Pearl Island Strategy #13:  It's All Good
Written by Mario Lanza on 12.17.03

"Sooner or later the question comes up in every medical student's career. How much shock-trauma can the patient stand? Different instructors answer the question in different ways, but cut to its base level, the answer is always another question: How badly does the patient want to survive?"
-Stephen King, Survivor Type

Well another season has come and gone. And now, here it is, my final Survivor Strategy column of the season. As per tradition, I will be writing a running commentary on the finale. These are just the comments from my wife Diana and me as we sit and watch the finale in our living room. These types of columns are always a lot of fun to do and are... let's face it... just a lot less work than a normal column. I am always kind of burned out by the end of a season, so this is my favorite way to send off each season in style.  No strategy... no predictions... no game philosophy.  Just the two of us sitting around and cracking jokes.

But first, I have a few end-of-the-season comments:

* There have been two spoilers floating around the internet all season, and only one of the two can possibly come true tonight. And I have to say... again... that I HATE spoilers. I hate knowing anything about the show ahead of time, and I think it is a ridiculous pasttime for people to spend so much time trying to ruin the Survivor experience for others. But that being said, it has been a long time since a finale has really surprised me. Inevitably during the course of every season, some pinhead will email me and say something like "Oh yeah, I heard Lill comes back to the game and she makes final two." It is nearly impossible to go into a finale with an open mind anymore, the spoilers are just too good and people just talk too damn much. So I knew early on that Lill was coming back, and that the final two is supposed to be Lill and Darrah, and I know that Darrah is supposed to be our winner. However... that being said... there has been another huge rumor all season that Sandra is the winner.  Only one of the two big rumors can possibly come true tonight, and frankly I hope that neither of them does. I hope that Jon wins and just pisses everyone off.  Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

* I have to make a HUGE correction to my column last week. I said that Pearl Islands finished taping right before All-Star was announced, and that timing led me to believe that we had a winner that wasn't going to be very popular. Well, it turns out I was wrong.  Pearl Islands didn't start taping until a few weeks after the All Stars announcement.  I had forgotten the gap between even and odd seasons, so I was incorrect.  A few people pointed this out to me and now I stand corrected. In related news, I am an idiot.  :)

* I am going to make two predictions for tonight's finale, and we will see how close I come. First off, I predict that Sandra will win. I did it in my column last week and here I am sticking to it. I am not that particularly confident in my prediction, I am mainly doing it just to defy the Darrah spoiler. I can't bear to envision a world with Darrah or Lill as a Survivor winner.  And Jon isn't going to win, we all know that.  So by default I gotta go with Changa.  My other prediction is that I bet Jon Dalton will come off very well at the reunion show. I bet he is much more charming and much more personable in real life than we ever saw in the episodes. Murtz is willing to take money on this bet, by the way, so we will see who turns out to be right.

* I was hoping to go to the Pearl Islands finale this year but apparently no websites are getting tickets this year. And it is killing me because the finale is taped like three blocks from where I work.  I can see CBS Television City from my desk as I type this!  Although if you remember my Thailand report from the finale last year, CBS sat all the websites in the very back, in something like row ZZZZZZ, seats 990-999.  So the fact that websites get no love this year doesn't really surprise me. My seat just got downgraded this year, from the back row of the studio to the couch in my living room. Oh well. Maybe next year.

The Running Comnentary

7:59 - We are sitting live in the Lanza family living room... in scenic Carson, California. Your hosts for the evening are me (Mario) and my wife (Diana). We are actually not watching the episode live, we are watching it on tape, but I will write it up as if we were watching at 8:00. Our snacks for the evening are Diet Pepsi and White Castle Cheeseburgers. And with that, the show is ready to begin.

8:00 - The opening montage and recap will feature approximately 12 minutes on Rupert, 1 minute on Jon, and 30 seconds on Osten's torch. That's right, the all-Rupert masturbatory tribute is finally here.

8:01 - In the opening montage, we see Lill losing the Morgan fishing hook and then crying. This will mark the first of many times that Lill will cry during the finale tonight. For your convenience, I will keep a running total.

