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Monday December 17, 2007 3:10 am

Survivor China Finale: “A Slippery Little Sucker”

Survivor China Cast

With Peih-gee out, we were now left with four members of the original Fei Long tribe: Courtney, Denise, Todd and Amanda.  While it could be argued that three of them fought hard to remain in the game, Courtney admittedly “slipped through the cracks to get to the top.”

On Day 37, the starving survivors got their next piece of tree mail; it alluded to a food prize at the end of their next Reward Challenge.  Since energy was now more important than ever, they were all desperate to snag this important win.

For a feast consisting of pizza, brownies, beer and soda, the competitors had to work with a miniaturized Great Wall of China.  Starting on top of the wall, the challengers had to first race down a ladder and run across a bridge.  At a second bridge, they had to place planks down an unfinished walkway before going over it.  Once they had reached the end of the course, they then had to load puzzle blocks into a traditional Chinese yoke and bring them back to the start.  After retrieving all their blocks, the opponents then had to figure out how the puzzle pieces fit into their section of the wall.

Todd chose to bypass most of the ladder and jump to the ground.  This strategic move gave him a slight early lead.  The planks phase then tripped up Courtney and Denise; they were still working on their bridge by the time Todd and Amanda had secured all their blocks.  Fortunately, the waitress and the lunch lady were able to make up some ground while the first two were still trying to decipher their puzzle.  Although Todd had a slight advantage over the hiking guide going into the final section of the challenge, he once again bungled another lead.  Amanda ended up scoring the yummy win.

Although Jeff initially told them the food was meant for one person, he gave Amanda the option to share her prize with up to two more people.  Believing she needed to do a status check on Todd, she chose him, and only him, to dine with her.  Amanda then used the one-on-one opportunity to call him out.  She outright told Todd she was starting to distrust him.  Even though he swore up and down they were going to the finals together, she didn’t completely buy it.

For the last Immunity Challenge, the survivors had to test their ability to ‘eliminate all distractions and focus solely on the task at hand.’  They had to steady a long, wobbly balancing arm while simultaneously stacking porcelain dishes on top it.  The last person to topple their stack would win immunity.  After 27+ minutes in the horrendous heat, a sweaty Todd was the first to go out.  Courtney (who was probably holding up more weight with her arm than she weighed overall) was the next to exit.  Thanks to some strategic stacking on Amanda’s part, it eventually became quite clear that the lunch lady was not going to win.  Although Denise wanted to broker a deal, the hiking guide wasn’t interested.  Denise’s stack collapsed shortly thereafter giving Amanda her second immunity win in a row.

Despite being assured a place in the Final Three, Amanda felt extremely uncomfortable with her prime position.  The course of the game now rested on her final decision.  Although she liked and respected Denise, she didn’t want the jury to sympathize with her personal story. Regardless, Amanda for some reason assured Denise she wouldn’t be voting for her at Tribal Council.  Meanwhile, Todd and Courtney made it clear they intended to vote the lunch lady off next like originally planned.  The ‘schemer’ and the ‘tagalong’ felt it was in Amanda’s best interest to sit with them in front of the jury.

At Tribal Council that night, the lunch lady was served the cold, hard truth about assurances: they don’t mean a damn thing.  After denying she ever made any promises to Denise, Amanda followed up the awkward confrontation with a backstabbing veto.  Denise out.

On Day 39, the finalists were treated to a basket full of treats.  Since challenges were now a thing of the past, there were no more nutritional advantages.  After slamming down mimosas and pancakes, Courtney, Amanda and Todd burned a pile of items left around camp – including Jean-Robert’s $500 Louis Vuitton shoes.  It was now time for them to head into their last Tribal Council session.  Instead of the typical two, the jurors would now have three people to choose from.

As always, the remaining survivors were given the opportunity to make statements prior to their grueling Q&A session.  Amanda chose to use the innocent ‘I did my best and I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings’ route; Todd opted for the ‘It was all a game and I thank you for helping me get this far’ strategy; meanwhile, Courtney went with the ‘You have to applaud the skinny girl for making it this far’ approach.

When it came time for questioning, the jurors brought different levels of intensity to their time before the cameras.  James – not wanting to be a ‘bitter Betty’ – simply asked Courtney about her most memorable experience in the game.  Erik asked Amanda what she felt her riskiest move in the game was (answer: voting off James).  Jean-Robert wondered why Todd voted him off when James was the real threat (answer: because Todd believed Jean-Robert was actually his biggest competitor).  Meanwhile, Denise used the opportunity to accuse Amanda of being a horrible liar.

Once the votes were finally cast, the results were saved for the live reunion show.  Ironically, the ultimate winner was the person most people wanted to be on the jury with.  Although he was probably the most hated, his game play was also the most respected.  WINNER: TODD HERZOG.

(You can review last week’s episode here.)

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