Survivor: Redemption Island
Seems Like a No Brainer, Part 2
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
May 18, 2011

They've won over $2.2 million by playing Survivor.

Hello, good people, and for the last time this season, welcome to the BOP Survivor: Redemption Island recap. When last we hung out, Redemption Island was a thing of the past and Andrea was voted out, leaving us with a Final 4 of Boston Rob Mariano, Phillip Sheppard, Ashley Underwood and Natalie Tennerelli. To continue my baseball metaphor, there's one out in the bottom of the ninth and Rob's still working on the perfect game. After laying out what lies ahead, Rob knows that he is potentially one challenge win away from the title he has coveted for ten long years. One challenge is all that separates him from his goal of never having to hear "Well, at least I WON Survivor" at home ever again.

As we join the finale, we get an overhead of easily the largest and most intricate maze I think Survivor has ever had. Then we get our last Probst Sighting of the season. For this challenge, the players must make their way through this huge maze, finding four different stations, each holding a bag of puzzle pieces. Once they get all four bags, they need to make their way to the top of the challenge and solve the puzzle. As they take off, Rob has a clear plan and is quickly the first person to get a bag of pieces. Right after that, Ashley comes up with a plan of her own, follow Rob every step of the way. At the risk of making a long challenge short, Phillip tries to keep up, but just doesn't have enough in him. Natalie is never even a factor in this challenge.

It boils down to Rob versus Ashley. She follows him through the entire maze to all four stations and then to the very top of the huge challenge staircase. As they reach the top, Rob does have a very slight lead. As Ashley and Rob fumble through the word puzzle, Ashley actually seems to be making headway. She's got "Only" and "Safe" already. Rob has nothing. So naturally, he asks her what she's got. As he looks over his shoulder at her puzzle, I think Rob got an idea. After a bit of trial and error, Rob finally puts together, "Only you are safe" and wins the final Immunity challenge. In a display we've never seen before, Rob is VERY excited to win this challenge. He lets out a yell, jumps up and down and even sheds a few tears. He tells us that no matter what happens now, he has done everything he can to win this game and now he has to focus on how to convince the jury to give him a million dollars even though his wife already won.

As we arrive back at camp, it's hugs all the way around for Rob on his triumph in the last challenge. Oddly enough, all three of the people left feel like they're going to the final three. Rob tells us that he wants to dump Ashley but it will take some work to get Natalie to go along with it. He pacifies Ashley by telling her that Phillip is the vote. He tells her that Phillip will think she's the vote and that she's got nothing to worry about. Ashley asks Natalie to please let her know if anything changes. Natalie can't wait to get rid of Phillip and spend the last day Phillip-free. As the girls spend the rest of the day in bed (where else?), Rob and Phillip confirm that Ashley is the vote.

Rob tells us that he has to get rid of Ashley and that he's worried about how Natalie will take it. He tells her that Ashley has to go because she has too many friends on the jury. He tells her that he told her he'd take her all the way to the end, and he will, but Ashley has to go now. Natalie tells us that it will be very hard to vote for Ashley as they've become so close. She's actually surprised how close they've become. When Ashley comes to her to ask if Rob has said anything, Natalie looks at her and says, "Plan's on." As the Final 4 head to Tribal Council, we see the sun go down and something dawns on me. five to seven minutes of show I didn't have to recap...I'm SO glad they didn't have it. To me it was always a waste of air time. So much else could be shown over the final group finding torches and struggling to say something nice about the people whom those torches belonged to. So from me to all the folks over at Survivor...thanks SO much for cutting that useless piece of show.

As the tribe and jury make their way into Tribal Council, I can't help but notice all the sour looks on the faces of the jury. If their faces are any indication, we could be in for an explosive final Tribal. But first, we have to take care of the little business of selecting the last jury member. Jeff begins with Ashley and suggests that she could have just lost a million dollar challenge. Rob does suggest that you want the people at the end that the jury won't vote for. But he doesn't get to make that decision, that's up to them. Natalie basically begs Rob for the chance to sit next to him at the end. Phillip, on the other hand, feels that Rob is very concerned that he could win. More "specialist" talk.

