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'Survivor: Redemption Island' Season 22, Episode 14 (Season Finale) Recap

by Jason Hughes, posted May 16th 2011 7:40AM
Jeff Probst, 'Survivor: Redemption Island' finale['Survivor: Redemption Island' - 'Seems Like a No Brainer']

Could "Boston Rob" Mariano pull off one of the most impressive victories in the history of 'Survivor'? Going into the finale, he looked poised to do just that. Of course, he still had to whittle down his Final Four, contend with whoever returned from Redemption Island and then convince the jury to not be bitter and reward his game play.

From Redemption, he faced the possibility of going up against Matt, who'd spent 29 days there, surviving every single duel up to this point. Mike was well-liked and had dominated even Matt since going there, while Andrea and Grant were members of his own alliance.

Still in the game was Ashley, who was actively looking to prevent Rob from even getting to that final Tribal Council. She faced an uphill battle trying to convince Natalie, who was loyal to a fault, and the always unpredictable Phillip. But, if the right person came back into the game, she could flip the game and send Rob packing.

Probably everyone was surprised when the final challenge at Redemption Island knocked out first Grant and then both Matt and Mike. Just like that, Andrea was back.

In a way it completely negated the accomplishments of Mike and Matt in notching up their impressive runs of victories on Redemption Island. In fact, the only thing Matt really accomplished really with his astonishing streak of ten victories out of eleven battles on Redemption was a spot on the Jury.

Andrea came back into the game and tried to make a move to get Rob out, but his hold on the surviving members of the Ometepe tribe was too strong. When Ashley won the goofy count-to-100 challenge, this was the time for the girls to unite and flip the game on its head.

It was also the time for me to wonder what the hell the producers of 'Survivor' were thinking. This is the best you can do for a Top Five Immunity Challenge? The balance beam was thick enough that only Phillip struggled and, in a puzzle-heavy season, this one was just counting? It's as if the real challenges were given to Redemption Island, where they ultimately didn't matter.

Back at camp, I was certain Natalie would be the tough one for Andrea to flip, but ultimately no one turned, confirming Rob's strange mental control over the tribe. He could have taken the Immunity Idol home as a souvenir after all, as he didn't need it.

Later, Natalie admitted the reason she and Ashley didn't flip at this point was because Rob had already admitted to them he had the Idol, so they knew it would only hurt their social game with him to throw pointless votes his way.

It didn't help that Andrea insulted Ashley and Natalie at that Tribal Council, saying that neither of them had any game or strategy thus far. They might not have voted her way, but 'Survivor' can get emotional, so you have to be careful how you word things to people you want to help you.

With Andrea eliminated right after her return, the complete and utter uselessness of Redemption Island was realized. Matt came back and was blindsided out again immediately. Andrea was back and out. All it did was take separate Reward Challenges away from the game, and cause producers to give more difficult and interesting challenges to Redemption people over the ones left in the game. They got puzzles.

Speaking of which ... surprise! The final Immunity Challenge involved collecting puzzle pieces and assembling a word puzzle, but when I saw it was a giant maze, I was certain they would at least blindfold the contestants. Make them work that much harder, maybe? But no.

Natalie performed as if she was blindfolded, Rob seemed to have little trouble, and Ashley simply followed him around. She wouldn't have been able to do that if they'd been blindfolded.

To make it interesting they could have had each station making sounds in succession to help the contestants find their way to them. This is supposed to be the hardest challenge yet as it's the one that guarantees you a spot in the Final Tribal Council, but it didn't seem as tough as most we've seen in prior seasons.

Rob is great at puzzles, so while Ashley made it interesting, she came up just short in the end. Rob stuck to his original plan of taking Natalie and Phillip with him to the Final Tribal Council, and Ashley was done.

When Phillip burned his pink underwear back at camp, I thought he was taking off his brilliant mask of craziness to start revealing to all of us just how genius his strategy was in getting Rob to take him into the finale by playing the villain.

He started talking about it a little bit during the Jury questioning, but couldn't stop himself from being belligerent and annoying, dooming his chances. If he'd been calm and cool in explaining how he'd duped them all when he saw that Rob was going to run this tribe with an iron fist he might have won some votes.

A lot of Jurists were still emotionally hurt, but inevitably it didn't matter. There was only one real choice, even if Ralph missed it. Natalie said her strategy was to do everything Rob said. Phillip said his strategy was to climb under Rob's wing. They both basically said Rob deserved to win.

Then David came out and said the same thing. I loved that he didn't even bother talking to the Final Three, instead arguing as a lawyer to the Jury why Rob was the only real choice for victor. All of his points were exactly right. These players all helped Rob be the only deserving winner and David wanted to make sure they at least ended their collectively terrible game by voting the right way.

You can argue that Rob won because of his experience and because Ometepe wasn't savvy enough to get rid of him at any point throughout the game. But that's not his fault. He dealt the hand that was given him and went on to win. Who's to say Russell might not have made his third straight finale if he'd been dealt Ometepe instead of Zapatera. Well, probably not but he'd have at least probably had a chance to go further.

Jeff Probst revealed that in the upcoming Season 23, two more people would be returning to the game for a second chance. Could it be someone like Matt, who really didn't get a chance to play 'Survivor' this time around, or even Mike? Maybe they'll reach farther back and grab some more all-stars. Or send Russell out yet again.

Hopefully, Redemption Island will prove to mean something in the next season. If not, it should probably just be retired as it's distracting from the main game. It could work in a normal 'Survivor' situation, but that wasn't this season. This one was so controlled by Rob that allegiances never shifted, which meant there was very little drama and no potential for upsets throughout the season.

