Ten years and twenty seasons later, it felt like Survivor: Heroes vs Villains was the ultimate season ever. And in many respects, it was. Ten players known for their integrity, and ten players known for the devious moves. Put them all together, and we got a pretty wild ride, from rivalries and alliances, to dumb moves and disappointments, and eventually, to tonight, to the end, with one of them goes home with a million dollars.

'Survivor: Heroes vs Villains' Finale Recap: Let Me Tell You About Hard Work

Last Thursday, we met our final five. There’s Colby, who’s a formidable player in Australia but struggled with this season. There’s Jerri, the original Black Widow, who somehow managed to hang on. There’s Parvati, that flirty manipulator who’s out to win a second time. There’s Russell, the person we once called “evil incarnate” in Samoa, out to prove that he is the best again. And then there’s Sandra, the sneaky one with a heart of gold… one that you probably didn’t notice.

That should set up my recap for this Survivor season’s finale quite nicely.

Part One: The Heroes Are Vanquished

We ended Thursday night with Rupert finally getting eliminated, leavingColby as the last member of the Heroes tribe standing. Judging fromwhat happened over the past few weeks, he should be the next to go,right?

That wasn’t Russell’s immediate concern. Sandra, after all, played herhidden immunity idol that night. He’s blaming Parvati for things, goingagainst her for thinking what Sandra did was a good move, as opposed tohim playing his own immunity idol a few weeks back. And he’s alsoaccusing her of knowing about Sandra’s idol. “I don’t like beingaccused of being a liar when I’m clearly not,” she said.

Of course, he went to Sandra, too. Why didn’t Sandra tell him about theidol? Didn’t he get a clue when she brazenly said, last week, thatshe’s against him? Delusional, yes. “He wants to micromanage the wholetribe and I’m not the type of person you micromanage,” she said.

Wobbly chances: Colby didn’t seem that happy when the first of twoimmunity challenges came on. It’s the one where you balance a higherstack of dishes and bowls, with immunity going to the last onestanding. But he knew what was at stake. If he doesn’t win immunity,he’s certainly going home. Russell’s plan is way bigger: bring Sandraand Jerri to the final three with him. “The jury doesn’t even have adecision,” he said. “if Colby wins, the best thing to do is get rid ofParvati.”

Colby lost the challenge, but to his credit he was the last person tosee his dishes drop. It went to the 17th plate when his stack justwobbled and fell. Parvati won her second immunity challenge in a row.

So yes, that should make Colby’s departure more than certain, right? Imean, even Jerri was thinking of sending him home, possibly presumingthat he has a big chance of winning the jury over. That, or she’s benton following Russell around again. In fact, Colby pretty much gave his”surrender speech” all over again.

One last move: “I almost convinced myself I’m giving up!” Colby said tothe camera, explaining his vow not to scramble. And then a reeeallylong pause. “So when the time was right,” he continued, “I made onemore attempt.” Finally, he’s working his ass off.

He went to Russell, arguing his case. He proposes that they get rid ofSandra first, so they can kick Parvati out along with Jerri later. It’sa pretty sensible move, but Russell wasn’t so convinced, afraid thatColby would make it to the final three. But a part of me thinks thatlast-ditch move was a half-hearted one for the cowboy. At tribalcouncil, he reveals his last move, and pretty much hinted that he’sready to go. The Villains pushed through with their original plan, andgave Colby his walking papers.

“I’m just not destined to win this game,” he said. Wasn’t that the same line Russell had last week?

Part Two: All Banged Up

It’s funny that Parvati hasn’t really realized that she’s perceived as a threat by everybody in the competition this season. He thought Colby’s statement during Tribal Council–that she’d be going home if Colby won immunity–was en “eye-opener”. Like she didn’t have that same thought after JT’s letter, or before she pulled out her two immunity idols after the merge.

But she is a threat. “If we don’t win, she’s winning,” Russell told Jerri the morning after. “They all think she’s some big strategic player when she’s not.” Oh, Russell, go on with your delusions.

