Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Season Finale Review: Survivor Fiji

Survivor: Fiji -- Season Finale and Reunion Show

In Brief: What's Good

  • Thanks to Yau-Man's intense strategizing and Dreamz' wavering integrity, there were plenty of twists and surprises to make things interesting.

  • The final immunity challenge, which is always endurance based, was quite a bit more interesting than most final immunity challenges.

  • This season continues a trend started last season in which the penultimate tribal council automatically leads to a final three instead of a final two formed by the last immunity winner choosing his fellow finalist.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • In the reunion show, Jeff Probst spends a little *too much* time and effort prodding Dreamz for a straight answer about whether Dreamz ever planned on keeping his word to Yau-Man or if he always planned to betray him.

n/a Story
n/a Performances
8 Drama/Intensity
8 Suspense/Cliffhanging
6 Nostalgia/Coolness
The next-to-last immunity challenge involved the contestants wandering blind-folded through a series of mazes. Each maze was separated by a pool and a draw-bridge. Each player had to find a key station where they unlock a device that lowers another key that lowers their next draw bridge. Cassandra did horrible in the maze, hardly even able to get it started. Earl didn't do that great either. Boo and Dreamz were hot on Yau-Man's trail the whole time, but Yau-Man won.

I was really excited at this point. Earl had found the third hidden immunity idol in the previous episode. So, with Yau-Man now having the immunity necklace, the best players were guaranteed to move on.

Boo knew his neck was on the chopping block. He tried to convice the others that they'd have a better chance if they kept him for the final four or three and voted out Dreamz instead. At tribal council, Earl played his immunity idol. He probably didn't need to that badly, but it was the last time he could use it, so it would have been a waste not to. The alliance stuck to their original plan, and Boo was voted out.

The final immunity challenge involved the contestants hanging by a bar on a slope. Water dripped from barrels over their heads making the slope slippery. Every five or ten minutes, Jeff Probst increased the steepness of the slope, making it that much harder to hang on. Cassandra was the first to let go (of course). Earl played it smart by positioning himself to the side so that the water dripped beside of him rather than down his back. But, eventually, the wrist pain was too much for him, and he had to let go.

Dreamz and Yau-Man continued to fight for immunity. In a way, it shouldn't have mattered. According to the deal Yau-Man struck with Dreamz previously, Dreamz got Yau-Man's truck reward in exchange for giving Yau-Man immunity in the final four if Dreamz won it. Yau-Man couldn't hang on any longer, and Dreamz did win.

For the rest of the day Dreamz talked about being okay with making it to 4th place and that he wanted his son to see his dad making the right decision based on integrity and keeping his word. However, he also struggled with the fact that keeping immunity would guarantee him a chance at $1 million, since--like last season--there would be a final three rather than final two.

For the whole day, including the tribal council that night, Dreamz continued to struggle with the decision. Either he really was stuggling or was doing some really good acting, because his final decision was to keep the immunity necklace, which shocked everyone. Because he was the biggest threat, Yau-Man was voted out, even by Earl.

I was really surprised and disappointed in Dreamz for going back on his word, especially since it spelled certain doom for Yau-Man, one of the most strategic players in Survivor history. After council, Dreamz tried to act like he had planned to keep immunity all along. Earl was surprised that he found himself voting Yau-Man out, since their alliance was so strong, but Earl knew he could never win against Yau-Man. Voting Yau-Man out was his only chance to win.

Trivia Note: Last season, Survivor tried to address criticism about lack of diversity by starting out with four separate racially segregated tribes: Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, and Latino. Ironically, the final four (which also happen to be one of the stronget and most likable alliances in Survivor history) consisted of one Latino, one African-American, and two Asian-Americans. I thought that was pretty cool, especially since the Caucasians were doing so well up until the last few rounds. This season did not start out with similar tribal divisions but did continue the same extent of racial diversity. And, this time, the final four consisted of three African-Americans and one Asian-American. After Yau-Man's elimination, the final three were all from the same non-Caucasian ethnicity. Another first for survivor (although it was never mentioned in the finale or the reunion show). I wonder if Survivor will continue the ethnic diversity in the next season. I think they should.

At tribal council, there were the usual angry tirades from formerly eliminated jury members. Lisi was as annoying as ever with her comments and questions in which she kept interrupting and wouldn't let the contestants give a response. Alex seemed angry at the world and used his lawyering skills to grill the finalists. After giving a shout-out for the excellent playing by Yau-Man, Boo chose to focus on Dreamz, accusing him of un-Christian actions when he betrayed Yau-Man and others. Maintaining her cute and sunny personality, Michelle asked easy, non-confrontational questions (sure, a little wimpy, but she's just so cute, I really like her). Yau-Man did ask Earl why he voted him out. Earl was completely honest and said that he knew he couldn't win against Yau-Man. Yau-Man seemed very satisfied with that answer.

Most were especially angry at Dreamz for his repeated double-crossing and back-stabbing. A bit of ire was directed at Earl and just a little to Cassandra. Cassandra was barely addressed, and surprisingly, no one asked whether she felt she rode coat-tails to get as far as she did (which I feel she did).

The voting results, as usual, were held over and revealed on the live portion of the show. Jeff read out five consecutive votes for Earl, enough to win the game. Before going to commercial, Jeff announced over all the cheering that Earl did, in fact, win unanimously with all nine votes, which I think is another Survivor first.

I'm guessing that Dreamz angered too many people and that no one saw Cassandra as deserving. Also, in the tribal council in which Boo was voted off, Dreamz addressed a comment by Boo, insisting that he would never use his poverty-filled personal background to gain sympathy in the final vote. And yet, Dreamz did bring up his homelessness in the final tribal council in a trying-to-get-sympathy-votes kind of way.

I was glad Earl won. Even though I was pulling for Yau-Man because he was such a smart player, Earl was a little more likable and played more of a subtle game.

Overall, this was not one of the best seasons of Survivor. Thanks to someone dropping out of the game on the plane going to the island, it started off with the odd number of 19 contestants. The twist of having one tribe with a lot of luxuries and another tribe with almost nothing seemed unfair, because the tribe with more comfort, shelter, and food did much better in the challenges, as one might expect. The players did not seem that interesting until they got closer to merge, and even then, there were several unlikable players still in the game. And, I didn't like the change in which the hidden immunity idol must be revealed before the votes are read instead of after the votes as in previous seasons.

On the positive side, Exile Island was better utilized this season than usual. I liked that there were multiple hidden immunity idols, one per tribe. I liked that once a hidden immunity idol is used, a new one is hidden, with Exile Island having new clues for it. The hidden immunity idols were, overall, utilized better in this season than in previous seasons and really did add a new dynamic to the game. And, as mentioned, there were several firsts this season: first unanimous final vote, first time for African-American dominance in the game, first time the car prize was used as a strategic bargaining chip, first time a reward challenge winner ever turned down a reward to send himself to Exile Island, and first time hidden immunity idols were ever "shared" and exchanged among multiple players.

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