"Jonny Fairplay" became "Jonny Loser." In the finale of the seventh season of "Survivor," Sandra Diaz-Twine, 29, an office assistant from Fort Lewis, Wash., beat out the remaining contestants to take home one million dollars, a sport-utility vehicle, and the title of Ultimate Survivor.
Four contestants had made it to the final round of CBS' reality game show. Besides Diaz-Twine, they were Jon Dalton, 29, an art consultant from Danville, Virginia; Lill Morris, 51, a Boy Scout troop leader from Cincinnati; and Darrah Johnson, 22, a mortician from Liberty, Miss.
Diaz-Twine beat out Morris in a 6-1 vote by a jury made up of the seven most recently ousted Survivors. She had achieved the notable distinction of never having received a vote against her in any of the tribal councils leading up to this final ballot, a first in the series. In addition to the money, she won a new SUV; Morris took second place and $100,000.
Johnson, who had been favored to win in a MSNBC.com readers' poll prior to the broadcast, was the first to be voted out. She had won the previous three immunity challenges, but was viewed as too much of a threat by the remaining players as they moved into Survivor's endgame, when likeability becomes a crucial factor.
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Morris had been voted off the game earlier this season, but won a second chance when she and Roberts were both chosen from among the game's "Outcasts" to return to the game. Morris, who had trouble with previous immunity challenges, won the final challenge and selected Diaz-Twine to go to the final tribal council with her.
In a move that surprised many viewers, this meant she eliminated Dalton instead of facing the controversial contestant in the final vote.
Dalton, who called himself "Jonny Fairplay," sparked much discussion among viewers by lying that his grandmother had died in order to earn one of the show's rewards. The lie later earned him favorable treatment from other contestants.
Dalton's deviousness and frequent references to himself as the smartest player in the game, especially when compared with the female contestants, made him one of the most talked-about players in the series' history. Early in the final episode, he said of his female competitors, "If it’s a gettin’ pregnant contest, yeah, they could probably win, but other than that, no."
Even after being voted out, he unrepentantly declared that “the strongest player in the game went as far as he could.”
In the finale, Morris apparently would have been better off facing off against Dalton. In a post-game wrapup with host Jeff Probst, a majority of the jury indicated that if the other option had been letting Dalton take home the million, they would have chosen Morris to win.
It was apparent that the tide was turning Diaz-Twine’s way during the jury’s question-and-answer period with the finalists prior to the last vote. Morris was vehemently denounced by numerous jury members. Ousted contestant Rupert Boneham, probably the most popular of the contestants, told Morris “everything you told me was a lie.”
Ironically, the broadcast of the reality game show’s finale was delayed in some cities by another kind of reality show: coverage by “60 Minutes” of the capture of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces.
The Dec. 11 episode of “Survivor,” now in its seventh season, was ranked the most-watched program in America by Nielsen Media Research.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's TV Editor. Christopher Bahn is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis.