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Survivor Finale and Reunion - May 16

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Let me be honest. This wasn't the easiest recap to get out. Three hours of TV is a lot to recap - particularly if you want to try to capture the show's progress. On top of that, I'm not particularly inspired by the dearth of material. Maybe that's a metaphor for the overall season. That said - it's a ZCap so I have to give it my best shot.

 

The show opens with night 35 on Redemption Island -

 

The Redemption Isle gang is having a rip roaring time. Well, actually, it looks more like death row convicts waiting for the executioner to show up. Can't say that I blame 'em considering the most popular topic of conversation at Redemption Island is how much Jesus loves Matt and Matt loves Jesus and everything is great and wonderful in Jesus' world and Matt is grateful for Jesus' great bounty, etc, etc. No one ever explained that Redemption Island was going to involve a punishment aspect similar to being tortured by a recently converted Baptist youth minister. Things are getting so bad Mike has Stockholm Syndrome and wants to make it a three way between himself, Matt, and Jesus. For her part. Andrea is left alone with her own feelings of blasphemous lust which hasn't been felt since Jeffery Hunter stared in King of Kings. So when Grant shows up everyone gets a bit animated. Grant tells the viewers he isn't sure whether it was Rob or Philip who betrayed him (DUMBASS!) but he isn't exactly down in the dumps either. Grant is confident he can bring it in the Redemption Isle "Duel" to get back in the game. Andrea, on the other hand, tells us Grant showing up on Redemption Island made her an even longer longshot. Oh that Andrea, she's nothing if she's not spunky.

 

Back at Murlonio, the remaining group of Survivors put in the contractually obligated ritual performance of how sad it was for them to eliminate Grant. They all talk about how sad and terrible it was for them - for about a minute or so. Then Rob announces "That's the game", brings out the Beach Folding Chair of Tribal Dominance, sends Phillip to stoke up the fire, and have Squeaky Fromme and Susan Good..errr..I mean Natalie and Ashley, cater to his whims and desires. In an interview, Rob claims to have a heart and says he didn't want to vote out Grant. In the next breath, he explains if Grant comes back then he has to be sent right back out. If it's anyone other than Grant coming back from Redemption then Rob wants Ashley to go.

 

It's been about 5 minutes of so of showtime so it's time to get back to Matt and his love affair with God so we get rushed back to Redemption Island where God's Survivor Warrior Matt is standing out upon a rocky shore, waves crashing about, while in voice-over he talks about, you guessed it, how great and good God is. Seriously, this guy has a thing with God that rivals a teen girl's crush on Justin Beiber. Grant and Andrea are more interested in communicating with the Survivor PA's than God so they go collect the tree mail announcing the final "Duel" of Redemption Island in which the winner will re-enter the game and the rest will go off to that sweet good night of Survivor death known as the jury. We have enough time for one last group prayer to God, lead by God groupie number one Matt, and it's off to the "Duel"

 

The final "Duel" is a combination endurance/balance/balancing competition. Each of the contestants stand at one end of a teeter-totter looking contraption, placing a foot there to hold up the other end of the teeter-totter upon which a vase is delicately balanced. The teeter-totter is on a swivel type of axis so the contestants don't just have to worry about lifting or lowering the teeter-totter too high or low but they also have to worry about swinging it left or right as well. And so let the contest begin.

 

Ode to a Nicaraguan Survivor Urn

 

Upon a plank of wood balances

a million dollar chance,

if only you can remain true

and steady in your stance.

 

19.95 at Pier One,

let it fall and you're done.

Burn your buff, walk away

Ponderosa is the next stay.

 

Four dreams hang by tattered threads,

First to fall is Grant and his dreads.

Survivor's Joan of Arc, Matt soon follows,

He'll have more time to protest satanic imagery in The Deathly Hallows

 

Mike takes a second wiping away a sweat bead,

a mere second is all a treacherous vase needs.

Andrea is the final duel winner, true and fair

she shouldn't get too comfortable in the Murlonio lair.

 

In the end of all the things that could be said,

A "duel" is between two and two are a duel.

Can't a Survivor PA read a dictionary

and instruct Probst to quit talking like a fool.

 

So Andrea survives the final "duel" and rejoins her former tribe mates who greet her warmly to her face while sizing up just the right spot to stab her in the back. Andrea, though, is no longer part of the team and knows it. So she begins to work over Squeaky and Susan Good..err..I mean Natalie and Ashley, telling them people on Redemption are considering voting for Philip. The Manson twins seem to be a little shocked and disturbed about this twist. So much so, Natalie doesn't immediately run to Rob to tell him about it.

