Survivor: Redemption Island (Page 10)

StuckInTheSixties
StuckInTheSixties: I wish that Jeff had dwelled on Natalie’s broken promises to Ashley in the finale. It would have been so interesting. In fact, I’ll speculate that there must have been some reason that the betrayal, so dramatic and interesting, wasn’t given more attention in the finale. It certainly would have been hard on both of those two girls to relive that live in front of an audience. Perhaps one of them, perhaps both, asked the producers to refrain from going down that path. Perhaps the producers just realized that it might provide for too much trauma. Who knows? But it was noteworthy that it wasn’t ever brought up by Jeff.

For his part, Crazy Phillip didn’t fail to make things crazy by trying to sow the seeds of doubt into Rob about BOTH girls. Rob remained cool as a cucumber, aloof to it all, confident he had HIS GAME entirely under control.

When it came time for Tribal Council, Rob acknowledged that his fellow tribe mates were all tugging on him, plying him with their various ploys, and questioned by Jeff, acknowledging the threat posed by the possibility of an alliance of the three Bikini Girls. Again, prompted by Jeff, Andrea came out with a proposal for the girls to finally use this “opportunity to take control of the game.” Rob endured it stoically. Even Natalie referred to Rob as “a huge threat,” and acknowledged that like anyone else, she had to consider what would get her the furthest in the game.

Rob was masterful in his reply to Jeff’s query about Andrea, the fact that she’d just beaten Grant, Matt and Mike in a Duel, and what sort of threat she posed to him. He ran down a list of quite complimentary qualities Andrea possessed, causing her a smile in gratitude, but then ended that by saying, “It makes her a real threat to sit with at the end. Andrea lost her smile hearing Rob plant those words in the minds of the other players. True to the end, Crazy Phillip again ranted on about his being a “special agent,” with Jeff egging him on.

The vote couldn’t help but have at least a certain measure of suspense. Jeff advised that this was the last time a Hidden Immunity Idol would be allowed to play, and though cocky and confident, Rob wasn’t stupid, and of course, played the idol. Andrea was crestfallen, but then stoic, and realistic. Her fate was sealed with that idol being played. There really wasn’t any need to read votes. She actually giggled a little when Jeff intoned, “The tribe has spoken” and snuffed out her torch.

Upon return to the camp, the maneuvering began immediately. When Phillip went off to get water, Rob immediately told Natalie and Ashley: “We’re all in this together, ‘til the end, the three of us, and that’s it. Promise, promise, promise.” The girls parroted these sentiments. Only Natalie was really telling the truth at that moment, and later, of course, she broke that pledge. Rob conveyed the gravity of the situation to viewers:

“Ten years, four times on Survivor, a hundred and sixteen days … one challenge, for one million bucks. That’s what it comes down to.”

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StuckInTheSixties: The Survivor producers outdid themselves with the final Immunity Challenge, a massive four-part maze/puzzle game. Players had to race through the huge maze to locate bags of puzzle pieces, each bag in one of four different stations in the maze. As one would expect, each bag was secured with a long series of knots that needed to be untied. Upon obtaining all four bags, they would then need to ascend a long set of steps to the top of a large pyramid-like structure where the puzzle pieces would be assembled to create a four word phrase. The puzzle pieces were very curious, three-dimensional, moveable puzzles in themselves, that worked much like the little folded-paper “Cootie Catcher” contraption most school kids are familiar with. Each puzzle piece could be folded in and out in several different ways, revealing various letters and word parts that would either fit as a part of the four-word phrase … or not. Each player had a specially constructed table-like device, with triangular-shaped recesses, and the puzzle pieces would fit exactly on that device … or not. The puzzle pieces could be moved around on that device and placed in various orders to spell out the four-word phrase … or not.

The stakes were as massive as the Immunity Challenge battlefield:

~ Win and you’re guaranteed a chance to tell they Jury why they should give you a million dollars.
~ Don’t win, and you’re guaranteed a one-in-three chance of elimination from the game.

The challenge couldn’t have been better if it had been scripted. This was, as viewers knew, basically a competition between Boston Rob and Ashley, and those two players immediately began to outpace Natalie and Phillip. After a short time, it took in the quality of a footrace between Rob and Ashley. Once again, as he previously showed he was capable of doing, although he seemed to be tiring quickly, Rob just willed himself to push on hard, and began to move ahead of Ashley. In a way, however, Rob’s pulling ahead like that also presented at least some advantage to her. As Rob would accidentally run into a dead end, having to turn around and find a different route, Ashley could see this, and thus avoid making the same mistake. But as the race wore on, both were getting more familiar with the layout, and making fewer mistakes. Phillip, and particularly Natalie, quickly became hopelessly behind, and all but gave up.

Rob had built a small lead on Ashley by the time they located the fourth bag, but they still had to find their way through the maze to the foot of the staircase. And then, adding to their exhaustion, they had to ascend the long set of stairs to the top of the high platform where Jeff was waiting, making his usual play-by-play, and about to watch as the winner figured out the puzzle.

That puzzle appeared to be devilishly complicated. For a brief and very strange moment, Rob and Ashley actually flirted with the idea of working together. That nonsense lasted only a short time before they heard the reality of Jeff’s warning …

“You can work together all you want. Only one person will win Immunity. Only one person will have that necklace tonight at Tribal Council.”

Complicating things was the fact that both were working at stations physically next to each other, both working to find the exact same four-word phrase, so each was able to easily look over at the other and assess their progress. They both realized that at the same time that they couldn’t cooperate. They clammed up, and started to take pains not to leave one word sitting there, easily read by the other, as they figured it out. Ashley had three words completed and was only a moment from finishing when Rob completed his puzzle for the win.

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StuckInTheSixties: It was an amazing, emotional moment of release. The other two players ascended the stairs. Natalie was in tears. Rob, at first, jumped around yelling in victory, but was quickly overcome with emotion, cupping his face in his hands, sobbing, trying valiantly to hold back tears. But he had nothing but pure, unadulterated joy as Jeff place the Immunity Necklace around his neck. Later in an aside to viewers, Rob explained:

“It was [his wife and former Survivor winner] Amber that encouraged me to come back and try again. She believes in me … [Rob chokes up] … it’s ‘cause of her. Like, whatever happens now, it’s okay, even if I don’t win … [Rob begins laughing/crying] … which is ironic, because the only reason I ever wanted to come back and play again was to win …”

As his speech to viewers went on, and he wiped at his tears, Rob’s purposeful mission resurfaced, reality pushed the emotion aside, and the cocky Rob shown only to viewers continued:

“… I feel like I did my best, but I’m not done yet. First of all, I’ll figure out which one of these other three idiots I’m gonna send home tonight, and then, how I’m gonna convince the other people sittin’ on the Jury to give me a million dollars after my wife already won one.”

Cocky. Extremely cocky. But deservedly so.

Rob finally confirmed, in an aside to viewers, in plain English, what we already knew: Natalie was his first choice to take to the final, while Ashley and Phillip remained as variables in his equation, with Ashley being his main target for elimination:

“Basically, at this point, I just wanna make Ashley and Phillip both feel like they’re comin’ to the final with me. It’ll keep peace in the camp for this afternoon, and tonight, someone gets the final blindside. [Rob pauses thoughtfully] The problem is … if I wanna get rid of Ashley, I have to get Natalie on board … and that’s gonna take some work.”

Continuing with a rational explanation, Rob said:

“The other problem with Ashley is that while the Zapatera people were here, she got pretty close to a lot of ‘em, and probably created some bonds that could come to haunt me in the final Tribal Council with her and Natalie. So, pretty much, I have to convince Natalie to vote off Ashley. She’s not gonna like it … and ultimately, she may not go along with the plan.”

As Phillip gathered firewood, Rob instructed Ashley to relax and be assured that Phillip was the target for assassination. Ashley gently suggested that they tell Phillip outright (a gesture that would provide her with a great deal more of confidence), but Rob vetoed that, explaining that it would cause Phillip to “freak out,” an observation that was impossible to argue with. In an aside to viewers, Ashley voiced confidence, having some comfort in knowing that even if she was slated for removal, Natalie would level with her. Even so, she admitted that you can never know for sure in this game. She probed Natalie a little bit, pointing out that Natalie was going to have to “pretend” for Phillip … then leveling with her, eyeball to eyeball:

“… you’d let me know if you heard anything …”

Natalie raised her eyebrows in a gesture of slight reprimand, and said sternly and adamantly:

“Ashley!?! I promise you!!! …”

It was a very interesting, and revealing moment, followed by an aside to viewers in which Natalie said:

“It’s day thirty-eight. We’re going into the final Tribal Council, and we will be voting out Phillip, so I can’t wait to spend the day tomorrow with Rob and Ashley [Natalie begins giggling] … Phillip-free!”

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StuckInTheSixties: Up to this point, we viewers were never completely sure about just how far into Rob’s strategy Natalie had been allowed to see. Now we knew. Rob had been keeping that final blindside from her, allowing Natalie to think that her buddy Ashley was going to be with her at the end. By doing this, he allowed Natalie to continuously provide assurances to Ashley, assurances delivered from the heart, with no need to act. Rob played this part of his plan like a consummate angler with a trophy fish, gently, patiently, allowing Natalie and Ashley to laze around in the shelter comfortable in the idea that Crazy Phillip and his obnoxious craziness would soon be out of their hair, while assuring Phillip that Ashley was going to be the victim.

When the time came, when Rob was able to get Natalie off to the side, he didn’t mince words. As he walked up to her, Natalie apparently saw his expression, saw in his face the bad news that was coming. Her expression reflected that she could see something bad was happening then and there. Rob said it plain and simple:

“It’s Ashley.”

Natalie went silent, obviously upset. As they picked up driftwood for the fire, Rob continued with an air of resigned, but determined, necessity:

“It’s part of the game that sucks, Natalie, I know.”

Natalie replied, with obvious disappointment and irritation, and a little bit of iciness:

“Why?!?”

Rob continued:

“She has way too many friggin’ friends on the jury, which just can’t happen.”

Rob then played his trump card, looking Natalie square in the face:

“I made a promise to you in this game that I’d get you to the end … and I will. It has to happen this way. It’s hard, I know. You gotta be strong for the next couple hours, all right? You can do it. I know you can.”

Natalie answered with a flat, “Um-hm.” Her body language transmitted dejection, disappointment.

Natalie is no dummy. This eventuality, distasteful as it was, was a reality she was not unaware of. But knowing it existed, and actually having to confront it, unsurprisingly, were two different things altogether. She confided to viewers a mélange of emotional thoughts:

“I thought to myself that Rob could possibly come to me, last minute, and ask me to vote for Ashley. It would be really, really, extremely tough for me, at this point, just because we have formed such a close bond, and I promised her that it’s the three of us, and assured her …”

Natalie sniffed back a tear or two as she confessed to having the same motivation, and the same main rule as all Survivor players know that they MUST have:

“I didn’t come out here to make friends …”

But after a thoughtful pause, tempered that with another reality:

“… and I came out here, and I did.”

In a scene edited into the middle of her aside to viewers, Natalie showed us that she’d made her decision. When asked by Ashley shortly after that,

“Nat … did he say anything?”

Natalie answered with a short:

“Nope. Plan’s on.”

With the program returning to the aside to viewers, Natalie continued:

“Rob has been watching my back since Day One … but then again, at this point I have to look out for myself. Honestly, I think I’d rather lose this game than lose a friend in Ashley.”

Not surprisingly, Natalie was struggling with two opposing loyalties, a sad reality that is an ever-present part of the Survivor game.

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StuckInTheSixties: Finally, it was time for Tribal Council. Because Rob had Immunity, it was essentially Jeff soliciting each of the vulnerable players to explain to Rob just why he should pick them to take as one of his companions in the Final Three. Natalie was first. She haltingly, hesitantly, acknowledged about Rob:

“I mean … all along, we’ve been … together on this, just making decisions … I’d hope that … he’d … want me to … stand next to him in the end … I mean … [then with resolve] I belong here!”

