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I Release You! – Survivor Guatemala, Finale


by Carrie

14 contestants have already been voted out, and now we’re down to the final four. Over the next two hours, we’ll watch as Lydia, Danni, Rafe, and Steph battle it out for the coveted final two positions, and one of them will become the sole Survivor. Get comfy – this is gonna be a long one.

As all finales do, this one starts off with a recap of everything that has gone on in the game leading us to this point. Strangely enough, Lydia is only an afterthought in this montage, with a brief mention of becoming an “outsider” after Gary’s boot.

It’s now day 37, and Lydia is up early tending to the fire and making corn mush. She says in confessional that she doesn’t quite understand why she’s still there, but wonders if it may be her destiny. Remember the last time she talked of destiny? Yeah, last Thursday when she felt destined to win the car. I love ya Lydia, but I don’t think there’s much destiny involved in this game.

Danni is freaking out a bit, but trying to remain calm in front of the other three. Even though she has Rafe’s word that she will make it to the final three, she feels uncertain. She compares it to the Kansas City Jayhawks, who have made it to the final four several times but haven’t brought home the trophy – she feels the pressure is on for her to bring it home.

Lydia goes to retrieve the treemail, and thinks it’s something good. She starts hooting and running towards the others, who are expecting a basket of food to celebrate being in the final four. Lydia explains that she thinks the treemail signals a coming celebration, and the others laugh at her enthusiasm. Privately, Lydia says that, if it’s not a celebration, then she thinks they will get some Mayan natives as visitors.

Cue the Mayan family, who arrives silently, carrying burning incense and baskets full of food and other various ceremonial items. They speak no English, but greet the Survivors before setting up their ritual at the foot of the Mayan ruins at camp. They make a circle out of sugar, add heaps of fresh rosemary, and make a fire in the centre, over which they pour a bottle of honey. Steph, who has eaten more than anyone in the entire game, is miffed that they wasted the honey.

Now it’s on to the sacrificing of a chicken. Of course Stephenie wants to eat the chicken, but Rafe explains to her that it’s not dinner, it’s a ceremony. The poor chicken has his head ripped off and is then thrown into the fire. I’m sure PETA will have a few things to say about this. Steph asks Rafe if the chicken is dead. Um, yeah, I think it’s safe to assume he is indeed deceased.

After the prayers and ceremony have concluded, the Survivors are given something potent to drink and tamales to eat. Steph, who is apparently still hungry, asks Lydia to ask the Mayans if they can eat the chicken. You know, the one that was sacrificed to the Mayan gods? Not surprisingly, the answer is a firm “no”.

Rafe says that he truly appreciated the ceremony and exposure to the Mayan culture. He says that without experiencing the people, you can’t really understand the location. Lydia is also moved by the ritual and feels a kinship with the Mayans.

It’s time now for the first Immunity Challenge of the episode, and Jeff greets everyone by revealing the biggest, baddest maze that Survivor has ever created. It’s in the shape of a giant bird, who, according to Mayan history, once ruled the land. The final four will race into the maze to gather puzzle pieces located in six different stations inside the maze. Once they get a puzzle piece, they have to transport it to their table in the centre of the maze by navigating across several pontoons and climbing a ladder. Then they have to return to the maze by crossing a rope bridge to search for their next puzzle piece. Once they have all of their puzzle pieces, they must solve the puzzle by putting it together to resemble one of three Mayan animals – each puzzle piece is three-sided.

And they’re off. Not surprisingly, Rafe and Steph take an early lead, with Danni right behind them. Lydia keeps up for a good part of the challenge, but falls behind as the others begin to bring home their final puzzle pieces. It’s Rafe and Steph who find and return all of their puzzle pieces first, with Danni still not far behind. Rafe ends up solving the puzzle first, and wins his fourth individual immunity – just as Lydia appears with her last puzzle piece. Go Rafe!

Back at camp, Steph makes a beeline for Rafe and tells him how much she wants to be in the final two with him. Rafe says that’s what he wants too, but will “fight his ass off” for the last immunity. Stephenie says privately that she thinks she has the best chance against Rafe in the final two, because they played the same game and backstabbed the same people to get there. I don’t know – it seems to me that Steph was closer to Judd and Jamie than Rafe was, and that they both will blame her for putting them on the jury.

