In last night's finale of Survivor: Pearl Islands, Sandra Diaz-Twine, a 29-year-old former U.S. Army specialist and mother of two from Ft. Lewis, Washington, became the first Hispanic winner of the $1 million Survivor first prize. In an all-woman finale -- guaranteeing a female winner for the first time in an odd-numbered Survivor season, Sandra (of Puerto Rican ancestry) crushed Lillian Morris, a 51-year-old mother and scoutmaster from Cincinnati, Ohio, by a 6-1 margin. Only Tijuana Bradley, Lillian's former tribemate in Morgan, voted for Lil; everyone else -- Ryan Opray, Rupert Boneham, Christa Hastie, Burton Roberts, Darrah Johnson and Jon Dalton -- voted for Sandra ... despite the fact that Sandra never won a challenge during the entire show.
To the jury, Sandra's honesty and in-your-face manner was preferable to Lil's continual neediness and backstabbing. Lil found herself more than once regretting her choice of clothing, as many of the jurors noted that Lil had failed to play the game according to the Boy Scout oath of honesty, while Sandra had generally been upfront about her choices and decisions. Lil's final words were another lament about her choice of clothes, saying that she wouldn't have worn them if she'd had a choice. We note that Lil's regrets came about because she broke the fundamental rule of Scouting: BE PREPARED.
In the finale, the field was whittled to the final two after some final machinations from the deceptively-nicknamed "Jonny Fairplay." After Jon's partner Burton was booted, Jon played on Lillian's insecurities to break up the all-woman "Final 3" alliance. At Jon's urging, Lil insisted to Darrah that she wanted first or second, but Darrah refused to commit to take Lil to the final two with her. An enraged Lillian then turned on Darrah, telling Sandra that, after Darrah's three straight immunity challenge wins, it was time for Darrah to go. Jon, who billed himself as the "king of men" up against three inferior women, simply sat back and watched the fireworks.
In the immunity challenge, a quiz about pirate and Panama trivia, the jury was allowed to compete as a fifth contestant (the only change to the standard finale format for the show) -- the first contestant to answer five questions correctly won. Naturally, the jury won (with Jon second with 4) and snatched immunity away from everyone, setting the stage for Darrah to be ousted by a 3-1 vote.
The next morning, the final three were put on wobbly crates in the water, and immunity went to the last one to avoid having either a knee or a bottom touch the platform. Sandra, who never looked comfortable around water, slipped in the first half-hour, setting the stage for a lengthy battle between Jon and Lil -- despite Jon's best efforts to negotiate a "Neleh-Vecepia" final-two pact (from Survivor: Marquesas, after Kathy O'Brien's slip in the final three). Ultimately, Jon touched down after about 2 hours and 45 minutes, giving Lil the chance to pick her opponent for the final.
Both Sandra and Jon were convinced that Lil was going to send Sandra home. However, Lil, whom Jon had played like a fiddle for the entire show (or, at least, since her return in Episode 7), became convinced that Jon's powers of persuasion were so great that Jon would sway the jury, a la Survivor: Pulau Tiga winner Richard Hatch ... and so she opted to keep Sandra, setting the stage for the jury's vote.
As discussed earlier, Sandra's victory vindicated the Internet gambling spoilers, which were called into question when the second site to go public named quitter Osten Taylor as one of the finalists. We wonder if this spells the end for Survivor betting on the Internet, since this is the second straight Survivor to be spoiled through online betting.
On the reunion show, held in LA instead of Panama due to the collapse of the Arco Chato, there was a feature dedicated to archvillain Jon and one to super-popular Rupert -- but no mention of Rupert's participation in All-Star Survivor, which will debut on February 1, 2004 after the Super Bowl. Rupert did, however, mention that he wanted to be on Survivor because he thought he could do anything Richard Hatch could do --- leading us to wonder whether Rupert got the chance to demonstrate that during All-Stars. We'll know soon enough.