Guatemala Episode 14: Thunder Storms and Sacrifice

Previously in this uneven season that started out great, petered out in the middle, and regained steam again towards the endgame, there were two tribes, Nookum and Yowza. Stephenie and Bobby Jon returned to compete, although a tribal shuffle and subsequent decimation at Immunity Challenges meant that Bobby Jon was at the short end of the numbers game and was voted out shortly after the merge. Stephenie, being in a dominant majority with Rafe, Judd, Jamie, Lydia, and Cindy, quickly made short work of Brandon, Bobby Jon, and Gary after the merge, although Gary awesomely postponed his eviction by finding Wally and launched some awesome zingers at the day he was finally eliminated. Judd, Jamie, and most recently Cindy were discarded but the Stephenie and Rafe alliance was holding, as did Rafe and Danni's alliance. Lydia, always in danger at the start of the season, finds herself in the Final Four by falling through the cracks and ducking out of firing range. It's now the endgame and Stephenie, for all her grating self-absorption personality and high-school mindset, has played a great game with Rafe in dominating the season until now. Danni has done enough slithering to survive the game even when she was alone without an alliance with Rafe. I don't know what Lydia is doing here but hey, we had Scout so why not Linda, eh?

We've skipped a day, it seems, because in the last episode we ended the show at day thirty-five but this episode opens at day thirty-seven. Oh well. Morning. Lydia is up in the morning grinding corn which would be the tribe's breakfast. As she works, she wonders how she ends up in the Final Four since she believes that she is always the "odd man out" and thinks that someone out there must be looking after her. She thinks that it could have been destiny that she ends up this far into the game. Yes, destiny brings her here and destiny is also a song on the "What the heck is Lydia doing here?" radio channel. Anyway, Lydia serves the others breakfast and they thank her, which should be her clue to as to why she is still in the tribe: she's their personal Cinderella minus the ball, the glass slipper, and the knight in shining armor. Meanwhile, Danni tells the camera that she is trying to act calm and relaxed when she's actually wound up with anticipation and terpidation inside. She's in the Final Four. Wheee! Rafe has apparently gotten over his car blues because he wishes the others "happy breakfast" as they settle down to eat. He gives this confessional about how proud he is of playing the game with all the usual spiel about playing with integrity and what-not to follow. I don't know about him but I have a hunch that if he shows up at his usual online hangouts after this season, he'd be laughed out of those places for pulling an Ian, only with the bitterness and sactimony that Ian lacks, later into this episode.

Later that morning, Lydia collects tree-mail and what she reads gets her so excited that she runs and jumps and screams like red ants have infested her shorts as she dashes back to the others. The others are more skeptical and they are noticeably annoyed when they realize that, contrary to Lydia babbling about them having some big "celebration" thrown for them, the tree-mail instead talks about visiting the ruins for some boring fake ritual. Rafe notes that there is no specific mention of any celebration anywhere. Lydia insists that they are misreading the tree-mail because she knows that there is some celebration going on. Yes, they will all get drunk and be merry as they toss Lydia the useless midget over the cliff, that's the celebration alright. "You guys don't understand my language!" Lydia insists as the other three actually bend over laughing. Later, as Stephenie explains, a "family" of locals show up with a basket of items needed for whatever ritual the show has in mind to parade for the Yownooks and for the audience. The Yownooks are openly incredulous as they go along with the locals as these locals start a fire and dump all sorts of items including honey and rosemary into it. Apparently it's a cleansing or blessing ceremony of some sort, that. Stephenie then gasps when these locals bring out a live chicken. Rafe tells the camera that Stephenie wonders whether they will get to eat the chicken but instead, the locals rip off the head of that chicken and toss the head into the fire. Stephenie, thinking of the possibility of a legion of naked supermodels invading their camp under the PETA banner to force them to give up milk for the rest of their lives, asks Rafe whether the chicken is killed before its head got ripped off. Rafe says that the chicken is pretty much dead when its head hits the fire, heh. As the locals cook the headless chicken over the fire, Rafe pretends that he has gotten all sorts of enlightenment and kinship with exotic culture after seeing that ritual. Oh please, I'm not born yesterday. Lydia believes that she has a kinship with the locals because she is Hispanic. If that makes her feel any better, she's free to believe that. I'll just scoff behind my hand. The locals offer some food and a bowl of some kind of drink (maybe it's just water) to the Yownooks. The Yownooks want to eat the chicken but the locals insist that it's a sacrifice to the gods so that the gods will forgive them for letting this show pollute the land. Rafe tells the camera that he has always wanted to experience culture and wow, so now he has. Isn't he a new man now? Maybe the next time he walks into a KFC he will think of the headless chicken and his chicken-chewing experience will be all the more enlightened and zen-like as a result.

