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And here we are! It’s officially the finale of the 28th season of Survivor. Cagayan, otherwise known as Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty or whatever, has been a very well received season. Big personalities like Tony, Kass, and Spencer have dominated the season. Old school challenge beasts like Tasha have kept our eyes on screens. There’ve been more blindsides than I can recently remember and several players tagged to win (L.J., Sarah) have gone out early in the jury process. Survivor hasn’t had a stinker of a season in two years, and if anything Cagayan has restored my faith in the CBS casting department. This blend of personalities has been fantastic. Now let’s discuss the episode.
The episode opens with Tony discussing his “special idol.” Even though the idol needed to be used last week, Tony has bluffed that it is still in play. Kass has been a bit suspicious, but Tony continues to play it up like the special idol will keep him safe at the next vote. To his credit, Tony keeps up the lie fairly well. Then, the contestants are shocked when loved ones appear in a boat on the horizon. Kass gets to reunite with her husband, Woo with his cousin, Tony with his best friend, and Spencer with his sister. I didn’t think there would be a loved ones challenge this episode (and was quite happy about that) but this was handled in the best way possible.
The Final Four Immunity Challenge puts the final four on top of poles, where they must use buckets to drag water to a perch and then dump the water to lift a key to their individual platforms. They must use the key to unlock puzzle pieces and solve a classic Survivor puzzle. Tony gets off to a quick start, reaching his puzzle pieces on the beach first. Spencer isn’t far behind him. Woo reaches third, and Kass struggles with the water portion of the challenge. To her credit, Kass stays calm under pressure (I have to give her credit for this actually) until she is able to reach her key. She then solves the puzzle, winning the Immunity Challenge in a huge comeback/upset.
At the first Tribal Council of the night, Spencer pleads his case. As it turns out, Survivor: Cagayan will be a Final 2 format, the first in quite some time. Spencer reckons that if he is voted out, Tony has less of a shot to make it to Final 2. Kass and Woo would both be smart to vote Tony out at the next vote. Tony’s bluff about his “special idol” works as no one casts a vote for him. Spencer has a shot to stay in the game, but Tony, however, still decides to vote him out, and a dejected Spencer leaves the game. A true fan, Spencer became a Survivor favorite among many this season. I imagine he’ll be back on a future season. Kass, Woo, and Tony are now the Final 3, and we will have one more Immunity Challenge to determine who gets to plead their case for the million-dollar prize.
The final challenge of the season is a Survivor staple – the puzzle maze. The show has used the puzzle maze to determine the finale for years. I still have vivid memories of Jenna Morasca winning her challenge and voting out Butch on Survivor: The Amazon. Throughout the challenge, Tony and Woo stick close together. Woo is more than likely staying by Tony to slow him down as a strategy. Kass is off doing her own thing, and she gets off to a very quick start. Eventually the three end up pretty close together, however. Kass is the last to start the puzzle portion of the challenge, but quickly catches up to Woo. Kass, however, runs out of challenge luck as Woo solves the puzzle first. At the final Tribal Council, Woo surprisingly chooses to take Tony with him to the final two, reasoning that bringing Tony along will be seen as his big move of the season, as well as being the “honorable” thing to do. Kass is stunned.
At Final Tribal Council, Tony takes a beating from the jury. Kass, Tasha, L.J., Jefra, and especially Trish berate him for the decisions he made throughout the game. Tony played strategically, but he also alienated his core alliance. Sarah is upset with him because they are both police officers. Jeremiah is upset with Tony because where Jeremiah comes from (the south, I guess?) people apparently don’t lie to each other something. Trish is incredibly emotional, claiming that Tony’s lies aren’t worth even one hundred million dollars. Woo gets a lot of praise from the jury because of his inoffensive game and his decision to take Tony with him. It is only Spencer who takes up Tony’s defense, calling his gameplay out as being incredibly good for the game of Survivor. Tony appears relieved at Spencer’s words. The jury then goes for their final votes of the season.
When Probst reads the votes, live in LA, at the beginning of the reunion show (which I largely won’t cover except the vote), I really expected Woo to garner a few more votes. Tribal Council seemed extremely against Tony for the most part, with only Spencer really standing up for him. Maybe Spencer’s words held sway or maybe the jury recognized that Tony really played a good game despite burning bridges, but Tony decimated Woo, winning the vote 8 to 1, with only Tasha voting for Woo to win the million dollar prize. The most striking thing about the Reunion Show is that Tony seems to have totally made up with everyone in the game with the exception of Sarah, who still seems bitter about what went down on the island. I was really glad to see that Tony and Trish are still friends, as their relationship really led to a lot of entertaining scenes this season. Survivor: Cagayan was a really good season, and I hope that casting for next fall’s season 29 will be this good.