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I’m Jewish, so I don’t really know what that whole post-Christmas letdown feels like, but I imagine it’s something akin to how I’m feeling at this moment now that Survivor: Palau has finally run its course. Granted, other seasons such as Pearl Islands, Amazon, and of course Borneo probably outrank this go-around (barely), but after the letdown that was All Stars and the snoozefest that was Vanuatu, it was great to have the show back in top form — which is why I’m so sad that it’s over. The good news was that the finale had all those time honored traditions we do love ever so much: the last minute backstabbing, the bitter jury, and of course, the drawn-out tribute to fallen cast members. We even got a fire-making challenge tossed in as a bonus. The downside (and I say this with only mild criticism) was that the final voting pattern was fairly predictable, and even more shocking, Jeff Probst eschewed his standard secret-agent journey with the ballot box. Does CBS mean to tell us he did NOT parachute out of an airplane, land on an elephant, gallop to a hovercraft, float over to NASA, launch into space, orbit the planet, touchdown in Antarctica, teach a school of penguins to fly, ride the birds to Manhattan, jump on Spider-Man’s back, and swing into the Ed Sullivan Theater? I don’t believe it for a second!Well, this two hour snarkfest kicked off with passing images of crabs navigating through various beach-side debris. As some of you readers may know, I have a certain fixation on the various critters that populate Survivor b-roll footage, and I was more than delighted to see Palau’s crustacean community back in full force. Much more interesting than rats sniffing coconuts.
Speaking of crabs, Katie kicked off day thirty-seven crying out for help. No, she hadn’t swung a vine into a tree again. Instead, she and Jenn had stumbled upon a picnic basket full of food. “Help us!” the two girls cried out, perhaps flashing back to childhood picnic traumas. Tom and Ian immediately rushed to their side but were quickly relieved to discover the girls were simply being dramatic. Katie? Dramatic? Now I’ve seen it all.
“It sounded like someone had been massacred!” exclaimed Ian, clearly never having heard a massacre. Tom later said he thought the girls had encountered a crocodile. These guys don’t know what they’re talking about. It was clearly a “We’ve been attacked by a picnic basket!” scream. Anyone could tell you that.
Anyway, as the significance of the meal sunk in, the foursome took time for a little group hug action, Golden Girls style. Sadly, the moment was quickly ruined as Ian’s underarm odor wafted over the beach, destroying all wildlife in its wake. I was surprised Katie didn’t turn to him and say, “Yeah, um, Ian. Maybe the three of us should hug while you stand like fifty feet away. Maybe you could hug that palm tree over there?”
Well, everyone was excited about the food — especially the chronically malnourished Katie — and as the tribe chowed down, Tom of course translated the moment into fireman-ese, calling the reward an “atta-boy.” Soon, it was time for the immunity challenge, but before we could get into that, we needed to give a little lovin’ to our corporate sponsors. Yes, Probst introduced the contestants to one of those bright yellow Chevy Trucks that look to be one part pickup and one part Benny the Cab. “Go ahead and take a look around the Chevrolet SSR,” said Jeff, later noting that the winner of Survivor would take one home. Tom then opened up the glove box, and out fell three DVDs of “Jeff Probst Presents Girls Gone Persnickety.” Immediate awkwardness ensued. Okay, that didn’t happen, but there was a check inside for one million dollars, just in case all these people forgot what they were playing for.
After taking care of all this housekeeping, it was time to finally attack the gargantuan immunity challenge, and man, if you think you’re getting a full fledged description of this convoluted mess, you’d be wrong. Let’s see if I can give even the simplest of overviews: each person would be tied to a rope. They would then have to navigate through an obstacle course and grab a set of keys and unlock something. Then there were knots. And then there was a huge structure and more knots. Then after climbing up, there was a grappling hook that would be used to grab rungs of a ladder. Then the ladder needed to be built. Then people needed to climb their ladder and at the top of this structure was a flag to be raised. Man, that’s crazy. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! The first two people to get their flags up would then have to race down a zip line into some water. In the water would be a pontoon. On the pontoon would be a bag. In the bag would be three different numbers. Those numbers would be the combination for a lock. The lock would open a box. In the box would be a flag. Finally, the first person to raise a flag would win immunity. Honestly, the only thing missing from this challenge was an army of robots to be defeated with coconuts and palm fronds.