Jeff then asked Crazy Phillip:

“What was your pitch to Rob, Phillip?”

Crazy Phillip replied:

“Rob knows that I was the specialist …”

Rob and everyone else rolled their eyes and snickered as Phillip continued with an insane answer that, of course, made no sense whatsoever:

“Rob is probably very concerned that I could beat him because I won … how many Challenges? … Oh. That’s right. I didn’t win any.”

Ashley pleaded her case as one of loyalty, and wasn’t really too convincing:

“You know, I’ve been loyal to Rob since Day One. There’s been many times that I could have thrown him under the bus …”

(Not so, Ashley. Not once did you have that opportunity.)

“… and I haven’t.”

(The cameras cut to Matt as he seemed to register the fictitiousness of that statement.) Ashley continued:

“Now I’m just hoping that he’ll carry me through to the end, but … I don’t know.”

Jeff: “Do you think you can win this game?”

Ashley: “Yeah.”

Jeff: “Do you think you have a better shot than Natalie or Phillip?”

Ashley: “Yeah.”

While the vote seemed … well, almost seemed … pre-ordained by Rob, Natalie wasn’t really a sure bet either way. The ramifications were interesting. Crazy Phillip was certain to vote for Ashley, as was Rob, of course. But if Natalie and Ashley voted for Phillip, a tie-breaker would be necessary. Natalie didn’t have to consider casting a vote that would help her get into the Final Three. She knew she was in. Therefore, her consideration was based solely on what she would perceive would increase her chances of receiving popularity votes from the Jury. There were basically three possibilities:

~ She votes for Ashley, and the field is her, Rob and Phillip
~ She votes for Phillip, the tie-breaker ensues, Phillip wins, and the field is her, Rob and Phillip
~ She votes for Phillip, the tire-breaker ensues, Ashley wins, and the field is her, Rob and Phillip

For whatever reason, Natalie cast her vote for Ashley, and the field was set without the need for a tie-breaker. Ashley’s torch was snuffed, and she joined the Jury. That was that.

Day Thirty-Nine … The three Survivors enjoyed a sumptuous feast of good food bestowed upon them and relaxed. The last day of Survivor Redemption Island … The scheming, the subterfuge, the betrayals, backstabbing and blindsiding was finally over …

Well, not quite. Rob reminisced with Natalie about a past Survivor game for him. He described how he’d gotten to the end, and made what he now considered to be his fatal mistake by showing contrition and regret to the Jury for the lying and betrayals he’d committed, and how he now wished he’d simply told them, “Hey! Kiss my ass!” To viewers, he confided:

“I haven’t stopped playing the game. To some people it may look like I’m giving pointers to Natalie, but I’m actually giving Natalie pointers on how I want her to handle Tribal Council.”

Crazy Phillip was no less crazy on Day Thirty-Nine, delivering another of his classic rants about how he’d gotten there with the aid of his great-great grandfather Justin Herring, who came to him in a vision … blah blah blah blah …, wearing an extra extravagant feathered headdress, and describing his plan to win over the jury by mocking and criticizing them for losing to him.

Yeah … right … good plan, Phillip.

There was even a ceremonial burning of Crazy Phillip’s saggy pink underpants. I’m guessing that Natalie and Rob made sure to remain upwind.

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StuckInTheSixties: At the final Tribal Council, Crazy Phillip delivered. He was resplendently goofy in his extra deluxe four-feather headdress, and had wrapped himself in a red blanket, looking like some silly king or prophet. Notably, Ashley avoided all eye contact with Natalie, and just held an expression of icy resolve.

As is the typical procedure, each of the three finalists were asked by Jeff to make their pitch to the Jury, to deliver a short speech detailing why they should be chosen as the ultimate winner. Natalie went first. Her speech wasn’t very persuasive, just mentioning the obvious, that she’d survived to the end, that she just wanted to play the best game she could, that her strength in the game was her social skills, that she was loyal to Rob … blah blah blah blah blah … not a very noteworthy speech. Ashley looked at her with a cold expressionless stare.

Phillip was next. He explained how he’d entered the game with a pre-planned strategy (he provided no details of it, of course) which was instantly derailed when Boston Rob and Russell were brought into the game. He went on to describe how he’d gone to Rob and apologized profusely for putting his name on a ballot in the first Ometepe Tribal Council, an apology which, as Phillip described, Rob accepted. (Rob, of course, looked puzzled, as that simply didn’t happen.) He then began ranting incoherently about implementation of “the whole concept of ‘stealth’ ” (a concept that resides entirely in the imagination of Phillip), which he credited as the means that

“… allowed our tribe to stay together and devastate the former Zap tribe …”

(Grant, on the jury, covered his face in exasperation upon hearing this, while David rolled his eyes and the others snickered). Phillip then contradicted himself, crediting “mastermind” Rob with this imaginary “total concept of how we should go forward, and I implemented it.” The Jury seemed to be both amused and aghast by this absurd speech. Grant, in particular, looked like he was going to be ill.

Then it was Rob’s turn. He began simply by humbly thanking them “for just giving me the opportunity to play with you, particularly Ometepe.” He then pitched himself, and pointed out to them that he’d excelled in Challenges, winning four individual Immunities. He described how he had put together that powerful alliance of six, and that he was aware that after they had removed the others from competition, it would necessarily become “messy.” He pointed out that he’d been a hard worker in camp.

He then dwelled a little bit on the obvious, but in a way that might have played on the vanity of the Jury members, by pointing out that the power now resided with them, that his fate was in their hands. Finally, with some obvious emotion seeping into his voice, he reviewed the fact that Survivor had been a huge part of is life over the course of nearly a third of it, but admirably admitted that it meant nothing compared to his wife and children. He laid it on the line:

“That’s why I’m out here. I love this game, but ultimately, I wanna win it so I can bring something home so they can have a better future.”

It was an excellent speech. Straight. Direct. Truthful. No bullshitting or pleading.

