The end of one of "Survivor's" more enjoyable seasons is upon us. Will the sole survivor be the miracle man, Eddie, who has defied odds to stay in the game? Or Cochran, the nerd who became less nerdy this season? How about Dawn, the mom who has been determined to play her own game?
Erik, whose alliances shift with the winds, is still a contender as is first-time player Sherri, who sort of fell into the power group without really trying.
Let's find out. Cue the drums and the choir. It's the season finale.
Night 36, after Tribal, and Erik is ill. He apparently doesn't make it far from the council area before he faints.
He tells them that his head is spinning.
Jeff Probst comes quickly with someone named Dr. Joe, who fears that Erik is in a state of starvation and his body is shutting down. His pulse is slow and he's very dizzy. Dr. Joe starts an IV with fluids while Eddie, the firefighter/EMT, explains it all. Erik's blood pressure is dangerously low and Dr. Joe pulls the plug on Erik's "Survivor" hopes. Bye bye Erik.
And just like that, we're down to four players.
Back at camp, there are some words exchanged about poor Erik, and then it's game back on. Cochran needs to get to Eddie fast and make a deal with him. He's the most likely to win the next immunity challenge, Cochran says. The boys have a little chat and decide that the next to go will be Dawn.
And speaking of Dawn, it's morning and it's time for a reward challenge.
With one hand, the players will hold onto a handle, steadying a balance board. With the other hand, they will build a house of cards, or blocks as it is, on the board. The first to build their house to a certain height wins an advantage at the next immunity challenge, probably garnering a spot in the final three.
Sherri gets off to a quick start, followed by Cochran, Dawn and Eddie. The lead changes a half dozen times, but it is Cochran who ends up winning and is immediately congratulated by his next victim, Dawn. Man, this game is cold.
Cochran is pleased to have returned to his challenge beast mode. Not only did he get the advantage, but he kept it out of the hands of Eddie and Dawn. Meanwhile, Eddie and Sherri have a conversation where they agree that Dawn has to go. She's much too sympathetic.
Cochran tells the camera that he has been treated to a daily breakdown from Dawn. Sometimes she's crying and weeping; today, he says, is her catatonic paranoia phase. And she has reason to be paranoid, Cochran says, because he's considering ditching her.
It's time for the final immunity challenge but before then, the players must take the traditional walk down snuffed torch lane. Cochran is thrilled.
This is our least favorite part of the game because it feels like they are just killing time. On the other hand, we don't remember half of the people who were voted out early so it's a nice reminder of the early days. We'd almost forgotten how horrible Brandon's meltdown was.
But with homage paid and name tags burned, it's time for the challenge. Probst tells them it will take everything they have. They must race up a three-story structure to untie bags of puzzle pieces, slide down and go back up for another bag. First person to complete the puzzle, which is in the shape of fire, wins immunity.
Cochran reads the advantage he won -- he won't have to untie his bags. And sure enough, the advantage shows up early and often. He has all three bags while the others are just getting to their second one.
But the lead evaporates when Cochran fails to get a single piece of his puzzle put in place before the other three start working on theirs. Dawn takes the lead, but Cochran eventually gets the hang of it and catches up, then passes her with Sherri is hot on their tails. Eddie get finally gets one piece in, and then a second, but it's all over.
Cochran wins his third individual immunity challenge and is hugged by Dawn and Sherri. He has proved himself, Cochran tells Probst, and deserves to be mentioned with the other "Survivor" greats.
Whatever, he's in the power position now and call the shots on who will go to the final with him.
He's already won the million, Cochran says, and now the question is who will get $100,000. It won't be Sherri, Cochran says. But will he take Dawn or Eddie with him?
Everyone is anxious to talk to Cochran. Dawn asks for probably the 1,653rd time if they are "locked." Cochran assures her he is. Then Cochran talks to Eddie, telling him that he doesn't know if he could beat him in the finals. Eddie tries to push his lack of strategy and having any impact in the game as a selling point.
Then Eddie enlightens us as to what he'd do with the million -- open a shelter, play area type thing for dogs and cats, next to a bar. Those are his two favorite things. Oh my.
Still apparently undecided, Cochran and the other three head off to tribal council. Probst teases Cochran about his reaction to winning immunity. Cochran says the last time he played people thought he was worthless and he started believing it. This time he's shown what he's capable of and he's proud of himself.
The debate turns to whether Eddie or Dawn is the biggest threat, with everyone ignoring Sherri. Dawn says she's been her own worst enemy, voting people off. She won't be a big hit with the jury. She also points out that Eddie is extremely likable and with the exception of Phillip, hadn't voted off a single jury member. It seems a foregone conclusion that Sherri is going to the finals.
The votes are in and we say a fond farewell to the One Amigo. Eddie heads off to become the last member of the jury.
On the last day, the final three celebrate with a huge breakfast. Sherri says her husband is going to be so proud of her, and she claims to have run the entire alliance. Say what?
Dawn and Cochran are thrilled that they beat all of the other returning players and had called all of the shots.
Cochran is running on high speed, talking a mile a minute about how Harvard Law School hasn't prepared him for talking to a jury and that it's his game to lose. And now it's time to face the jury. Hey, Eddie is clean-shaven.
Final tribal council
We start with Dawn's opening statement. She feels humble in their company, and they all saw how hard it was for her to play the game. She made choices before she came to have one true ally, and that was Cochran. She also gave herself permission to play the game and deliver hard tackles.
Sherri has three children and is a stay-at-home mom, but she's also a very successful business owner with 75 employees. And she came into the game determined to treat people like she does her employees.
Cochran admits to being obsessed with the game. He never knew he would become one of the top 10 challenge threats. Although he has a lot of anxiety, he turned into a sort of therapist for the others. He is proud of how he played and owns every underhanded move he made. So bring it on.
And they do.
Cochran has changed so much from when he first played the game, Eddie says. If he's at the bar with the Three Amigos, does he sit with them? Of course, Cochran says. Before, he would have had a panic attack at the idea of walking into a bar, but now he'd join them, with two women on his arms.
For the last time, Probst gathers the votes and heads back to the future. And we're there with him. The players are all cleaned up and well-fed again. Sherri thinks she has no chance to win. Cochran is confident, but is prepared for the worst. Dawn doesn't think she'll win but she should be able to buy some new teeth.
Probst starts reading votes and one by one, it's Cochran.
See you next season.