Survivor season finale recap: Guilty Plea

After a china challenge eliminates Denise, Todd wins by admitting to the jury that he played them all; plus, James and Denise get money for being good sports
Ep. 14 | Aired Dec 16, 2007

APOLOGIES EXCEPTED Todd beat Courtney and Amanda at tribal council by never saying he was sorry.

Jeffrey R. Staab

Dammit! I'm trying to write this TV Watch for theSurvivor: China finale, but it's so hard. You see, I live in an old house. Over 100 years old. Sure, it has Victorian charm, but the place is falling apart, and the repair costs are killing me! And don't even get me started on the mortgage and taxes I need to pay every month. I just...just...sorry, I'm getting a little choked up here, but I'm just not sure we're gonna make it. You know, I have a family to feed, and it's just so damn hard sometimes. Soooooooo, uh, Mark Burnett, you think maybe you can help out? It's just that I saw you gave Denise $50K during the reunion show, so I figured maybe you were, you know, making like Santa this holiday season. Anyway, feel free to send any spare change you have lying around to me courtesy of EW. (Oh, and Josh Wolk has a new baby. He could use a new car seat if you don't mind. And a car, for that matter.)

Now, on to the show. I could sit here and gloat for picking the Survivor winner from the very first episode for the third season in a row, but I won't sit here and do that, because I already just did! I can see the future! Check my s--- out! I felt Todd's game stumbled a bit down the stretch, but he made up for it in a huge way at the final tribal council, in the process saving what was an otherwise dull finale. Here's why: He did something that no Survivor finalist has ever done (except Hatch, to a degree): Instead of sitting there and apologizing for all the lying and backstabbing that got him there, he embraced it. He not only took full responsibility for it but demanded that people recognize it and respect it, giving the best final performance since Will Kirby in Big Brother 2. He looked even more convincing next to Amanda, who came off as wishy-washy (apologizing over and over until Peih-Gee gave her a shove into finally taking credit for engineering James' exit), and Courtney, whose only argument seemed to be ''I'm really weak! I shoulda been the first person out!''

Todd stole it. He flat out stole it. Had Amanda gone in there and been authoritative and talked about getting rid of James, and talked about doing all the stuff Todd was doing but in a more stealthy, less showy way, and talked about winning the last two challenges, well, she probably would have won. Instead, she choked. And Todd shined. I've been waiting for years for someone to take control of a TC like Todd did, so it made me forgive the first 90 minutes of the finale.

The episode started off with a really, really cool challenge involving a ladder bridge, a puzzle, and huge blocks that turned into another puzzle. Unfortunately, it was for pizza and beer. Yes, they were positioned as offering the winner the advantage of extra strength before the final immunity challenge, but still, a bit anticlimactic for such an epic-looking event in the final episode. This is another reason I don't like the concept of a final three. Yes, Ozzy and Yul probably wouldn't have both made the finals in Cook Islands had there not been three at the end, but had this been a final two, that would have been an all-important immunity challenge instead of a race for a slice of pizza. The days of the final two meant two immunity challenges and three tribal councils. Now, we're down to one immunity challenge and two TCs. In my book, that's less bang for our buck.

So Amanda won the pizza and chose to invite Todd to help her devour her food. This led to Denise telling us for the 317th time how she was the unpopular kid again. I feel bad for her when she says stuff like that, but even worse for myself for having to sit through it every other time she opens her mouth. After they all reunited back at camp, it was time for the Survivor Segment That Simply Will Not Die: that's right, the Fallen Comrades tribute. Producers tried to enliven it by blowing things up next to all the names, but not even the exploding firecrackers could make this bearable. At least the segment offered the always humble and modest Todd the opportunity to inform us that ''every single person that's been voted off has helped me to get here. I am grateful for them. I absolutely think that they've all done a huge part in me getting to the end.'' Anyone else want to punch the television set at this point?

Then it was on to the trademark final endurance challenge. I love, love, love these. Mind over matter. How much pain can you take? How do you handle that pain? Lately, the challenge department has tried to come up with more elaborate ways of staging these, and while I respect that, I do kind of miss the more simple contests that just amounted to basically seeing who could stand on a stump the longest. The teacups didn't really do it for me. Maybe that's just because it reminded me of a challenge on The Benefactor where contestants had to play Jenga, and if there is one thing I never want Survivor to do, it is remind me of a Mark Cuban reality show, but anyway, it wasn't my favorite. Big props to Amanda, however, for turning her last two bowls upside down for better balance. (If only she had crowed about that too at tribal council.)

So Amanda won (again) and Denise tried to save herself using — what else? — the pity card, talking about how she was going to go back to making seven dollars an hour working as a lunch lady and how this was it for her. One problem, Denise: Amanda's not an idiot. You use that argument on her, you're going to use it on the jury should you make the finals as well. So, in effect, you were basically giving Amanda a reason not to bring you along. Now, no way am I going as far as Courtney to proclaim that Denise ''sucks at life,'' but she sure does talk about how much her life sucks a lot.

NEXT: Amanda's sorry performance


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