Quick Take: Survivor: South Pacific, "Loyalties Will Be Broken"
Albert, Sophie, Rick, Coach, Ozzy, and Brandon entered the two-hour finale with a shot to the million bucks. But only one could claim the title of Sole Survivor.
Review: Survivor: South Pacific, "Loyalties Will Be Broken"
(S2315) Survivor has now completed its 23rd season and the model still works pretty well, even with all of its quirks. As with all reality shows, the magic is in the right format combined with consistently strong casting.
On that basis, I believe it was smart that Survivor has sprinkled "all stars," returning Survivor vets, into the mix of new contestants a few times now. And just as Boston Rob Mariano's skill and charisma helped to make Survivor: Redemption Island entertaining and compelling, Coach's and Ozzy's presence right through to the end made this season yet another success.
So what actually went down at the end then, eh?
In the final Redemption Island duel, Ozzy beat out Brandon in a grueling test to hang onto a wooden pole with tiny footholds. Ozzy proved yet again that he's one of the best physical challengers to ever play the game… and he would later come thisclose to winning straight through to the finals in the last immunity challenge. Had he done so, we know in retrospect that he very likely would have had close to a sweep of the jury vote and with it a similarly triumphant third time's the charm win as Boston Rob did a few seasons back.
Instead, after non-strategic player Rick got the boot, the four remaining players competed in a challenge involving a ring-shaped obstacle course with five "stations" holding puzzle pieces. Kudos to the Survivor crew for making the final challenge (for once) a bit different and memorable. Ozzy opened up a large lead but could not figure out the final puzzle quickly (unlike Boston Rob, who had almost supernatural powers involving puzzle challenges), allowing Sophie to come back and win.
Enter the strategy for the final elimination vote, which the editors did their level best to infuse with drama. Sophie and Albert think voting Ozzy "the dragon" off (as Coach has labeled Sophie as the new dragon slayer) is the easy decision, but Coach seems to be genuinely conflicted. He has given his word to multiple alliances (so there goes his "honor"), but Ozzy presses him to seek the true challenge of "warriors" he claims to have wanted by setting up a tribal showdown in which Ozzy and Albert tie in the vote.
Cut to a fairly uneventful final tribal council, where Coach makes the wise decision to send Ozzy to the jury. I did enjoy Albert's quip with regard to partaking in a fire-making challenge with Ozzy: while he knows how to make a fire, it's one thing to know how to drive, another to beat Jeff Gordon in an auto race.
And we're left with Sophie, Coach, and Albert. It's a final trio that spoke more to an early alliance remaining cohesive more than anything else (though there were plenty of side alliances that were broken along the way). The final three were significant for not including a dominant player a la Boston Rob (or even a Russell Hantz character). Coach is certainly a historic "character" and gave a pretty solid opening speech to the jury about playing the game with a degree of integrity and "opening up" to people, while Albert came off as a pander bear, as they say in politics.
During jury questions, Coach received a barrage of attacks for his use of the honor card and religion (this season could have easily been dubbed Survivor: Prayer Island), and eventually broke down a bit. I thought his defense of his actions – he never was a very good strategic player, and his ambition to win the game caused him to break his word multiple times – was one of the more revealing and interesting moments in any jury questioning sequence I've seen.
Additionally, Edna said the thing that I think nearly every time someone complains about being lied to on Survivor: that is one of the chief elements of the game, so it's preposterous to be righteously upset when it happens to you.
Back in Los Angeles for the reveal of the jury vote, Sophie wins on a vote of what we assume to be 6-3, with Coach getting three and Albert zero. It wasn't a particularly exciting moment in that she sort of deserved it based on a not terribly sterling panel of finalists, and Sophie admitted herself that she's not a particularly charismatic person who tends to run people the wrong way,
Meanwhile, Survivor: One World was previewed, which will introduce a twist in which both tribes will live together from the jump. It premieres in February, 2012.
More thoughts on the Survivor: South Pacific finale: