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Well, it’s finally here, the finale we’ve all been waiting for, the denouement of Survivor’s racial experiment. Oh, did you forget this was a racial experiment? Silly you, letting that slide just because no one’s mentioned it in weeks. All the hoopla at the beginning about dividing the tribes along ethnic lines, pretty much gone kaput after the first few episodes. Well, never fear, that’ll come back up tonight. Also tonight, we’ll find out who among the Aitu Four will make it to the final two and/or three. Will Ozzy finally get the boot from alliance members scared of his challenge prowess? Or can he find a way to stop the Yul juggernaut? Will Adam manage to find a way to stay in the game? *snort* Ok, that last one was a joke.
How Did We Get Here?
I’ll spare you the show’s eight-minute flashback over the whole season. You all remember the racially divided tribes (now that I’ve reminded you), the chickens, Cao Boi, Ozzy throwing the challenge to boot Billy, Billy’s bizarre love for Candice, Yul’s immunity idol, the mutiny, Jonathan’s skill at irritating everyone, Parvati’s blatant flirting, and the domination of the Aitu Four.
Tonight we start with five survivors left, and they’ll compete in their last immunity challenges, with a final twist, blah blah blah, a million dollars.
We kick off Day 37 – the morning after Parvati’s boot – with Adam sitting alone in the tent, while the other four are outside. “I was by myself last night,” Adam says. “I had no one to sleep with.” Oh, boo-hoo!
The others think Adam is sleeping, and Ozzy says he’s given up. Sundra doesn’t care about Adam, she’s more worried – finally – about what’s going to happen to her four-person alliance when they’re the final four and have to whittle it down even further. She says it’s time to think individually – past time, if you ask me – and there probably will be hurt feelings, but that’s the game.
Becky, too, has woken up to the fact that she’s going to have to turn on her peeps. She says they’re now competing against each other, and that maybe they should eliminate Ozzy because he’s so hard to beat. Ozzy, meanwhile, says the four have overcome a lot together, but now he’s a big threat and winning immunity is crucial for his survival.
Adam, captain obvious, says it’s important for him to win immunity, because it’s those four against him.
That’s Not a Web, Adam, It’s a Noose
The survivors arrive at their final challenge, and it looks like a big web hung off a huge jungle gym. Jeff explains they’re to race around a ropes course to eight different stations, collecting bag of puzzle pieces at each one. They use the pieces to make an eight-point compass rose puzzle, which will raise a flag if assembled correctly. Jeff says that in 13 seasons, this is the most difficult puzzle they’ve had.
It does look difficult. They all start off on different parts of the thing, and Ozzy is not ahead, for once. But soon that changes, and as the challenge goes on, Ozzy and Yul are pretty much tied. They both begin working their puzzle, as does Adam, but as it comes down to the wire (or appears to, through the miracle of editing), Ozzy gets it barely before Adam does, winning immunity and pretty much guaranteeing Adam is joining the jury tonight.
Back at camp, Ozzy feels good. He looks at Yul as his only competition, and hopes to win the next two and secure a spot in top two. Yul feels good about his position, though, because he still has the immunity idol. As Adam trudges off to the tent to sit alone, Yul congratulates the Aitu Four.
Adam says he’d like to make Yul play that idol before he goes, and he approaches Ozzy about it. Adam’s plan is to have himself, Ozzy and Sundra vote for Yul, while Yul and Becky vote for Adam. Then Yul will use the idol, Adam will still be gone, and the others will be left knowing that Yul can’t pull out that trump card again.
Ozzy says Adam’s plan is planting seeds of doubt and it could go a lot of ways. I think he’s pretty noncommittal in his answer to Adam. Adam also approaches Sundra, telling her that Yul will use the idol if he has to, and it’s in her interest to make him use it now. “I’m going home, but I’ll stir it up,” adam says.
Sundra wants a shot at final two and knows Yul will make it hard. She doesn’t say which way she’s going to vote.
*Yawn* Buh-bye, Adam
At council that night, the questions are pretty dull. Ozzy is asked if anything happened to change Adam’s fate, and Ozzy says no. Adam agrees: “I had my opportunity and I came up short,” he says. “These four aren’t budging. They’ve got blinders on.”