Steph wants to vote Danni out now, since Lydia will be much easier to beat in the final IC. Rafe agrees, but he made a promise to Danni that she would get to the final three so he wants to honour that. Ugh. Rafe, it’s a million bucks. Use your head.

Danni tells Rafe that she doesn’t expect to make it to the final two, because all he promised her was final three. She says she’s okay with that, and that she’s thankful to him for bringing her this far. Steph arrives on the scene and Rafe mentions that there’s still a cooked chicken sitting near them … should they eat it? Steph grabs Lydia and they head over to check out the burnt sacrifice.

At the fire pit, Lydia asks Steph if she and Rafe would consider keeping her around. Steph says that they were just discussing that, and that she would like to – and when Lydia asks if she’ll let her know when they decide, Steph says that she will. They poke and pick at the burnt chicken carcass and find some meat worth eating under the charred skin. They bring it back to where Danni and Rafe are grinding corn, and the three women dig in. Rafe chooses to pass on the chicken meat, since he’s uncomfortable eating the remains of a religious sacrifice.

Almost immediately after the last bit of chicken meat is devoured, a massive storm hits the area and everyone runs for the cover of their shelter. Steph thinks they should say a prayer and ask for forgiveness, and Rafe says that he heard them chant the name of the thunder god a few times during the ceremony. Heehee. Cue huge booms of thunder and lots of lightning, and Danni looks like she doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Now it’s time for Tribal Council. The jurors file in and Jeff welcomes everyone, then asks Rafe to describe the day for them. Rafe says that the Mayan ritual was moving, and that it helped him to connect the land with the people and their culture. Jeff then wants to know how they survived the storm. Lydia sheepishly admits that they might have caused it, and when no one else wants to offer up any sort of explanation, she continues, describing how they, um, kinda might’ve, you know … eaten the chicken. Lydia knows that the Mayan gods were upset with them. The jury stares at the final four, astounded.

Rafe explains that he didn’t eat any of the chicken, but the ladies admit that they all did. Jeff says that he’s not going to judge them, but he does want to talk about it. Steph jumps in and says that she respected the ritual, but that they were starving and had to eat.

Moving on, Jeff asks Lydia if she would be surprised if she were booted tonight. She responds that she’s not a physical threat and wouldn’t be any competition in the final challenge, unlike Danni who is very fit. Danni responds that Lydia is well-liked and wouldn’t be a good choice to take to the final two, since she would likely win. In what alternative universe would Lydia win this game, I wonder?

It’s time to vote, and we don’t get to see any of them. Jeff fetches and tallies, and the decision is unanimous – Lydia becomes the sixth member of the jury. Interesting. Lydia hugs everyone before having her torch extinguished, and in her final words she says that she’s proud of herself for doing so well, and that she enjoyed the experience of living among the Mayan ruins. All with a smile on her face. Well done, Lydia.

The next morning, the entire camp is soaked. The fire is out and their corn stash is mouldy and full of maggots. Yum. Spirits are up, however, as the end is drawing near and each person can almost taste the million dollars, which must be a better taste than maggots boiled in dirty water. Treemail arrives and instructs them to head to the ruins of a temple to take part in the Fallen Comrades tradition, after which they will begin their final Immunity Challenge.

At the temple ruins, each fallen Survivor’s torch is standing with a picture attached to it. Rafe, Steph, and Danni say a few words about each person, and as they remove the pictures to be sacrificially burned, the torch bearer comes in with a voiceover telling of their experience in the game. It’s the usual stuff you’d expect to hear – they had a great experience, they wouldn’t change how they played, they are able to go home with their morality intact, etc etc.

After Lydia’s photo is placed in the fire, the final three trek out to meet Jeff for their last IC. As expected, it’s endurance based – although this time it’s a little bit different. Each person will have a platform to stand on, but the platforms rotate and wobble 360 degrees, so balance and concentration will play a huge part in this challenge. They each have two ropes to hang onto (one for each hand), but after 60 minutes they will have to let go of one rope. If they’re still standing after another 30 minutes, they will have to let go of the second rope. I guess this is to prevent the hundred-hour standoff that happened last season with Ian and Tom.

