The final episode ran late and long, so I am a day late. And a dollar short.
The show starts with a paralyzingly dull rehash of the last 13 episodes. The entire season is recreated, including the events of only three days ago.
C'mon, Burnett, give us viewers a little credit for knowing what's going on. Finally, at 8:15, the opening credits roll. At this point, I am considering giving up on the gin and rolling a few of my own.
Day 37 finds the final four, Tom, Ian, Katie and Jenn pondering their good fortune. Suddenly, a blood curdling scream echoes down the beach from the women, stirring Tom and Ian into ... well, into what can only be described as modest concern. They are probably with a couple cameramen, right? Anyway, what sounded like a murder turned out to be the girls squealing over a cooler full of food and beverages. The team consumes the feast with great delight and the game is put away for a couple hours.
Respite over, Katie and Jenn declare that should anyone but Tom win immunity, it is Tom that's going home. And Ian seems ready to play that deal.
For immunity, the survivors must navigate another freaking monster obstacle course, involving ropes, knots, keys, and a vertical climb. The rules and tasks are so numerous and convoluted that I can't even begin to describe them. But then, if you are taking the time to read this, you probably watched it, so you know what I am talking about.
Probst is not as lucky as I, so he describes the challenge. In depth. Somehow, the players nod in assent and are ready to play. I guess the "say whats," "huhs," and "you're freaking kiddings," are on a cutting room floor somewhere.
Off they go, with Jenn in the early lead, followed by Tom. At the end of the lengthy key/rope course thingy, Tom leads and begins to climb, followed by Ian. Katie looks like she's out for a walk around the reservoir in Central Park.
As a parenthetical aside, let me say that Tom demonstrates amazing skill with the grappling hook portion of the course. Now I won’t describe that portion in depth, but suffice it to say that Tom is scooping his targets off the beach with the skill of a rescue worker picking bodies off the bottom of the East River. But of course, Tom is
a New York Fireman.
Ultimately, Tom and Ian move to the final phase of the challenge – that’s right, this thing is so elaborate, they had to do it in phases. They slide down a zip line, race back through the water, and unlock a combination lock. Through no special skills beyond dumb luck, Tom opens his lock first, wins immunity, and unknowingly saves his skin.
Back at the beach on day 37, the tribe tries to make sense of what to do. Ian wants to send Jenn home, having failed to defeat Tom. Tom tells Jenn he's true to Ian, so Jenn is gone. They hug and cry, and we see that Tom is more loyal than Ian, who was ready to send Tom packing in a heartbeat. Ian says he wouldn't have had an easy decision, and this sets Tom to thinking.
Jenn brilliantly dishes on Ian's duplicity to Tom, creating her only window of hope. Tom obliges by confronting Ian directly. Ian is screwing up big time, and he admits to promising to vote Tom off. Tom has a new game to play.
At tribal council, the jury marches in. Usually, jurors are transformed once out of the game. Coby has a swishy shawl on, Janu is positively radiant, Steph has her Jersey girl hair, and Caryn . . . looks just like she did on her last day in the game. That is, I suppose, apropos of nothing.
Under Probst's questioning, Ian wilts and screws up again. Tom is now fully ready to toss Ian overboard. The verbal sparring is mind-numbing, but let me just quote Tom to demonstrate his newfound animosity, after Ian implored him not to listen to Jenn: "It's not Jenn's words I'm listening to. It's your
words I'm listening to." The final four is in turmoil, but it's time to vote.
Probst adds up the votes and it's a tie. Ian and Jenn have two votes each. Katie and Tom vote again, and it's still tied. Tom and Katie are intransigent. Either that or they are both changed their. I'm not into comparing the handwriting on the ballots, so whatever.
Jenn and Ian are subjected to the same firemaking challenge that Steph and Bobby Jon played way back when - I think it was snowing then. Ian wins handily, and Jenn is gone.
Tom, Ian, and Katie now constitute the final three. In the past, the final immunity challenge has always been some sort of endurance test. If that pattern holds, Tom the firefighter is certainly in the driver's seat.
Later that night, back at camp, Tom and Ian are at each other's throats: Tom thinks (rightly so) that Ian was ready to stab him in the back, and Ian is scrambling (lamely I might add) to cover up his duplicity.
Tom scolds Ian like a middle-aged man with children, and Ian responds like a boy caught in his first big lie:
Tom: Dere's all tree of us, dere's no mawh lyin' now.
Ian: "No matter what I say, I'm the bad guy tonight?"
Tom: "Cuz yer lyin'. Ta her an ta me."
Katie joins in, and Ian is cut off at the knees. Tom begs Ian to own up to his duplicity, to no avail. Ian is unable to "be a man" in Tom's eyes.
