Survivor: Palau Episode Fourteen, Part Two
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
July 8, 2005

Why is this old guy getting a senior picture taken?

Last time on Survivor, Ian turned on Tom, Tom found out about it, Jenn tried to capitalize on their schism, and Katie endlessly talked about herself. Also, writers Kim Hollis and David Mumpower announced their recent nuptials while offering the promise that we would still finish the recap in the remaining days before leaving on our honeymoon. We are more predictable than Katie, aren't we? It's not all our fault, though. It was downright rude of CBS to schedule the finale for the week of our wedding. Where's the love, Probsty? Anyway, we are back now and ready to recap the final hour and 15 of Survivor: Palau, one of the most enjoyable seasons in the show's history.

"It's a personal grudge now." -- Tom

Back from the six-week-long commercial break, Tom is just as enraged as he was the night the episode aired. He seems to spend a good portion of his monologue internally debating if it's possible to put a horse's head in Ian's bed that night. May we politely suggest Katie's head instead?

"What do you want me to tell you?" -- Ian

Ian is still searching for the magic lie that will cure all woes. Playing the game has failed him. Making stuff up hasn't worked. Horror of horrors, he's even debated telling the truth. There just doesn't seem to be any satisfying this fireman. It's like he feels betrayed or something!

"..." -- Katie

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the final three contestants!

During a terse encounter, Tom suggests that he had wanted to duke it out with Ian at the end. Thirty-six days into the contest, Tom has grown so delirious that he now thinks he's in a John Wayne movie. As soon as he has beaten Ian and saved the town, he hopes to kiss Angie Dickinson and mosey off to The Alamo. Pilgrim.

Ian, who seems to grow several years younger with each passing second, is near tears. He's like Sideshow Bob going, "Why are you so mad? Oh right, all that stuff I did." In a hilariously hypocritical moment, Ian states that Tom twisted the truth. Then, he goes nuts and starts saying, "We're playing a game. We're playing a game. We're playing a game." Thanks for clarifying, Panic Boy.

Ian's best line of defense is to claim he's in a fugue state. "What, did I say I planned to betray you? Gee, I wish I could remember that, but you know, convenient amnesia!" In our last recap, we stated that Ian's performance in the second-to-last episode was one of the worst ever. He's somehow managing to throw under that tonight. He's struggling so badly that we half expect Probst to come flying in yelling, "Ian, you're fired. We're going to bring Stephenie back rather than let you continue to mumble incoherently. We get plenty enough of that from Katie."

How bad is it for Ian? "I'm telling you what is my going through my mind and my heart and my soul." Tom's ironic "Oh, it's your soul that is speaking to us." is a priceless reply to this cockamamie attempt at sympathy. Tom punctuates the entire segment with, "You slipped tonight and you blew it." Pilgrim.

The following morning sees Ian crying into the camera...literally. "I didn't come out here to play the villain." His record player then gets stuck on the "playing the game" line again, outing Ian as a closet Rob Cesternino fan. He continues to miss the forest for all those pesky trees. These people considered him a friend and an ally and didn't expect the type of slimy behavior which has unfortunately become representative of the show. He was playing by old Survivor rules while they were trying to show that nobility and camaraderie meant something this season. Well, Tom was anyway. That makes Ian's betrayal all the more pathetic and this cathartic morning vent is in many ways an acceptance of this fact. On the plus side, there is still plenty of time to redeem himself before the end of the night. All he has to do is not choke. Uh-oh.

Treemail arrives, indicating that it's once again time for that lamest of all Survivor traditions – the honoring of those who didn't make it to the end. They do this every season and it never fails to be manipulative, cloying and a giant waste of time. We can't reach for the fast forward button quickly enough.

Now that the saccharine portion of the show is over, we're finally about to get to the much ballyhooed "ultimate shock". And boy, does it ever deliver the goods.

The final three Survivors arrive for the last Immunity Challenge of their game. Like all such challenges that involve the final group, this one will come down to a severe test of endurance. The contestants will each be required to bob on a buoy for an extended period of time. There is a pole for them to hang onto (Pamela Anderson would kill at this game) and a metal disc on which they can stand. There are three rules – they cannot sit on the disc, they cannot touch any part of the buoy underneath the disc, and they must complete the challenge barefoot. This season, Mark Burnett and Co. have displayed a rather sadistic steak when it comes to creating challenges for the Survivors, and the final one looks as though it will certainly carry on the streak.

The first two hours of the competition are so uneventful that they are unaired. At this point, the wind kicks up, creating some difficulty for Ian. An hour and 15 minutes later, rain further complicates the contestants' attempt at holding on. Tom is asked whether the foul weather will make things more difficult, but he replies that the sun would be far worse. In a Truman Show moment, the sun appears and begins to torture the trio. Apparently, Burnett has somehow gotten his hands on a weather machine.

