When we started the Ultimate Survivor bracket last month, we intentionally gave no criteria for you to use when voting. But judging by the two players competing for the championship, it looks as though you voted based on one thing: performance.
Sandra Diaz-Twine vs. Parvati Shallow
Previous round: Sandra (62%) over Richard Hatch (38%); Parvati (56%) over Kim Spradlin (44%)
I watched Pearl Islands when it originally aired, and I watched it again just over a week ago. The experience was different when watching in 2015 compared to 2003. The game is vastly different now; in 2003, Sandra was campaigning for final tribal votes by claiming it wasn’t her fault that the people on the jury had been voted out. It seems ridiculous now, but in 2003 players were despised for being liars or backstabbers. At the Pearl Islands reunion, anti-strategist Rupert receives a massive ovation and the audience chants his name, but even the mention of Richard Hatch elicits a chorus of boos.
Nothing about Sandra’s first win made sense. Strong, airtight alliances were the path to victory (though Rob Cesternino showed there may be a loophole in that plan just a season before). But to Sandra, alliances are about as permanent as the smell of a fart. In Pearl Islands you never get the sense that there is someone Sandra wouldn’t vote out. Her tribemate Burton sums it up best: “She’d vote out her best friend or her worst enemy. She doesn’t care. She goes, ‘If I’ll stay in the game, I’ll vote for ’em.'” This seems crazy, because Sandra should need strong alliances; she absolutely sucks at challenges, so she has no other way of keeping herself safe.
But in Pearl Islands, as in Heroes vs. Villains, Sandra is always able to convince people that there are bigger targets. And when she can’t, as in Heroes vs. Villains when she couldn’t convince Rupert to help her take out Russell, she finds the next best option that keeps her in the game. And when you’re Sandra, staying in the game is all that matters, because it gets you one step closer to the only prize that matters: the one with six zeroes behind it.
Parvati was just 23 years old the first time she played Survivor, and she played the role CBS cast her for: attractive, flirty 20-something. But that first season was a learning experience. Her alliances weren’t strong enough, and she also got to witness what happens when a woman goes up against two strong male players in a final tribal council.
Two years later, CBS brought her back for Micronesia probably expecting more of the same. Instead, they got a Parvati that had learned that her greatest skill wasn’t her flirting, but her charm. This time, she aligned with Cirie and began systematically eliminating the people that would pose the biggest threats to their game: first Ozzy, then James. They used the fans for the fodder they were, and even demonstrated how outmatched the fans were by getting Erik to give up immunity and get voted out.
Parvati’s plan could have been undone by the presence of Cirie in a final tribal council against her. But just as Sandra reaped the benefit of Lill’s terrible decision making, so too did Parvati get pulled into the final two by Amanda.
You can knock Parvati’s Micronesia win by saying she only had to beat 9 people since the fans were so inept, but you certainly couldn’t say the same about Heroes vs. Villains. Parvati was in a terrible position early in the game, with her alliance of three positioned to be decimated by Boston Rob. But with the help of Russell’s idol play, that one vote quickly broke Rob’s alliance.
Parvati’s group then took control and would dictate most of the game on the way to final tribal council. Along the way to final tribal Parvati made one of her boldest moves, playing two immunity idols on her tribemates. It remains one of the more memorable tribal councils in Survivor history.
But in that final tribal council, she faced the woman she faces today: Sandra. That jury awarded Sandra the win. Will you do the same?
John can get loud too, what the fuck? He genuinely has no idea who will win this round, and he’s usually the one handling the tweeting for @purplerockpod.
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia
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