It is now time for the Immunity Challenge. It's a maze navigation competition but this time around, the maze is huge and actually complicated, shaped like the Mayan sacred bird the Quetzal. This is not some rickety plank affair like previous mazes in previous seasons have been, this is a full-blown expensive theme-park type of maze. I have a hunch that this maze can be dismantled and reused again in future seasons because I can't imagine that cheapskate Burnetto spending so much money in creating this maze only for it to be used once. It occurs to me then that many of the Challenges in this season are actually fun to watch and for that alone, this season is better than the previous season. It is hard for me to put down in words how fun this particular Challenge is to watch, it's one of those things that you have to see for yourself to appreciate it. Let's just say that the four Yownooks have to run through the maze - which comes with ladders, rope bridges, and obstacles that remind me of an expensive version of those mazes in old TV kiddie gameshows like Double Dare or Fun House - and collect puzzle pieces, which they will then assemble in the central platform. Rafe and Stephenie collect all their pieces first while Danni is just seconds behind them. Yes, Stephenie and puzzle-solving are still incompatible as ever and while Danni tries to catch up, in the end it is Rafe who puts the pieces together first. Rafe wins Waldo and he's in the Final Three. Probby reminds Danni, Lydia, and Stephenie that one of them will be leaving at the Tribal Council tonight.

Back at camp, Stephenie congratulates Rafe on his victory and Rafe is excited, telling the camera that he now really believes that he can win the million dollars. Stephenie then tells Rafe upfront that she'd like to be in the Final Two with Rafe. So would Lydia and Danni, oy. Rafe agrees. To the camera, Stephenie explains that she has played the game in the same manner as Rafe - in fact, one could say that they are joined at the hip as partners-in-crime in this game - and therefore his enemies are her enemies. Which is to say, Stephenie has the best chance of winning when she is standing against Rafe in the Final Two. She tells the camera and Rafe that they have to boot Danni so that they could both move on to the Final Two. Lydia, after all, is very unlikely to win the final Immunity Challenge. However, as he explains to the camera, Rafe is reluctant to commit to Stephenie's plan as he has promised Danni that they would never vote for each other until the Final Three. When Rafe and Danni pow-wows in private, Danni says that she never expects Rafe to take her to the Final Two, but reminds him that their deal is to stick together until the Final Three. Naturally, this leaves Rafe in a bind: reasonably, he should vote off Danni but he obviously doesn't want to make Danni angry at him. This is where Rafe commits his fatal mistake, if you ask me: he doesn't even need to make an alliance of such nature with Danni in the first place! I give plenty of credit to Danni for getting into this alliance with Rafe but none to Rafe for being stuck in an alliance that benefits only Danni. Back to those two, Danni says that she is still not sure about how the game will play out for her despite hearing Rafe's assurances. Rafe tells her that he really likes her, maybe because she isn't selfish like Cindy who wasn't willing to let Rafe get all the cake in the bakery. Well, he likes her for now, anyway.