 

Ashley has other concerns as well. She's worried Rob can't be trusted to keep her safe and exacts a promise from Natalie if Andrea wins immunity then Natalie will vote out Phillip. Natalie agrees but also exhibits all the signs of a weasel by trying to deflect Ashley from talking about future votes. "Let's just try and relax today," Natalie tells Ashley. If there is any greater sign your erstwhile ally isn't as much of an ally as you thought it would be someone who would rather relax than discuss strategy.

 

Rob and America's Greatest Special Agent Specialist Latrine Digger Philip watch all of this from the Folding Beach Chairs of Masculine Leisure. Rob lets Philip know Ashley is the next out and instructs Philip to keep an eye out toward any signs the three girls are teaming up together. The Specialist in on the job.

 

A new day dawns in Nicaragua and it's time for the Immunity Challenge. I seriously think the PA's ran out of ideas on this one. They set up a long board with four bags of tiles tied to the board. The contestants have to move down the board, untie a bag of tiles, continue down the board without falling off (otherwise they have to start over and run the length of the board again) until they get to the puzzle where they have to place the tiles in order from 1-100. Seriously - the puzzle was putting together numbered tiles from one to a hundred and the bags had the tiles in the basic appropriate order. I can't fathom what the hell they were thinking with this contest. Was it an attempt to make an immunity challenge so simple that even Philip and Natalie would have a chance to win? Stupid, because there is no immunity challenge simple enough for those two to win. Is it just another chance to hand Rob a "puzzle" (and I have to stress that using "puzzle" here is about as accurate as saying "duel" for the Redemption Island contests toward the end) challenge he could win? I have no idea but it has to rank as the biggest mail-in from the Survivor production team of all time.

 

In any case, Rob takes the early lead but Ashley catches up to him by the third bag of tiles. Andrea also passes Rob but she can't catch Ashley. In the end, Ashley wins immunity thereby thwarting Rob's desire to eliminate Ashley and sealing Andrea's doom.

 

Or is it? Rob immediately rallies his troops together to issue voting orders right in front of Andrea. Rob issues his orders - vote out Andrea - and announces he is going fishing. He's so confident of his control over his minions that he isn't going to hang around camp to snuff out any insurrections. Besides, he's got The Specialist on the job to watch out for any girl shenanigans. Unsurprisingly, Ashley pulls Natalie aside, once again, for reassurance if Andrea goes next time it will be Philip. Natalie agrees, at least to Ashley's face, and acknowledges Rob is holding on to Philip for his own reasons but she won't have a problem voting out Philip at the next tribal.

 

Philip watches the girls go off for their strategy session and he's in full-on Specialist mode. When Rob returns, The Specialist quickly informs Rob possible female treachery is afoot. We have the potential for some Crazy Philip outburst at this point as further complicating the situation is the fact Andrea camps out directly in front of Rob and Philip's conversation which further flusters the Specialist. At the same time, Asheley and Natalie are watching from the shelter wondering what Philip is doing stirring up trouble.

 

Rob takes Philip off to the jungle to talk privately (more to calm down Philip than anything else) and Andrea uses the opportunity for one last pitch to get the Manson twins to go for a girl power vote. Only Andrea mis-steps this time by trying to draw focus to Rob instead of Philip. Rob isn't a person to go up against in the final, Andrea says. It makes sense to get rid of Rob now since all the people in the jury think the girls are merely Rob's puppets. The Manson twins seem to take Andrea's arguments seriously and as the tribe makes it's way to tribal, we get Rob in a solo interview saying that he is still dictating the vote tonight and he doesn't even need the idol. He might not even take the idol with him. He'll keep it as a souvenir. It's the traditional over-confident edit of the soon to be blind-sided. Could Rob really make such an amateur's mistake?

 

At tribal, Andrea re-states her case the girl power alliance and taking control of the game. Rob makes the counter-case Andrea remaining in the game would be a threat because she could win it all if she makes final three. Philip isn't allowed an opportunity to be crazy. He didn't even dress crazy. The votes are cast, Rob plays the Idol despite his earlier bravado, and Probst tallies up the votes. Andrea is once again voted out and this time it's going to keep.