They all get on their platforms and the challenge is underway. The first hour goes by without incident, and Jeff tells them that they have to let go of one of the ropes. This is where it gets interesting. Jeff explains that no one is out until their feet hit the ground, just as Stephenie loses her balance. She swings around madly, trying not to touch the ground, as Danni starts to teeter and swing around as well. Steph leans against a post with her feet still on her platform, as Rafe follows suit and wobbles around looking for some kid of stability. Danni and then Rafe find the same exact position as Steph, and it’s now a battle to see whose back will give out first.

30 minutes go by, and now everyone must let go of the second rope. Jeff reminds them that they cannot touch the beams with their hands now. Danni and Steph both put their hats behind the small of their backs, while Rafe struggles for a solid position on the beam. Losing concentration, he absent-mindedly grabs the post to shimmy himself upwards, and is called on it by Jeff. Rafe can’t believe that he’s out, and can’t even comment on what he’s done.

It’s now just over two hours into the challenge. Stephenie is in obvious pain, and she says that her back is killing her. She’s sunk down the post almost four feet from where she began, and now it’s sheer will-power keeping her off the ground. Danni, however, looks like she’s doing just fine.

Steph begins to cry, and tries to push herself back up the post. She can’t quite manage it though, and slides down, down, down … until she hits the ground. Danni wins! She leaves her post and goes straight to Steph, as does Rafe, giving her encouragement. Steph sobs and complains that she can’t feel her legs or her back.

Rafe tells Danni that he “releases her from her promise” to take him to the final two. Oh no Rafe, you did NOT just say that. But he did. Danni thanks him, and he reiterates that she is free to choose whoever she wants to.

Back at camp, Danni is trying to come to grips with the fact that she’s in the final two. She can’t believe it – she was so close to going home so many times, but she beat the odds and made it through. Rafe tells her again that she doesn’t have to take him just because she promised to. It comes off as a guilt trip, and I’m wondering if he’s not regretting that he opened that door for her.

Danni says privately that she was ready to take Rafe, but now she feels more pressure because he’s made it clear to her that she doesn’t have to. Rafe says that he’s been by Steph’s side since the beginning, and he wants them to be on even footing at the end. It’s clear though that he’s expecting Danni to make the “right” choice and take him to the end, since he got her here in the first place.

At Tribal Council, Jeff asks the final three to explain their last vote – they’ve been taking out the stronger players all along, and then, when it really matters, they vote out the weakest. Lydia is all smiles and nods over in her jury spot. Steph says that they weren’t sure if the final challenge would be mental or physical. Uh, because what, Lydia has been a threat in mental challenges? After ten previous seasons of Survivor, since when has the final challenge not been physical? Then Steph mentions that Rafe had made a promise to Danni, which makes much more sense.

Jeff asks Rafe what he said to Danni after the challenge – he caught a bit of it, but not the whole exchange. Rafe explains that Danni had promised to take him to the final two if she made it that far, and he was releasing her from that promise. Jeff wants to know why, and Rafe says that he wants to make sure that Danni makes the decision that’s right for her; he doesn’t want her to have any regrets later.

Danni is then asked how she will make up her mind tonight. She says that on one hand, if she votes with her heart, she will take Rafe because she wouldn’t be there without him. On the other hand, if she takes Stephenie, she has a better shot of winning since Steph has made some enemies on the jury. Jamie and Bobby Jon do some sort of handshake thing on the jury at this comment.

Steph adds that she’s the obvious choice if Danni wants to win the money. Rafe says that there are people on the jury who are just as unhappy with him as they are with Steph, and Cindy nods agreement. He says that Danni has played with her heart throughout the game, and he hopes she will continue to do so.

It’s time for Danni to vote. Jeff goes to tally the vote (can you actually tally a single vote?), and … Rafe is the 16th person voted out of Survivor Guatemala. Sniff. He says in his final words that he’s proud of the way he played the game, only lying or breaking a promise when he felt it was the right thing to do, and staying true when he felt he should. He adds that, out of everyone there, he thought Danni would have been the one to take him to the final two. He’s been close to Steph throughout the entire game, and promises her that she has his vote.

