Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thoughts on the finale of CBS's "Survivor: Cagayan"

Billed as "brains versus brawn versus beauty," the 28th(!) edition of CBS's "Survivor" ended a terrific season last night with its usual 3 hour finale + reunion show. The final four were lawyer Kass (brains), econ student Spencer (brains), cop Tony (brawn), and martial arts instructor Woo (brawn).


Tony has been playing hard and on the edge all season, finding three hidden immunity idols, backstabbing, and sometimes flailing around. Spencer has been surviving as an underdog, winning immunity when he needed to or else dodging a bullet because someone else needed booting (Tasha). Kass has been annoying people pretty much all season, and Woo has been hanging back. Actually, if you want to get a hilarious sense of what the four have been like as players, check out Entertainment Weekly's recap by Dalton Ross, where he imagines how each of the four would be like as a local TV news anchor.

Anyway, Kass won the four-person immunity challenge, and Spencer was voted out despite a fairly clever appeal to Tony wherein Spencer pointed out that Jeff Probst didn't say that whoever survived tribal council would get to plead their case to the jury - i.e., it was going to be a final 2, not final 3. Spencer argued that if Tony didn't win immunity at the three-person challenge, he was going to get voted out by either Kass or Woo, so Tony was better off keeping Spencer around. Good argument, but not enough to save Spencer.

Woo won the three-person immunity challenge. If he took Kass, it was fairly certain he would beat her and win $1 million.

He took Tony.

Tony won $1 million, helped to some unknown degree by Spencer's jury statement in which Spencer gave a MUCH better argument for Tony than Tony did himself. Good for Spencer; I dislike bitter jury members who can't get over themselves.

Ann Althouse said this was "perhaps [Survivor's] best season ever." It certainly built up momentum from the merge on, and it didn't have the annoying Redemption Island twist or the Medallion of Power lameness (which even Probst disliked). Tony was definitely entertaining in a Russell Hantz-like way, and Spencer was one of the best game tacticians in a long time.

However, I'd still offer "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" as the best season ever. Although I don't want too many "all-star" seasons, they have an advantage of not needing to introduce every contestant, and with the right cast mix, storylines develop right away. The Heroes tribe was fairly dull in the beginning, so the producers wisely focused on the Russell vs. Boston Rob power struggle. Russell's uncanny ability to manipulate others - those hostile to his minority alliance! - was amazing to watch. Oh heck, here's just one of them:

But wait, there's more craziness! The brilliant Heroes noticed at one of the pre-merge challenges that the Villains were down to Russell and a bunch of women (Parvati, Courtney, Danielle, Sandra, and Jerri) and incorrectly inferred that there was an all-women alliance. So J.T. decided to sneak his hidden immunity idol to Russell at the next challenge to use against Parvati. He even wrote a "secret" note to Russell:

I could find plenty more memorable moments, but I'll leave it at that. "Heroes vs. Villains" was such an entertaining season that even though I watched it when it aired, I later bought the entire season from Amazon Instant Video and re-watched it from the start while running on the treadmill back in winter 2013.

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