Sandra is the Jay Leno of Survivor. She flies under the radar because everyone makes the dangerous mistake of underestimating her. But she’s a true street fighter, and when cornered, finds a way to emerge on top. As she said, while her husband goes off to war, she goes off to make money on Survivor. Not winning is not an option.
Underestimating Sandra happened again Sunday night on the conclusion of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. So mediocre on the challenges, blunt and confrontational on the social front, Sandra still stole this game at the finish line from smug bully Russell—so unpopular he drew not a single vote—and shrewd princess Parvati.
The two players who schemed and manipulated their way to the finish line could not defeat the player who arrived there on their coattails. As one juror mentioned, Russell and Parvati were like a dysfunctional married couple. The nine member jury voted for someone who was weaker at the game in all aspects except one: There was less B.S. about Sandra. You might not like her, but you generally knew where she stood. You can lie and back stab your way to the final, but all that B.S. does catch up with you when it comes right down to who gets the million bucks.
Sandra might also have been the most cunning on vote days, planting seeds, raising suspicions about others, throwing front runners off their game. She could have been tossed in the first few weeks but did what real politicians do to get elected--ran negative campaigns against others then kept her mouth shut and voted strategically.
The extreme competitiveness of the final three was evident in the spirited after show. Russell (right) came off as a sore loser, suggesting Sandra’s two wins indicates that there is a flaw in the game. He refused to acknowledge that his complete lack of social skills sabotaged any chance he had of winning. He was somewhat vindicated when Probst announced Russell had won an on-line poll and a $100,000 consolation prize. (Again, Villain triumphs over Hero with Rupert the bonus prize runner-up).
Fact is, Russell made this game. Week in and week out, he was the straw that stirred the drink. His incredible hubris propelled the game forward and also blinded him to the fact that he was jury repellent. He was, in fact, the incredibly unpopular player that all the others wanted to sit next to at the final vote.
As Tom said in the after show, the one who wins Survivor deserves to win. All props to Sandra, the soldier’s wife who flew under the radar for long stretches of this series. But if she’s not sitting next to Russell at the end, she’s just another villain who already has a million. He’s such a tool he makes her look like a Hero.
The other winner Sunday was Jerri, who finished fourth but, as she observed in the after show, may have gained the most in terms of an image makeover. She truly had gone from someone nobody wanted in the final four because she was so hated to somebody nobody wanted to sit next to at the end because she was so inoffensive she could have won.
Parvati earns props, too, for her steel-willed competitiveness in the immunity challenges. There’s no denying she came to play and had her game face on. That she expected to win and didn’t was enormously satisfying for those of us who saw her all along as an ultra-competitive little princess bitch.
This game also had plenty of cartoon characters, from that Obi-wannabe Coach (one can only hope that “King Arthur’s journey has ended”) to dumbass letter writer J.T., a true boob for the ages. Like the old Warner Bros. cartoons, I kept expecting J.T.’s face to dissolve into a cartoon of a giant sucker.
Petulant Russell--who looked like he lost a tooth in that recent bar fight--ranted about opening the vote up to America but, as Probst pointed out, that’s not this game. It is all about the players on the island and how you are judged by your peers. It all comes down to you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. The worst thing you can do, in fact, is outplay, outwit and outlast. The smartest thing to do is sit next to that person at the final vote, and make sure you stabbed five less people in the back.
NEXT SEASON: It is off to Nicaragua, Central America, for more rain forests and wee beasties. You'd think by the 21st edition of this series executive producer Mark Burnett could convince CBS to take a chance and bring this damn show to Yellowknife. (Survivor: Ice Pilots NWT?) Burnett says he'd love to do a winter edition in Canada but it will never happen as long as fabulous women like Amber (left) wear bikinis. Hard to argue with that.
Denette Wilford (TV Guide Canada): "But just like in Samoa , Russell made it to the final three and brought two people to the finals he figured, in his pompous pea head, he’d have no trouble beating. Loved the looks of shock — SHOCK! — that the jury didn’t hand him the grand prize. Well, Russ you definitely didn’t deserve to win, but after breaking it all down, either did Sandra. Parvati did." Read the rest of Wilford's final recap here.
Michael Bolen (The National Post): "In a way, Russ is right — the game is flawed. The show’s motto may be Outwit, Outplay and Outlast but it is those who Out-bore, Out-lose and Outlast that have been taking home the final prize. Sandra may be correct to assert that weakness in challenges and flying under the radar can be a very competitive strategy, but it isn’t one that inspires and excites the viewer. Even for those who justifiably turned against Russell, or became fatigued with his endless boasting, Sandra beating Parvati must have stimulated audible groans." Read the rest of Bolen's recap here.
Kat Angus (Dose.ca): "After two straight seasons of playing Survivor, Russell still doesn’t get it. He thinks the game is flawed simply because he can’t win, proving that he willfully ignores how this show works. Survivor is never the same game twice, because by its very nature, the players are the game; by refusing to figure out how they work, Russell has refused to learn the rules of Survivor. I may not have had the satisfaction of seeing the little man get voted out, but watching his face as he received zero votes at the end was a pretty good consolation prize." Follow the rest of Angus' latest recap here.