Becky says in the next challenge, the Aitu people will fight harder to beat Ozzy, who they’ve allowed to be the challenge-winner. Jeff says she just admitted to riding Ozzy’s coattails, but Becky says that’s not what she meant. Ozzy says he just wants to play to win, like he has been.
Adam says Yul is the guy behind everything, pulling all the strings. He accuses the Aitu four of being boring people who don’t want to take risks. The jury giggles. Adam says he tried to get the others to out the idol, but he doesn’t know if they will.
Becky says this isn’t the right time to worry about the idol. Adam reminds everyone that Yul can and might give the idol to Becky, so why would she want it outed?
Yul steps in and says his four are very loyal people, which might explain why no one has angled for the idol.
And, with all that blather, it’s time for the vote. Will Ozzy and Sundra use their heads? No. Everyone votes for Adam. So he’s gone, and in his final words, congratulates the Aitu Four on knocking out the seemingly-stronger Raro members. “You beat us fair and square,” he says.
Jeff notes that the last four did what seemed impossible, by hanging in against the stronger Raro tribe. Now, he says, the game changes. He sends them back to camp.
Saying Goodbye to Strangers. Again.
Back at camp that night, there’s a celebratory mood. Yul hopes they have some time to enjoy it. Sundra says it’s amazing. “We managed to eliminate eight Raro members,” she crows.
Yul says he’s glad the winner of Survivor will be from a minority community, and thinks the strongest survivors have a diverse background.
It’s Day 38. Ozzy woke up before dawn, realizing this is second to last morning, or could be the last one, depending on how this final challenge goes.
But before that can happen, the four are told to go do the usual ceremony of bidding adieu to the torches of all the booted survivors. They do this atop a hill, accompanied by sappy music and clips of every survivor this season, as the Aitu four gather up the ousted people’s torches for a ceremonial burning. This bit isn’t very exciting, so I’m going to gloss over it. I’ll just say, there are people here I barely remember, and the more recent bootees express some frustration.
Outwit, Outplay, OutCenterofGravity
Moving on, it’s time for the final challenge. Once again, it involves standing on a very small platform for hours until everyone else falls off. Hasn’t this been done before? Like, frequently? I’m getting a little tired of the most important challenge being a matter of balance, endurance and luck. *sigh* Anyway, so, they’ll stand on this platform in the water, and every 15 minutes they must reach down and detach a part of the platform, until by the end they’re on a tiny perch that’s smaller than their feet.
At this point, Jeff reveals that there the final tribal council will be a final three, not a final two. Why this twist? I have no idea. But since none of the Aitu four seem to have done a lot of worrying about who they’d take to the final two, or whether to keep someone like Jonathan around just as an unpopular foil in the final two, I guess it doesn’t matter. It just means if Yul wins, it won’t just be him and Becky.
Besides, Yul still has the blasted immunity idol, and Jeff says he’s guaranteed to be in the final three (unless he gives the idol away). Or, if Yul wins this challenge, he could keep immunity and give it to someone else as well. So Yul doesn’t have to worry about jack.
The challenge begins – Jeff says all the perches were proportioned to each person’s foot size, so it’s equal – and everyone lasts the first 15 minutes. They release a section of the perch, and then another, and then Becky falls off.
Ozzy seems a bit unbalanced, which is odd for him, but he manages to stay on. Yul, however, is not so lucky, and falls off soon after they release the final big and are just balancing on a tiny square. So it’s down to Ozzy and Sundra, which is a surprise – I’d have thought she’d fall off before Becky, even – and amazingly, they wind up being up there for two hours before Sundra finally falls off. So Ozzy wins immunity, is guaranteed to be in the final three, and now it’s just a question of which girl goes with them and which girl goes to the jury.
Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo, Catch the Idol By Its Toe
Back at camp, Ozzy is pumped about winning and is surprised Sundra lasted that long. Sundra is disappointed, because she was hoping to surprise the jury by showing up in the immunity necklace.
Yul and Ozzy discuss the women’s fates. Yul says if he voted for Becky, it would be a betrayal of their friendship. Ozzy says he doesn’t have that tie, and he wants it to come down to a tiebreaker at tribal council. After all, he says, their Aitu alliance has always been about fairness and equality, so that’s how he wants it to end.