Blindfolded and falling down: After the usual tribute to the rest of the eliminated castaways–I like those segments, but do they all have to act like 16 people died in 39 days?–it’s on to the final immunity challenge of the season, which is an actual struggle. All four teams have to go through a maze, snag four necklaces along the way, and leave to grab the immunity necklace by themselves. And they have to do all of that blindfolded.

That results in perhaps one of the closest endings to a challenge ever. Even Jeff said that. It was a three-way fight: Russell, Jerri and Parvati inched their way across the maze, with Sandra falling out of contention after going around in circles. (She decided to not use the guide markers, but instead follow Parvati’s voice. She’s so banged up after hitting a wall. No, I won’t make the joke.) In the end, the three frontrunners were inches away from the necklace… and Russell grabbed it first.

Scary possibilities: With Russell winning immunity, Parvati seriously feels in danger. “That scares me,” she said. Sandra still thinks she’s in trouble, though, so she pretty much strikes a deal with Russell to bring her to the final three. “I’ll take the $100,000,” she said, assuring him that she won’t get a jury vote.

But Russell’s thinking ahead again. Now he’s thinking of jury votes, and he’s having second thoughts with his plan to toss Parvati. At least, he figured, if he sends Jerri home he can be guaranteed of one vote from the jury. He’s not so sure Parvati will vote for him in the final Tribal Council.

The pre-vote chat featured this little tussle between Russell and Parvati. Or was it flirtatious angling? She thinks he’ll still watch out for her in the end, like they watched out for each other in the past month or so. Russell thinks he’s doing all the watching. Still, sir, go on with your delusions.

In the end, Jerri was unanimously voted out. “Crap!” she only answered. “I thought I had this in the bag!”

Part Three: The Jury Burns The Hat

You know it’s the end when you see the editors set up the final three’s back story. Russell’s talking about him going to the end twice. Parvati talked about embracing her villainous side this season. And then there’s Sandra, who’s just worried about her husband, who’s in Afghanistan on duty. “It’s worth it,” she said of joining Survivor again. “Inside I know he’s okay. I have that gut feeling.”

The final day means the send-off feast, which just looks delicious despite me not having an idea what’s in it. There’s a frying pan, too. But Russell is not relaxed: he’s still talking jury votes with Parvati, who admitted that she would vote for Sandra if she got tossed.

All along, Sandra was pretending to be asleep. “He don’t know how it’s like to be up against two chicks,” she said, before standing up, getting his hat, and throwing it into the fire. In other words, karma has bit Russell’s back–remember the burnt sock last season? Poetic justice. Even funnier, he doesn’t know what happened to the hat. He decides to leave without it anyway.

In a final gesture, the Villains torched that beautiful shelter the Heroes built. And then they meet the jury.

The opening statements: Sandra decided to play up how hard she worked throughout the season. “I’ve been sole-surviving since my alliance was wiped out,” she told the jury. “I did that by myself.”

Russell, as expected, played up the way he played the game. “Everybody thinks this is a game of luck, but I don’t,” he said. “I played as hard as possible. I feel people look at me like I did something wrong. If I did anything that offended anyone, I apologize, but I played the game.”

Parvati was still amazed at how big of a threat she was perceived to be. (I mean really, Parvati, you’ve been here three times and you don’t know?) “I had to put a line of defense together and that’s how Russell came in,” she said. “I kept him as my pet. I think I played the ultimate social, strategic and physical game.”

Colby grilled Russell with his “there wasn’t any luck involved” thought earlier. “It was strategy,” he insisted. “It was delusional,” Colby answered, before asking Parvati about why she’s a better player than the other two. “Everyone over there wanted me out,” she said. “I felt like I had to fight harder, make some bolder plays.”

Coach didn’t ask any questions.
 He thought Russell could be the strongest player in the game, and felt he should be in the place of “fairly useless” Sandra. His best words were reserved for Parvati. “I was dead wrong about you,” he said. “You were a warrior in challenges. The ironic twist of fate is, the day the decided to trust you was the day you turned on me.”