It turns out that they are running low on corn. As the Yownooks wonder what they will eat now, Rafe wonders casually whether the chicken that was sacrificed earlier today is still there in the sacrifice spot. Stephenie is like, "Oh yes, yes, why didn't we think of that earlier!" as she jumps to her feet and all but dashes off to find out. Danni also wants to go take a look as well while Rafe acts like he can't believe that these crazy women want to eat burned chicken. I wonder why he brings up the chicken in the first place, then. Oh, he's just joking? Hmm. Lydia and Stephenie walk over to look for that chicken and they locate the carcass. It is burned on the outside but the meat is still edible. As they work at removing the charred parts of the chicken, Lydia asks Stephenie whether she will be kept around until the Final Three. Stephenie tells her that she has broached Rafe with this but Rafe hasn't given her his answer yet. Both Lydia and Stephenie are aware of how useless Lydia is, it seems, and Lydia is banking that her uselessness will persuade the others to keep her around. She's hoping to play for third place, obviously. Lydia tells the camera that she hopes Stephenie will keep her around because Lydia is not a threat. I think this is the first time someone is opening up to the camera that her gameplay is being as useless as possible.

Once Stephenie and Lydia salvage the chicken, they bring it back to camp where the women eat with relish. Stephenie brings up the fact that the chicken is actually well-cooked with honey. Those Mayan gods sure love their honey-roasted chicken! Rafe however thinks that eating the chicken will tarnish the sacrifice carried out in the name of the local gods, causing Danni to look at him like he's crazy. She reminds him that he has been eating apparently, since it isn't shown on TV, lizards with relish only the other day. But Rafe tells the camera that he found the ritual powerful so he doesn't feel that it's right to eat the chicken. Rafe, honey, the Mayan gods don't care for fake ceremonies carried out to impress Americans competing for a million dollars. They really don't. Here, gnaw on a drumstick, dearie. Stephenie tells the camera that she doesn't see anything wrong with eating the chicken. If they don't eat it, the bugs and what-not will.

Okay, so maybe the Mayan gods do care after all when what Danni calls the worst storm ever strikes the camp at night, causing the four Yownooks to huddle forlornly under their shelter. Stephenie wonders whether they should pray for forgiveness for eating the chicken while Lydia says that the gods are angry with them because they ate the "sacrificial chicken". Rafe mentions that he heard the name of some thunder god evoked during the ceremony. I don't know. The gods could easily be trying to cleanse their land from the stain of these Yownooks and maybe they missed out on the fact that the contest isn't over yet.

Night, Tribal Council. Cindy looks nice all cleaned up as she follows Bobby Jon, Jamie, Gary, and Judd into the sidelines after the Yownooks have settled down. Probby gets the Yownooks to admit that they have eaten the chicken and Probby acts all indignant over the fact they disrespected the ceremony. This show, after all, is all about respecting other cultures. Let's get some locals in native costumes to dance like performing monkeys some more so that we can all respect the local culture better! Rafe insists that he is still respecting the culture and all that as he didn't partake any of the chicken. He would have, though, if it's a car. Still, Stephenie defends the decision to eat the chicken but she has no explanation for the storm. Lydia, when asked by Probby, says that she is no physical threat to anyone so the others are better off keeping her around. Danni however says that Lydia is more well-liked by the Jury. Oh, really? I can't see the likes of Judd and Jamie coming out to say that they are giving the money to Lydia, in all honesty. There is a difference between playing well while making no enemies and being so useless that nobody cares enough to even start respecting you and Lydia, I believe, is in the latter category. Stephenie, desperately trying to justify her upcoming decision, says that Lydia is however a mental threat. Lydia can only be a mental threat if the final Immunity Challenge involves pancake dancing. And even then, Lydia will find a way to screw that up as well. Probby sends the Yownooks to vote and when the results are in, Lydia is sent home. Gee, Rafe, way to destroy your own gameplay at this late stage of the game! Lydia, however, is not bitter in her final words and she wishes the others well.

Day thirty-eight, morning. After a milder but still pretty heavy storm, the Yownooks wake up to a wet morning where they learn that their corn has been ruined by the rain and is infested by maggots. The wet firewood makes it nearly impossible to start a fire. The gods are apparently still angry with the Yownooks. Maybe they just want to drive the Yownooks away from the country. The Yownooks get tree-mail where they learn that it's now time for the Wah-Wah-Wah Wail of Dramatic Lamentation Showcase of these three pretending to pay tribute to booted Survivors of this season. This time around, Rafe, Danni, and Stephenie will have to pass torches that represent each Survivor. There is a sketch of each Survivor on the corresponding torch, which is quite cute and I'm sure will show up on eBay soon, and as the three pass a torch, they will pull off the sketch and toss it into the fire. Wait a minute, is this a tribute moment or a "Burn, bastard, burn!" thingie?

