Well, here we are, the Survivor Tocantins finale! Finally we’ll discover whether JT or Stephen wins. What’s that? You thought there was a chance Taj and Erinn could band together and break up the boys’ alliance? Ha. Haha. That’s cute.
The last episode saw Coach, the self-proclaimed and self-delusional dragonslayer, get the boot. This one starts back at the beginning, with a review of how things went at the beginning (needed for those like me to whom that first vote feels like last year). Remember Karolina? Haha, me neither. Sandy? Well, unfortunately, yes, now that you mention it.
The tribes merged with six Timbira to three Jalapao, and yet now only one Timbira is left for the finale. Our final four are JT, Stephen, Taj and Erinn.
Gah, Spiders! And More Than One Snake in the Grass
We rejoin things the night of Coach’s boot. They congratulate themselves on final four. JT says he’s starting to get worried about jury votes. Stephen is worried too, that Coach knows Stephen voted against him. Stephen realizes JT comes off looking like the loyal ally, and it’ll hurt Stephen. Stephen claims he’s loyal to JT, but also to himself, and he has to think about who he can beat at the end.
The next day, JT is proud that the three Jalapao, him Stephen and Taj, are still there. Taj tells Stephen not to discount any one in the final four. “if JT loses immunity, dot dot dot,” Stephen brings up. He claims he doesn’t think he could do that, but….
Meanwhile JT and Erinn check treemail, and find a plastic spider. “This could be ugly,” JT says. Ugly, hell. If I thought I was going to be covered in spiders, I’d give up right then and there, I don’t care if I were four people away from a million dollars.
Luckily for my ability to recap, it’s not a real spider. It’s a challenge shaped like a spider (icky enough). The body is a rough rope bouncy floor thing, and the legs are rope tubes. They’ll have to crawl through the tubes to get three bags of puzzle pieces, and then put together the puzzle to win.
JT pulls out a strong lead, scampering through the tunnels while the others ease through them slowly. At one point he and Taj are in the same tunnel and he has to crawl over her. He gets his bags first, and starts the puzzle. But Stephen and Erinn are both good at puzzles, and it turns into a near-photo finish – JT wins, and Erinn later tells us she was placing her last piece when he called it. Oh, so close! But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Or whatever that saying is.
Back at camp, Taj says they’re still final three alliance, even though she’s sure Erinn will try to break up their alliance. She believes the men are loyal to her, though.
Sure enough, Erinn gets Stephen and JT alone. She tells them that Taj has played such a good social game that she’s friends with everyone. I.e. she could win a jury vote. This makes JT think.
Alone, Stephen says they’re sure they can beat Erinn. But Taj believes she’ll go to the final three with them. JT says as long as them two are solid, it doesn’t matter.
Stephen tells us he wants to win. If it’s Taj, him and JT, he thinks Taj has a stronger chance, and that Taj is more likely to take JT to final two.
They tell her it’s Erinn, and there’s an uncomfortable moment where they all three reassure each other. JT says he and Stephen are going to stick together on whatever decision they make.
At tribal, Jeff asks Stephen how Timbira got plucked off. Stephen says they connected with members of Timbira, and then they stuck together.
Erinn is proud of herself to be the last one left. She claims to have learned that scrambling before the vote doesn’t work. Taj says Erinn might get jury votes out of vindictiveness against the Jalapao three.
Stephen says it’s an individual game. Under prodding for Jeff, he says his vote tonight is about assuring himself a place in the finals. JT says he doesn’t trust Erinn as much as the other two. Taj agrees. She’d be shocked if it was her tonight. And Erinn would be surprised if she stays.
And the vote is …. Taj. The boys betrayed her.
She tells us she got blindsided, and it “blew my mind” so it will be really hard to choose who’s worthy of a million. If Erinn finds a way to “weasel herself” into the end, she has Taj’s vote.
That night at camp, Erinn assures them Taj didn’t seem upset or surprised. JT is already regretting the vote, as Erinn won’t shut up.
Stephen says their final three status is tainted by hurting Taj and Erinn being annoying. But, he says, you can’t make a strategic decision based on the emotion of it.
Stephen Would Rather Wimp Out Than Play
The next day, Erinn has promised to Stephen she’ll take him. Stephen seems to be promising the same thing. Hmm. They agree that JT will “fight like hell” to win the final immunity and they must too.
“We stand a chance against each other,” Stephen tells her. “I don’t think either one of us stands a chance against him in the finals.”
He tells us it’s a tough choice, and he hopes he won’t have to make it. JT vows solidarity, and Stephen promises he’s still with him.
JT tells us he can’t help but worry. So the thrust is, they keep promising each other loyalty, and then telling us they’re unsure.