Yul goes to Becky and explains Ozzy’s position, that he doesn’t want to be the one making the decision. But Yul doesn’t want Becky to be vulnerable at tribal council, either, so he offers to give her the idol, to guarantee she’ll be in the final three. He knows it’s a risk, he says. Becky says it might look bad to the jury if she used Yul’s idol to save her own ass, but she really does want to be in the final three, so she’s not sure.
Ozzy explains to Sundra that he’s not deciding who should go, he’s forcing a tiebreaker. Sundra is understandably a bit nervous – she asks Yul if there are going to be any surprises at tribal council, and he says no. So either he’s lying, or Becky already turned down his idol offer and we just weren’t shown that. Yul says he has remained true to his friendship with Becky and he hopes things work out.
The Longest Tiebreaker EVER
At tribal council, Jeff asks Ozzy if the remaining tribe members talked about who is most deserving of being in the final three. Ozzy says no, that there was no going behind people’s backs, they just decided to do a tiebreaker. He plans to vote for Becky, Yul will vote for Sundra, the women will vote for each other, and it’ll be a tie.
Jeff points out that Yul can still put the idol in play. Yul claims that question didn’t come up. Jeff says that of course he’d say that. Sundra, the person who’d be screwed if the idol is used, says “it’s on him” if Yul does that. Becky says that of course she’d like to have the idol, but worries about how it would appear to the jury. And Yul says the idol “could be played tonight,” but that he is trying to “stay true to certain things.” I’m not even sure what that means.
The votes come in as expected, two and two. Then, in the pivotal, high-drama moment – or not so much – Jeff asks if either woman has the idol. Yul looks at Becky, as if for a signal, and she shakes her head no. So she has rejected his offer, and decided to go it on her own. Good for her, I say, as I think it would have been totally unfair of her to use it, and if I’d been on the jury and she’d done that, she’d have lost my vote. Not that I’d have voted for Becky anyway.
So, we’re at a tiebreaker, which is the typical fire-making challenge. Both women sit down before a pile of sticks and coconut husk, and have to build a fire that burns a rope and raises a flag.
Unfortunately, while both are able to pile sticks in a way that would reach their rope should a fire actually start, they can’t get a spark from their flints. Literally, 30 minutes later, we’re still sitting here watching them try to get a spark. I’m pretty sure the next time marker is 60 minutes, and by this point people are bored, their heads are hanging, their butts are numb – ok, nobody says that last one, but you know they have to be.
So Jeff tells them to stop, and hands them matches. Surely they can manage this, right? Just light a match, build a fire, voila!
No. Apparently not. Both women get flames, but both their fires go out repeatedly. We’ve been at this for an hour and a half by now. Jeff says that after 38 days, they should both now how to make fire.
Finally, Sundra runs out of matches. She says so to Jeff, looking expectant, like he’ll give her more, but he doesn’t – just notes it and watches as Becky builds her fire, which finally lasts and burns the freakin’ rope. So Becky wins, and is in the final three.
They build a structure, then try and try to get a spark. 30 minutes later, we’re still here.
Heads are hanging, people are bored. Jeff tells them to stop. “We’re going to go to matches.”
Sundra gets a flame, Becky has trouble lighting a match. But they’re both low, and go out.
1 hour 30 minutes now. Jeff says after 38 days, they both know how to make fire. They’ve both torn down their teepees to try something different.
Sundra is out of matches. She tells that to Jeff, who just notes it and watches Becky build hers, saying that Sundra can only watch. Lucky for Becky, she’s finally made one that lasts, and she wins.
Sundra leaves, saying later that the fact she made it so far has ignited many things in her, and she’s proud, and that whoever wins is taking her out to dinner.
Jeff says the other three have gone as far as possible, that the power now shifts to the jury, and the final tribal council will be tomorrow.
Adam’s Right, They ARE Boring
So the final three, Ozzy, Yul and Becky, enjoy one last night on the island, and one last sunrise. Ozzy says he’s pinching himself “to make sure I’m not in some incredibly lucid dream.”
Becky is shocked she’s still there, but proud that she didn’t take easy route and take Yul’s idol. She expects the jury to question her about riding on Ozzy and Yul’s backs, but she thinks she’s played a good game and proud of it.