Okay, it's time to see Jim again. I hope he's mended properly while at Loser Lodge. He says something inconsequential about being happy to be on the show and Danni generously says that the original Nookums would have never made it out of the jungle without Jim. Morgan says that she finds the social aspect of the game "challenging", Brianna thinks that she did great by surviving the ordeal of this game instead of shopping, and Brooke thinks that her body has adapted well to the game (maybe that's her way of saying that she's glad she lost weight). Um, who are these three women again? Do I know them? Am I supposed to? Blake thinks that he played with integrity. Yeah, and he's poorer for that. Maybe he'd be pleased by the way Danni, Rafe, and Stephenie sing that "Golden Boy" song to his tribute, although how Rafe and Stephenie know that song, I don't know. Margaret says that the game showed her what a nurturing person she is. Apparently her years of being a resident nurse failed to help her find her nurturing side. Still, I'm glad this show eventually led her to the light! Brian still says that he's happy with the way he played and he is glad that he was blindsided. Jamie and Judd send their love too. Amy is just glad that they don't have to amputate her leg. Aww, I miss her - she's robbed, I tell you. Brandon thinks that traveling isn't so bad after all, although I'd recommend that he travels the next time around to someplace cleaner, friendlier, and free from Jamie and Judd.

Bobby Jon is pretty and I have that picture of him modeling underwear in Instinct (with him sporting what seems like an obvious erection) as the new wallpaper on my PC. That is all. Jamie thinks that he should be more trustworthy and spend more time with honest people. Is that a subtle way of telling me that he and Bobby Jon are buying a house together in Canada soon? Gary makes a sport anology, which I'm sure many are surprised to learn. Judd calls his experiences a "mental rehab". Yeah? I thought that was just me, seeing him on the show and all that. Cindy says that she has no regrets about how she played the game other than not winning, of course, heh. Lydia says that she has been more than a provider to her tribe, although she doesn't elaborate on that. Maybe she doesn't know how. I certainly don't. Oh, and Lydia is swearing off corn, heh. And with that, the Wah-Wahs are over and thank heavens for that.

It's now time for the final Immunity Challenge. As expected, it's an endurance contest. This time around, they have to each stand inside a rectangular frame that swings freely in all directions. For the first hour, they can hold on to two ropes to held them balance themselves. For the next half-hour after that, they can only hold on to one rope. After one and a half hour, they have to let go of the ropes and hang on to their frames. When their feet hit the platform a foot or two under their frames or when their hands touch the frame, they are out of the contest. I'm hoping that there's a machine that can generate violent winds or something to really give the Survivors a hard time but I guess we can't be too cruel to these people.

Okay, Probby gives the word and the contest begins. At one point after twenty minutes into the contest Rafe dramatically flings off his glasses without falling out of his frame and it's pretty impressive. Probby chats with them about their track record in winning Waldo forty-five minutes into the contest and, once the hour is up, tells them to let go of one rope on his count of five. Once Stephenie lets go of one rope, she quickly finds her balance completely off and she ends up dangling from the other rope while she tries to swing her way back into her frame. Still, because her feet don't touch the platform, she is still in the game. Danni also loses her balance, as does Rafe, and all three end up swaying comically from their rope as they kick their legs to try to get back into their frames. They all end up in this comical position where they are pretty much leaning against the bottom horizontal beam of the frame while making sure that their feet do not touch the platform below them. It must be painful on their arms to remain in this position and the fun really starts when they have to release the other rope. Remember, they can't hold on to the frame with their hands so it will be interesting to see how these three will scramble to remain on the frame. Probby tells them to let go of the rope and... oops. Rafe instinctively tries to use his hands to steady himself. He touches the frame with his hands and he's out. Danni is taller so she manages to hold her position while Stephenie keeps slipping closer and closer to the platform floor. Eventually Stephenie is stuck in a painful contortion against the frame that hurts her so badly that she has tears in her eyes. And she is just inches above the platform anyway, so she finally caves in to the pain and the awkward posture she is stuck in and concedes defeat to Danni. Danni is finally in control of the game at this late stage!