Amanda asked Sandra about why her strategy was better. She admits it wasn’t that good. “Had it been really good Russell wouldn’t be sitting here,” she said. “I spent my nights trying my hardest, [but] every time I went to the Heroes they never listened.”

Courtney applauded Parvati for being “athletic as hell,” but obviously focused on Sandra, her closest ally before she was eliminated. I bet she already decided her vote, but she asked Sandra to defend her loyalty anyway. “If I tell you I got your back, I got your back,” Sandra said, “but if you win we need to split.”

JT asks Russell about how he thinks he’ll win this season. “I believe the jury is gonna respect my game play, especially the people who’ve played the game before,” he said. JT then asked Parvati about her progress, where she insisted she had to work, unlike Sandra, who was so weak in challenges that nobody thought of voting her off.

Danielle’s still bitter
 about what Russell did, so she asks him if he’d consider changing his game, now that he’s heard some of the jury speak. “Nobody respects the way you play the game!” she said. He said he won’t change a thing. “That’s too bad,” she said.

Jerri’s undecided on who to vote, so she merely asked the three about why she was voted out. “I felt that it would be a bad move for me to take you because you didn’t do anything to anybody in the jury,” Russell said, pretty much revealing that he wanted her on the jury. Jerri then told Sandra that she felt blindsided by the vote.

Candice also didn’t ask any questions, and pretty much hinted that she’ll vote for Sandra. “You told dirty lies, lies you don’t need to tell,” she told Russell. “Parvati, you played under Russell’s thumb the whole time, like a spouse in a bad relationship. I wanted you to get out. I like you but I can’t support that.”

Rupert’s mind was also made up, judging from what he told Russell. “It’s hard to be a manipulative, deceiving and lying person,” he said. “You took the easy way out. And if you think you should be proud, you’re sadly mistaken.” He admitted feeling bad not talking to Sandra more. He thinks Sandra and Parvati deserve to win because they worked for it.

Part Four: And The Winner Is…

The vote was a doozy as well. The editors went as far as revealing six of the nine votes, and that was a close call in itself.

“This is insane,” Jerri said as she cast her vote. “I’m going up here going ‘Parvati, Sandra, Parvati, Sandra.'” She eventually voted for Parvati.
“The line between hero and villain was blurred, but you worked hard,” Candice said, explaining her vote for Sandra.

“I was wrong about you,” Coach said as he explained his vote. “You’re a warrior and that’s why you get my vote.” As he tossed in his vote for Parvati, he went all Coach-y on us again: “King Arthur’s journey has officially ended.”

Rupert invoked history, explaining his vote for Sandra. “I’m honored to give you a million dollars again,” he said.

With Danielle predictably going for Parvati, and Courtney predictably going for Sandra, we’re already with a 3-3 tie, and with three votes left, none of which should go to Russell. I mean, I don’t see a Shambo figure this year voting for him. But it surely made you think: what if the three other votes were for Russell, and we’d have a three-way tie back at the reunion show?

With that, Jeff leaves with the votes and takes that months-long journey to New York. Of course, I exaggerate. (But it could be true. There wasn’t a chopper. Maybe he rowed?) We’re back at the Ed Sullivan Theater, with a more-confident looking Russell, and a prettier Parvati and Sandra.

For a moment the 3-3 tie held, until Jeff read a couple more votes. Turns out those three votes Parvati got were the only votes she got.

Sandra Diaz-Twine is the winner of Survivor: Heroes vs Villains. She’s also made history: the very first two-time winner in Survivor history. And the best way to end it: she reunites with her husband, who was in the audience.

I actually got it right! But self-congratulatory remarks aside, though, I think Sandra definitely deserved the win. She worked really hard, and the odds were against her more than anyone–and that should deserve more respect that Parvati, or even Russell, claim. Not to say that the two didn’t deserve to win either. But more on that later. First, the reunion show…