Buckle up, “Survivor” fans… It’s time for the epic two-hour finale of “Survivor: Nicaragua,” which I like to think of as the last “Survivor” episode before we can move on to a new season and start over. Yay, “Survivor”!
Full, exhausting recap after the break…
Carve another notch in the old oak (or random tropical Nicaraguan) tree. Jeff Probst promises that the biggest surprises are yet to come. Surprise No. 1: No pre-credit sequence. I’m sure that’s normal for finales, but unlike Marilu Henner, I do not have Superior Autobiographic Memory. Anyway, we pick up on Day 37, with Dan carving another notch in a tree. It’s the most physical exertion he’s showed all season. Fabio’s goal is to break up the Holly/Sash/Chase alliance and he and Dan agree that Holly should be out next. “I’ll go out fighting, unless somebody else has a better plan,” Fabio warns Holly, vowing to be cool and not let on that he’s playing the game. Sash, meanwhile, continues to make promises with everybody available, though he agrees with Chase that Fabio is still next out, if he loses Immunity.
A trivial pursuit. Speak of the Immunity Devil, it’s time for another challenge. The rain pours as Jeff removes the Idol from Fabio’s neck. The challenge combines Nicaragua trivia with puzzle-making. It’d be hard to say who has the advantage under these circumstances. Everybody gets the first question right and everybody besides Fabio nails the second question, putting him in a deep hole. And Dan is way behind because Dan is always way behind. Jeff gives the first answer, educating the kids at home. Then he stops, because who really wants to know things about Nicaragua anyway? Sash gets out to a huge puzzle lead, but Fabio starts a comeback, pushing ahead of Holly and Chase, who dropped a piece and can’t figure out why his puzzle won’t go together. IT’S FABIO! Huzzah! The Comeback Kid. “I’m missing a piece,” whines Chase, before Fabio comes and helpfully shows him the error of his ways. Holly knows that a monkey wrench has been thrown into their plan, but she still plans on an easy vote against Dan.
Dan on the run. Guess what? It’s raining again. I’m talking about in Los Angeles, out my window. But I guess it’s also raining in Nicaragua. “It was awesome, man,” Immune Fabio laughs, explaining that he always knew he was going to wait til the last minute before getting aggressive. He wants Holly out first, but Chase refuses to believe that Holly is a bigger threat than Dan. Or that’s what he tells Fabio. Chase admits to the camera that Holly’s a bigger threat, but Holly’s his ally. Just like Shannon. And Brenda. And Jane. For the first time all season, Dan has to scurry and strategize. He paints himself as the guy who can’t win because of his money and points out that Small Town Gal Holly would be harder to beat. Fabio, playing Dan’s Advocate, knows that only Sash is sway-able. Sash is willing to hear some of the logic, knowing Holly would be positioned to get votes from women and also old people on the Jury. Holly suspects that Dan and Fabio are lobbying against her, but she’s determined to trust in her alliance.
Tribal Council No. 1. Fabio explains to Probst that tonight’s vote should be about who the biggest threats are. Dan agrees that he should be taken to the end because nobody will give him a million dollars, not that he’d turn down the money. Holly denies that she’s a threat and makes light of Dan’s “She’s from a town of 11,000 people” argument. “They over there know that my mind is always turning,” Chase says. Does he mean “turning” or “flip-flopping” or “caving”? Probst warns Fabio that voting the wrong person out is potentially a million dollar mistake. Fabio calls Holly “a pretty cool lady.” Will he vote the pretty cool lady out of the game?
Vote No. 1. We don’t see how anybody voted, so let’s hear Probst read them: Dan. Dan. That’s it, right? A random, wasted vote on Chase. Dan is voted out. I hope Fabio knows what he’s doing. We’re down to the Final Four. Dan’s last vote was for Chase, to show his contempt. He also has harsh words for shoe-stealing Holly. Bye, Dan.
The lies before the storm. No rain! In Nicaragua. It’s still raining in LA. It’s back to camp for the Final Four. They all agree it’s a pretty huge deal. Fabio knows the only way he’s going to feel secure the next night is if he has Immunity, but around the fire, Fabio gets Sash and Chase to agree that they’ll be in the Final Three. Sash nods politely with Fabio’s plan, but tells us that he has deals with everybody to Final Three and Fabio is the biggest threat. Holly and Chase also agree that Fabio’s next, unless he wins. But Holly and Chase are prepared to turn on Sash if Fabio wins. “I don’t like the lying part,” Chase says, simultaneously lying to Fabio. It may actually be true that Chase doesn’t like lying. He may just be too spineless to tell the truth. The last Tree-Mail includes a sword and a lengthy message instructing them to collect the shields from their fallen comrades as part of the season’s Necrology (or “Rites of Passage,” if you happen to care). Holly feels the responsibility to represent for her departed Ancients.
