Our Redemption Island journey came to an end Sunday night, and while the home stretch of the season had been rather uneventful and predictable, if economical, we still had the chance for fireworks in the last two hours. Would Rob complete what was unquestionably one of – if not the – definitive Survivor performances, winning it all in his fourth attempt? Or, perhaps, would Matt fulfill his destiny and return from Redemption Island to become the Sole Survivor (if that was God’s will)? Or would Mike, the lone remaining member of Zapatera, the double threat of soldier and Jesus lover, reenter the game and lockup votes from his former teammates? Or would Grant, the remarkable physical specimen, go undefeated down the stretch, the jury rewarding his unparalleled athletic prowess with a million dollars. Or, finally, would Andrea prove victorious in the final Redemption Island duel and surprise us all by going all the way to the end? Well, there’s no way that could happen, right?
Well, we were wrong on that last one. The first part at least. In our preview of the finale we essentially discounted the possibility that Andrea could be the Survivor to make it out of Redemption Island. Which was presumptuous and totally unfair on our part. In fact, had we given it more serious thought, we should have realized that Andrea would have an excellent chance to outlast her male competition in the final duel, because it was most likely going to be some kind of balance challenge, the kind women typically excel in. Lo and behold, it was a balance competition and in the end stood Andrea, making us look foolish (and, we admit, guilty of underestimating the fairer sex).
So there she was, Andrea, the only member of Rob’s Alliance who exhibited any hint of game playing prowess, who evidenced any glimmer of opposition to Rob’s rule, who offered anything resembling strategy and deception, who was well-liked and respected by the members of the jury; there she was, poised to make a surprise run to the title, positioned to ruin Rob’s masterpiece and shatter his dream.
But, of course, that didn’t happen. Not in this game, Rob’s game. He played perfect every step of the way and he wasn’t to be denied. Logic, reason, common sense be damned, Rob had a hold on his alliance, and they were blindly going to deliver him one million dollars. We, like Russell and Probst, are forced to admit that Rob was practically flawless and unquestionably dominant. And in the end, we did something we never, ever, thought we would do, celebrate Boston Rob’s victory. My how things change.
But before we tie on a bow on Rob’s masterful exhibition, reluctantly heaping praise on him one last time, there is the matter of addressing what came before the final vote, a quick, and final, recap for Survivor: Redemption Island.
Before the show could get to any voting, as touched above, there was our last bloodbath at Keebler E.L. Fudge Redemption Island Arena. And while we predicted yesterday that Matt was too fried to present any kind of real threat in the final, he was surprisingly upbeat, having established a real connection with the Island. In fact, if we didn’t see Matt in the reunion we would have wondered if he ever actually left Redemption Island. Dude was totally having a John Locke moment, but instead of the island giving him the power to walk, Redemption Island gave Matt the power to never, ever, ever shut up about God. Or perhaps it gave him the power of obliviousness to the fact that if God really had a plan for Matt he wouldn’t have marooned him in a humid, oppressive jungle for a month. You can almost see Matt sitting in the hatch, obsessively entering the numbers every 108 minutes. But enough Lost references, let’s get to the final duel-gauntlet-joust-UFC 139-fistfight-inferno-Game of Thrones-elimination challenge.
Matt’s ready to go. B-E, B-E Aggressive!
And Mike does not disappoint with his classic “Everything Stinks” face:
And on the end Grant debuts his impression of Jim Carrey’s legendary In Living Color character Vera de Milo:
Hey, Jeff, glass houses, buddy:
And Andrea wins, but more importantly Matt loses.
WHERE’S YOUR GOD NOW, MATT? WHERE????????
Ah, that feels really good. And we sorry to offend anyone, and the last thing we want to do on this blog is to get into any kind of religious debate, but, really, which one of us is displaying more respect for God? The one who constantly invokes God’s name as the grand architect in his pursuit of one million dollars in a game show that perpetually rewards deceit and dishonesty? Or the one who thinks God has much, much more pressing matters? Y’know, like whole skirmish in the Middle East. Or all this rain. Or conjuring feathers out of thin air for Phil to find and stick in his headband. Any of those things. Well, we know our answer, but we’ll let you decide.
