Survivor Psyche, Final Episode: Class Dismissedby Melinda Smith and Suzanne Tromblay -- 05/16/2003
The players are giddy at the prospect of the end of their trials in the jungle. Rob fantasizes about his Hallmark dream card. Which would show Heidi looking fine in her bikini. Inside it says: “No matter how hot you think this girl is, somebody somewhere is sick and tired of putting up with her crap.”
After losing her best girlfriend, Jenna has chilled out considerably. “As of now I’m happy. Tomorrow I’ll be saying goodbye very happily.” Principal Butch is the giddiest of them all. “Deep inside you’re jumping for joy.” He celebrates the end of the school year by “cutting a rug.” Watch me Dance Like an Egyptian, he calls to his students. Favorite student Matt claims that Butch is “psychotic and crazy.” “If Matt is saying you’re crazy, you’re out of your frickin’ mind,” Rob tells the camera.
Play time ends too soon and it’s time for their final exam.
Immunity Challenge 1: The Lost Boys
The challenge for the players incorporates the natural elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water as 3-D hieroglyphics in a maze. Matt, Butch, Jenna, and Rob are blindfolded and must decipher the hieroglyphics at the stations with their fingers to collect a necklace and locate the next station. The first player to collect all four and return to the center wins immunity.
Matt takes the lead first, collecting two necklaces. Jenna manages to find her first one soon after, and the other two men locate her as well. Matt stumbles into Jenna first and his arm slides across her chest. “Quit copping a feel there, buddy,” “I finally had that opportunity.” “Ooh, pervert!” Then Butch stumbles into her. “Butch, you’re married!” “I know! I couldn’t help it!” Butch says quickly.
This is as much excitement as poor Butch gets in the game. “Butch is lost in Never Never Land,” Probst announces at one point. He finally stumbles into a station almost by accident. Probst is so excited he yells out the news. “Butch is at a guidepost!” Butch makes like Frankenstein with a triumphant URRRHHH!!!
And at the end it’s the Lost Boys vs. Wendy, as Beauty Queen Jenna homes in on the trinkets and Matt lurches farther and farther away from his prize. Jenna stands proudly in the winner’s circle as the ultimate Survivor accessory is placed around her neck.
Back at Neverland Ranch, Captain Hook (Rob) frets over the spin that Jenna’s Immunity win has just put him in. “My plans are in chaos,” he mutters. “This is a scary time in the game for me.” (Just when Rob thought he could take a break from scheming and plotting, he’s forced back into super-strategizing mode again.)
Matt is his usual composed self. “I anticipate there are going to be a lot of negotiations this evening.” Sure enough, Rob races straight to his favorite backup plan. “Matt and I went through all the scenarios and basically what I told Matt is that we need to vote for Butch, and he agreed.” But, Matt has finally learned a thing or two from Survivor 101. “Rob is in real trouble. He doesn’t have a great relationship with Jenna. He doesn’t have any relationship with Butch. His only real relationship is with yours truly, so I’m the only guy who can keep him goin’ in the game.”
Even laid-back Butch is stirred into action. He and Jenna play “you first.” “Who do you want to vote out?” “No, who do you want?” The Queen of Tarts, oops, sorry, that would be Heidi – Jenna goes for the Teacher’s Pet award and agrees to take Principal Butch with her to the finals. “The oldest and the youngest,” Butch says affably as he pats Jenna on the shoulder.
Close on Butch’s heels is Matt, who approaches Jenna with a “secret alliance based on a shared voting strategy.” If one wins the other chooses him/her for the final two. “Am I gonna honor that secret alliance or do some backstabbing,” Matt ponders. Queen Jenna sits back, allows her subjects to grovel before her, and studies her choices. “I have the opportunity to pick up somebody like Butch who I don’t feel has done any work to get here(?) or Rob, who I can get him back for what he’s done to me.” (We were amused that Jenna sees sunbathing as personal accomplishment, versus frivolities like bringing home the bacon (or piranhas) or gathering firewood. Okay, so she did contribute flavoring to the stew pot when she boiled her dainties, but the menfolk weren’t there to benefit from it.)
Tribal Council: Expelled
The highlight of Tribal Council occurs as the jury files in. Cut to Heidi, vamped out with a frizzed blonde corona of hair, batting fake eyelashes the size of tarantulas, and a face full of candy apple red lipstick. She looks like a Flinstones version of a bimbo cavegirl. All she’s missing is the bone in her hair.
When we come out of our laughing fit, we hear Probst inquiring of Butch, “Did you hustle today?” “I want to assure you, I hustled today and I am trying to stay in the game,” Butch states emphatically. As always, Rob uses his humor to deflect any dangerous questions. “I tried to make Jenna lunch. I told her that she looked beautiful today,” he says in response to an inquiry about his own strategy.
