And that’s exactly what happened. Except it was Denise, not the Golden Boy. Of course, having had the S26 returning players’ names spoiled last week for me, I kind of suspected this would happen. As Probst slyly asked Malcolm at the reunion, would he come back another time. Well…and Malcolm’s wry smile failed to hide it…he will be. With that knowledge, I did not expect him to win this time around.
The funny thing is, the best move for Scoopin’ would have been to turn on Blair at the Final Four and go in with BOTH Malcolm and Denise, with hopes that they two of them would split votes and that he could make a go of it. Although, most likely he would have just joined the Zero Vote Club in that case (still just consisting of Becky, Cassandra, Dreamz, Sugar, Stephen, Mick, Russell Hantz, Sash, RI Natalie, Albert and Chelsea). Any real chance of someone else winning vanished when Penner and Carter left. Everyone saw this coming except Scoopin’ and Blair.
I was curious about one thing – why didn’t Malcolm and Denise stick together? Even after Malcolm lost the challenge after not committing to Denise, why did they stay apart? Both were depending upon the word of Scoopin’ and Blair – they were completely at their mercy. If they stuck together, they would retain a piece of control. Denise could assume that Malcolm would get the two votes and face Blair in fire-making, but it is not a guarantee that Malcolm would the votes. If would have covered her ass in case Malcolm had the deal. Was a 2-2 split the smart play? Don’t know. But it would have eliminated their hand-wringing over turning on their longtime ally.
So, Malcolm went into the last elimination vote a confident man that his boat-made alliance last week would hold. But the other two were afraid to face off with him and had made another alliance with Denise. Malcolm was positive that he was sitting pretty until Probst asked Blair for a good reason to keep Malcolm around…and she didn’t give one. You could see his choo-choo-choose me moment as his heart breaks realizing he’d been had. He could have turned to Denise and asked her for a 2-2 split and a fighting chance, but he didn’t and he went down to defeat. He knew it.
In the finals, there was no real chance that anyone was going to win this other than Denise. To be honest, though, I was surprised at her margin of victory. Six of the eight jury votes went her way – including votes from the former Tandang tribe. That’s how little respect their own tribe had for Scoopin’ and Blair. And to be fair, both of them made passionate and well-crafted pleas for victory. Scoopin’ especially was able to say that the target on returning players made his job very difficult. However, Penner shot that down pretty hard – Not once did Scoopin’s name get written down. In fact, in two seasons, the only time anyone wrote his name down was Carter’s vote for him to win. In double fact, neither Scoopin’ nor Blair received any votes all season long. Just how difficult was their path after all? Penner pointed out that he had 15 votes cast on him.
Denise did an outstanding job this season. She and Malcolm endured the dysfunction and ineptness of Matsing. They found an idol together. They got split up. Her new Kalabaw tribe instantly lost a player to injury (Man, how important did that loss factor in this season!), and lost a challenge. Boom. Two players down, and on a brand new tribe. But it was her social game, her aggressiveness and her balls-to-the-wall attitude in challenges and at camp that enabled her to weasel in and nudge out Dawson and Katie. She then joined back up with Malcolm as a sub-alliance, bouncing around the power majorities as Tandang and Kalabaw slugged it out. We saw that the two of them were a team, and when the moment arrived where she could see the path to victory, she turned on him. She really played a well-rounded game.
So, of course, she got jobbed by Probst at the Finale, as he paid a lot more attention to the others than to the woman who just kicked their ass. This followed a Final Tribal where she did one of my favorite moves – she defiantly vowed to not apologize for playing the game. She did a little with Abi – but not the content in her words, but for the methodology of delivering the words. She owned Tribal – and she should, since she attended each and every Tribal Council this season, a show first. And in case you were wondering, in 14 votes, her vote went to the ousted Survivor 11 times. Twice her votes were cast against someone who played an idol, and the other time was her vote for Pete the night Kent left during that insane Tribal when Blair verbalized the Kent Vote Plan B, everyone showed idols, and Penner got confused and voted Abi.
The Jury was full of fire and brimstone and close to All-Stars levels of bitterness. Artis yelled at them and called out their lack of loyalty – meaning Blair/Scoopin’, all but assuring Denise his vote. Carter must have gotten into his stash before arriving as he stoned-face his way through a softball Scoopin’ question about why Carter left. PBP slammed Blair again for loyalty, which is funny because she was actually quite loyal to their tribe until Scoopin’ flipped on Artis. RC made it about her – because someone always does. Her vote and question were all about her instincts about Blair and the need for explanation on her vote out.