TV Recap

Puppet Master and Commander

On the season finale of ''Survivor: Cook Islands,'' the crafty Yul beats the powerful Ozzy -- and, oh yeah, Becky -- in the series' first three-way final vote

Yul Kwon, Survivor: Cook Islands | STRING THEORY Yul's subtle manipulation paid off
STRING THEORY Yul's subtle manipulation paid off

The ''Survivor'' season finale: We have a winner!

Respect is due to the ultimate winner of Survivor: Cook Islands! Who, Yul? Hell no, I'm talking about myself! Look, when you have a track record as dirt-poor as mine in terms of Survivor prognosticating, and you pick the winner before the game even starts, well, you have to bask in the glory for as long as you can — which, it turns out, is until the end of this sentence.

Let's talk about Yul. He won, and as I've been saying all season, he deserves it. He controlled the game when he was down and up in numbers. And he stunningly was able to pull off all these moves without really pissing anyone off, which was Boston Rob's downfall on All-Stars. All that said, I couldn't have raised much of a ruckus had Ozzy taken home the title. The guy was just plain sick in terms of both providing food and dominating challenges. Together, Yul and Ozzy made for the strongest final two (let's not even discuss Becky — at least not yet) ever. Yes, even stronger than Tina and Colby.

So how did this last episode go down? Well, it started with Adam discussing his main worry in the game — that he no longer had any hot chicks to cuddle with. We then moved on to quite possibly the most insane challenge in Survivor history — at least since that wacky Vanuatu vertical maze. Ozzy was in last place...for about 10 seconds, and that was only because he did the hardest part first.

Adam, knowing he was on the chopping block after Ozzy won immunity, declined to go gently into that good night, trying to get Ozzy and Sundra to at least force Yul to use the hidden immunity idol. It wouldn't have helped Adam — he still would have been voted out — but it almost certainly would have handed Ozzy the million dollars. (Ozzy's failure to seize this opportunity is just another example of why I still feel Yul gets the nod as the more deserving all-around Survivor player. And why no way in hell did Ozzy deserve to win that car as the ''most clever Survivor player.'')

Both Adam and Jeff Probst tried to stir things up at tribal challenge by talking about forcing use of the idol, although I was a bit distracted during all that trying to figure out why Nate was limping and using a cane. I wondered if he possibly injured it trying to shove his foot halfway up Jonathan's...zzzzzzzzzz...zzzzzzzzz...Huh? What's that? Oh, sorry. I must've fallen asleep during the boring as hell ''fallen comrades'' montage. This is always pretty much the low-point of every Survivor season, where contestants act as if people they have barely met were now dead. The only good thing about it is that it inevitably leads to the final immunity challenge. Making sure that Yul couldn't bust out any theories about elephants climbing trees (and also to fend off any criticism like at the final Exile Island endurance challenge, when the significantly lighter Danielle was able to stay on her float longer than Terry and Aras), Probst informed the contestants that the perches they had to stand on were proportioned to their individual foot sizes.

That challenge looked difficult. I imagine it wasn't made any easier by glancing off to the right and seeing Probst chillin' in a chair under a big umbrella. I kept expecting to catch the host getting a rubdown and having half-naked women feed him grapes. Of course, Ozzy eventually won, and then the big drama became whether or not Yul would give Becky the hidden immunity idol. He offered to (which I thought was not his smartest move, potentially losing him at least one jury vote — Sundra would have felt deceived), but in the end it came down to a fire-making tiebreaker, and one of the most hilariously pathetic displays of Survivor skills ever. For a full hour, Becky and Sundra were unable to make fire with flint, leading to disapproving stares from Probst and from the jury members, some of whom were literally falling asleep. Finally, Probst supplied them both with matches, and they still couldn't light it! Sundra eventually ran out of matches, Becky eventually burned through her rope, and the jury barely had the energy — or courtesy — to applaud.

That meant Becky would be in the final three, but if she thought she had any sort of chance of getting even a single vote before, it was clearly snuffed after that embarrassing performance. Jonathan even laughed at her at the final tribal council when she tried to talk about what a great social game she played. Look, unlike some, I'm not a Becky basher. I think she strategized more than we saw. But still, no way was she in Yul or Ozzy's class. The only downside of having two great, likable players in the finals was that the last tribal council — as well as the reunion show after — turned into something of a love-in. There were a few moments, of course. Becky somewhat sold Yul out by mentioning that he had indeed offered her the hidden immunity idol, Adam accused people of being ''boring'' for approximately the 18,000th time, and Ozzy made the comedic comment that he wanted to be a positive role model ''for any little kid out there,'' although the last time I checked, dudes who appear having sex with two different women on the Playboy Channel tend to make curious role models. And then there was the fact that once on the jury, Sundra magically morphed into some sort of superhottie.

It came down to a 5-4 vote. Unfortunately, with the exception of Jonathan and Parvati (whose votes were shown), as well as Adam, who, like a complete moron, sold his vote for a few more days on the island, we were never told who voted for whom. That was just one problem with the reunion show. The other was that there were no fireworks whatsoever. And don't even get me started on Sekou's ''Survivor'' song, which sounded like an only slightly less lame version of Lionel Richie's ''All Night Long.'' Oh well, I can't complain too much. It ended up being a great season with a great winner. And now I can get back to hyping contestants who will inevitably get knocked out in week 3. Thanks to everyone for playing along all season. Off to Fiji we go!

What do you think? Who deserved to win — Yul or Ozzy? How would you rate Yul against past winners? And do you feel bad for Becky for not getting even one vote?

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Originally posted Dec 18, 2006
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