8:05 - We see Jon's dead grandma lie again and, as always, it is hilarious. It gets funnier every single time I see it. Even Diana will begrudgingly admit that it makes her laugh. I think it is the shot of Thunder D wiggling and prancing out from behind a rock that does it.  Face it, Thunder D is funny.  He just is.  Diana says "The worst part of it is... you get devastating news and it has to be from THIS guy. That's terrible."

8:06 - In the recap, Darrah starts to strategize out loud. My ears immediately start to bleed. Make it stop!

8:08 - The opening credits begin! Yay for the credits. All in all, this was a great season and I am sad to see the Pearl Islands opening credits for the last time. Congratulations to all involved on a truly amazing 13 episodes.

8:12 - We are back from commercial and the show starts.  Lill sees Jeff carrying a pitcher of juice and she immediately bursts into tears. She apparently really loves antioxidants. LILL'S CRYING TOTAL FOR TONIGHT: 2

8:13 - Lill makes two references to the fact that she is a Scout.  I would like to keep a running total of how many times she does this too.  It has a chance to actually beat the crying total.  Then she asks if Jeff will join her Boy Scout troop.

8:13 - Jeff gives Lill her letter from home and... you guessed it... she bursts into tears. CRYING TOTAL: 3

8:14 - Here is a funny finale riff:
Lill (To Jeff): Jeff, do you wanna join a Boy Scout troop?
Diana: Yes, but not yours.

8:14 - Jeff leaves camp and this causes Lill to burst into tears. TOTAL: 4

8:14 - Darrah is talking and crying at the same time. I make a mean joke about how that is like Jon trying to lift a weight and dunk a basketball at the same time. Diana admonishes me and I vow to be nicer for the rest of the show. We will see how long this lasts.

8:15 - Sandra opens her letter from home. It is from her kids and it begins, "Dear motherfucker..." Okay, I bet that joke got a laugh. It does seem odd that her letter is typed, though. That seems very formal for a letter from her kids.

8:15 - Lill cries when she reads her letter from home. TOTAL: 5. Jon glares at her and sighs at her theatrics, it is a pretty funny scene. Although Lill's son drops a really neat Pete Rose quote on her in his letter.  He writes (paraphrased), "In every contest there is a winner and there is a loser. I prefer to have someone else be the loser." I like that sentiment. Nice job by Junior Morris.

8:15 - Jon goes off on Lill's crying spree, and he makes fun of her for putting on such a show about it. He then IMMEDIATELY turns his attention to strategy, and starts driving a wedge between Darrah and Lill. And within 30 seconds, he now has Lill hating Darrah. What?? Is it that easy?? I swear, you can debate the merits of Jon's ethics all you want but he is either the greatest evil strategist the show has ever seen, or he just has the weakest competition. I can already guarantee that Jon won't be the first one to go tonight. Darrah and Lill just don't have a chance against him right now.

8:16 - Jon accuses Lill of pulling "Hearts and Flowers" and he says she will do the exact same thing in front of a jury. And it works. Lill goes off and she pouts after her spat with Darrah.  Wow.  Jon gives a fun smug little grin as he watches his wedge plan come to fruition.  Darrah then pulls a Christy, where she refuses to commit to an obvious slam dunk vote against Lill.  If Darrah gets voted off first, she now has no one to blame but herself.

8:18 - Lill cries in a confessional because no one will take her to the final two. She is too likable. CRYING TOTAL: 6

8:19 - Darrah with another good Darrah-ism: "Lill is being selfish. All she wants is to win, like everyone."  Wow, good point.

8:20 - It is official. Darrah or Lill will be leaving first!  Sandra confirmed it and now I am thrilled. Number one, because Jon will be safe. And number two, because it shatters the whole stupid Lill-Darrah final two spoiler. I am so happy.  Now the ending will be unpredictable! Yay for us and boo for the spoilers. Piss on all of 'em..

8:21 - Jon explains his theory on how to play this game. Create tension between two people and inevitably they will both wind up on the chopping block. This is a very savvy strategy which has worked well for him all season. Jon might not be the best player ever, but he might be the best player ever at escaping a vote. He and Sandra are both very well schooled in that skill, and that is why both of them will wind up in the final three. I tentatively predict that Darrah will leave first tonight.

8:25 - The final four immunity challenge! The players file into Tribal Council.

8:25 - Does Rupert always have to sit in the middle of the jury? Is it written somewhere in his contract? Is it a CBS clause? Because he is ALWAYS front and center, like he is the king and he owns the jury. He also still has on his rainbow tie dyed tank top, which I guess is now officially his trademark. Like Big Tom and his overalls, Rupert will never be allowed to wear anything else again in his life.

8:26 - A new twist! Jeff announces that the immunity challenge will be the jury against the players.  It is neat idea and all, but there is no way that any one player could beat a five-headed jury.  But then again a "no immunity tonight" twist is a pretty nifty idea.  Hmm... I will have to use that some time in one of my All-Star stories. I like it.  Oh and, as always, Rupert holds the tablet and he will be the one answering the questions for the jury.  So predictable.

8:27 - Throughout the challenge, Jon totally mugs and plays to the jury. It is pretty funny.

8:28 - Only Jon guesses that the best way to avoid a shark attack is to stay out of the water. "Only the smart aleck got it right."  That was a funny moment. Jon once again mugs to the jury.

8:31 - The jury wins the challenge so none of the final four are immune. Big surprise.  But I would like to point out that Jon DID beat all the women, just like he said that he would. Hooray for cocky predictions paying off!

8:32 - Jeff asks the players about their letters from home and Lill tries so, so hard not to cry.  It is kind of touching to actually see her hold it back.  But then of course she cracks and she eventually lets the waterworks go.  She starts sobbing and Jon makes fun of her to the jury. Diana suggests that CBS should put little hearts and flowers on the screen. Lill made a valiant attempt to hold it all together... but she broke in the end so it still counts. CRYING TOTAL: 7

8:33 - It is Darrah's turn to answer questions and you can just see the disinterest in the jury's body language.  They are all saying "Please just vote her off. We don't want to listen to her in the final two." It is pretty funny to watch.  None of the jurors are interested in anything she says.

8:36 - Darrah is voted off. She appears to be nuuuumb with shock. Diana and I make this exact joke at the exact same time.

8:38 - In her final words, Darrah is upset. She claims she only weighs 60 pounds soaking wet. I guess scales work differently down in the south. But I have to say that by the end I developed a little bit of a soft spot for Darrah. I make jokes but I really did kind of like her by the end. I didn't want her to win, of course, but that has more to do with spoilers than with her.  She got blindsided, but she did make quite a run the last couple of episodes. She won three immunities and her only real fault (as a character) was that she just didn't talk very much. But I tip my cap to her, she did well.  I am glad she is out of the game but she was one of the good ones.

8:41 - We are back from commercial and we can't resist one last Darrah joke. I apologize.
Jon (to Sandra): Do you think Darrah was thinking about it when she left?
Diana: No, she was busy thinking about boob jobs and chocolate chips.

8:44 - The Pearl Islands Rites of Passage (tm) begins! The final three will be burning each player's torch on the deck of a shipwreck. Wow, what a cool idea! But the funniest thing is that Jon and Sandra are two of the people that will be doing this. Two out of the final three players participating in this ritual don't have a whole lot of respect for anyone else, so is is going to be amusing to watch.  It would be hilarious if Sandra dropped an mf bomb on somebody.

8:44 - The final three are supposed to carry the torches over to the boat and Diana wonders if Jon will be able to carry four torches at once. I think this is a very valid concern.

8:44 - We get a sad shot of Osten's torch, laying back all alone on the ground at Tribal Council.  It's funny, every time we see that shot it looks sadder and lonelier and more pathetic. In fact, if you look close you can see that Mark Burnett has actually taken a dump on it.  Look close!

8:45 - Ah, the first tribute. Jon says that Nicole had a "rockin' body." Kinda brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?  *sniff*

8:46 - Lill cries when she sees Skinny Ryan's torch. Bet you couldn't see that one coming. CRYING TOTAL: 8.
Lill: "Ryan, I didn't cry in this game until you were voted out."
Diana: "Yeah, six whole days."

8:46 - Jon looks like they are forcing him to do all these tributes at gunpoint.  He clearly doesn't want to be here.  In fact, I wonder how many takes they had to do before he stopped saying stuff like "That's right, I beat you too, you fucker! Kiss my ass, I blindsided you!  Ric Flair!"  I mean gosh, can you imagine if Lill wasn't here to be all sappy and emotional? What if the final three was Darrah, Sandra, and Jon? What a production nightmare.

8:47 - Lill gives a VERY classy speech about Andrew and how he always wanted to be a good and fair leader. That was very big of her after all that she went through.  So kudos to Lill and to good sportsmanship. Although... I am guessing the fact that you got revenge probably helps you to like your enemy better. 

8:47 - Rupert's torch. Jon says that Rupert had a "rockin' body." Just kidding.

8:48 - For Christa's tribute we get a slow-motion shot of her famous "slingshot face." Very funny. Very Christa.

8:49 - Ha ha! At the very end of the tribute they tack on a last minute "tribute to Osten." You know the producers didn't want to do that.  I bet somebody threatened a lawsuit if they didn't at least say something about him.  But it gets tacked on at the end, and it amuses me that according to the producers all of Osten's highlights were bad. He is drowning, then he looks sad, then he is drowning again, then he quits. Very touching. Very inspirational.

8:50 - The shipwreck is burned to the ground in a wonderful sendoff.  You know, in my stories I put a lot of time thinking up good sendoff tributes for Rites of Passage and this one was fantastic. If I ever write a story set in Norway I will do a Viking funeral sendoff just like this one.  That was one of the best Rites of Passage ever and it was fun to watch.

8:53 - The final three immunity challenge begins!  Jon, Sandra, and Lill are balancing on crates in the ocean. "This is based on an old pirate torture." Well, it's not REALLY a torture, since the prisoner could just jump off into the water any time they wanted.  But okay we will just go with it.

8:55 - Jeff calls Sandra "the lippiest mother we've ever had on the show." Hee hee.

8:56 - Sandra falls! Now it is Jon against Lill.  And... there it is.  Jon offers her a final two deal.  Yeah like that wasn't coming.  And in a very funny exchange, Lill keeps refusing his deals, much to Jon's annoyance and surprise. He simply cannot believe that she is turning him down. "Do you understand how deals work, Lill??" "I take you to the final two. That's what a deal is!"  Jeff cracks up at this whole exchange, it is pretty darn funny.

8:57 - Well this is interesting.  Lill starts to talk trash. She tells Jon that these are just crunches and that she can stand up here all day if she really wanted to. Yeah, Lill!  It is nice to see her turn into bad ass for a change.  She totally has Jon psyched out now, you can just see it.

8:57 - Great exchange.
Jeff: I think Lill just said "Game on," Jon.
Jon: I think Lill just said "Game over."
By the way, you can interpret Jon's comment one of two ways. Either Jon knows he is screwed, or he knows that Lill is about to throw away a million dollars. In either case, he is probably right.

8:58 - Jon tries to strike one last deal and Lill tries to change it around.
Jon: "Well then that's not really a deal, Lill."
Ha ha. I am really enjoying this scene. This might go down in my top ten funniest Survivor scenes ever: Jon and Lill arguing over deals.

8:59 - No surprise.  Lill wins immunity. You could see it coming a mile away.  But it is impressive that both of them (especially Jon) lasted nearly three hours on those crates! I would never have predicted that. But watch, Lill is going to go martyr herself now. She will vote Jon off and ruin any chance she ever had at winning. She is going to choose glory over victory. That's right Isabella, are you reading this?? Take note! 

9:03 - Lill claims that her winning immunity "had nothing to do with strategy." Damn right it didn't. It was as far from strategy as you can possibly get. You know she is going to vote Jon off, you can just see it.

9:04 - Sandra says that if Lill is smart, she will take Jon to the final two. Everybody seems to know this except for Lill.  Sandra is going to be unbeatable.

9:06 - Getting ready for Tribal Council. Everyone packs up their stuff and Lill starts singing "Amazing Grace." You know, it is times like this that Lill can be a little much to take.
Diana: "Ah, now I remember why they voted her off on day 9."