And, as has been the case with the denouement of every Wells Fargo Redemption Island Arena duel, we were left unfulfilled, even though we just witnessed the swift massacre of THREE contestants. But we realized that maybe it wasn’t Redemption Island’s fault after all, or at least it shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. Looking at the reactions of the fallen competitors, no one seemed angry. Matt exalted in the glory of God, Grant mildly guffawed, and Mike exited with dignified disappointment. And thinking back on the entirety of Redemption Island, with the obvious exception of Russell, no one seemed upset with their elimination. GET PISSED, GUYS! C’MON! Now’s not the time to show some class. Save that for the reunion show. And perhaps that lack of indignation on the part of the eliminated Survivors explains why no one wised up and made any attempt to disturb Boston Rob’s General Sherman march towards a million dollars. Maybe nobody really wanted it bad enough. Or had that killer instinct. Or, then again, maybe the fact that Redemption Island gives each competitor a second chance means that they’re only half upset over their final elimination. With one foot already at Ponderosa Ranch, enjoying a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, perhaps they’re strangely complacent with the finality of a Redemption Island departure. It’s stupid, but maybe it’s true. Whatever it is, the emotion seemed to be sucked out of Redemption Island the arena AND Redemption Island the season.
So by winning the Redemption Island duel and returning to the game Andrea earns the right to participate in yet another collect a bunch of bags and then solve a puzzle challenge, yet another in a long line of awful, boring challenges this season. Seriously, they need to get out of Nicaragua soon and head to somewhere with a hospitable waterfront, because this season desperately missed aquatic-based challenges. In fact, the only one resembling a water challenge was a retread from last season and, not only that, it was the one thrown by the Zapatera tribe. And outside of the brutal staircase challenge in episode 12, which nearly killed Boston Rob (and perhaps owed a bit of gratitude to American Gladiators), it was a season of boring word scrambles and jigsaw puzzles. And none more so than this penultimate challenge, which required the Survivors to put numbers in order. That’s it. Just put them in order. From 1-100. THAT’S IT. Even Ralph could do that puzzle, and he proved himself beyond a shadow of a doubt to be illiterate. They could have at least omitted some numbers so the competitors would have to give the puzzle (if you can call it that) some thought, but instead they continued the season-long trend of challenges fit for kindergartners.
This would have been more challenging:
Ashley goes on to win this challenge (and we know that you’re thinking: What? She beat Rob in a puzzle??? But this obviously doesn’t count as a puzzle), mucking up Rob’s plans to send her home. But in the end, that was probably to his benefit, as Andrea was realistically the greater threat. And Rob has his secret weapon: Natalie! Who will literally do anything Rob says, because she is evidently incapable of independent thought. And even though Philip reports that Natalie and Ashley talked by themselves for ten to fifteen minutes – TEN TO FIFTEEN MINUTES!!! – Rob doesn’t have anything to worry about. Although, when he threatens to not play his Immunity Idol we had caution him not to let his confidence cross over into arrogance.
But before we can get to the vote, Probst gets a little creepy:
C’mon, Jeff! What is with you this season???
Exactly. We understand you’re getting a little bored in Season 22, but this is still a family show. Clean it up!
ANYWAY, to no one’s surprise the girls do not team up against Rob and instead Andrea goes home. Goodbye, Andrea! Matt’s waiting for you at Ponderosa with angel food cake.
ALWAYS REMEMBER, ANDREA, LOOSE BLONDES WITH CRUSH ON JESUS LOVERS SINK SHIPS.
It’s then down to the Final Four – Rob, Phil, Ashley and Natalie – and it’s Rob’s game to lose. As long as he wins immunity in the final challenge he can pretty much put down the deposit on his new Camaro. And what would our last Redemption Island challenge be without a puzzle, coming to us this time in the form of a 3D word scramble. Which, we have to admit, was pretty cool. But was even better was the first part of the challenge, a maze in which the players had to collect – you guessed it – bags of puzzle pieces. But this particular challenge was memorable not for its specific difficulty or creativity or intricacy, but because Natalie turned in maybe the worst performance by a Survivor in the history of Survivor, let alone a finalist. Seriously, even Dan from Nicaragua would have managed to find at least one bag of pieces. It was embarrassing for her, and embarrassing for us. She really gave new life to the phrase “she can’t find her way out of a maze with 3 foot walls.” It’s entirely possible she had to be airlifted out of there.
Rob, on the other hand, has no problem finding his way through the maze and narrowly defeats Ashley. Which means this thing was essentially sown up and he could pay off his Red Sox Man Cave. All he had to do was convince Natalie to vote off her Best Friend Forever Ashley. And, like every high school girl ever, Natalie can’t be trusted and promptly backstabs her best friend. Turns out she wanted to go to the prom with Rob. And, once again, two girls let a boy get between them.
