It took 39 days, an unbreakable six-person alliance on the Ometepe tribe, the endurance to withstand the horrors of a saggy pair of pink men’s underpants, and a bitter final jury that seemed more interested in giving lectures (or lobbing insults) than asking questions [SPOILERS coming, so stop reading now if you haven't watched the finale], but the winner of Survivor: Redemption Island is…Boston Rob Mariano.
In all honestly, the two-hour episode was essentially a suspense-free affair. As host Jeff Probst so aptly put it, Rob dictated the game and struck fear into his alliance members in “a style that would make any mob boss proud” — and any outcome other than his victory would’ve been inconceivable.
That said, I felt like Survivor‘s editing team showed their hands in the two instances where they could’ve built a little excitement. In the final challenge at Redemption Island, there were enough references to Andrea being an overwhelming underdog that you kind of knew in advance she’d bump off Grant, Matt, and Mike in a challenge to balance an urn on a see-saw contraption using only one foot. And then, there was the matter of the penultimate immunity challenge, where it seemed like Ashley’s victory had been foreshadowed during the “previously, on Survivor” intro; in that segment, Probst said Ashley had “lately proven to be a threat in challenges” — despite the fact that she’d previously won individual immunity a grand total of…once! Still, even though I felt like Ashley’s win had been semi-spoiled in advance, the challenge may have been the first time where watching people count to 100 played out like riveting drama.
Ashley’s victory left Andrea scrambling to form a female power-voting bloc with Natalie and Ashley, but the girls remained loyal to Rob and Phillip, and booted the odd woman out. (Watching the eventual champ play his hidden immunity idol at the last possible second — “my mother always told me better to be safe than sorry,” he grinned — was classic Boston Rob.)
And then we were down to Rob, Phillip, Natalie, and Ashley. Probst might as well have written the $1 million check to Rob the minute he narrowly won the final immunity challenge — a grueling maze-race capped with a word puzzle — over Ashley, seeing as how none of his three rivals really stood a chance of upending him with the jury. My favorite part of the course, though, was seeing Probst taunt hapless Natalie — “Natalie is being a good sport and still running around!” “Natalie once again completely out of this challenge!” — as she flailed and failed to make it beyond the quarter-way point of the maze.
Almost as appalling? Watching Natalie declare, “I would rather lose this game than lose a friend in Ashley,” then turn around and vote out her Survivor BFF while drawing a heart next to her name. (Ugh.) I mean, Natalie had to realize that after a season of pure, unadulterated coattail riding, she had zero chance to win the jury vote, so why not at least maintain a smidge of loyalty to someone whose friendship she claimed to value? That aide, I loved Rob’s tearful quote after winning the challenge, but prior to the vote: “Whatever happens now, I’m okay — even if I don’t win — which is ironic, because the only reason I ever wanted to come back to play again was to win. I feel like I did my best, but I’m not done yet. First of all, I have to figure out which one of these three idiots I’m gonna send home tonight, and then convince the other people sitting on the jury to give me a million dollars after my wife’s already won one.”
The other classic quotes heading up to the jury? Phillip declaring, “I learned that it’s okay to tell the world that I have a relationship with someone that’s been dead since 1870.” And Rob pleading, “now go wash your hands” after Phillip finally burnt his soggy, saggy pink skivvies.
Finally, before we call it a season, let’s count down the five funniest/most hateful moments of the jury proceedings:
* I howled at Natalie’s pitiful strategy with the jury, where she repeatedly pointed to Rob’s total dominance of the game, and her loyalty to Rob, as a reason to give her the top prize. Oh, that and…she’d be the youngest female Survivor winner ever? After Andrea eviscerated the teenage contestant, calling her unflinching loyalty to Rob “borderline creepy” and taunting her for succumbing to the “allure of riding coattails” over genuine friendship with Ashley, all Natalie could do was spout nonsense about how she performed admirably despite never having camped a day in her life.
* Ashley, who was kind of heinous all season, still managed to make me laugh when she stood up in front of her fellow players and announced, “Phillip, I don’t have any questions for you because frankly, I’m sick of hearing your voice. So I’m gonna speak, and you’re not gonna comment.” Naturally, this had Phillip tossing out tidbits like, “I will if I feel the need!” and generally foiling her entire plan to have the last word. Now that’s good TV.
* A boo-hiss to Matt for droning on about Rob’s being “duplicitous, manipulating, deceiving, and a liar.” Dude, you got outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed. If you wanted to do something noble, you should’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen instead of signing up for CBS’ long-standing reality franchise.
* A hip-hip-hurrah to Dave for using his jury moment to underscore Rob’s total dominance, just in case anyone missed it. “A little ruthless, but brilliant,” Dave argued. Indeed!
* And finally, watching Jeff Probst tally the votes at the live finale, we saw five votes for Boston Rob (enough to secure the win), three votes unrevealed (I assumed they were also for Rob), and one vote for “Phile,” because Ralph has apparently never met a name simple enough that he couldn’t mangle it.
Final tallies for Boston Rob: 117 days total, playing four seasons of Survivor over the last 10 years, 39 of them in Nicaragua, all adding up to $1 million (plus an additional 100K for the fan favorite prize). Even if you divvie it up over 10 years, that’s $110,000 per year. Nice work if you can get it, and survive it.
What did you think of the Survivor finale? Were you happy with Rob’s win? If not, which contestant were you rooting for? And what did you think of the smackdowns Phillip (and to a lesser degree, Natalie) got during the final episode? Sound off below, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!