9:07 - Final Tribal Council starts. There is no suspense, so why even bother. You might as well hand Sandra a million dollar check right now. But I do have to say it is a little sad that the Sandra-Jon feud will never really be resolved.  It was such a great storyline, and it lasted all season, but it never quite ever reached any sort of a climax.  Oh well.  This is how you can tell that Survivor is unscripted.  Sometimes important storylines just kind of fizzle in the end.

9:11 - Jon is voted out of the game.  Well, poop.  I am sad, but of course I knew it was coming.  It wasn't as tough for me to watch as Rob Cesternino leaving was (I can still barely watch that episode.)  As I predicted a long time ago, Jon goes out exactly where he should have gone, in third place.  Sadly, Jon was just never accepted. The fans never really embraced him.  He just didn't fit in.  It is INSANE how much I needed him to win... and now he is out of the game. So much for my dreams.

9:12 - Sandra has a happy look on her face. She is already spending the million dollars in her head.

9:13 - We go to commercial and Diana and I discuss the last vote. It was definitely strategic suicide but in all honesty I doubt that Lill could have beaten Jon in a final vote either. But who cares, really, because she has now effectively taken that chance out of her hands. She has martyred herself in favor of Sandra. And I know a lot of people will compare Lill to Colby after the season is over, but in truth they aren't really all that similar. Colby fulfilled a promise to a friend, and took Tina along just like he promised he would. Sure, he lost, but he lost for the right reasons. But Sandra had no idea she was going to the final two.  Lill threw away any chance she had at victory just so that Sandra could wind up winning over Jon.  To me it seemed like an attempt to martyr yourself just because you wanted to be a martyr. Because that is Lill, the ultimate victim. You could see this decision coming in the editing all season.  This was her character.

9:14 - Diana again gloats that she picked Jon to finish 3rd in the very first episode. And I point out that hey, if you go back and look, I did too. I wrote that since Jon was my favorite, he would have to finish third.  That is just the way that it works.  And of course it came true again.  But hey, third place is probably the best thing that could have happened to a player like him.  Jon got the hero's exit. He was the last truly feared player in the game. I hope I am not the only one who will miss him.

9:18 - Back from commercial, and the season is all but over now.  We are going to have an Ethan ending-- a fan favorite in a final two vote they cannot possibly lose. So just sit back and enjoy it, at least this won't be stressful for anyone. Let the Changa celebration begin now.

9:18 - Lill claims that she has more friends on the jury than Sandra.  Lill officially loses the game right here.  With this statement she begins the slow, inexorable march to her doom. Maybe she was confused and she thought it was the OUTCAST jury that would be voting.  Because in the real world, I am predict a 7-0 Sandra win.

9:19 - Lill: "Jon thought he could just demand my vote, and I would do whatever he wanted!"
Diana: "Well, it worked up until yesterday."

9:20 - Sandra makes a very funny comment about people being blindsided at Tribal Council this season and always being "all over the damn place" trying to find their torch. Ha! Sandra never fails to make me laugh.

9:21 - Lill makes a very valid point about people at home not being able to judge the actions of the players in the game. That is actually something I am glad she said. I know I am as guilty of this as anyone, but it IS a stressful game and we cannot possibly relate to what they are going through while we are sitting at home. As columnists, we should all be reminded of this from time to time. Yes, me too.

9:22 - Sandra predicts that the final vote will be 4-3. Diana and I both predict 7-0. Time to find out!

9:26 - Final Tribal Council. And Jon is now sporting the porn mustache to end all porn mustaches! Wow, that thing is a sight to see. And he struts into Tribal Council like he owns the place.  I am glad to see that he hasn't changed. By the way, why is Lill still wearing the immunity sword? Does the last immunity winner always wear it for the final Tribal Council? I don't remember.

9:27 - Opening statements. Sandra claims that she was always a team player (bad answer).  Lill does okay but she insults jurors by saying that some of them "like to snooze a lot" and that they "all turned their backs on me." She also starts speaking in the third person, like Reggie Jackson. Apparently Lillian Morris did this for Lillian Morris.