At the four-hour mark, the infinitely bored Probst takes stock of the situation. His first attempt is to remind Katie that she has no hope, hopefully causing her to quit. Sure, it seems unlikely, but hey, it worked on Janu. When that gambit fails, he pointedly asks Ian if he can beat Tom Wayne. The dolphin trainer rather confidently states that he can, but Tom's priceless reaction is to quietly shake his head no. There is no showmanship to his action. Instead, the fireman demonstrates complete confidence in the eventual result.

Another hour passes. Katie finally comes to realize that she's in over her head, and she jumps down. We have an unwritten rule this year to mock her performance in each challenge, but we're going to break that here. Standing on a pole for five hours is above and beyond the call of duty. It was bad luck for her that she was up against two people capable of doing it even longer. There is no doubt that the production team is surprised by how long this challenge is going. In future seasons, we expect more interference after a few hours of stalemate. Probst is not kind anyway, getting in one last shot at a contestant he despises. "Katie might have just cost herself a shot at a million bucks." Dayam.

After the challenge is narrowed to two contenders, Probst again checks the status of the players. The older man, Tom, reveals that he is in tremendous discomfort from the knees down. Sensing this sign of weakness, Ian is curt in his description. "I'm feeling pretty good." The judges score that round for Ian.

Three hours pass.

Yes, three hours.

At the eight hour, 11 minute mark (!), a frustrated Probst shows unusual irritation. The normally low-key host has not been given a Game Boy, so he's been watching two guys on poles for a third of a day. Try it some time if you don't think it sounds dull. We bet you go mad at the six hour mark. Our host mentions that they have been sitting on their sticks for hours now and not once has a discussion of a deal been broached. The differences between the two men in recent days make this highly unlikely, but we certainly understand Mr. Probst's aggravation. His attempt meets with an unexpected reply.

"If I beat you at this event, I'm taking Katie to the final." Tom's pointed declaration accomplishes exactly one thing. The slumbering Katie briefly wakes up and yawns before turning over and napping some more. Thank God she made the final three. She's adding so much to the proceedings. Then, Tom changes course a bit. He says that if Ian steps off the pole, Tom will honor their standing agreement, the one Ian repeatedly tried to break, and take the dolphin trainer to the final vote. Ian's reply is a sharp "No way. I like it up here." After further cajoling from his elder counterpart, Ian says, "I thought you wanted to duke it out." Ooh, the cowboy has become the Indian.

Calling Tom a pilgrim is the equivalent of trying to put Baby in a corner. He bristles at Ian's proposal that he step down instead, leaving the proverbial lines drawn in the sand. Nothing happens for three more hours as both men continue to hang from a pole and think about how stupid their situation is.

"I have a solution."

At the 11:45 mark (yes, half a day into the challenge), Ian saves the day. The young man has demonstrated throughout the show that he is quite concerned about how he appears on television. After a Pole Day of reflection, Ian has come to realize that he is not going to be remembered as one of the good guys of Survivor. He also isn't crazy about the fact that there are only two other people on the island and both of them hate him. He's wearing a black hat but looking to make a face turn. The unexpected, inventive solution is one of sacrifice.

"I'll go down and you take Katie. I will give up the million to get back you guys' friendship." Probst stirs long enough to ask detailed question about this once-in-a-lifetime offer, which sounds too good to be true. Ian clarifies that yes, he is serious about it. He knows he has screwed up and this is the best way he can see to make amends. Ian's offer sounds great, but Tom's spider-sense is tingling. "Ian would have my friendship after this game anyway, but he would win my respect back with this." The fireman very carefully lays out the fact that he'll believe it when he sees it, but such a move would be warmly received.

Ian performs a half-pike into a twist on his dive into the water and Tom wins the final immunity challenge. After two full episodes, Ian has finally stopped choking. He won't win Survivor, but he has earned back his dignity and a healthy amount of credibility from television viewers. Whether it was a good move or not is up for debate, but Ian's decision is one of the classiest in the history of the show. We offer our congratulations to him for snatching a kind of victory from the jaws of his earlier (repeated) defeat(s).

"Nobody would have predicted this movie." – Jeff Probst drills the situation's element of surprise.

Since it's very late, the group does not even go to Tribal Council. Instead, Katie is roused, Tom is given the immunity necklace and the vote is done right then and there. Tom is classy enough to give Ian another opportunity to change his mind, but Ian stands firm. "I'm going to vote out my buddy, Ian. As bad as I felt last night, I feel ten times better. He's a hell of a guy and I respect him." Ian's face lights up at these comments. The weight of his prior shame has been fully lifted from his shoulders. It's one of the nicest moments Survivor has ever had.

