Hey, it's the season finale and we all know what that means. The players will be sent on a forced march to remember people best forgotten, and there will be a bunch of stupid questions from angry members of the jury. Bring it, "Survivor."
We join our players as they return from Tribal Council having just voted out Abi. There is no attempt to hide the joy at her torch snuffing. Malcolm is a little worried, though, because everyone talked about him being a lock to win it all and now he has to do damage control, just as he does every time there is a volatile council.
Michael, the accident-prone survivor, thinks he has a good chance at winning because he has a better story than Malcolm. Uh, isn't this "Survivor," not the Pulitzer Prizes? Maybe we're confused. But before we can clear our heads, tree mail arrives with news of an unexpected challenge. Will it be for reward or immunity? Denise is both worried and determined.
It's for reward, and it looks like a doozy. The challenge is a massive obstacle course to collect puzzle pieces for reconstructing a dragon. Winner wins an advantage in the final immunity challenge the next day. If that wasn't pressure enough, Jeff Probst fans the flames by endlessly telling them how important it is to win.
And Malcolm, of course, wins it although Denise and Lisa come close. Probst hands over the sealed reward and says Malcolm will open it at the next day's challenge.
Back at camp, everyone is exhausted and three of the four are bummed that Malcolm won the advantage, which they say he didn't need because he already has a good chance of winning the next challenge.
Denise corners Malcolm to ask for a commitment that, if he wins immunity, he'll take her to the finals, or at least make it a tie with Lisa, requiring them to make fire or be eliminated. Malcolm just can't do it and asks for time to consider.
Denise is no fool and figures things have gone sour with her best bud. She goes to Lisa and works a deal to turn on Malcolm. It's a great plan, unless he wins immunity.
Michael is happy with the change in plans, but he's thinking he can beat Malcolm in the challenge for immunity. He also thinks he can tell a good story and win the million dollars even if Malcolm is sitting next to him. Michael is suffering from a serious case of overconfidence.
Challenge day dawns but Michael is still in the dark. He tells Lisa they need to make sure Denise doesn't win immunity and Lisa says no, they have to make sure she does win. Lisa thinks they could beat Denise in the final; Michael isn't sure.
But now it's time for the Fallen Comrade March, otherwise known as a waste of time. But oh look, Denise was present at every torch snuffing. We don't even remember most of them.
The players finally make it to their final challenge and it looks like one of those balance tests. Yep, it is. They have to balance a ball on a piece of wood. Every so often, they'll have to add two more blocks of wood, lengthening the rod while making it less stable. Malcolm reads the advantage and it's a second chance. If he drops the ball, he gets to try again.
Probst says a simple backyard game may determine who wins the million, and once again we ask, "What kind of games does Probst play in his backyard?"
Malcolm loses his advantage pretty quickly. After the first addition of blocks, he drops the ball and gets to start again, but this obviously isn't his thing. He starts shaking so much that it's a miracle he lasts as long as he does, but eventually he's out.
Michael, Lisa and Denise are doing pretty well, but with just 30 second to go before a break, Denise drops her ball. Michael and Lisa move into the third round, and the fourth, but Lisa drops the ball and Michael wins immunity. Uh, did we say he was overconfident? Perhaps we spoke too soon.
Michael is thrilled, not only in assuring his spot in the finals, but in beating Malcolm and proving he's da man. Meanwhile, Malcolm is looking for assurance that his alliance is strong. Denise is looking for reassurance that her deal to vote out Malcolm is set.
We're not really sure what's going on, and neither is Michael, who is into a macho, chest-beating thing and wanting to take Malcolm to the finals so he can beat him again. He tells Denise that he wonders if there is honor in taking her and beating her and Lisa. Denise says yeah, well, that might be honorable, but will it happen? She plays the "true friendship" card, and says she understands that it's a big decision.
Michael tells Lisa he wants to take Malcolm, which doesn't please Lisa, who promises to do whatever she can to keep Malcolm out of the final three.
First tribal council
Time for the little chat with Probst, but first he calls in the jury, which includes Abi, who is shooting hate daggers at the final four.
The discussion is extremely civil with Malcolm and Denise accepting that one of them will be going. Probst points out that Michael and Lisa seem to be completely united. Lisa says it's been an open relationship as they have differed in their votes throughout the game. Lisa says her vote tonight will be strategic, to get off her biggest threat.
Malcolm says Denise is the bigger threat. She hasn't had to turn on anyone and isn't as disliked as Malcolm may be with some of the jury.
