Pre-credit warning. I'm going to ignore these live segments, if you don't mind. This recap is already going to be horribly long if I cover the two-hour episode. At least I get to fast-forward through the lengthy season-long recap.
Also, this recap is so darned long that I had to paginate it. I won't be insulted if you just skip to Page 3 for the results and my Bottom Lines…
Pre-credit sequence. “Nice Tribal, guys. That's one for the books,” Spencer observes after the Trish vote-out. But the big question is immediately raised: Why did Tony vote for his former ally? Tony explains that it was strategy and he didn't feel good about it, but he couldn't take somebody as well-liked as Trish to the end. “I feel horrible about it, but I feel like it was the most strategic move for me to make,” Tony says. I guess I can buy that. Spencer feels like he's been thrown under the bus repeated and he's impressed he's still there, but he's also now worried about the Tyler Perry Idol Tony is wielding. I'd be more worried about Tyler Perry showing up, out of nowhere, dressed as Madea, but we all have our own phobias. “I'm guaranteed Final 3, so it's up to me pretty much,” Tony claims. Spencer isn't sure whether or not to trust Tony about the powers. Tony says that in his everyday life he can't be corrupt, but in the game he's bluffing and lying. “The only thing that I have going for me is my bluff,” Tony knows.
Peanut Butter & Blood. Icky lizard. It's Day 37. Kass is still [pretending to be] smarting from her fight with Trish, who she calls full of hate. Tony disagrees. “Tony is an idiot,” Kass tells us. She's sure that everybody dislikes Trish and Tony was misreading the support for Trish. “He hasn't had to do much. He was on a winning team right up to the Merge,” is Kass' deconstruction of Tony's gameplay. A boat is heading to shore. Everybody is hoping for perks of some sort. Tony is the first, oddly, to recognize Kass' husband. Woo's cousin hits the beach. Kass briefly shows emotion. Spencer is happy to see his sister. Tony wanted his wife to be there, but instead he gets his best friend Arnold. Tony is disappointed, but vaguely understands that his wife is home with his four-month-old baby. This makes Tony cry. “You just get PSYCHED!” Woo says of seeing his blood. The loved ones arrived with juice and bread and peanut butter, as well as a clue that says something about fearing heights and the threat of Immunity. Woo is dreaming of Immunity, a million dollars and proposing to his girlfriend. “I'm not a goat, I'm just hated,” Kass tells her husband, explaining that she came out and played like a man. She knows that she's hated and her husband just nods politely. Spencer tells his sister that he knows he's done the best he could, but he's prepared to do what it takes to win Immunity. [“And you thought there wasn't gonna be a Loved Ones visit,” Probst tells us live.]
I'm not sick but I'm not well/ And I'm so hot 'cause I'm in Hell. Immunity time! The Loved Ones are still there and the castaways are encouraged. Spencer's sister says he's neurotic. Woo has a second wind. Tony says that this is the difference between real-life ties and game alliances. The task is actually complicated. It involves standing on a high platform, using a bucket to get water to raise a submerged key. Then they have to take the key, return to the beach and unlock a puzzle. It's windy. The platform is really more of a flagpole with a perch. The pole is shaking and Kass is particularly nervous, flailing and earning Probst's ire. Tony is the first get his key, but we all know that Tony sucks at puzzles. Spencer gets his key. Can he catch Tony again? Woo is the third to his key and joins the puzzle race. Again, Spencer seems to be making progress on the puzzle and building a big lead, which emboldens his confident sister. “Tony hasn't had a lot of success with puzzles,” Probst says as Kass finally shows up on the beach. Suddenly Kass is making a lot of progress and Spencer is having issues. Wow. It's an impressive comeback for Kass, winning Individual Immunity and seemingly spelling Spencer's demise, so close but so far. “Losing in itself is devastating, but to lose to a brain-dead weasel like Kass, that's the most humiliating way I could have lost today,” Spencer says, vowing to play his ass off.
