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The first hour of any Survivor season finale is usually fairly predictable, but tonight’s featured a medevac from the game, which may have been the first Final Five medevac in Survivor history. Immediately following an emotional Brenda boot (last Wednesday’s episode), Erik faints and nearly passes out on the way back to camp. His blood pressure drops extremely low, and paramedics start an IV to stabilize him. Under doctor’s orders, Erik must be pulled from the game, having survived 37 days on the island. The doctor explains that Erik’s body has entered a starvation mode, and that he cannot in good conscience allow Erik to continue to play the game. The other players, including an emotional Cochran, say their goodbyes as Erik is taken away by ambulance (perhaps another Survivor first).
Back on the beach, the castaways wonder what to do next. With Erik out of the game, the next challenge is pretty wide open. The now Final Four hope the next challenge will be for food, but they come to find out that what they’re playing for is actually a clue – a clue to the final Immunity Challenge of the season. The reward challenge consists of a balance bar, held by hand, wherein the contestants must build a house of cards high enough to reach a certain point. If they drop the balance bar, their house will come crashing down. Though it looks like Eddie has it won, his house collapses. Sherri then seems to be in control, but her house crashes as well. Eventually, Cochran wins the challenge, despite losing his house two or three times. No one excels particularly at this challenge, so Cochran is left to reap the rewards.
Back at the beach, Dawn wants to solidify her alliance with Cochran. Eddie wants a Final Three guarantee, which Cochran obliges, keeping his options open. He is largely considering cutting Dawn and moving on without her. We really only know that Sherri, the ultimate goat in the game, is safe. Still though, Cochran hasn’t even won the upcoming challenge. Eddie figures maybe he has a shot if it’s a physical game, but Eddie also hasn’t been that competitive in any challenge this whole season. Dawn ends up being an actual bigger threat in the final Immunity Challenge, which is a puzzle made to resemble fire. Cochran’s clue does allow him to pull off the victory, but Dawn came awful close to the upset.
At the final tribal council, Cochran votes for Eddie, and Eddie is removed from the game. Bye bye, Eddie – you were not a savvy player, but you were quite funny, and not always intentionally so. Dawn is relieved that Cochran didn’t vote her out, though she should have realized he was never going to. The Final Three – Dawn, Cochran, and Sherri – enjoy the typical day 39 breakfast, and Cochran explains to Sherri what a pawn is (a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps). Only the final tribal council remains, wherein the jury will decide who will win the million dollar prize. Going in, Cochran is pretty confident he can pull off the victory. For some reason, even Sherri thinks she has a chance.
I was not expecting a particularly bitter jury. Cochran played an amazing game, so I didn’t think he’d face much negativity. Sherri was a nonentity, dragged to the final three solely because the others saw her as a goat. Dawn played a cutthroat game, but she was playing with returning players mostly. Had this been a non-returning player season, she probably would have faced more criticism. I liked Reynold’s “question” for Dawn, wherein he asked her to give her genuine opinion of him. I liked Eddie and Malcolm’s questions for Cochran, who answered them masterfully. I didn’t know that Erik was attempting to do with Sherri, but her defensive reaction and put-down of Erik at least added some liveliness to the event. Andrea was not bitter at all about her ousting, and came off elegant and graceful. Phillip entertained as well. The biggest question mark came in the form of Brenda, who demanded that Dawn remove her dentures and show off her broken teeth (a callback to an event that had taken place earlier in the season). I’m not sure what point Brenda was trying to make, and I don’t think her request of Dawn was particularly mature.
In the end, Cochran took home a unanimous victory. Dawn and Sherri couldn’t even muster up one vote between them. I was not surprised at all that Cochran won, but I did think maybe Malcolm or Andrea would throw a vote towards Dawn, who played a good game on the whole if you discount her obnoxious crying and gnashing of teeth. Cochran now joins Earl and Yul as the game’s only unanimous winners. This was a pretty decent season I have to say. The first half was dominated by large personalities (Shamar, Brandon) with increasingly diminishing returns. Once the merge hit, the season improved exponentially, with some pretty memorable moments throughout. I would rank it as being slightly behind last season, Survivor: Philippines, mostly due to the pre-merge stuff. Still though, a great winner is a great winner, and Cochran’s transformation from nerdy law school kid to Survivor champion was great stuff.
Next time, on Survivor: The rumored family season, Blood vs. Water, is definitely happening. I can’t wait to see a finalized cast list. Join us here at the Culture Cast next September for an all new season of Survivor recaps!