When it’s time for the vote, the students have mounted a revolt and taken over the school. Principal Butch is History, and must spend his retirement in the teacher’s lounge. But, good old likeable Butch holds no grudges against his unruly pupils. “Rob, you were a good kid,” he affirms as he walks out the door.
In his final motivational speech, Butch tells us, “Believe in yourself and your goals. Look at me – I made it to Survivor!”
The Good, The Bad, and the Unsavory
On their next to last morning in the jungle, Matt, Jenna and Rob open their tree mail to find an object with the inscription, “Step on Up.” It’s a scale, and not your high-tech American model either. No bells, whistles, or pounds if you please. Only Renaissance Man Matt can compute from kilos to pounds. Rob has lost the most weight, but came into the game packing a few extra. Matt and Jenna are awarded the honorary titles of “Skeletony and Skeletina.“ It breaks down like this:
Matt has gone from 173 to 148 – a loss of 28 pounds.
Rob has gone from 170 to 138 – a loss of 32 pounds.
Jenna has gone from 118 to 99 (What a coincidence, that’s the same number as Heidi’s IQ!) – a loss of 19 pounds.
Suddenly, Probst appears in camp, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “What’s goin’ on?” Jenna exclaims. “I thought I was in dreamland!” And like the princess in a fairytale, she, Matt, and Rob are whisked away on a sightseeing flight over the mysterious rainforest. Schmaltzy Disneyesque music swells up, exotic jungle creatures frolic in the water, the players gush about their experiences – you get the picture.
When the magic carpet lands, Matt, Rob, and Princess Jasmine make their way by canoe to an adorable forest hut where they find many magical objects with which to adorn themselves. In a rare risqué moment, Matt holds up a beaded band and wonders if it’s a jockstrap. “It’s a little small to be a cup there, cowboy,” Jenna quips. (Does she know something we don’t?)
They all don war paint and elaborate headresses. Matt looks especially Amazon warriorish, and Jenna looks genuinely beautiful. (We mean that sincerely. Really, we do! Why don’t you believe us? She was just waiting for the opportunity, and some cosmetics, to present themselves to show her true outer beauty.)
Before they depart, Matt wonders to the camera whether it would be in his best interest to throw the challenge. He believes that Rob and Jenna would both choose him and he wouldn’t garner any negative feeling for voting off one of them.
Immunity Challenge 2: Fall From Power
It’s the classic final Survivor challenge, the balancing act. Matt, Rob, and Jenna stand barefoot on posts and must hold their headresses over their heads. Soon into the event, Matt makes good on his threat to throw the challenge and stumbles off his perch. Alex isn’t fooled and immediately looks suspicious.
Rob makes his last strategic move and blurts out, “Want to make a deal,” to Jenna. “No, no, get thee behind me,” Jenna whimpers. “My ankles are weak, etc.” But Jenna is the real serpent in the Garden of Eden here, and Rob the conniver, Rob the master of all plans from Time Immemorial to the End of All Days, falls from power into the abyss of could-have-beens.
Oh so sincerely, Jenna claims to Probst that she wants a “true competitor” next to her at the end. (What passes for naiveté is a calculated move on Jenna’s part to square off against someone who she considers to be a coaster.) When the vote is read, Rob the bona-fide player is ousted and Matt remains as her figurehead competitor.
In his final speech, Rob gamely says, “I wouldn’t change one thing. I said I wouldn’t stop smiling til they put my torch out and you know what – I’m still smiling.”
Their final day in the Amazon is a dreary one for the final two, or “horrid,” as a rain-drenched Jenna says. She and Matt amuse themselves by painting the names of their dearly departed on the trunk of a tree and reminiscing.
Ryan is first, then Janet (“Motherly”), Daniel, JoAnna (“Tough”), Jeanne (“Hard worker”), Shawna (“mmmm, Shawna”), Roger (“Everyone’s favorite!”), Dave, (“Hoo Yah!”), Deena (“Strong”), Alex (“Oh, what a good time I had with him …”), Christy (“I found Christy to be the most independent,” Matt muses. “Next!” snaps Jenna), Heidi (“I’m gonna cry…”), Butch (“My buddy!”), and Rob (“I owe him so much.”)
As a final rite of passage, Matt decides to load up their old tribal boat and send it off in a blaze of glory. Unfortunately, an overly enthusiastic Matt nearly immolates himself in the process. He’s sprinkled so much accelerant on the boat and its contents that it erupts like a firebomb.
And what’s a rite of passage without some testimonials? Jenna and Matthew focus on what they think they’ve learned and what they’ve done differently. “Don’t underestimate someone cause they’re small or skinny. I can do anything – rah, rah, etc.” Matt says that he’s very intense and that he’s learned he should kick back and enjoy life now, like spending a weekend watching TV instead of learning Swedish. (Only Matt could come up with something that Alice in Wonderlandish.)