As both Rafe and Danni head over to comfort a crying Stephenie, Rafe clearly tells Danni to take whoever she wants to the Final Two. "I'm really serious about that. And I mean it!" he tells her. Stephenie then pulls off the bluff she is wearing to check whether... I don't know, maybe her breasts are still on her chest or something. She must be really in pain if she feels that her breasts have fallen off and are running away from her. Probby sends them back to camp where Danni has to decide who she will take with her to the Final Two. Back at camp, Rafe once more assures Danni that she can take whoever she wants to the Final Two because it's all up to her, really. He's so kind. You think he's just "testing" Danni in his delusional way of thinking? Danni tells the camera that she doesn't enjoy voting off Rafe or Stephenie because they have both kept their word to her and now that Rafe has released her from her promise to take him to the Final Two, she is unsure of what she should really do. Now, take note of Rafe's bizarre reasonings and try to make sense of them if you can because I certainly can't. When Stephenie goes off by herself to regain some control over herself, Rafe tells Danni that he feels that Stephenie should be allowed a fighting chance after how hard Stephenie fought to win in the final Immunity Challenge. "I just didn't feel right going into Tribal Council tonight and it being a done deal just because you promised me something," he tells Danni. But to the camera, he says that Danni won't be here without him by her side. Then again, one could argue that should Danni go along with Cindy in booting Rafe in the previous episode, Rafe won't be here either so I don't know, really. Still, he goes on to say, "I feel good about letting Danni out of her promise, because to me, tonight, I want Steph and I to still be fighting together. We've been fighting together since day one. I feel like Steph deserves a chance." Okay, I guess we can all conclude that he's happy that Danni will do as she pleases. Right? Right?

Danni and Stephenie now have a private conversation where Danni talks about how much she owes Stephenie for watching her back and Stephenie repays the mutual back-patting by telling Danni how much she owes Danni as well for voting in line with her and her allies. Stephenie tells Danni not to feel sorry for her because she and Rafe did a blunder by voting out Lydia. Here, at least, Stephenie shows some grace and self-awareness even if her post-show interviews see her reverting back to her self-entitled Queen of Guatemala persona. Danni plays coy by saying that she can't win against Stephenie and Rafe. Come on, she's seen the previous seasons, she can't be that dumb as to believe that the Jury actually votes on pure merit. Stephenie says to the camera that she has played as well as she could have and she thinks that she has a 50-50 chance. If she loses, so be it. That is true. Stephenie's gameplay is one aspect of her that is steadfast and brilliant, at least until she and Rafe lose their collective crap and kept Danni instead of Lydia. Stephenie tells Danni to do what she thinks is right. Poor Danni is so uncertain and she says to the camera that she is keeping her options open until the very last minute.

Night, Tribal Council. Poor Lydia - Probby starts scolding Stephenie and Rafe for keeping Danni instead of Lydia because, as per Probby, Lydia is pretty much useless in everything. Don't Stephenie tell him that Lydia is a mental threat, oh no, because Probby will bitchslap that Miss Thing with the fact that Lydia is completely out in "95%" of the Challenges in this season. Stephenie says that she couldn't vote Danni out because Rafe wouldn't so all she would end up creating is a tie. Remember, a tie is unfavorable because Probby would then draw lots and the remaining Survivors whose names weren't nominated would have a chance of being eliminated. Which is to say, should there be a tie between Danni and Lydia, Rafe and Stephenie will enter the Elimination Raffle and one of them will be eliminated for being stupid. Stephenie also says that she'd rather be competing against the best instead of against, you know, Lydia. Poor Lydia, she just smiles gamely when anyone else would have melted into the floor in shame at being singled out as the most useless twerp on the show ever. Probby wasn't even this harsh on Scout when Scout deserved worse than Lydia, come to think of it. Danni modestly says that she was lucky to win Waldo and Rafe reiterates the fact that he allows Danni to choose whoever she thinks is worthy to go with her to the Final Two.

