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Survivor Redemption Island - Season Finale Recap

Here is Sean Furfaro's recap of the Season Finale of Survivor Redemption Island.

I came in to this season quite skeptical, but after a strong start in the first three episodes, I became optimistic about how this season would go. However, after that drag race of a start, we settled into a marathon of mediocrity with an incredibly sub-par season. I won’t repeat all of the problems I had with this season, primarily the entire Redemption Island Twist, but let’s once again be thankful for Rob and Phillip for providing us with some entertainment for the past 14 weeks.

One quick note in advance of tonight’s Season Finale, and it’s a personal apology to regular reader Choirchick22, for whom I inadvertently spoiled the result of last week’s episode. In posting the link to my recap, I gave the result, which is something that I always try not to do. If you’ve read my previous post on Spoilers (and the eerie similarities to what I did last week), you’ll understand why I feel so bad about that.

On to the Season Finale...

My Random Thoughts:

- Previously on…Survivor. Rob found an Idol, Russell cried, Matt owned Redemption Island, Zapatera had no shot at camp, David is a puzzle master (ok, I added that part to remind you in case you forgot), Phillip is crazy, and Rob is trying to complete a decade-long journey to win this game. 6 minutes of crap we already knew. I hate this part only slightly less than the Fallen Comrades montage.

- Are you kidding me? After a full season of having to watch that god damn spider almost every single week, you lull me into a false sense of security by not showing it for a couple of episodes, and then you bring it back this week to open up the Season Finale??? And with FOUR different camera shots in the first two minutes? Pure evil.

- At Redemption (Non) Island, Grant talks about being ok with getting voted out, and understanding that it’s just a part of the game (how come more people don’t get this?) Andrea talks about having to compete against the three big, beefy men and how she’s the “under-underdog”…and apparently she still has to sleep on the floor, even though the angry hairy guy is gone.
As the four of them learned that their final (Non) Duel was on the horizon, they decided that they would have an Eat’N’Pray Party, which involved them cooking the remainder of the rice, and praying before the competition. I was really put off by this scene, but only because I had to listen to phrases like “Thank you for Redemption Island” and “Who knew what a treasure awaited on Redemption Island?” Give me a break! This scene was nothing but a way to try and tell all of the fans who HATED the Redemption Island twist (which was almost everyone) how awesome it was. What a joke.

- The Final Redemption (Non) Island (Non) Duel was a fantastic challenge where the players had to balance a vase on the end of a beam, and the first one we’ve seen at the Redemption Island Arena that isn’t a callback from a previous season’s challenge. I have to ask, why wasn’t this the Final Immunity challenge within the game itself? I noticed that Matt was the only one using his left leg, which made me wonder if he was left handed, and if so, does being left-handed make you “left-legged”? I’m serious, would that be true? And even if you were, what’s the strategy here, would you choose to have your stronger leg on the beam to balance the vase, or on the ground to absorb your weight? I’m not sure. Also, I don’t understand why anyone was looking at the other competitors in this challenge.
Grant was out first, followed by Matt who appeared shell-shocked to finally be eliminated from the game. He had a look on his face as if he wanted to look up to the heavens and say “Hey! Where were you on THAT one, big guy?!” Then Mike’s vase dropped, and despite her “underdog” status, Andrea was back in the game.

I loved Mike’s parting comment after he was relegated to Jury Duty: “Today’s outcome was not what I wanted.” Really? You didn’t go into this final challenge hoping that Andrea won, and you went to the Jury? You know a season is boring when these are the best sound bites you can muster.

- So the Final Five of Rob, the 3 girls, and the crazy guy headed back to camp and tried to deal with the new Tribe dynamic. I have to say, as much as I’ve hated the Redemption Island concept since it was announced, this was an interesting turn of events that I hadn’t considered: having to deal with the awkwardness of the returning player being at camp. How do you make small talk? “So…what have you been up to these last few days?” “Oh you mean since you lied to me and tried to take my shot at a million dollars away, not much…praying, sleeping, balancing a vase on a piece of wood for an hour and a half.”