Probst asks Lisa if there is a reason to take Malcolm and she pauses a long time before answering. "Not for me, there isn't." Malcolm is gutted.
When the votes are counted, Malcolm becomes the eighth member of the jury, and he does not take it well. He congratulates Denise, but the tone of voice says "Eat dirt and die, all three of you."
Final Tribal Council
Arriving back at camp, the three discuss the vote. Michael seems to think that Malcolm congratulated Denise on winning a million and that it was some sort of an affirmation. No, but it might be an omen.
At tree mail, it's tree meal. Champagne, orange juice, eggs, peppers, sausage, fruit, pastry. Yum. Everyone loves everyone else, and to celebrate, they burn down the camp. And then they trot off to meet their fate, and an angry jury.
It starts with opening statements and Denise is first. She's making no apologies. She was able assimilate into three different tribes and was able to prove her value and worth. She survived every tribal council, and she outwit and outplayed most, but she out survived all of them
Lisa says she played with her heart at first, but when she spent time with brother, he reminded her it was a game and that she had to be ruthless. It wasn't a pretty game, but she played it hard and smart, and she grew and changed so much.
Michael gets to tell his story about being a returning player. He loves this game and had no choice, he says, but to play it with fire, no pun intended, we assume.
Focus now shifts to the jury.
Artis is first. He can't congratulate them. If you didn't hold true to your alliances, he says, you're in deep trouble. Karma is the b-word.
Carter gives props to Lisa and Michael for making it to the finals when they were early targets. He asked Michael why he turned on him. Michael says, basically, Carter was too good a player and too big a threat to win it all.
Pete accuses Lisa of being a Judas, knowing that he and Artis were going but doing nothing about it. Lisa says she didn't know Artis was going -- she had voted for Jonathan, not him. He then asks Denise why her game was better than the others. She repeats how she had to adjust and survive and outplay and all of that.
R.C. says she knew from the first moment that Lisa was the big threat and is not surprised she's there. She asks Michael if he should have told her something on Day 19. He says he didn't know they were voting R.C. off, so he couldn't have warned her.
Malcolm says Lisa's opening statement had made him, for the first time, want to write her name down to win. He turns to Denise, who nods, and he tells her not to do that. He's tired of her trying to appease everyone. He wants to know how she got there, but he's not satisfied with her answer.
Jeff says he's bitter, but he can handle it. He tells Michael there are three types of people in the world -- people who make things happen, people who watch things happen and people who wonder what the heck just happened. What kind of guy is he? Michael says he's the guy who makes things happen. Jeff then asks Lisa how she's different from Denise, floating along in the middle. Lisa says she didn't float. She points out her plan to vote out Malcolm that blew up, so she decided to go with Pete's Plan B, which was to vote Jeff out. It served the same purpose of keeping her alliance strong. Sorry about that Jeff.
Abi tells them her heart is broken to learn they all hated her. She asks Lisa why she should vote for her. Lisa says she was true to the alliance until it fell apart. Then she asks Michael if he even cares if she votes for him. He says he deserves her vote because he outplayed everyone. Then she turns to Denise, and revisits Denise' abuse of her. Denise apologies, but stands by the things she said, she just should have said them differently.
Jonathon says it's painful to not be sitting there, but he really does congratulate them. Denise, he says, had a big fear of being seen as the B-word, but she can rest assured that she has proved that she is. Denise looks like someone B-word slapped her. Michael, Jonathan says, has a perfect record of not having had his name written down and predicts that his record might be perfect after tonight's vote. He then turns on Lisa and reveals that she was a teen television star and had kept it from everyone. He thought the jury should know. Lisa asks if Jonathan revealed what job he had as a teenager, 25 years ago, or focused on who he is now. Jonathan doesn't really answer that, but he says one of them has been ridden into the final like an ox yoked to someone else. No, we didn't get it either, but it sounded good and angry. But now it's time to vote.
We see a few of the votes. R.C. votes for Lisa, Jonathan votes for Denise (guess being the B-word doesn't mean you don't deserve the million) and Carter votes for Michael. After everyone votes, Probst gathers the urn and heads off into the future, where all the former players are looking clean and well-fed.
Before the votes are read, Probst calls for a moment of silence in memory and honor of those killed at the Newtown, Conn., mass murder.
First vote, Lisa. Second vote Denise. Third vote Michael. Hey, we've seen these before. Next vote is for Denise, and then another and hey, Denise wins in an apparent landslide as no other votes are read to make it interesting. She gets hugs from her family and season 25 is over.
Next time: See you in 2013 with another season of goofiness.