At some point a canoe arrives, rowed by pretty girls, who brought breakfast, mostly involving lots of fruit. Becky, however, has wandered down the beach, and despite Yul and Ozzy shouting at her, she doesn’t turn around. They have to wait for her, and Ozzy thinks that’s symbolic – he and Yul are the ones who’ve been there when key things happen. He thinks he and Yul will get most votes. He also thinks last night was an embarrassing display of Becky’s lack of firemaking skill.
Yul is jus glad to finish the game with Becky. “Finding a really good friend is worth more than a million dollars,” he says. He adds that he tried to play with as much integrity as he could.
Ozzy hopes the final tribal council goes well; he’s proud of how he played, and thinks his actions and intentions speak for themselves, and hopes he can get his point across to the jury. He also thinks he’s broken stereotypes.
Finally, we get to the final tribal council. Jeff says that after 39 days, it’s in the jury’s hands. Each of the final three get an opening statement before the jury questions begin.
Yul: he came here to play a certain way, not just as an individual, but as a team. He feels he’s done the most to influence game, and he brought his alliance to final four. He played a key role, stayed loyal to those who were loyal to him, even if he had to deceive others. He’s proud of how he played.
Becky: She knew she wouldn’t be strongest or fastest, and knew she’d have to rely on social game. She formed an alliance with people she trusted, and thinks she has been fair and honest. Jonathan shakes head.
Ozzy: He was the underdog, his friends were voted out, he was alone in a scary position, but he didn’t let it stop him. He was there to play a game, he tried as hard as possible, and he became a provider to survive. He never tried to hide who he was or how strong he was, but embraced every aspect of the game wholeheartedly. His actions speak louder than his words.
It’s time now for the jury questions. Every season I pray for a repeat of Susan Hawk’s “I wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire” speech, but every season I am sadly disappointed. This is no exception.
Nate: Offers props to all three. He says Yul was the godfather, and is very smart, while Ozzy has more the warrior style of play. Nate wants to know why Ozzy’s strategy is better than Yul’s.
Ozzy says he played pivotal role early on, and was the Yul of his original tribe. He tells them he thought up throwing the challenge that got Billy voted off. After the merge, he relied on himself. He might have played up the “chill surfer dude” angle, but it worked.
Nate asks Becky why she would deserve the million dollars over the other two.
Becky says she was lucky in her alliance, but if Yul was the puppetmaster, she held some of the strings too -- he talked to her about all these decisions, didn’t decide by himself.
Nate isn’t satisfied. Is she saying she was the boss? She says no, there was no boss. They’re here in the finals because they worked together. Becky also reveals that Yul offered her the idol and she rejected it, because she wanted to earn her spot in the top three.
She asks Yul what he thinks is more important in winning – the physical side of the game, or the strategic one? That’s an obvious answer if I ever heard one. Yul, naturally, says social strategy is more important, and that he was happy to let Ozzy win challenges and set himself up as a target.
She tells the three they earned their spot, but that Becky is sitting between “giants” and must convince Parvati that she wants to win.
Becky answers that she rejected the idol, that she isn’t a sneaky person, and that she wants to win honorably.
She tells Yul and Ozzy that she’s torn between them. Yul’s gameplay was strategically flawless, while Ozzy was flawless in physical challenges. She wants them to each tell her something she doesn’t know, to help her decide.
Yul says he came on Survivor because minorities are underrepresented, and he wanted America to see Asian-American men as they truly are, and to be a spokesman for that.
Ozzy says he has similar interests – he wanted to change stereotypes of Mexicans. To come on Survivor and dominate will change people’s perceptions of Mexican people, and he wants to be a positive role model.
He tells the three they’ve been painfully boring at tribal councils, and he wants them to get to the point. He decrees Ozzy must talk trash about the other two, and why they shouldn’t win.
Ozzy says Yul didn’t work as hard as he could or try as hard as he could. Becky rode on other people’s coattails, something proven by her poor firemaking skills.
I’m not sure why Yul and Becky don’t have to talk trash.
She thinks it’s cool they made it after the mutiny. To Yul, she notes that he beats around the bush when asked a question, and will say what people want to hear. So she’s asking a yes or no question, and if he says anything else, she won’t vote for him. Has he been working the jury? Yul hesitates, then says yes. Candice laughs and says the one-word answer was tough for him. He starts to add something, and she stops him.
