“Survivor: Tocantins”: Finale And Reunion

Stephen is worried about how the previous Tribal Council may have looked to the jury — J.T. came off as the loyal ally for voting against Erinn, whereas Stephen came off as the one who backstabbed Coach. Stephen and Taj know that J.T. may be impossible to beat in the Final 2, and they start wondering, “If J.T. loses immunity, dot dot dot.”

Tree mail brings an oversized fake spider, and the immunity challenge course is in the shape of a huge spider, with a net for its body and rope tunnels for legs. The players race through the way cool, tarantula-shaped course and retrieve three bags of puzzle pieces to solve a web-shaped puzzle. J.T. retrieves his three bags before the others, and although Erinn’s a very speedy puzzler, he wins immunity.

Erinn knows she’s in trouble — the Jalapaos (Jalapaons? Wait, I’ve got it — Jalapaolitans) have known each other since Day 1 and stayed loyal through the slaying of the self-destructing Timbirans. Taj thinks Erinn’s attempts to wheedle her way into getting someone to side with her won’t work. But in a non-wheedling way, Erinn points out to Stephen and J.T. that Taj has played a good social game and could beat them in jury votes. Stephen and J.T. also believe that Taj has a better chance than Erinn of winning the next immunity challenge, but they assure Taj that they’re voting against Erinn.

But they lied. Despite Erinn giving herself only a 33 percent chance of sticking around, J.T. and Stephen break the Jalapao alliance and vote out Taj.

It was a tough vote for J.T. and Stephen, but back at camp, Erinn blathers on and on, oblivious to their turmoil. Or to put it in J.T.’s words: “I’m already suffering the consequences [of voting out Taj] ’cause Erinn is the most annoying person I know in the world, and she won’t shut up.”

Erinn promises Stephen she’d take him to the Final 2 if she won the final immunity challenge. Stephen reciprocates the promise but says he won’t give in on the challenge if it’s down to just the two of them — “I do trust you but I trust me more,” he says. Neither thinks they have a chance in the finals against J.T.

Stephen and J.T. also promise to take each other to the finals, only Stephen looks more hesitant and anguished. On the way to tree mail, Erinn says of the Final 3, “I love that it’s the three of us,” and Stephen says, “I love that it’s me and two other people,” which I think is a good indication of where Stephen’s thoughts are at the time.

The three follow the trail of fallen comrades and reminisce about those who’d been voted out. They say glowing things about each of them (J.T. and Stephen say that Coach is the most honest guy and never told a lie. Seriously?), and of the snippets from the dearly departed, the ones I liked the best are: Coach quoting Nietzsche (of course. The quote was “There’s always some madness in love, but there’s always some reason in madness.”); Tyson saying that pathetic folks tend to do better in this game, and “Those people can have their money — I’ll keep my awesome personality and fantastic good looks”; and Candace reflecting, “There’s a part of me that’s just, like, ‘Gosh, Candace, why couldn’t you tolerate the egocentric, sexist crap that was coming out of Coach’s mouth?'”

The final immunity challenge involves a spiral marble game — the players drop balls into the top of the chute and have to catch them when they roll out of one of two chutes at the bottom. More balls are added as the challenge goes on, and if the ball hits the ground, you’re out. And each player has one hand tied behind their back.

Even though it seems like an oversized kids game, I actually get nervous watching this. Erinn’s the first one out, and Stephen hangs in there for a while longer, but J.T. outlasts him to win the final immunity.

Stephen’s relieved he doesn’t have to decide who to take to the Final 2, saying, “It would have been such a scumbag decision to go with Erinn over J.T.” But now J.T. has the same decision to make. Erinn tells him she thinks everyone will vote for him — “There’s been a lot of talk about how it would be suicide to go against you.” J.T. asks her if Stephen told her he’d take her to the Final 2 if he won immunity, and she says yes. Erinn thinks it’d be noble for J.T. to take Stephen, but if he really wants to win a million dollars, he should vote against him.

