I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that perhaps with the exception of the iconic first season of Survivor, last night’s finale may have been the best in the series’ ten year history. Not only did it feature the closest finale immunity challenge of all time, but the final three were so well matched, it was difficult to imagine who might go home with the cool million. The last time we had such a solid showdown, it was Cook Islands, which featured an epic choice between Yul (brains) and Ozzie (brawn). However, that trio also featured Becky, who was something of a nonentity. Unlike that season, Heroes vs. Villains gave us three finalists who each could have easily marched away with the cash (that is, until it became obvious that one was going to flame out miserably).
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And here it is: my girl Sandra Diaz-Twine WON! How psyched was I? Words can hardly describe it. Truthfully, if either she or Parvati had won over the jury, I would have been thrilled; however, I was pulling more for SDT than anyone else. I suppose though in reality I was just hoping Russell would lose again. You see, last season, Russell was the so-bad-you-gotta-love-him antihero, and even though I wasn’t disappointed with the outcome of Samoa (like Fireman Tom, I still believe whoever wins the game deserves it), I still did enjoy Russell quite a bit as a character.
This time around though, I wasn’t rooting for Russell. Sure, he was one heck of a villain, and sure, he certainly was responsible for a majority of the entertainment value of the show, but after seeing the temper tantrum he threw during the Samoa live show, I was certainly not wanting to feed that ego with another shot at the million dollars.
Of course, the theory back in December was that Russell had been voted out of Heroes vs. Villains — why else was he so desperate to be sole Survivor, going so far as to offer cash for the title to Natalie? Why else would he have tears in his eyes? Why else would he be so demented? Because, it was assumed, he had already blown his chance on the All-Star season, which had already taped.
But no. Russell had in fact made it all the way to the end of Heroes vs. Villains. And what a journey it had been. I must admit, his days certainly looked numbered in the beginning. He was on the outs with a tribe of savvy schemers who all seemed to be above and beyond the Texas oil man. Slowly though, Russell took over, stoking inner-turmoil on his tribe and exploiting the resultant insecurity all the way to the final three. However, just like in Samoa, that’s where his game crumbled magnificently. Russell failed to win over the jury, costing him any chance at the prize. In fact, he didn’t even earn one single vote this time around.
Last season, Russell fans made a giant stink on the Internet, accusing the jury of being full of whining babies that didn’t reward good game play. I suppose that argument has some validity (although, I think good gameplay includes the all-important social game, which encompasses winning jury votes). This time around though, Russell similarly flamed out, and I’m not sure his fans can cry foul a second time. After all, the jurors were no chumps. They were all veterans of the game, and while many of them did have hurt feelings, they still know all about rewarding good gameplay. Russell’s failure to win over the panel can no longer be attributed to weak-minded losers. The fault lies squarely on him, and this was made even more evident during the reunion when he bizarrely proclaimed that he simply didn’t CARE about jury votes. It didn’t make sense, but of course many of the things Russell said during the live show didn’t make sense. The guy is totally deluded and sadly unable to get his mind out of the game. It goes beyond being a sore loser (although, he IS that too).
Point is that the reason why Russell lost this season and the last is because he’s crazy, megalomaniacal, and a jerk. Heck, Probst even alluded to it when he told the audience that Russell’s latest tantrum was what it was like every Tribal Council. Sure, he’s got charisma and brains, but also an ego that has done him in twice in a row.
More impressive were Sandra and Parvati. Already the boo-birds are out about Sandra. I’m not having it. Sandra is awesome. I absolutely love her blunt attitude, not to mention the fact that she burned Russell’s hat. She certainly wasn’t as strong a physical player as Parvati, but Sandra schemed a whole heck of a lot. She wasn’t the coat-tail rider she was accused of being. She lied, spread dissent, and most importantly of all, she kept an eye on Russell, quietly biding her time before she could exact her ultimate revenge: snatching the million dollars out from right under him.
Some might argue that Parvati deserved the prize over Sandra, and it’s hard to disagree. Again, I say whoever wins the game deserves it, but even then, Parvati did a whole heck of a lot: she won challenges, made big strategic moves, fended off hoards of opponents, and maintained friendly relations with more or less all the jury members. I’m actually not sure why she didn’t win. I guess maybe her association with Russell really did hurt her. In the end, Sandra’s underdog story was perhaps more compelling to the jury — as was her forthright attitude. Parvati’s smartest move would have been to have axed Sandra instead of Jerri. Once again, it comes down to reading your peers, and Parvati came up just a hair short.
That being said, Parv was fairly awesome in front of the group. I loved her opening statement, mostly in the way she referred to Russell as her pet. It was the perfect way to simultaneously belittle him and elevate her, and Russell was noticeably peeved at the insinuation that he was the pawn in anyone’s game (even though he was). Not everyone believed it though, and Parvati was at least once accused of being stuck under Russell’s thumb the entire game. Had she been wise, Parvati would have replied “Well, then help me get out from under his thumb and give me the million dollars.” Who knows — it might have won her some more votes.
Ultimately though, as long as Russell didn’t win, I was happy. That Sandra managed to earn the title of Sole Survivor a second time made it all the sweeter. And the fact that I’ve been ardently on Team Sandra for several weeks now was just the icing on the cake. Of course, now I must cluck away about my prescience regarding Sandra. Back in late March, when I saw my cousin in New York, the two of us got into a rather intense discussion about the show. I insisted that Sandra was a force to be reckoned with, but my cousin thought I was crazy. A few days later, we exchanged these text messages (I’m the green chat bubbles on the right):
What else is there to say? Actually, a lot. What did you think about the finale? Thoughts on Sandra’s win? Who did you want to win? What could Russell or Parvati have done differently? What did you think of the season?