Amber Brkich wins 'Survivor: All-Stars', gets engaged to runner-up Rob Mariano
By Reality TV World staff, 05/10/2004
The beneficiary of heavy resentment regarding the manner in which her alliance and Final Two partner -- and now fiance -- Rob Mariano played the game, Survivor: The Australian Outback'sAmber Brkich emerged as the champion and $1 million winner during last night's Survivor: All-Stars finale on CBS.
The Survivor finale opened with the four remaining contestants -- Amber, "Boston Rob," Rupert Boneham, and Jenna Lewis -- facing a "two-versus-two" shutdown at the next Tribal Council, since Rupert and Jenna were allied. Rob and Amber immediately campaigned for Jenna to join with them to oust Rupert, thus avoiding a possible random draw "purple rock" tiebreaker, while cleverly not pushing Jenna to make a firm commitment to them. Their plan would be spoiled if Rupert won the Immunity Challenge, which turned into a close race between Amber and Rupert. However, Amber won, for her first victory in an individual Immunity Challenge in her two Survivor seasons, and Jenna sided with "Romber" to send Rupert to a fourth-place finish.
During the final immunity challenge, which was (as usual) an endurance test in which contestants couldn't lift their feet or touch the center pole with their free hands, Jenna was the first to waver, moving her foot off its pole momentarily just before the 2.5-hour mark, thus leaving the crucial final immunity to be decided between Rob and Amber. Despite the duo's personal feelings for each other and sworn plans to take each other to the Final Two, neither one was willing to intentionally step off the challenge poles to give the other immunity, and the challenge continued for another hour until Amber absentmindedly touched the center pole with her free hand while gesturing at Rob. Amber was thus disqualified, handing Rob Survivor: All Star's final immunity, a guaranteed place in the Final Two, and the right to choose his opponent in the final vote.
Despite some momentary thoughts that he might stand a better chance if he faced Jenna in the Final Two, Rob opted to take his Survivor sweetheart with him to the final jury, leaving Jenna in third. Facing a jury comprised of colleagues who deeply resented the presence of both Boston Rob and Amber in the Final Two, the couple faced tough questioning, including open hostility from Survivor: Africa alums Tom Buchanan, who placed fifth in All-Stars, and Lex van den Burghe, who placed ninth.
Four votes were revealed during the voting, two for Boston Rob and two for Amber (who was rumored to have been included in the cast to complete the requisite "hot chick" quota only after previous contestants Elisabeth Filarski Hasslebeck and Colleen Haskell both declined to participate), before the votes were spirited off for safekeeping, to be read at the live finale in New York City's Madison Square Garden.
Ever the strategist, Boston Rob had one more card left to play before the votes were revealed. As soon as the live show began, he pulled a multi-carat diamond ring out of his pocket and proposed marriage to Amber, who promptly accepted (no surprise, considering that Amber was wearing an "I Love Rob" tank top), thus ensuring that, no matter who won, both of them would share the prize money. In the process, Boston Rob and Amber got around the game's "you can't agree to split the money" rule in a way that Survivor producer Mark Burnett likely never envisioned.
When the votes where finally announced, in a by-then somewhat anticlimactic ending, Rob learned that he was engaged to a millionaire, as Amber edged him 4-3 in the voting. Supporting Amber were Tom, Lex, Survivor: The Australian Outback's Alicia Calaway, and Survivor: Thailand's Shii Ann Huang; supporting Boston Rob were Rupert and Jenna Lewis, plus Survivor: Marquesas's Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien. Amber also won a new Chevy -- but, since she and Rob had already won cars on the show, she had to pass the car along to another survivor, and (after consulting with Rob, who told her that the choice was hers) she awarded it to Shii Ann.
The finale was as contentious and acrimonious as the show was predictable, culminating in Survivor: The Australian Outback villainess Jerri Manthey, who was booed when she bashed the show for manipulating people's real feelings for entertainment purposes, walking off the set halfway through. Despite being confronted with evidence of their own deceptions, Lex and Tom were no more willing to "forgive and forget" than they had been while on the jury. The eighteen castaways basically broke down into two groups, with Lex, Tom, Kathy and Jerri, who claimed that what Boston Rob did "crossed the line" between gameplay and personal on the one side, and Richard Hatch, the winner of the first Survivor, Colby Donaldson, the runner-up in Survivor: The Australian Outback, and Shii Ann prominently on the other side.
One thing this season of Survivor did produce was a lot of romance, however. For the first time in Survivor history, there were two confirmed couples among the contestants. In addition to Boston Rob and Amber, the other couple was Survivor: The Amazon winner Jenna Morasca and Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn, who have been rumored to be dating for about a year but confirmed that their relationship had become closer since the show. In addition, third-place finisher Jenna Lewis eloped last weekend with a 21-year-old male model, and even Richard Hatch confirmed that he had found romance with a hotel desk clerk that he met in Argentina when he visited there following his boot from All-Stars (in fact, the two currently live together in Richard's Rhode Island house and had announced that they would participate in a February "gay marriage" ceremony in New Paltz, NY, but ultimately did not). Also, in a "surprise" that had been heavily promoted by Extra!, Survivor: Borneo's Susan Hawk showed off her "extreme makeover," which included both liposuction and plastic surgery ... and which was paid for and filmed by Extra!
Finally, in a last "twist," CBS and Survivor announced that one of the 18 castaways would be receiving a million-dollar bonus awarded by popular vote as to who played the best game. Viewers may vote for the bonus, sponsored in part by Cingular Wireless, either on the CBS web site or by text-messaging on their Cingular wireless phones.
While Susan Hawk, for one, expressed the belief that Rupert would be awarded the million dollars, we note that many viewers -- led, in part, by Michael Orzoff from Fox's Love Cruise (which was the third reality-competition show filmed in the U.S., behind only the first Survivor and the first Big Brother) -- support Rob Mariano for the million. We're not surprised by Michael's support for Boston Rob, since Rob and Amber's game strategy often seemed to mirror the strategy employed by Michael and alliance-mate Melissa in Love Cruise, right down to forcing the jury to choose between the two most-resented people in the final vote (although Michael and Melissa's strategy was almost foiled when the producers inexplicably decided to add another team to the finals).
We look forward to seeing the results of this vote on the Survivor wrap-up show, Thursday, May 13, at 8 PM EDT on CBS.