Survivor season finale recap: How to Survive a Bitter Jury

Jonathan Penner attempted to steal the show, but did his last second revelation about Lisa hand the game to Denise?
Ep. 14 | Aired Dec 16, 2012

FEARSOME FOURSOME Four walked into the final episode, but only Denise walked out a winner.

Image credit: CBS

Balls on Wood
We’ve already discussed my distaste for the advantage that meant it was not a level playing field for the final Immunity Challenge, but other than that, I thought the last challenge was great. Personally, I would be happy if every final immunity challenge was the same as the first season’s final one, where contestants just had to keep touching a pole for as long as possible, because while such a contest appears so basic and simple, it is one which tests you on both mental and physical levels. (My two other favorite final challenges are the one from Thailand where contestants had to keep six coins between their fingers while holding a very painful pose, and in Palau where they had to bob on a buoy for as long as possible.)

We’ve seen variations on this final Philippines challenge before but it always yields dramatic results. This time, a wooden cylinder had been cut into several pieces. Contestants had to use handles to pick up a piece while balancing a ball in the center of the wood. Every 5 minutes they added more pieces. Once your ball dropped, you were out. Indeed, Malcolm — who apparently suffers from Shaky Hands Syndrome — dropped first, got the do over, and dropped again. After Probst busted out several sexually-explicit-comments-when-taken-out-of-context (“Set down your balls and relax your hands”) it eventually came down to Lisa vs. Skupin, who made it all the way to round four with seven blocks. I can’t tell you how much I was rooting for my gal to finally win an individual immunity challenge, but alas, it was not meant to be. SILVER LINING ALERT! This meant that my episode 1 pick to win, Skupin, would be guaranteed of making it to the finals. I picked Skupin solely because I was playing the percentages and the fact that every single time returning players had been brought back into the game, at least one of them had made it to the finals, and I figured Skupin had the best chance of the three to do so. Turns out I was right. Unfortunately, as with last season’s episode 1 pick of Chelsea, I would once again be thwarted in the finals.

Malcolm or Denise?
From the very start of the episode, everyone was maneuvering to make sure they would be part of the final three. Except Malcolm made one fatal flaw. Homeboy pulled a Penner. Much like when Lisa and Skupin approached Penner and he refused their final four alliance offer, Denise asked Malcolm for a final three commitment and he hemmed and hawed without agreeing. Perhaps he thought that with the challenge advantage he was close to a shoo-in to win immunity and did not want to anger a future jury member. I get that. But I also get that when you are down to four people you have to convince every single one of them you are taking them so that they take you. Had Malcolm given his word to Denise right then and there, would she have stuck with him and forced a tie, leading to a fire-making tie-breaker? It’s certainly possible. But when he refused to commit to her, it gave her a free pass to then go make her own final 3 deal with Lisa and Skupin, and Malcolm’s fate was sealed.

Or was it? ALPHA MALE ALERT! ALPHA MALE ALERT! Skupin was keen on actually bringing Malcolm to the finals because he wanted the “honor” of defeating him. “I would love to take Malcolm, and beat him straight up man to man,” he told us. “My wife said to me as I was walking out the door, ‘make us proud of you.’” Well, Mike, if you want to make her proud then don’t be an idiot and take the player guaranteed to beat you. Is anyone proud of Colby Donaldson?

NEXT: The final Tribal Council begins

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