9:30 - Time for the jury questions.

9:31 - Ryan O opens by saying "Is it really fair since you were only here for 29 days?" BAM! I was wondering how long before somebody would play the Outcast Card. But seriously, every single jury question should start that way. "As an Outcast... how do you think...?" Like I said, I would really not be surprised if Sandra won this vote 7-0. In fact I would almost be disapponted if it was anything but 7-0.

9:32 - Sandra claims she never rode any coattails "because I'm still standing here!" Yay for Sandra. Cocky is good. Damn right I deserve to be here!

9:34 - Lill evades Rupert's question and of course he sighs... heavily.  But then he makes Valentine's Day eyes as Sandra explains that she didn't know he was going to be leaving that night.
Sandra: "I voted for Jon, cause I was mad at him for some reason."
Diana: "She doesn't even remember why! She was mad at him so many times she forgot that specific reason!"

9:35 - Sandra handles Rupert's question beautifully, and he practically walks over to kiss her on the cheek. He is so incredibly easy to read.  Um, yeah, it is now 2-0 Sandra by the way.

9:38 - Tijuana asks the final two to slam one another. And Lill goes off on the most ironic tangent when she claims Sandra rides coattails and that "I said to her, do you have a mind of your own and can you figure out things for yourself?" It is reasons like this why Lill tends to drive me nuts, she is so incredibly naive and forgetful of what has happened in the past. I can name at least five examples of where Jon had to tell her what to do, and she doesn't even seem to remember this. Sandra follows this with a wonderful answer that "Lillian is responsible for every single one of you sitting on that jury." Sandra just completely blows Lill out of the water on this question. (Author's Note: And Tijuana later voted for Lill???)

9:40 - Christa goes off on Lill hiding behind her scout uniform and she comes down on her pretty hard. Then Christa lobs the ultimate softball question to Sandra, "Tell us your greatest scheme!" I'm surprised the two of them didn't just start talking baby talk. It should be 4-0 Sandra by this point.

9:42 - Burton asks how well the two of them would survive on an island alone. It is a boring question and Jon appears to be falling asleep in the jury. Neither answer is all that great although you can tell from Burton's response how he is going to be voting.
Burton (to Sandra): Good answer!
Burton (to Lill): Please just stop talking now.

9:44 - Darrah speaks. Uh oh. She asks how Sandra and Lill got where they are. Sandra just NAILS this question, saying she got here because people had other agendas and because they always had other fish to fry. And as long as it wasn't her, she would just go along with it. Open and shut, bam, that's all she needed to say. Lill says she is here because she was never a threat.
Diana: "I'm here because of a twist that brought me back after I rested in a lodge for 10 days."

9:46 - Jon speaks. Jeff introduces him by saying "I'm sure you have something interesting to say."  So Jon comes up and he asks Sandra how well she represented Puerto Ricans. She NAILS this question too, "If I don't look out for number one, aint nobody gonna look out for me." Man, she is very good at this. Lill doesn't stand a chance. But to her credit, Lill comes back with a wonderful answer too. She claims she never wanted to wear a Scout uniform in the game, that it wasn't her choice. She says it wasn't her idea and that the jurors shouldn't be able to penalize her for it.  That was a very good answer too... but it is also too late. Lill's awesome speech at the end is simply too little, too late.

9:50 - Time for last rebuttals. I still think Sandra will be winning 7-0.

9:51 - Both women give great final speeches. Lill's is particularly strong, calling it "bullshit" that people hold her to a different standard because she is wearing a Scout uniform. She says if she could do it all over again she would never tell anyone that she is a Scout. And she makes an excellent point.  It is one of the best Survivor jury speeches I have ever heard.  But the problem is that it won't make a difference. No one really respects Lill and the jury is probably too young to be swayed by that argument anyway. It was a great moment for Lill, but she is about to be trounced.

9:55 - The jury starts to vote and I predict we will see none of the votes. Because that is a sure sign of a blowout.  And I am surprised that we actually see Tijuana's vote for Lill. I wonder if the producers made her do that so it wouldn't be a 7-0 shutout.  By the way, I am only half kidding about that.

