Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Vanuatu recaps
Survivor: Vanuatu recaps - Episode 14
"Spirits and the Final Four"
By: Jeff Pitman | Published: August 29, 2012

trollyThe Russell Hantz Memorial Troll of the Week award (the "Trolly"): Probst
Honorable mention: ?

Whether it's showing up uninvited in camp on day 38 (with no food, or anything), or hacking his way through the jungle to a waiting plane, then skydiving, then motorcycling the urn back to the U.S., Probst was all over this finale in ways he's usually not. Not that there's anything wrong with that (we actually miss the extended Star/Host's Trek sequence).


But still: Why did Twila and Chris not get a breakfast feast on the morning of Day 39? Did they blow the budget on Probst's completely unnecessary boat ride to Alinta camp, to tell them about the Rites of Passage segment? Was it really necessary for him to reprise his role as the Roy Mata storyteller in person? Weird.


icuThe Purple Kelly Memorial Invisibility Cloakee Unmasked! award ("ICU!"): Epic ICs
Honorable mention: ?

One trend that started to take root fairly early on in the run of Survivor, and is still (occasionally) with us is a massive, epic challenge build that appears in the final episode, usually in the second-to-last IC. We've seen other huge construction projects: The Amazon had a giant, blindfolded maze (repeated in Heroes vs. Villains). Guatemala had the giant bird maze. Tocantins the giant spider structure. Even Redemption Island, for all its faults, had a massive maze-and-puzzle combo.


Vertical maze!

All of these were good, but for our money, Vanuatu's vertical maze (plus puzzle) in the final four IC ("Snakes and Ladders") tops them all, even if it's just in terms of the sheer audacity of the build. It's a Vertical. Maze. And it's at least seven levels high. In which humans, who haven't eaten much in 37 days, are expected to climb around and retrieve things. Big Brother fans may call their contestants hamsters, but Survivor built a challenge that forced the final four to actually perform like said rodents. Then solve a puzzle. You have to admit that's pretty cool. And it's challenges like this that we'd love to see more often, budget cuts be damned.


beastyThe Colby Donaldson Memorial Challenge Beast award (The "Beasty"): Twila
Honorable mention: Chris

Twila actually came pretty close to winning both of the final two immunity challenges, and one wonders how the game might have changed if she had. Almost certainly, the Eliza boot would have worked the same way at F4, but there's a legitimate question of whether she really would have stayed solid with Chris against the jury, or picked Scout instead.


Scout finds her roots

Despite Scout's reassurances that the two older women had no final two agreement (which Chris seemed rather hypocritically indignant about, since he himself had F2 agreements with everyone in the final five), it would be a far better move for Twila to hope for the best against Scout than risk losing against Chris. Twila still probably would have lost against Scout, but Twila's core argument that she played as hard as she could, and gave 100% effort in everything, might have played better with the jury had she won two straight ICs, AND been sitting next to Scout.


Instead, Chris swept the finale's challenges, and that added to his argument that he overcame incredible odds to get to the final two. Early on, especially after the first two seasons (following Kelly Wiglesworth and Colby's jury losses, despite spectacular challenge prowess), there was a general consensus that juries did not respect challenge wins, and that some sort of stigma existed in getting to the end via immunity wins. This season, following close on the heels of Amazon and All-Stars, followed immediately by Palau, then later seasons such as Tocantins, Nicaragua, and One World, proved that theory invalid.


Sometimes winning challenges, despite the concept of this award, is a good idea.


slittyThe Cirie Fields Memorial Smiling Backstabber award ("Slitty"): Chris
Honorable mention: ?

Chris's F4 move of booting Eliza was fairly basic. Even if Eliza had actually been fooled by his story of forcing a tie (it was hard to tell if this was really the case), the lie may have been unnecessarily mean. It's not as if a blindside was necessary: Eliza was hardly going to swing a last-minute, scrambling alliance with Twila. Either way, though, booting her was still the right move for Chris to make, setting himself up for a much easier path to the final two.


Chris and Twila

What we'd most like to focus on here, however, is Chris's performance in front of the jury. It's often mentioned as one of the best of all time, if not the best (or a close second to Todd's in China). But was it really? We'll go through each response, one by one, and weigh in below:


Opening Statements

Chris: Essentially goes with "I deserve this because I overcame great odds to get here," being down 6-1 as the last man standing. Also, he was loyal to his alliances. Unlike some other people he could point to, sitting next to him. *cough*

Twila: Focuses more on "I played to win a million dollars. I'm sorry I lied on my son, but I earned this, and I worked hard."

Judgement: Chris's seemed a bit better, but Twila's was also solid. Not particularly brilliant or earth-shaking in either case.


Jury questions: Eliza


Eliza opens by calling Twila a "deceptive, lying bitch," then calls Chris the same thing, asks for an apology from each one.

Twila: Starts defending herself, then rapidly retreats to a fight, calling Eliza a "spoiled, rotten, little child.... Why should I apologize to you?"