This was the Rob Mariano show, and while it was an impressive display by the four-time castaway, I'm looking forward to a more traditional season of 'Survivor' with lots of unexpected twists and turns. Hopefully, 'Survivor: South Pacific' will deliver.

[Follow Jason on Twitter.]

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I'm glad the Rob show is over. After 4 tries at Survior, two tries at The Amazing Race, and who knows how many reality shows I don't watch, he won. Got a kick out of how he was doing this "to help his family," when his wife already won and the two have collected how much money on reality shows? But, good on him. He got on the right tribe and masterfully led the flock of sheep. Rob deserved to win. Now maybe Survivor can get back to new people .. but NO! More comeback players coming in September. Oh well ...

May 18 2011 at 4:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree - this was the "Rob Show" and is was very disappointing for me. I'm DEFINITEY not happy that they announced that once again two will be returning. It's just not fair, and I disagree with the theory. I agree with General Kenobi that I'd much rather they do a few seasons where all is fair, then bring back a whole show of all stars. It just didn't seem fair. And how did Natalie think, that just cause she's 19, which she kept repeating, and road on Rob's coattails that she deserved to win? What a dufus! Even at 19, she played a wimpy, woman embarrassing game. All the young women were embarrassing, and I'm embarrassed that they represented women in intelligence, cause they didn't have any!!! There were more than a few chances for them to band together and break Rob, but they were not wanting to stand out, they just wanted to follow his lead and let him win! So he did, and they all need to watch themselves with open eyes and change their fears of being a person with a brain. It was awful to watch and I hope they are sorry for their stupidity. I agreed with what Julie told Natalie that she mindlessly followed Rob and to not see how wrong that was made her pitiful.

May 16 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jana's comment
General Kenobi

I can answer that about Natalie... Seasons 22 and 20 are mirrors. In season 20 a castaway decides to form an all girl alliance which he can manipulate. He brings with him the girl he thinks he can most trust. It also happens to be the youngest person out there and her name is Natalie. In Season 22 the exact same thing happened as that... even down to Natalie (different Natalie, but still a Natalie)...

The big difference was two-fold. First, Russell was an ass that didn't care if he angered the jury on their way out. Rob specifically orchestrated every action to minimize resentment toward him. Notice how he would let the girls or Phillip engage Zapatera's members, but he never did? Were that Russell, he would've been the one to handle each situation, taking the blame and anger onto himself, letting the little girl with no experience, insight, or game slide by. The second difference was in the end. Russell's Natalie was ready for the end. She was ready with the answer to the question: "Didn't you ride his coattails, why should we give you the money?" She had an answer that was satisfactory, "I didn't ride his coattails, I was using him to collect all the negativity and take any target off my back while he thought he was in control and dictating events, we shared in those decisions and Russell was manipulated into bringing me into the end and losing to me." Rob's Natalie? What was her answer? "Ummmm, I'm young and loyal."

Rob's Natalie had a chance to go into that Final Tribal and mix things up like Russell's Natalie did... She didn't, and she got nothing.

May 17 2011 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Rob played the most masterful game of Survivor ever, easily topping Richard's performance in the first Survivor. Richard had an advantage in that no one really understood the game, and how cunning & decete factor in. Rob also had 2 major disadvantages-Everyone knew he was a great player & they knew his wife was a million-dollar Survivor winner. But he led one of the strongest, tightest alliances ever. People can criticize Natalie, but she was really the number 2 finisher. With the way she played she'd have had trouble beating any strong member, & risked an early exit without Rob's support. She impressed me almost as much as Rob. Congrats Rob. Enjoy your family. Hope CBS figures out a way to bring you back in a non-contestant role. A non-player coach/mentor would be best. Maybe a challenge judge? Challenge designer?

May 16 2011 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan the Great

Not sure how it was set up for him to win? He totally changed his game from the previous times he had played. His social game was unmatched and he won individual immunity when he needed to. His tribe could have gotten him out early like Russell but he was able to win them over. It was the single most dominating win in Survivor history. It should have been a clean sweep too. Hillbilly Ralph just decided to flush his vote. Rob showed how to play the game.

May 16 2011 at 10:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dan the Great's comment
General Kenobi

Actually, he didn't waste his vote at all... Ralph's goal wasn't a win by Phillip, it was the second place $100,000 that he was giving Phillip. The money he wanted him to have fun spending was that, not the million.

The only time I ever want to see Rob or Russell back is in a full All-Star season. Additionally, I really don't so much care for it when they do partial returning casts. I don't think it's really fair to anyone. It isn't fair to the returning person because what happened to Russell is most likely to happen to everyone else returning from here on out... why would anyone else in the future want to give someone the chance Rob was given here? Additionally, it's not fair to the newbies because, really, 117 days is quite an advantage in reading folks, etc. Rob wasn't able to read people this way in Marquesas. He's been good at Survivor since the start, but benig there 4 times is the main ingredient in last night's win. That's not to take away from him, even by his second time playing he had adapted his strategy, which he did each and every time. Russell played 3 times and played exactly the same way each time. Same with Parvati and many other returning players. Rob didn't play the same game twice... but we can't go by the inability of the returning morons not to adapt, we have to assume they will be smarter like Rob and will adapt... at which point it does become somewhat unfair for the newbs. I'd much rather get a whole fresh cast for 2 or 3 years and then have another full-on All-Stars... maybe Hatch will even be done with his Imperial entaglements by then... who knows?

May 16 2011 at 1:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What a pathetic season. It was a set up from day one for that pig to win.

May 16 2011 at 8:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

well we all knew that Rob was going to win!

Maybe next season will be better! This year should have been called survivor:rob's island!

May 16 2011 at 8:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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