Andrea lied by telling the girls that the Jury said that they would be voting for Phillip, and while I appreciate her efforts to try and stir things up, could you not have come up with a better story than “Phillip is going to win” ? Ashley started strategizing right away, trying to figure out if it was a good idea to join up with Andrea to try and oust Rob, while Natalie's response to a possible game-changing move was to say ”Let’s just focus on relaxing today and figuring it all out tomorrow.” If you read my Finale Preview post that handicapped the Final Eight players, now you'll understand why I had Ashley at 8-to-1 and Natalie at 5,000-to-1.
- At the Immunity Challenge, I immediately realized that I was wrong last week when I assumed that they had used the last of the tiles this season, since there were FIVE HUNDRED of them in this challenge. Seriously, I would love for someone to go back on these last two seasons in Nicaragua and count all of the tiles.

I initially thought the concept of the challenge was good until I saw that each bag had the numbers in numerical order. How much better would it have been to have the numbers randomly in each bag and make for a real challenge instead of just "who can count the fastest and not fall off a beam." Rob looked like a penguin hustling sidefoot along his beam, but it wasn't enough as Ashley went back-to-back in Immunity challenges and won the necklace. Must have been the bedazzled jean shorts (where the hell did those come from??), or the skills she learned in both balance and counting by being a Beauty Queen and University Basketball Player.
For the record, I don't believe for a second that challenge was as close as we were led to believe. Ashley was way out in front, and even though we saw a tight shot of an orange Tile#98 being put in place, I think that was for dramatic effect. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure we would have seen a shot of a despondent Rob and his board with 98 of 100 tiles filled in.

- Back at camp, Rob brazenly said “Sorry Andrea, you’re next” which concerned me, because up until this point he hadn't really angered the Jury. Come on Rob! Natalie and Ashley promised promises to each other, and even went so far as to pinky swear, and say "love you" to each other...to assure the other that they wouldn't vote for each other. (Survivor Rules Clarification: Pinky Swears are not, nor have they even been, binding. This is under review for Season #23.)
Phillip snitched to Rob that the girls were talking. Rob shrugged and said “Yeah thanks Phillip, welcome to Day 37”, before going off on camera about how he was considering not using the Idol at Tribal Council, the last time he would be able to use it. My girlfriend's jaw dropped when he said that, and I clarified that there was NO WAY he would ever "keep it as a souvenir", as he suggested. He's just not that stupid. Yes, he said he likes to gamble...but not with this. Not by a long shot. I didn't believe for a second that he wouldn't use it under any circumstances.

- Tribal Council #1 was once again very predictable: Philip made the Jury laugh by reminding them that he is "The Undercover Specialist", Probst tried to encourage a boys vs. girls rumble, Andrea spoke the truth and tried to influence the jury, Rob shot back that Andrea is a threat to sit beside at the end, and then used the Idol based on advice from his mother that it's "better safe than sorry." Andrea was booted, and validated what a waste Redemption Island has been. Two returnees...two immediate eliminations.

Seriously, the most entertaining thing about this Tribal Council was the new Jury Members and their Stoplight-Themed shirts. Did you catch that? On their first Tribal Council on the Jury, Mike, Matt, and Grant had on solid coloured red, yellow, and green shirts...and sat in that order! Who's the CBS costume consultant who planned that one?
I can understand why Ashley and Natalie stayed loyal to Rob at this point. The reason they were describing flipping as "risky" was because they obviously suspected he had the Idol, and was going to use it...and by voting for him or Phillip, that kills the alliance that had promised to take them to the Final Three. Made complete sense to me.

- Back at camp, Rob called his shot at winning the Final Immunity and then I braced myself for the worst part of any Survivor Season (even worse than the Loved Ones episode), the Fallen Comrades montage. But did you notice? Did you?

