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Survivor: Day 39

Tonight's finale of Survivor: One World included two Immunity Challenges, three Tribal Councils, and no men with any chance to win, because the women had systematically eliminated them over the course of the season. In fact, it was so one-sided that early on, the men started eliminating themselves. They did it when they gave up immunity after winning four straight challenges, and they did it again when they merged at even numbers but immediately handed the women the advantage.

The person who should win Survivor doesn't always win. Some people play with a chip on their shoulder and can't bring themselves to vote for the person who engineered their elimination. It's a physical game and a social game, but also an emotional one, and all three elements go into the decisions made throughout the season, but especially by the jury, at the end of the season.

Tonight Kim won both Immunity Challenges. After the first, there were four others left, and she knew their votes would be split, giving her the deciding vote. She showed her ultimate hand at this early stage by choosing to vote out Alicia instead of Chelsea. So when she won immunity the second time, it was a foregone conclusion that Christina was going home. There was no argument and there were no issues, even from Christina, who gave up without a fight. She wouldn't have won the fight, but she probably should have made the effort.

So the final three were the three who pledged themselves to each other at the beginning of the season: Kim, Chelsea and Sabrina. They were such a tight group that you felt any of them would have been happy with any of the others winning the game. I was happy for them, but afraid of what might be waiting for them at the final Tribal Council. Juries can be notoriously bitter, because they are made up of people who at one time were allied with the ones whom they are now judging, and were betrayed (or at least lied to) by them.

Instead, we got the most restrained, respectful jury questioning I think I've seen in 24 seasons. Jonas was satisfied with Kim's answer to his one pointed question, about why she didn't take the easily beatable Christina to the end. (Kim said she didn't think it would matter, because by that time people either respected her moves or rejected her for them.)

Michael asked Kim if she had perfected "the art of the blindside." She said it was a necessary strategy, and even explained to him why he had been voted out when he was. At that time, he was the only man Troyzan was willing to vote for over a woman. This apparently satisfied him, because he congratulated her on taking all the heat and all the blame for the decisions she made.

Leif felt betrayed by Kim, and she told him plainly that she wasn't sure she could trust him. His vote was one of the two for Sabrina, possibly because she told him that she knew when he was being voted off but felt so connected that she wasn't able to tell him. Troyzan, the other vote for Sabrina, asked Kim a similar question, wanting to know the moment the decision was made to vote him out. Her answer, that it was done when they voted Jonas out, was clear, but he said it was wrong, for some reason.

Alicia revealed to the final three what she had been telling us all season, that she considered herself the same kind of power player Kim was. She was flattered that she was taken out at final five, because she understood that she was the biggest threat. I'm not sure the audience saw her as the "kingpin" she portrays herself as, but she played that way, whether the power was real or an illusion.

There were two emotional moments during the final Tribal. One was when Tarzan thanked the final three for keeping him in the game long enough for the loved one visit, so that his wife could walk on the same sand he had walked on. The other was Kat's explanation of why, after being so badly hurt by her blindside, she has been able to let things go. She had heart surgery as a child and faces her own mortality, with "no time" to hold onto anger.

So this time, the vote of seven for Kim and two for Sabrina, was probably fair. It definitely rewarded the right person. Only Kim played hard from day one but stayed likeable. Chelsea and Sabrina both admitted that they took a back seat in the game. Chelsea said she forced herself to keep an emotional distance from the others, which is probably why she got no votes. Sabrina may have been the most likeable of the three, but her admission that her strategy was a choice not to step up, in challenges or around camp, kept her from getting more than two votes.

The star of the reunion show, by the way, was Colton's mother, who was embarrassed by his behavior. But she also said that he's a better person in real life than he was on the show, and that she loved him. She indicated that not everyone in his life accepted him when he came out at a young age, and that might have made it harder for him to accept others at times. That doesn't really explain (to me) why he lacks empathy. I'd think it would have the opposite effect.

In the end, for once the right person did win. Kim made all the right moves, even not bringing Christina to the final three. As she said, it wouldn't have mattered, and she looks better for staying true to her friends and allies. She dominated the women's tribe early in the game, and she dominated the whole game beginning with the merge. What a difference from last season, when the jury was so negative and refused to reward Coach, who outplayed them all. I have a lot more respect for this season's players.

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