Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites, Finale and Reunion: Shallow Beats Superficial

After getting rid of the last guy on their tribe, the Final 4 women return to camp after Tribal Council all giddy, shrieky, and doing the pot-stirring dance. If their consciences are bugging them over what they did to Erik last episode, they’re hiding it well.

Survivor Fans vs Favorites Finale ParvatiFor the immunity challenge, the women, each standing on a perch on top of a 20-foot pole in the water, raise buckets of water, which they pour into a chute, thereby raising keys that they need to open a chest that contains 16 ladder rungs that they need to assemble to climb up to a platform, and then raise a flag. Got that? It doesn’t matter. Natalie jumps out to an early lead, but around the time that a blur shows up over Natalie’s breasts, Amanda catches up and wins.

Natalie knows she’s an outsider — the only fan among the faves — and that her fellow crafty women won’t fall for her smooth talking, so she tries to gently lean on her friendship with Parvati as a way to stay in the game. At Tribal Council, Probst drops a hint that there might be a Final 2 instead of a Final 3. Cirie says she’d feel on the outside if that happened, the way she has felt at the bottom of every alliance, and Amanda takes issue with that. Natalie likes that the two of them are bickering, but she’s voted out anyway.

The “Should Cirie feel she’s at the bottom of the totem pole?” argument continues back at camp, with Amanda thinking that Cirie just said that to make her look bad in front of the jury (kind of like how Amanda yelled at Todd last season, unnerved by a facial expression he made at the Final 4 Tribal Council. This won’t be the last thing that echoes Amanda’s performance in Survivor: China). They end up apologizing to each other and hugging and crying.

The women are hoping for tree mail that says “Yay! You’re the Final 3! No more challenges! Here’s some food!” But instead they’re instructed to go on the “tribute to the fallen comrades” tour and then participate in one more immunity challenge. This throws all of them for a loop, since they’ve been envisioning themselves going to the end together. Parvati’s heart drops, Amanda cries “When is it going to end? There’s only so much you can take,” as if she’s talking about world hunger or urban violence instead of a game she signed up for (twice), and Cirie recognizes that in a season that contained so many blindsides, it’s only fitting that the game itself should rise up and blindside the three remaining players.

The “fallen comrade” tribute didn’t really provide any great lines, except maybe for Kathy (the one who had to leave the game due to a nervous breakdown), who says, “I’d rather whip out eight more kids in 10 minutes than ever do this again.” (Which, now that I read it, kind of looks like she’s already whipped out eight kids in 10 minutes once in her life.)

I don’t have the stamina to watch an endurance challenge, but that’s what kind it is, with each contestant holding a cylinder with a metal ball balanced in a little groove; every five minutes, two pieces are added to lengthen the cylinder and make it trickier to balance the ball.

So. Balancing a ball on a cylinder. Not all that visually stunning, but still tense. Parvati’s the first out, and Cirie hangs on a while longer before losing to Amanda. Parvati and Cirie are both pretty sure that Amanda will choose to go to the Final 2 with Parvati, but Amanda keeps saying how it’s a really hard decision — Cirie may have more enemies than Parvati, but Cirie’s also the better talker.

At Tribal Council, Amanda’s looking mopey, like she did at the final Tribal Council in China. She’s agonizing and crying over how hard of a decision this is, but the jury doesn’t look sympathetic. (Well, I guess you can’t use Eliza to gauge the jury’s feelings — I don’t think that girl goes five minutes without rolling her eyes.) Amanda votes out Cirie (what do you know — she WAS at the bottom of the totem pole). I don’t think Amanda realizes how much juries don’t like mopey people — I’m thinking that if Parvati can just not look mopey at the final Tribal Council, she may win this game.

At the final Tribal Council, Amanda says in her opening statement that she played a loyal game, fought to the end, and she’s proud of how she played. Oh, and thanks to all of you, who helped me get here. Parvati says that she had a reputation as flirt, and she had to play aggressively and use power plays to beat the competition before the competition beat her.

Eliza doesn’t ask any questions — she just puts them both on notice that she doesn’t know who she’s going to vote for. She feels that Parvati did some nasty things that she didn’t need to do (like talking about Eliza behind her back), but she finds Amanda very superficial. Eliza says that listening to Amanda talk sometimes made her “literally” want to kill herself, and she follows up this presumed exaggeration by saying that she’s looking for genuineness and honesty.

Jason asks Amanda if she would have told Ozzy had she known of the plan to vote him out, and she says yes. At that moment, I sense that Ozzy’s thinking, “Man, when it’s my turn to talk, I’m gonna profess my love to that girl.” Jason asks Parvati what redeeming qualities she had, and she says she was loyal to those she said she’d be loyal to, and she didn’t kill the last chicken at camp.