THERE WAS NO FALLEN COMRADES MONTAGE!!

I know I've been making fun of it all season, but this was my first indication that God actually cares about Survivor!

- Earlier in this post, I was wondering why the vase balancing wasn't the Final Immunity Challenge, and once I saw the overhead shot of the course, I understood. Wow, what a set-up. Very impressive. Rob and Ashley separated themselves from the pack, but never from each other, and sort of worked together on the final puzzle portion, which didn't make much sense to me. Probst, meanwhile, continued his weekly habit of making fun of Natalie at challenges, yelling down “Natalie being a good sport and still running around.”

Rob won the Final Immunity, as he said he would, and guaranteed himself a seat in front of the Jury. I appreciated his display of emotion, and thought it was completely genuine, and to those haters out there who will undoubtedly say it was fake and contrived (as they accused in his near passing-out at the top of the stairs two weeks ago), I say to you: "Have a heart."
Rob after winning the Final Immunity: “Whatever happens now, I’m ok. 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. But, I feel like I did my best.”

- Before the last Tribal Council, Ashley thought it was Phil, Phil thought it was Ashley, Ashley talked to Natalie, Natalie made her another promise, Rob told Natalie to vote for Ashley, and Natalie wasn't sure if she wanted to. Did you catch all that?

It was at this point that I said to myself: "Holy shit, this is a carbon copy of the very first season!" I know I've already made comparisons with Ometepe and Pagong in that sense but think about this: in season #1, you had Richard, Rudy, Sue, and Kelly as the Final Four, and Kelly promising Sue she wouldn't vote her out, before actually doing it. In Season #22, you had Rob, Phillip, Ashley, and Natalie, and the exact same thing happened. I was fully expecting a rat/snake/dying of thirst speech from Ashley at the Final Tribal Council.

- Tribal Council #2 was the 10th predictable Tribal in a row, and Ashley joined the jury. That is honestly all I'm going to say about it.
- Now that the Final Three was set in stone, Phillip reflected once again on his great-grandfather, his place in the game, and then "celebrated" with Rob and Natalie in some sort of awkward three-person handshake that Rob and Natalie looked completely disinterested in. He then went on to explain that his strategy was to explain to the Jury why they are over there, and he is still in the game, and to rub salt in their wounds. Wow...there goes my "Phillip was acting the whole time" theory.

- The traditional breakfast feast of sausage and burnt pancakes was replaced by mimosas and sandwiches, before we got one final blurred crotch shot of Phillip in the river (my eyes!). Then, Phillip made his best move of the game, approaching the other two in front of the fire with those horrible pink briefs in his hand.
"I knew my manhood was not reflected in the briefs that I wear", he told them. For the LOVE OF GOD, Phillip...did you really have to use the word "manhood" there? You couldn't have said "dignity" or "character"...it had to be "manhood"???? Regular readers will know that I've never been a fan of the tradition of burning things (like the entire camp) before the Final Tribal Council, but I heartily appreciated those tighty pinkies making their way into the fire.

- I was originally going to break down the Final Tribal Council, but it was so repetitive and largely uneventful, that I'm just going to give an overview with some highlights.  Essentially, Natalie rode Rob's coat-tails the whole way, Phillip was antagonistic, and Rob smoothly answered every question. Natalie's opening statement and overall responses were so bad, even Amanda Kimmel was watching and saying "Wow, she's doing BAD!)

Andrea thinks Phillip is weird, and Natalie is creepy, Ashley was less venomous than I expected, but doesn't like Rob, Grant was thought-provoking, Ralph looked like a hairy Jason Mraz in that panama hat, and questioned Phillip's number of feathers (???)