The next morning, the girls chat about being the final two, ahead of all of the macho, strong guys that they’ve outlasted. Steph says that she came into the game with a target on her back, having played before, and she can’t believe that she made it to the final two. They row out to their “swimming pool” for one last dip before returning to camp and burning their shelter, as a sacrifice. To Mark Burnett, I guess.

Danni says that she’s ready for the jury. She’s always been regarded as a “girl next door” type, and is ready to don that persona and answer questions as honestly as she can. Steph says that she did everything she did in the game to get herself to the end, and that she’s not afraid of the jury. She’ll answer honestly and give reasonable explanations for everything she did, and when it comes down to it, she outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed everyone else, and that’s why she’s in the final two and they’re not. Oooh, good attitude Steph. Make everyone feel badly about themselves and I’m sure they’ll jump on the Stephenie bandwagon.

It’s finally time for the last Tribal Council. Danni and Steph are asked to address the jury and make their opening statements. Danni begins hers with “Oh gosh …” Yup, there’s that girl next door thing she was talking about. She goes on to say that she can’t believe she’s in the final two, after being outnumbered at the merge. She’s surprised that people underestimated her as a threat, since she’s very athletic, and she knew that she could win at an endurance type of challenge because she’s overcome some difficult things in her life. Okay. She can’t wait to invite everyone to Kansas City for a barbeque and a ballgame.

Steph says that she’s honoured to be where she is now, because she never thought she’d make it past the first Tribal Council. She understands that a few people are upset with her, but says that she can’t wait to address them and explain everything. She promises that she’ll be as honest as she’s ever been. Hmm, maybe that’s a bad choice of words.

Bobby Jon gets to go first, and he’s, as always, a true gentleman. He says that he knows he wouldn’t have even made the jury without Stephenie’s help, and he appreciates that. He wants to know how proud of herself she is with the way she played the game. Steph says that she’s very proud, then adds a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with the question. She says that she “sort of backstabbed” a few people, but overall she’s very happy with the way things turned out.

Danni gets the same question, and is also proud of the way she played the game. She was as honest as she could be, and impressed that she lasted as long as she did because the odds were stacked against her. She only wishes that, before the merge, they could have won a few more challenges so that they would have had the numbers on their side.

Gary is next. He says that, as far as he’s concerned, the game is still being played until the final jury question is answered. He’s going to base his vote on who answers him more honestly. He asks Steph why he shouldn’t vote for her. Steph answers that they made an alliance on the very first day and promised to stick together no matter what, but then they got separated and she made a new alliance, which eventually voted him out.

Danni’s question is the same again, and she says that, although she had a strong alliance with Gary, she started trying to build a relationship with Rafe to protect herself. She admits that this was a selfish move, but adds that in order to win the money, sometimes you have to be selfish.

It’s Jamie’s turn, and he addresses Danni first. He says that it’s not where you go, but who you go with; he wants to know who her ‘top five’ would be if she had the numbers going into the merge. She says definitely Bobby Jon and Gary, as well as Brandon. Along with herself, that makes four … but she doesn’t name a fifth. Jamie doesn’t seem concerned with the math, and moves on to Stephenie.

He says that he wouldn’t be able to talk to people if he were about to vote them out, but her strategy seemed to be that she would be their best friend before voting them out. He wants to know how she thinks the jury feels about that. Steph says that it was never her sole decision on who to vote out – it was always a group thing. She admits that she’s not good at telling people that they’re going, and says that he himself said that being blindsided was the best way to go. She adds that she hopes people will see beyond being hurt and award her their votes for the game she played.

Lydia is up, and tells Steph that she’d been loyal to her since day six. She wants to know why, after Stephenie turned her back on Lydia, she should now give her a vote to win. Steph thanks Lydia for her loyalty, and says that she’s super-competitive and wanted to be up against the best in the final three. Of course, she did say earlier that Rafe had made a promise to Danni so she had to go along with that, so I’m thinking Lydia is smelling some BS in this answer.

Lydia then asks Danni why, after telling her that she would “take care” of Lydia, did she vote against her at the last TC? The reasonable answer here is, “Well Lydia, it was either you or me going and I had to save myself”, but Danni opts instead to say that sometimes in this game you have to lie or manipulate others.

