Survivor: Cook Islands
This Tribe Will Self-Destruct In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (Part 2)
By Jim Van Nest
December 21, 2006

Look, it's two wonderful contestants! Plus Becky.

Hello, good people, and welcome to what will be the last Survivor recap of the season. When last we spoke, ya know...a couple of days ago, the Aitu Four had successfully mowed down the eight Raro members and become the most improbable Final Four in Survivor history. And now comes the time when the tribe will be forced to eat its own. Several questions jump right to mind. Will Ozzy EVER lose a challenge? Does Yul have another strategic trick up his sleeve to pull him into the Final Two? And will Becky and/or Sundra stand even a snowball's chance against either of these guys? Well, I've got a lot of show to recap, so let's get right to it.

We come back from break with the Aitus returning to camp after the Adam boot hooting and hollering like they just won the World Series. (Oh and by the way, the St. Louis Cardinals? Still champs!) Anyway, there's just an amazing sense of accomplishment for them. They bucked the odds and managed to survive eight votes and make it to the end. Normally, I'd have some sort of snark here, but having watched every minute of every season of this show, this is one of the most amazing feats I've seen and I just can't make fun of it. Of course, as Survivor often does, the very next thing makes me feel like snarking again. We hear Yul in a confessional talk about how proud he is of his team and of how happy he is that someone from a minority community is going to win the game. With all due respect, Yul, 15 of the 20 players this season were from a minority community. What did you expect to happen? I understand what he meant, but it came across sounding weird to me, especially given the makeup of this season's cast.

Anyway, the next morning finds Ozzy up at the crack of dawn enjoying the sunrise. He's just kind of reveling in the fact that he's made it this far, that he's been so strong in the challenges and you can tell he really likes it there. I'd say Ozzy should be voted, "Most Likely to Come Back and Live on a Deserted Island Forever". He also talks about how he has to continue his challenge streak because he expects to be targeted next, if he loses. Tree mail! Tree mail is brought back and tells the tribe to get in their boat, row to the biggest island and climb to the highest point. There they will find the torches of their fallen comrades and they will take the rite of passage. From there, they will continue on to their final immunity challenge. Um, what was that? FINAL immunity challenge? How's that gonna work? An interesting note here, while they're reading, the tribe is getting increasingly excited. The rite of passage, the fallen comrades and all that. Of the four, only Yul catches the significance of the word "final". He even does that head tilting thing and repeats it, "Final immunity challenge?" And still no one else seems to notice. This is just one more little detail that shows why Yul is the smartest player to ever play this game. And if he actually pulls off the win, he'll be the best player to ever play the game.

As they pull off toward their Survivor destinies, Becky talks about how cool it is that all four of them get to take part in the rite of passage, after all they've been through. What follows is always a very nice touchy feely moment on the show where the non-jury members get their one last appearance on the show and the jury members get to reflect on their longer stay in the game. While it's always a nice moment, it's rather dull to write about.

Probst sighting!! This challenge is a typical final challenge - a test of balance and endurance. Each person will stand on a perch that is proportioned to each person's foot size, so the whole "she has littler feet" argument goes out the window. Every 15 minutes, the Survivors will remove a piece of the perch until after an hour, when the perch will be about half the size of a post card. The last person left standing wins immunity and a guaranteed spot in the final three. This is so important because this season, the final tribal council will involve three people rather than two. And there it is, the super duper twist. With Yul having the hidden idol, if Ozzy can manage to outlast everyone, we'll finally have a match up worthy of a final tribal council. If Ozzy doesn't win, they may as well write the check in Yul's name now.

The Survivors take their positions. Yul is crouching while everyone else stands upright. At the 45 minute mark as they release the third of four sections of the perch, Becky loses her balance and tumbles down to the water below. As Jeff speaks to fill the time, Ozzy is having trouble. He has to keep throwing his arms out to regain his balance. At the hour mark, the final section of perch is removed and Ozzy almost nosedives to his doom, but manages to hold on. And like that, Ozzy loses it again and one leg flies off the perch. He manages to reel it in and then provides some nice commentary on the challenge, "The sweat is the biggest factor for me. It's making my nether regions itchy." (Hey, if I had to hear have to read it. It's only fair.) As Yul tries to stand up, he loses his balance and falls off the perch. And it's a two person race now. And this is where these people never cease to amaze me. Jeff gives us an update that it's been two hours that they've been standing. That means they've been on this itty bitty perch for an hour now. Ozzy's still wobbly but manages to hold on. Honestly, I don't know how he's doing it. Shortly after the two and a half hour mark, Sundra, out of nowhere, loses her balance and jumps off the perch, giving Ozzy the final immunity challenge. And further, it gives fans of the show a final they deserve to see - the greatest physical player in the history of the game against the greatest strategic player in the history of the game. Sure, there will be a third person, but who cares? It's Yul vs. Ozzy now.