 

Back at Murlonio, the final four are excited at being the final four. Philip tells us that he thinks Rob played it brilliantly with the Idol. Ashley decides to be snotty claiming Andrea was throwing them, meaning the Manson twins, under the bus since they hadn't made a big move in the game but Ashley is still here and Andrea isn't so who's made the big moves. Yeah, it doesn't make any sense but I'm sure Rob made it make sense to them. Philip goes to stoke the fire and Rob takes the opportunity to gather the Manson twins to him and extract promises they will vote out Philip if either of them win immunity in the next challenge.

 

Day 38 and time for the final immunity challenge. It's another puzzle challenge (amazing how many puzzle challenges there are this year - wonder why that is?) combined with a human maze. Puzzle pieces are distributed in four stations throughout the human maze. The contestants have to collect all four bags and then they can climb to the top of pyramid where they put together the puzzle pieces into a phrase.

 

It should be no surprise by this time Philip and Natalie are useless in the challenge. Neither manages to get all four of the tile bags. I think Natalie only managed to get one tile bag. Ashley adopted a strategy of following Rob wherever he went so he couldn't get too big of a lead. Both get to the top of the pyramid and start working on the puzzle. Both claim they will work together to solve the puzzle. Both lied. Both struggle for a while with the puzzle combinations and ask each other if they have anything.

 

Then, and I swear to OGG this is true because I've watched the tape several times at this point, Probst is up on the platform with Ashley and Rob and says it's unusual for people to be working together at this point because "Only one person can win immunity and only one person can have that necklace tonight.." There was also only one phrase that begins with the word "Only" and that's the puzzle phrase. I would call shenanigans but I don't think either Rob or Asheley caught on - or at least the edit made it look like neither did. Finally, Rob puts together the winning phrase "Only you are safe" winning the final immunity challenge and for all practical purposes sealing the victory.

 

Natalie, crying as if she just won the game, runs up to congratulate Rob. Ashley is visibly deflated. Philip seems a bit apprehensive. Probst has a raging manrection for Rob and his victory. In a post-win solo interview, Rob cries about how much he loves Amber and his kids for encouraging him and believing in him. He also exhibits some impressive false modesty acting like it doesn't matter if he wins now even though it's obvious he is going to win.

 

Back to camp we go, where it's time for Rob to force Natalie to commit her last treachery and betrayal - voting out Ashley. Rob realizes it's going to be hard for Natalie to make this vote but it has to be done since Ashley is the only person left who has even a slight chance at capturing a Jury vote. Natalie, at least with the edit, seems to initially believe Philip is going and she daydreams how great it will be after Philip is gone when it's just Rob, Ashley, and herself. Although, I have to say whenever Ashley seeks reassurance from Natalie concerning the vote Natalie is less than effusive in her "positive" responses to Ashley - she exhibits all the verbal and body language signals of a person who is simply telling you what you want to hear. Ashley probably picks up on this because she gets to the point of asking, if the plan changes, for Natalie to give her the heads up she is leaving. For his part, Philip is remarkably calm sitting with Rob in the Folding Beach Chairs of Masculine Sloth and Dominance. He simply asks how Ashley is taking the news she's going. Rob tells him they are letting Ashely think she's staying and Philip is going. Philip says that's good - "Let her think that". He then goes on to calling Ashely the laziest woman he's ever met. Good old male chauvinist Philip, never let a chance to denigrate a woman go by the wayside. In yet another production attempt to introduce some drama into an essentially anti-climatic situation, Natalie has another solo interview thrown in where she says she didn't come to Survivor to make friends but it would be hard for her to vote out Ashley and lose her friendship over a game decision like this. Rob then delivers the voting orders to Natalie. - a terse "It's Ashley". For probably the only time in all 30+ days, Natalie shows a moment a defiance. "But why?" she asks Rob. Rob explains Ashley has friends in the jury and represents too much of a threat for either one of them (in other words, Rob) for winning. Ashley, sensing game talk and possible betrayal, worms her way over toward the conversation and once it's over asks Natalie whether Rob said anything. "No, he just said the plan is on," replied Natalie. Betrayal complete.

 

Then it's time for tribal where it's another no drama affair. Philip and Ashley trade insults at the voting both and then Ashley goes down. We have our final three - Rob, Natalie, and Philip.

