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4-Hour Survivor Finale Bonanza

(I realize the season ended a good two weeks ago, but my records feel empty if I don't close a series properly)

So big it gets its own post!  Mostly because despite how frequently I refer to this series as "mindless reality," it's actually quite a smart game, and it is one of the most consistently entertaining shows on the air.  I don't know what I'd do without it.  During my crazy finals week, I developed a set daily routine of working all night, coming back to the apartment around 10 AM to shower and make lunch, and then allowing myself to unwind with one hour of Survivor before curling up to sleep until nightfall.  And let me tell you, it was FUN trying to navigate the internet for five days without finding out who won.

Oh wait, that proved impossible, first because when I woke up from my nap on Sunday and was channel-surfing to perk myself up, in the two seconds I accidentally stopped on CBS, the reunion show was on and Jeff named two of the final three.  Later, when I was innocently reading the flist I forgot to skim past the one person who talks about Survivor, and saw the name of the winner written out.  DISAPPOINTING!  But my own fault for not properly avoiding it. 

First stop: pre-finale

Episode 12: This was the last Thursday episode...final 5!  Simply put, these are some things I learned:
  • Shooting arrows from a crossbow looks incredibly difficult, but also really fun.

  • Amusing quotes! Jeff: [It's] as if he'd shot the Chinese repeating crossbow his whole life.
    Todd: Secretly a hobby of mine.


  • I really, REALLY miss Erik in all his curly-haired, lean-muscled, shy-smiling glory

  • By this point in the game, Courtney is finally beginning to look truly unhealthy.  People, possibly including myself, may have previously cracked jokes about her "skeletal" frame, but now you can literally see every single rib and several more bones besides.  I know everyone who stays on Survivor to the end loses weight, but some people can afford it and some clearly cannot.  She needs proper nutrients ASAP.  I am impressed that she's never shown any signs of weakness, though.

  • Amanda flat-out asking "why do you dislike me so much?" was weirdly adorable.  PG/Amanda bonding FTW!  Why can't more people have direct conversations like this instead of storing all their bittercakes up for tribal council and/or the jury?  Not that the bittercakes aren't amusing, you just wonder why it keeps happening.

  • LOVED the blast-from-the-past immunity challenge, and how clearly it was meant to handicap certain people - PG and the bouncy drum, Denise and the balut, Courtney and the rope-chopping...actually, I'm not sure what Todd and Amanda's nemeses were.  I was just super happy when Todd failed to get beyond 1 point in the star challenge, and PG got to go on.

  • Courtney, ever the voice of "I am fully aware that this is a game, not Srs Bsns, and will treat it as such," asking if they had to keep eating the gross food after Denise quit was love.  Because why suffer unpleasantness if there's a chance you don't have to?

  • I was excited that after nearly being knocked out in round 1, PG got to fight for immunity until the end, but honestly?  If she had won I'm afraid Amanda would have been out of there, and I like the latter just a teensy bit more.  So I'm glad she won.  As depressing as it was when Amanda failed to rock the boat any more than Denise, and kicked out PG instead of Todd, I...was feeling pretty much okay.  PG was a helluva scrapper, though, given all the cards stacked against her.

  • I can't remember the last time I sat through a tribal council without fast-forwarding or leaving the room.  The questions (and answers) are just so contrived that it's painful to sit through.  It's like an oral exam in class or something, telling the teacher what they want to hear.

  • This leaves us with a final four of Denise, Courtney, Amanda and Todd.  I'm swinging 100% for Amanda to win it, because I'm liking sluggish Denise less every minute and Todd's delusions of grandeur are grating on my nerves again and Courtney is...well, Courtney is actually okay; she's just not as good as Amanda in terms of either beauty or personality (sweet > snarky).  I very much doubt her ability to win anyway.
Episode 13: Doubleshot finale

Let's see.  How much faster will this go if we skip the 10-minute season recap and the Path of Dead Survivors?  Oh, and let's also skip the part where they tear down camp and burn everything, because the only thing that pains me more than seeing civilization spring up in the middle of pristine wilderness is seeing that stuff get torn down.  As much as I will protest its creation, once you've poured your heart and effort into building something, I want to see it remain forever as a historical (or at least nostalgic) memory.  See also: boxes of Kleenex spent over the Lord of the Rings set tear-down. 

