....Denise Stapley! Personally, this is one of the most satisfying wins from the show since Parvati in Fans vs Favorites (Kim in One World and Rob in RI had it all in the bag quite effortlessly). What a great season and it surely made it into my top 5, you can bet that!
I plan on making a separate post to decipher why Denise won, so for now I am dedicating this post (albeit late) to celebrate what has been one of the best seasons since Heroes vs Villains.
Three Tribes Format
For the first time since Survivor All-Stars, the game starts off with 3 tribes (the others were four tribes or the usual two). The producers have already explained the rationale behind this new twist and I believe it worked out perfectly just the way they had wanted it to. Thankfully, every challenge was fierce competition as opposed to what many would've expected from a three-tribe competition. No one is playing for second winner, or first loser, because every team rallied for victory. It was also the source of major drama when Matsing can't even pull a second place finish during the earlier stages of the season.
The dynamics of the returning players this season being former medevacs was a good excuse to bringing back former castaways. In the past, we've seen Russell & Rob and Coach & Ozzy go back to play, but neither of them had a story arch to their return. This time out, we see someone like Michael Skupin whom every true blue Survivor fan felt should've been back way sooner than the 25th season. With players like him and Russell, who were leaders on their tribe and wanted to stay in the game so bad, it offers another layer into the drama brewing at camp life. Sadly for Russell Swan, it did not bode as well as it did for Skupin.
Hero vs Villain
As with any season, there will always be a villain and a hero. This season did not fail in that aspect. First off, there is Abi-Maria. We probably haven't seen a castaway been hated that much by fans and fellow tribemates alike as when Johnny Fairplay last played. Well, that's saying a lot for Abi who probably never imagined she would be put in that same category. Heck, she was even surprised to find out she was so disliked! But we thank you, Abi, for your often too-honest quips that produced some of the best one-liners in the season.
On the other end of the spectrum, a new favorite emerged in Malcolm. Nope, not speaking for myself. You probably heard Jeff himself say during the Reunion that Malcolm is one of the most popular Survivors to play the game. He is of a rare breed who can masterfully play a physical, social, and strategic game while still being liked by the others. And I'm still sulking over the thought that he did not even go all the way to the end. Bummer.
Good 'Ole Catfight
RC and Abi-Maria also brought us some memorable scenes from this season. It started on Episode 2 or 3 when Abi, suspicious of RC's closeness with Mike, confronted her about backstabbing to her. Oddly enough, it was her who turned on RC with her own clue and shared it with Pete, eventually helping her to find the hidden immunity idol. Then, a series of fights and bickering ensues... much about the story of Tandang camp life.
From Zero to Hero
Judging from the edit, I think I was right on my instinct to believe that it was either Malcolm or Denise would be walking away with the title of Sole Survivor. Who would've even thought that these two would make it that far given that Matsing almost got extinct with tribe members being voted off one by one? It was like both are waiting for their turn to be executed. But just like the good old twists in the past, the Survivor gods intervened and it was a whole new ball game for them. And what about the record for Denise attending every single tribal council? If she survived them all, she definitely deserved the Sole Survivor title and the million dollars!
Either one of them that made it to the end would've gotten the win, which again is the reason why I am totally bummed that my initial bet Malcolm didn't get there. However, I was firm on my stand that I would be just as happy for Malcolm not to win, so long as it was Denise. It was truly the next best thing for me!
And with that, I would declare Survivor: Philippines as one of my top five favorite seasons of all-time, along with Heroes vs Villains, Palau, All-Stars, and Cook Islands. That ranking is random but I would go as far as putting it into my top 3! Couldn't have been more proud to have such a great season held in our country. And the next one should be another good one.. as Jeff Probst says, it is better than Survivor: Philippines. Now, THAT is something to look forward to! Here's a video to tease you up...
How would you rank this season?