Survivor Guatemala: Recap
Thunderstorms & Sacrifice: Part Two
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
December 14, 2005
To the victor go the spoils.
Danni returns from the Immunity Challenge giddy with the knowledge that she is now liberated to pick her poison for the final Tribal Council. Winning was huge in its own right, because as she rightly points out, because she has been a part of the minority alliance group ever since the merge. But even more importantly, thanks to Rafe's selfless(?) act, she is now under no obligation to take him along to the final two. She's the rarest of rare Survivors to make it to the end with absolutely no ties.
We do have to note here that upon reflection (and having seen the entire show), Rafe overplayed his hand by cutting ties with Danni on their previous verbal agreement. In an impetuous, emotional moment, he tried to lift the spirits of his friend, Stephenie, after a hard-fought, losing battle. Now, the choice for Danni is really obvious. Since Rafe is liked by everybody and has done nothing to anger any members of the jury, Danni would have little hope of winning against him. On the other hand, Stephenie has put a knife in the back of almost every single juror, in some circumstances resulting in very hurt feelings.
Danni almost immediately confirms this line of thinking. She had almost every intention of sticking to her bargain with Rafe, thereby getting her ass whipped. Her honor can no longer be called into question if she uses sound strategy in her gameplay. Rafe has reduced her choice to a business decision where one option will pay her $100,000 and the other gets her a million bucks. This realization has made her nothing short of jubilant. Rafe himself confirms that he knows his decision probably wasn't the best one in the world, but felt it was the only way to go given the effort Steph put forth. We reiterate here that it seems curious that Steph didn't try to cut a deal.
Tribal Council bears out the notion that Steph has a target on her back amongst members of the jury. If Danni is on the fence (as she claims) about who she will take with her to the final two, the jurors' body language when Probst questions the group all but says, "Name Stephenie as your opponent and we'll hand you a giant novelty check right now." As Probst discusses the Immunity Challenge results, he guides Rafe into revealing that he released Danni from their agreement to take each another to the final two. The news of this announcement is met with derision from the jury. Gary Hogeboom turns to Judd and the two exchange a snarl. This might be the first thing that the two of them have ever agreed upon. In short, the jury members do not like where this is headed. By the time they get back to their hotel rooms, they find some comfort in the realization that they will have the opportunity to cheap shot Stephenie during their questioning session.
Frankly, it's pretty clear that Danni is already campaigning for votes before the final Tribal Council even begins. She shakes hands, kisses babies and says all the right things. Her "bad people are bad" speech praises Rafe for his kindness and generosity, then slags Steph for her treachery. This honest (but manipulative) assessment receives a cheer from the gallery. Jamie and Bobby Jon, who have apparently become close friends at the hotel, exchange their new Southern Boy Secret Handshake in appreciation. They're gonna find Hee Haw! extra funny tonight, but we don't think them Duke boys are gonna vote for Steph when the time comes.
To Danni's credit, she is watching the jurors the entire time that Rafe and Steph are being questioned. She's playing close attention to the reactions of her former competitors. Of course, since they're all ready to line up and throw rotten vegetables at Stephenie, it's a pretty clear decision. Stating the obvious, Rafe is voted out at Tribal Council. Now all we have to do is sit back and wait for the fireworks to start.
In his parting comments, Rafe disappoints us by indicating surprise and disappointment in Danni's decision. We praised him in part one of this column for freeing her from her obligation, but in hindsight, it was all just window dressing. If he expected her to hold to their alliance, he should have kept his mouth shut. Blaming her for taking him at his word is just plain silly. Rafe, if you want to blame someone for your not winning this game, you only have to look in the mirror. You choked. End of story.
When the ladies awake the next morning at camp, a final chorus from the howler monkeys greets them. It's like an atonal melody from The Lion King. There isn't really much for Steph and Danni to say that we haven't already heard, so they spend some time at their private crocodile-free swimming pool as they come to terms with the fact that Danni is about to win a million bucks while Steph is berated by her peers.
The final Tribal Council arrives, and Danni is the living embodiment of "just happy to be there". She is gracious and humble in her opening statement, pointing out that with the numbers game at the merge, she thought she had no chance at making it this far. She sounds sincere about the fact that she believes she was as much lucky as good and ends the "aw shucks" politicians spiel with an invitation for everyone to meet up for barbecue in her home town. Note to viewers: this does not legally entitle you to stalk her.
Stephenie is relatively pleasant and seems to be aware that yes, she has some people angry at her, and talks about all of their roles in "helping" her to get where she is. She's like the mafia hit man who has shown up for a court date wearing the finest suit in the closet. Notably absent from her speech is an apology to those she has hurt. Big mistake.
Bobby Jon begins by thanking Stephenie for taking him to the jury, which he probably should have done since she was responsible for taking him one vote further than he would have. He asks her if she is proud of the way she played the game, and she answers yes. Steph does love her some her. She does a good job, though, in relating her situation to Bobby Jon's noting that they both overcame odds as they started the game as the two contestants with the biggest targets on their backs. He asks Danni the same question, and her answer is excellent. She notes that she held to her moral standards during her game play and only wishes that the tribe she was on with Bobby Jon had won more Immunity Challenges so that they would have been competing with each other rather than being picked off one by one.