Rites of Passage. Excuse me, but I’m gonna go watch the Patriots for five minutes. Even Holly, Sash, Chase and Fabio can’t muster enthusiasm for most of these people. I enjoy the ten seconds of of Purple Kelly Bikini Footage, since they didn’t have any footage from her achievements in the game. Mostly, I only remember these people because I interviewed all of them, with the exception of Jimmy Johnson. Burn, baby, burn!
Like Jenga, only played on the handle of a sword. Final Immunity Challenge! Probst takes the Idol from Fabio and sets the stage: They’ll be balancing a sword on a shield, while also stacking coins atop the sword. Uh-oh. Fabio’s coin-stack is precarious and he doesn’t seem to understand that you can straighten your pile. Holly goes out first. Then Chase goes down. It’s only Sash and Fabio remaining. Fabio’s stack is amazingly unsteady. I can hardly breath. Fix it, Fabio! Fix it! He doesn’t! Does he not understand? Sash’s stack looks so steady. But Sash misplays a coin. It’s that simple. His money goes falling to the ground and Fabio wins his third consecutive Immunity with his head on the block. HUZZAH!
Time for Sash, Holly and Chase to devour each other. “I’m lovin’ this, man,” gloats Fabio with his wind-swept hair. “It’s gonna be fun watching them sweat on this one,” Fabio laughs. Sash is feeling cocky, but Fabio just smiles and assures him that he hasn’t made up his mind. “Right now, I’m as desperate as I’ve been the entire game,” Sash admits, promising Fabio that he’ll vote however Fabio votes and insisting that even he’s have kept Fabio even if he’d lost Immunity. Lies! Sash’s preference appears to be voting Chase out, which pisses Chase off. Chase the Flip-Flopper calls Sash a snake. Fabio, sitting on a tree-trunk throne, compares everybody to cockroaches. Chase, to his credit, admits he’d have voted Fabio out if he didn’t win Immunity. Holly follows suit, leading with honesty and then warning Fabio that Sash has played a good game. Given his druthers, Fabio wouldn’t take either Chase or Sash. He respects Holly’s game, but worries about her potential to get votes. This is actually a really tough choice for Fabio. Personally, I think I’d want to go with Chase and Holly, but I may be misjudging Sash’s snake-y appeal.
Tribal Council No. 2. Dan was pleased to rediscover hair products. And Fabio is all aglow. At Jeff’s prodding, Fabio laughs his way through the individual arguments made to him by the other three. Seeing the jury’s response to Sash’s deceit makes me feel like maybe he should be taken. “The truth is, Jeff, I’ve had many alliances with many different people in this game,” Sash confesses and then says “I believe I would have,” when Fabio asks again about taking him to the Final Three. It’s pretty obvious nobody on the Jury likes Sash. OK. I take it back. I’m taking Chase and Sash to the Finals. Last please to Fabio: Sash says he’s been the most honest. Chase says he’s been most honest. “Yeah, you were pretty honest at the last second,” Fabio cracks. And Holly also claims to have been the most honest. Sigh. This is hard.
Vote No. 2. Probst is gonna go tally the votes: Sash. Holly. Holly. Farewell to Holly. I really think that was the right move by Fabio. Or I hope it was. Looking at the Jury, Fabio hasn’t made a single enemy. And yes, Chase wrote Holly’s name down. He really has written down the names of more professed allies than any contestant I can remember at this stage in the game. He’s stabbed just about everybody in the back, while pouting and looking regretful the whole time. I just hope he doesn’t have random and residual sympathies from people on the Jury. Sadly, I fear he may. I’m rooting for Fabio, but I’d even accept Snake Sash instead.
Wingmen. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a 10 right now,” Fabio grins. He’s proud of pitting Sash against Chase at Tribal Council, planting the seed for his Jury speech. But Chase promises guns will be blazing the next day. Chase is still cocky, but Sash knows how bad he looked at Tribal Council. He still doesn’t think Fabio or Chase deserved to be in the Final Three, but he refers to the guys as his “wingmen” over the fire.
Pancakes labyrinth. The next morning arrives. It’s Day 39 and, out of nowhere, champagne and pancakes appear. “We’re best of friends and worst of enemies,” an energized Sash announces. But with a full belly, Chase is trying to figure out his angle to win the million. His strategy: Get Fabio over-confident. For his part, Fabio vows to go into Tribal Council swinging. Sash’s plan is to be 100 percent truthful and put everything out on the table. Chase thinks of himself as the underdog and suggests that he had better relationships than Fabio and played a better game than Sash. They burn down their camp for the second time.
Opening Statements. Chase leads off. He asks them to bring on the questions, saying he’s looking forward to discussing his crazy game and his wishy-washy decisions. Fabio says that his strategy was to be himself and be an open book and then to assert himself. Fabio says he didn’t backstab anybody and that he deserves the million dollars. Sash says the friendships that he formed, he took more seriously than the alliances and that any broken alliances were just part of the game.