Well, the event hadn’t even started, and we already knew Tom would clean house. The immunity challenges this season have kind of skewed towards the physical, to put it mildly. Sure enough, Tom quickly dominated over his competitors, despite a five second lead by Jenn. Probst of course piped up with his color commentary, noting, “Katie struggling already.” What a SURPRISE!
Later, as Tom groaned and puffed his way into an even more comfortable lead, Probst continued to harangue Katie. “Katie is either very worn out or not worried at all!” Or, you know, COMPLETELY inept at physical activity.
As for Jenn, she seemed to be keeping up with the big guys, but the grappling hook did her in as the complexities of tossing it seemed to elude her. Surprising no one, Tom and Ian raised their flags first and second respectively. And how about Katie? “Katie: nowhere close!” announced Jeff, just barely restraining the urge to point and laugh.
Well, the two ladies took a seat and watched as Tom and Ian duked it out, and as predicted, the fireman from New York won AGAIN. I must admit, I do feel badly for Katie. It seems like every individual immunity challenge has somehow relied on physical endurance, agility, stamina, or coordination. Beginning with the merge of both tribes, we’ve had an endurance challenge, an underwater challenge, a coconut lobbing challenge, and an obstacle course challenge. To the producers’ credit, the last episode saw an immunity challenge reliant on a memory puzzle. The only problem was that it was IN THE MIDDLE OF AN OBSTACLE COURSE! Cut to Katie falling in the dirt twelve times. It’s safe to say that anyone only mildly athletic would have no chance for immunity against someone like Tom.
Anyway, after the challenge, Jenn tried some last minute attempts to curry Tom’s favor, but not even her cutest pleading could win him over — he could not betray his alliance. And so the whole group informed her that she’d be voted out, and after some tears and hugs, we saw the moon rise — the official transitional shot for Tribal Council. Oh well. Guess this will be a pretty boring elimination. Or would it?
Instead of showing the survivors filling into Probst’s domain, we returned to the foursome sitting around the picnic table, shooting the shit. Tom laughed that if he hadn’t won immunity, he’d probably be next to go, prompting Ian to say that it would have been a very tough decision. Wait, why would it be tough, Ian? Aren’t you loyal to Tom? Do you know something we don’t know???
Well, actually, we knew about Ian’s shifty ways, but Tom didn’t — until that moment. Yes, Ian managed to stick his foot in his mouth yet again (third episode in a row), but this time, he didn’t have Tom to bail him out. You see, Tom felt like the decision to save Ian over Jenn was a no-brainer; so for Ian to say that it would have been a very tough choice made the old fireman feel very nervous. Hey Ian, way to not pull an atta-boy, JERK!
Of course Jenn immediately pounced on this rift, telling Tom that Ian’s plan was to vote him off next. When Tom expressed shock and betrayal, Jenn then pulled a classic Jenn move by cooing “Ohhhh, you didn’t know!” Oopsy daisy! Tee-hee! Jenny said a bad thing! I’m sowwy.
Well, even if Jenn may seem all cute and cuddly on the outside, if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past few episodes, it’s that she’s a fierce competitor, and her next big move was to have Tom confront Ian about his disloyalty. Ah yes, would master wordsmith Ian be able to dismantle these accusations? Uh, no. Almost immediately, Ian became a flustered mess. He straight up admitted his secret plan to vote off Tom, and then when pressed about his broken promises, Ian simply let out a string of “but… but…” before resigning to that blank stare usually reserved for discussions about personal hygiene. Honestly, why didn’t Ian simply deny the accusation? Then it would have been his word over Jenn’s. Oh that’s right. Because Ian’s an IDIOT. As for Jenn, by forcing the confrontation right there before Tribal Council, Ian had no chance to pull Tom aside and say “Yo, don’t freak out. I was only telling the girls what they wanted to hear.” That is assuming, of course, that Ian would be smart enough to pull such a move. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a missing scene where Ian says “Tom, these girls are just playing us against each other. We’ve got to stand strong! Oh wait, you’re not Tom. You’re a clam!” We then see that Ian is in fact talking to a giant clam.
