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Survivor – Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Well, THAT was an interesting Survivor finale. From bad luck to bad moves, and one of the most bizarre Final Tribal Councils ever – there’s lots to talk about! Click through for my recap of the Survivor: Cagayan finale.

“I’d be the stupidest Survivor player ever taking Tony to the end.” – Woo

He said it so we didn’t have to? When Woo uttered those words to Kass during the finale last night, I looked at my husband and we both said “Foreshadowing!” But the truth is, we both knew Woo was just gullible enough to know that he should take Kass to the end, yet be swayed by Tony’s arguments of honor and loyalty.

When Woo won that final Immunity Challenge, he won a million dollars. Hands down, he would have beat Kass – a woman so incredibly unaware of how much she was disliked that she told her husband “I’m disliked but I’m not a goat”, and was then repeatedly referred to as a goat throughout the Final Tribal Council. Woo had the million dollars, and he handed it to Tony by taking him to the end.

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Blah blah blah, honor and loyalty and the lessons of Tae Kwon Do. This isn’t a martial arts competition! This is Survivor, and the motto is “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast”. Don’t get me wrong – a Woo vs. Kass finale would have been a huge letdown (though my true disappointment came earlier in the episode, when Spencer was voted out.) Tony deserved the win. I didn’t particularly like the guy. I don’t think he played very well. But I think he played hard, and that’s better than playing poorly (Kass) or not playing at all (Woo).

Woo seems like a really nice dude. If he were playing a game called “Best Person”, in this cast he’d be a sure contender. But he’s not a very good Survivor player.

I didn’t always agree with Tony’s moves, but I have to admire that the guy was always playing the game. I found his strategy rather manic, very impulsive, and reactionary. But he played aggressively, and constantly. I hated that extra Hidden Immunity Idol (but that’s Tyler Perry’s fault, not Tony’s) but Tony found it because he looked more and harder than everyone else.

Had Spencer made it to the Final Two, I would have been rooting for him. “Charlie Brown” really did sum up his Survivor experience. The guy played well, he played hard, and things just kept going South for him. But I appreciate a calculated strategic game like Spencer’s, and I admired how far he and Tasha made it against all odds. I’d like to see them both play again. (Perhaps in Blood vs. Water next season? Hmmm?)

OK, before I get too far into that strange final tribal council, let’s take it from the top.

“I’m pretty sure everyone dislikes Trish.” – Kass, the most disliked player of the season

When the episode began, Kass and Tony were disagreeing over Tony’s decision to vote out Trish. Kass saw Trish as their best person to take to a Final Three, because everyone dislikes Trish. Do they? I mean, that one dreadlocked quitter girl did at the beginning of the season. But I thought Trish seemed rather well-liked by most of her alliance.

Before the Immunity Challenge, the loved ones came to visit. That was pretty boring. We barely saw them, and there was no Reward Challenge for them to participate in. There was no tough decision about who should get to spend more time with their family.

Kass completely blew the first section of the Immunity Challenge, where the players had to perch high-up on a pole in the water, use a bucket to retrieve water, and pour the water into a narrow tube. Tony finished that section first, but we all knew his chances of winning the challenge were slim-to-none. Because the challenge was ended with a puzzle.

I was on the edge of my seat when Spencer made it up to the puzzle portion of the challenge. In no time, he was way ahead of Tony and Woo. And Kass was still trembling on that perch in the water. But then she made a massive comeback – she made it to the puzzle and finished so quickly, leaving Spencer and everyone else in the dust. She earned it fair and square, but I was disappointed. And of course, she was so smug about the victory.

The Pitch

Back at camp, Spencer made what I thought was a very clever pitch to stay in the game to Tony. He told Tony that it would definitely be a final two – and his reasoning was sound enough that Tony agreed. So if Spencer was voted out now, Tony would become the target at the next Tribal Council. It was in Kass and Woo’s best interest to take each other to the end. If Tony forced a tie and Woo was eliminated, Spencer would remain the target at the next Tribal Council.

It was a good pitch, and one that Tony seemed to seriously consider. Spencer took it up a notch at Tribal Council, promising in front of the jury that if he were to win Immunity, he would not only take Tony to the end but would take himself out of the running for the million bucks and urge the jury to vote Tony. I think he went a step too far there – the public promise to take Tony would have been enough. Who would believe a promise to just step aside at the end of a game for a million dollars?

Kass stupidly confirmed that she thought she had a better shot against Woo, so I still thought Tony might go for the plan. But I guess he thought Spencer would be too hard to beat in the end, because he stuck with his alliance and my guy was voted out. It was a fair decision – even if Spencer had stayed true to his word and not argued, he would have been difficult to beat.