As they get back to camp, Ozzy discusses how amazed he was at Sundra's performance. Yul tells us that either Sundra or Becky is going home tonight. As the two of them talk about it, Yul says he can't vote against Becky. Ozzy doesn't really want to vote for either of them. And they hatch a plan to settle this as fairly and equally as possible. Yul and Becky will vote for Sundra. Ozzy and Sundra will vote for Becky. They'll allow a tie-breaker to decide it. We flip to Yul talking to Becky and he's telling her that Ozzy wants to force the tie-break. And then he offers up the hidden immunity idol to her to guarantee her place in the final three. Becky likes the offer but says she has to think about it. Ozzy tells the girls about the plan and they seem okay with that. Sundra asks Yul about any surprises and Yul says there won't be any.

At the beginning of Tribal, Jeff breaks the news of a Final Three, much to the jury's surprise. Jeff brings up the obvious - either Becky or Sundra will go home. And he questions them about not pulling out the idol and Sundra says she was willing to take this chance. Ozzy tells Jeff that the plan is to force a tie. Jeff again points out the obvious, that Yul could impact the game by giving someone the idol. Yul says that it could get played, but they came up with a solution that works for everyone. Sundra and Becky have both thought of that. Becky mentions how close she and Yul are, but is reluctant to accept because of how it would look to the jury. Yul expounds by saying that he's tried his best to play a clean game and even though it's really impossible to do, he does have certain things he wants to stick to like loyalty to the people he's aligned with. And it's time to vote. As expected, the vote comes out as a 2-2 tie. Jeff asks about the hidden idol. Sundra doesn't have it. And after several seconds, Becky admits that she doesn't have it either.

So it's time for a tie-breaker and as usual, it's a fire making challenge. Each person has flint, a knife, coconut husk and kindling. The goal, make a fire tall enough to burn through a rope and ring a bell. What follows may well be the saddest, yet funniest fire making challenge you will EVER see. The ladies build their little fire tower and begin going at the flint. After an hour of banging with not a flame between them, Jeff ends the misery by giving them matches to start their fires. The funny part of all this is watching the jury, Ozzy, Yul and even Probst starting to get bored, tired and embarrassed for the ladies. Of course, we have matches now, so this should be done momentarily. They both keep getting flames only to watch them go out. As Ozzy covers his eyes so as not to watch anymore, the clock ticks over the 90 minute mark with no luck. As Sundra's flame goes out, she reveals that she is out of matches. This is tough - I have so many jokes, and I don't know which one to use. How about a couple of them? First: This sure gives new meaning to "We didn't start the fire" doesn't it? Second: If Becky runs out of matches, I can only assume the next choice will be for each to gnaw on their rope, the first one through wins. While I'm making really bad jokes, Becky finally starts a fire and it burns through her rope accomplishing a couple things. One, it sets up a Yul, Ozzy and Becky final three. Two, it sets us all free from the ridiculousness that was that challenge. I mean, I've seen some signs of ineptitude, but after 39 days on an island and NEITHER of them can make fire??? I can't imagine that'll help Becky's final tribal council speech any.

Now it's time to play, "Let's Kill Some Time Before the Tribal Council." We join the final three celebrating making it to the final day. Becky tells us that she is very proud of herself for not taking the idol from Yul. Out of nowhere, a boat appears. It's two hot native babes bringing in food and drink. With a tinge of irony, Becky is nowhere to be found, and only Yul and Ozzy are there to greet them. As they yell for her, she is apparently out of earshot. One can only see this as a preview of how the final votes will go. Becky will be nowhere to be found. Ozzy even points it out and mentions the joke of a fire making challenge the night before. We hear from all three finalists giving why they think they should win. Yul feels he played a better game, Ozzy feels like he broke some stereotypes and Becky feels she played a good social game. Yeah...she's reaching.

As we enter the final tribal council, I can't seem to get a feel for how the jury will vote. Also, I can't get a feeling for who will be the one to have the obnoxiously pissed off jury speech/question. I mean, the three in the finals did nothing to offend anyone. They were punked by the mutiny, bonded like no tribe before them and then ran the table. They didn't lie, they didn't cheat, they didn't backstab. There's not much of a reason to blast any of them. Sure, Becky did nothing over the course of the show, but is that something to be pissed off about? Not really, in my opinion. But I guess we'll see.

As always, the finalists will get to give an opening statement.

Yul: He starts off talking about how he came into the game not wanting to play just an individual game, but rather he wanted to affect the outcome of the game. He managed to get his alliance of four to the final four and he feels that his leadership had a lot to do with that. He admits to manipulating and deceiving, but he stayed loyal to the people that were loyal to him. He ends by saying that he'd like to have their vote, he feels like he earned his way there and he did it in a way that he's proud of.