Stephen agrees — “Why take a gamble on me when he could have a lock with Erinn?” Still, he thinks J.T. will choose him, and he tells him that the jury will respect him if he does so. “You have to know that you’re going to win this,” he tells J.T., who’s not convinced.

At Tribal Council, it sounds like there’s a better case for J.T. keeping Erinn — and Stephen’s argument of being able to have a celebratory Final 2 breakfast with his 39-day friend doesn’t help — but in the end, I think J.T. had to choose Stephen, especially after saying that if he took Stephen to the finals, he’d be taking the best. If you say that and then choose the less-deserving person, you run the risk of being considered even less deserving yourself.

So J.T. votes out Erinn, and Coach and Debbie look happy.

The next morning, J.T. and Stephen have their wonderful, much-awaited breakfast and talk about how thrilled they are to have fulfilled the Final 2 promise they made early on. Unlike in past seasons, they don’t burn the camp. Instead, they stand off in the distance and look back at it, and I expect it to explode.

J.T. and Stephen begin the final Tribal Council with opening statements. Stephen says the two of them shared a brain when it came to strategy, and points out that he’d never been camping before, so his road was harder and his transformation more impressive than J.T.’s. J.T. says he was the first person in his family to graduate from college, he provided for everyone in camp, he had to vote people off before they voted him off (Debbie’s eyes bug at this), and he could’ve kept Erinn, who, no offense, he could’ve beaten.

Paraphrased questions from the jury:

Brendan: Stephen — your opening statement talked about growth; in most sports, who wins doesn’t depend on who grows the most, yes? J.T. — do you think the idea of growth is relevant to who should win this game? (J.T.’s answer: No.)

Erinn: Stephen — you broke three alliances (Jalapao, Exile, Warrior). All those folks are on the jury — should I just vote for J.T.? (Stephen says something about zigging when he needed to.) J.T. — why was Stephen the best to align with? (J.T. says Stephen was the strongest and most honest, so he brought him along when Coach asked who the next strongest person was.)

Debbie: J.T. — I was drawn to you by your pure heart. Was my first instinct right? Is lying and deception your M.O.? (J.T. says his mom told him he’d have to lie to win this game.) Stephen — who would you have taken to the Final 2 had you had immunity? (Stephen says he doesn’t know, but she doesn’t accept that, so he says he fears it would’ve been Erinn.)

Coach: He’s proud to see the Warrior and the Wizard. And did you know that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another? You just can’t hear that enough. He wants examples of honesty and of being a noble warrior. (J.T. says he kept his promise to not vote against Coach, and he risked a million dollars to keep his word to Stephen — who wouldn’t have done the same, he just found out. Ouch!)
(Stephen says he voted for every person in the jury and didn’t take the weasel way out, like J.T. did when he voted against Erinn even though he knew Coach would be voted out. And, Stephen says, he hasn’t said anything negative about J.T. tonight, unlike what J.T. just said. I’m assuming that “weasel” was meant in the most positive way.)

Sierra: Stephen — you’re a sweetheart. J.T. — you said you were sticking with the strong? Stephen’s one of the weakest players. Tyson, Brendan and Debbie all would have been stronger than Stephen. And you got rid of Taj instead of Erinn, so you picked two weak players (J.T. says no, really, Stephen’s strong. Sierra doesn’t buy it.)

Tyson: J.T. — was Stephen an asset in getting you to the finals? (J.T. says he could have gotten to the finals without him, but it would’ve been tougher. Here the two turn on each other, with Stephen saying that J.T.’s words devalue their relationship.)

Taj: She’s crushed by the way she was voted out. J.T. — you didn’t want to lie to Coach, but putting my name down was effortless. (J.T. says no, it was the hardest vote of the game.) Stephen — I thought we were tight. Was I that much of a threat that you had to blindside me? (Stephen says he thought it would’ve been great to keep the Jalapao 3 together, but he went along with J.T. J.T. says nuh-uh; Stephen says he protected Taj earlier in the game when J.T. wanted to take her out because of the hidden immunity idol. They snipe at each other like a bickering couple, and J.T. says he feels like a fool for choosing Stephen, now that he knows Stephen would’ve taken Erinn.)

