'Survivor: Nicaragua' crowns Jud "Fabio" Birza the season's champion
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/20/2010
Survivor: Nicaragua castaway Jud "Fabio" Birza's strategy of not playing too aggressively until the end paid off.
The 21-year-old student from Venice, CA, became the youngest champion in Survivor history, as he claimed Survivor: Nicaragua's $1 million grand prize during the live portion of last night's finale broadcast from CBS Television Studio in Hollywood, CA.
"My key strategy was to basically make everybody laugh and be all crazy but it goes deeper than just, 'Oh haha, let's keep him around because he's funny...' I haven't double-crossed anybody on the jury and I won the final three Immunity Challenges, and if that's not outwit, outplay, outlast then maybe I'm a fool, but for right now, I'm feeling like a million bucks," Fabio said during the game.
Fabio defeated Chase Rice, a 24-year-old professional race car jackman from Fairview, NC, and Matthew "Sash" Lenahan, a 30-year-old real estate broker from New York, NY, in the season's final jury voting, Survivorhost Jeff Probst revealed live during the broadcast.
Fabio edged Chase 5-4 in the jury voting. Sash did not receive any votes.
Survivor: Nicaragua's finale broadcast began on Day 37 following the elimination of Jane Bright, a 56-year-old dog trainer from Jackson Springs, NC who was ousted after Fabio won the Immunity Challenge and staved off certain elimination. Instead, Jane's alliance -- Sash, Holly and Chase -- chose to turn on her after deciding she was a big threat to win the final jury vote.
That morning, Sash, Holly and Chase remained an alliance of three and Fabio said it was his goal to break them up. He also said he thought the others found him to be a threat and then discussed the issue with Dan Lembo, a 63-year-old real estate executive from Watermill, NY who like Fabio, wasn't allied with Sash, Holly and Chase. Dan told Fabio that the next person who should be voted out was Holly -- a strategy he labeled as a "no brainer."
Fabio then had a conversation with Holly, but regardless of who Fabio wanted to vote for, he knew he was in the most trouble. He later said his plan was to win Individual Immunity to completely avoid getting voted out. However, he didn't want to let on that he was playing the game.
Sash and Fabio then had a talk and agreed that both Dan and Holly were huge threats. Sash said he told Fabio what he wanted to hear following their conversation, and admitted he was close with Chase and wanted to take him to the end no matter what. He did say that he would like to be in the end with Fabio as well, but his preference seemingly stood with Chase.
Later on, Sash and Chase spoke about how they were still gunning for Fabio to go home because he posed a great physical threat.
"If Fabio loses the next Immunity, he's going home tonight," Chase said.
The five castaways then arrived for the Immunity Challenge, and met Jeff who explained the rules.
Each player was required to race out to a station where he or she would find a question and would attempt to choose the correct answer. They would then grab the corresponding bag and race back. If they answered correctly, the bag would contain puzzle pieces, but if they was wrong, the pieces would be black and useless and the castaway would then have to go back and get the right bag. Once they answered all three questions correctly and collected all three bags of puzzle pieces, they would have to solve the puzzle.
The first person to do so would win the Immunity Challenge and have a one-in-four chance to win the million dollars.
Everyone got the first question right, and Fabio got the second question wrong, but everyone else correctly answered it. Fabio got the third question right along with everyone else, but he and Dan remained far behind the others. However, Fabio caught up quickly and was soon neck and neck with Sash. Fabio ended up solving the puzzle extremely quickly and won Individual Immunity for the second consecutive time.
"I won again! It was awesome man. Going to into it, I knew that if I didn't win, I was not safe. But I got my necklace and I'm loving it man!" Fabio said after his victory.
Following the challenge, Holly said she hoped it would be an easy vote in which they would vote out Dan.
Fabio said he purposely waited until the last minute to become aggressive, and he decided to talk to Chase and Sash about voting Holly out instead on Dan. Fabio then asked Chase if he saw Dan more of a threat than Holly, and he said yes although Fabio claimed Dan had done nothing to come across that way. Chase then replied that he thought everyone in the jury liked Dan, which would give them more of a problem in the end.
Afterward, Fabio told Dan the others were thinking about voting him out, and Dan said they needed to work together in order to convince Sash and Chase to vote out Holly. Dan found it was an obligation for him to try and convince Sash of that.
Sash appeared to start to see Fabio's point that if Chase and Holly were in the final three, they would take all the votes. Therefore, Fabio said by voting out Holly, Sash would be able to avoid that situation completely.
"I'm not trying to save Dan -- I'm just trying to split up Chase and Holly while we can," Fabio said.
"I like the idea -- you bring up some good points," Sash noted.
Fabio and Sash then told Holly they were going to vote for Dan, but Holly was aware of the conspiring going on around her. She heard her name being tossed around and could only hope her alliance would remain trustworthy and back her up at Tribal Council.
Tribal Council then commenced that night, and the jury -- Alina Wilson, NaOnka Mixon, Jane, Marty Piombo, Ben "Benry" Henry, Brenda Lowe, and Kelly Shinn -- entered.
Dan said his strategy throughout the whole game was allowing others to keep him around because he had no shot at winning the money since he was already well-off. He also reiterated that he thought Holly was a threat because of where she was from and how many people lived in her small town -- a claim Holly thought was absurd.
Fabio joined in the discussion and added that the women on the jury respected Holly and saw her as a motherly figure, which was why she could also be considered a threat.
"It's a complement, but it's also a warning," Jeff said following Fabio's comment.
However, everyone voted for Dan and he was eliminated from the game and became the eighth member of the jury.
"I switched my vote tonight to Chase to show how much I dislike the guy. I want nothing to do with you. Holly, you're a crook. You stole my shoes. They ought to cut your damn hands off. Sash, you're like a little whining girl... and you're a liar. I wish them the worst and I can't wait to cast my vote," Dan explained following his ouster.
