Dec. 17, 2012 at 8:49 AM ET
The sole survivor and winner of $1 million from this season of "Survivor: Philippines" was named Sunday night, but not before two-hours of struggles, challenges, sweat and tears.
Lisa Whelchel, Michael Skupin, Malcolm Freberg and Denise Stapley made it to the final four, but all anyone was thinking about now was who would be cut when it came to the three going to the final. It seemed like Denise was the likely competitor to get the boot. Was she?
Before we found out, they faced their first challenge, which required each person to race through an obstacle course and collect three bags that contained puzzle pieces. It's always a puzzle! The first person to complete the dragon puzzle would win an advantage in the final Immunity Challenge the next night.
Michael and Malcolm were off to a good start, until it came to untying knots. That's when Denise zoomed by and it was neck-and-neck between the three of them with Lisa falling behind. However, it wasn't about who got the bags fastest, it was all about the puzzle, and everything seemed to be going in Denise's favor because she was killin' it.
But nope, it was Malcolm who won (duh). So the guy who was already a huge threat, was an even bigger threat. Back to the final three discussion -- where do the alliances stand? Malcolm refused to commit to his lady Denise, so she went off to Lisa to form something with her, and then told Skupin that she decided to turn against Malcolm. Whaaat?!
Mike and Lisa formed a pact with both Malcolm and Denise without the other person knowing, so they were in a pretty sweet spot. For now. The sad part was they wanted Denise because they felt so strongly that she was beatable. Yes, smart thinking, but still sad.
Before backs started getting stabbed, the foursome did the Lost Comrades Walk, to remember those who were sent home this season. Once that trip down memory lane was over, it was back to the game and time for the last Immunity Challenge. And boy was it a doozy. Each player had a cylinder block that was cut into several pieces. With two handlebars, they had to hold a piece up in the air while balancing a ball on the block. Every five minutes, they'd add more blocks and attempt to balance the ball again. If at any point the ball fell, they were out. Deep breath.
Don't forget! Malcolm won the advantage, which was revealed as a second chance. If his ball dropped, he would get a free reset. Good thing for that, too, because he was the first to drop his ball, causing everyone to start that round all over again. And yet again, a shaky Malcolm failed the challenge and was the first person out. Told you, this was intense.
Denise was the second person out, leaving Mike and Lisa up for immunity. After what seemed like a lifetime of wobbly arms, wind slightly moving the ball, close-ups of Mike's stomach sweat and Jeff Probst commentary every two seconds, Lisa dropped her ball, giving Michael immunity and a spot in the final three.
Now Mike was facing a dilemma: Should he stick with Denise or Malcolm in the finals? On the one hand, Denise would be easier to beat. On the other hand, Skupin's competitive, male ego really wanted to face-off with Malcolm in a head-to-head battle to see who would win in the end.
Once at Tribal Council, Denise voted for Malcolm and vice versa (obvious), Lisa made it clear she wanted Malcolm out, so the vote that really mattered was Mike's. Was he going to take the favored road and boot his strongest competitor or let his ego take over? Well, if you were hoping to see Mike and Malcolm battle it out in the finals, sorry, it won't happen.
The final three are Lisa, Mike and Denise, with Malcolm joining the jury.
During opening statements, Denise, Lisa and Mike each discuss their similar yet also somewhat different tactics on what got them to the finals, but it was pretty much a bunch of talk that we already expected. It was during the jury questioning that things got a little saucy. Veteran Jonathan Penner revealed Lisa's child star past -- gasp! So did that change things up?
Possibly, because when the votes were tallied and all was said and done, it was Denise who won it all.
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