Ashley makes her plea to Rob by saying that there were many times she could have thrown him under the bus but didn't. Rob then asks her if she thinks she can win this game. "Yeah." Does she have a better chance than Natalie or Phillip to win the game? "Yeah." Um...because of this answer, you actually DON'T have a chance to beat Rob in this game. When someone is deciding on whom to take to the finals, you NEVER suggest that you can beat that person. Rob's right, it has been a lot of Amateur Hour out here. And with that nugget of wisdom, it's time to vote.

We see Phillip's vote for Ashley saying that he's never seen anyone that can lie around in bed all day long, day after day like she can. We see Ashley's vote for Phillip saying that she can't believe it took 38 days to write his name down. She won't miss him; he's a nutcase, etc. Jeff goes to tally the votes. First vote Ashley. Second vote, Phillip. And with the next two votes, Ashley becomes the final member of our jury. And with that, Rob has set up the dream Final Tribal Council. You just have to wonder exactly how bitter this jury is. Will they pull the ultimate goof and give Phillip the million because they would rather see him have it than Rob? Will Natalie be able to give any kind of argument as to why she should win the game? And for those scoring at home, that's two gone in the bottom of the ninth. Survivor fans are on their feet as Rob is now just one out away from a perfecto!

After Tribal, we come back to Phillip reflecting on the 39 days. Jessum Herring told him that he could get to the end and he did. He thanks his great great grandfather for joining him on this journey. He learned a lot about himself on this adventure and can't wait to get to the jury to let them know why they're out of the game, but he's still in it. (Yeah, Phil...probably not the best way to get any votes, but in your case...roll with it buddy, no one's voting for you anyway.) Tree mail brings the Final 3 feast. Natalie tells us how this was the hardest thing she's ever had to do and she feels like she stands for her generation. (Um...okay.) She is so proud that she made it through these 39 days. It makes her feel like she can accomplish anything now. She still seems to think she can win, but I think in the long run, she'll be happy knowing that she made it this far.

As they sit and talk after gorging themselves, Phillip asks Rob how he managed to keep him in the game. Rob tells him it was hard work every single time. Rob then tells us that he's overwhelmed with being just one step away from the top. We see him "tutoring" Natalie on the final jury. He tells her that his mistake last time was that he felt bad. He apologized. He tells her he wished he'd have just stood up and said, "You know what, kiss my ass." He tells us that while he's helping Natalie, he's still playing the game and he's suggesting to her that she say what he wants her to say. He tells us that he feels that he's done his job this time and that the jury shouldn't have a choice in who to vote for.

Now, if I could have everyone bow their heads. It's been a long season of Survivor. We've laughed, Russell's cried. There have been good times and bad times. Even crazy times. But there was one thing that was with us through all of those times. And sadly, its time has come to an end. Phillip says, "I want to say that I was never proud to wear plum colored underwear. I knew that my manhood was not reflected in the briefs that I wear, but rather in the character that I bring to the game. And so, with happiness and joy as I approach my destiny, I bid you adieu." And with that, Phillips tosses his pink tighty whities on the fire. Rob summed it up best, "Thank GOD! Now go wash your hands." As they prepare for the walk to Tribal, we get one last Jessum Herring reference as Phillip feels that his great great grandfather would be glad to see those underwear come to an end. And this is the type of good stuff you get on Survivor, when there's no pressure left anymore. With no more strategizing or voting left, you can almost see the weight lift off the Final 3's shoulders.

As the jury walks in, the only thing of note is the scowl Ashley gives to Natalie as she takes her seat. Jeff explains all of the blah, blah, blah of the final Tribal. Each person will get to make an opening statement and then the jury gets to address the finalists. Then...we'll vote. So let's get right to it.

Natalie starts us off. She says that she made it the 39 days and she just wanted to come in and play the best game that she could. She says her strength in the game was her social skills. She says she had an alliance from Day 1 with Rob and that's why she is where she is now. She's loyal. She also adds that she would be the youngest Survivor winner, if they decided to vote for her.

So breaking it down: she's young, loyal and owes her appearance in the Final 3 to Rob.

Okay, next up is Phillip. Phillip feels he deserves to be there because his strategy was turned upside down when Boston Rob got off the helicopter. He said that after the first Tribal, he apologized to Rob for trying to vote him off and that Rob accepted his apology. He then says that he wouldn't be sitting there right now, if not for Boston Rob. He also takes credit for coming up with the concept of "Stealth," which allowed their tribe to completely destroy the Zapateras. He then says that Rob was the mastermind who came up with the entire plan for their tribe, and he (Phillip) implemented it. He feels that his loyalty to Rob is what got him to the finals.

So, breaking it down: he's insane, he loves the term "Stealth" and he owes his appearance in the Final 3 to Rob.

As we come to Rob, I'm actually wondering if he needs to say anything. But of course, he does. He thanks the jury for allowing him to play the game with them, especially Ometepe. He says that had he ended up on Zapatera, things may have been different. He then starts to list his resume. Four immunity challenge wins, he set up the Ometepe six alliance that dominated the second half of this game. He set up all the sub-alliances for when the six were all that was left. He also talks about how much work he did around camp. He also says that he's been out there for 117 days over 10 years trying to win this game. He says that despite the fact that he loves this game and he owes a lot to it, Survivor does not define him. His wife and kids do that and at the end of the day, he wants to bring home a nice prize to help make their lives easier and he hopes they feel that he played the best game.

So breaking it down: he was a challenge beast, he dominated the strategic and social game and he worked his ass off around camp.

Hey Jeff...can we just skip the rest of the Tribal, give Rob his check and get on with the Reunion? I really MUST know what Russell thinks of all this. No? Okay, in that case, first up is Andrea. She addresses Phillip, calls him weird and then asks him that since he had so many different personae, who is the real Phillip Sheppard. He says that she doesn't know the real him, because he was on the outside of the original alliance and therefore she does not know who he is. He then says that she had 39 days to get to know him and if she doesn't...then don't vote for him. (Odd strategy...but would we expect anything less?)

She then turns to Natalie. She suggests that her relationship with Rob was borderline creepy and that because of her deal with Rob, she betrayed her best friend out there. She wants to know what the allure of Rob is that she would pick riding his coat tails to sticking with her best friend. Natalie says that when someone with the experience of a person like Rob wants to help you through this game, you'd be a fool not to take it. Andrea has nothing to ask Rob and as she sits, Natalie looks at Rob and sarcastically apologizes for "being creepy."

Rob 1, Phillip and Natalie 0.

Next up is Ashley. She tells Phillip she has nothing to ask him because she's tired of hearing his voice. So she's going to speak and he's going to listen. Naturally, he interrupts her to say that he'll talk if he wants to. She says that she wants to say her piece and move on, and he answers back, that she can say her piece, but don't tell him what he's not going to do. She goes on about learning patience from Phillip in that special condescending way that only Ashley has, to which Phillip says that she sounds like a whiny child. Ha ha. I love this guy. Not that he had a chance anyway, but he is just teeing off on everybody so far.

Next up is Natalie. Ashley is pissed that Natalie wouldn't even let her know she was going home. Natalie tries to explain it away by saying it was a back and forth decision, and that ten minutes before Tribal, the decision was made. Ashley tells Rob that he deceived a lot of people and that she also had him up on a pedestal. Ashley says that she doesn't even feel like she knows him and doesn't think she wants to know him. He just nods and smirks as if to say, "Hope that felt good, now sit down, shut up and write my name down."

Rob 2, Phillip and Natalie 0.

Next up is Grant and this should be explosive. He has looked bitter and hurt from the moment he was voted out. Grant starts with Natalie and says that he also had an alliance with Rob that he thought was strong. He wants to know what the nature of their alliance was and he then asks the same question of Rob. Natalie says that Rob came to her in the beginning and they felt like they could trust each other. She said she can't speak to Grant's deal with Rob and that he was a huge threat. Rob says that Natalie came to him and asked him what to do. He told her that if she did exactly what he told her to do; he'd take her to the end. He said the relationship that he had with Grant was real and he felt it all the way up until the point where he thought Grant would kick his ass. He tells Grant that he just couldn't sit up there next to him if his goal was to win. Grant says that he sure wishes they could have just duked it out up there. He completely ignores Phillip.

Rob 3, Phillip and Natalie 0.

