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Boys and girls, the best Survivor in recent memory has come down to a final two hours on Mother’s Day! The last episode of Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites is in full effect, and it’s any (wo)man’s game. It’s been a season of bests, firsts, and worsts, and I’m hoping that tonight’s surprises will be on par with the rest of the season. Now, kiss your mom goodnight, and let’s get started, shall we?

Murderer’s row. After the season recap, the real show gets underway. But first, let’s look at who we have left:

Cirie — the queen of backdoor strategy. She’s been calling the shots while Parvati takes the heat.

Amanda — the dark horse. After coming on late in the game, Amanda could be in an excellent position if she gets to the final two. She hasn’t made many enemies on the jury.

Parvati — the hardcore bitch goddess. Ostensibly, Parv’s been calling the shots since the merge, and most of the people on the jury can point to her as the reason they are there, rather than on the island. If she doesn’t make it into the final two under her own steam, whomever does would be wise to take her with.

Natalie — the last Fan standing. Her posturing may be phony and laughable, but she arguably has the best shot with the jury after Amanda.  She’ll be dangerous if she starts winning challenges.

The four share a cheer on Dabu beach, celebrating their dupe job on Erik, and they seem to relish the opportunity to compete against each other. Let’s see how long this spirit of friendly competition lasts.

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. The women are taking care of themselves at camp, and not missing the guys in the slightest. Parvati starts buttering Natalie up, a moment that does not go unnoticed by Amanda and Cirie. Natalie’s got a real case of little sister/big sister going on with Parvati, and is quick to look up to her. Cirie, on the other hand, doesn’t feel loyalty to any of the women left. The proper attitude for a survivor at this point.

Our smug sisterhood strolls into an immunity challenge where they must use buckets of water to fill up a bamboo shoot and float a set of keys to within grabbing distance. The keys then unlock a chest full of ladder pieces so they can climb up to the top of a perch and release a flag, granting them immunity. Natalie is the first to get her keys, but Amanda makes up the difference, then takes the lead and the win. Amanda is guaranteed final three.

And then there were three. Back at camp, Amanda is all smiles, but Natalie, as the final Fan, is feeling the heat. After discussing the fate of the final two chickens at camp, Natalie deduces that Cirie is sweating it as well. With good reason, too, as Parvati and Amanda are seen discussing the merits of taking out Cirie. Natalie reveals Cirie’s anxiety to Parvati, but neither the conversations nor the editing give any clues as to whether it’s Cirie or Natalie that’s about to be axed. These women’s poker faces have been flawless throughout all the blind sides, and that gamesmanship keeps all of them guessing.

Everyone walks into tribal council, the women flashing coy smiles to the recently jobbed Erik, who is struck with a shy grin himself. Jeff and the ladies discuss how wide open the game is at this point. Cirie offers herself up as a martyr, stating that she has been at the bottom of all the alliances since the merge. Amanda takes exception to Cirie’s posturing for the jury. Could this be the exacerbation of a rift between Amanda and Cirie? The vote will bear the truth out.
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As it happens, after the tally, Natalie receives the majority of the votes, and has her torched snuffed. Who’s the bitch now! But really, this is the first tribal council in a while that hasn’t been a stunner. Kind of a letdown IMO.

A schmaltz down memory lane.
Amanda confronts Cirie about her plea for pity from the jury. And Cirie honestly offers solid reasoning as to why she doesn’t feel like she has good footing with Amanda and Parv. The back-to-back seasons of Survivor for Amanda have taken their toll and she suffers a teary breakdown. Group hug, the end.

The next morning, the final three set their chicken, dubbed “Gloria” free. But Gloria doesn’t want to leave, and nests back down with the hens. After getting tree mail, the women find out that, unlike last season, there will be a final two rather than a final three. Amanda takes his news the hardest, her game face cracking instantly. The table is set for a very emotional immunity challenge.

Cirie, Amanda, and Parvati walk the path of remembrance, reminding themselves, as well as all of us, of those who were stepped on so these three could climb to the dizzying heights they have reached. There really were a hell of a lot of great competitors this season. Wait…oh Christ, that’s right, Chet sucks. And Natalie, what’s this sexist crap about “given a chance to think, a woman will always outwit a man?” If that’s the case, then why have men won in nine of the sixteen Survivor seasons? The fact of the matter is, when it comes to the battle of the sexes on Survivor, it’s essentially a tie.  Now this is going to be a bit of radical thinking, I know, but stay with me here – maybe winning on Survivor has to do with factors beyond a single chromosome. Ya think?   

The real revelation here is that Amanda’s and Ozzy’s feelings for each other are quite genuine. But the only way Amanda’s getting into the final two is if she plays her way into it. There isn’t a chance in hell Cirie or Parvati would take her in front of that jury. They are waaaaaay to savvy for a move like that.

These ladies have some balls. At the final immunity challenge, Cirie, Parv, and Amanda must balance a large ball bearing on a wooden cylinder, adding cylinders round by round. In the third round, Parvati drops her ball. Not too bad for Parvati, though, as she is an excellent choice for whomever wins immunity. Both Amanda and Cirie make it through the fourth round, and head into the fifth and final round. The final round lasts until someone drops their ball. That person ends up being Cirie, as Amanda outlasts her to win her second immunity challenge in a row, and the most important one of her life.

