Sandra Diaz-Twine became the first ever two-time "Survivor" champion by winning $1 million on "Survivor Heroes vs. Villains" as she defeated Parvati Shallow and Russell Hantz, who lost his second season in a row. Russell was baffled yet again as to why he lost the game, even though the jury explained that he played a bad game by creating a jury of people who loathed him. At least he gets the $100,000 consolation prize based on viewer votes.
Parvati did even better than Russell: She placed second, and after 114 days of playing the game over three seasons, she has played it more than anyone else. As host Jeff Probst revealed during the live reunion, she's also tied for second for most individual challenge wins. Colby Donaldson still has the record, although he didn't do much to add to it this season. He was also the first voted out during the finale.
Although we saw a montage of Colby's awful challenge play, he outlasted all of the final five except Parvati in the first immunity challenge of the night — and then dropped the stack of plates he was balancing, giving Parvati her second individual immunity win in a row and third of the game. Back at camp, Colby pretended to give up ("I'm not going to hustle today, I'm not going to scramble," he told everyone), but that was a ruse so he could go to Russell and try to get him to vote off Sandra.
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That didn't work because Russell was convinced Sandra was the best person to take with him to the final Tribal Council. "Sandra didn't play the game at all," he told us, and later told her the same thing. Sandra responded to his strategy by telling us Russell wanted to keep her around "because I won't get a single vote. But I don't know about that!" It turned out to be a very prescient statement.
After the final four paid their respects to the 16 all-stars they voted out of the game, they participated in the final immunity challenge: a blindfolded maze during which Sandra, Jerri, Parvati and Russell had to search for four separate necklaces and then find a pole with the individual immunity necklace hanging on it. A win meant that person would definitely face the jury and have a chance at $1 million.
It came down to a spectacular finish, if three people clawing at the air looking for a pole can be spectacular. Russell barely beat Jerri, who was just ahead of Parvati. That was a fateful moment because Jerri was voted out that night at Tribal Council, though she didn't expect it. "I was so sure I had this one," she said during her exit interview.
Russell blindsided Jerri — who had helped him send Danielle DiLorenzo home a few episodes ago — because he was convinced Jerri would vote for him. She became the ninth jury member (though she didn't vote for him as he thought she would).
After the final three had a big breakfast — at least compared to what they're used to — they had a few ritual burnings. Sandra took Russell's hat and threw it in the fire when he was out on a walk, explaining, "That's payback for everything he's done to me in this game."
Although that may not have been the nicest thing to do, it's quite fitting considering Russell burned his tribe mates' belongings on "Survivor: Samoa." However, he said he did it for strategy, while Sandra copped to doing it for revenge.
But Sandra didn't need to burn a hat to get revenge — she got it from the jury.
As Rupert Boneham explained, Russell was "a disgusting human being" because being "a manipulative, deceiving, lying person is very easy. You took the easy way out," Rupert told him. Rupert also gave Sandra credit for her repeated attempts to switch sides and help the Heroes — who now populated the jury — vote Russell out. "You opened the door and we kept slamming it in your face," he said. Sandra also got points for her loyalty, especially from her ally Courtney.
Meanwhile, Parvati pointed out that she was a target from day one and said, "Immediately I had to put up a line of defense," and part of that involved Russell. "I kept him as my pet," she said, using a metaphor that perhaps everyone except Russell would find funny. Coach gave Parvati credit for her physical game play, saying, "You were a warrior in challenges."
So why didn't Parvati win? Candice compared her to "a spouse in a bad, abusive relationship." And during the reunion, Parvati explained that basically, "Russell was so hated by everyone in the jury that everyone just lumped me in with him." She did get three votes, however, from Jerri, Danielle and Coach.
Despite losing, Russell said, "I wouldn't change anything and I don't regret it." But as Danielle explained during the final Tribal Council, "It's clear there's been a lack of skill in your jury management."
Earlier, Sandra told us that her husband is "out in Afghanistan fighting for our country, and here I am fighting to be the sole survivor." Although her fight wasn't as obvious as the others', she played largely the same game that she did on "Survivor: Pearl Islands," which involved laying low and making moves to keep herself around, like the time she convinced Russell that Coach was coming after him in order to protect herself and Courtney.
It worked, and her win "makes me the queen," Sandra said during the live reunion. "The best ever, yes. I have two titles. What else can you ask for?"
How about winning another season of "Survivor"? She'll probably have to wait until the next all-star edition, though. But when Probst revealed that the 21st season of "Survivor" will be filmed in Nicaragua this summer and air next fall, he did tease a surprise twist: Could someone be returning?
It's unlikely, but with "Survivor," you never know.