I think maybe I'll start with a more detailed analysis of the final 4, actually. 
Denise: ...yeah, my opinions are irreparably tainted by the post-finale SCANDAL OF SHAME that surrounds her now, but I'm pretty sure that even before that I was annoyed by the way she's just a lump.  I'm still shaking my head over how she got this far doing absolutely nothing, and not even being particularly sweet like Cassandra was last season - she's just THERE.  Blue-collar.  Grungy.  Being a great mopey sad sack.  It's really, really painful the way she keeps going on and on about her alliance and its importance even though she has clearly ALWAYS been on the fringes of it and nobody ever intended to let her get past 4th place.

Todd: Part of me wants to appreciate the fact that he's my age, as I too have fond memories of being 14 during the great Rats and Snakes speech, and I want to be glad of the welcome change from the deluge of "yeah, I don't watch/have never seen Survivor, but I got recruited so I went" contestants they've been showcasing lately.  But then he starts behaving like a hyperactive chipmunk and/or uses the word "strategic" again, and suddenly I want to see him squished like a bug.   I don't know precisely how to explain it, but it's like he's too proud of himself.

Courtney: I generally do not like the bitchy women, but the thing is, for as much as proclaims herself to be one, the impression I've gotten is more of a giggle girl.  She's cynical and sarcastic, but I wouldn't exactly call her words cutting.  She's pretty much a harmless little kitten, albeit a feral/barn kitten, and that endears her to me. Pretty cool girl, in the end.

Amanda: My impression of her has not wavered throughout the game - she still reminds me of someone I might have gone to school with; popular, but grounded enough in reality that she would have talked to everybody.  Sweet, friendly, and personable, I SO want to the money to go to her.  She's got to get to F3 first, but I feel fairly confident that she will.  And not just because I already heard Jeff say her name at the beginning of the reunion show.  Okay, on with the episode. 

More things I learned:
  • Brownies, pizza, soft drinks and beer: sounds like my meal plan for finals week.  Oh wait, that was what I dreamed about during finals week; in actuality (besides the fact that alcohol is never a component of my diet) I was down to pretty much soft drinks and lentil soup as my food stores dwindled and I had no spare cash to replenish them.

  • The reward challenge, "building the Great Wall," was sort of boring, but Amanda won it so I was happy.  Still not sure about the rationale behind including Todd, but I guess it's because she wanted someone to talk to while she ate but didn't want to have to share too much.

  • This is where Denise's "boohoo, nobody ever liked me" story becomes very annoying.  You've mentioned it twice in two weeks, lady; we get it.  I've stopped feeling sympathetic, since you're whining about it and yet don't seem to be doing much to change it other than looking like a mopey hound dog hoping for pity.

  • Remember when the final immunity challenge used to consist of standing on a small platform over the water?  I miss that.  Mostly because I remember far fewer closeups of dripping sweat; GROSS.  Plus,as amusing as the sound of breaking china is, that seems like a fantastic waste of a lot of perfectly good dishware. 

  • Hey, Amanda was the only one protecting her head from beating sun with a hat. She also won.  Coincidence?

  • I loved her inverted-bowl strategy.  I did not love Denise's pathetic attempt at deal-brokering - just another example of how she knew she was supposed to do something, the way all the cool kids have, but she was totally clueless as to what that might be. 