On their canoe trip to Tribal Council, we hear words of encouragement from the ousted players. Rob begins with this overview. “The game began as a battle of the sexes and in the end it shall be as it was in the beginning – a man versus a woman. I think that both of them have played this game dishonestly and both of them claim to be honest players who have played with integrity. Loyalty is out the window at this point. I wish there was a choice “C,” none of the above, but there isn’t.” (What a load of sour grapes. It sounds like somebody’s having a hard time adjusting to the boredom of Loser Lodge.)
Christy is next. “Jenna is a very charming, very strong woman. She made it all the way go, go. Matt is a very sincere and a very generous, very caring person,” she says magnanimously.
Alex cuts to the chase. “I just wanna know who’s honest enough to say it – I played the game, I came here to kick ass, I kicked ass and that’s all there was to it. You don’t like it, you should’ve played better.”
Heidi has found her soulmate. “Jenna is my number one hero. I totally completely adore her. Matt has played on honesty and value, and sorry Matt, it’s just not working for you.” (Even if Jenna faced off against Gandhi, Heidi would still vote “Jenna.” Jesus Christ? – “Jenna! “)
Butch sees it like this. “Matt has done the most for everybody, contributed most, and is the most deserving.”
Prosecutor Deena has given the two a lot of thought. “You’re dealing with two completely different personalities between Matt and Jenna. Matt was the workhorse, Jenna was the sex goddess and the two of them used their abilities to their advantage. Matt worked his way to the top, Jenna ‘played’ her way to the top.”
Dave is following Alex’s lead. “It’s amazing at Tribal Council to look at all the bull that people throw out. It isn’t friendship and honesty and integrity that’s got them to this position. It’s the fact that other people have kind of pulled them along. I think that my vote is gonna be based on the answer to my question tonight. I want them to think and give an intelligent answer and then see if they start talkin’ out of their ass again.”
When Jenna and Matt face the jury they both lay claim to the qualities of “honor and integrity” in their opening speeches. Little do they know that this is not a good tactic with this jury.
In the first question from Butch, they’re both forced to admit that they have indeed lied and connived during the game. Crafty Rob asks them why the other person doesn’t deserve to be there. Matt says that Jenna doesn’t work, and Jenna says that Matt doesn’t work at “the game.” He’s tagged along at the end of an alliance and (gasp!) doesn’t need the money, either! Alex is armed and looking for a target. “There are two words I never want to hear again,” he barks. Guess which two? “Honor and Integrity” that’s which two! Then he gets down to the question, what is their biggest regret? Jenna regrets trusting people who were not worthy of her trust, and Matt regrets supporting a young guy alliance at the beginning that “made people see me as a threat.” Matt says he was in a state of near depression for the next two weeks because of it.
Now here comes the biggest laugh of the night. Heidi’s question seems innocent enough. “I’d like to know if there’s a person more deserving who should be in your position?” Matthew states that Rob is an “amazing strategist,” etc. Jenna echoes Matt’s choice and nominates Rob for his “gameplay.” This is not going the way Heidi had figured on, so she tries again. “I just think… is that the only person?” she stutters. (Poor Heidi – so bewildered and so disappointed. Where are her kudos? Where is her well-earned pat on her peroxided head? How’s a bimbo supposed to get any recognition around here, anyway?) Probst must step in and enforce the one question per juror rule, and sends Heidi flouncing back to her seat as Rob covers his eyes in embarrassment.
Deena is next up and phrases her questions according to the testimony already given by the defendants. “What do you mean by Matt not needing the money,” she accosts Jenna. “Your statement about ‘may the best man win’ was a ‘load of hooey!’” she accuses Matt. Jenna stands her ground and says that she personally would vote on need, but Matt caves in by apologizing and says he’s not a chauvinist.
Christy asks Matt what was his reaction when he found he was competing with a deaf woman. Matt says he thought Christy was like everyone else and just had a “funky accent.” Jenna does not get off so lightly. Christy tells Jenna she thought it was “fascinating” to hear Jenna claim she had a handicap for being beautiful, and asks Jenna to explain. At first, Jenna claims she doesn’t remember saying that, but Christy is insistent and the jury nods, “Yes, Jenna you sure as hell did.” Jenna then backtracks and says she wouldn’t compare herself to Christy’s experience, she’s just a poor, skinny, misunderstood little girl who is always being misjudged by the big bad world. “I’m really tough and smart, that’s all!” Little Orphan Jenna insists. (No, Jenna, we wearily insist. It’s like Jeanne told you at the reunion. We women do not hate you for your self-proclaimed beauty – we detest you because you’re lazy, vain, vindictive, shallow, and obnoxious. If you had a shred of maturity or insight, no one would ever have to explain this to you.)
