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"Survivor South Pacific" Finale Recap And Final Thoughts

Jeremy Fuster |
December 20, 2011 | 8:05 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

After 39 days of close challenges, blindsides, dumb moves, and a whole lot of Bible-thumping, we finally have our winner for "Survivor: South Pacific."  We have two hours of events to talk about so let's get right into it.

 CBS
CBS

We start with Brandon arriving at Redemption Island and explaining his dumb move in the last episode.  Ozzy notes that Brandon wasn't playing a game built around loyalty, but rather around blind faith, and that blind faith was not in God but in people that wanted to win a million dollars way more than he did.  

Over at Te Tuna, the remaining Upolus try to gather themselves after a very turbulent Tribal Council, and Albert angers Coach when he says he had no idea that Brandon was going home.  This, of course, is not true, since Coach and Albert had discussed who they were going to vote out at that Tribal Council and Coach had told Albert in no uncertain terms that he was targeting Brandon no matter what.  Coach then goes off on a rant about how he is sick of people "being holier-than-thou" and not owning up to their deception, and he yells at Albert for not being straight with him.  The entire discussion can be summed up like this:

 

 

Unsurprisingly, Rick is never seen during this entire segment.  Figures.

The next day, Ozzy and Brandon receive tree mail telling them that they are about to compete in the final Redemption Duel.  They head over to the arena where Jeff Probst explains that the challenge is a simple endurance test: cling onto a pole for as long as you can.  They will start at the top of the pole, and there are several notches along the pole for them to slide down onto in case they lose their footing.  Last person standing gets back in the game.  After 45 minutes, both players were struggling to hang on, but Brandon fell down first and became the seventh juror, while Ozzy returned to the game for a second time.

Brandon left the game saying he forgives the people that backstabbed him and will leave the game with his head held high.  After all the emotional turmoil he experienced in this game, I hope Brandon will be able to take this and become a better person, but let's face it: until he made that final dumb move, he made for horrible television.  Hopefully this will convince the casting team to stop being lazy and picking people based on nepotism.  I don't want another Hantz on this show, and neither do a lot of people.

With Ozzy back at the Te Tuna camp, Coach immediately sits down with him and reaffirms the final three deal he made with Ozzy on Redemption Island.  He tells Ozzy that if he wins the next immunity, he will give him his hidden immunity idol and keep him safe.  Ozzy nods his head through the whole discussion, but in an confessional he admits he does not buy anything Coach says.  Coach thinks it is his game to lose because everyone wants to take him to the final three.  Did it ever occur to him that the reason everyone is sticking with him is that, one, he has the idol and therefore no one dares to target him, and two, the jury probably doesn't like him because of his honor speeches?

Now it's time for the first of two immunity challenges.  In this challenge, the players must use their left arm to pull down on a pulley that will level out a balancing board.  Then, using their right hand, they must use wooden tiles to create a tower tall enough to pass a red marker.  They each have a limited number of tiles, and if they do not keep the pulley steady, the board will tilt and the tower will fall over.  First player to create a tower tall enough to reach the required height wins immunity.

The game starts, and Coach, Sophie, and Ozzy pull away from Albert and Rick.  Then, Coach's tower falls over while Ozzy and Sophie run out of tiles to use, forcing them to take apart some of their tower and find a new approach.  In the process of rebuilding, both Ozzy and Sophie lose some tiles as they fall to the ground and out of their reach.  Sophie asks Albert to drop his stack and help her by picking up her tiles.  Albert refuses and Sophie begins yelling at him until Probst reminds her that this is an individual challenge and no one is allowed to help each other.  "If you want Ozzy out of this game," he says, "Beat him."

Eventually, Sophie's tower falls again, leaving it race between Ozzy and Coach, and in a season filled with close, riveting challenges, this one was incredibly fun to watch.  You can see the sweat pouring down both of the vets' faces as they slowly place more tiles on their stacks.  After a long, tense struggle, Ozzy finishes his stack first, and with a victorious punch to destroy his stack, celebrates another challenge victory while the Upolus prepare to do some scrambling.

