Palau Reunion

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Grace Deferred

You will recall that when we left our Survivors, Tom had just been informed of his apparently lopsided victory, part of the CBS Reality Division's Season of Honor. (Motto: "It's Not A Game If You Lose.") But as we always must, we now return to observe the aftermath of this over-cast season, in which Tom got the money, Ian got the shaft, and the dish ran away with the spoon. Which was appropriate, since there was a certain amount of diddling.

Cheering brings us back to the live reunion special that I have come to dread so thoroughly, if only because it often makes people who are hot look like L.A. gym monkeys who just got here from an audition for a movie destined to play only on Cinemax After Dark. The upside, I suppose, is that Jeff Probst doesn't have a secret girlfriend among these contestants (one would hope), so perhaps things will be a little more balanced than last time. Jeff, whose hair looks kind of dweeby tonight, welcomes us to the first reunion of the twenty people who started this season. Yeah, remember? There were twenty damn people. They practically had to bring them to the island in a clown car. After this brief introduction, Jeff moves immediately to the most important person in the cast -- Wanda. No, not really. He starts with Tom, of course. Tom, incidentally, is back to that hot-soap-opera actor -- or, as Wing Chun would say, "silver fox" -- look, having shaved and combed and eaten since returning from camp. Jeff offers him congratulations, which Tom accepts with a smile. Jeff and Tom share some hoot-hoot-hoot for how awesome New York is (agreed), and then Jeff pronounces Tom's victory "well-deserved" (also agreed). Jeff reminds those who didn't watch the show itself and just thought they'd tune in for the most boring part of the entire season that Koror dominated, winning eleven of fourteen challenges -- with all the losses being rewards -- and how Tom personally dominated as well, winning five of seven immunities. Both of those are records, in case you didn't know. Never have so many been so worthless to the benefit of someone like Caryn. The bottom line is that if you like challenge winners, you've got to like Tom.

Jeff asks Tom what his strategy was going into the game. Tom says that his wife and a good friend are the ones to whom he owes the victory, because he was working on a complex plot at home prior to coming on the show, and they told him that he should just be himself. Obviously, they are not watchers of the show, since Tom is a total anomaly, in that being like Tom has never worked for anyone, ever, under any circumstances, in the past. We see Tom's wife Bernadette, incidentally, who is lovely and accessorized with a little boy on her lap. Tom says that his plan to "hide underneath [his] gray hair" went awry early. He claims that he actually "played a lousy strategy game" by not hiding himself very well. As Tom chatters on, Jeff cuts him off, pointing out that this kind of meaningless and allegedly self-deprecating blather is the actual reason why Tom won. Which is awesomely deflating, but really, Tom is right. He didn't play a brilliant strategic game, necessarily, because he didn't have to. Tom was exposed to three jury votes prior to F2. Three. One when they still had Willard to kick around and it barely counted, one when Steph was booted, and one when Gregg was booted. He didn't have to stay clear of very much voting using strategy, because he played a huge part in winning so damn many challenges. And the one week he was in the most trouble -- the week Gregg left -- not only was he not the one to figure out the move he needed to make (Ian was, not that Tom seems all that grateful these days), but he wasn't headed out that week anyway. Tom could have totally missed that one strategic move of going after Gregg, and provided that the immunities went the same way, the tribe would have booted Caryn and again missed its last chance at Tom. Steph got it exactly right when she told that entire tribe that the best chance to get rid of Tom was the week she went home. Because the week Gregg went home, Ian and Caryn had too much on the line themselves to do anything but vote defensively to block Gregg. That was the one shot, just the way Steph said it was. They didn't take it, and this is their result. Fools!

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