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'Survivor' Recap: And the Winner Is...

By Brian Moylan, Hollywood.com Staff

I was a little sad when turning on the DVR last night to get to the Survivor: Philippines finale. It seemed like another foregone conclusion. Malcolm, who had been a power player all season (and heartthroblicious like a poster of Davy Jones ripped out of Tiger Beat magazine), made it to the final four so he for sure was going to take home the $1 million prize. Snoozeville. Luckily I was wrong and while the winner might not have exactly been a fan favorite, it was a satisfying end to a crazy season.

Congrats, Denise, you really earned it, but when the hour began I thought you had next to no chance to win. I think I underestimated her, which seems to be how Denise got her way to the $1 million check. When the hour started it seemed like Malcolm was a lock for immunity, would take himself, Denise, and either Lisa or Michael to the final, but it didn't matter. He played so well and was so likeable that he was going to get all the votes if he got himself on one of those uncomfortable looking log chairs at the end of the game. So it seemed, so it seemed.

Then there was a reward challenge, which isn't customary in this stage of the game, especially since Ford stopped sponsoring the thing and giving away a damn truck every year. But no, they were playing for something different. They were playing to spend a night cuddling with Malcolm under the stars and inhaling his scent and letting his hair fall limply over their naked skin. No wait, that's what I want to be playing for and what all of them have gotten for the better part of a month. They were playing for an advantage in the final immunity challenge. Very interesting.

Because it was a Survivor challenge they had to dodge a bunch of obstacles picking up puzzle pieces along the way and then solve a puzzle to win the advantage. Did they just not have a lot of staging area this year, because the challenges, as a whole, seemed pretty uninventive? Challenge, challenge, challenge; boring, boring, boring and Malcolm wins because of course. Malcolm wins everything. He gets the advantage. He has this in the bag. Snoozeville.

Back at camp, Denise says to Malcolm, ""Hey, I'm a smart lady with eyes, so I know you're going to win. You're going to take me to the final three, right?"" He says, ""Ummm, ahhhh. Well. I. Uh. I guess. I'm so... I don't even know yet. I think that. Well, first I have to win and then, well, I don't know."" Denise, being a smart lady with eyes, knows he is not going to take her, so she approaches Lisa and says, ""Look, I am a smart lady with eyes so Malcolm is going to win this, but if he doesn't, we need to get rid of him. We really do. He's going to crush us."" She agrees, they hug, they squeal, they jump up and down three times and it is just like recess in fourth grade.

Now it is time for the March of the Fallen Comrades. Where's the fast forward button? OK, the fallen comrades is now over. I hate the stupid fallen comrades as much as I hate that Survivor ends with a final three, but both of these things aren't going anywhere, so maybe I should stop bitching about them. I won't, but whatever. At least I know I have a problem.

At the challenge, everyone has to hold a little piece of wood with a ball balancing on it between two handles. Malcolm reveals that his advantage is that he gets to let the ball fall off once and then gets a second chance. OK, that is a huge advantage, and I think a rather unfair one. Did the producers know that Malcolm has a genetic condition known as Tremor Paws, where he can't hold his hands still for even one second? Did they create the advantage hoping that the fan favorite would win? If not, then providing an advantage like that to someone who has already won a physical challenge to achieve said advantage pretty much settles the game ahead of time. Now the person who is the strongest in a physical challenge is now the person who is doubly the strongest going into another physical challenge. That just makes the strong stronger. That doesn't seem logically correct. Why not find a way to get the weaker players an advantage, like when Abi bought hers at the Survivor auction (another thing I hate but might have to reevaluate)? That is the only way she won a challenge and that gave the whole episode a wonderful tension that strong people beating weak people will never get you. Remember, a good news story is always Man Bites Dog. A good news story is not Strong Man Wins Advantage with Strength Then Wins Strength Contest. That is just a dog chomping on your boring old leg all the live-long day.

For all my bitching, the advantage didn't work, and Malcolm is out of the challenge first. This was sort of like finding the missing scale on the belly of the dragon Smaug, because this very specific challenge was the one thing that managed to slay Malcolm. Skupin eventually wins which is, honestly, the worst case scenario.

The whole night Skupin has been going on about how he thinks he can beat Malcolm. In the final challenge that was true, but otherwise I wanted to chalk it up to some sort of psychological condition. He wants to think that, a decade after falling in the fire, he is still the strong young man he once was when he first played this game. I wanted to say that he has such an intense narcissism that of course he thinks that people would vote for him over Malcolm because, once upon a time, in the Australian Outback, he fell into a fire and burned his hands off. So, of course, after he wins, he gives us the old, ""I have to take the best to the finale and I will still beat him."" No, Skupin, you will not. This is a gift from God, that you have found the only activity that you can't beat Malcolm at. If you don't take this gift and vote him out, then you are a complete idiot. Later, at the reunion special, Skupin says that he thought he would win because he went through so much to get there that everyone feels like they deserve it. OK, I get that. Maybe he's not a champion narcissist after all. I know if I sat in the rain and the mud for a month listening to Abi whine and Blair waffle and Penner fart that I would think I should win too.