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StuckInTheSixties: Then it was time for the Jury to interrogate the finalists, a time when often fireworks occur, grudges are hauled out into the open, and bitter insults are inflicted upon the finalists. It began with Andrea. She told him he was “weird,” and referred to the mysterious nature of the “plethora” of Phillips, and asked, “Who is the real Phillip Sheppard?” Phillip gave her an argumentative bullshit non-answer in return, and in a typical display of irrational petulance, he then suggested that she not vote for him, a suggestion Andrea obviously agreed with. (Great strategy, Phillip.)

She then went on to ask Natalie about her “borderline creepy” relationship with Rob, and asking why she betrayed Ashley. Natalie gave the standard, but not very effective, “this game isn’t about making friends” answer, and said that it was a matter of the loyalty she had for Rob from the very beginning of the game. It wasn’t the most well crafted answer. Andrea actually opened the door there for Natalie, giving her an opportunity to play for the Jury’s sympathy by describing how traumatic and heartbreaking it had been, how circumstances had forced her to betray her friend, etc. But she let that opportunity slip away without taking advantage of it.

Curiously, Andrea had no questions for Rob.

Ashley was next up. She began with Phillip, saying that while she had no questions for him, she did have words which she wanted him to hear. Phillip immediately attacked, ignoring any sense of Tribal Council decorum. He shifted into the same mode of confrontation and antagonism that he had with Ashley throughout the duration of the game. This was just one more of the many Crazy Phillip dramas we’ve seen throughout the season. He simply began speaking over Ashley, interrupting her. When she rightly objected to this, he unfairly insisted that he’d interrupt her whether she liked it or not. (Great strategy, Phillip.) This evoked laughter from the Jury as they watched him solidify their already substantial unwillingness to vote for him.

This part of the program left me disappointed in Jeff, who simply looked on in undisguised amusement. There is supposed to be a certain decorum in Tribal Council, and particularly, in this singular point of the game. As Survivor is structured, the Jury members are obligated to hold their tongues, to witness Tribal Councils in silence. They have to endure this repeatedly, with no voice in what occurs. The cameras, of course, often capture their frustrated, angry, or amused expressions, and occasionally, a softly muttered response as they sit there as witnesses. The game is structured specifically to allow them to finally have a voice there at the end. Ashley was entitled to her say, and Phillip was obligated to allow her to have it. I think Jeff failed in his duties as the Master of Ceremonies (or whatever his title is) to protect that right. He should have intervened and told Phillip to shut up.

The venom flowed as Ashley “thanked” Phillip for showing her that she could survive anything since she’d been able to survive a “torturous” thirty-eight days with him. Phillip answered by calling her a “whiney child.” (Great strategy, Phillip.)

Ashley then moved on to Natalie. She, of course, wanted an explanation of why the long, tight relationship had ended in betrayal. Natalie reasonably described her decision as being “back and forth,” and honestly pointed out that Ashley was simply a bigger threat than Phillip. It was a reasonable, honest answer, but Ashley didn’t try to hide her bitterness.

Moving on to Rob, she had basically more of that same bitterness. Rob offered no words in return, but his expression of resignation, and the way he nodded his head in understanding, sufficed in lieu of a verbal reply.

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StuckInTheSixties: Next in the order was Grant. He was, of course, still emotionally bruised from the blindsiding he’d received at the hands of Rob. That was reflected in his single question given to all three finalists. Grant acknowledged that he had formed an alliance with Rob that obviously failed lieu of the alliance Rob had with Natalie and Phillip. His question was an attempt to probe that alliance: “What was the dynamic of that alliance to you?”

First, Natalie just reiterated the fact that her loyalty to Rob had been established from the moment the game began. She didn’t really have much more to offer other than that.

Rob (That guy is sooooo crafty!) found a way to be honest, seemingly inoffensive, yet at the same time, take Natalie down a notch:

“Okay, first of all, Natalie came to me and said, ‘Tell me what to do.’ So I said, ‘Natalie, if you do exactly what I tell you to do, I’ll take you all the way to the end.”

It was a perfect statement. It demonstrated to the Jury that he was being honest with them, that he’d been loyal and honest with Natalie, and that he had earned, and should be given, their respect for being a skillful player in total control of his game. He leveled with Grant that while he really “trusted and valued” him as a friend, what it came down to was that …

“… you were gonna kick my ass. Honestly, I didn’t wanna go against you sittin’ here.”

Again, it was a perfect answer: honest, respectful, and complimentary. After you’ve voted a person out of the game and into the Jury, the best reason you can give them for having done that is to tell them that they were feared as a potential finalist.

For reasons unknown, Phillip didn’t get to answer Grant. It sort of seemed like Grant had just focused intently on Rob’s answer, and when hearing that, simply forgot about Phillip. He wished the finalists good luck, and returned to his seat in the Jury, apparently just overlooking Phillip. Perhaps it simply indicated that he just had no interest in anything Phillip had to offer.

The interrogation continued with Ralph. He first reiterated what was becoming a repetitious (and telling) theme: Natalie’s subservience to Rob. Ralph wondered why they had never talked, implying that Natalie’s master, Rob, had forbidden it. Natalie reasonably pointed out that it was simply a matter of loyalty and precaution:

“There was a reason for that. That was because I wanted my tribe to trust me. We all saw what happened with Matt, so I wanted my tribe to realize that I was gonna be loyal to them, and I didn’t want any misconceptions.”

Moving on to Phillip, Ralph attempted some levity by asking him why he wasn’t wearing more feathers. Phillip answered that he was wearing all of the feathers he’d found. Ralph then asked him puzzling question: “Do you really like me?” Phillip, stepping out of character, actually gave an excellent answer. He flattered Ralph, complimenting his work ethic, saying he was “funny” and a “decent man,” and speculating that had they originally been in the same tribe, they probably would have gotten along well together.

Ralph had no questions for Rob.