Dave asks, “What modern influential leader have you emulated in this game? Give me somebody’s name I can relate to, to understand your behavior.” (Will the real bullsh*tter, please stand up! This question is nothing but a giant smoking gun, crafted by clever Brainiac Dave to smoke out the bullsh*tters he and Alex are so vexed about. We wonder if Dave remembers the tirade he threw about his own “honesty and integrity,” when he accused Daniel of lying about catching fish.)
Matt takes the bait, throwing out Colin Powell as his role model in a long-winded dissertation. Alex reacts with shock and awe. (The Horror! The Horror!) Jenna stutters, and finally admits she doesn’t emulate modern leaders, just people she knows like her mom. (We suspect that Jenna’s actual role model is either the Hawaiian Tropic Girl or fellow RNO writer C. Brian Devinney’s choice of Miss Universe.)
Matt and Jenna sit slumped on their seats, thoroughly chastened by their accuser’s interrogation. Matt takes the opportunity to indulge in a cathartic (and what a surprise – longwinded) soliloquy about how he doesn’t belong on a pedestal, he lied and betrayed others, blah blah blah. But he is sincere; he’s not just paying lip service. Now it’s Jenna’s turn for some emotional self-flagellation. “Thanks for poking and prodding and making me look back at thing’s I’ve wanted to put out of my mind or forgot,” says Jenna humbly. (This experience is nothing compared to what she must’ve gone through watching herself on the show.) And, of course, Jenna insists she did work in camp. And her protests are just as convincing as Clay’s were at the end of Survivor: Thailand.
Only two votes are shown. Butch’s vote is for Matt, saying he respected Matt for his honesty and he is the “true Survivor.” Heidi votes for Jenna, in a hideously melodramatic whisper, saying that “I trust, respect, love, and adore you…” hisssssss. Rob’s vote is shown from the back, as he tells the camera, “I give credit where credit is due. There are only two players in the entire game I didn’t vote off.”
It’s two hours into the show and the votes have not been revealed. And we all know something’s up. We’re off to New York City -- that’s what! On a jet ski, no less. In a golden moment straight out of Johnny Quest, we see Probst and ballot tub plow through the open sea. He streaks past ocean liners, past the Statue of Liberty and into New York harbor. Through the subway, and the city streets and into the studio where Late Show with David Letterman is held. Inside is the Amazon Tribal Council set, with all the players assembled.
Jenna and Matt, looking very buff and filled out, sit snuggled in close to each other. The passage of time has only heightened their anxiety, and both Matt and Jenna claim that the other will win. The first ballot is for Matt and the crowd goes wild. The next is for Jenna with noticeably less applause, but (cringe, shudder) the applause is sustained as ballot after ballot is read off with the Stinkerbell’s name on it! Oooohhhh what a painful moment this is. The cameramen do an excellent job of showing happy shots of Jenna’s family, instead of the vast swaths of audience who are staring open mouthed in horror at the stage.
”How. Did. This. Happen!” Probst shouts. To add insult to injury, It was a landslide vote for Jenna! Much has been printed on this website about how and why the jury made the decision they did. Contrary to most normal members of the human race, this season’s jurors voted purely on gamesmanship – and snarky, narcissistic Jenna wins over introspective, laid-back Matthew based on those values. (See Why Jenna Won for more on this.)
We’ve pondered this and pondered this, and finally come to a sense of peace about this decision. But not before going through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief:
Denial: “NO FRIGGIN’ WAY!”
Please realize that it’s perfectly normal to go through these stages in different orders. For example, Suzanne keeps going back to anger and denial for a good wallow before wandering dejectedly back into the acceptance stage. At least we can support each other through this. Feel free to e-mail us and share our grief if need be.
And our parting words are ones of advice to Jenna. You showed signs of a moral epiphany at the end of your 40 days in the jungle, and have certainly had many, many opportunities to experience self-awareness by watching yourself on TV. Winning this money is either going to be the best or the worst thing that ever happened to you. You can either continue to be self-indulgent, with a huge bank account to support that tendency, or use it to support more altruistic endeavors. Millions of people have watched your behavior in the game, and many of them are not happy with what they saw. Some of them will have no problem with telling you so to your face (and maybe even in sign language!) You’ll need to get over that, just like the big girls in camp had to get over the fact that you were beautiful. You love your mom and dad – make them proud of who you can be.
Melinda Smith is a technical illustrator and writer with a background in graphic arts. She and her family live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her sister, Suzanne Tromblay, is a licensed social worker with the State of Ohio. Melinda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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