Anyway, it was finally time for Tribal Council which meant we once again could revisit our old friends on the jury. Let’s see, Janu still has her troll doll ‘fro. Steph still has the Jersey perm. Gregg has yet to shave since leaving Koror. And Caryn looks triple-sassy in her colorful yet sensible outfit. As for Coby, he sashayed in wearing a cape/shawl hybrid fashioned out of what I imagine was one of Janu’s spare skirts. Wendy Pepper he was not.
Once everyone had bustled in, Probst got to work with some passive aggressive remarks. He chided the tribe for arriving so late to Tribal Council, saying that something must have happened to cause the delay. Oh settle down, Jeff. What else were you planning to do that evening? Watch Desperate Housewives with Julie? Well, luckily for our host, there was plenty of drama to make the wait worthwhile. Tom once again laid into Ian for his intention to vote him out, causing Ian to stammer and stutter afresh. You know, Tom is basically just a more polite version of Boston Rob. Anyway, Ian claimed that he’d informed Tom of his plan to vote him out — a move that might have made sense had Ian not denied doing so just two seconds earlier. Needless to say, all of Ian’s squirming must have made Caryn feel somewhat vindicated. “If I could capture this moment and take it to JC Penney, I would be a very happy woman,” she later said.
While Jenn smiled happily during the Ian meltdown, Katie pouted for some unknown reason. You see, she was hurt by all this. No one had asked her how she felt (hungry, in case you’re wondering). Actually, she had something of a point. In Ian’s attempts to get back into Tom’s good graces, he’d essentially isolated himself from his alliance with Katie, and she wasn’t about to let him off easily. “Have you lied to me in the past twenty four hours?” she asked. Amazingly, Ian stalled by reiterating “Have I lied to you in the last twenty four hours…” He then paused, looked up, and racked his brain for an answer. Hey Ian, how about saying this: NO.
Well, Katie did have some legitimate concern about this Ian/Tom situation. After all, if she and Ian vote for Jenn, and Jenn and Tom vote for Ian, the vote could move into a tie-breaker situation, potentially putting Katie at risk. Actually, according to the old purple rock routine, Jenn and Ian would be safe, and because Tom had immunity, he’d be safe too. So Katie would just automatically go home, right? Unfortunately no. As it were, the vote actually did go to a tie (sweet!) twice (SWEET!), but Probst changed the rules on us and had Jenn and Ian go head to head in a fire-building competition. Well, this won’t be hard to predict. Sure enough, Ian built a raging inferno that was no doubt fueled by the volatile emissions from his underarms. Jenn, meanwhile, managed to light a flame only marginally larger than a birthday candle. It was therefore no surprise that our cutey-patootie was sent packing. Hey, at least she put in a valiant effort.
Back at camp, things went from tense to, uh, really tense. Tom continued to berate Ian for his lack of loyalty while Katie unsurprisingly fanned the flames. I guess it was a smart move to keep the attention off herself considering how she was just as guilty of betraying the alliance as Ian was. Nevertheless, Ian seemed to have no defense against the furor of Tom except “We’re playing a game!” He then added, “And besides, I’m an IDIOT! Why do you even ask for logic from me?”
The next morning, camp was full of awkward tension, causing Ian to go off and cry in the woods. “I didn’t come out here to be the villain!” he bawled. “I came out here to be the really smelly tall guy!” Unfortunately, there was little time for sniffling as the trio headed out to sea for the ODE TO FALLEN SURVIVORS – a.k.a. the time when CBS litters the ocean with old torches. Cue the upwardly sentimental music; it’s time to reminisce!
First torch up: Jolanda. Oooh, crazy Wanda and one-ball John DENIED! No memories for you! Maybe next time you shouldn’t sing songs and, uh, have one testicle. Way to not get picked, jerks. Anyway, after Jolanda came Ashley, whose slow-motion montage seemed to be a loving testament to her gigantic boobies. Look, here’s Ashley bending over. Here’s Ashley running on the beach. Here’s Ashley emerging from the surf, water cascading off her massive chest like the submarine in The Hunt for Red October.
Next up were Jeff and Kim, and wow, no one had anything to say about them. I guess they really made quite the impression. Meanwhile, some poor sea turtle had to dodge Jeff’s torch as it plummeted down to the depths of the ocean. Welcome to the ecosystem, LITTER. Also not getting any love was Angie whose torch similarly went down without any commentary. Come on guys, you can do better. How about “Oh, she was the girl with the armpit hair!” or “She was the one with the tattoos who actually seemed like a really friendly person and therefore shouldn’t be on a reality show!”
A few names later (James, Ibrahem), Katie set Bobby Jon’s memorial torch in the water, saying “You’re hot!” Tom had nothing but praise for the island’s resident Jesus Christ, saying he “Always conducted himself like a gentleman.” Yes. Now let’s look at footage of those snot rockets again.
Well, we didn’t see the snot rockets, but we did hear Bobby Jon say “I can honestly say that I left every inch, every effort, every blood, sweat that I had in my body, every toenail out on that island.” He left his toenails on the island? GROSS!
Later, we got to Janu’s torch and heard her boast about spoiling the tribe’s plans by quitting. Yes, you really derailed that train.. for three days! Oh Janu. How devilish you are! Finally, Katie dropped Jenn’s torch in the water and expressed sadness at seeing her go, saying she was her best female friend out there. I’m sure Jenn really appreciates that… FROM THE JURY BOX!
Anyway, this schmaltz-fest eventually came to a close as the survivors paddled in to meet Probst at the final immunity challenge. After last season’s elaborate stand-on-two-poles-and-hold-a-bow-and-arrow endurance test, I thought the show would return to the theme of antiquated weaponry poses. Maybe the final three would have to man a trebuchet? No, sadly Survivor got back to its roots by simply having Tom, Ian, and Katie grapple some buoys and stay there for hour after hour after hour. Of course, Katie was the first to hop into the water, but at five hours, she proved to be no slouch for once. Unfortunately, her effort paled against Superman and String Bean, who turned out to have way more resilience than anyone had expected. After eleven hours of standing on buoys, the two looked positively drained. Oh, not Tom and Ian. I meant Katie and Probst. Jeff tried to stir the pot with his usual nagging and instigation, but he only achieved minimal results.
Tom tried to do some negotiating, but using logic with Ian is about as effective as trying to wash a dolphin trainer. Basically, Tom said that if Ian jumps in right now, he’ll take him to the final two, but Ian resisted. It made sense really because three hours later, Ian revealed his gameplan. He’s going to jump in the water if Tom PROMISES to take Katie. Ah ha! Now Ian’s guaranteed to win… wait what? What’s going on? Ian wants Tom to take Katie to the final two? Why, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Maybe there’s some rational explanation. Well, according to Ian, he couldn’t stand what the game had turned him into, and so he wanted to martyr himself to repair his friendships. I suppose that’s virtuous. Um, no, it’s actually just stupid. Very, very stupid. I don’t know how Tom can get all high and mighty about his “respect” when just a few days ago he declared that Survivor is an “all’s fair in love and war” scenario. Ian basically sacrificed himself for sanctimonious hypocrisy and a manipulative tart (that would be Katie, not Tom). Well, Probst had the marvelous idea of holding an impromptu Tribal Council right there on the pontoon; although, I’m sure it was less of Jeff’s plan and more just a general desire to not fall behind schedule – so take THAT, Probst and your so-called spontaneous ideas!
Anyway, Tom voted off Ian (although, if he were a real solid-gold champ, he would have nixed Katie as a gesture of gratitude to Ian. So much for paying it forward with the atta-boys).
