Survivor: Redemption Island (Finale)

Survivor: Redemption Island

I cannot for the life of me find my notes for week twelve, and I am not inclined to re-watch the episode. The highlights were interesting, but most of it was just the continuation of The Boston Rob Show (feat. Phillip!).

The highlights were as follows: Andrea shows up on Redemption Island and gives a speech about how everyone left in the game is so horrible/monstrous/dishonorable/etc. for lying to her about who they were voting off. How DARE they. This is the 19 millionth time I have heard this speech. Nonetheless, she maintains her cool during the redemption challenge; Ralph is eliminated instead.

Phillip starts fights.

Pretty much everyone wants to vote Ashley out, but she wins immunity, so Rob is forced to vote out Grant instead. Rob seemed genuinely bummed about this; I think he was more disappointed than Grant was. The big lug’s response to the situation was something like “See you guys in a bit!” He seemed pretty confident he could whip ass at the next duel.

I never really got a good read on Grant. He seemed like a strong enough player and a cheerful enough dude, but he willingly spent the entire game in Rob’s shadow. That wasn’t a bad strategy this season (every single player still on the Murlonio tribe has stayed in Rob’s shadow), but it does force me to consider how he might have played if he couldn’t just cling to Ometepe personality cult. I would really like to see Grant play again in a comeback season.

Onto the finale!

Grant might be a good dude, but he’s still a dude what got ejected from Survivor, so he does his share of kvetching upon reaching Redemption Island. Matt, meanwhile, spends most of his time praying and yammering about how much he loves this place. I think he might be bipolar.

First on the agenda is the final Redemption Duel: Andrea vs. Mike vs. Grant vs. Matt in one of those terrific go-as-long-as-you-can balancing challenges I love so much. The endgame is always the best place for these challenges, too, since the stakes are so high. The idea was, a fragile ceramic vase was balanced on the end of a see-saw. You had to hold the see-saw at just the right height by varying pressure on the other end with your foot, or the vase would fall and shatter. Oftentimes someone will fall out of this kind of challenge immediately, causing Probst to quip something about how there’s a learning curve. But there were no butt-monkeys in this challenge; after forty minutes they were all still in the race. All four of them wanted it.

Grant fell out first. That stung a bit, because I liked Grant. Then, twenty minutes later, Matt fell out. That about knocked the wind out of me. I really, really hated to see Matt eliminated after all that time, in such a finnicky challenge. But hey, that’s how the game goes. God’s plan for him was to sit on a rock by himself for 30-some days, then break a vase. Mysterious ways, etc.

A little while after that, Mike broke his vase and Andrea re-entered the game.

At this point, Murlonio was at five again. This would be the last opportunity to vote out Boston Rob. Andrea bends all her efforts in that direction, and finds a foothold in Ashley. Promises are made, vows are exchanged… but of course, Rob still has his hidden idol. Which he plays with gusto, after teasing us all episode about wanting to keep it as a souvenir.

In the end it didn’t matter. Phillip and Natalie are way too loyal to him, and Andrea leaves again. Go to the jury, go directly to the jury, do not pass Redemption Island, do not collect a bullshit board game comparison.

That just leaves the final immunity challenge, which involves lugging puzzle pieces up a huge staircase after running a rat-maze. And once again, Rob about kills himself getting it done. Ashley’s strategy of following him around the maze hit the blinds when she realized that staying just behind one of the best puzzle-solvers in Survivor history wasn’t going to get her anywhere.

And indeed, it didn’t. Ashley was cut loose at tribal council, the last person to hit the jury. Our finalists are Rob, Phillip and Natalie.

Now, in most seasons, this is where the game ends for the players. Mentally and physically exhausted, most players just relax and enjoy themselves on the very last day. Only twice (that I can recall!) have players used that last day to continue playing, by using a bit of social engineering to influence their opponents’ upcoming reactions to the jury. Those two players (Chris in Vanuatu, and Russell in Samoa) are considered among the biggest bastards in Survivor lore.

I admit I smiled a bit when Rob gave his “How to Handle the Jury” pep talk to Natalie. He told her his biggest regret ever was apologizing so profusely about how he played last time he made the finals. (This was way back in All-Stars.) He told her, empty apologies to make himself look better didn’t get him anywhere. He should have told the truth about how he was proud of the way he played.

That is, of course, all a damn lie. He knows this jury isn’t as weepy or pathetic as the one he faced in All-Stars, and he knows Natalie is just going to make herself look weak if she goes in with crocodile tears. It’s the game. This is how it’s played.

I did note there was no final “walk of shame”, where the finalists paid homage to their fallen comrades by visiting, collecting, and burning their discarded torches. This tradition never adds anything to the game, but I really felt a hole where it used to be. I missed it.

The jury confrontation was a mix of gracious and sore losers, but all that energy was largely channeled away from Rob. Phillip was a lightning rod for the jury’s anger, and Natalie was a doormat who barely drew any mention.

Ralph surprised me by revealing a friendship he and Phillip had developed out there in the game, based largely around their shared value of a good work ethic. I didn’t expect that coming from Ralph.

Julie was the worst juror by far. She pulled out the old “none of you played a respectable game” chestnut. The levels of butthurt on display could not have possibly been more apparent. Her question, no shit, was “Would your parents be proud of you?” What a question! Does she not realize she’s talking to a 19-year-old girl, whose parents probably think she can do no wrong? And to a Survivor veteran whose parents would have disowned him years ago if they could not abide his shenanigans? Phillip’s response to Julie was perfect: “The hell with you!” A perfect end cap to the Phillip Show.

Dave won the jury. He did not address the contestants at all. Instead, he spoke to the jury. His appeal was simple: there is only one logical way to cast your vote in this game. Every single move, every single action, every single vote and every single alliance was overseen and/or dictated by Boston Rob. Voting for any other player goes completely against what the spirit of the game of Survivor is about. Dave was going to vote for Rob, and the rest of the jury would too, if they were being at all honest with themselves.

I think I popped wood during his speech.

The votes came back almost exactly as Dave said they ought. Except for one friendship vote cast by Ralph for Phillip, the entire jury threw in for Rob. After four games spanning a decade, Boston Rob finally has his win. Probst called it, “as close to a perfect game as I’d ever seen anyone play.”

I often don’t watch reunion shows, but I was at work, and this was as good a way to kill an hour as any. It was pretty entertaining. The question of Phillip’s involvement as a federal officer was still not settled, Russell told Probst to keep his phone number on file, and Dave proposed to some former Survivor player I don’t recall. (Oh wait, she was voted out first in Tocantins. Okay.)

All in all, a great season. Too bad it took me so long to watch it all; the next season has already started airing, so I need to hit the OnDemand this week and grab the first two episodes. Apparently both Redemption Island and the Two Comeback Twist are in the cards. Both of those twists have proven themselves, and then some, in my estimation.

Fingers crossed for Dave and Grant as our comebacks. With any luck, I’ll be caught up on the whole blogging thing by Thanksgiving!

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1 comment to Survivor: Redemption Island (Finale)

  • Merus

    I would like to see Redemption Island get depopulated a little faster. It seemed a little dumb that Matt hung on for almost the whole game and still went home anyway; it’s basically pointless for the first half of the game unless there’s a possibility a player eliminated early can get back in the game while their tribe still survives.

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