Survivor Rule: You can win, or you can be a really loyal loser.
After 28 seasons, Survivor can still surprise.
In what might be a first, this season's winner, 39-year-old police officer Tony Vlachos, won after a passionate plea to the jury — not from himself, but from jury member Spencer Bledsoe.
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Tony and Yung "Woo" Hwang, his ally from the former Brawn tribe, faced off against each other in the final tribal council. At first, the jury members seemed to be leaning away from the backstabbing, blindsiding Tony. But Spencer, who was the last to speak, made a well-reasoned case to vote for the cop.
"Tony played with a ferocity that this game rarely ever sees," Spencer argued. So, after 39 days, Tony was crowned Sole Survivor and the winner of $1 million.
Maybe Tony would've won without Spencer's rare intercession, but we doubt it. And Woo must be kicking himself; had he taken third-place finisher Kass McQuillen to the end, he might be counting that cash right now. In fact, during the reunion, the jury indicated that they would’ve voted for him over Kass.
The season started with three tribes — Beauty, Brains, and Brawn — and oddsmakers bet on Woo being the winner. In the end, it was a Brawn who won... just not Woo.
The three-hour finale and reunion began with four players — Tony, Woo, Kass, and Spencer. In the first immunity challenge, Kass pulled out one of the most incredible comebacks in Survivor history.
And though Spencer tried his hardest to convince Tony to make it a tie vote (so that he and Woo would have to make fire to break the tie), he was voted out in fourth place.
In the final immunity challenge, a difficult maze course pushed the three players to their limits. Woo managed to pull out the win just a half-second before Kass, which gave him the power to decide who to take to the final two. Loyalty won out over greed, and Woo chose his ally over Kass.
It was a huge mistake, though Woo told the jury that he wanted to play an honorable and loyal game. That argument seemed to resonate with some of the jury members — until Spencer's game-changing speech at the last tribal council.
And despite Tony's betrayals, his fellow players had mostly forgiven him. Trish Hegarty noted at the reunion that she and Tony still speak regularly. But fellow cop Sarah Lacina said they were no longer on speaking terms.
"If I didn't break my loyalty to people, if I'd told everybody the truth, I'd be sitting in the jury," Tony said during the reunion.
Yep, it's official. Woo, you are the biggest idiot to play this game since Erik in Fans vs Favorites. #Survivor— Miss Cleo BB (@MissCleoBB) May 22, 2014