  • I loved the faces everyone pulled at the end of their time in the challenge: The way Todd doesn't move a muscle at first except to screw up his face, like maybe if he concentrated hard enough the pieces would fly back into place, Courtney's mouth trembling as she fought off tears, looking suddenly sure that she'd just cost herself a spot in the finals, Amanda's hint of a smile being in the only change in her statue-still form as she saw Denise faltering, knowing there wasn't much longer to wait, and Denise...yeah, right here is where I got really super excited for Denise to get kicked out, because I could no longer stand how pathetic she was.

  • And oh, how did I not ever notice this before - more evidence of her blue-collar-ness, she's got a massive tattoo on her upper arm, and another one on the back of the opposite shoulder.  Ugh. 

  • I have one nice thing to say about her first, though: her quote about how Amanda, Todd and Courtney would go on to do great things, but "I gotta go back to my family."  Everyone's making a big stink about that, but I understand what she means.  Family is great, and completes your life, but it's not exactly a grand adventure.  Fact: you have more opportunities as a single 20-something than as a 40-something family woman.  It's certainly not impossible for her to take her life in a new direction, but it's a lot more likely that she is going to remain in her routine.  It's a safe and comfortable routine, sure, but having a shot at Survivor would be an unparalleled hurrah, and would be more so for an older contestant than a young one.

  • It's where she whines about going back to "Making 7 dollars an hour working as a lunch lady" that I take umbrage.  One, because I made more than that as an untrained student employee and I can't believe she hasn't gotten some number of raises, and two, SERIOUSLY, if she thinks it's that terrible, I'm sure she could find something more scintillating without too much effort.  I'm not even taking into account the fact that in a few days' time, we will discover that this scenario is a BIG FAT BALD-FACE LIE.

  • Jury vote: Swift boot!  Finally.  If I didn't know she was going to become a "depressingly awful juror," in the words of TWoP, I'd be even happier.

  • Aw, I've never seen people fight on the last night before!  Poor Todd, as much as I think he's completely wrong and Amanda's coldness is justified, I also think he's genuinely hurt by the idea that Amanda is angry at him.  I can't decide if I'd want Todd for a friend or not, because on the one hand he's all beseeching looks and bleeding-heart sincerity when he feels close to you, but I also think he'd drop you in a heartbeat and start giggling behind your back if something more interesting captured his attention. 

  • If I have not previously mentioned it, the monkeys have been one of the most entertaining sources of wildlife footage all season.  They look so inquisitive.
And lastly: my favorite part of the finale, jury speeches.  BITTERCAKES TIME!  I live for the ridiculously self-important "You're jerks and I should have won" interrogations.  I should have known that nothing would match Alex and Lisi from last spring, but I was still somewhat disappointed in the placid nature of this jury.  The only people who really got into it were Denise and Jaime.  But Denise's self-righteousness isn't amusing; she just embarrasses herself.  I spent the whole time with my face in my hands, cringing. 

As for Jaime...wow, Erik, your girlfriend's sort of bitchy, isn't she?  Clearly not suited to you at all.  Anyway, her "tell me why the other people suck" line of questioning was weirdly aggressive.  It was almost like she thought that it was a necessary component of Final Tribal Council, and had taken it upon herself to carry it out.  But then she really got into it.  I can't believe she didn't come in there planning to vote for Todd, given that clearly hated both girls and kept cutting them off, but she let Todd say whatever he pleased.  And frankly Amanda's answer was much more in the spirit of the question, yet she claims it was Todd's that "really impressed her," even though all I remember him doing is repeating the word "strategy" and its derivatives a lot.  In conclusion: I have come away from this season with a particular dislike for Jaime, and remain disappointed in Erik and wondering what the hell he sees in her.  You know, just out of objective concern.

I liked James less and less as the season went on - he just wasn't that interesting, and occasionally came off sexist - but I am impressed with how genuinely warm he seems to be, and the constant smiling.  I'm glad he threw a softball out for his question.  No wonder Peachy loves him.  Television Without Pity has corrupted me.  Also, I loved that James rolls his eyes when JR complains about having been blindsided.  Awesome.  I wish more people would realize this game is not meant to be Taken Seriously.  And then I giggled wildly when James started giggling about Todd having been the first to shut JR up. 