Matt called Rob a duplicitous, deceiving, liar, which Rob astutely pointed out is a huge part of the game. I credit Rob for not following it up with "That's why I'm here and you had to compete in TWELVE Redemption Island Duels." Matt then said that the Jury has a tough time understanding who Rob is, which leads me to believe none of them have ever watched Survivor before...or The Amazing Race...or the half-dozen other reality shows Rob has been a part of. Seriously, he's the John Lithgow of Reality TV. (You watch how many times you encounter John Lithgow this week now that I've mentioned that.)

Julie tried to take jabs from a parenting point of view, and Steve called Phillip shameful and sorry before commending Natalie for being 19 years old. I nearly fell asleep typing that sentence, so let's move on.
Mike said that he felt closer to God, made some friends, and found some inner peace. That's cool, but I'll take the million if I'm still in the running. No offense to Mike, and I truly appreciated that sentiment from a player that I genuinely liked all season, but if that's what he took out of Survivor, then maybe a church retreat would have been a better idea.

Then, my good friend Puzzle Master Dave spoke directly to the Jury, emploring them to do the only logical thing and vote for Rob. He "controlled your minds, controlled your thoughts", and was "ruthless but brilliant." Did you catch the music as he was speaking? Like we were all walking through a haunted house together, huh? He was right in his assessment that Rob's game was the best strategic game ever played.

David Murphy, you are my hero.

I'm not even joking. If you're reading this, I make this promise to you: I will buy you any puzzle or game you want, based on that speech. I'm totally serious. Email me and we'll set it up. Jenga, Puzz 3-D, Rubik's Magic...you name it.

Was there any doubt Rob was going to win after watching that Jury questioning? Yes, "Phile" got a single vote, but the best player ever finally did it...and took home the million.

Congratulations "Boston" Rob Mariano. Never has a Survivor winner been more deserving.

Random Thoughts on the Reunion Show

- Probst looks wrong in a black shirt, Ralph looks like he's auditioning for ZZ Top, Grant looked like he was auditioning for Fiddler on the Roof, Ashley appeared to be wearing dreamcatchers for earrings, and Matt continued to follow the path of Fabio by chopping off all of his hair for the Finale. Missed opportunity, Matt...with Thor killing at the box office right now, think of the money you could have made on the streets of NYC taking pictures with tourists.

- I told you they knew Rob had the Idol! I knew it! That's why the non-flip made sense.

- "What you’re thinking right now is “What is Phillip really thinking?” " Well done, Phillip. Glad to hear that your Former Special Agent status is now confirmed. I give Phillip a lot of credit for being the bigger man and apologizing to Steve, despite Steve's pathetic speech at the Final Tribal Council.

- “That’s as close to a perfect game as anyone has ever played on Survivor.” Truer words were never spoken by the King of the Blue Shirts.

- Matt: “I started the game deciding that I was going to blindly follow my heart.” Perhaps the worst Survivor strategy ever.

- I was surprised to see how stung Grant was by Rob's actions. Hopefully that can be repaired.

- Russell got a total of 2:57 on the show (yes, I timed it). How awesome was that? And about two minutes of it was bitterly complaining about Steve.

- Sprint Player of the season: Boston Rob. Very easy choice. It could only be him or Matt...there shouldn't have even been other options.

- I love how Probst missed the entire back row except for Russell. How pissed do you think Francesca, Krista, Kristina, Sarita, and Stephanie are?

- David is now doing puzzles with Carolina from Tocantins. How many of you thought she was going to say no when she said "Shut it Down"? I love how Amber was right in between them on the proposal shot, and I kept waiting for Rob to yell down from the Stage. "Hey David, I did that better, too!"

- I can't even begin to tell you how disheartened and disappointed I am that Survivor South Pacific (Season 23) will see the return of Redemption Island. So disappointing. But I'm going to give you my predictions now on who I think the two returning players will be...

Phillip and Coach.

Throughout the summer I will be recapping Big Brother, I hope you'll check it out. Remember that you can also add me on Facebook or on Twitter, where I post all new posts as soon as they go up. Don’t forget to mouse over the pictures for captions.
Thanks for reading this season. See you in the Fall for Season 23!

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