The next morning finds Ian in tears. He looks totally beaten. Katie encourages Ian to buck up and take her to the final two. Ian continues weeping and rationalizing his game. It’s not a pretty site.
Off to the final challenge they go, picking up the torches of their vanquished competitors. It is, as usual, the cornball moment of the series. Each competitor is given a burial at sea, coupled by a reminder video/audio clip. I thank the good Lord for TiVo, fast forward past this mess, and switch to rum and coke. It's getting late.
It's time for the final immunity challenge, and as predicted it is an endurance event.The survivors will stand on a small metal disk around a pole attached to a buoy. Last one standing wins.
One hour passes, then two. The wind picks up and the buoys start to list.
At over three hours, the thunder and rain starts. Now I have some knowledge of lightning, and my sense is that clinging to a metal pole attached to a metal buoy in a sea of salt water is not a good situation. But this show is about ratings, not safety, so the Survivors soldier on.
Katie looks cramped, Ian parched, and Tom zen-like. Hmm. Ian's parched, and so am I. Time for a refresher.
Probst: "Tom, is this rain going to make this any more difficult?"
Tom: "Not more than the sun would be."
Cue the sun.
At 5 hours, it is now dark, and Katie sensibly packs it in. Tom and Ian are still at it at 7 hours. And at 8 hours. Probst apparently has had enough, as he tries to goad tom and Ian into a deal so he can go back to his trailer.
On goes the posturing, neither Tom nor Ian willing to bow out in a battle of wills.
After 12 hours even Probst
looks exhausted, and he's just watching.
At this point, Ian proposes to step down in exchange for his good name. He will pack it in if Tom takes Katie. Tom offers his respect, and that's enough for Ian. Tom wins.
Tom holds Ian to his word, and sends him packing. Ian seems delighted to have won back Tom's respect. This is either a tribute to Tom's strength of personality or Ian's need for a father figure. We'll never know. In any event, Tom and Katie are the final two.
Day 39, and Tom and Katie are pinching themselves on their last day. They set to burning down the camp, and paddle into the sunset for the final tribal council.
Tom opens by basically saying "props to y’all," albeit in New Yorkese. Katie points out that although she skated by, she did it because that was her plan. Way to go, Katie.
blasts Katie, then tells Tom he played dirty and sits down. Thanks, Coby.Gregg
asks Tom why he voted him out. Tom blames Ian. He asks Katie why she did nothing, further asking how "being pathetic is a plan." Katie has no real answer, other than to say she is not pathetic. Hmmmm.Steph
wants Tom to explain how he fought for her, as he promised to. Tom admits to holding to his alliance. Katie makes an implausible lie.Janu
accuses Tom of compromising his integrity. Tom admits to playing the game as well as he could. She asks Katie for three positives and negatives, and Katie declines, implying she neither wants nor needs Janu's vote. Maybe being pathetic is
confronts Tom, who blows it all right back in her face. She then calls Katie phony, cruel, lazy, mean, incompetent, unkind, and treacherous. Katie responds that she is not unkind. Wow, solid defense.Jenn
calls Tom a chauvinist, and disrespectful to boot. Tom brilliantly throws back that Jenn's game was to hide her strength, so how could he know? Pretty swift thinking. Jenn accuses Katie of not being a strong enough woman, and Katie points out that she is still here playing. I ask "why is one compelled to play by Jenn's predetermined gender roles?" Beyond that, Jenn, how is depending upon Gregg for comfort at night playing the game "as a strong woman?" You, my dear, are all smoke and no mirrors.Ian
asks each why they think they should not
win the game. Katie answers because she is too funny. Tom answers that because he was compensated by simply playing the game. Yawn.
Tom and Katie make their self-serving closing arguments, with Tom being more convincing than Katie, who again invokes her "sense of humor." Katie: if you have to remind people about your sense of humor, maybe it ain’t as sharp as you think.
The jury votes, Probst collects 'em, and as we know by now, he flies them home to New York.
And here he comes, into the re-made tribal council set in Gotham City. Tom is sitting there holding hands with a woman I take to be his wife, but who turns out to be Katie; she looks that different than when we saw her last. With little adieu, (except for a pregnant pause while basking in the crowds rapt attention and fanfare) Probst tallies the votes. In the end, it is Tom in a landslide. He hugs his wife, and damned if she doesn't look a little like Katie.
In the end, Tom has won $1 million (closer to $500K after taxes), and a 2005 El Camino. Sure, they call it a Chevy SSR
, but who are they kidding? It’s an El Camino
. Katie has $100,000, and Ian a Corvette. Not a bad haul for 40 days of obstacle courses and puzzles.
Coming next fall: Montezuma’s Revenge.