Back at camp, Coach and Albert discuss voting out Rick, since both of them feel that the jury would vote for him because they like him and his work ethic.  Ozzy, however, isn't going to let it be that easy, and he plans to sow seeds of discontent amongst his competitors.  He proposes to Albert that they vote out Sophie because she is a brat, and he uses her behavior at the challenge as an example.  He then tells Albert about his final three deal with Ozzy.  When Albert confronts Coach with this information, Coach simply responds by saying that he can't wait to get Ozzy out of the game.

At Tribal Council, everything is put out on the table, including the Coach/Ozzy deal and Ozzy's belief that Sophie is a brat.  The latter especially hurts Sophie, as Ozzy tells her that while he was on Redemption Island, every person that talked with him called her arrogant, spoiled, and childish.  That was a little brow-raising for me.  I never saw Sophie that way, but it could be because I was too focused on people like Brandon and Cochran to notice.  Sophie breaks down and says this is the first time she has ever been called such things, and that it is really hard to hear Ozzy make such personal statements.

After Sophie gathers herself together, it's time to vote, and Coach and Albert stick to their original plan despite Ozzy's attempts to sway them.  Rick is voted out 3-2, and in his final confessional, he voices his anger with Coach and declares that he wants Ozzy to win.

This season, we don't have the traditional rite of passage where the players look back on the eliminated contestants, but frankly, that doesn't matter.  Not with such a crucial challenge coming up. So we go straight to the final Immunity Challenge, where the final four players have to collect five bags of puzzle pieces by navigating a flower-shaped obstacle course.  There are rope tunnels and unstable bridges, and the obstacles vary in difficulty.  Once they gather all five bags, they must use the pieces to complete a complicated puzzle, which involves turning knobs to create holes that the pieces can fit into.  First person to complete the puzzle wins the final immunity and locks a spot at the Final Tribal Council.

Ozzy starts by tackling the obstacles in a different order than the Upolus, while Albert and Sophie keep encountering each other at the same obstacles and slowing each other down.  This allows Ozzy to finish the obstacles first, but when he begins the puzzle, he can't seem to turn the piece holders to find the right combination for one of his pieces to fit in the holes.  This allows the others to catch up, and Sophie quickly goes to work on the puzzle.  She finds the right combination for her first piece quickly, and that allows all the other pieces to fall into place easily.  Ozzy gets some pieces to fit, but he can't do it at Sophie's speed, and he can only watch as the med student finishes the puzzle and wins her third and possibly most important Immunity Challenge.  

At camp, Ozzy sat there while the Upolus celebrated and Coach declared Sophie the new Dragonslayer.  Ozzy's last chance is to appeal to Coach's sense of competition and his desire to take the best to the end.  He asks Coach to vote for Albert and force a tie so that the last spot in the final three can be decided by a fire-making challenge.  In a confessional, Coach asks, "Why isn't there an easy vote at this time?"  That simple, Coach.  It's because you made the vote difficult by making a promise to Ozzy that you never needed to make.

So at Tribal Council, the inevitable occurred.  Ozzy was voted out unanimously, and he became the first person in the history of 'Survivor' to have his torched snuffed three times in one season.  As he left, he received a round of applause from the players and jurors and left with a final yell of glory.  That applause pretty much proves that the final puzzle cost him a million dollars.  That's going to burn for a while.

After a celebratory breakfast and a day of reflection, Albert, Coach, and Sophie burn their shelter and head off to the Final Tribal Council to plead their case for a million dollars.  Each of the jurors had a chance to ask questions to each of the finalists.  There were a lot of words said and too much to cover here so here are some highlights: 

-- Rick wins the award for "Most Bitter Juror of the Season," chastising Coach for backstabbing him despite claiming to be a man of honor, attacking Albert for using the God card on Brandon the night he was voted out, and accusing Sophie of lying the whole way.  "You guys lived with me for 37 days," he said.  "You know how I feel about liars."  Sadly, that was the most personality Rick showed all season.