They head off to do the ritual remembering of the others who were booted, and burn them in the end. As it’s so fillery, I’m not going to get into it.
They head off to the final immunity challenge EVER. It’s a deceptively complicated game in which they must put multiple balls into spiral chutes, and catch each one and put it back in without missing any. One handed.
It requires more concentration as they add more balls, but it’s not terribly exciting to describe in mere words. Eventually Erinn drops her ball. And then Stephen misses one, and JT wins the final immunity, a spot in the final two, and the pressure of deciding whether to take to the finals the girl he can beat, or the friend he promised.
Stephen tells us it was an enormous weight lifted off him, because he was dreading the decision. He says choosing Erinn would have been “such a scumbag decision.”
Erinn, meanwhile, tries to sidle up to JT. She claims the Timbira jury wouldn’t vote for her, because they all resent she stuck it out longer than them. She might get Taj, she says. Then she mentions there’s a “lot of talk” about how it’s suicide to go against JT. He asks if Stephen said that, and she says yes.
So now JT’s suspicious of his friend. He knows he can beat Erinn, and she says Stephen will argue his case really well. He agrees that Stephen could make him look awful at the jury. He tells her she’d be more logical to take.
Erinn tells us taking Stephen would be more honorable, but that JT needs and wants the money.
Left alone, Stephen asks if Erinn’s been pressuring him. JT says she pled her case and she has a good one, and that she said Stephen would have taken her. He says it isn’t true. Stephen tells him he knows it’s a hard decision. But he says JT will still win and do the right thing.
Stephen tells us he knows taking Erinn is good sense. They haven’t let sentiment get in the way of the money in the past. But he thinks he has a good read on JT and that JT won’t betray him. “You have to know you’re going to win this,” Stephen tells him.
JT says his mom told him he could win if he doesn’t do anything stupid, and that’s what’s in his head. If he lost because of that decision, people would be disappointed.
Mama Said Don’t Be Stupid, Boy
They head off for their penultimate tribal council. Jeff tells JT he’s earned this spot, winning the last three challenges, and now he’s got the biggest decision.
Erinn says her pitch to JT was jury votes – that she’d get few and Stephen could get enough to win. Stephen says his argument was that they “shared a brain and made every move of this game together.” So he invoked their long-term commitments and what it would mean to their future friendship.
Jeff distills it down to loyalty vs. easy money. JT says he has to decide which is more important. To bring the best to the end, it would be Stephen, and he’d be sticking to his word. He asks himself if Stephen would have done that, and he won’t ever know. But it would be sticking his neck out, he says, and that would be a huge risk.
Stephen interjects that there are other reasons to take him, like the breakfast they’ve talked about having on the last morning. “There’s more toa relationship than a million dollars.”
Jeff asks if it would ruin their friendship. Stephen says they’d be friends, but not the same kind. He says he’s lied in the game, but JT made some strong promises.
JT says he’d have a better chance of beating Erinn at jury votes, because her tribe mates were trying to get rid of her early on.
Finally Jeff stops dragging this out and sends JT off to vote. And he chooses … (drum roll) … Stephen. Well, good, I think he’d have lost a lot of respect if he’d ditched his buddy at the end. Besides, I don’t much like Erinn either.
Also, Coach pumps a fist, like he’s proud of his little warrior.
The Bromance Enjoys a Morning-After Breakfast
The next day, they revel in their final-two status. They planned this at the outset and are a little amazed it worked. Stephen says they’ll be friends for life. Treemail brings a breakfast feast. “The warrior and the wizard, day 39,” Stephen says.
JT says when he met Stephen, he thought he was religious and that he’d have to watch his mouth around him. Stephen thought JT was just a charmer. Which clearly he is, as he’s charmed Stephen. It surprises Stephen that despite their different backgrounds, their minds work the same.
JT tells us in the council, he’s going to have to lay friendship aside and go for the million. Stephen says he has a story to tell and will argue his case. He’s not going to go in defeated and tell them JT is awesome.
They head off for the final time.
Turns Out This Time, The Crazy is All In the Finalists
In his opening statement to the jury, Stephen says if they’re choosing the best woodsman or best drawl, they could have decided on day one. He and JT shared a brain on strategy, they did everything together. He’d like to focus on what they’ve taken out of the game. He came in very uncomfortable, had never been camping before, and his road has been a lot harder. That transformation has made him a better person, and he owes it to all of them.
JT says that’s hard to follow, as he’s not a Yale graduate or English major. He worked hard to get where he is, he tried to provide for everyone. He never got a vote in the game and it’s a big accomplishment, and he made friends with them. He says they voted off who they thought would vote them off. He stuck to his word by bringing Stephen, because Stephen deserves it, but he deserves it more.