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StuckInTheSixties: Matt was next in line. His attention was given solely to Rob, who he addressed caustically, in classic Survivor “fireworks” style:

“Clearly, you’re very duplicitous, manipulating, deceiving, and you’re a liar. Where is the line drawn after a hundred and seventeen days, ten years, and four seasons of Survivor? ‘Cause I just don’t know how you can keep yourself together after this much time out here.”

That was clearly calculated to get a rise from Rob. It failed. Rob answered matter-of-factly:

“The line is drawn as soon as I’m back in my real life. But inside of the game of Survivor, I feel like it’s necessary to play like this. I had alliances with every member of Ometepe, and at one point or another, everybody thought that they were going to the end with me … until they were voted out … which is pretty harsh, but I found it to be very effective in playin’.

Next was Julie. She was easily the most outspokenly bitter Jury member. She first instructed the finalists that she wanted no replies from them, that she had no questions, but only commentary. She then castigated all three finalists:

“None of you played a respectable game.”

She had particularly harsh words for Natalie, reminding her that when she won an early Challenge for her team, Julie had told Natalie that her parents would be proud. Natalie beamed a huge smile at that memory. Julie then backhanded her, first asking Natalie if she now thought her parents would be proud of her (the obvious implication being that her parents should be ashamed) and amplifying that by saying that if she were her daughter “… the answer would be ‘no’.” This personal affront was patently unfair, and a cheap shot. And not only was it a low blow, but had been preceded by an insistence that she wanted no reply. Natalie was forced to accept this humiliating cheap shot with no chance to acquit herself. It was reprehensible on Julie’s part. Burying Phillip’s undies was one thing. This was another.

Julie then started in on Phillip. She opened by stating truthfully, but venomously: “Rob did bring you here to the end, and it’s not because of your loyalty. It’s because everybody here in the tribe – none of us like or respect you, at all. That’s why you’re here.” She continued by repeating the same cheap shot she’d taken at Natalie, implying unambiguously that Phillip’s moral fiber was lacking and a poor example for his teenage son. Unlike Natalie, Phillip fought back, insisting his son would be proud of his behavior and of his game. He ended is reply with an angry “The hell with you!” (Great strategy, Phillip.) As Julie then shifted her shit-throwing to Rob, Phillip cut her off with yet another of his patented rants as the Jury simply laughed out loud and voiced mock alarm: “Ooooo!” (Great strategy, Phillip.)

Finally, she played the same parental morality card with Rob, insisting that Rob “… teach your daughters to grow up to be strong women, and not be treated the way that you treated Natalie.” Rob, like Natalie, respected the decorum of the game and stoically suffered through the personal slight with no reply.

The irony here is that while Julie felt she was speaking from the moral high ground, her cheap, sleazy diatribe was anything but morally grounded. Julie, like anyone playing, or watching, this game, knows that there was nothing unethical in any of the finalist’s games. I had actually been fond of Julie up to this point, but this was as reprehensible as anything I’ve ever seen in the game of Survivor, easily as bad as Phillip’s playing the race card. It’s arguable that Phillip almost has an excuse – he is, after all, crazy – but, Julie isn’t crazy. (Jeff would later be recalling this sordid incident during the finale.)

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StuckInTheSixties: Mike was a welcome relief to that. He first paid a small tribute to his God, and the friendships he was able to make, and explained how he felt he’d learned a bit about himself while playing the game. He wondered what each of the finalist’s might have discovered about themselves in the same way. It as a very boring, stock question.

Natalie delivered a pretty stock answer, that she learned that she was able to endure more than she thought she could, that she was now more confident, appreciated her family, blah blah blah blah blah.

Rob actually dropped a minor bombshell, vowing that regardless of the results of this game, this would be the last time he would play Survivor.

Finally, Phillip managed to work “federal agent” into his fairly stock answer of learning to stand on his two feet, endure, blah blah blah blah blah.

Steve offered nothing but respect and good wishes for Natalie and Rob. But with Phillip, he offered pity, expressing that he found him “a shameful sorry man.” Apparently Steve was still dwelling on the “n~$*w^” incident. Phillip looked disturbed, but somehow held his tongue.

Lastly, it was Dave’s turn. He also decided not to ask questions. In fact, he decided not to even address the finalists, but rather, to address his fellow jurors. He basically made an impassioned lobbying effort on the part of Rob, strictly on the basis of Rob’s “brilliant” game. He outlined how perfectly Rob had “controlled” each and every person on the jury, and complimented Rob on how “one by one by one” he was able to “blindside” each of them. He made a comparison to Russell:

“When we started this game, two people came in. One of them claimed to be the best ever to play the game. He walked out on Day Eight. The guy sittin’ over there just played the best strategic game this game has ever seen. It’s pretty damn easy to tell you who deserves to get your vote tonight.

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StuckInTheSixties
StuckInTheSixties: And so the votes were cast. And so, Jeff Probst collected the ballots, and thanked the finalists and Jury for a great game. And so the show resumed in the Ed Sullivan Theatre, on Broadway, home of the Late Show With David Letterman, in New York City.

I always love how the show seamlessly makes the transition from Tribal Council in some remote tropical location to a beautiful replica on a stage in front of an audience, with the live band, with all of the players all cleaned up (and very often, having drastically changed their appearance from that when they played the game). I love how Jeff casually walks in carrying that urn with the ballots in it, glad-handing audience members along the way. And I love how there is almost nothing in the way of preliminaries, just a quick exchange with each of the finalists, a quick reminder by Jeff that unlike all previous votes, “these votes are for a winner. Tonight, you wanna see your name on the parchment.” And with no pause: “For a million bucks, I’ll read the votes.”

“Rob”
“Phillip” (this made him smile broadly)
“Rob”
“Rob”
“Rob”
“The winner of Survivor: Redemption Island – Rob”

The remainder of the votes was, of course, also cast for Rob.

As the post-game interviews began, Rob revealed an interesting fact. He had realized at the very beginning of the game that at first he was going to be extremely vulnerable for obvious reasons (as Russell found out all too well). With that in mind, he made a point of presenting himself as a likeable guy. He immediately began working hard around camp while also planting a little bit of propaganda in the minds of the other players, the notion that there was no harm in getting to know him because “even if I get all the way to the end, nobody will vote for me to win.”