-- Brandon had the moment of the night when he asked Albert a simple question: "Did you know I was going home?  Yes or no?" Albert kept trying to stammer out an explanation, but Brandon kept demanding a simple answer.  Albert said no, and Brandon immediately called him out on his lie.  At that point, Albert lost any remaining hope he had of winning the game.

-- Instead of asking questions, Edna used her time to make a speech to her fellow jurors instead.  She asked them to not have any hard feelings towards the finalists for manipulating them because they all knew that they were going to be manipulated at some point when they chose to be on "Survivor."  It was a pretty mature speech from her, especially considering that just a few days before, she said to Coach that she couldn't believe she came all this way to be tricked by people.  

-- When Keith asked the finalists about the hidden immunity idol, Sophie revealed to the jury how the idol was really found.  She told them that the idol was originally found just by her, Coach, and Albert, but they knew that they couldn't keep it just for themselves because Brandon was still searching and would eventually figure out that someone had already found the idol.  So the three of them staged a discovery of the idol to stop Brandon.  Needless to say, little Hantz was thunderstruck.

-- When it came time for the jury to vote, we got to see Cochran's vote.  He voted for Coach, saying that despite the fact that he didn't like Coach's honor speeches and that he got blindsided by him, he still respected Coach's gameplay and thought he played very well.  

After the jury voted, Probst left Tribal Council, and the votes were read live in Hollywood.  By a 6-3-0 vote, Sophie was declared the winner of "Survivor: South Pacific," and Coach was the runner-up.  

Final Thoughts

So Sophie ends up pulling out the win.  Personally, I think that she wasn't that interesting on TV, but she was a deserving winner.  She won three immunity challenges, and two of them were key victories against Whitney and Ozzy that kept her alliances intact.  Coach had things going in his favor until day 30, when everything collapsed around him.  He was not forward with people and talked himself into a hole.  When a player keeps talking about "honor," then the jury is going to view his/her gameplay through that lens, and it rarely comes out well.  While Coach was debating whether or not to vote out Cochran, Edna, and Brandon, it was never a question for Sophie, and she always stuck to a plan and never even considered deviating from it.  At the final Tribal Council, she made her game look stronger by explaining how she worked with Albert and Coach from the beginning, making her strategy game equal to Coach's but without the perceived hypocrisy.  She let Coach bury himself, and then on day 39 she finished the job with some good jury management.  

As for the season as a whole, I don't think this season is nearly as bad as "Nicaragua" or "Redemption Island," but it certainly won't be considered one of the best either.  The pre-merge episodes were fun to watch, with great challenges and intriguing gameplay.  But after Cochran's flip, we were left with episodes that only teased at interesting gameplay and endless references to God that drained all the good out of the show.  This show was dominated by Brandon, who clearly wasn't here to win, and the two returning players.  The producers need to pick players that will be competitive rather than drama magnets. "Survivor: South Pacific" had a great deal of potential, but it just ended up being an "okay" season.

Next season will return to Samoa (AGAIN), for "Survivor: One World."  The twist is that the tribes will be divided by gender, and both tribes will live on the same beach, increasing the potential for alliances across tribal lines that could make for more unpredictable gameplay.  Redemption Island appears to be gone, and the cast will be all-new.  The season begins in February, so we won't have to wait long to see if "Survivor" can rebound or if "South Pacific" was just a pause in its jumped-the-shark decline.

Until then, the Mass has ended, go in peace…wait, I mean, grab your torches, head back to camp.

Reach writer Jeremy Fuster here 

RELATED CONTENT: Find more of Jeremy's weekly "Survivor" recaps here 

 

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