And here we go. Please, c’mon, crazy speeches!
Brendan: He asks Stephen about his growth – not one game is about who works hardest or who grows the most. Stephen says there’s an outwit component. Brendan asks if he then should be handicapped. Stephen says no, he just had no skills and still persevered.
To JT, is growth relevant? JT says no, you can take it home and it’s good for you personally. He says Stephen hid in the shadows some and JT had to prod him out. Stephen says that’s a legitimate strategy. JT says sticking your neck out is better than floating under the radar.
Erinn: To Stephen, she’s seen him play three different alliances. People from all of those alliances were on the jury, so should she just vote for JT? Stephen says that’s the game, he zigged and zagged as needed.
To JT, she says there’s been talk of taking strength to the end. Why is Stephen the best? JT says Stephen at the time was the most honest person to him. He brought him along, and he thinks he’s the best in that alliance.
She claims she hasn’t decided who to vote for. To JT, she says honesty is important. She thought he had it, but she is doubtful now. JT says his mother told him he’d have to lie to win the game. He says she did the same thing he did, backstabbing coach.
To Stephen, she asks if yesterday he’d had the immunity, would he have chosen JT? Stephen says he doesn’t know, he never made the decision. Debbie says that’s not good enough. So Stephen says he thinks it would have been Erinn. He hopes he’d have chosen JT, he fears he’d have chosen Erinn. JT hangs his head.
He says it makes him proud to see the warrior and wizard. To JT, he wants to hear examples of late-game honesty and integrity, and of putting others in front of himself like a “noble warrior.”
JT says he made a promise to Coach that he’d vote for Erinn, even though he knew Coach was going home, and he did. He says he could have taken an easier path but risked a million dollars to take the strongest to the end and keep his word to Coach and to Stephen.
He puts the same question to Stephen. Stephen says he voted for every one of them, he never took the weasel way out. JT didn’t. And he hasn’t said anything negative about JT.
I’m disappointed Coach wasn’t crazier, frankly.
Stephen already answered the question she had. To JT, what does being strong mean to him, because she thinks Stephen is one of the weakest players, and he also kept Erinn, a weak player, instead of Taj. JT says he believes Stephen is a strong competitor. She disagrees and says it could be his downfall.
They’ve talked about sharing a brain on strategy. To JT, was Stephen an asset helping him get to the final? JT says he could have done this without Stephen, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy. Stephen says their partnership is unique and he’s sorry JT devalues it like that, it hurts him. JT asks him if he thinks he’d have been sitting there if someone else had won immunity. Stephen does.
“Crushed. Betrayed. Extremely disappointed.” She’s mostly mad she was blindsided, apparently, and she thinks it was unnecessary to send her to the jury in that way. She asks JT why it was so hard to write Coach’s name, but not hers? JT says it was the hardest vote he made in the game. To Stephen, she says she’s seen things in him the last two or three days she didn’t recognize. Was it so important to blindside her? Stephen says JT had been talking about taking her out for a while. He says JT was concerned she was a tougher physical competitor to beat.
JT says it wasn’t just his idea. He says Stephen just made out like he was protecting Taj, and that wasn’t the case. Stephen says there were other times when JT wanted to take out Taj, like when they first got the idol. JT says Stephen told him that. They get into some serious bickering, and JT says he’s offended or hurt or something. “You have been slandering me all night, and this was the first time I ever took a shot at you,” Stephen replies. He adds that their friendship means more to him than this, and JT says but he’d have brought Erinn. JT says he feels like a fool now.
Does anyone else think this sounds much more like a relationship fight than a friendship?
Finally it’s time for the vote, now that the bromance is on the rocks. The jury votes, and then, as always, we switch gears to the live finale, where Jeff holds everyone in suspense.
And This is Why Warrior Cultures are Celebrated and Wizards Are The Stuff of Roleplaying Games for Nerds.
So, New York, Sunday night, everyone bathed and cleaned up. Jeff drags things out explaining what a hard game it is to play. Who cares, Jeffy? Read the damn votes!
And the winner is…… JT! Unanimously, in fact. Not surprisingly, since Stephen didn’t present himself very well in that final jury, I didn’t think. He hugs JT, who then gets enveloped by a LOT of family. Well, good for the good ol’ boy. Fun season!
We won’t go into the whole reunion show here, but some highlights: Jeff challenged Coach to a lie detector test. Coach declined, but to blindside Jeff, he did one on his own, which he passed, proving at least that he believes his own lies. And Coach also brought a woman, who claims we only saw “Coach,” not “Ben Wade,” whom she loves. And Stephen and JT claim they’re still friends. That’s what everyone says when the bromance is over, boys.
Samoa! Samoans, do the Humpty.