When asked, Danni thinks that she could have taken Rafe because he is a good friend to her. If she believes that, she's as dumb as rocks. Danni thinks that Stephenie is a good choice as well because Stephenie has made several people in the Jury angry at her. Here, Bobby Jon reaches behind him to play his fingers over Jamie's hand. I'm impressed at how he can sense where Jamie's hand is without looking behind him and I am also touched at the way these two are becoming so close together. Dare I hope for a joint photoshoot for some underwear line sometime in the future? Stephenie sums up Danni's dilemma accurately: if Danni wants to follow her heart (that is, if Danni is stupid), she'd take Rafe along but if Danni wants to follow her brain, Stephenie is the better choice as, like Danni said, there are people in the Jury who see Stephenie as the mastermind of their boot. Rafe is pleased with Stephenie's words because he thinks that Danni has played with her heart all along, a gross underestimation of Danni's strategy if you ask me. Danni finally goes to vote and she consigns Rafe to Loser Lodge. See, Rafe, even Danni's heart prefers Stephenie!

Rafe's final words are on par with Judd's hypocrasy when he says that he played with integrity because he only betrayed people that he felt should be betrayed. What, did someone die and appoint him the justiciar of morality among the Survivors of this season? What a fruitcake. But that's not all. He goes on to say, "Danni, I understand the decision you made. I thought you were the one person who would take me to the Final Two and you didn't, so Stephenie, I'm absolutely rooting for you, I think you played a great game, and I'll be voting for you tomorrow night." So let me get this straight: he told Danni to do what she wants and when she did just that, he was angry because she didn't take him to the Final Two? So basically Rafe's releasing Danni of her pact with him is just another excuse for him to come off like some good guy and caring friend for Stephenie on TV, only that when Danni didn't read his mind and understand that she should take Rafe to the Final Two like Rafe's program stated, he feels betrayed by her? What a jerk. What a big freaking jerk. Did I say that Stephenie has the biggest sense of self-entitlement on this show? Rafe has that title in the bag, what with his "If you are my friend, you will do everything to benefit me, even at your own expense" philosophy and all.

Day thirty-nine, D-Day morning. It's time for Stephenie and Danni to mutually admire how awesome they are and they do just that. Stephenie points out the spooky fact that they are the last two standing and somehow their names on the tribe banner are the only ones painted in yellow. Ooh, is that premonition at work or what? Those two admire each other for being jock gals who kicked everyone to the curb and they then get the same supposedly-spontaneous idea to burn the whole camp, which, coincidentally enough, was what all those Final Two pairs in previous seasons did as well. Oh my goodness, there really is some psychic thingie going on in that place! Danni says that she intends to be some "all-American gal" in the final showdown with the Jury while Stephenie intends to sell the fact that she outlasted, outwitted, and outplayed everyone who sat on the Jury bench. If you can't tell by now who will win the money, you must not have seen enough of the previous seasons.

Night, Tribal Council, Final Showdown. After Stephenie and Danni have taken their seats, the Jury file in. Rafe doesn't look good clean-shaven, or maybe he just doesn't look good because his attitude sucks in my opinion. Danni will give her opening statement first. She says that she never expects to be here but she is here nonetheless because many people underestimated her abilities (athletic, mental, et cetera). She thinks that she has played to her best abilities and regardless of whatever happens, they are all invited to her barbecue party. Or something like that. Stephenie on the other hand says that she never expected to last past the first Tribal Council but now that she is here, she knows that she has angered some people in the Jury and she hopes that she can clear the air about everything eventually, with her promising to be as honest as she claims she usually is.