Ralph comes up next. His first comment is for Natalie. He wants to know why she can't seem to make a decision or even answer any of these questions without looking to Rob for help. She says that she and Rob have a good relationship. Ralph then asks her why she never talked to him. She said that was on purpose. The tribe saw what happened to Matt when he wasn't loyal to the tribe and she didn't want there to be any misconception. He then looks to Phillip in hopes that he would have a whole chicken on his head. Phillip says those were the only feathers he found, so they're the only ones he's wearing. Ralph then asks Phillip if he liked him. Phillip says that yes he did and that of everyone on his tribe, he respected his work ethic, he thinks Ralph was funny and he feels that if they had been on the same tribe they'd have gotten along quite well. Ralph says thanks and ignores Rob. Hmmmm...

Rob 3, Phillip 1, Natalie 0.

Next up is Matt. He has one question for Rob. He calls him manipulative and a liar. He wants to know when the line is drawn after all this time spent on Survivor. Rob says the line is drawn as soon as he's back in his real life. But inside the game of Survivor, he'll do whatever is necessary to win. He says that at one point or another, everyone thought they had an alliance to the end with him. It might sound harsh, but that's how he feels. Matt tells him that all those people he betrayed are having a hard time figuring out who he is. He ignores Natalie and Phillip. Which means, he's voting for Rob but wanted to have his say. Or he already plans to vote for someone else. Personally, I think it's a vote for Rob.

Rob 4, Phillip 1, Natalie 0.

Julie is up next. She tells them they should all be sitting there humble because none of them played the game honorably. What they should have done was throw challenges and bury people's clothes in the sand. That's WAY more honorable than having a six-person alliance all the way to the end. She goes on a rant about how Natalie's mother won't be proud of her and a bunch of nonsense that, honestly, doesn't deserve the pixels I'm using to type about it. I understand best friends who feel betrayed, trusted alliance-mates who were blindsided. I get all that. What I don't get is someone who was as ignorant as anyone else out there lecturing the Final 3 about all her morals. All that is is the speech of a Survivor loser. They never allowed her in the game and she's pissed about it. I think Phillip said it best, "To hell with you, Julie. To hell with you." Julie...sit down, the Specialist (and this recapper) has spoken. As she sits down, Rob tells Natalie not to worry, "They'll be all smiles later." He really does seem to have a little sister thing going on here where he feels the need to protect, or at least, comfort her. At the end of all this, chalk another one up for Rob.

Rob 5, Phillip 1, Natalie 0.

Thankfully, Mike is up next. Unlike Julie, he's been a class act from day one. I know that whatever he says will be respectful and well thought out. Don't disappoint me, big guy. He starts by saying that his experience in this game has brought him closer to God. He developed some incredible friendships and he found some inner peace for himself. He wants to know what they learned about themselves. Natalie says that at her age and having never even camped, she learned that she's a lot tougher and more capable than she realized. This experience has given her confidence that she can't wait to take back into her everyday life. Rob says that what he's taking away from this time on Survivor is that he needs to stop playing games. This is the last day he'll ever play the game and he needs to be at home taking care of his family. For Phillip, he feels so blessed to have this opportunity. He learned that he could stand on his own and work his way through this on his own.

Rob 5, Phillip 1, Natalie 0. Can't give Mike's vote to anyone, but it wouldn't surprise me if he went with Natalie. She gave a very good answer to his question. Her only good answer thus far.

Next up is Steve. He begins be congratulating Natalie and Rob. He commends Natalie for what she accomplished at 19 years old. He also takes his hat off to Rob for all of the time he's spent out there and for being a fellow warrior. He addresses Phillip by saying that he feels sorry for him and that he's a shameful, sorry man.

Rob 5, Phillip 1, Natalie 0. With no real hint of where Steve's vote is going, we'll leave the tally like this with Mike and Steve's votes seemingly up for grabs.

