From the shocking beginning to the surprising penultimate tribal council decision, Survivor Pearl Islands was filled with twists and turns as well as memorable players, all of which helped to make it one of the best seasons of the venerable king of reality shows.
Pearl Islands, the seventh season of Survivor, featured some amazing twists, possibly the physically strongest and most popular Survivor of all time, a well-documented twist that most contestants (and many fans) despised, a Survivor opting out, a surprising final two and one of the biggest villains in the history of the game.
Welcome to Survivor the way it should be.
This season got off to a great start, with tribes being thrown overboard with nothing but the clothes on their back. Andrew Savage and Shawn Cohen were wearing suits. Nicole, Christa and Tijuana were wearing nice dresses. Lillian was wearing a Boy Scout uniform. Whatever these people were wearing when their boat anchored off the shore of a Panamanian fishing village is what they had to wear for the rest of their time on the island.
Then, they were told there was nothing at their camp and were given money to barter with and purchase stuff in the village they were anchored off of. From the very beginning, the Drake Tribe worked together, using Sandra's fluent Spanish to get great deals, while the Morgan Tribe split up and ended up with very little and money left over. Of course the Drake Tribe was helped by "Blackbeard" Rupert Boneham looting the unattended shoes of the Morgan Tribe and then using them to trade for goods.
That looting was the first introduction of Rupert, the troubled teens mentor from Indianapolis and from that moment, he became a fan favorite. His incredible strength won his tribe many a reward or immunity, while he also used his knowledge of the outdoors to constantly supply his tribe with food. His attitude and personality made him, quite possibly the most popular Survivor ever and his strength showed that he is up there as one of the toughest competitors of all time.
However, Rupert didn't play a strong mental game and that was obvious. He trusted the wrong people at the wrong time and got voted out much earlier than anyone expected. His All-Star appearance seemed to be a much better mental game for Rupert and it was there that he finally got his million dollars.
At the other end of the spectrum was John "Johnny Fairplay" Dalton, the art consultant and WWE wannabe from Virginia. If the fans loved Rupert, they hated John. He lied, backstabbed and manipulated his way to the final three. In all fairness, he never denied that that was what he was going to do.
But John became the biggest villain in Survivor history (Except for maybe Richard Hatch) when, during the family challenge, he concocted a lie with his best friend, convincing his fellow castaways and host Jeff Probst, that his grandmother had died. The rest of the Survivors let him win the challenge and he used the momentum to get further in the game. While the castaways didn't know he was lying, the fans did and that turned John into a very memorable Survivor character.
Additionally, Pearl Islands featured a twist that seemed to piss off most of the Survivors and many of the fans. I must say I didn't watch this season in first run, but I remember there being a lot of outcry against this twist. The two tribes were greeted by the six former members who had been voted out and when the Outcasts won a challenge, they got to elect two new members back into the game. Lillian and Burton, originally voted out of Morgan and Drake respectively, went back into the game with their original tribes and eventually made it to second and fifth place respectively.
This twist was certainly a new one and without it, the Pearl Islands season would have been much different, but I can't imagine anyone voting for an Outcast at final tribal council. It just wouldn't have been right.
Which, is what makes Lillian's decision to take Sandra Diaz-Twine, the outspoken mom from Washington State, with her to the final two. Lill had the choice of John or Sandra. Had she taken John, the player everyone basically despised, she would've won a million dollars. But she went with her heart, feeling Sandra was more deserving of the money, and in the end, Sandra got it.
Sandra was not the typical Survivor winner. She flew under the radar, riding her alliance with Christa and Rupert as long as it took her. But she was always quick to turn the attention away from her and onto someone else, keeping herself from ever receiving one vote against her at Tribal Council. She was sneaky, spying on tribe mates when she felt she was being double-crossed, and she did have a few yelling bouts on the island, but basically, she kept a low profile and in the end, she didn't piss off a lot of people and her counterparts gave her the big check.
Osten, the physically huge guy from Boston, opted to take himself out of the game when he felt his health was at risk and he would be a liability to his tribe, not a help. He was the first player in the history of the game to lay down his torch and actually seemed to start a trend, as two players quit during All-Stars, the next season and another quit down the road in Pulau.
This season's characters were memorable. In addition to Rupert, John, Osten, Lill and Sandra, there were some great castaways. As mentioned, Burton Roberts, voted back into the game, was a very strong player. He controlled the game after the merge, playing the good cop bad cop routine with John and getting to the final five. Beautiful mortician Darrah Johnson won three immunity challenges in a row in the final few days, giving herself a spot in the final four and joining with the women to vote out Burton. Andrew Savage stepped into a leadership role at Morgan and helped bring them to the merge with even numbers, a big accomplishment after losing constantly for the first few days on the island. Who can forget the site of Christa Hastie, the tall blond from California, crying after being accused of dumping the fish to sabotage the tribe? (Something she didn't do by the way).
As extras, this set has six commentaries, three from Rupert, Sandra and Christa and three from John, Burton, Andrew and Ryan Opray. These are very interesting and insightful into what was really going on in the game. As with other Survivor sets, these commentaries are what helps to make the set sell when you already know who wins. Additionally, there were pre-island interviews with all the castaways, as well as a feature on the season, from conception to completion.
All told, this set is worth it's weight in pirate's gold. A very solid season and a very solid release.