 

Much missed for the last several weeks of the show has been an appearance from Crazy Philip, the lone semi-entertaining aspect of the season. Crazy Philip comes back with some vintage crazy on the morning of day 39. Dressed in a red blanket and with a two feather headdress, America's Greatest Secret Agent Specialist Latrine Digger and, apparently, John Edwards wannabe talks about his Survivor experience. What is Crazy Philip's greatest take-away from his Survivor experience? It's OK for him to have a "relationship" with a person who's been dead since 1870. I suppose when your a guy like Philip you take your friends however they come and, besides, communing with a spirit is far better and less likely to get you locked up than digging up a corpse. Philip also discloses his, let's be nice and call it unique, strategy to win jury votes - "I want to make it clear to the jury why they are sitting in the jury and why I'm sitting over here in the final. I want to put a little salt in that wound to make sure folks don't forget that and I get to have the last laugh." Great idea, Philip. That approach might make the vote unanimous for Rob.

 

The traditional final three brunch basket feast arrives. Natalie seems extremely excited about the arrival of the basket. I guess she should be - it's the biggest victory award she's getting for making the final three. (Strictly speaking, that's not true, players do get payed for coming second, third, fourth, etc.) We get to hear some insight from Natalie about her Survivor experience in which she let's us know she's 19 and she stands for her generation. If that's the case, I think we should wave the white flag and surrender to China before Natalie's generation can do some real damage.

 

Finally, it's Rob's turn to do a valedictory solo interview. While reclining in the Folding Beach Chair of Masculine Sloth and Impending Victory, Rob recites his Survivor statistics and discusses how he is now only one step away from his ultimate goal of 10 years. He also takes the opportunity to coach Natalie on some of the fine points of how to handle the jury - in a manner that will insure Natalie won't even get a sympathy vote.

 

The jury can be funny and try to make you cry, Rob tells Natalie. He ended up feeling bad and feeling sorry - and that ended up being his biggest regret. What he should have told the jury, he tells Natalie, is to kiss his ass. Natalie is all grins thinking she has just received the greatest advice while Rob, in voice over, tells us that he just gave Natalie advice which, in effect, serves Rob's chances and not Natalie's.

 

We are immediately transitioned to a solemn occasion - the burning of the Pink Panties of Visual TMI. The less said the better about this occasion although I do feel the need to wonder about Nicaragua's national policy on burning toxic waste. In the U.S., I feel this act would have made the beach a SuperFund site and off-limits for at least 10 years. This may be why Survivor is leaving Nicaragua for the South Pacific next season.

 

This leads us to the final final Tribal Council where, as Jeff Probst loves to say, all the power moves from the players to the jury. Philip decides to play it in full Crazy Philip mode with head-dress and shawl. Natalie and Rob are dressed in their usual attire. We then move into the initial opening statements in which, in a first for Survivor, Natalie and Philip make the case why Boston Rob should win.

 

Natalie begins by stating her case why Rob should win. She played for 39 days, her strength was her social skills and creating an alliance where she could ride the coattails of the strongest player in the game.

 

Philip states the case for Rob winning by saying that once Rob showed up he had to change his strategy, roll over on his back like a submissive dog to Rob, and become the Specialist to the Mastermind (aka Rob) who made all the decisions and basically carried him to the final.

 

Note to possible future Survivor contestants - don't ever call your opponent in the final Jury "The Mastermind" since it not only implies your "The Dumbass" but you readily accepted the role of "The Dumbass".

 

Rob, as has been the case in almost every game situation this season, performs the perfect example of stating one's case to the final jury. He cites his competitiveness in physical challenges, his alliances and sub-alliances, the vagaries of luck in the game by being placed with a tribe that didn't seek to kick him out right away, and ending with a stirring explanation of how everything he's done in this game is to provide a better life for his wife and children. Seriously, and this is coming from someone who isn't a Boston Rob fan, anyone that ever goes on Survivor should watch this speech a hundred times before they actually go on the show because it is the perfect example of how to make your case to a bitter jury reticent to acknowledge you beat them. Own what you do, acknowledge the level of luck in your position over the jury's at this point, and make sure they know you may have made cold-hearted decisions in the game but you did so solely for the betterment of your family not for personal glorification at their expense.

 

Initial statements concluded, let the bitterness and recriminations begin. First up, Andrea.