The next morning, Tom woke up from his deep slumber and told Katie that he had had the strangest dream. Why, in his dream, he had made the final two! No, Tom, you sillyhead! It wasn’t a dream. It’s real! Oh, you were joking? I didn’t realize. I guess that’s because YOU’RE NOT FUNNY. Wow, I don’t know where that random anti-Tom bitterness came from. I tend to just arbitrarily attack these people. Really not very becoming of me. If I ever befriend Katie, man, that will be really awkward. Especially when I mention how I’ve belittled her on the internet for three months.
Well, with little else to do, Tom decided to shove the nice picnic table into the campfire and burn it down. You know, a random bonfire to celebrate, uh, the end of picnic table oppression? I really didn’t understand the logic behind this fiery debacle, but I knew Tom was gung-ho about it. In fact, he was so eager to light up that table that he didn’t even clear off any of the plates. Eventually, he and Katie left their burning campsite (way to go, FIREMAN), causing Tom to remark “The rats get it back now.” But not the plates, stupid plate-wanting rats.
As the two trudged up to their final Tribal Council, Katie commented that even though she hasn’t won any of the challenges, “I’ve played just as hard.” Yes, in a not hard-working, lazy, floundering way. Okay, to Katie’s credit, she has been pulling overtime with the scheming, and that does deserve something. But something tells me this holier-than-thou jury might not be so rational.
Speaking of the jury, we got to see what Ian looks like when he’s all cleaned up, and sadly, it’s just as bad. Thankfully, his patchy Johnny Depp beard was gone, but now he was rocking a 2003 Urban Outfitters ensemble — I know because I have the exact same outfit tucked away in my closet, wristband and all. Seriously. Anyway, Tom and Katie offered up their opening statements, and for the most part, they seemed to articulate their points fairly well. Tom did his whole humble thing (again) while Katie said she played the only cards she could. Yeah yeah yeah. Let’s get to the jury.
First up was Coby who provided a dependably venomous and self-serving diatribe. “I got issues,” he said as his opener. “First. Which did you guys like better? My rainbow shirt or my pseudo-shawl?” Okay, he didn’t ask that. In fact, he didn’t ask anything at all. He simply ripped on Katie and Tom, telling the latter that “You played this game every bit as dirty as Ian did.” Well, not dirty dirty like Ian. He only meant scheming-wise. Anyway, Coby finished his well-rehearsed rant and sat down without hearing responses from the finalists. Could have been better, Coby. Tsk tsk.
Next up was Gregg, the one guy I pinned to give a few softball questions, smile, and say “Congratulations guys. You did great!” Instead, Gregg immediately went for the jugular, telling Tom “I saved you!” Please Gregg. You were angling to vote Tom off. Don’t pull the Burton card and act like the victim here. Gregg then turned his attention towards Katie and instantly made Coby’s tirade sound like a long lost Mary Poppins song. “Katie, you were worthless around camp, you were insignificant, even embarrassing on challenges, you would think the least you could do was make some friends around camp. So my question to you is, explain to me and the jury how being so pathetic is your plan.” Wow. That was pure evil. And here I thought Gregg would simply ask Katie what her favorite color was.
After Katie gave a teary answer, a sexy Latina stood up and addressed the two. Oh wait, that’s just tantastic Steph. Anyway, she wanted to know why Tom went back on his word to take her along as far as possible. Tom said that he just couldn’t go against his alliance and had to drop Steph. Katie, however, had a different story. According to her, Tom instructed her to vote Steph off. What?? Tom betrayed someone? I don’t believe it! He’s so humble!
“Why would I tell a person who maybe had an alliance with the four of us — Ian, myself, Katie — that we had to get rid of you?” Tom asked. Yeah, why would Tom EVER discuss strategy with his alliance? It just doesn’t make sense. So you see, Katie is clearly lying. Good ole Tom would never betray you, Steph!
Next up was Janu who served up two dumb softball questions. “How hard was it to compromise your integrity?” she asked Tom. Hmmm… Wonder what he’s gonna say? Surprise surprise, it was VERY hard to compromise his integrity! Although, truth be told, he didn’t think he had compromised it. Oooh, nice twist!