And we finish with David. He starts with "And now for something completely different..." He says that he is not asking any questions and that he's not even going to talk to the finalists. He wants to address the jury. And in what will be remembered as the greatest Jury Speech not involving a snake and a rat, he says this, "There's really only one logical decision here. Well, one person doesn't deserve it, so we can cut him off. The other one thanked somebody for doing it all. Who'd she thank? The guy sitting in the middle. He did everything. And most importantly, he managed to blindside Matt. And in the process of doing that, he sent a message to his tribe that if any of you show any signs of not being loyal, you're gonna go home. He controlled all of you. He controlled your minds, he controlled what you did, he controlled your thoughts. You all bought it. And one by one by one, you were all blindsided. A little ruthless, but brilliant. When we started this game, two people came in. One of them claimed to be the best to ever play the game. He walked out on Day 8. There's a guy sitting over there that just played the best strategic game this game has ever seen. And it's pretty damn easy to tell you who deserves to get your vote tonight."

And with that, I see absolutely no way Rob loses. The only question now is will he be a unanimous choice? Counting David, I have him with six guaranteed votes, with two up in the air. If David swayed them, that's eight for Rob. The only potential different vote could be Ralph voting for Phillip...if Phillip's friendship is that important to him.

And with all the talking finished, it's time to vote. And this time, you're voting for a winner. We only see two votes during this portion. We see David vote for Rob as he says that he would have much rather played the game with Rob than against Rob, but that's how it worked out. And we see Ralph's vote for Phillip, telling him to spend it wisely and that he loves him. Who'd have thought that of all the people on this game, Ralph would be the one to come away liking Phillip? As usual, Jeff gets the votes and then takes off. I think I mention it every season, but I totally miss the whole outrageous production number of Jeff getting from the island to the live reunion. I mean, really...would it kill ya to throw a guy a frickin' bone and do it one more time? Just for me?

Anyway, Jeff comes into the live reunion, congratulates the Final 3 and talks about how hard the game is and how rough the final Tribal Council was. Jeff asks all three if they think they have enough in there to win. They all say yes, but they can't really believe that, can they? Let's get to the votes. First vote is for Rob. Second vote is for "Phile". After that, everything's coming up Rob. And by an 8-1 vote, the winner of Survivor: Redemption Island is "Boston" Rob Mariano. As he goes out to be congratulated by his family, we're left to sit and reflect. I said all along that Rob was playing the best game. He was at the top of my Power Rankings from the beginning. And yet, I kept saying, "there's no way he can win." Shows what I know, eh? His game may not have been perfect, but it was certainly the most perfect game of Survivor we've ever seen played.

Before this season, David Mumpower and I had several heated debates on the merit of Rob and Russell. I appreciated Russell's game and felt he was completely robbed of the title in Samoa. I thought Rob was overrated, having failed to make the jury in two of his three Survivor appearances. While I still feel Russell was screwed in Samoa, I do have to eat a little crow on the Rob thing. With this season, he has elevated himself into the top three to ever play this game. Arguing over where he falls within that three is an argument for another day. For now, let's just all sit back and feel good about the jury doing the right thing and rewarding the guy who truly deserved to win this season. Congrats to Rob and also congrats to Phillip who has all but guaranteed that we'll see him in another Survivor season real soon.

And speaking of another Survivor season real soon...the 23rd season of Survivor is right around the corner and if you didn't stay awake for the Reunion Show, Jeff gave us a little taste test of what's to come. Survivor 23 will be headed back to Samoa (the site of Survivor 19 and 20) and Redemption Island will be making the trip with it. Hopefully, they'll tweak RI a bit - maybe cut it off at the merge, or if they keep it going, maybe not keep so many people there. Hopefully they learned from this season that carrying almost half the cast to the finale isn't good TV. Also making the trip for S23 will be two more former castaways coming back for their own redemption. I have scoured the interwebs trying to get a line on which two players are coming back and all I can find are rumors. Without anything concrete, I'm not going to report anything. Let's all just hope that we never see Russell and Rob walk off that helicopter again. I think seven combined seasons for these two is plenty. It's time to pass the torch onto some other fantastic Survivor characters.

Well, kids, it has been a pleasure sharing Redemption Island with all of you this season. I can't say for sure that I'll be back recapping Survivor: South Pacific, but I feel safe in saying that BOP will definitely continue the recaps. Thanks for hanging out with me and we'll see you back here in the fall for Survivor: South Pacific. Until then, take care.