“Ten years, four times on Survivor, 116 days, one challenge, for one million bucks. That’s what it comes down to. Pretty big stakes.”
That quote, uttered by Boston Rob tonight right before they underwent the final immunity challenge, is a good way to summarize the entire season of Survivor. From the second he stepped on that beach on the first day, for better or for worse, this has been Rob’s game to lose. Tonight’s finale and the success of the season for a large part rested on his ability to first make it to the final three, and then do what he wasn’t able to do the first time he was in the finals: convince the jury to vote for him. Could he pull it off and take home the million dollar prize?
Coming into the finale, there were still a lot of questions to be answered due to the thorn in the show’s side called Redemption Island. Last week I called it a “genuine bust" and nothing that happened tonight caused me to change my mind. Despite what seemed like a season-long buildup by the editors for Matt to reenter the game once again (likely on the back of Jesus himself), he was eliminated in the final challenge, ruining all of our chances to see him get voted out of the same season a history-making three times. Instead, underdog Andrea won, beating out three of the most athletic men in the competition. Once she returned to the game, though, she couldn’t seem to make any inroads to separate Rob from his alliance and was immediately voted out.
Emerging as the real threat in these final few episodes has been Ashley, who has shown a sudden ability to win immunity challenges and a keen awareness of Rob’s place in the game and his need to be dispatched. However, Rob has been so dialed into the dynamics of both his tribe and the game as a whole that he immediately knew she was a threat. Their respective lives in the game essentially boiled down to the final immunity challenge, a horribly designed task in which they ended up being side by side the entire time. (Seriously, who designed that challenge? All anyone had to do to stay in the game was FOLLOW. It was like a really short, spatially contained leg of The Amazing Race.) In the end, after strangely offering to “work with” Ashley, Rob figured out the final puzzle and cemented his place in the final three, quickly deciding to eliminate Ashley because she was the only true threat to him for jury votes. The one thing his entire game rested on was Natalie.
Last week I mentioned how skillfully Rob has developed his relationship with Natalie throughout the season, and that relationship turned out to be the most important one he formed in the game. Although Natalie was close with Ashley, she listened to Rob and voted her out when he insisted they needed to. She might not have realized this, but for her it wouldn’t have mattered who went to the final three with them as she wasn’t going to win. Still, she trusted their alliance and voted with him - and it allowed Rob to win a million dollars.
I sort of buried the lede here, mostly because I didn’t want to spoil anyone in our RSS feed. But, you guys. Rob finally won Survivor! And maybe he’ll never play again, which is exciting because even though I enjoy him it’s kind of overkill by now! This is both fantastic because, as a fan of the show and the player, I genuinely wanted to see him win, and also because (as Probst pointed out) he played one of the most perfect games of Survivor of all time. Yes, this is his fourth time so he should know how to play by now. Yes, he got extremely lucky with the personalities and demographics of his tribe. Still, the way he took control from day one and never (not ONCE) was in danger of being voted out was kind of magnificent. Even though at times it was boring, other times were thrilling and there was enough good overall for this to be considered a successful season of Survivor. Rob had big stakes in doing this season, but so did the producers after a shaky season 21. Here’s to big stakes reaping big rewards.
- Although I intellectually knew there was no way Rob wasn’t going to play his hidden immunity idol, the editors did a fantastic job of confusing me enough to make me nervous. Thank goodness he did, or he would usurp Marcellas from Big Brother for dumbest reality television moment of all time (even though he didn’t technically need it in the end).
- Bitter juries still confound me, after all of these years. Why are they so angry and mean? Why can’t they separate the game from real life? I’m actually starting to suspect the producers rile them up in some way.
- David: Best jury performance of all time? I can’t recall a player using his jury time to campaign for one of the final three, but it was unexpected and sort of fantastic.
- BABIES!!!! (Sorry, I lost my composure for a second. That Mariano brood is cute.)
- Grant is the last person I thought would be bitter, honestly. I wonder if those giant suspenders are affecting his judgment. (He is married to gorgeous Canadian actress Christina Cox, though, so he must have some brains in his head.)
- Phillip apologized to Steve for calling him racist, so that was nice. Too bad he still can’t convince anyone he was a federal agent, even with one of his fellow academy students there backing him up.
- Favorite player goes to Boston Rob as well with 40% of the vote, with Matt coming in second at 36%. America loves Jesus, but only second best.
- David is dating Carolina Eastwood from Tocantins and proposes to her on camera. She accepts, but does not seem that into it, y’all.
- Survivor, South Pacific: We’re bringing back Redemption Island, whether you liked it or not! Sigh. Any guesses for the two returning players?
- “Who knew what a treasure awaited on Redemption Island.”
- “Obviously you’ve forgotten my title: the Undercover Specialist.”
- “Natalie, once again, completely out of this challenge.”
- “First of all, I’ll figure out which one of these other three idiots I’m going to send home tonight, and then how I’m going to convince the other people sitting on the jury to give me a million dollars after my wife’s already won one.”
- “I learned that it’s okay to tell the world that I have a relationship with somebody that’s been dead since 1870. It’s okay.”
- “I want to say that I was never proud to wear plum color underwear. I knew that my manhood was not reflected in the briefs that I wear, but rather the character I bring to the game so with happiness and joy, as I approach my destiny, I bid you adieu.”
- “Thank God. Now go wash your hands.”
- “First of all, I want to start with Phillip. You…are weird.”
- “Don’t worry. They’ll be all smiles later.”
- “What you’re thinking right now is ‘What is Phillip really thinking’?”
- “For my money, in 22 seasons, that’s as close to a perfect game as anybody’s ever played on Survivor.”