Final 4 Tie = Fight To The Death. “The best part of today is I get to send Spencer home,” Kass says. This is exactly what Kass wanted, she claims, going against two Brawn. Spencer wants to have a conversation with Tony. Ha. Spencer has run the numbers and he tells Tony immediately that it's a Final 2 this season. He listened to Jeff's phrasing at the last challenge and knows Probst didn't mention pleading cases to the Jury. Tony agrees that the super-fan knows what he's talking about. Spencer then makes the compelling case that Woo and Kass would take each other to the end if they get the chance. Again, Tony seems to be hearing Spencer, who is willing to make fire if that's what's required. Back at camp, Kass and Woo agree that they need to get Spencer out next, regardless. Woo has no memory of what happens if it's a tie in the Final 4. He thinks it may be rocks, or a Jury decision, or possibly a fight. Woo is SO getting a winners' edit in this episode, suddenly coming across as goofy and charming for the first time since the school visit or possibly since the beginning of the season. Kass doesn't care what the boys do, because she's comfortable.
Tribal Council, I. Probst is impressed with Kass' comeback, which she attributes to her husband's support. Tony insists he was ultimately pleased to see his friend, rather than his wife. Probst thinks this was the first time that he saw emotion from Spencer. Spencer makes his clear case for how keeping him benefits Tony and sweetens the pot by swearing in front of the Jury that he'd take Tony to the Final 2, if he has the chance. “I think you'd beat me handily, Tony. You've played the better game,” Spencer claims, not that we believe him. Woo says that he's been a player, even if he's been inconspicuous. It's so strange that nobody's even mentioning voting Tony out. Kass says a bitter Jury gives Woo a win, but a non-bitter Jury is complicated. Kass says without pause that she'd be more likely to beat Woo, putting Tony on full-alert. Interesting.
The Vote, I. Kass writes Spencer's name. Spencer writes Woo's name. Before the tally, Tony reads the part of the Idol that says it can be played “after the votes are read.” Reactions on the Jury are mixed. Then Tony admits that he bluffed. Spencer is ticked off. The votes are read: Spencer. Woo. Spencer. SPENCER. Bah. “Well done, Tony,” Spencer tells one of his nemeses and departs. “'Survivor' isn't a game to me. 'Survivor' is a passion to me,” Spencer says, calling this a tough pill to swallow. He says he learned a lot from the game.
Foreshadowing. The Final 3 returns and they exchange hugs. “Things went as planned, surprisingly, for once,” Kass says. They're the Final 3, but they all know that there's another Immunity coming. “The boys are more depressed than me,” Kass says. She expects to be taken to the Final 3 regardless of what happens, though. Woo and Kass agree that no matter what happens, Tony can't win. They agree they can't beat Tony. “I'd be the stupidest 'Survivor' player taking Tony to the end,” Woo tells her. “Me too,” she agrees. Nope. That last exchange wasn't at ALL portentous.
Maze, Not Featuring Frankie Beverley. Final Immunity looks to be some sort of crazy Mousetrap, Escher-style maze. They have to race through the maze of turnstiles, some of which turn, others of which don't. They have to collect four medallions to open a chest to collect cogs that then bring up a flag. It's a nutty set-up and, unlike this week's dismal “Amazing Race” finale, it really does feel like a worthy task upon which to hinge a million bucks. I like it. Kass has an early lead, while Tony and Woo seem to be racing together in lock-step. Woo moves into the lead and is the first to get to four medallions, followed closely by Tony, as Kass falls back. It's going to come down to the cogs, of course. I don't quite get how the cogs work, so I don't know who's leading, but Woo and Kass are close. Woo narrowly beats Kass and gains his second Individual Immunity. Kass was a second behind. Woo does a flip. In theory, it shouldn't matter. Kass compares this to losing the Olympic marathon by half-a-second. She's now beginning to wonder if Woo might be able to beat her.
