The Eyes— And The Winner Is……..

And then there were ten. Ten Sole Survivors. Ten people who, during their various seasons, succeeded in outwitting, outlasting, and outplaying their competitors. Ten people who were rewarded with a million dollars.

It’s hard to believe that ten seasons have already passed. While I did not see the first two seasons, Borneo and Australia, when they first aired, I have gotten the opportunity to see them on the DVD sets released. And we have certainly come a long way since Borneo.

Borneo, the Australian Outback, Africa, the Marquesas islands, Thailand, the Amazon river, the Pearl Islands, Vanuatu, and Palau; even an All-Star edition. No other reality series on television has accomplished as much as Survivor has.

And now, with Guatemela next on the agenda, we wrap up the Palau edition of the series. And what a successful season it was. It was a testament to the series as a whole, because it continues to remain fresh after ten seasons. What other reality show can say that? The Amazing Race is a great show, but it hasn’t yet achieved ten seasons, and hasn’t had the following Survivor has enjoyed. The Apprentice was interesting at first, but degenerated itself into a lot of boring, repetitive, and predictable television. The Bachelor is long overdue for retirement.

Even after ten seasons, Survivor continues to outwit, outplay, and outlast all of its competition. It still remains a top ten, and very often top five, television series.

The reason I’m talking about all this is because I was just blown away by the Palau finale, and season as a whole, and it made me realize that Survivor truly is the best. No matter what other people say or think, Survivor has done what no other reality program has been able to do; in fact, it started off the entire genre of reality television, and it still has not been surpassed.

I hope you noticed the long list of “firsts” they played at the reunion show. It’s unheard of that a reality TV show would have “firsts” after ten seasons. Survivor continues to entertain and shock its audience with things that have never been done before. Two players never get a chance to play in an outrageous new twist? One tribe is completely decimated after failing to win even one Immunity Challenge? Someone voluntarily throws the game away in the final Immunity Challenge just so he can reconcile with his friends? You’ve got to be watching Survivor.

So now let’s talk about the Palau finale itself. It was certainly quite a show, with a very deserving winner. I couldn’t have been happier for Tom and his family, and I was certainly relieved to see him win the million over bratty, obnoxious Katie.

I’m going to run down each of the Final Five players one by one, since I haven’t had a Survivor column since before Caryn was booted in the penultimate episode. Why did they end up where they ended up?

CARYN— Caryn tried WAY too hard to play both sides of the fence. She ran around exposing people’s alliances left and right. She could have potentially held a swing vote card, but she blew it by her outburst at the Tribal Council at which she was voted off. I do have to say, though, the drama was quite entertaining. The old phrase “loose lips sink ships” comes into play with Caryn perfectly.

JENN— Jenn played an under-the-radar style game. It has worked numerous times in the past, so I don’t blame her. She also came close to getting Ian out in her place; she actually succeeded in swaying Tom away from his original alliance. However, she failed to turn Katie, and as a result, had to face the tiebreaker challenge. Unfortunately for her, building fire against Ian just didn’t work.

IAN— Oh, Ian, Ian, Ian. Ian had been my favorite since Stephenie left, and there’s no question in mind he could have won. Unfortunately, during the few days before the end, he just blew it. I was almost screaming at the TV with some of the things he did. His downward spiral started when he took Tom on the final reward trip instead of Katie. His loose lips in the Final Four turned his best ally, Tom, against him completely, and all of this caused his stock with the Jury to sink faster than the Titanic. Then we come to the “Ultimate Shock” that the final episode’s title refers to. After hanging on to a buoy for almost twelve hours, the longest challenge in Survivor history, Ian offered to throw away the entire game just so that he could reconcile with his friends. Holy crap. Where do we even begin? In Ian’s defense, it is nice to see that, even after ten seasons, there are still some people who are not scheming machines. The show would become boring if they were, because you would lose the human dynamic that this show was founded on. Still, though, you’d think that after ten seasons, people would learn a thing or two how to play this game. Yes, the players become increasingly savvier with every bunch. But what shocks me is that, regardless of that fact, there are still people who do not understand that this is just a game. The entire idea is to outlast your competitors, and you do that by outwitting, or outthinking, them and outplaying them in challenges. Ian had every right to scheme against Tom, because Tom was his biggest threat, no question. Ian would have been foolish not to have tried to make a move. His mistake was in letting Tom know about it, and in the end, he threw his entire 38 days in Palau out the window.

KATIE— I really liked Katie in the beginning. If you’ll remember, Katie was my random pre-season pick to win. This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to be being right on something like that. However, over the past few weeks, I have observed Katie become more unlikable and bratty with every week that went by. She truly did not even deserve the one vote she got in the final Tribal Council. Her tantrums over Ian’s loyalty were completely uncalled for, and what really drove me up the wall was her standing over Ian and lamenting him that he should have been honest about his scheming when she was doing the same thing to him. Katie’s behavior was deplorable, and I’ll be honest: I was extremely relieved when she lost.

TOM— In my opinion, Tom is definitely one of the more deserving winners this show has seen. Now, I firmly believe that no matter who they are and no matter how likable or unlikable they are, they still deserve to be called Sole Survivor because they got there. The object of the game is very simple: don’t get eliminated. Be the last one standing. And we all know that this is not an easy game to play, and so anyone who wins deserves it, so that’s not what I mean when I say Tom is one of the more deserving ones. What I mean is that is simply that he is one of my favorite winners. My favorite winner hands-down is Sandra from Pearl Islands because her “as long as it ain’t me” attitude was perfect for this game. Tom is my second-favorite, simply because he played very well and was very deserving of the money. Very few people can become the leader of their tribe and dominate the challenges and win the game, but Tom pulled it off. He is also officially the oldest Survivor winner, and in a season where, at the beginning, we were all commenting on how young this cast was, that is a definite accomplishment.

Here is what I said about Tom in my preliminary cast analysis column:

“TOM WESTON— As Jeff Probst put it, there is no way this guy is going to be the villain of this season. He’s an NYC firefighter and a father, which makes him a true-life hero. He has the advantage of being one of the older men, which gives him more experience than some of these young kids who could easily end up coming out to Palau for a party. The disadvantage to that, of course, is that he is surrounded by a LOT of younger guys and girls who could possibly align with each other and take out the older ones. Plus, because he is a real-life hero, he is also the type of person you don’t want to make the Final Two because he’ll blow the vote right out of the water. He is the type of person who is Final Two Kryptonite, and in a game that is largely decided by numbers, I believe he has his work cut out for him. But I wish him the best of luck.”

Well, actually, my pre-analysis on Tom wasn’t too far off. Like I said above, an older person actually did win a game that had a cast of primarily young people, and it was mainly because they respected him as a leader and father-figure of their tribe. Plus, he also did end up being Final Two Kryptonite, blowing Katie away in the third 6-1 vote of the series, and that very fact was known beforehand to many people (coughIancough) who did try to oust him. But he pulled through and won the tenth million dollar prize of this series.

This fall, 18 new people will try to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other in Guatemala. I am looking forward to seeing the ruins of the Maya used, and will be interested to see the culture of this unique civilization integrated into the game.

I’ll “see” you next week!