Onto tribal council and Blair is saying she is voting Malcolm out and Skupin may not be and I want there to be a tie and a fire making competition and something totally awesome to happen. The only awesome thing is that Blair told Malcolm, to his face, that he was going home. A tribal council without Blair being honest next season is going to seem boring, boring, boring. So, yeah, Malcolm goes home and finally the master is dead. Oh, come here Malcy, let me comfort you with my warm bosom and some kind words while I stroke your hair and feel your warm breath on my body. There, there. Malcolm. There, there. Momma's here.

OK, back to camp where the final three burn everything down (really, why do they insist on setting everything on fire every year at the foot of the jungle when there looks like there is no one there to attend to it?) and now back to the final tribal council. This is becoming another thing that I hate. When the show first started it was a time for everyone to get up, ask the two remaining players a question and then sit back down. Occasionally there would be someone to try to imitate Sue Hawk's legendary ""rats and snakes"" speech and they would always fail. Now it's not even questions anymore. It's just gripes and score settling. It's just a bunch of people being sour that they lost and that is actually quite boring and serves no real purpose to picking a winner. The finalists no longer get to defend what they did or make a case, they mostly have to sit there and listen to griping. Artis make a whole speech that says, ""I don't know about you guys, but I stayed true to my alliances so you suck."" Yeah, Artis, good for you. That is why you are in the jury and these people are not. You may think you're all high and mighty, but you're really a loser. Quite literally, you are a loser.

Then Abi gets up wearing the worst dress that has ever been designed and is her usual charming self, but this time with a ruffle of doom going down her entire body. I thought she was last, but then I forgot about one person: Penner. Of course Probst kept Jonathan Penner, his bosom buddy and lifetime companion, to go last. Penner goes from one person to the next and tells them how awful they are. They are almost as bad as the toupee that he was wearing at the reunion special (Hair plugs? A dye job? Weave? It was definitely some sort of hair system. But what?) Finally he gets to Blair and does the meanest thing imaginable. ""Blair, do you want to tell them, or should I?"" he asks. She says, ""I'll tell them. I'm not afraid."" But clearly he wants to tell them. He wants to tell them all that Blair is Blair and that she used to be famous on a famous TV show and that she knows George Clooney. They all register shock and dismay (though, according to my chat with Denise today, she already knew about Blair and she doesn't know what the face she made was meant to register). ""George Clooney used to do sitcoms?"" they all think. Yes, girl! He did.

Blair handles it in stride. ""Do you want to talk about what you did as a teenager? Did you tell everyone about that? No, you didn't. And I'm trying to play the game now as me."" I felt really bad for Blair. All she wanted was to escape the fame and just be a normal person who was on equal footing with a bunch of other normal people and succeed by her own merits. And she had. She finally proved something to herself - that she could do it. She could be successful again. The world wasn't out to get her. Her best days had not passed. She didn't owe anything to a TV show that most people had already forgotten about and the younger kids didn't even know. She was Blair, but she was her own Blair. She was, dare I say it, Lisa! And Penner took that away from her. That was a low freaking blow.

Alright, so at this point, I think that everyone has a decent shot. Lisa should have argued more about the decisions she made in the game and how she was really driving the strategy in a big way. Like the way she played the game, her defense was a bit too willy nilly. I think if she was more concise, she could have won. Again, she wasn't really given the chance since no one even asked her a question, but whatever. Skupin just kept saying he outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted everyone. Yeah, buddy, so did these other two broads. You gave us no reason to vote for you. Well, apparently Carter thought differently, but, then again, Carter doesn't think too much. Even at the reunion he looked like his body was there but his eyes were about a million miles away in some fantasy land where he is king and fairies are dripping honey all over his body and a million Nyan cats were licking it off. He also doesn't know how to spell Skoopin.

Denise, of course, has the best case. She was at every single tribal council this season and no one ever really considered voting her out. When you hear that fact, it's hard not to award her the money. I thought she would be seen as weak for riding on Malcolm's coat tails, but without him in the finals she looked stronger than ever. When she said that she had been on three tribes, fitting into all of them, working hard to stay out of the way while orchestrating to get others voted out, you had to applaud her. Yes, it makes total sense that Denise won given the final three. Congratulations to her.

Now, I'm already picking Malcolmn to win the upcoming ""Fans vs. Favorites 2: The Revenge,"" considering Probst asking him if he'd play again at the reunion was essentially him being recast on the spot. Malcolm is going to win this yet.

Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan

[Photo Credit: CBS]

More:

'Survivor' Recap: Malcolm Takes a Tumble

'Survivor: Philippines': Find Out Who Won!

'Survivor' Recap: Blair Gets Justice

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