The morning after, Tom and Katie celebrate their victory. Nobody is more surprised than Our Lady of the Perpetual Lounging. Her best case scenario coming into the show had to have been making it halfway but thanks to the intrinsic flaw of the weak getting carried along, she's going to pocket a hundred grand. Or a million. That better not happen, Burnett. We're not kidding around here.

Tom spends a couple of minutes telling the camera his thoughts about the situation. The gist of it is, "Tom happy. Tom beat other caveman, earn many furs." As soon as he masters the wheel, he's ready for the next phase of evolution! Katie also offers a couple of minutes of face time. She starts with, "I hope I get some credit for the way I've played this game." The rest is lost in a sea of laughter. The best part of it is that she was dead serious. Katie, we think we deserve as much credit for our Survivor game play this season as you did, and we didn't participate in the contest.

The night finds Tom and Katie ready to defend themselves against challenging questions from the jury. Tom appears pensive while Katie seems relatively calm. We think their moods are exactly opposite. Since Katie isn't cursed with self-awareness, we shouldn't be that surprised. Tom's comments are that he is a strong worker who "treasures" all the people he beat. Katie says, we swear, that her plan was to do nothing. By doing this and staying below radar, she feels she "outwitted" her fellow Survivors. Gregg all but jumps across the set and guts her right then and there. We don't think Katie is getting Gregg's vote.

Before we go any further, we want to discuss the overall game status at the moment. Tom has been perceived as a tribe leader since the first week. He tried to stay under the radar a bit, but his reward and immunity challenge performances were unmistakable. Since the jury is largely comprised of members of his original tribe, everyone knows Tom, warts and all. Even those whom he has beaten have to respect his work ethic and straightforward nature. And that's a problem for Katie.

As we have said more than once, this has been a unique season for Survivor. We argue that it's the best one ever. The reason why is the fact that the strategy has been so strong. These are advanced placement contestants rather than the remedial ones you might find wearing a Boy Scout uniform and trying to make out with Burton. The concern this gives Katie is that all of these people know what a lazy skank she has been throughout the 39 days. Even worse, all of them save arguably Janu have a legitimate argument for why they should be standing before the jury instead of her. Tom might have rubbed these people the wrong way at times, but all of them would grudgingly admit he has earned his spot. Katie is an out and out fraud and as such, we see her as being a Michael Dukakis kind of candidate. This won't be pretty.

The first question comes from Coby. This player is the most troublesome to Tom. The insecure hair stylist has constantly felt dismissed by the fireman who refuses to treat him like one of the boys. Coby's beefs are legitimate, but his manner is off-putting. There is the holy Jerry Springer Trio of head bobbing, the slinging of attitude, and "no, you di'in't". Sadly, this behavior is over-the-top flamboyant and it's hollow. Coby fancies this as his moment to unearth the truth, but he comes across as a caricature rather than the fine competitor we have grown to respect during the season. Color us disappointed. Tom and Katie largely dismiss his confrontational pressing, and we can't say that we blame them.

Next up is Gregg. He very badly wants to paint Tom as the bad guy for breaking their five-player alliance. This is of course innately duplicitous since Gregg planned to do the same thing to Tom had he survived that fatal vote. Such hypocrisy is always a part of the final Tribal Council, though. Tom has a built-in excuse. He deftly blames Ian for the situation and apologies profusely. This is bastardization of the truth but at least it saves him from further interrogation. Katie is less fortunate.

"Explain to me and the jury how being so pathetic is your "plan" and not your "plan" to get an invite to number two but a "plan" to win a million dollars."

Jeebus. And here we thought we were hard on Katie. This assault stuns the woman with its force. She is reduced to tears by the complete dismissal of her performance on the show. One hard question in, Katie has already turtled, shell face up. She meekly offers that laying low was always her strategy and she never wavered from it. It's clear that Gregg wants to spit in her face, but the brutal reality he has to accept is that Katie advanced much further in the game than he did. That's going to leave a mark.

Our beloved Stephenie advances to the podium. Her question for Tom is one of protection. This season's most popular contestant asks Tom how he held to their agreement to look out for one another's interests when her time came to be voted off. Tom scores a direct hit here by simply stating that protecting her would have been a suicidal move for him within the framework of the game. As the strongest player, he could not be reasonably expected to take care of her without making himself vulnerable with so few players remaining.