Turning Cogs

I liked the epic maze we got for the final Immunity Challenge, but I miss the classic final endurance challenge. The idea of mind over matter, of “Who wants this most?” always makes for a great final challenge.

For the challenge, the players had to race around a maze collecting medallions. They’d use the medallions to open a chest of cogs, which would fit together as a puzzle. I was annoyed to see that the challenge was YET ANOTHER puzzle. Against Tony and Woo, it seemed like Kass would be a shoe-in to win the challenge.

Woo was the first to finish the maze, and Kass was last – in fact, by the end she was walking rather than running through the course. Was she simply so weak and exhausted that she couldn’t run? Or was she not pushing herself to her very limit, because she thought she’d make up the ground in the puzzle?

Woo ended up completing his puzzle and raising his flag about half a second before Kass did. I won’t say that Kass made a million dollar mistake in this challenge, because the difference it made for her was third place vs. second. However, if Kass had won that challenge instead of Woo, Woo would have won the million dollar game. That’s something to think about.

Honor and Stuff

As soon as Woo won, I knew he’d take Tony to the end. Woo has been under Tony’s thumb for most of this game. Spencer hit the nail on the head during the final Tribal Council, when he compared Woo to a faithful dog. I knew that Tony would know exactly how to convince Woo to make the wrong decision. He emphasized honor and loyalty, and told Woo that the jury would respect that over Woo making the strategic decision to take Kass to the end. Tony was wrong, of course, but it was the best play to make and the reason he deserved to win.

Like I said, I’m glad Woo took Tony to the end because Tony is a more satisfying winner than Kass or Woo would have been.

Poor, sweet, stupid Woo. He looked at his decision as a “power move”, something he could use as an example of his own strategic prowess at final Tribal Council. How??? It was a move that was fed to him by Tony. He was manipulated into giving away a million bucks. It wasn’t strategy, it was a sacrifice in the name of honor.

The funniest part of the whole episode was when Tony was still scheming and sneaking around during the celebratory brunch. The game is basically over at this point, and Tony is still looking for clues that might lead to a free vote or something. The guy’s mind never stops. No free votes – only a scale and a full-length mirror so the players could see how gnarly (or in Woo’s case, “great!”) they looked.

Final Tribal Council

Tony and Woo’s opening remarks were exactly what I expected them to be. Tony admitted that he did whatever it took to get to the end, and Woo played up his morals.

Based on the remarks and questions from the jury, I expected a much closer race than it ended up being. People were much more bitter than I expected. Jefra, Jeremiah, LJ and Trish were all much angrier than I thought they’d be. (I expected Sarah to be pretty pissed.)

It always amazes me what will set people off. Sarah was angry that Tony swore on his badge and lied. Jeremiah was angry that Tony swore on his wife and kids and lied. Trish was angry that Tony swore on his father’s grave and lied.

I think a lie is a lie, and Survivor is a game of deceit. The lies people tell within the game have no bearing on real life, so I can’t imagine getting worked up over a lie that was swearing on such-and-such, as opposed to any other lie.

Tony was an aggressive player, but he isn’t exactly known for his wits. I don’t think he did a good job of articulating his argument during Tribal Council, and in fact I thought Woo performed better than I expected him to.

Survivor saved Spencer for last, because they know how to put together a good Tribal Council. Spencer delivered the argument that Tony didn’t know how to put together. It was logical and impassioned, and I think his words likely swung some votes even if the jury members themselves don’t want to admit it. (I have to say, the speech made me even more disappointed that Spencer didn’t make the finals. He would have been great at it.)

I’ll be honest, I totally misread the jury this season. I thought so many of them seemed so bitter, that I wasn’t sure how many minds Spencer could change. I thought it would be much closer, and in fact I had expected Tasha to vote for Tony. When I saw that she voted for Woo, I got very nervous. I did not think hers would be the only vote. (And I have to say, her weak vote soured my opinion of her Survivor run a little. She was a great player, but man do I hate a bitter jury member.)


I haven’t loved these reunion shows in a long time. I hate wasting time on audience members, whether they’re children or famous movie producers. I just want to talk to the people who played the game.

I don’t think the reunion show gave us much to discuss. Sarah had forgiven Tony, but then he was rude on Twitter so they’re not speaking. Morgan is still very beautiful. LJ spent his prize money on no longer being bald.

For the next season, Survivor will return to the Blood vs. Water theme. I’m good with this, since I thought that was a great twist (though I don’t want to see Redemption Island return, and it will). This time, the cast will be all new players – no veterans. I think that’s a good idea, since the most recent season with returning players showed that the well is running a bit dry. I’d rather see a few more seasons with new players before we start bringing them back again.

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