Finale: Congratulations to Tom Westman…Sole Survivor

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who would walk away with the million dollar prize in this season of Survivor. With at least two opportunities to eliminate the most dominate and powerful player in Palau, the tribe mates failed to do so. In looking at the last six competitors, the one person who would have possibly given Tom a run for his money during the final Tribal Council may have been Gregg.

With the enemies that Ian formed on the island, the votes would not have been as close as people probably expected. Gregg was one contestant who was well liked, didn’t ruffle any feathers, a hard worker and competitive. If he would have made it to the final two, Tom may not have won.

Now, to last nights show…

Day 38
Reflecting over their triumphant victory in making it to the final four, Tom, Ian, Jenn and Katie received a gift basket of champagne, eggs and oranges. Embracing the moment and taking in an opportunity to strategize without Tom around, Jenn, Katie and Ian made plans to eliminate Tom (Providing he didn’t win Immunity). Being the dominating “Alpha-male” of the tribe, the three of them agree that it was time for Tom to leave.

Immunity Challenge
Arriving at Challenge Beach, the final four were greeted by Jeff Probst and a Chevrolet SSR which the winner of Survivor: Palau would receive. Inside the glove compartment of the vehicle was also a one million dollar check that the remaining tribe mates got a chance to touch and feel.

Explaining the challenge, Jeff Probst informed them that the challenge required speed and agility. The survivors must race along a tire crawl, and then navigate through a series of vertical escape hatches to reach the top of a three-story tower. Once at the top of the tower, the survivors must use grappling hooks to retrieve keys that unlocked a hatch covering a flag, which they must raise. The first two players to finish would race down a flying fox into the ocean and retrieve a combination lock box containing another flag. After figuring out the box’s combination, the survivors must retrieve the flag and raise it. The first to raise the flag wins Immunity.

Just like the last few challenges, Tom took an early lead and continued from there. With Jenn in second place going through the field of tires and up to the grappling hook, it didn’t take long for Ian to pull ahead of her. With the challenge coming down to Ian and Tom once again, the two of them quickly descended the flying fox into the ocean. After collecting their boxes and returning to shore, it was Ian with a small lead on Tom. Working hard to figure out the correct combination for the lock, Ian had several attempts, but came up short. Finally, establishing the correct combination, Tom opened his padlock and raised his flag to win a very important Immunity.

Back at camp
A dumbfounded threesome couldn’t believe that Tom, once again, beat them in a crucial Immunity Challenge. Knowing her head was on the chopping block, Jenn was very sad. Sticking to his original alliance, Tom affirmed to Jenn his decision to vote her off. Sitting around the campsite, Ian made a verbal mistake by telling Tom that his decision would’ve been a hard one for him to make (deciding who to vote out between Tom, Jenn & Katie), Tom was quickly alarmed that Ian had planned to betray him.

Taking time to really think about what Ian had said, Jenn found a window of opportunity to plant additional seeds in Tom mind. Jenn went to Tom and confirmed what Ian had said to be true. Being even more concerned, Tom cornered Ian and confronted him about the plot to vote him out. Once again, Ian danced around his words. Although Tom still valued Ian’s friendship, he stated that he may not respect him.

Tribal Council
At Tribal Council, it came down to a tie vote (two for Jenn and two for Ian). It seemed that Tom turned against Ian and voted against him while Katie stayed true to her friend and voted against Jenn). After voting again, there was still a tie. In a crucial tie-breaker, Ian and Jenn had to make fire. Again, there was no competition as Ian made fire first sending Jenn home.

At camp
Returning from Tribal Council, both Katie and Tom lashed out at Ian as if he was a wet dog running through the house. Assaulting Ian for what they saw as his lack of honesty, Ian felt like a target at a firing range. No matter what Ian said, he was the “bad guy” at camp.

Day 39
Meeting with Jeff Probst, the remaining survivors were instructed to paddle through the Palauan waters and pay their respects to their fallen comrades. Paddling along, the survivors dropped each fallen castaway’s torch into the sea taken a moment to reflect and remember their past 38 days in Palau.

Arriving to their final Immunity Challenge, Jeff Probst explained that the challenge would test their endurance. The survivors must grab onto a navigational buoy and hang on while the buoy swayed from side to side. The last player left hanging on would win the Final Immunity.

After over four hours on the buoys, Katie jumped off the buoy leaving Ian and Tom to battle it out. As night fell, Ian and Tom both were determined to win. With over twelve hours in the challenge, Ian offered Tom a deal. Trying to get back into Tom’s good graces, Ian claimed that he would step down if Tom promised to take Katie to the final two. Believing that respect and friendship was more important than a million dollars, Ian forfeited his right to continue in the game.

Without heading to Tribal Council, Jeff Probst conducted a quick Tribal Council to officially announce that Tom and Katie were the Final Two.

Final Tribal Council
Sitting down to their final Tribal Council, the Jury began asking questions that would decide who would win the money. While Tom defended his integrity and alliances, Katie defended her strategy. Both Tom and Katie received their share of bruises, but Katie was beat up like an untrained boxer going up against the champion of the world. Keeping her composure, she made it through with flying colors. I was very impressed by her bold decision not to answer Janu’s question to her. Feeling that she would not have received her vote even if she had answered the question, Katie basically told her that it was pointless to give her an answer.

In the end, it was Tom Westman winning six of the seven votes to walk away with one million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor of Palau.

This season started off very slow and throughout the season it had is shares of peaks and valleys. With the elimination of castaways like James, Angie and Coby, I didn’t think the season would turn around, but it did. It actually turned out to be one of the best.

Again, Congratulations Tom…you earned the prize.

Until Next Season.


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