Chris: Apologizes for breaking their F2 pact. Assures her he meant it when he said it.

Judgement: Solid win for Chris. Complete disaster for Twila.


Jury questions: Julie

JulieJulie tells Twila she'll get no questions, all that really matters is what Chris says. She sniffles as she revisits their friendship, how Julie helped him, and how he stabbed her in the back, all while larding it up with bogus friendship talk, apparently.

Chris: It was hard. But at the time, it was real. Then I was forced to make a decision, and I let you down. Sorry.

Julie comes back with: was there anything authentic at all in our friendship?

Chris: (Haltingly) says I didn't play you on the friendship, but I lied to you at the time of the boot. The friendship was real. I'm truly sorry, you're my sister, I understand if you don't like me now.

Judgement: Chris seems convincing, despite all appearances. Good job.


Jury questions: Leann

LeannLeann asks Twila about lying on her son's name: Why'd you lie to me? Why?

Twila: I trusted you (not Ami), but I started to get nervous when you two kicked Scout out of your F4 plans, so I had to do something different. I was just protecting myself.

Leann then questions Chris why she shouldn't stay strong with the women and vote Twila?

Chris: I was screwed at the merge, but I persevered. I needed to find a crack in your alliance, and you know who that crack was? Twila.

Judgement: Probably Twila's best, strongest answer. But just as things start looking up for Twila, Chris completely demolishes her with his answer. He not only reinforces that Twila lied, but rats her out as the person who single-handedly allowed him to get back in the game, and destroy the women's alliance. Starting with you, Leann. A completely ruthless answer, and (maybe it was editing) no reaction at all from Twila. Wow. And all this when Leann seemed to only be asking him a question out of politeness.


Jury questions: Ami

AmiFor Twila: You didn't trust me? WTF? For Chris: why did you lie to two people for no reason? To both: Why are you better than me?

Chris: I think you're actually better than me. You just let your guard down, and let your friendships get in the way.

Twila: First, I apologize, AGAIN, to you and Leann for swearing on my son. Wait a second, why am I some "lowlife bitch nobody likes"? I don't get it! After prompting from Ami to answer the question: You can't HANDLE the cold-heartedness! I can!

Judgement: Chris was smooth, Twila completely rough. First she gets into an argument while trying to apologize, then just repeats Chris's answer, but manages to make a compliment sound like a threat. Ouch.


Jury questions: Chad

ChadHow has the game changed you?

Twila: I've seen some things I need to change about myself. I need to watch my mouth more, ease up. I judge people too quickly.

Chris: The game experience has changed me, in seeing how all of you jurors have strong character, in looking past the money, staying true to a higher standard. Me and Twila? We've let the lure of the money change us. I envy you guys.

Judgement: Twila didn't really answer the question, while Chris did. I didn't really buy Chris's response as anything more than transparent pandering. If Chad was actually basing his vote on the answers, he should vote for Twila.


Jury questions: Sarge

SargeTwila, you have no values, and I never want to see you again. But you outplayed me. Since you need the money more, I'll give it you. Was $1 million the price for your honor?

Twila: No.

Imma not let you finish. Okay now, Chris: Can we still be buddies if I vote for this horrible person next to you?

Chris: Sure, we're good. We're true friends. I don't care.

Judgement: Chris gave the right answer. Twila didn't really get a chance to respond. Meh. Pretty bogus as "questions" go.


Jury questions: Scout

ScoutTwila, we were allies, you were faithful to me, and I respect the fact that you say what you think, even when these assholes don't like it. Chris, you're a masterful bullshitter. Thanks! No questions!


Judgment: Oooookay. Looks like an automatic Twila vote, then.




Closing statements:

Twila: I didn't come here to lie, I came here to win. I feel like complete crap now. Thanks a lot, guys. I apologize, the game played me. Please forgive me.

Chris: Scout, you're right. I am a bullshitter. Julie, I really want to be your friend, or at least your brother. Here's your hat! Eliza, I'm sorry. I feel bad that I'm in the F2, it's my fault you're here. Ami and Leann: Twila and Scout screwed you over, and I was just a pawn. Chad and Sarge: Vote from your heart, either way, I'm your friend.

Judgment: Wow. Twila completely broke down, and all but said, "I don't deserve to win." In contrast, Chris told each juror what they wanted (Scout, Julie, Eliza, Chad, Sarge) or needed (Ami, Leann) to hear. And seemed sincere in doing so (except with Eliza, for whom his answer made no sense, since at best Eliza would've had a tie if Chris had stuck with her at F4).



Scout and Ami vote Twila, everyone else votes Chris.


Final verdict

We're not sure Chris's really was the best performance ever, but it was certainly among the best. At times his answers came off as pandering, but for the most part, he tailored his responses to the needs of the questioner, while also getting a few underhanded digs at Twila. All while appearing generally calm and confident. It helped that Twila, for all her rough edges, ended up emotionally fragile, completely rattled by the jury's anger. But even against a less-beatable opponent, Chris made a solid case. Definitely worth the revisit.