That night after Tribal Council, the final four celebrated their accomplishment, but Fabio still feared getting voted out and felt it would be necessary for him to win Individual Immunity again in order to stay in the game.
Sash said he thought it was perfect because every person left would take him to the end. He felt positively about his position in the game and stated that Fabio would definitely be the next one to go if he didn't win the last Immunity Challenge.
The next day on Day 38, Holly and Chase promised they were still 100% together, yet they worried that going to the end with Fabio would be very tough for them.
"If Fabio wins, we would have to turn on our own, and it'll be very interesting to see what happens," Holly said.
Holly and Chase later discussed how Sash would have a good chance at winning if he was taken to the end. Fabio then talked to Chase about how them two with Sash would be likely to end up as the final three.
After the final four remembered Survivor: Nicaragua's previously booted castaways via the game's traditional "Fallen Comrades" journey, they met for the final Immunity Challenge, and Jeff explained the rules.
Each castaway would have to balance a sword with one hand on a shield, while stacking coins on the handle of the sword with the other hand. The higher the coins would get, the more difficult it would be to balance them on the sword. When the stack would get too high, the coins would fall and the person would be eliminated. The last person left standing would win Immunity and be guaranteed a spot in the final threesome that would be judged by the jury.
Holly was the first to be eliminated out of the challenge, and she was then followed by Chase -- setting up a showdown between Sash and Fabio, which was eventually won by Fabio. In addition to giving him his third consecutive Immunity win and a one-in-three chance of winning the million dollars, Fabio's big win also left Holly, Chase and Sash to break up their alliance and fend for themselves.
"It's going to be fun watching them sweat over this one, and I'm just going to let it play out," Fabio said jokingly.
Sash then found himself at his lowest point yet during the game and in danger of elimination.
"I thought we had a perfect plan of attack to make it all the way to the final three and somehow, Fabio pulls off three Immunity Challenges in a row. So, right now, it's a big disaster for my alliance. Right now, I'm as desperate as I've been this entire game, and anything I can do to try to convince Fabio that I should be in the final three with him I'll do," Sash explained.
Later that day, Sash and Fabio ran through the jury together attempting to determine which previously eliminated castaways would vote for Holly or Chase. They felt Chase would get more votes.
But Fabio proved he would not easily be deceived, as he questioned Sash on who he would have voted for if he lost the Immunity Challenge. Although Sash previously said Fabio would be the next to go, he lied to Fabio and said he would have taken him to the end no matter what.
"I feel like you're my best friend in the game, and I guarantee -- I promise you -- I have not said that to anyone else in the game," Sash said.
Fabio then told Chase about their conversation and Chase discovered Sash was a "snake." Chase was angered at how Sash turned on him, and he then relinquished all of Fabio's suspicions by telling him Sash had recently spoken about being in the final three with Holly and himself -- a claim Holly also later confirmed to him.
In the end, Fabio discovered his gut-feelings were correct in that Sash was willing to tell anyone anything if it could further him in the game and Sash and Chase had both lied to Fabio about wanting him to be in the final three with them.
The penultimate Tribal Council then commenced and the jury entered. Concerns then arose about Sash, but Sash said he had been more committed to Fabio in the last few days than Chase. A confused Fabio decided to ask him upfront to find out the truth.
"So right now, if you had won today, would you have taken me to the final three like we had talked about?" Fabio asked Sash.
"I believe I would have," Sash replied.
"Wait, you would have or you believe you would have?" Jeff asked in attempt to clarify.
"Well I didn't have the idol, so I didn't have to make that decision," Sash responded generally.
Sash then attempted to redeem himself when he said that he had an alliance with both Holly and Chase and Fabio separately. Meanwhile, Holly and Chase were honest about the fact they would have voted Fabio out if he didn't win the Immunity Idol, which Fabio respected.
But when it came time to vote, Sash, Chase and Fabio all voted for Holly and she became the ninth and final jury member.
"Day 5, I wanted to walk away from this game. Here I am making it through Day 38, so never give up. One thing I know is that my family and my true friends back home will be truly proud of me," Holly said following her ouster.
That night, the three men were very happy to have made it to the final three, and Fabio made it clear that he felt Sash was in the backseat to him and Chase.
The next morning on Day 39, they enjoyed a big breakfast.
"We're best of friends and worst of enemies," Sash said.
Afterward, Chase spent some time trying to get Fabio a little over-confident about how he was going to win to help his own case. Meanwhile, Sash said his game plan was to come out and be completely honest with everyone, fearing that his game-playing techniques and dishonesty to previous alliances would harm his chances of winning.
"I'm definitely nervous about facing the jury tonight because I've done a lot of back-stabbing. I've made a lot of alliances that I wasn't able to keep..." Sash said.
The final Tribal Council then commenced, and the nine jurors entered. Jeff explained that Chase, Fabio and Sash would each make an opening statement before the jury members would have an opportunity to either ask a question or make a statement of their own.
The three castaways had their opening statements and then the jury fired questions at them. Jane and Dan brutally told Sash how they felt about him, and their questions boiled down to bold statements which referred to him as a "liar" and a "rat." Fabio later broke down and told NaOnka it was seeing his mother that gave him the drive to make it through the game's final days, bringing tears to many of the castaways' eyes.
Chase also verified that his inconsistent game-playing is what got him to the end, and he hoped to win the money so he could donate $100,000 to a cancer organization in memory of his recently deceased father. Many of the jurors congratulated the three finalists and had many good things to say about how deserving they truly were.
The nine jurors were then given a minute to think before casting their votes. Afterward, the live portion of the broadcast commenced and Fabio was revealed to be the winner.