Bobby Jon starts off the grilling session by telling the two ladies that they should be proud of their accomplishments and they must not let anyone take that away from them. He also thanks Stephenie for making his dream come true (being in the Jury - I KNOW, HOW PATHETIC). Aww, isn't this guy sweet? He's like the first genuine gentleman on the show. Can we make him, I don't know, the mentor to future tribes or something so that he can always be in the show in his shirtless glory helping the losers with making fire or offering them advice? Bobby Jon asks Stephenie whether she is proud of how she played the game. Stephenie says yes, reminding Bobby Jon that, like him, she came into the game with targets on her back and while she has made some people in the Jury angry with her, she has no regrets about how she played the game. Bobby Jon nods politely and asks Danni the same question. Unlike Stephenie who answers confidently, Danni hees and haws often, saying that she is proud of how she played. She then goes on to talk about how surprised she is to have made it this far, as if she has virtually no say in the events that brought her this far. Danni says that her only regrets is that she, Bobby Jon, and the rest of their tribe didn't win enough Immunity Challenges so that they could kick more butt after the merge. Again, Bobby Jon nods politely and takes his seat. What a sweet fellow.

Gary, who lied about his name, announces that he places a lot of importance on the honesty of the answers he will receive. "Honesty", in this case, translates to "saying what Gary wants to hear", naturally. He asks Stephenie why he should not vote for her. Stephenie says that Gary shouldn't vote for her because she had an early alliance with him that she later ditched for the alliance that eventually brought her here. Gary asks Danni the same question and Danni hee-haws her way through by saying that she sided with Rafe over Gary (sorry, sorry, she was forced into it, oh dear) and she is so sorry that she had to be selfish and she assures Gary that she is never this selfish in real life. Really! Did she say that she was sorry to Gary? Sorry, Gary! Talk about laying it a little too thickly, sheesh.

Jamie steps up next. You can tell that he has made up his mind who to vote for already by the type of questions he asks both women. To Danni, he wants her to pick four people she'd like to take to the Final Five. Danni rattles off Bobby Jon, Gary, and Brandon. Jamie doesn't pursue the name of the fifth member of Danni's Fabulous Five, however, because his battle is with Stephenie, not Danni. He tells Stephenie that he prefers to tell people upfront when these people are being voted out while Stephenie seems to prefer being nice to the people that she intends to vote out. He wants her to tell him how she thinks the Jury will feel about her strategy. In short, Jamie wants her to tell him how wretched she feels for blindsiding him. Stephenie knows that the Jury can't be too happy with her but she reminds Jamie that she didn't and couldn't single-handedly blindside him alone. Personally, she finds it hard to tell people upfront about the fact that they are going. She then cleverly reminds Jamie that he was the one who said that blindsiding is the way to go after he had gotten his torch snuffed by saying that she has the same belief as well. It's not a good answer but the question isn't a good one to begin with.

Lydia comes in with her baggages all ready for her pity party. She asks Stephenie why she should vote for Stephenie since she was loyal to Stephenie since Day Six but she was voted out anyway, boo-hoo-hoo. Stephenie rather foolishly says that she'd rather compete against the best and while she could have beaten Lydia, she won't find such a victory as satisfying as her beating Danni. Maybe Stephenie thinks that if Probby can call Lydia pretty much the useless twerp ever, she can pile on Lydia as well. Either way, it's not an answer that will reassure someone who is clearly out to get Stephenie to grovel at her feet and beg for her forgiveness. Why Stephenie doesn't shift the blame to Rafe by saying that Rafe wanted to vote for Danni and Stephenie couldn't risk a tie, I don't know. Lydia then asks Danni why she should vote for Danni since Danni told her that she could trust Danni but Danni went ahead with the others to send her packing. Sheesh, what does Lydia want? A hug? She's the most useless twerp ever according to Probby. Nobody respects her or cares that her feelings are hurt! Oy, someone please drag the midget out of my TV show! Danni tells Lydia in her most contrite tone that everything is just a game.

Cindy wants to know from each woman who they want to remove from the Jury. If she is hoping to hear her own name, she will have to reserve a seat by Lydia in Heartbreak Hotel because Danni's answer is Rafe, whom she knows is a surefire Stephenie vote, and Stephenie's answer is Bobby Jon because he's the first member of the Jury or something like that.