Becky : She came in knowing she wouldn't be the strongest, fastest or smartest. She came in planning to play a social game and make the right alliances along the way. She feels that she did that and that she stayed true to her character and that's why she's asking for their vote. While Jonathan is actually laughing at her, I can't help but think that she did the best she could with what she had. She can't compete with either of these guys and she knows it.

Ozzy: He starts off by saying that he's been the underdog from the beginning. His people were the first ones gone. He decided that he would do anything he needed to to stay in the game, and that was providing. Without it, he knows he would have been gone. He says he put his heart and soul and everything he has into every aspect of this game. He feels that his actions and his reputation in the game speak louder than any words he could say.

And now it's time for the jury.

Nate: Starts off giving them their props. He tells Yul was like the Godfather, the gangsta boss. Ozzy is more like the warrior. He wants to know how Ozzy played the strategic game better than Yul.

Ozzy's response is that during the first three weeks of the game, he played a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the game. He found himself being the "Yul" of his tribe. He convinced his tribe to vote Billy off and he was controlling things. He says that when the tribes merged, he really played up the whole "surfer dude, I'll get the fish" aspect, while playing a very strong individual game.

Nate goes on to Becky. Why does she deserve the million over the mob boss and the warrior?

Becky tells Nate that while everyone calls Yul the Godfather, he wasn't making those decisions by himself. When Jeff asks if Nate was satisfied, he says no. Is she saying she was calling the shots? No. There wasn't a boss. They made decisions together. She says the jury may see her as not taking any risks, but the biggest risk she took was not taking the idol when Yul offered it. She said she didn't want to slide into the top three, she wanted to earn it.

Jenny: Her question is for Yul. She wants to know what element of the game he finds more important. Strategic or Physical?

He says that this is a game of social strategy. He was happy to let Ozzy set himself up as a target while people ignored him. He goes back to the fact that everyone in his alliance made the final four.

Parvati: She addresses Becky about agreeing to a tie-breaker against Sundra and then finds out she turned down the idol. She tells her she's sitting between giants right now and she wants Becky to convince her that she wants to win this game.

Becky says that she wouldn't have been able to sit there proud if she took the idol. She feels that would be sneaky and cheap and that if she's going to win it, she wants to do it proud.

Rebecca: Her question is to Yul and Ozzy. She says she's torn between the two of them. They both played flawless, but different games. She asks them to tell her something she doesn't know about them that will help her decide.

Yul goes first. He said he wanted to get on Survivor because minorities (especially Asian Americans) are under represented on television and that when they are on, they're stereotyped and he wants to be a visible spokesperson for helping to change that.

Ozzy echoes Yul's sentiments. He says he likes the fact that he was able to get on this show and maybe change the perception of "what is a Mexican?" He hopes his dominance in different aspects changes perception. He hopes that he can become a positive role model for kids, especially Mexican kids, and can help change the world, even if only a little bit.

Adam: Adam starts off by saying that the three of them and Sundra have been painfully boring and he just wants them to get to the point. From Ozzy, Adam wants to hear talk trash about Becky and Yul and why they shouldn't win.

Ozzy starts with Yul and says that he knows Yul didn't try as hard as he could. And he thinks it's unacceptable to not try as hard as possible. For Becky, he feels she rode on coattails. And the fire making. He says that's something that after 39 days you oughta be able to do.

Candice: If I'm a betting man, this is where I'd lay my wager for the venom. Let's see what she has for us. She begins by saying that the fact that they made it even after the mutiny is pretty cool. Her question is for Yul. Whenever he's asked a question, he beats around the bush, or he says what people want to hear. She doesn't want to let him do that, so she's going to ask him a yes or no question. And she says if he answers anything but yes or no, she will not vote for him. She feels that he has been "shamelessly working this jury", and she asks him if that's true.

He thinks about it for a moment and says, "Yes." She comments that she knew that was hard for him. To which he responds that the word shamelessly made it tougher, and everyone rides him for saying something besides yes or no. After he says that he said yes, Candice says she'll have to think about that one. It was amazingly light hearted and I would have lost some money.

Brad: Brad applauds them all and then addresses Ozzy. He says that he's had maybe a 15 second conversation with him over the course of the show and wants to know about a challenging experience in his life and how he overcame it.

And Ozzy pulls out the "my father was never around" card. I have no doubts that everything he said is true and that his emotions are genuine, but it all seems a bit contrived for sympathy. He talks about how much work he has to put into the relationship with his father and how hard it is knowing that the person that created you doesn't want you. He pauses a moment to collect himself and then finishes by saying that this has been his hardest experience. As he's talking, the jury is obviously affected and Brad was damn near in tears himself. Ya know, I don't have a problem with Ozzy winning. He's very deserving. (Not as deserving as Yul, in my opinion.) I just hope it's not because of this speech and because he swayed someone with this story. That would be a bummer and go against what the whole jury segment is about.

