They wish each other good luck as the jury files in for the final Tribal Council. Probst advises them that they’ll each have a chance to make an opening statement, followed by the jury addressing their own concerns.

Denise begins by saying that she won’t apologize for being in the Final Three, as she feels she deserves her place, after being in all three tribes at one time or another, surviving every Tribal Council of the season, and working hard at camp and at the challenges.

Lisa feels that each of them has fulfilled the mandate to “Outwit, Outplay and Outlast.” She says her own strategy wasn’t pretty, but she played her own worthy game. Her last punch even threw out the heavyweight champion of the season.

Skupin notes that returning players in the game have a target on their backs, but he’s played his game full out and with fire throughout.

The jury begins their questions and comments. First up, Artis. He feels he can’t congratulate the players for making it to the end, because of their ‘holier than thou’ attitude. He feels they did not hold true to their alliances, and when all is said and done, “karma is a bitch.”

Carter is next, and stays true to form, mumbling his thoughts. He congratulates Lisa and Skupin for being there despite being targeted from the beginning.  He feels they played a good game, but wonders what Skupin has to say about sending him home. Skupin says that Carter was so good at the game, and so selfless, that he had to be sent home.

Pete says that he feels like Lisa has been hiding behind other people’s decisions. She says that she never wrote down her tribe’s names, and stayed true to her tribe. He asks Denise why she feels she deserves the million dollars. Denise says she feels she played a more social, strategic game, having been in each tribe at some point in the game.

The giggly RC still can’t believe that Lisa, who was targeted from Day One, is in the Final Three. She asks Skupin why he didn’t warn her about the blindside, and Skupin says he was a blindsided as she was.

Malcolm is still clearly angry, He admits that Lisa slipped under his radar, and for the first time, he’s considered writing her name down for the win. When speaking to Denise, he warns her not to nod and try to appease him, as it’s what she’s done from the beginning. He wants to know why she deserves to win, and asks her to do it without playing nice.

Denise is surprised, but says that he is right that a certain amount of her social strategy involved appeasing. It’s part of what she does as a therapist, and it’s what is necessary in the game, along with just listening to what people say. He says he still wants to know how she beat him. She says it was her strategy, and how she played the game.

Jeff Kent admits to still being a little bitter at how the game went. In his life, he says, he’s learned that there are three types of people; those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder, “what happened?” He asks Skupin which type he thinks he is.

Skupin says it’s their family motto to say, “are you gonna watch the news today, or make news?” He feels he’s the type that makes things happen. Neither Lisa’s nor Denise’s names were written down in Tribal Councils, but his name came up every time, and he had to work very hard not to be voted out.

Kent also wants to know how Lisa got to the end, after spending most of the game floating in the middle. She says she might have been smarter to do that, but she never felt like she was in the middle. She talks about her plan to send Malcolm home with his idol, and how that plan didn’t happen. Kent interrupts to say that she may have tried to make things happen, but couldn’t.

Abi makes it all about her, saying that being called the most unlikeable person in the tribe broke her heart. She wants to know why Lisa should get her vote. Lisa says that she was true to her alliance until it disintegrated. Skupin says he deserves her vote because he played by the game’s rules. She is pleased when he agrees that one of the core values of the game is not “out-disrespect.”

Abi tells Denise that she blames Denise for labeling her most unlikeable, and that she felt completely demoralized. Denise says she stands by her statements, but might have said it better. Nonetheless, she apologizes, and says that her intention was never to traumatize or demoralize Abi.

Saving the best for last, it’s Penner’s turn to speak. And like the actor he is, Penner unleashes his wrath on the three finalists.  To Denise, he said, “You shared with me once that the one thing you were afraid of was being seen as was a bitch. You can rest assured that you have now shown the world that side.”

To Skupin: “You were able to avoid having your name written down even once. You may find that you have a perfect record even after tonight.” Another zinger!

But it was hardest to believe that he saved his most unkind and vicious words for Lisa. “Lisa was a television star who spent nine years on the television program The Facts of Life,” he told the jury. “From the age of 12 to the age of 21 she was America’s sweetheart. Still may be. You guys deserve to know that when you vote or don’t vote for her, that she has kept that all from you and I kept your secret safe until now.” Wow! I had wondered if Skupin might use that information to sway the jury to his side, but I cannot imagine why Penner, with no chance of financial gain, felt that he had to out Lisa at the end of her game. It was all about Penner making a big Penner splash in the pool, to make himself seem relevant. I lost all respect for the man at that moment.

Lisa counters by asking Penner if he shared his youth with the others, or if he spent more time talking about where he is today. Penner brushes off Lisa’s words, and then says, “I think that one of you has ridden the other two here like oxen. You have been yoked to a cart and have been ridden in and now you will be led to the slaughter. And you hear the cheering. You think the million dollars is yours. One of you is right. One of you is standing in the chariot. And the other two are actually just the oxen listening to the crowd cheering the person behind you. I’m done.”

Well! I’m still not sure what he meant, but I’d give him the part in Twelve Angry Men! Bravo Penner. Now go away for another decade or two.

Time to vote. The jury files up and cast their votes. We only see RC’s vote for Lisa, and Carter’s vote for “Skoopin” before Jeff gathers up the urn, and disappears into the night.

And we’re back, but now we’re in Hollywood, and everyone looks so clean! Jeff begins the show by calling for a moment of silence for the victims and family of the tragedy that occurred on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.

Without further ado – the winner is Denise Stapley, in an impressive 6-1-1 vote (all except RC and Carter voted for Lisa.)

 Denise is teary eyed and very happy. She says that her biggest game move was finally ending her alliance with Malcolm at the Final Four. Probst asks the jury if they would have voted for her had it been Malcolm and Denise in the final.  But it seems that everyone wanted Denise to win all along.

And with that, we end this season of Survivor. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading my recaps as I have had writing them. Hope to see you next spring, when Survivor: Caramoan hits the screen with another take on “Fans vs Favorites.” Here’s hoping the casting is as good as this season’s!

My (w)rap of the reunion show is here separately. I hope you’ll have a look at that as well.

See you in February 2013!

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