9:56 - In a surprise cameo, Heidi Strobel pops by to ask if anyone here thinks she should have won the Amazon. "Does anyone here think I was the best player? Anyone? Please just say it."

9:57 - As the jurors vote I am reminded that Rupert LOVES Sandra because she never actually turned on him.  And the irony of course is that if he HAD stuck around longer, she would have had to vote him out eventually. Of course she would have, that's just what Sandra does.  I wonder if this ever occurred to Rupert.

10:00 - THE LIVE VOTE TALLY! WELCOME TO LOS ANGELES (where it happens to be raining right now. Go figure.)

10:01 - Wow, everyone in the jury cleans up nice. Everyone on stage has the exact same clothes they had for day one, that is a nice touch. And here comes the vote reveal.

10:03 - Sandra wins! 6-1! The only surprise to me is that it wasn't 7-0. Yay for Sandra. And congratulations to all involved on a great season. From start to finish, Pearl Islands was great. See you next season for All Stars!

Final Comments:

What a wonderful ending to a great season. It all worked out exactly as it should have worked out, the right person won, and the editing was top notch all season. Because that was really my biggest beef with Amazon.  It wasn't so much that Jenna won, I was more upset because the storyline didn't suggest that Jenna was going to win all season. In retrospect you can see why it happened now (Jenna was popular, Matt wasn't) but the ending just seemed wrong at the time. And it still seems wrong if you go back and watch it.  The editors just totally blew it.

But this season was the complete opposite. Sandra played a nearly flawless game from start to finish, and there were lots of clues she was going to win if you go back and look. In fact, I can't believe I didn't call her as the winner earlier on. She played the exact same strategy as Vecepia, and here I am having written that Vecepia was the single best Survivor player of all time. My goodness, Sandra just tagged along with the vote the exact same way, in the exact same style, and I never even caught on that history was repeating itself.  I kick myself for missing it now, but Sandra was basically a Vecepia upgrade. She was Vecepia version 2.0, if you will. She is liquid metal. Because unlike Vee, Sandra never actually received a single vote. She just tore through the game from start to finish and at no point was she ever actually in any real danger. So I will go on record as saying she was a BETTER player than Vee, because Sandra was a little more proactive. Vee just avoided the vote. Sandra deflected it.

Sandra will be one of those universally respected winners that we very seldom get on this show. We haven't had a huge fan favorite win Survivor since Ethan, and I think that Sandra will be thought of more highly than Ethan was. I think her legacy is going to be solid.  After all, she is likable, she is funny, she is strategic, and she is respected.  What more do you want?  Her winning was the perfect way to end a wonderful season.

I do have to say this though.  I kind of worry about Lill after the season. The fallout from this finale is going to hit her pretty hard. She just got TRASHED in the final jury, and it was on a personal level, not a strategic level. I wonder if she is going to need some time to recover from all of this. She seems like the type of person who in real life would have been rattled by the anger that everyone was directing at her.  Now personally, I don't know if they were being fair to her, or if they were just being poor sports, but I can say that if I was a juror I probably would have treated her the exact same way. She is one of those people who just seems to rub other people the wrong way, for whatever reason.  And I wasn't surprised that she was trashed as badly as she was. I am sure she is a nice person in real life and all, but I can definitely see why the jury was angry with her. She tends to be inconsistent in a lot of her actions.

In the grand scheme of things, Jon Dalton will go down in history as one of my all time favorite Survivor players.  I was entertained by him from start to finish, and the franchise will never be the same now because of him.  And because of dead grandma.  He was a great player, he was a scheming player, and yes I do think he actually would have beaten Lill in a final vote. He set out to be the star of the show and he suceeded, and I hope that people appreciate how much be brought to the season. Whether they liked him or not.  But at the same time... Jon was NOT the best player in Survivor: Pearl Islands.

Sandra was.

And as usual, the right person won.

Mario Lanza is a comedy writer and sometimes-employed programmer from Los Angeles. He is also the writer of the new Survivor: Okinawa project, which debuts next week at Survivor-Central. Watch for it!