Sundra: She asks about one thing they all discovered about themselves over the 39 days.

Ozzy says that he has learned about pure love. And learned to love unconditionally and cherish every single moment.

Becky learned that she doesn't necessarily have to have everything on a schedule. She has learned to take a moment for herself and to appreciate it.

Yul found a new confidence in himself. He had much self doubt when he got there and that he now has so much more confidence and he feels he can do whatever it is he feels passionate about.

Jonathan: He starts off by congratulating them and telling them all that they played a great game. He tells Yul that he's very polite, which is like the other side of politic. So, he wants Yul to tell his constituents how telling half truths (half lies) keeps in line with his integrity, good intentions and his ability to serve them in the future.

Yul admits that what he said is absolutely true. He's done a lot of deceiving and manipulating; however, Survivor is a game. And everyone came into it knowing what it was about. Outside of the game, he would never do that to unsuspecting people. He has the ability to manipulate people but if you look at the game, he stayed true to the original people he made alliances with.

Jonathan moves on to Ozzy and tells him that he is incredibly talented and almost super human during the challenges. He says on occasion he feels Ozzy has been arrogant, with an attitude of entitlement, as if he's a prince. He says he's uncomfortable giving a million dollars to a 25-year-old kid with issues of entitlement. When he finally gets to his question, he wants to know how a million dollars will make Ozzy a better person.

Ozzy says the first thing he'd do is go back to school because he hasn't been able to afford to pay for it himself. After schooling, he says he'd just like to try to change the world for the better. I could be wrong, but the Miss America answer right here may cost him a vote. C'mon dude, "I want to change the world for the better"? That was definitely not the best comment to leave the jury with prior to the vote. But, that's exactly what's happened, because it is time to vote.

We see Jonathan's vote and hear his comments. He says he admires them all and how they played, but Yul outplayed them all. We also see Parvati's vote. As she holds up Ozzy's name, she tells him he played his heart out, is the ultimate competitor and he had her totally captivated. I'm pretty sure that if they hadn't edited her, she was getting ready to give him her phone #.

As always, Jeff goes to tally the votes and the walks off the set. And I'll take a minute now to mention that I really miss the long drawn out WAY over the top ways Jeff used to get to the reunion. What's up with that?!?!? Anyway, he walks around the corner and out on stage. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

"Whoa!" Who replaced Ozzy with Joey Lawrence? Jeff congratulates them on a great season (which I'll expound on in a bit) and then gets to reading the votes. First vote, Yul (Jonathan's). Second vote, Ozzy (Parvati's). Then Yul, Yul, Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy, Yul. That's 4-4. And the winner of Survivor: Cook Islands is Yul Kwon.

The place erupts, all the Survivors gather around for hugs and yet another season of Survivor comes to a close. And before I end, I want to add some overall comments about this season. While I still hold the Borneo and Australia seasons in high regard, Cook Islands may have been the best season yet. And why is that? Because for the first time in the history of the show, the two most deserving people went head to head for the million. Also for the first time ever, the show was edited for the viewers. They set up "good guys" in the Aitu Four after the mutiny and stuck with them to the end. They could have made Candice, Adam and Parvati the "good guys" and left us all disappointed when they all got voted out. But they didn't do that...they set it up perfectly for the viewers so that no matter if Yul or Ozzy won, everyone watching could sit back and say, "Well, he definitely deserved it."

And while I consider Brian Heidik and Richard Hatch to be the greatest players in Survivor history, I have to add Yul to that list. In fact, I have to put him at the top of that list. To come into the game and strategically dominate from the first day until day 39, especially after 13 versions of the game - well, that's something special. Throw in his mastery of the hidden idol and Yul was so damn good at this game, he makes me almost hope for an All Stars 2. And as for Ozzy, I'm pretty sure that Fireman Tom and Fighter Pilot Terry would be taking second and third to Ozzy in ANY challenge.

As with anything else these days, we're not here to talk about the past. What's the future of Survivor? Well, after the reunion Jeff gave us a preview of Survivor: Fiji. In 2007, 19 people will be divided into two tribes. One tribe will live the life of luxury while the other is left with virtually nothing. It looks to be another diverse cast will be forced to battle more fiercely than ever before. Exile Island, crawling with deadly sea snakes, will be worse than ever. But two immunity idols and a twist will complicate the game. They also tease that "one the most controversial decisions ever made by a Survivor will have America talking."

So, it certainly looks like we have quite a bit to look forward to on the next season. I'll close by saying it was nice to get back in the saddle and do this one more time. I hope it was as fun for y'all to read as it was for me to write. Not sure if I'll be back next season or not, so in case I'm not, I'll sign off by wishing you the best of holiday seasons and as always, take care.