Cindy’s next, and she asks Danni who she would remove from the jury if she had the chance to take one person off. Danni responds that it would have to be Rafe, because he has a strong bond with Steph and would most likely vote for her to win. Cindy says that this is an honest answer, and thanks her.

Steph is asked the same question, and hums and haws over it. She says maybe Bobby Jon, because he was the first jury member? She doesn’t know – she wouldn’t want to remove anybody. Not good Steph, not good.

It’s Rafe’s turn, and he congratulates them both, saying that they were like sisters to him out there and he’s happy that one of them will win the million. He reminds Danni that she told him that if she got to the end, she wanted to be there with the strongest player; the person who most deserved to win the game. He wants to know why she changed her mind. She says that after watching Steph give everything she had during the final immunity challenge, she realized that Stephenie was one of the strongest players as well, so she was conflicted over who she should take.

Rafe then addressed Steph, and it’s clear that he wants to give her a chance to shine. He says that she was a strategic powerhouse and led the game despite wearing a huge target on her back since day one. He wants to know what the biggest strategic move she made was, that she didn’t tell him about. Steph, having been given an excellent chance to win some favour with the jury on a silver platter, decides not to jump on it. She says that she doesn’t think there was one – that she was completely honest with him throughout the whole game. Rafe adds that he wants to hear why she should win in her closing statement.

Judd is up last – been looking forward to this one. He asks Danni if she’s ever been roller blading or ice skating. She asks him to repeat the question, and he does. She says that she’s done both, although not very well. Judd says he’s surprised by that, because she skated through this game pretty well. Ha! He wants to know now if she ever lied in the game, and if she did, to whom. Danni admits that she lied to a couple of people by not telling them she was voting for them when they asked. Judd tells her that he thinks she lied a lot, and that when she gets home she should head directly to confession. Danni retorts that she asks for forgiveness every single day.

Now Judd wants to know if Stephenie is still “starving”. He says that she’s eaten more during the game than he ever does at home, and Steph offers a feeble, “You know that I love to eat!” He tells her that the only thing she should be starving for now is his vote. He accuses her of lying and manipulating throughout the game, but says that the last straw for him was that she lied to his wife when she said that their alliance was strong, only to vote him out at the very next TC.

Steph explains that she wasn’t lying at the time – she completely expected to go to the end with Judd, but while they were away, Danni was working Rafe against him. Danni claimed that Judd was targeting Rafe and Steph, and Steph adds that Lydia heard it too. Judd says that he never said that – he only pointed out that they needed to be aware of who the strongest players were. Judd says that he’s making a promise to Steph right now, and he intends to keep it.

It’s finally time for closing statements. Stephenie thanks everyone for their questions, and says that the game of Survivor is one of the hardest there is to play. She explains that sometimes you have to do bad stuff, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. She knows that she hurt people along the way and she’s sorry, but she came into the game wanting to always have strong alliances and numbers on her side, and she’s succeeded in doing just that. She was forced into a leadership role early on, and made decisions that would advance her in the game. She ended up outwitting, outlasting, and outplaying the others to the best of her ability.

Danni says that she came into the merge with the numbers stacked against her, and watched and waited to see who was in control of the six-person alliance that dominated the game. She decided to align with them (Steph and Rafe), and they all eventually became friends. She would appreciate their votes, and promises that the money would go to “good use”.

And now, as they say, it’s time to vote. We get to see Judd tell us that he keeps his promises, and vote for Danni. Rafe says that he admires that Steph turned her weaknesses into strengths, and sends his vote her way.

Jeff goes to get the votes, and tells everyone that he’ll meet them back in the US, where they will be tallied (the votes, not the contestants) and a winner will be announced. With that, he heads for a waiting helicopter. The helicopter takes him right to LA, to the studio where the live reunion show is taking place. Boy, they sure have made some advancements in helicopters these days!

To get the scoop on who won and how the reunion show unfolded, check out LauraBelle’s reunion show recap.

Thoughts, comments, or questions? Drop me a line at carrie@realityshack.com. See you in Panama!


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