It's now Rafe's turn to speak. He wants to know why Danni didn't take him to the Final Two when she has said that she would take the most deserving. Can you believe this fellow? He automatically assumes that he is more deserving to be in the Final Two than Stephenie. Danni says that Stephenie does deserve to be here based on her performance in the final Immunity Challenge and her gameplay overall, especially considering how she had a target on her back since day one. I don't think Stephenie ever had a target on her back since day one and I think these people are saying that because they don't want to admit to themselves that at the end of the day all they really want is Stephenie's autograph. Danni doesn't mention Rafe's specific releasing her from her alliance pledge to him or how he screwed up in the final Immunity Challenge on himself like she should have, oh well. Then again, Danni is clearly out to endear herself to the Jury instead of antagonizing the Jury further. If she has to apologize for standing here before them, she would. Rafe then asks Stephenie whether there are any moves she made that she never told him during the season. Stephenie says no - she has always been honest to him. Rafe is happy and he even tells her to remind everyone why she should win in her closing statement. I have to marvel at how this pretty much likeable fellow manages to morph into a ridiculous twit in just the space of two episodes. Maybe he needs the number of the shrink that Ian must be seeing regularly by now.

Judd is up and I think I preferred listening to Lex Loser's ridiculous diatribe in the All-Stars Jury session that Judd's overblown and hypocritical nonsense where he accuses Stephenie of "skating through" the season. He asks Danni whether she has lied and then tells her to go to confessions when she says that maybe she has lied to Jamie and Brian once throughout the game. Danni for the first time in the entire Jury session loses her cool and tells him that she asks for forgiveness daily over matters that are far more significant that Judd's ridiculously misplaced offense at being evicted from the game. Judd then tears into Stephenie for the horrible sin of lying, eating too much, and some other nonsense Judd dreams up in his head while denying that he has ever lied on the show. He's clearly insane. The most pathetic thing is that he'd probably be calling up Stephenie every day after the season ends to beg her to introduce him to her friends so that he can hang out with them and pretend to be cool.

Probby winds down the grilling session and asks the two women to present their closing statements. Stephenie says that this game brings out the worst from people and she therefore apologizes for hurting their feelings. She explains that her strategy is to align with the correct people and be on the dominant alliance. She also pretty much tells them without saying outright that while she may come off as the leader of her alliance, these people on the Jury weren't blameless because she couldn't lead if they aren't willing to be led. Of course, Jury members are notorious for being unwilling to or incapable of reading between the lines. Danni says that she entered the merge never expecting to stand a chance. And that is supposed to be impressive? Danni says that she saw how Rafe and Stephenie were running the show and tells the Jury that those two are responsible for putting the Jury members on the Jury bench. Danni explains that she got here by getting close to Stephenie and Rafe. That has to make Cindy and Lydia feel even worse, I suspect.

It's now time to vote. Other than Judd voting for "Dani" and whispering something I can't be bothered to catch - maybe he's saying that he has a puny penis - and Rafe using his vote for Stephenie to push his Rafe Is Great agenda, the votes of the other members of the Jury are not shown. Probby takes the urn and takes off in the helicopter. The show then cuts to the CBS Television City studio where Danni shows off her new plumped-up lips and Stephenie cries out for a decent make-up artist. Probby walks up slowly to the cheers of the audience and savors the only time when people will cheer for him in real life. He announces that the winner will receive a million dollars, a Pontiac Torrent, and the bragging rights of being one of the eleven Sole Survivors desperately trying to remain in the limelight out there. So who is this Sole Survivor? Probby reveals the votes. "Dani"! Stephenie! Danni! Danni! Danni! It turns out that Danni won by six votes to Stephenie's one and she gets hugged by Stephenie and a zillion family members while the confetti falls.

Should Danni have won? Yeah, why not, she played a great game of ducking and evading the chopping block while her fellow outnumbered allies fell to the chopping block one by one. She made key allies and helped execute moves that greatly benefitted her. Stephenie's gameplay is more dominating as she is a key member in an alliance that managed to hold until close to the end despite losing other key members in the process. But Danni's gameplay is as good as Stephenie's, it's only that Danni is the one ducking and slithering through while Stephenie steers straight ahead, both of them having the end game in sight. Both women play a great game and I'm happy to see either of them win despite the fact that I can't stand Stephenie's personality and I think Danni's Jury performance is weak compared to Stephenie's. I don't think I have ever been this satisfied with the conclusion of a Survivor season!