 

Andrea - She starts off by talking to Philip who she calls "weird" and she goes on to say there have been an assortment of Philip personas through out the time on the island. She'd like to know who the real Philip is. Philip snarls back at her the reason she doesn't know who he was is he was on the outside of the tribe and no one tried to get to know who he was. She presses for something more and Philip, continuing with the counter-point example to Rob's of how not to win Survivor, tells her she won't ever know and not to vote for him if she doesn't like the answer. Andrea then addresses Natalie, who's relationship with Rob she classifies as borderline creepy. Andrea wants to know why Natalie was willing to betray her best-friend Ashley for Rob. Natalie, in my paraphrase, basically answers Rob knows the game and he said so.

 

Ashley - She immediately tells Philip she doesn't have any questions for him and he can just sit and be quiet. Philip rises to the bait and says Ashley can't tell him what to do and he won't be quiet if he doesn't want to be. They continue this petty squabble for a few moments until Ashley moves on to Natalie. Ashley asks why Natalie didn't let her know the vote had changed at final four and Ashley was getting voted out. Natalie lies and says it was a back and forth decision and she didn't know until the end. Finally, Ashley throws some bitterness Rob's way about being betrayed which Rob just calmly accepts.

 

Grant - Like a spurned girlfriend, wants to know about Natalie and Rob's relationship. Natalie blathers some more about Rob and Rob says he valued the relationship and alliance with Grant and only reluctantly had Grant eliminated when he thought Grant could beat him. In other words, Rob used the "it wasn't you, it was me" defense.

 

Mater - Mater castigates Natalie for not being able to do anything without looking to Rob for approval. Natalie, almost comically, starts to answer and looks to Rob for approval while answering which prompts Mater to point it out. He then castigates Natalie for not having one conversation with him during the whole time they were together. Natalie explains she did so because she was afraid, after what happened to Matt, she would be thought disloyal to Rob. Again Mater points out that she was acting under Rob's orders instead of thinking for herself. Then, somewhat bizarrely, Mater asks Philip if Phillip likes him. Phillip tells Mater that he respected Mater's work ethic, thought Mater was funny, and if they had been on the same tribe together they would have been friends. I sense a Buddy Cop drama pilot may be in the works already - Mater and The Specialist. I guess the lesson here is crazy seeks approval and respect from crazy.

 

Matt - Amazingly Matt doesn't mention Jesus or God. Instead he couches a question in the form of personal criticism by asking Rob how he draws the line between being a liar and deceiver in the game compared to the rest of his life. Rob, again to his credit, doesn't get defensive but calmly explains he draws the line as sone as he goes home to his real life but while he's out here playing the game he does what's necessary to win.

 

Julie - Going all out for the "Sue Hawk Award" as most bitter jury member, Julie starts off by telling the final three they all should be very, very humble. She tells them they played a disrespectful game and then decides to pick on the youngest most vulnerable member of the final three by telling her that her parents won't be proud of her for how she played the game. She then goes on to tell Philip he should be ashamed of himself because of how his children will see him on the show. Philip stands up for himself and his work ethic which Julie had previously praised but in doing so he comes off comically to the jury who start to make fun of his competition performances. She ends up with some more spiteful stuff aimed at Rob and how she hopes she raises his daughters differently than he treated Natalie. I won't pass judgement here except to say that the person who came out looking the worst and should be the most ashamed of herself would be Julie. It went beyond bitterness and became a spiteful attempt to render emotional pain where people are at their most vulnerable. After Julie's performance, Rob whispers to the other two not to worry everyone will be all smiles later.

 

Mike - The counter-point to Julie, Mike asks each about what they learned about themselves from this experience. Each person gets to talk about how they felt stronger from everything they accomplished and Mike is very respectful to the answers.

 

Steve - He congratulates Natalie and Rob and is gracious in complementing their achievement for making it to the final three. Then he tells Philip that he feels sorry for him and he thinks that Phillip is a shameful man. Still, he wishes him the best in his future endeavors in the end.

 

David - David flips the script and brings out his lawyerly skills not to ask questions to the final three but to present the case to the jury how Rob has just played the greatest strategic game in the history of Survivor. It wasn't Spencer Tracey in Inherit the Wind but it was simple, efficient and effective - much like Rob's game.

 

And with that, it's time for the final vote. Through the magic of TV we are transported to a facsimile of the Tribal Council set in New York where Probst reads out the votes. Rob - 8 to Phile - 1 (guess who spells Phillip Phile?) to Natalie - 0. Boston Rob wins Survivor 22

 

Special Bonus Reunion Show coverage to follow soon...

Edited by ZGeist

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