Conversely, Katie is quizzed about why Stephenie should not vote for Tom. At this point, Katie gambles big. She attempts to throw her opponent under the bus. "Tom actually came to me before you came and said we need to take out Stephenie." The fireman's reaction to this is priceless. He defiantly states that this is an untruth and reasonably explains the illogical nature of it. At this point, Katie comes to terms with the fact that her gambit has failed. Everyone considers Tom's word to be above reproach whereas she is perceived as a weasel. Making stuff up that he immediately refutes is not going to help her any. She mumbles, "I swear I remember that conversation" but her body language lets everyone know her hand has gotten caught in the cookie jar.

Janu's first question is thoughtful. She wonders how a man of integrity such as Tom was forced to compromise in order to succeed in a game based on at least a token amount of deceit. His simple answer is to say that he did whatever was needed and he now welcomes the chance to be judged for how he played the game. Janu's question to Katie seems like a softball to us. "If you could please give me three positive and negative adjectives that best describe you and how you played this game."

"Actually, I don't expect your vote, Janu, so I don't know that I need to do give you positives and negatives."

What the???? Katie, we've got six adjectives for you: stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid.

Even Ian thinks that answer is a choke. On a relatively easy question, Katie has completely thrown in the towel. Sure, she's probably right that Janu would never vote for her. The rest of the jury members might, though, and she needs four of them to do so in order to bag a million bucks. Simply choosing not to answer is the single stupidest thing that has ever been done in a final Tribal Council. We're ready to call the winner right here and now and honestly, the jury seems to agree with us. Stephenie, Gregg, Coby, and Jenn all seem shocked and more than a little bit offended by her cowardice. Even with the title on the line, Katie is STILL too lazy to do anything that smacks of effort. We'd be happy if Probst stepped in right now and swapped her out for a member of the jury. They all deserve the hundred thousand more than she does.

We're mainly playing out the string now, but there is one more potentially excitement moment. Crazy Caryn comes up and we're braced for Armageddon. Some quality relaxation time back at the hotel has largely settled her down, though. All Caryn is seeking is a bit of affirmation from commanding officer, Tom. "Was I a pawn?" He conveniently blames Ian once more, and she is clearly mollified. It's lost in all of Katie's choking, but Tom is having a very strong performance. Caryn turns her attention to Katie and attempts to kick the soon-to-be second place contestant while she's down. Surprisingly, Katie stands up for herself with a brutal reply. "This game is about alliances and that's why you're sitting over there. You didn't make one." Yeah, but we bet she could have listed six adjectives if it might earn her a million dollars, Katie.

Jenn shows up to ask her question while we look at our watch and wonder why Tom hasn't been declared the winner yet. The feisty blond points out the misogynist nature of the fireman and pointedly asks why she should respect his game when he clearly did not respect hers. That's a valid evaluation, but his answer is impressive. Tom deftly points out that her game was to stay beneath the radar so it's to her credit that he did not realize how strong a player Jenn was until after the fact. This man has a career in politics.

Time for more Katie-piling-on. "You had plenty of opportunities to play this game like a strong woman. Did you play it like a strong woman?" Man, there is blood in the water and the sharks are swarming. This is ten times worse than the end of Open Water. Katie continues to be stunned by the vehemence of the comments leveled against her. She's starting to show signs of post-concussion stress disorder from all the abuse. If we didn't despise her so much for making it to the final, we'd almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

"What is the biggest reason that we as a group shouldn't give you a million dollars." If only America could answer on Katie's behalf. For that matter, everybody in the jury seems inclined to offer their own insights on the subject. This has been such a pointless exercise for the past 15 minutes. An adjective is defined as the part of speech that modifies a noun or other substantive by limiting, qualifying, or specifying. How hard could it really be to name six of those, Katie? We guess a million dollars isn't enough to get you to expend that sort of effort.

It's time for the vote. Coby tries to be a bitch, but it's a foregone conclusion that Katie has gotten nuked. The only excitement left is to say what adventure Jeff Probst has in retrieving the ballots from the jungle and returning them to New York City...and even that is a disappointment. He just walks in the side door. Where's the cliff diving? The hand gliding? The bungee jumping over a sea of electric eels? The last 20 minutes of this season are not indicative of the overall quality. Oh, well, at least Katie loses six to one. And that's one more vote than she deserved. Congratulations, fireman Tom!

While Survivor: Palau ended with twenty minutes of anti-climactic final jury nonsense, we can say in all sincerity that it's the finest season in the show's history. The only way it could have been better would have been Jenn in the final instead of Katie Adjective. The good news is that the best player wins. Including Chris, Amber and Sandra, that's four straight seasons where someone who deserved to win did so. If we could just do something about the finalists all being deserving as well...