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Final four
Monty Brinton  /  CBS
Erinn Lobdell, Taj Johnson-George, John "JT" Thomas Jr. and Stephen Fishbach are the final four on "Survivor Tocantins."
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 5/15/2009 5:34:57 PM ET 2009-05-15T21:34:57

Amid torrential downpours and blistering heat on "Survivor Tocantins," there have been dragon slayings and cross-tribe alliances, blindsides and surprises. As a result, over the course of 11 episodes, cast members have definitely made an impression as they battled for $1 million in the Brazilian highlands. Whether they crafted smart alliances, like Taj, or were just all-around characters, like bus driver Sandy, most of them are memorable, whether they're endearing or annoying.

That's unquestionably true of just-ousted Coach, who started the game by insisting he wanted to change it forever, getting rid of the weak and taking only the strongest players to the end. But then he voted out strong players like Candace and Brendan — a feat that Coach decided demanded a nickname, so he started calling himself the "dragon slayer" ’ and started rationalizing his decisions, at least when he wasn't telling tales about his epic, action-hero life.

The game started with the 16 castaways making a decision based upon first impressions, but for the final four contestants left, our impression of them isn't the same as it was at the beginning.

The best example of changing impressions came from JT and Stephen. Initially, JT came across as the dumb southern cowboy and Stephen was smart, awkward New Yorker, but the two men have formed a tight friendship and an even tighter alliance, with JT proving himself to be smart and Stephen proving himself to be capable physically. Now, they control the game.

As a result, among the final four, it really isn't anyone's game. When the winner is revealed during the live finale on Sunday, there likely won't be a surprise, unless there's some last-minute strategizing or a last-minute twist. However, since this is "Survivor," that's the surest bet of all.

Here's a look at the chances each of the final four have at taking the $1 million:

JT
Odds of winning: Extremely high

Alabama cattle rancher JT may appear to be "a dumb hillbilly," as he said in his CBS bio, but he's most certainly not, as he's been brilliant in the game. Since the merge, he's been in control along with his friend, Stephen, and together they make a great team. They've made great strategic choices and have been able to see through others' lies. JT's personality has also helped him play a strong social game, and he has remained friends with the people he essentially betrays, like Coach. Because his strategy has been great and everyone likes him so much, the game is his to lose.

Stephen
Odds of winning: Right up there with JT

Along with JT, Stephen has been in control of the game, and although he might not win in a final three against JT, Stephen deserves a lot of the credit. He's not the most amazing physical player, as he'd be the first to admit, but his incredible immunity challenge win last week proved that he is a competitor all around. (He memorized a series of symbols by creating a system, and thus came from far behind to win.) Stephen's only real competition is his closest friend and ally JT, and it remains to be seen whether or not he'll turn on his pal in order to win the $1 million for himself.

Taj
Odds of winning:
Against Stephen and JT, practically zero

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Singer and NFL wife Taj has proven herself to be a surprisingly strong player all around. But her strategic peak came earlier in the season, when she formed a four-person alliance at Exile, including with members of the other tribe. That was a great endgame strategy, as it set her up well to go into the merge, but Timbira's suspicions about her cross-tribe ally Brendan helped lead to its downfall. Since then, she's mostly just been the third wheel of JT and Stephen's alliance, and if they end up as the final three, she will probably receive no votes, since they have earned the credit.

Erinn
Odds of winning: Not great

The mere fact that Erinn is still in the game is impressive, since she was one of Coach's early targets. She has flown under the radar for most of the season, always managing to stick around without standing out too much. While she's persevered, she also hasn't stood out as a strategic player. Unless she wins some of the final immunity challenges, she probably won't make the final three. But if she does, unless she makes a big move, like one that gets rid of JT or Stephen, it's unlikely that she'll get credit — or votes — from the jury.

Andy Dehnart is a writer, TV critic, and editor of reality blurred, and can be found on Facebook.

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