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SURVIVOR
Cbs
The final six, shown here, are now down to just four.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 12/9/2005 12:18:39 PM ET 2005-12-09T17:18:39
COMMENTARY

“Survivor Guatemala” has been the most self-referential season yet. That started with the introduction of two former contestants to the game, and as the show moved toward its Sunday finale, the constant “Survivor”-talk hasn’t abated. On the penultimate episode, “Survivor” lore actually became a part of the reward challenge, and maybe even helped to seal the fate of one cast member.

Before the reward challenge, the final five players discovered a car key in their tree mail, and realized they’d be competing for a car. The challenge required them to repeat tasks performed in earlier challenges, and Cindy ultimately won, clearly thrilled that she was now the owner of a new vehicle. But the challenge was not yet over. As Jeff Probst explained, she was now faced with a difficult choice: She could keep the car, or let each of the other four competitors have their own car.

Why give her this option? Our host continued the tradition of this being the meta-“Survivor” season by telling Cindy about the show’s history. “You may or may not know, but in 10 seasons of ‘Survivor,’ the person who has won the car reward has never, ever, won the game,” he said. “Some people, the superstitious kind, believe it is the curse of the car. So, I’m going to give you a chance to get rid of that curse right now, perhaps change your destiny in this game.” Jeff’s explanation was illustrated by four more sparkling, waxed Pontiac Torrents which drove into the challenge site and parked right behind Cindy.

At first, Cindy seemed torn: “I normally don’t believe in superstitions, but I also want them to have cars.” Then she made her decision. “Screw the curse,” Cindy said. “I would love to give everyone a car, but I’m here to beat the odds, and so far I have.”

Alas, that was as far as the odds would take her. Because the curse—or, more accurately, strategizing by the other contestants—sent Cindy home at Tribal Council. She was only slightly bitter, telling the others, “I’ll think about you guys when I see the stars through the sunroof of my new car.”

Her elimination brings us to the final four: Stephenie, Danni, Lydia, and Rafe.

In some ways, the final four is comprised of four very unlikely competitors: Steph, as she told us, thought she’d be voted out immediately; Lydia almost went home early on and isn’t very good at anything; Danni stayed despite the fact that, after the merge, she was in the minority group that got picked apart by the dominant alliance; and Rafe was the only male left.

Who will win on Sunday, when three more Tribal Councils will be held? Who will last through the final endurance immunity challenge? And who will be the sole survivor? No one knows for sure, but making up odds is fun, so here are my best educated guesses.

Rafe, odds of winning 2:1
Rafe is a contradiction, and that may just help him win. A small, pale, quiet, dorky guy, he’s also a gay Mormon. If that wasn’t enough of a contradiction, he is also probably the only “Survivor” contestant to have ever used his insecurity as a cover for the fact that he’s an intense competitor. Until tonight, no one’s cast a single vote against him, even though he consistently wins challenges. When he’s strategizing, he sounds like he’s too scared to even think about voting. But he walks into challenges and, in the season that has been the most physically and environmentally brutal, has repeatedly kicked everyone’s butt.

Then he goes back and awkwardly squeaks out Backstreet Boys songs as he’s smashing corn.

Rafe’s also not even convinced that he’s a good player. After Cindy gave up the car, he was genuinely baffled; as far as he was concerned, her only choice was to give four people cars rather than take one for herself. At least, that’s what he said he’d do.

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But after discussing it with Steph, he realized that maybe his altruism was misguided. “Am I playing this game too nicely right now? Should I be playing this game harder than I am?” he asked.

Even if he is, it’s worked to his advantage. As Cindy said, “he’s good at everything, and people like him. So, there you go, that’s the complete package.” That makes him the most likely to win the million dollars, unless the three remaining women turn on him first.

Stephenie, odds of winning, 3:1
Last season, Steph gained the respect and admiration of many viewers for excelling in challenges and outlasting the rest of her loser tribe. That culminated in a dramatic Tribal Council fire building competition against Bobby Jon. Steph won, and although she was welcomed into the other tribe, she was quickly voted out. Producers inexplicably brought her back this season and gave her a second chance, which she’s blown, at least in terms of endearing herself to the audience. In terms of the game, she’s done very well.

At the center of a dominant alliance, she’s called the shots, although she’s shown herself to be easily susceptible to external pressure, which twice caused her too vote out her friends. But every time she’s lost, and both she and her tribe lost a lot, she’s done nothing but whine and complain, constantly talking about how she never wins anything. Boo freakin’ hoo.

Tonight, Steph finally won her first immunity challenge, and immediately burst into tears. “Oh my god, finally I won something,” she said, later insisting that “I did not think I was going to get past the first tribal council.” But she did. If she makes it to the final two, however, will the jury be willing to reward someone who’s had two chances? That will depend upon who she’s up against.

Danni, odds of winning, 3:1
No one has ever cast a vote against Danni, which is surprising because she seemed like an easy target for the dominant alliance once the two tribes merged. But she’s played her cards flawlessly, approaching the right people and making the best arguments for why one of their own should go home. It’s worked at least twice, and she also apparently has a pact with Rafe to go to the final two with him. If she can manage to win a challenge or two during the final three days, she just might find herself as one of the final two. On the jury, she has only one true ally, Gary, and could maybe also get former tribemate Bobby Jon’s vote.

Then again, having been voted out by their own alliance, Jamie, Judd, and Cindy might see Danni as more deserving than back-stabber Steph.

Lydia, odds of winning, 9:1
Sometimes flying under the radar works. That’s only effective, though, when you manage to not annoy the heck out of everyone, and Lydia has done that to varying degrees all season long. Her tribe almost voted her out during week four, but kept her around because she worked harder than Brooke. The only other reason Lydia is still around is because other people in her tribe were deemed greater threats or more annoying than she was. And, of course, everyone thinks, probably correctly, that she’d be a great partner for the final two. It’s hard to imagine a compelling argument that would result in the jury voting for Lydia over Steph, Rafe, or Danni.

Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.

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