I can't believe it's not butter. Woo won tae-kwon-do championships in his youth, but he says this takes the prize. He's “stoked” and “psyched,” but he's also feeling the pressure. Tony is the first to make his case. Tony wants to be subtle, soft and aggressive. Tony tells Woo that he can't beat Kass because she has stories and made big moves, while keeping Tony maintains his loyalty-based gameplan. “Is he buying it? I wouldn't buy it. I'm taking my chances with Kass,” Tony admits. Kass tells Woo that Tony's argument has always been that they should keep her because she's beatable. Kass becomes the first person this season to invoke the name of Fabio, which I mentioned in comments last week, but never mentioned in a recap at any point. Kass says that Tony's argument will be that he did all the work and Woo coasted and she tells Woo that if she's on the Jury, she's voting for Tony. Kass is frustrated to have her fate in Woo's hands. Woo says he'd be more comfortable sitting with Tony, but he knows his chances of winning are not-so-great.
Tribal Council, II. Now let's hear the same arguments we just heard! Woo is honored, grateful and nervous. Tony repeats, again, that Woo's gameplay has been loyalty. Probst repeats that one second separated Woo and Kass. “I can't go back. I mean, I'm here,” Kass says aptly, lamenting her loss of control. Probst asks Woo to repeat the basic pitches he got this afternoon, but Woo cuts him off and says he'd rather just get to the vote. Nice, Woo!
The Vote, II. We obviously don't see who Woo votes for, leaving Probst to tally a vote of one. KASS. Wow. Spencer is utterly astounded. I'll confess that I, too, am astounded. “Thank you, Woo, man,” Tony says. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” Kass says of Woo's decision. “Some people will hate me. Some people will appreciate that I'm a fan and I played to win,” Kass concludes.
Yes. I would eat beef bacon. The Final 2 returns for the last time. Tony gives Woo a big hug. “One love,” Woo agrees. “What you did for me tonight is more than I ever did for you,” Tony tells him. Woo figures that this was a power move that he can claim as his own. I can buy that. “We both have a shot and that's all we wanted,” Tony claims, obviously grateful. “Taking him just seemed right,” Woo tells us, comparing it to beating the best available person in a martial arts tournament. The next morning, they get he climactic breakfast of eggs, meat and juice. Either of them knows how to cook — and Tony thinks “beef bacon” is a thing — and the result is a big scrambled mess. Absurdly, there was a clue in the basket and Tony instinctively hides it. The clue says to go to the back of the camp, where he finds a mirror and a scale. Tony lost 21 pounds. Tony says he had lots of names this season — Tony in Trouble, Tony in Charge, Tony in the Driver's Seat, Tony in Control. I remember none of these names. Today? He's Tony in Need of a Million Dollars. His wife wants a pink chandelier for his baby daughter. Woo lost 19 pounds and gained a mustache he's very proud of. Woo says he abided by the Five Codes of Tae-Kwon-Do: Discipline, Integrity, Loyalty, Respect and Harmony between Mind and Body. He wants to start a studio, get engaged, help his father retire and aid his ailing mother. Wait. So Woo wants THOSE things and Tony wants a pink chandelier? Ummm… Go Woo!
Final Tribal, Closing Arguments. Tony says he has a lot of explaining to do and invites their questions. “It was nothing emotional, nothing personal,” he says, telling them what he did was strategy. He thanks Woo. Woo says he came into the game knowing it's a game of lie. He explains the Five Codes. He says he did what he could to abide by the codes. He says he was inspired by his mother and her health problems and her recovery. The Jury seemed moved by Woo. [I'm not recapping the live stuff, but I do love Parvati.]