Amanda, though glad to have won, comes to rue the decision she must make. Parvati is pretty certain that Amanda will choose her, and Cirie is fairly certain that Amanda will do the same. Gamer that she is, Cirie goes to work on Amanda, arguing that she has pissed off more people on the jury than Parvati (a debatable statement.) Interestingly, Parvati agrees with Cirie, and voices her opinion to Amanda, effectively trying to argue her way out of a berth into the final two.
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I’m gonna win a million dollars — boo hoo! At tribal, the ladies expound upon the difficulty of Amanda’s decision. Amanda compares the strength of Cirie’s oratorical abilities, and Parvati’s social skills. Amanda feels the full weight of her decision, and starts crying again. On top of the other accolades, this is now the weepiest season of Survivor as well. Amanda doesn’t want to hurt either of the ladies with her decision, but decide she must. With the stroke of a pen, Parvati is chosen by Amanda to face the jury, and Cirie is chosen to sit on it. Cirie makes a very heartfelt apology to her family for not making it one round further, and we have more tears to add to the record.

Tribal Council — the prelude. Amanda and Parvati wake up the next day, and Amanda is in a far better mood than last night. The ladies are relieved of the weight of this season, and are rewarded with breakfast. The meal turns into a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society, and the women plan an amiable night for each other at tribal council. I find it hard to believe that it will actually go down that way, and I certainly hope that it does not. It’s been a fairly mundane finale, and I want some sparks, damn it!! Stir the pot, indeed!

The jury files in for the last tribal council of the season, and Amanda is first to make her final statement. She thanks the jury for helping her get to where she is, and restates the generally accepted fact that she has kept to her alliances. Parvati, for her part, cops to the fact that she schemed to get where she is, and challenges the jury to ask their questions away, promising them an honest answer.

Tribal council — part one. Eliza is the first to confront the final two, admitting that her vote is up for grabs. She acknowledges that both ladies played a good game, but slanders their character. Jason asks Amanda if she would have told Ozzy about the plan to vote Ozzy off, were she in on it. Amanda answers in the affirmative. Jason asks Parvati what redeeming qualities she has. Parvati says that she has always stayed loyal to her three woman alliance and protected that, and that she didn’t kill the chicken.

Alexis asks Parvati why she would be a better role model for little girls than Amanda. Parvati replies that she has more independence and gumption than Amanda. Alexis then asks Amanda what part of her emotional displays at tribal have been genuine. Amanda states that every tear she has shed in front of the fire has been real.

Then along comes Natalie. Natalie poses a downright baffling question to Parvati — "How does your reputation as a flirt extend to the bedroom?" Well, either Natalie is an idiot (a good bet, to be sure,) or she’s hitting on Parvati. I say, “Why can’t she be both?” The jury is as confused as the rest of us, unable to suppress their giggles. Jeff chastises them for laughing. Yeah, Natalie definitely has the hots for Parvati. Natalie then accuses Amanda of being a zombie beauty queen who has played the game with a glazed look on her face. Amanda refutes this, but one thing is clear, Natalie is hoping that she Parv turn into the Sapphic version of Amber and Rob, and this is her clumsy effort to win her girlfriend some votes.

Erik is up next and, as expected, he is not happy with Amanda. He asks her why she took such a special interest in tearing him to shreds at tribal. Amanda apologizes to Erik, but he is having none of it. Maybe he finally did learn his lesson and has shed his gullibility. Next, James confronts Parvati, giving her another chance to explain why she turned on Ozzy and, presumably, him. Parvati refers back to her opening statements, saying that she was playing the game, and knew that she could not go far with her alliance to the men. James walks away, unsatisfied with Parv’s explanation.

Cirie’s turn in the spotlight comes, and asks Amanda why Parvati deserves a million dollars more than she, herself does. Amanda claims that Parvati made bolder moves than she (not sure that’s true.) Cirie then asks Parv why she, Cirie, should be in the final two rather than on the jury. Parvati says that Cirie played a brilliant game under the radar. Also, Cirie has a family, a factor that would garner more sympathy from a jury. Not sure that’s really answering the question, Parvati, but whatever.

Now here’s the one that I’m looking forward to — Ozzy! Let the bitter statements commence. Ozzy tells Parvati how wounded he was by the fact that she was willing to sell his friendship down the road, and challenges her worthiness as a role model. But he does not have a question for her. Indeed, he doesn’t want to hear a word out of Parvati’s mouth. Ozzy goes on to express some very genuine emotions for Amanda. She seems very touched by his statements, and to return them in kind. Ozzy probably won’t be down for it, but maybe they can double date with Parvati and Natalie. Ozzy seems to have matured, to be honest. I don’t really see the sore loser any more, I see someone who was genuinely hurt by betrayal from someone whom he thought was his friend.

God, I can’t wait for Indy.

Tribal council — part two. The jury goes to vote for the winner of Suvivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites. Surprisingly, Erik votes for Amanda. And here I’d thought he’d gained some sense. Unsurprisingly, Ozzy also votes for Amanda. Interestingly, Eliza takes forever before casting her ballot.

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Flash forward to New York for the live portion of the show. Parvati and Amanda are neck and neck throughout most of the reading of the votes, but, in a shocker, Parvati defeats Amanda five votes to three.  Eliza, it turns out, was the swing vote.  After her bout of indecision, her vote for Parvati granted Parv the majority needed to win.

As is appropriate for this season, this writer’s expectations have been blind sided, with my odds-on-favorite for the win going down in defeat. It would seem that the moves Amanda made late in the game to knock off Alexis and Cirie, as well as Natalie’s unrequited love for Parvati, sealed her fate (though to be fair, had Amanda taken Cirie with her, I think she still would have lost.) To tell the truth, I am very happy that this season held one more surprise for me. It was a great season, and I look forward to heading to Gabon with all of you in the Fall. Survivor Boy — out!