As for Katie, Janu’s big question was use three positive and three negative adjectives to describe yourself. Good one, Janu. I’m sure this will clarify EVERYONE’s decision. Actually, it really might have since Katie snapped back that she wouldn’t answer because “I don’t expect your vote.” Ooh, “Saturday Night Live” rejects Janu’s vote! Saucy!
Our favorite civil rights lawyer Caryn addressed Katie and Tom next, and I was excited for what should have been a cutting, revealing question. Instead, she merely asked Tom what she was to him: a pawn? A friend? Ugh, the self-serving softball question. Whenever these sorts of questions are asked, all the juror wants are some compliments. Tom beat around the bush a little bit (that’s a shocker) causing Caryn to reiterate: “WAS I A PAWN OR DID WE HAVE A REAL FRIENDSHIP?” Tom replied that he would let her heart figure that one out. Oooh! He just turned it all on you, bitch! Actually, the implication was “we have a friendship and you should know better” but the reality could very easily have been “I hate you so much but I don’t want to say that.”
Caryn then turned her wrath on Katie, asking her to explain her strategy more than just that she made alliances. Well, Ms. Tart 2005 had a few things to say about that. “The game is about making alliances, and that’s why you’re sitting over there — because you didn’t make one!” Caryn Groedel, YOU GOT SERVED! Oddly enough, Omarion appeared at Caryn’s side and the two uprocked until Katie relented. It was pretty surreal.
Cameron Diaz then arrived at Tribal Council and — oh, sorry, it’s just Jenn. In a very calm and collected way, she told Tom that he seemed slightly chauvinistic and disrespectful of her game. “Your whole game was that you hid your game. I had no game to see,” he replied. Oh. Well, uh. I guess he’s kind of right. Good one, Jenn.
Finally Ian stood up and asked the only truly interesting question of the evening. He wanted each person to state why he or she didn’t deserve the one million dollars. Katie gave some answer about having offended people or being lazy. But leave it to Tom to lay on the bullshit nice and thick: “I’ve already had my payday. The experience of being out here with you.” SHUT UP! Honestly, this guy is going to run for office.
Well, it was finally time to vote. Janu wrote in favor of Tom, saying that he was the man who chose her for the team, and for that she was forever indebted. Wow, that was kind of sweet. Coby, meanwhile, voted for Katie, saying that she was the only honest person that evening. Believe it or not, I kind of agree. As unctuous and snotty as she can be, Katie laid it all out there and argued her case well. I wouldn’t chide Coby for his decision.
As for the rest, well, we didn’t get a chance to see. The closest we got was Ian who deliberated for a while, and just as his pen hit the parchment, we cross faded into footage of the fire. Mark Burnett LOVES doing that.
Well, the votes were all in which meant one thing: time for Jeff Probst to have an elaborate and ridiculous departure from the island. But whaaa? We were suddenly in New York City. How could they just cut to live? We need crazy antics! Weakest vote return montage EVER!
Well, with the show being live, we got to see everyone with their new makeovers. Katie had actually lost some weight (way to go, internet jerks calling her fat. Oh wait, that’s me) and now looked eerily like Jenna Lewis from Borneo / All Stars / sex tape scandal. As for Probst, he had grown his hair out a little bit. Looked kind of dumb, if you asked me, but not as dumb as John (remember? The guy with one ball?) who later came out with a Seacrest ‘do gone very, very bad. As for Ian, he was wearing the exact same outfit from Tribal Council. Yes, even the wristband was the same. Variety, my friend. Variety.
Anyway, results time. After only showing two votes previously, I had a strong feeling that this would be a Tom blowout, and sure enough, it was. Katie’s only vote came from Coby, and the rest went to the big man himself, thus making Tom Westman the tenth Survivor winner. Much excitement was had, and we could finally close the books on this great tenth season.
Of course there was a reunion, but I think I’ll give that it’s own recap. This novel of a post has already taken entirely too long to write.
What do you think? Did Katie have any realistic chance? Did Tom deserve it? Did Ian make the right choice?