Episode Thirteen: Slip Through Your Fingers
By Dan Krovich
Ah, the Survivor finale. You know pretty much what you're going to get, as Survivor hasn't changed the procedure of this part of the game since the first series. The show starts with an extended season recap; then they quickly eliminate the first of the final four; next is the "tribute to fallen comrades", followed by the final immunity challenge (which is always an endurance contest); and closing with the final jury questioning and the announcement of the winner. Well, let's get this over with so we can put this dull season of Survivor behind us.
The tribe feels mildly guilty after voting off Ted. It was a little more difficult than it had been before because it was the first time in a long time that they had to vote off one of the Chuay Gahn members, but they get over it pretty quickly. Their fallen comrade memorial involves making a float for each person, which they will later send out to sea. So they do their little arts-and-crafts project, tacking flowers and what-not onto the floats. Clay apparently drew the short straw and got stuck decorating Ghandia's float.
When Helen and Jan go off to get tree mail, we get a hint about how the game is going to play out. Brian and Clay use the time alone to talk strategy, while Helen and Jan use the time alone to get the tree mail. The immunity challenge is an obstacle course that involves elements from previous immunity challenges. Clay gets off to an early lead because he's good at grabbing his ball, while the Nadia Comenici twins, Jan and Helen, struggle on the balance beam (Jan is the last to make it across the beam. I guess it's hard to do when you're drunk). Clay struggles when it comes to the puzzle that involves brainpower, and Brian takes the lead on his way to winning immunity.
We begin the familiar pattern, where everyone says openly that Jan is the one to go, but Brian and Clay decide to work behind the scenes to vote out the bigger threat, Helen, instead. They work on Jan to vote for Helen, and Jan seems reluctant, but we all know that Jan would vote for herself if Brian told her to. They tell Jan that she will finish in third place this way, and Jan doesn't bother to try to see if there is perhaps a different strategy that would give her a chance to finish in first. More surprisingly, they also convince Helen not to talk to Jan before the vote, so Helen heads to tribal council without a clue, and she looks none too pleased when she is voted out.
On their way to the final immunity challenge, they lay the floats they made in the river, and as they do we see overly-sentimental clips of each of the Survivors. I think I may cry. Or retch. They ultimately end up deep in a cave, where they learn the final challenge. They must hold six coins between their fingers while maintaining the traditional Thai stance that involves a half-squat and is painful to maintain for long periods of time. It's pretty obvious that Brian is going to win, seeing as he is going against people who are much more physically weak than he. Jan starts to sweat profusely and Clay's legs quiver, and they finally give up, giving Brian the final immunity.
We know the person that Brian is going to take with him to the final two. Clay is the obvious choice because there are several people on the jury who don't like Clay, while Jan didn't really piss off anyone. Brian makes it look good, acting as if he's debating between the two and even pauses before writing the final vote for dramatic effect. Of course, he votes Jan out, setting up a final two of Brian and Clay. No one is surprised. On their last night at camp, Brian and Clay celebrate by burning their boat, the second boat this tribe has lost. Clay enjoys that this means they won't need to make water runs or gather food any more, but of course Clay never did any of that anyway. Brian has a final conversation with mirror Brian before heading out to get his tribal council on. It's obvious that Brian has played the best game since Richard Hatch. He set himself up as someone that everyone could trust, and convinced them all that they would be in the final two with him. He managed to control the game without appearing too much like a leader, thus keeping himself from becoming a target, and he managed to bring a relatively unpopular player with him to the finals. The only chance he has to lose is if the jury feels much more betrayed by him than by Clay, from whom they kind of expected such behavior.
In their final appeals, Clay tries to bring up some personal financial difficulties to create some sympathy, while Brian plays the "I worked and contributed to the tribe on a daily basis" card. Continuing on, the questioning is pretty dull. Ken asks Brian to explain why Brian earlier in the game said that Ted had to go. Brian denies ever saying that Ted had to go, but then recants, saying the reason was that Ted was separating from the tribe. To my recollection, this is the correct answer, but Ken apparently remembers something else, though he won't say what that is and lets the question end there. Penny, of course, makes the final questioning all about her, wanting to know what the two finalists know about her. Brian knows essentially nothing, and Clay seems to know her whole life story. Of course, Clay had the advantage because he and Penny spent all day together at camp doing nothing. Ted uses his time to accuse Clay of making racist remarks. I remember his sexist remarks, but I don't recall any overtly racist remarks coming from him during the show, though he may have voted for Strom Thurmond once upon a time. Finally, Helen uses her time to chastise Brian for turning on her at the end after promising her that she would be in the final three. They bicker for a while about hearsay, and then Brian ultimately apologizes.
The jury then votes. Erin votes for Clay because she feels he has been more honest. We don't get to see Ken's vote. Ted votes for Brian because even though he is mad at him, Brian is the lesser of the two evils. We don't see Jake's vote. Penny votes for Clay because basically it's all about her. We don't see Jan's vote. Helen votes for Brian because she begrudgingly thinks he played the better game. Then they try to do the tricky edit to the live studio for the vote-reading, but any surprise this time is eliminated by the fact that Clay has apparently eaten a cow since taping ended and has gained a lot of weight. Brian wins the vote four to three, becoming the first Survivor contestant to win the final vote after winning the final immunity challenge. Brian is the Ultimate Survivor, guaranteeing him a career in soft-core porn movies. Oh wait; never mind.