He barely knows Ozzy, so wants to know, what was the most challenging experience in his life? Ozzy says his relationship with his father, who doesn’t want to take responsibility, and Ozzy’s had to be the one to work to try to get to know him. “My father just has never been there for me,” Ozzy says, adding that it’s hard knowing “the person who created you doesn’t want you around.” Ozzy cries. Brad thanks him for sharing that.
Her question is, what is one thing they’ve learned about themselves, or life in general?
Ozzy says he’s learned there’s nothing but mind, soul, self, and love – even though he says that sounds all “hippie dippie patchouli stinking hippie” of him.
Becky, stuck on an island without a watch, has realized she’s always very scheduled, and that letting everything go is very scary.
Yul has found new self-confidence; he says he came on the show with a lot of fears and doubts.
He says he’s thrilled for them. Yul, he says, is brilliant and polite, but very much a politician. He has this idea that Yul may one day run for office, and wants him to explain how telling half-truths, which are also half-lies, is in keeping with Yul’s self-proclaimed integrity.
Yul acknowledges that he used an ability to manipulate people. “If I was outside this game I would never do this to unsuspecting people,” he says. But, he adds, he stayed true to his friends.
Jonathan tells Ozzy, he’s talented and superhuman. Also, arrogant. Jonathan is uncomfortable giving a million dollars to a 25-year-old kid with issues. How would it make him a better person? And make his world a better place?
Ozzy says with the money, he’d go back to school, which has been hard for him to pay for. “I would love to just be able to try and change the world for the better.”
And with that, Jonathan is done. Becky seems surprised he had no questions for her. I’m guessing that should tell her, and us, a lot about how the vote is going to go. Please, no one votes for the under-the-radar player if they’re up against good, overt players. And especially if they’re viewed as coattail-clingers, as Becky is. Girl doesn’t have a prayer.
The jury gets a few minutes to think, and then they vote. We don’t see every vote, but Jonathan votes for Yul because he says Yul out played the others. And Parvati votes for Ozzy, gushing that “the fire you brought to this game completely captivated me.” Oh, puke. Give it a rest, Parvati.
Strategy vs. Muscle: Cage Match
Jeff collects the jar of votes, but – like nearly every season of Survivor – taunts the poor survivors by not reading out the votes then and there, but instead waiting for the live! Season! Finale! Show, taped in Hollywood. So they’ve been waiting months to see who won, although all we have to do is watch Jeff walk out of the old tribal council and on to a new stage dressed up like the council area, where the jury and the final three are newly spiffed up and waiting.
Jeff says it’s one of the most enjoyable seasons they’ve had in a while. I guess he means “none of you were truly assholes,” which is pretty much all he can hope for, I guess. I’m sure this job gets old for Probst, after 13 seasons, but frankly I can’t find it in me to feel a bit sorry for him.
Anyway, it’s time to count the votes. We have one for Yul, one for Ozzy, one for Yul, one for Ozzy – it’s like picking the petals off daisies, here, “he loves me, he loves me not” – and then two for Ozzy, then two for Yul. None for Becky, and Jeff says if the last one IS for Becky, they’ll have a tie. But he brings it out, reads it, and announces …. “The vote is not for Becky.” Ok, taunty taunter, who IS it for? Jeff insists on giving some spiel about how this season came down to Yul’s strategic game versus Ozzy’s physical game, and you can see both men just getting more and more tense. I’m hoping one will crack and leap for Jeff’s throat, but sadly, it is not to be.
Instead, Jeff finally reads the damn name, and it is – Yul! Yul is the winner of Survivor: Cook Islands, and of the million dollars. He and Ozzy hug, and he hugs poor vote-less Becky, and then the stage is rushed by his parents and other people’s families and various survivors and all kinds of people. Enjoy the reunion show recap by Waywyrd elsewhere in this forum.
Survivor will be back in a couple of months with its 14th season, which is set in Fiji. the preview promises new twists and controversial decisions, and I’m crossing my fingers – as I always do – for a lot more conflict and mayhem. I get bored with the nicey-nice folks. And hey, Fiji had a military coup. So there’s always hope. See you in February!