When I look back at the early days of Survivor: Redemption Island, I find that, interestingly, it was Crazy Phillip that actually opened the door for Rob. When Phillip went nuts and for no good reason, outted that stupid, doomed alliance made Francesca and Kristina had made with him, he also revealed that Kristina possessed a Hidden Immunity Idol. This focused sharp attention on those two women, who were, of course, quickly dispatched to Redemption Island and oblivion. By the time that was over, Rob had been given the time needed to established his alliances, was then leading the Ometepe charge in defeating Zapatera, and was on his way to victory.

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StuckInTheSixties
StuckInTheSixties: Jeff asked Ashley the question that was on many minds:

Why didn’t the three Bikini Girls take out Rob when they had the opportunity? Why didn’t Natalie and Ashley join Andrea when it appeared they could have formed an unbeatable “all-women” majority?

Ashley’s explanation revealed something that apparently hadn’t been shown in the show: Ashley and Natalie (but not Andrea) were aware that Rob was in possession of that Hidden Immunity Idol. This is a very critical piece of the puzzle, and sheds some real light on why Natalie and Ashley were reluctant to go after Rob. Consider this:

Attempting a coup de tat against a power player is always dangerous. Any attempt at insurrection is risky because you can NEVER be absolutely sure that your fellow conspirators are with you, or whether YOU are the one being played, until it’s too late.

So not only were Natalie and Ashley facing that reality, but they knew they were also facing someone with a Hidden Immunity Idol. It had to be the deciding factor that kept them from being bold enough to attempt a coup de tat against Rob.

Rob also explained his relationships with Natalie and Crazy Phillip. In Natalie, he realized she was young, inexperienced, and probably a little scared. He wooed her by demonstrating his trust in her, and by cultivating a dependence she could have for him. Natalie knew that as long as she did what Rob wanted, she would be taken to the end. Rob recognized that this ploy would work with her. He wavered once or twice, but ultimately, he never deviated from this plan, and made sure she knew that from the start to the finish.

Rob sensed that while Phillip was alienating every player in the game, if he could hold himself above the others, and ignore Phillips obnoxious craziness, he’d win Phillip’s loyalty simply because he’d be the only one to treat him well. Of course, while the game was being played, Phillip wasn’t privy to Rob working the others by reinforcing their irritation with Phillip and his crazy behavior.

Jeff brought up the terrible verbal beating that Julie had given Natalie in that last Tribal Council. Natalie’s reaction was:

“Take it with a grain of salt, and move on.”

The audience was approving in this, and gave her a rousing applause. When asked by Jeff if she had any regrets for that episode, Julie admitted she did. She chalked it up to “so much frustration, ‘cause these women that were being blindsided by the guy that’s played the game four times - I just wanted to shake them … ‘Come on! Wake up! Let’s do a female alliance!’ …”

This was patent bullshit. Julie’s cheap-shot came at the final Tribal Council, when Natalie was the only woman left in the game. And during the game, Julie was committed to her Zapatera tribe members, not to Natalie, Ashley and Andrea.

Natalie looked very unconvinced by Julie’s lame excuse, and the rest of the players sitting there looked rather unconvinced, as well. As Jeff pointed out:

“The obvious come back is, ‘I made it to the Final Three. You’re in the back row of the jury.’ ”

This fact prompted chuckles of agreement amongst the players. At least Julie showed some graceful contrition, saying, “You’re right. My hat’s off to them.”

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StuckInTheSixties
StuckInTheSixties: Jeff brought up Rob’s friendship, and then betrayal of Grant. It was an interesting moment. Rob described how after the game had been played and the players went home to await the reunion and finale, he and Grant had been exchanging emails, staying in touch … but then, a few episodes into the season, Grant ceased replying to Rob’s messages.

Rob actually apologized to Grant, hoping he hadn’t hurt his feelings, and of course, repeating the “I was playing the game” mantra. As Rob recounted this, the camera zeroed in on Grant, who didn’t appear at all happy. Grant replied, haltingly, with a tremor in his voice, again, a reply we’ve heard before from other contestants, that the division between ethics and game play is indistinct, and that just falling back on the philosophic “I was playing a game” position is a “cop out.”

Indeed, Grant’s feelings were hurt, and he didn’t mind showing it. Rob was sympathetic, but stood his ground that the game is the game, that everyone knows it’s the game, and that there is no reason to be shamed for playing that game as it’s played. Jeff capped that rather uncomfortable exchange by siding with Rob:

“Well, I gotta say … for my money, in twenty-two seasons, that’s as close to a perfect game as anybody’s ever played in Survival.”

The audience expressed agreement with a loud, raucous ovation.

Jeff then initiated a review of Matt’s time in the game: approximately a month on Redemption Island, winning ten out of eleven Duels, being blindsided TWICE in the main game, and the emotional toll that all took on him. Jeff emphasized the “God” aspect of Matt’s experience. Surprisingly, Matt didn’t seem to want to dwell too much on religion. He said:

“I started the game deciding that I was going to blindly follow my heart. I take away from it that following your heart doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring logic and reason … [Matt laughs in obvious embarrassment] … but it’s important to evaluate the context of the situation you find yourself in, and make an educated decision, and go from there.”

That comment is, of course, completely reasonable and rational. Perhaps in retrospect, Matt now realizes while one can gain comfort and strength in one’s religion, trying to figure what God’s strategy is, and applying that to a game plan, is foolish.

Jeff then steered the talk to the idea that there might have been some romance between Andrea and Matt. In a rather awkward moment, Andrea and Matt put that idea to rest. There won’t be any Andrea/Matt Survivor romance in the future.

It was Mike’s turn for the Jeff Probst-Survivor spotlight. Jeff wondered if there were any parallels between Mike’s experiences as a US Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq and playing the game of Survivor, but Mike indicated that that was not the case, that serving in the military “does not compare to Survivor.” He did speak about how Survivor “transformed” him, though. He spoke about how the experience reaffirmed his faith, and how he enjoyed his time sharing religion with Matt. In a very telling moment, he recounted with satisfaction how he “took out Russell Haines,” but failed to take out Rob. Russell showed an extremely sour expression on that note.

