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Survivor Finale: Fire and Nice

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Brief spoilers for the Survivor finale coming up after the jump:

So did Sugar’s tribemates screw her over, or did she do that to herself? Once Gabon’s pinup model surprisingly gave Bob the opportunity to get into the finals through the fire challenge—an apparently altruistic move even if good-hearted himbo Matty was himself a jury threat—I figured Bob had it locked up. But I thought Sugar would at least get a couple votes, and by me, she had the strongest case of any of the Final Three. 

Don’t get me wrong: I loved Bob. But the more he argued his case, the less I thought he had actually earned the top spot. He was definitely a dynamo in the immunity challenges. (Did you see his body, by the way? For an old skinny guy, dude is ripped.) Making the fake idol—which he should have played up more in his argument—was a classic highlights-reel move. But beyond that, his strategy was clearly little more than winning challenges, being carried by others and being nice. (And on that last point: would it have killed him to acknowledge that Sugar was the reason he was in the finals at all?)

Sugar, on the other hand: no physical threat. Lousy at challenges. And no lasting, long-term power alliance. She simply scammed and guessed her way along the path to the final three, playing the strategic game better than anyone. (Certainly better than Bob and Susie, who didn’t play it at all.)

Did she piss people off? Sure! But that has not been an automatic Survivor liability in the past. On the contrary, plenty of finalists have won by making the argument: Hey, you may have hated getting backstabbed, but it was a game, and I played it better. I beat you. I deserve it. That’s the original Richard Hatch argument, and it’s been a tried-and-true one. Maybe the wounds were still too raw, or maybe she just didn’t make the case well enough to the jury. 

In all, this turned out to be a much better season than it looked like at the beginning. The least interesting cast members got eliminated early on, and the last half of the season featured some of the better game play to date. It was even, for once, a semi-interesting reunion show. It certainly did wonders for Randy, who now seems like a crusty but self-aware hoot, rather than the guy in the next cubicle you fear is going to shoot up the office someday.

On the other hand, Corinne’s Jerri Manthey impression got really tiresome, really quick. And Corinne: if you want to convince us that you’re not putting on an act in order to bulk up your clip reel for your eventual minor-acting / The Surreal Life career, maybe you don’t want to drop references to how good Randy’s “edit” was.

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