In any event, potential goldmine awkwardness aside, producers did a good job nixing this segment once again. So instead of the pomp and circumstance we just get right to the final immunity challenge of the season, which is a massive set piece stretching across a wide swath of land, as players must race through a maze of turnstiles, some of which turn and some of which don’t. Along the way they must collect four medallions which will be used to open a chest full of cogs that when used together will raise the person’s flag.
It’s a cool challenge and I would have no qualms whatsoever if it had been played as the penultimate one. But here’s the thing: I love the old school Survivor when the final battle was always an endurance contest. Whether it was seeing who could touch a pole the longest (Borneo), or hold coins while in a painful pose (Thailand), or stand on a stump while holding a wacky headdress up in the air (Amazon), or bob on a buoy (Palau), those challenges may not have been epic in size, but they were epic nonetheless because they all came down to one thing: who wants it more. I loooooove those tests of endurance and have been wishing for years that we could go back to them. Sometimes simpler can be better and I think stripping that last challenge back down a to mind over matter exercise makes it even more powerful. Also, keep in mind that women usually did better in these endurance tests than men did. Remember 56-year-old Kim beating Ethan and Lex in Africa? Or Kelly beating Richard and Rudy in Borneo? Or Jenna beating Rob and Matt in The Amazon? Or Lil beating Fairplay (and Sandra) in Pearl Islands? These challenges weren’t about strength. They were about desire. And I desire to see them again.
Okay, challenge rant out of system! So the final three take off into turnstile hell, and although Kass grabs an early lead, it is Woo and then Tony that find their medallions first. Kass is pretty far behind as Woo starts to place his cogs. But we remember what happened last time Kass was behind in a challenge…unless you have a terrible memory in which case I will remind you that she won. And once again she flies through the puzzle to catch back up to Woo. In a photo finish, Woo beats her by a mere second. That’s all. And even though he was not even in the mix for this contest, that is the difference between Tony winning and losing this game. Because for all Kass’ talk about Tony being a good person to sit next to at the end, the fact is — Woo is even better. And had Kass won and taken Woo, then guess what? Woo would have won. So yes, in effect, Woo lost Survivor by winning this challenge. Allow me to repeat that for maximum impact: Woo lost Survivor by winning this challenge. Brutal.
NEXT: We narrowly avoid the worst final 2 in Survivor history