Gary Hogeboom stands up and says that he will award his vote based on what he feels is the most answer. We love you, Gary Hogeboom, but you're lying. You're voting for Danni. Anyway, we'll play out the charade. He cleverly words his question in a manner that forces Stephenie to impugn herself, admitting that she had once made an alliance with him that she obviously broke in the end. Danni is equally honest about the fact that she had a pact with Gary Hogeboom that she eventually had to abandon in order to progress in the game. She acknowledges that she is not usually so selfish by nature, but her competitive spirit drove her to not just quit when the situation appeared dire. While both women answer in a similar manner, Danni's simply feels more polished. At this point, it's important to note that Danni is a professional broadcaster. Even if Steph hadn't already shot herself in the foot, she would be facing an uphill battle here.
Crazy Jamie is next. Is it just us, or does that dude always look sleepy? He tosses Danni a softball, asking who her preferred final five would have been. Without even hesitating, she mentions two of the jurors, Bobby Jon and Gary Hogeboom, who seems to count twice since he's such a strapping man. The other person mentioned is Brandon, who was a member of her tribe, but voted out before they got to the jury. Jamie's pitch to Stephenie is a bean ball, as he even acknowledges that she's going to get a tougher question. (Read: I hate you.) His question is best described as: "Hello, Miss Two-Face. How can you be so nice to us right as you were stabbing us in the back?" She basically blames everyone else for her faults, saying that nothing was her idea. The cries of "I was a patsy!" somehow manage to disgust Jamie a little bit more. The unbiased analysis here is that Stephenie is not having a good Tribal Council.
The ever upbeat Lydia has had all she can stand and can't stand no more. Her blunt question is straightforward. Lydia points out that she had been loyal to Stephenie since day six, yet Steph got rid of her anyway. She pointedly asks Stephenie, "Why should I vote for you?" Simple answer, Lydia. You shouldn't, and no one else should, either. Stephenie's justification is that if she had taken Lydia to the final, she would have lost, and says, "That's not what really competitive people do." Apparently, "really competitive" people betray loyal allies in order for selfish advancement. Ladies and gentlemen, America's former sweetheart! We haven't seen someone fall this far this fast since Meg Ryan slept with Russell Crowe and got bad lip collagen. Lydia accuses Danni of similar behavior, but Danni's reply is swift. As if anticipating this line of questioning, she interrupts with an assertion that they weren't precisely allies to the end, but rather agreed to share information.
Cindy the carjacker steps up and asks Danni if she could have any person eliminated from the jury, which person would it be? Danni insightfully answers, "Rafe, because he's voting for Stephenie." This is quite possibly the best answer in the final tribal council ever. It's honest, it's instinctive and it's great game play. She sure gets our vote. It sounds like Cindy feels the same way, since she notes, "That sounds pretty honest." Meanwhile, Steph's answer to the same question is "Oh my God. I don't know." She might as well go ahead and start polishing her silver medal now.
Rafe shows up and tries to save the day for his buddy, Steph, while attempting to gain revenge on Danni for trying to hold him to his word. It doesn't go well. Danni gives a reasonable explanation as to why she would select Stephenie for the final two, again noting that Rafe released her from her obligation. When he asks Stephenie if there was anything she neglected to tell him during the course of the game, she tells him there was nothing and that he was the only person she gave her full honesty. He then desperately tells her that he really wants to hear her explain why she should win in her final statement. Rafe all but answers his own question and she still doesn't get it right.
The producers wisely save Angry Judd for last. He asks Danni if she has ever roller bladed or ice skated before. When she says yes, he notes that she sure did skate through the game. He then asks her if she was deceitful at all, and she gives a few examples of times that she had to lie in order to advance. He tells her that it sounds like she has lied a lot and that she should probably go to confession when she gets home, a comment that makes her rather angry. She tells him that she doesn't take the deceitful nature of the game lightly and that she asks for forgiveness every day.
His question for Steph is considerably more hostile. He asks her is she's still starving. She says she is, and he points out that she has basically been on every reward. From there, he goes on a rant about how much she back stabbed a variety of people in the game, most importantly himself. She denies having been a bad person, but Judd retorts that when Stephenie lied to his wife, she more or less made herself an enemy for life. Stephenie attempts to create an all-new meaning of the word "lie", but Judd isn't having it. Never mind the fact that Judd was willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to get to the final himself. He can't abide that sort of behavior in other people. He can say the Immunity Idol isn't in the trees when it actually is, but no one else can, because that's a damned dirty lie! The reality of the situation, though, is that he had a crush on the Survivor hottie and was genuinely hurt when she threw him under the bus. He can hardly stand to look at her. The whole thing gives the vibe of a very bad breakup.
Despite Rafe's request, Steph does not use her final statement to explain why she is worthy of a million dollars. Her comments are erratic and unfocused, and it's clear that she simply didn't have a game plan going into this final Tribal Council. She spouts out the generic "I outwitted, and outplayed and outlasted" comment that everyone uses. Way to read the flag sitting beside you, Steph.
Danni's final comments give her the chance to note that basically, Rafe and Stephenie are the reason that all of the jurors were eliminated. Really, that's all she needs to say. As much as Danni dominated the final Immunity Challenge, she's giving Stephenie a much worse butt-kicking tonight.
The votes prove us out in the end, too. Only Rafe votes for Stephenie, just as he had promised. It turns out that Steph latched onto the strongest player in Judd and the smartest player in Rafe. When one was eliminated, she held even tighter to the other one and let him control her destiny. In hindsight, we're not sure exactly what part she had in the machinations, but when they were gone, Steph really fell apart. Congratulations to Danni. We'll see you next weekend for our barbecue!