ralph it was not an embellishment at all. (To be fair, he actually voted for “Phile” not “Phil.”) No doubt the most infuriating moment of the entire season for viewers had to be when Ashley brings up the subject to Natalie of forming an all-girl alliance. Natalie’s response? “Let’s just focus on relaxing today and figuring it all out tomorrow.” Focus on relaxing? Sure, you could do that. Or you could focus on, oh, I don’t know, WINNING!!!
This simple-minded thinking would then lead into the simplest Survivor puzzle challenge ever, as contestants had to race across a balance beam with four bags of tiles, and then place those tiles in order from 1-100. Nope, no special secret code or problem-solving involved — just 1 to 100. They didn’t even bother to mix up the numbers in different bags. The first batch of numbers were in the first bag, the second batch in the second bag, and so on, and so on. And the winner is…Natalie! Just kidding. Natalie winning a puzzle challenge is about as likely as me winning a weightlifting competition, and if you’ve ever gazed at my scrawny weakling of a frame, you know how likely that is.
No, Ashley wins the challenge, putting Andrea back in the hot seat, but at least she brings some heat back to the camp. “It would make so much more sense to vote out Rob now that he hasn’t won immunity and keep me,” she says. “I’m really relying on the girls to just do something in the game. This really is actually an opportunity for them, and hopefully they’ll be able to see it. “Of course they won’t be able to see it! Don’t be silly, Andrea. And you didn’t see it either, even after Rob blindsided your island boyfriend —TWICE!
NEXT: The final challenge and vote-off
Rob then makes a lot of noise about not using his stashed Hidden Immunity Idol, but that is clearly for show because only an idiot would not use the Idol at the last possible Tribal, and Rob is no idiot. At Tribal, Phillip talks about his spying on the women for Rob, while Andrea tells the ladies flat-out that the jury doesn’t respect them and that they need to make a move if they’re going to win any votes. In the end, the girls sit on their hands, Rob does not sit on his Idol, and Andrea does not sit at all because she needs to take the walk of shame to the cold blue light of death as she is sent to the jury house.
After Tribal, Phillip tells us “I can’t believe I’m in the final four.” That’s okay — neither can we! But there is still one more challenge and vote-off to go. Right after the Fallen Comrades tribute, of course…. I said, right after the Fallen Comrades tribute, of course…. Hello, that’s your cue, producers. What in the name of painful attention-grabbing reality wedding proposals is going on here? Where is the Fallen Comrades tribute? I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s just that it’s so gosh darn easy to make fun of. It’s almost as if the producers left it out just to spite me. (Or they simply didn’t have time. One of the two.)
Anyhoo, the epic final challenge is a gigantic maze in which the players must once again collect four bags of puzzle pieces and then race to the top of a temple-looking structure to solve the word phrase “Only You Are Safe.” Natlie’s puzzle pieces may as well spell out “Not A Chance In Hell” because there is no way she is winning this one. In fact, her comical performance leads to commentary from Probst such as, “Natalie, totally lost,” “Natalie being a good sport and still running around,” “Natalie, one bag. Has only one bag,” and the old classic we’ve been treated to so many times before. C’mon, say it with me, because we all know it by heart: “Natalie, once again completely out of this challenge.”
The challenge comes down to Rob versus Ashley. The two awkwardly pretend to be working together while not helping each other in the least because that would make no sense. In the end, Rob takes it, leading Natalie to run up the stairs crying, which also doesn’t make a whole lost of sense. This means Ashley is sure to go home, although, in another familiar refrain, she tells us “I feel really, really confident.” (Do these people ever learn?)
Rob still has to convince Natalie to vote off her buddy, but that shouldn’t be hard. “It’s Ashley,” he informs her as they collect firewood. It’s not presented as a topic for discussion, as Natalie will try to make it seem later at the final Tribal. It’s an order. And while Natalie may not be good at puzzles, she is exceptional at following orders. Of course, this makes her sad. “Honestly,” she says, “I would rather lose this game than a friend in Ashley.” That’s okay, Natalie, you’re losing either way! Sure enough, Ashley is voted out next and we are down to our final three, which I swore to myself I wouldn’t complain about and go on a tangent about why a final two is so much better because I’ve already done that a million times and everyone is sick of hearing about it. (Does that count?)
NEXT: Angry people say angry things when they are angry
The final three are proud of making it all the way to the end. Rob continues to tell us all about his 10 year odyssey. Phillip informs us that “it’s okay to tell the world that I have a relationship with somebody who has been dead since 1870,” which gets me mildly excited for a minute because I’ve long said that the only thing that could beat Survivor is Zombie Survivor. And as for Natalie, well, she manages to deliver the most frightening quote of the evening by telling us that “I’m 19, and I feel like I stand for my generation.” If that’s the case, then I’m sorry, but that generation is positively SCREWED! Speaking of frightening, we also have to endure lots of close-up shots of Phillip’s saggy pink undies as they burn in the fire — the odor of which no doubt kills many small animals in the vicinity.