The way Frosti asked why Courtney cast her vote against him, like an actual question without any accompanying grudge or tone of serious betrayal, was quite possibly my favorite part of the whole thing.  FROSTI!  I wish it hadn't taken me so long to warm up to him (hah!  get it?), because he's just adorable.  Can I have a Frosti for my very own?

P.S. Peih-Gee, for complaining about Amanda's annoying "doe eyes," has officially lost all my favor.  Shut up, bitter witch.

And then suddenly, we were at the live Reunion show! 
First impressions of the final three in Makeover Mode:
Amanda - "WHOA!  BANGS AND MAKEUP!"  Quite startling at first - I find it so weird that these people always look as good or better on the show than they do afterwards, and I don't know if that's because they overdo it for the studio or because people really don't need cosmetics to look good, but I subscribe to the latter theory - but after a while I decided that while it's a different kind of beauty, she still looks beautiful. 
Todd - "...the hell, is that the beginning of a mullet?" Todd, now, not so much.  His hair has reached anime levels of ridiculous spike-height in front, and the back has the nastiest rattail mullet I have ever seen.  Ew.  Just ew. 
Courtney - "Eep."  Having gained back all the weight she lost and probably ten pounds more, I'm going to deviate from popular opinion and disagree that she "finally" looks healthy, because I'm distracted by how puffy her face looks.  Obviously, I'm not saying she is fat, but on her slight frame, the 95 pounds looked OK once you got used to it.  What I'm getting at, I guess, is that this is not the only size at which she looks good.  And either way, the rocker-chick haircut she's working is not returning the favor.  Neither is the excessive eyeliner.

And then Jeff goes and reads the votes, and I'm devastated that Amanda only got one, if slightly cheered that she got it from Erik.  (Why wasn't Amanda on his team to begin with!  Why!  Don't mind me, just contemplating official entrance to the Cult of Real Person Shipping)  I'm also happy that Courtney managed to snag two, from Denise and Frosti, who also had equally wonderful and heartfelt reasons for voting for her, and not just because she was the least of three evils.  And then I pitch a fit when Todd wins and bursts into tears, because this should have been Amanda's victory.  Stupid, twitchy little chipmunk. 

I get that it's wonderful how he fulfilled this mythical Survivor fable of having studied it for seven years, realized his dream and become the youngest ever winner (he is smashing boundaries!  Smashing them!  With the power of his love for the game!), and yet...I remain unmoved.  No doubt this feels right to some people the way Yul's master chess game or Earl's kingdom felt right, but it's not working for me.  Anyway.  Then all the unimportant Survivors come running out, and Jeff promises Q&A with everyone.  Especially Denise, who is about to tell a whopper that will ensure her name goes down in history, along with her credibility (which will be in flames).

Many of Jeff's questions were creepy, although the two that really bugged were: Courtney, are you anorexic?  Erik, still a virgin, y/y?  That second one really bothered me - I mean, I understand why you might want to address the former since EVERYONE was wondering and they were probably getting a lot of flak over it - but the second one, who cares?  I'm 99% certain they had to clear that question beforehand and make sure the answer was suitable for family TV, but still.  Remember when Britney Spears had that whole campaign about being proud of her virginity, and then she started dating Justin Timberlake and clammed up?  There really isn't a good answer you can give, although "of course!" is about as close as you can come when the alternative is "Hey, JAIME'S PARENTS, guess what?"  Although I have to admit the story of how he and Jaime got together was sort of cute, along with the flat-out "Yes, we're dating" and Erik's absolutely adorable grin.  If I were in a mood to be less forgiving of her, I might call overtones of Jim and Pam. 

Worst of all: as long as we're posing weirdly invasive questions, why nothing about Amanda's perpetually blurred ass?  I heard that in some interview, another contestant said that basically her suit was just too small for her, but that's only half-satisfying.  I wanted to hear Amanda's explanation!

