The finale of Survivor: Redemption Island is unlike any other in Survivor history, because going into it, any one of eight castaways could win the million dollars. With four people still in the game and four on Redemption Island, it all comes down to who wins the final challenges.
I'll be here throughout the finale with updates on who stays, who goes
and who outlasts everyone else to win the million dollars.
First up is an epic, seven-minute recap of the entire season. There's the early elimination of Russell "Cry Baby" Hantz, Matt's alliance with God, two blind sides for Matt, Boston Rob's loyalty to the Ometepe 6, crazy Phillip and a slew of Redemption Island duels.
The Final Duel
Under-underdog Andrea faces off against Iraq war veteran Mike, ex-NFL player Grant and God-loving Matt. Mike has spent more than a third of his time in the game on Redemption Island, while Matt has spent more than 80% of the game there. The four must put their feet on a seesaw to balance a vase in the air, and the last vase standing wis and reenters the game.
After 40 minutes, Grant is out.
After an hour Matt is out. Woo-hoo! Anyone dumb enough to get blind-sided twice doesn't deserve to win. The lesson is that God didn't want him to win, which Matt takes surprisingly well.
Then Mike is out.
Andrea wins the duel!
The under-underdog defeats the three big, strong men! So now it's down to Boston Rob, Crazy Phillip and three young hotties.
The First Immunity Challenge
The castaways race across a balance beam to get bags filled with numbered tiles and then must put them in order, from 1-100. Seriously? After a season of building hard puzzles, now all the contestants have to do is be able to count to 100? The funniest part is listening to Jeff Probst explain it, as if it needs explanation. "The first bag has 1-10. You need to put them in order. Numerical order. First comes 1, then 2, then 3, and so on. The sixth number is 6. Does everyone get it? You're not putting them in alphabetical order or backwards order, nor are you putting them in order of the Fibonacci sequence. You must put them in regular number order." Maybe it's not quite that silly, but it's close.
Ashley wins immunity!
Ashley proves that the last episode wasn't a fluke by winning immunity once again. Boston Rob's female nemesis is proving to be a formidable opponent.
Boston Rob rallies his troops to send Andrea packing, not that it matters since he has the hidden immunity idol and this is the last time he can use it. The scary part is he talks about possibly not using it, even though there's NO REASON not to. Ashley and Natalie, meanwhile, team up to make sure Phillip is gone next time. Phillip gets scared and gives his report to Boston Rob, but that gives Andrea a chance to talk to the girls about blind siding Boston Rob.
The First Tribal Council
There's a lot of talk about Boston Rob being a huge threat. Before the votes are read, Boston Rob does the smart thing and plays his idol because it's better to be safe than sorry. But it doesn't matter.
Andrea is voted out 4-1.
She knew she was gone the moment Boston Rob played his idol, but she was at least hoping Ashley and Natalie would've made a move and tried voting out Boston Rob. Instead, this vote was proof that Boston Rob will 100% win if he makes the finale.
The Final Immunity Challenge
The final challenge features a massive maze with four bags of puzzle pieces and the castaways must collect them, race up to the top and complete the word puzzles. It's not that special, but the size and scope of the maze itself is impressive and worthy of the final challenge.
Boston Rob gets all four bags first, and Ashley is right behind because her strategy is to follow him the entire time. Natalie, meanwhile, earns the mockery of Jeff Probst for being so embarrassingly terrible.
It's close between Ashley and Boston Rob, but then:
Boston Rob wins immunity!
He is happy as can be, because he knows he just made the finale and pretty much guaranteed himself one million dollars. There's still another hour of show and an hour of reunion, but the game is really done at this point.
The Final Tribal Council
Boston Rob wants Ashley out, but the hardest part is getting Natalie to turn against her BFF to complete one last blind side because Natalie is certain Phillip is going. Now Natalie is in that impossible position Boston Rob was in with Grant, choosing between friendship and strategic loyalty.
In the end, in the season of about a million blind sides, we get one more.
Ashley is voted out 3-1.
That's gotta hurt, knowing your BFF Natalie turned on you. And now Boston Rob gets exactly what he wanted from early on: a finale with young, naive Natalie and super crazy Phillip.
The Final 3 vs. The Jury
Opening Statements: Natalie talks about how great her social skills were and how she attached herself to Boston Rob from day one like a parasite. Phillip makes no sense in explaining his strategy about being stealthy because he spends the whole time talking about how Boston Rob was the mastermind. Boston Rob argues that he won challenges, organized winning alliances and worked hard at the camp, but he also sucks up to the jury by saying how it's all about them.
Basically, all three argue that Boston Rob was the mastermind, but Natalie and Phillip think befriending the mastermind is better than actually being the mastermind, which is kind of like saying that Tiger Woods doesn't deserve the Green Jacket for winning the Masters, his caddy does.