The Jury Speaks. NaOnka and Purple Kelly shouldn’t be allowed to talk. They can vote. Sure. Why not. They earned that. But Quitters shouldn’t get to be stand-offish at Jury. Just my opinion… OK. Let’s get started. Brenda is up first. She takes Sash on for making alliances and breaking them, but Sash interrupts, apologizes and says it’s all part of the game. Then Brenda, sounding sad, turns on Chase, but Chase blames Fabio and NaOnka. Sash says Chase could have stepped up, but Brenda’s all, “You could have stepped up, too!” Zing, Brenda! Marty asks Chase to give the Dumber Than a Bag of Hammers Award. Chase calls it a BS question and says that Marty deserves it. Yikes. Awkward. Marty then says nice things to Sash and Fabio. At Holly’s prodding, Chase says his biggest move was voting Shannon out. Holly asks Fabio if winning those last challenges was “Too little too late.” “I think it was right on time,” Fabio says. Sash agreeably tells Holly that he did, indeed, lie to her. Jane calls Sash “A New York City River Rat.” Chase tells Jane that $100,000 is going to cancer research and then he’s going to take care of his mother. Fabio jumps in and says that he also wants to help his parents, not that Jane cared. Benry doesn’t wanna hear from Chase and gets a dull answer of some sort from Sash. Dan calls Sash a liar and a phony and calls him “spineless.” Then Dan accuses Chase of paranoia and says he backstabbed everybody. “This is ‘Survivor,’ Dan,” Chase says. Dan responds, “Beauty fades, dumb is forever.” Purple Kelly gives Sash 60 seconds to say how he outwitted all of them. That was a very nice present from Purple Kelly, who giggles and calls him awesome. LORD. Why was she allowed to talk? NaOnka asks Fabio if seeing his mother was gasoline to his fire. Fabio cries as he remembers seeing her. Are these million dollar tears? It sure looks like that. Brenda and Benry are both wiping off tears. BRILLIANT, Fabio. [At least neither Purple Kelly nor NaOnka showed any hostility or indignation.] Alina says she doesn’t want to give a million dollars to a boy (Fabio), she wants to give it to a man. Sash makes a good play in saying that on votes, Fabio was the last to know and Chase was wishy-washy. “It wasn’t wishy-washy. It was me making myself a way out,” Chase protests, strongly. “He won three in a row to get here, but this isn’t the NBA Finals,” Chase says of Fabio. Hmmm… Easy-going Fabio plays well. Strong and determined and “I knew more than you think” Fabio? Not-so-much. There are gonna be people who vote on “outwitting” and those people can’t vote for Fabio.
The Final Vote. Let’s see whose votes we get to see. Marty calls Chase dumb and Sash a weasel, voting for Fabio. Alina writes Chase’s name down, saying she was impressed by him tonight. Boo, Alina. Dan is Team Fabio. Brenda writes Chase’s name. Oh COME ON. And that’s all we see. Looks like it’s a two-horse race. Sorry, Sash.
The Reading of the Votes. Jeff leaves Tribal Council in Nicaragua and marches off into the jungle and shows up in Los Angeles. Crazy. Let’s get to the vote: Fabio. Chase. Fabio. [The crowd is much more on Fabio’s side.] Chase. Chase. Fabio. Fabio. THE WINNER IS… FABIO!!!! Or, maybe… JUD! YAY!
Bottom Line: This was the only result that could possibly have made me happy, so I’m very pleased. Or maybe I’m just relieved. It doesn’t salvage the season or anything, but kudos to Fabio. One thing worth noting: I think there’s a very reasonable argument to be made that Chase was a more appealing candidate to players who were there and didn’t see all of his spineless caving and waffling and who only caught bits and pieces of it in-action. I can’t imagine Chase gets four votes if the Jury could have watched the whole season. In the end, Fabio deserved to win, because even if he didn’t outwit anybody, he certainly outplayed and outlasted everyone, especially when it counted. I’ve never loved the floating strategy, but Fabio didn’t even float. He glided. And when he needed to perform, he did. He also made the right choice on who to take with him to the Final Three, which is as important as anything. Meanwhile, Sash managed to play his version of the game mighty poorly. He definitely played the most vicious strategic game of any member of the Final Three, but he managed to make people hate him in a way that even folks like Russell didn’t do. Sash didn’t deserve any votes and didn’t get any. So yeah. The finale didn’t save the season, but it featured acompetitive Jury vote, a couple interesting choices and, in my opinion, the best available option ended up winning.
What’d you think? Team Fabio? Or should one of the other two have picked up the Jury votes? Where does this season rank for you in “Survivor” history? Any questions you wanna make sure I ask the Top 5 tomorrow?