Off to final Tribal we go, with Phillip sporting a feather and red blanket. Proving what incredible competitors and strategic tacticians they are, Natalie and Phillip use their opening remarks…to talk about how incredible Boston Rob is! “I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if it weren’t for Boston Rob,” Phillip informs the jury. Perhaps worried he hasn’t gotten his point across and flattered his competitor enough, Phillip then goes on to dub Rob a “mastermind.”
Now it’s time to hear from the angry people. Ashley sure is angry. She and Phillip get into an argument about whether he is allowed to speak or not. He does, so she kind of loses that argument by default. Rob pulls a Todd Herzog and kills Grant with kindness, explaining he had to vote him out because the guy was just too gosh darn good. Ralph then does his first astute thing in the game in pointing out to Natalie how she always looks at Rob every time she answers a question to make sure it is okay with her lord and master. Any momentum Ralph starts with, however comes to a screeching halt when he awkwardly asks Phillip “Do you like me?”
Steve doesn’t like Phillip, and he lets him know it, but the angriest of the angry has to be Julie, who tells all three finalists that should be ashamed to be related to anyone by whatever means they are related. Whether you’re a daughter, father, son, crazy uncle, whatever — you’re no good In Julie’s book. She says that, “none of you played a respectable game.” Maybe she would have a point…had she not buried a grown man’s bathing suit! “Don’t worry, they’ll be all smiles later” Rob whispers to Natalie, and he’s right — unless your name is Grant.
David chooses not to talk to the final three at all. Instead he talks directly to the jury and encourages them to vote for Rob, pointing out what a dominating performance he put on. Probably unnecessary at this point, but seeing as what happened in All-Stars and Samoa, it never hurts. Sure enough Rob (who promises this will be his last time playing because he needs “to go home and take care of my wife and my children” — even though he has already signed up to be on yet another reality TV show) does win, although Ralph’s vote for “Phile” ruins the shutout. Next thing you know he’s hugging wife Amber and his two baby girls who appear to be out way too late for their ages, but I suppose when both your parents have won a million dollars you can kinda do what you want.
NEXT: Notes from the Reunion show
A few notes about the Reunion show:
* Probst told Rob that at the start of the game, “Obviously, you had a target on your back,” but I couldn’t disagree more. I was out there for those first few days, and unlike Russell on Zapatera, Ometepe (with the exception of Francesca and Kristina) did treat Rob like a rock star. His aura from appearing on the show before clearly worked to his advantage.
* Natalie’s quote of the reunion show: “I think I’m stronger than I think I am.” She just may be the new Yogi Berra. If she can find out whom that is. Google!
* Interesting that Grant is still pissed at Rob. Rob never really spoke ill of him to camera so I wonder what the friction there is all about — other than, you know, the backstabbing him right out of the game.
* Probst told Matt that, “you won 10 out of 11 duels.” Not true. He did not lose 10 out of 11 duels. Mike beat him three different times.
* Of course Russell was going to give it to his own tribe again for throwing a challenge and I don’t blame him because it was an idiotic idea. They not only lost momentum but also another member of their tribe that might have come in handy at the merge. And was anyone in the world surprised when Russell backed off his pledge to never play again, telling Probst to “just keep my number?”
* I don’t really care whether Phillip was a former federal agent or not because I’m still reeling from that incredible 1984 Army picture. The glasses. The stache. The hair. It’s all working! That’s a man I want defending my country right there! USA! USA!
* Was that Ralph or one of the dudes from ZZ Top?
* As if one million dollars was not enough, Rob also won the $100,000 fan vote, edging out Matt. Although I have mad love for Francesca, my girl did just last one episode, so no qualms here.
* What’s the over/under in terms of length on the David-Carolina marriage? Oh, see that was just mean of me. I do hope they live happily ever after. Let’s just say that — Rob and Amber notwithstanding — reality engagements/weddings don’t exactly have the best track record. How’d that Mike Boogie-Krista engagement from the live Big Brother 2 finale work out? Also, David not taking the cue from Probst to go propose? Awkward!
And so Redemption Island comes to a close. Weird season. Weird, weird season. From a strategic standpoint, as David said, you have to appreciate what Boston Rob was able to accomplish. Yet from a dramatic standpoint, you have to wish someone else had showed up to play as well. With Redemption Island and Nicaragua, this certainly wasn’t the best year for Survivor. But it doesn’t matter. Because whenever you think this show is down, it roars back with another monster season. I feel it coming. Fingers crossed that season is Survivor: South Pacific.
But before we can get to that, we have some final goodies for you. Check out an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode below as Murlonio gets Tree Mail about the final Redemption Island duel. Jeff Probst will also be checking in soon, answering some key questions about the finale. Thanks, as always, for reading, and I have appreciated all your kind words throughout the season. For Survivor news and views all year round, you can follow me at @EWDaltonRoss. (But you knew that already.) Now hit the message boards and let us know what you thought about the finale. And I’ll see you next fall with another scoop of the crispy!