Andrea: She describes Phillip as "weird" and Natalie's relationship with Boston Rob as "creepy." It's obvious she thinks Phillip is nuts and Natalie is a useless coattail rider.
Ashley: She's sick of listening to Phillip's voice and thanks him for teaching her that if she can handle his crap, she can handle anything. She's also annoyed at Natalie for betraying her. Wow, these are some serious sour grapes.
Grant: He wants to know why his relationship with Boston Rob was different than Natalie's relationship with him. Boston Rob gets a good dig in about how he told Natalie what to do every step of the way.
Ralph: He compares Natalie to Boston Rob's kid sister who did everything he said. Phillip sucks up to Ralph a lot.
Matt: He wants to know how Boston Rob can handle being such a big liar. The explanation is that lying is necessary in this game.
Julie: She thinks none of the final three played a decent game and scolds them for being embarrassments to their families. Ugh, get off your high horse, lady, this isn't a show about morality.
Mike: He talks about how this show built his faith and gave him an inner peace worth more than one million dollars. What in the hell is this jury thinking? Have they never seen Survivor before? Do they mistakenly think they're electing a new Pope instead of the winner of a game show about voting people out?
Steve: Finally, someone who actually respects the way Natalie and Boston Rob played, but he's sorry for Phillip.
David: He gives a big speech to the jury about how Boston Rob controlled everyone and played perfectly and brilliantly. Now this is the best speech ever, because it's a guy telling a whiny jury that Boston Rob played the best game in the show's history and deserves to win. It's not even a debate. Can I vote for David to win the money, because that was amazing!
The Winner Is ...
We see David vote for Rob, as expected, but in a slight twist, Ralph votes for Phillip. Dummy see, dummy do. But then Jeff Probst takes the vote jar, walks all the way to New York City for the live reunion show.
The first vote goes to: ROB.
The second vote goes to: PHILLIP.
The third vote goes to: ROB.
The fourth vote goes to: ROB.
The fifth vote goes to: ROB.
The sixth vote goes to: ROB.
And that's all it takes.
BOSTON ROB WINS SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLAND!
Well, that was underwhelming since we knew this coming an hour again. But after four seasons, Boston Rob Mariano finally matches his wife Amber by winning the game of Survivor. Maybe if the show is still on in 20 years, Boston Rob and Amber's daughters cane play and win, because they were clearly genetically designed for it.
The Reunion Show
-Ashley reveals that Boston Rob told her and Natalie that he had an immunity idol after the Merge, which explains why they didn't go with Andrea to vote out Boston Rob in the final 5, because they knew he would play it.
-The overall consensus is that Boston Rob played so perfectly because he made individual connections with everyone in his alliance and made sure none of them talked to each other about strategy, which was a lot harder than it looked.
-Grant is genuinely hurt by Boston Rob's betrayal and doesn't seem like he's able to separate the game from real life.
-Jeff Probst gets real when he commends Boston Rob for playing, perhaps, the most perfect game in the 22 seasons of Survivor.
-Matt has a great new haircut and, with a little stubble, he looks a little like Alexander Skarsgard's younger brother to me. His new-found hotness almost makes up for his incredibly and foolish reliance on God in this game.
-Jeff compares Mike's experience in the Iraq War to his time on Survivor, which would be silly if Mike weren't on board with it since he found the game show a life-changing experience.
-Jeff accidentally calls Russell "Phillip," probably because they're both equally ridiculous. And despite claiming he was done, Russell reveals he might be open to coming back to Survivor once again.
-Phillip claims that everyone who meets him says he was great. Everyone on stage and in the audience starts laughing because they know he's totally delusional.
-Phillip is man enough to actually apologize to Steve for the one mistake he made in this game, which was the race debate. Steve accepts, and it's a rare moment of clarity in the haze of Phillip's nonsense.
-Jeff interviews Diane Hardy, a current federal agent, who confirms the story that Phillip really was a special agent. Or at least she says she went to the training academy with him.
-The top two in the Fan Favorite were Boston Rob and Matt, with 76% between the two of them, and the winner, with 40%, was Boston Rob, who gets another $100,000.
-Grant proposed to his girlfriend as soon as he got back from the show and is now married.
-David Murphy, the awesome lawyer, proposes to his girlfriend, Carolina Eastwood, who was the first player voted off of season 18, Survivor: Tocantins. Aww, love! Luckily, she says "Yes."
Season 23: The next installment coming this Fall will be Survivor: South Pacific, and the format will be identical to this season, with the return of Redemption Island and two former players. With Boston Rob winning, I have to assume the returning players are going to be immediately voted out no matter what.
(Image courtesy of CBS)