Random note: if there were a prize for looking best at the reunion, PG would win it.  She looked absolutely beautiful, from hair and light but effective makeup to outfit (royal purple top with a deep neckline) to the lovely necklace (of her own making?), in a way that nobody else could even come close to matching.

Random note 2: I am afraid I don't buy Denise's explanation for the mullet, because even before I knew she was lying her ass off about being a lunch lady, I'm 99.8% positive that you are not actually required to have short hair to work in a kitchen.  That's why they make these things called hair nets.   And I'm pretty sure that even short hair would look more feminine than that skanky thing known as the mullet.  I can't believe neither of her daughters has begged her to change this. 

Most popular players: James, Peih-Gee, and DENISE?  You've got to be kidding me.  I understand James and his smiling personality/Superman muscles, and I even understand PG, even though I would have thought other players would be more popular, but what makes a person look at this cast of 16 and go "Oh yeah, Denise totally rocks my world"?  About the only people she beats in my book are Dave and Jean-Robert.  Of those three, I'm happy James won (I'd be happier if he wasn't coming back next season, though, because as previously mentioned: I got tired of him), but my personal top three would have been Erik, Amanda and Frosti, in that order.

And now, the FLAMING SCANDAL OF LIES AND VIDEOTAPE: initially, when I first saw this, I hadn't yet heard about the scandal and I remember gasping and being shocked that her school district had such a stupid-ass reason for not re-hiring her.  I was hoping that somebody would offer her a job, but then Mark Burnett goes and offers her $50k.  That too was shocking, but in a good way.  I couldn't stop grinning madly and thinking that this show was pretty fantastic to do such a generous thing for someone who so clearly deserved it.

The day after I watched that, the REAL story about Denise's complete and utter BS came out, and I was promptly disgusted with Denise.  I set about purging my memory of any feelings of good will towards her, ever, and more than a week later I still can't comprehend what was going through her mind to say such completely untrue things at the reunion show.  I mean, hell, that was some pretty detailed fantasy life she spun out there, right down to the 3rd graders greeting her.  I love how everything Todd did is going to be completely overshadowed by the black blight of her stupidity.  I think this might be going down in the Jonny Fairplay category of infamy, y/y?

I'm almost all talked out about Survivor now, but I have to say one thing about next year's Fans vs. Favorites season: AWESOME.

I didn't watch All-Stars, and it wouldn't have meant much to me if I had since I saw less than half of the early years, but in retrospect the concept seems totally fantastic.  I wish they were doing a pure all-stars set this time around, even though I still wouldn't know anybody from season 9, but I'll take what I can get.  It's been driving me nuts trying to find a cast list of the returning players, especially trying to sort the early "spoilers" from the newer ones, but this list looks accurate.

I could say a lot about The Favorites (such as "dear God not Jonathon no no no no no not His Smug Highness again!" and/or "how come Vanuatu couldn't be the season that got the shaft on representation?"), but mostly I'm going to go sulk because the early spoilers promised me Ian and Katie from Palau, and clearly that was falsehood.  Which DEVASTATES me, you must understand, because I adored them and their friendship and I was so looking forward to more.  In fact, they were pretty much my first experience in RP shipping...I watched their fight/his apology like 4000 times.  I novelized it and saved it in my transcript archive, although I think I later erased it from tape, which is a pity because I cannot turn it up on YouTube.  [Edit: I did turn up an Ian fanvid, though, which has at least a chunk of that scene in it, albeit without audio.]

As for The Fans, I don't know.  There is another Eric who might take the current Erik's place as suitable eye candy, but he looks more like a transplant from The O.C., in the Luke model with no depth at all, which would be quite worthless.  Eh, we'll see in February. Either way, I'm ridiculously excited for it.  Only a month and change to go!  *experiences withdrawal*

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