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StuckInTheSixties: The recap then shifted over to Russell. As they came back from commercial, the clips showed Russell’s loss to Matt in a Duel, and Russell breaking down in tears. The camera shot dissolved from Russell crying in the Redemption Island Arena to Russell sitting on the stage in New York City, looking absolutely disgusted with everything. To his credit, Russell congratulated Rob, and the two of them shook hands.

Jeff brought up the fact that Zapatera so badly wanted him out of the game that they actually threw an Immunity Challenge just for the opportunity to vote him out in Tribal Council (and arguably precipitated the tribe’s demise by doing to), and asked Russell if that was “fair in Survivor.” Russell then ripped into his former tribe in an incoherent rant worthy of Crazy Phillip. In a funny moment, as he probed further into this, Jeff accidentally referred to Russell as “Phillip.”

After that laugh was over, Jeff asked Russell if he was going to stick to his promise that he was now finished and done with playing Survivor. There was a bit of waffling, and with some apparent reluctance, as Jeff insistently asked:

“Do you want us to throw your number away? Yes or no? Do you want me to keep the phone number, or dump it? Yes or no?!”

Russell gave in to the inevitable and said, “Just keep my number.” So we may be seeing Russell again in the future.

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StuckInTheSixties
StuckInTheSixties: It was then time for Crazy Phillip’s turn to be interrogated (and I’m going to dwell AT LENGTH on Crazy Phillip here). Consistent as ever, Phillip was completely full of bullshit. He gave an account of his “strategy” that was, unsurprisingly, completely contradicting that which he gave in the final Tribal Council, and of course, contradicting all of the many asides to viewers he’d made while playing the game. There in the finale in New York City, Phillip’s attempt to explain himself was so bungling and incoherent that it was impossible to make hardly any sense of it whatsoever (Note: the mangled syntax and grammar are Phillip’s, not typographical errors):


“I woke up on day … TWO, and saw that Boston Rob had a grip on the tribe. And I went four more days, and that grip was unchanging. There was no window for me to talk to anybody in my tribe …”

[Umm … except for your alliance with Francesca and Kristina that you outted in your first Tribal Council …]

“… so I came up with a plan. How do you get close to the guy who’s gonna control this tribe?”

[Umm … what about all of the many times you bragged to viewers about how you were going to bump off Rob and take control?]

“And that would be the most villainous person … while … within our tribe … to make sure that they would see … Rob would see … that I was the focus, and that would keep the focus off of him, and then he would appreciate that and take me to the end.”

[Umm … and that’s supposed to allow you to win the game?]

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StuckInTheSixties: Asked by Jeff about reactions he’d gotten from the public upon returning home, Phillip said:

“They absolutely love me. [general laughter] I don’t run into anybody that does not love me. Most people describe me as, ‘You’re a brilliant player.’ There was one other component to my game that was missed by most. And that was I played with a certain level of integrity. I was not gonna trade my integrity for a million dollars.

[Umm … the integrity of, for no apparent reason other than suddenly deciding you didn’t like them, outing your alliance with Francesca and Kristina, and revealing to your tribe that Kristina had found a Hidden Immunity Idol? The integrity of stealing Zapatera’s rice? The integrity of unjustly accusing Steve of being a racist, and throwing the “N-Word” all over the place? The integrity of following Ashley all around camp, swearing at her and getting in her face when she just wanted to walk away from you?]

Of course, this resulted in mocking laughter from the other players and audience alike. Jeff pointed out the obvious:

“Does that surprise you that people laugh? That these guys [gestures at the players] are laughing … the people in the audience are laughing …”

“It doesn’t surprise me. I would ask the audience here to know that whenever you saw an interview with me, not one time that I recall did you ever hear me talk about any one member of this entire audience.”

[Phillip gestures at the players, not the “audience”]

Immediately various players begin objecting, saying that he’d talked about them. Phillip cut them off, as he typically would during the game, with his usual exclamation:

“EXCUSE ME!”

With the other players obviously laughing at him and mocking him, Jeff tried to bring this ridiculous display of bullshit to a graceful halt. Phillip would have none of it, repeatedly trying to continue his rant while Jeff emphatically implored, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” Jeff finally got him to halt his completely incoherent, babbling argument with everyone, although he did this by bringing up the very ugly “n*x^~&” incident, where Phillip reprehensibly, not to mention hypocritically, played the race card, unjustly accusing Steve of being a racist, and equating the word “crazy” with the word “n&*^%@.” Jeff asked, “Have you guys healed that wound?”

Said Phillip:

“We haven’t, but we are. You know, the Specialist … [mocking laughter erupts] … doesn’t make mistakes, but he made one in this game. [turns to Steve] Steve, I hope you’ll accept my apology.”

Steve did accept it, and the two shook hands to the sound of applause.

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StuckInTheSixties: Jeff continued:

“There’s one more big question … this is what I know for sure … throw up the photo … I know you served in the Army in 1984 [a photo of Phillip in uniform is shown]. You’ve told everybody you’re a ‘former Federal Agent.’ What agency did you work for?”

Phillip replied:

“I served with the Defense Investigative Services as a Special Agent, and I also worked with the Naval Investigative Services as an adjudicator.”

At that point, Jeff went into the audience and introduced Diane Hardy, a “Federal Agent,” asking her: “How do you know Phillip?”

She replied:

“Phillip and I know each other. We attended the training academy and Phillip was an outstanding student, in my opinion … after the training, we went to different locations, so I did not work on-the-job with Phillip, but I know, if he conducted himself as he did at the training academy, he was an outstanding Federal Agent.”

Jeff then asked the audience: “Does that answer the question? Do we buy this?”

The audience voiced a mixture of tentative agreement and stiff skepticism.