ALWAYS REMEMBER, ASHLEY, LOOSE TEENAGE BEST FRIENDS FOREVER SINK SHIPS.
So the real question was not would Natalie vote out Ashley, but, rather, DID PHIL HAVE A PAIR OF JEANS THE WHOLE TIME??? C’MON, DUDE.
Well, we have to give him credit, he was certainly pretty stealth keeping that denim under wraps for 39 days, giving us the pleasure of his disgusting, filthy, offensive maroon undies instead. Steve certainly doesn’t appreciate the deception.
Then again, that’s just classic Steve.
So Rob makes it to the final three exactly how he planned it: with the most distasteful, unbearable player in the game, and a weak, feeble, undeserving teenage girl. You can’t dream it any better than that. He played a perfect game of chess, bringing these two pawns with him to the end, and he had everyone in checkmate.
At the final Tribal Council Phillip goes with the tried and true “I didn’t win a single challenge, instead I was completely loyal to Rob, who was the sole mastermind of this whole operation” argument, which of course convinces Ralph to give Phil his vote. To be fair, Ralph, threw up a real softball question to Phil, so his mind was probably already made up:
Natalie, on the other hand, appealed to the jury with the ol’ “I deserve to win because…well…um…I’m young and…um…I played hard and stuff” strategy, which was surprisingly ineffective. We can only assume the members of the jury were leery to award the million to Natalie because they feared she’d blow it all on Lisa Frank stickers. Or a Liberal Arts education.
In fact, the only threat to Rob winning the million was David, who inexplicably decided to utilize his last opportunity to speak as an excuse for one final round of lawyering, explaining to his fellow jury members why Rob deserved to win. If anything was going to sabotage Rob’s chances, it was that. Is that how David lawyers? Just jumping in at the very end when the verdict is entirely clear? We’re kinda surprised that David didn’t jump up a few Sundays back and say, “Barack, Joe, Hillary, it’s obvious the real villain is Bin Laden, and we should embark on a covert Navy SEAL operation to take him down.” THANKS, DAVE! It’s somewhat astounding that David didn’t stand up, hook his thumbs around his suspenders and say “I’m not a fancy, big city, competent lawyer…” Also, we learned later in the reunion show that David has been dating former Survivor contestant Carolina Eastwood, but, man, does that guy ever have a hard-on for Boston Rob.
But not even Dave’s lawyering could stand in the way of Rob’s triumph. And, finally, Boston Rob had his redemption, winning the title of Sole Survivor in a landslide. And, frankly, we’re a little surprised that he won by such a dramatic margin (eight votes to Phil’s one); not because he didn’t deserve all those votes, but because jury members have a tendency to be completely bitter and resentful and not always vote for the strongest player. So good for them for not holding a grudge, not trying to make a statement, and rewarding Rob, even though he was surrounded by a bunch of airheads, and already had almost 100 days of Survivor experience under his belt. Even considering that, we have tip our cap and acknowledge that Rob played a brilliant social, physical and strategic game. Every word, every sentence, every action had a purpose. As he said in the reunion show, he truly made connections with his tribemates. He was completely genuine. But it was those real connections that earned their trust, and led him to the million. Even if this wasn’t the best game of Survivor ever played, it was certainly the most comprehensive. There was not one minute, not one second of Redemption Island that Rob wasn’t thinking about the endgame. And that’s why, after ten years, he finally finished what he started. And now he can put that all aside and focus on his family (or another reality show).
ALWAYS REMEMBER, PHILLIP AND NATALIE, LOOSE FORMER FEDERAL AGENTS (?) AND GIRLS WHO CAN’T LEGALLY BUY ALCOHOL SINK SHIPS.
And, now, it’s time for our final A-B-C phrase for Survivor: Redemption Island. In honor of Rob’s victory, his total and utter domination, it is:
Always Be Controlling
Because, as we’ve now said a dozen times, Rob ran this game from wire-to-wire, total war and total victory.
However, all that being said, Tom Westman is still the best Survivor player ever. Hands down.
And, finally, this also pretty much sums up the whole season:
We’ll be back soon with thoughts on Season 23 – and the misguided return of Redemption Island – but that’s it for us for now. Congrats to everyone for giving Rob a million dollars!