The only vote we see cast is Coach’s vote for “The W…”, but we don’t know if he’s writing “Warrior” or “Wizard.”

Probst walks off with the votes, and then we’re in New York City, with two guys who look nothing like Stephen and J.T. sitting in the victory seats. Probst reads the votes, and Erinn’s prediction was right: Everyone voted for J.T. He hugs Stephen, then goes off and hugs his family. People in Alabama are cheering.

After commercials (and a “J.T. is awesome” montage), we see that J.T. has been crying. “Probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” he says.

Highlights from the reunion show:

* As for whether the friendship between J.T. and Stephen survived their Tribal Council spat, J.T. says, “I’ve just created one of the best friends I’ll probably ever have” and that Stephen “has the best heart of anybody I know.” So yeah, they’re cool. (Oh — and J.T. admits he played up being so disappointed in Stephen at Tribal Council, ’cause he was trying to pull votes.)

* Stephen says Coach would tell J.T. everything. (Tyson would tell Coach, Coach would tell J.T., J.T. would tell Stephen.) “I’m the gift that keeps on giving,” Coach says.

* Taj is asked if anyone ever talked about voting against J.T. Nope — it never came up ’cause he’s just so sweet.

* Probst has the bit of tooth that J.T. had lost — J.T. gave it back to the medical staff because he didn’t want it. He still doesn’t want it, so Probst gives it to his mom. J.T.’s mom, that is. She’d been telling him for three years that he could win Survivor, and now he has a million dollars and she has a bit of a broken tooth.

* We see a picture of Taj’s pop group, Sisters With Voices, and Probst talks a little with her husband, Eddie George.

* Tyson’s asked how his fellow Mormons have responded to his televised nastiness, and he says that people who approach him love him, and there are probably some folks who don’t, but “Great men are either loved or hated — Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Smith …” And now, I guess, Tyson Apostol is added to the list.

* Sierra says it was tough to be hated, but the moment she found herself was when everyone betrayed her. She seems determined, but also teary and bitter and angry. “I slayed the dragon!” she shouts, although I don’t think she did.

* Coach says that people who know him understand his eccentric side, and that he was placing his epic, heroic stamp on the game. Probst says Coach turned down an opportunity to take a lie detector test to see if his grand story about being captured in the Amazon is true. But Coach says, “You, my friend, my worthy adversary, have never been blindsided. I DID take that lie detector test … I have the sealed envelope here.” (FYI, Coach lets us, and Hollywood in particular, know that the test was also videotaped.) It’s a great television moment, but I gotta admit — I was a little disappointed that the test revealed he was telling the truth. Probst says he believed him the whole time.

* Coach brought a “lady friend” as one of his guests (along with his coaching staff and the author of his book). Probst asks her if the Coach on TV is the man she knows, and she says, “Unfortunately, you only saw Coach and not Ben Wade, who I know and love.” (Which means, according to Coach’s “In love and war it’s kill or be killed” philosophy, that Coach has to kill her.) Probst asks her if the Dragon Slayer makes it into the bedroom, and she says she slays the dragon. Ummm. Yeah. Not gonna touch that one.

* J.T., Taj and Sierra are the three finalists of the Sprint Player of the Season contest, and J.T. is the winner, adding another $100K to his total.

* Update on everyone else: Joe’s leg is doing great; Sydney’s doing modeling; Spencer had fun; Jerry’s buddies in the service ask him what happened with him getting sick and leaving so early; Candace does modeling and acting and law; Carolina says being on the show is still a gift, even though she was voted out first; Sandy is glad she got a second chance to make a first impression (and, although I don’t think she’s attained her proclaimed sex kitten status yet, she’s looking good).

And that’s a wrap on Survivor: Tocantins. The 19th season, with 18 contestants, will take place in Samoa and premiere this fall.