Alexis asks Parvati why she’d be a better role model for girls than Amanda. She answers that she’s more independent, outspoken, and willing to make bold moves. Alexis tells Amanda that the jury was laughing at her tears at the last Tribal Council, and asks, “What part of your game has been genuine?” Amanda replies that she’s been genuine all the time at Tribal, and she’s not going for sympathy votes. For those of you scoring at home, that’s a vote for Parvati.

Natalie asks Parvati how playing the flirt card resonates in the bedroom. No one quite gets what she means, but Parvati does admit that flirting gets her what she wants at home, too, but she also has genuine relationships. Natalie tells Amanda that she always has a glazed-over look on her face (Amanda nods, either to acknowledge what Natalie said, or to agree — “Why yes, I’m familiar with my vacant expression”), and asks, “Was that your strategy — to kind of play the zombied, pretty girl, not-really-knowing-what’s-going-on, pageant queen cliche, or is this who you are as a person?” I know I’ve said a few times that I love Cirie, but that Natalie has been a kick to watch, too. Amanda responds, “I’m a strong woman — I definitely have substance.” (Just not behind her eyes, apparently.)

Erik tells Amanda that five or six days ago, he would’ve voted for her to get the money, as he thought of her as a big sister (or a cousin, he adds, strangely), but now he’s hurt that she ripped him apart at two Tribal Councils. Amanda defends her words but apologizes if she hurt his feelings. Erik says her apology is “Too little, too late.” Sorry — he still doesn’t look like he’s grown up into an Ice Cream Man. Maybe a wiser, wounded Ice Cream Teenager.

James says that Parvati fluffed him the last time they talked about her blindsiding Ozzy, and this time he wants a real answer. Parvati simply says there was no chance for her to win the game if she stuck with Ozzy and James.

Since Amanda chose to keep Parvati instead of Cirie, Cirie asks Amanda why Parvati deserves a million dollars more than Cirie. Amanda says Parvati played an aggressive game, made bolder decisions, and was more of a powerhouse. (The truthful answer: Amanda thought Parvati was more beatable.)

Ozzy says, “I think I might be the biggest idiot up here.” (To his credit, he doesn’t look at Erik and say, “Oh — sorry — except for you.”) He says he’s truly hurt by how Parvati betrayed him — she put a price on their friendship, and threw it away. He’s so hurt that he doesn’t even want a response from her (although I have to imagine that “Yo! It’s a game!” was on the tip of her tongue).

Ozzy goes on, “The hardest part for me was the fact that you took away 14 days that I could’ve spent with Amanda.” A little bit of acid shoots up my esophagus and into my mouth. He tells Amanda that he feels he’s started to fall in love with her, and that he’s glad he didn’t win the Cook Islands season, so he could be on this show and meet Amanda. The background music is a little swelling and dreamy. In theory, I know this is sweet and all, but my eyes are involuntarily pulling an Eliza.

We see Erik voting for Amanda (“I’m willing to forgive and forget, if you’re willing to forgive and forget.” I actually think he’s basing yet another decision on guilt), Alexis and Natalie voting for Parvati, Ozzy voting for Amanda, and Eliza standing with pen in hand for a really long time.

And now we’re live in New York City, and the two finalists are all glammed up and seem fleshier than when they were on the island. Jeff Probst reveals that by a 5 to 3 margin, Parvati Shallow is the winner of Survivor: Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites. I keep forgetting that “Shallow” is her last name. If that girl never had anyone make fun of her name, she went to a much kinder grade school than I did.

I didn’t feel like I learned a lot from the reunion show, but here are a few things:

  • Amanda says it’s been hard to adjust to real life, since doing back-to-back seasons has made Survivor her life for quite a while now. She says she has issues with trusting people, but later assures us that she and Ozzy are still a couple.
  • Natalie is asked what the reaction has been to her conduct on the show, and she says, “I have some haters, which is cool.” I ain’t a hater, Nat. I would’ve loved to have seen her in the Final 2 — during the season, she went from being someone who was fairly invisible to someone who was strong, cunning, ruthless and quotable.
  • Ozzy says he considered playing the idol but didn’t because he trusted that Parvati was on his side. He says he’s forgiven her now.
  • Erik says that after he gave up immunity, he thought to himself, “Oh my God, you’re dumb. You’re real dumb.” Then he tries to justify it by saying he doesn’t think he has it in him to treat people the way you need to in order to win the game.
  • James is asked to rate the dumb moves of the game, and he says it was as if Erik was on the side of a boat, and he took off his life vest and handed it to the women in the boat. James transfers an imaginary “dumb” crown from his head to Erik’s.
  • The top three vote-getters in an audience vote for $100K were Amanda, Ozzy and James, and James takes the title the second year in a row.

Lastly, if you’re already going into Survivor withdrawal, you can look forward to the next season, which will be Survivor: Gabon: Earth’s Last Eden. (To help out Americans’ knowledge of geography, I would’ve preferred Survivor: Gabon: It’s in Africa.)

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Photo: © 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: John Paul Filo/CBS