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StuckInTheSixties: Okay. I’ll share my thoughts about this:

I am unconvinced that Phillip was anything remotely like the “Special Agent,” “Federal Agent,” “Special Federal Agent,” “Specialist,” etc. he attempted to portray himself as. This story has reeked of bullshit from Day One, and continues to. Nothing can convince me that Phillip has the sort of personality, disposition, intelligence, etc. that one would think necessary for the sort of “Special Federal Agent” he continuously portrayed himself of being, something like a law enforcement officer, or CIA Field Officer.

When speaking, Phillip repeatedly tangles up his words, starts a thought, then interrupts it, changes it after a few words, and then voices a different thought. Phillip continuously contradicted himself, contradicted what had happened, attributed people to saying and doing things that never happened and were never said. Throughout the game, he had difficulty saying the name of his own tribe, “Ometepe,” and I don’t believe he EVER was able to pronounce “Zapatera” correctly. He even, there in the finale, was confused and referred to his fellow players as “the audience.”

In my humble opinion, Phillip is, to be blunt, an idiot.

Was it all an act, as many speculated? No. If it had been an act, that act would have been dropped at some point, and the only logical time for the act to be dropped was at the final Tribal Council. But what did he do at that final Tribal Council? He acted like a crazy moron. He could not have sabotaged his chances to win the game any better. How he managed to get that single vote from Ralph baffles me (and makes one wonder what the hell was in Ralph’s mind). There in the New York City finale, Phillip was no less of an obnoxious, idiotic dingbat as at any other time.

So what’s with the “Special Federal Agent” stuff?

Here is the first paragraph of the Wiki article on “Defense Investigative Service”:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_Security_Service

The Defense Security Service (DSS) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Within areas of DoD responsibility, DSS is tasked with facilitating personnel security investigations, supervising industrial security, and performing security education and awareness training. It is not a Federal law enforcement organization; it does not have police powers. Originally known as the Defense Investigative Service (DIS), DIS was established in 1972. DSS changed from DIS in 1999.

To repeat the critical data here: “It is not a Federal law enforcement organization; it does not have police powers.”

It would seem to me that Phillip is some sort of functionary within this government body. It would seem to me that the job title, “Special Federal Agent” might have a very different, far more mundane, usage in this organization than it does with, say, the FBI. It would seem to me that this is all a bunch of exaggerated bullshit. I’m guessing that Phillip was some sort of worker within that organization, but as such, has a title that seems more profound than what it is. It’s the only conclusion one could logically make that accounts for Phillip’s behavior, from Day One of the game until the finale in New York City.

Related to this, Jeff queried Ralph about his single vote for Phillip, and what he perceived as a friendship that might have occurred had they not been in competing tribes. Ralph stated his assessment of Phillip:

“I figured pretty quick that that was the way he was playin’ the game.”

That’s a curious thing to say, considering that the consensus amongst the other players seemed to be that Phillip is simply a nut.

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StuckInTheSixties: After a commercial break, the finale returned with the product-placed “Sprint Player of the Season,” voted upon by viewers. Not surprisingly, Rob won that $100 thousand dollar prize.

Easily, the most awkward, and in my mind, almost disturbing moment of the finale came when David got on his knees and proposed marriage to past Survivor player Carolina Eastwood. She said “yes,” but it was a pretty unconvincing “yes” she said. Usually, in these situations, when the guy goes down on one knee and the ring comes out, the new bride-to-be throws her arms around his neck and emphatically, with tears of joy flowing, exclaims, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” This wasn’t like that at all. When David went down on one knee and pulled the ring out, Carolina looked stunned, and at first, stammered, hemming and hawing. I actually thought she was going to say “no.” I’m betting that this will be an engagement that lasts only long enough for her to tell him no without the cameras present. It was a weird, uncomfortable, awkward moment. Yeesh!

It was announced that next season, Redemption Island will be back. I was really glad to hear that. I had my doubts about it in the beginning, but I thought it made for a really interesting, compelling new dimension for the game. It was also revealed that the next season would take place in the South Pacific, and that again, two former players would join the game.

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StuckInTheSixties
StuckInTheSixties: EPILOGUE:

Semi-Random Observation #1.

In past finales, there was at least a short, cursory exchange between Jeff and every single player. This time a number of players never got to speak, and were essentially nothing more than set decoration. Not so much as a word was exchanged with Francesca, Kristina, Krista, Stephanie and Sarita, five of the six players that were not either a Jury member or finalist. Of that group, only Russell got any air time.


Semi-Random Observation #2.

In past seasons of Survivor, there on Day Thirty-Nine, the three finalists would often take a sort of Nostalgia Walk, stopping along the way at some little station devoted to each of the players in the game, and reminiscing a little bit about each one of them. And often, at the end of that, just before leaving to go to that final Tribal Council to decide a winner, they would ceremonially burn down their camp. And I think that there was also some procedure where the torches of the losing players were burned or something.

None of those things occurred this season.


Random Thought:

Do Survivor Jury members get to co-mingle as they’re waiting for Tribal Councils to take place, as the game is running down to its conclusion? Are they allowed to discuss amongst themselves their feelings and emotions before they have to go to Tribal Council and watch the proceedings? Are they allowed to lobby each other? Or once they become Jury members, are they kept separated, having to consider what happens at each Tribal Council completely on their own?

End
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~LoisLane~
~LoisLane~: I just you
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Sables
Sables: Interesting thoughts and questions Sits, wonder if we will ever learn the answers to your final questions


was a fabulous game and look forward to yakking about the next one with ya!
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motherfingsuperwoman
motherfingsuperwoman: Wow, someone loves survivor....
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Sables
Sables: from the last show when the juror (his name escap[es me right now) during their chance to question the players waived that right and stated to the other jurors that Rob played the game and played it well and he deserved to win..I imagine that they do not have any contact with each other, but then again this is just an assumption.
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~LoisLane~
~LoisLane~: OMG that was David, and I think he was awesome doing that. I mean everything he said to them was right about Rob. I started to like him just before he was voted out (of course). That was a classic move on his part!

Big Brother is Next!!!!
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