Final Tribal, Jury Questions. Sarah gets first dibs and begins by tearing into Tony for not valuing a promise on his badge. She has no question for him. She asks Woo who he would vote for if she were in his place. He says he'd vote for her because of something about not having Immunity Idols. Jefra asks Tony to own the fact that he backstabbed nearly everybody on the Jury. Tony says he voted her out because she contemplated backstabbing him. She claims she isn't bitter, but asks him to admit that he was the villain. He says he was half-villain and half-good-player. She has nothing for Woo. Morgan talks about how young and attractive she is and asks Tony how he kept men in his back pocket without having breasts. Heh. Tony says he was genuine at camp and that his gameplay was a different story. Morgan tells Woo that she respects his decision to take Tony over a goat. Jeremiah takes Tony to task for swearing on his wife and kids, but says he admires Tony if he made up the wife and baby, so he asks Tony if the wife and baby were real. Tony says they are and Jeremiah calls him pathetic and shuts him up. He asks Woo if he wants to be a millionaire. Woo agrees that he does. Tasha asks Tony to explain how he kept a loyal alliance while lying. Tony repeats the thing about only breaking with his alliance when they went behind his back first and he apologizes to Trish as the only person he broke a promise to. Tasha asks how Woo chose to align with Tony. Woo says that Tony didn't trust him at first, but that he adapted and molded himself after the Merge. Tasha seems to be waiting to hear more, but Woo doesn't add more. “Who are you?” LJ asks. Tony tells LJ that he was terrified of him. He also has nothing for Woo. Kass wants to know why, having taken Tony's power, he didn't cut the head off the dragon and make the million dollar move. Woo explains that he's trying to be honorable. “We're all deserving, Kass, but between the two of you, I didn't feel that you deserved to sit here next to me, but Tony did,” Woo says. Awesome. Trish asks Woo whose idea it was to vote her out and Woo owns that and calls her a sweetheart. Trish tells Tony he's there because of the work she did on his behalf. She's pissed that Tony swore on his father's grave, referencing the sanctity of the death of her two brothers. “Was it worth it to you, for a million dollars, do sacrifice your own father to get you here?” she asks. Ouch. She's PISSED. And she's tearing Tony to pieces and the Jury is buying it. Trish may be handing Woo a million bucks here, if he didn't have it already. “Yes,” is Tony's honest answer. Wow. Tough moment. Good moment. Kass pats Trish on the back. That's insane. Trish just won Kass over. Spencer compares Woo to a dog and calls Kass “one of the biggest goats in 'Survivor' history.” He asks Woo to dispute the analogy. Woo asks if, as a student of the game, Spencer could have respected him taking a goat. “Yes,” Spencer replies. “I wanted to take someone who deserved to go,” Woo says. Spencer decides not to ask Tony anything and makes a much, much, much better case for Tony than Tony made for himself at any point. “Tony played with a ferocity that this game very rarely does see,” Spencer tells the Jury, urging them to vote for Tony.
The Final Vote. Spencer writers Tony's name down. Tasha writes Woo's name, without explanation. And that's all we saw. Probst takes the votes and wanders off to the live show. Of course, because we saw the live stuff earlier, the illusion that Probst walked all the way from the Island to the live show is shattered. Probst tallies: Tony. Woo. Tony. Tony. Tony. TONY. The winner of “Survivor: Cagayan” is Tony, who I suspect owes Spencer a bit of money.
Bottom Line, Part I. Apparently the vote was 8-1, which means Tasha was the only vote for Woo? So either Spencer swayed a lot of bitter people, or it was a Jury that just had some venting to do, but ultimately couldn't be convinced that “honor” was worth more than “actually playing 'Survivor.'” Woo was trying to be Fabio, but he didn't play a Fabio game. Fabio would have been targeted early on, slipped through a few times and then went on an Immunity run when he would have been targeted multiple times. Woo did win the last Immunity, but he won it in a circumstance in which he probably wasn't going to be anybody's target and so he got to make that key decision and… He made the wrong one. Ooops. I think Trish made a great point at Final Tribal about her importance to Tony's ride to victory, but Trish wasn't in the Bottom 2, so she doesn't matter so much. Trish handled people and Trish handled Tony, but Trish had to handle people and had to handle Tony because Tony was being paranoid and knocking out the powerful people he felt were a risk to him. Tony found three Idols and while the first was wasted, the threat of the second carried him a long way and the bluff with the Tyler Perry Idol was plausibly very effective. [It might not have mattered anyway, that bluff, but nobody doubted him and it appeared that there was no genuine effort to get him out in the Final 4 situation. So the bluff worked.] He was the dominant figure in the season and the most dynamic figure in the season and, when you look back, nobody's going to look back at this season and go, “Tony won? Who's Tony and how the heck did that happen?” There's ample value in that. And, as I keep saying, if you don't like Tony, this is also a win, because maybe we get Tony back in some enhanced All-Winners season or another Heroes vs. Villains, but this maybe puts a cap on how many times we get him back. Or maybe it doesn't. Tina won once, was useless a second time and came back and was weak a third time, so you can make lots of return appearances. Has anybody else won their first time and then made *two* subsequent appearances?
Bottom Line, Part II. That was as intriguing a Final Jury as I can remember, because normally when you have a Jury that's that bitter, they go against source of that bitterness. You saw Jeremiah. You saw and heard Trish. You saw LJ and Jefra. If, indeed, the final vote was 8-1, then all four of those people voted for Tony. That's remarkable. If you go back and look at my exit interview with Tasha, she basically told me why she voted for Woo and I guess I understand that. But it was still remarkable to see so many people choose a guy they actively disliked over a guy who talked about integrity, honor and his sick mother. If Spencer had a time machine, I almost suspect he would skip going back to assassinate Hitler in favor of going back and stopping the “Samoa” Jury from voting for Natalie. [I should now invoke Godwin's Law on myself and stop this recap.] Anyway… That was a fun Jury, right down to Morgan taking the opportunity to talk about her boobs.
Bottom Line, Part III. That was a solid final episode. I could have done without all of the live stuff other than Parvati, but I liked the effectiveness of the last-second Loved Ones visit, I liked both of the concluding Immunity Challenges, I liked Spencer's correct anticipation of the Final 2 even if it didn't help him, I liked both Kass' shocking Immunity comeback and then the near miss on the last Immunity. The funny thing is that I'm pretty sure Kass' was going to lose with that Jury regardless, so by winning Immunity, Woo lost himself a million bucks. That's even funnier than the idea that his taking Tony over Kass cost him the million, which it did. He truly lost by winning. And I was still disappointed that Spencer lost. At a Jury, I assume he would have shut out Kass or Woo and I assume he would have beaten Tony 8-1, probably. Does that sound right?
Bottom Line, Part IV. That was a good season of “Survivor.” I've said all along that it was a season of people making big moves that weren't always smart moves, but that's kinda what Probst meant when he said that everybody came out to play. So you had Tony dominating on paranoia, Hidden Idols and opportunistic backstabbing after appearing several times to be in trouble, never obfuscating or concealing his power position in the slightest and never being an Immunity Challenge threat for a second. I'm not sure we've seen a winning run quite like what Tony did this season. You had Kass making a big move that got her to the Final 3, which is great except that she broke off from a three-person alliance when she made the move and she never realized how toxic the vibes towards her were. Do you give credence to Kass' claim that if she's been a guy, nobody would have hated her so much? I don't. A guy couldn't have flipped at the same time as Kass, made absolutely no effort to create new social alliances, barely made any other moves in the home stretch and then hoped to win either. Guy Kass still loses to Tony and to Spencer. I think Guy Kass might, however, beat Woo. Maybe. You had all of the drama that Trish brought. You had Tasha's likability and challenge strength. You had Spencer's smart, analytical game, which also featured a slew of big Immunity wins. You had the crazy early drama with the Brains. You had the post-Shuffle drama with Cliff and then Lindsey quitting. Given how illogical and only-semi-effective the Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty twist eventually was, the season rounded into shape very well.
What'd you think of the finale? What'd you think of the results? And what'd you think of Cagayan?