Okay, Survivors. You weathered a stream of bizarre nonsubs followed by a strong and unpredictable merge group. Time to see who put it together a little better. On this vote, you want to see your name.

Sarah Wreisner: Shawn! *Go Shawn!* I must vote Shawn… although, holy hell, Bizek made a great case. But I gotta stay true to my dawg! 🙂 CAPS LOCK SCREAMING ALL THE TIME USA! I love you guys, and thanks to everyone involved for another fun game.

Erik S: this was an extremely hard decision for me. as i’ve mentioned, i tend to put more weight on the writing than others, and shawn consistently killed it, including a long line of immunities towards the end after an already great season. and not to take anything away from sarah either, who also put out some awesome material, but i believe shawn has the edge there. also, shawn was a brimley, and brimleys gonna brimley. however, sarah played the more strategic game while also maintaining a great stream of writing, and that’s definitely worth a lot.

you add all this up, in a split decision (115-113, 113-115, and 115-113), by the narrowest of margins this judge gives his vote to super cool beezy.

Matt Novak: I love Shawn. We got each other to the end in IIX, she has written some of my favorite stories ever on the site, and her playfulness is awesome. I was impressed that her game took a step forward this time. I thought some of the strategy was bad strategy, but it was certainly present and active, and I appreciate that. Despite those points in Shawn’s favor, and the fact that I absolutely want to see her win this game someday, my vote is for Bizek. Survivor is a game where you’re almost always gonna get knocked down, and figuring out how to get back up is the one thing that impresses me more than meticulous planning. Bizek had a plan, it got derailed, but she regrouped. And for that reason, above all others, Sarah Bizek gets my vote for Sole Survivor.

Peter Bruzek: This was a great game. Pretty much everyone in the final few challenges had a claim at winning, and that has, to my knowledge, never been the case. Both finalists played a solid game and certainly deserve to be exactly where they are.

If Shawn had played her normal game, the back half of the game would’ve looked totally different. There’s a certain awesomeness to killing that which you would see dead and writing too damned well for anyone to do anything about it. Shawn took out a threat, then teamed up with his former ally and took out the next threat. It wasn’t always clean, but it worked. she came from a minority, scrapped her way to the top of the heap, then did the challenges well enough to where no one was able to catch her. Sarah, you also played a hell of a game, and it was fun as hell to watch the whole thing unfold, particularly the expert way that you adapted to everything thrown at you over the course of the game. This one was close – the closest vote I’ve been involved in so far.

In the end, I vote Shawn.

Bret Highum: Shawn did a lot of things very well- she wrote brilliantly, picked a great set of players to ally with, and stayed loyal to them the whole way. But Sarah also did all those things, plus won the tie-breaker that ultimately determined the final four. By the narrowest of margins, I vote for Sarah to win.

Margaret Martin: I want to tell you that my vote on Survivor is for Sarah Bizek. She was a good writer, dug her heels in and made things happen a couple of times during play, and answered the questions at the end thoughtfully.

[That’s a 4-2 vote, Survivors. Let’s go to the very wordy Jonathon Pope after the jump]

Jonathon Pope: I had expected that by the end, there would be a clear-cut winner in my mind. Somewhere along the way, someone would do something so clever, audacious, or surprising that I would have no problem simply awarding them my vote. And considering the final two, it’s surprising that this is such a difficult decision. I think I’ve been spinning around in the Jury Room like a dog chasing his tail the last couple of days, searching for anything that gives one of these two an advantage over the other.

I looked at the game that I played in, trying to remove all prejudice that I had. Sarah never once talked to me during the game? As much a fault with my game as hers – not relevant. Shawn refused to respond to my offer of an alliance after helping eliminate Novak? Probably her best move.

I looked at both of their writing, hoping that something there would make this an obvious choice. I found that I am impressed with both of them, but couldn’t truly give one an edge over the other. (As a side note, I do find Shawn’s writing to be more terrifying, and if she comes up to Seattle I’m going to need some notice so that I can notify the authorities of my Canadian homeland* that she is close to the border.)

The end game of the Final Four initially gave little indication of how the game was being played, because the assumption was that someone was attempting to gain an advantage over the others through trickery or force. The answers to the jury questions threw something into sharp focus for me: They were playing this game exactly the way I would have. For all of my talk about strategy, in the end, there’s no way I would have turned on Melissa and Brian, and possibly not Bret either. Some consider this a strategic weakness, but I don’t. It’s not exciting to watch, and I was one of the first to complain about it, but I can’t actually say it was a bad end. It was initially frustrating, but a solid and consistent end from all of those players. It took time and some pondering, but it won me over.

And so the jury questions provided the answer to me. It was the smallest of things. Sarah’s answers were forthright and compelling. I felt that after Matt’s elimination she played a solid game, and did right by her allies (with the possible exception of Brian, although nobody was ever surprised at that move).

Shawn also played a solid game, but one answer to a jury question stuck out to me:

1. Why were you OK with ties?
This question assumes that I was, when in actuality, I would’ve preferred NOT to have a tie. However, I wasn’t necessarily going to “bully” someone into voting with me. People were going to do what they were going to do. I just voted as I saw fit.

This may be true, but it fails to address the point that no real effort was made (from my point of view) to assess just how strongly Bret or myself felt about an impending tie. All pleas to vote with us were not just denied, they were ignored. No attempt at negotiation, no effort at finding an alternate target. I admit, I would not have been easy to convince, but Bret has admitted that he would have changed his vote to avoid a tie if he knew that Shawn and Sarah W. were not with us. Instead it was radio silence.

It’s the smallest of things, really. It feels ticky-tacky, but it’s the greatest difference in their game that I am aware of.

Seriously, in spite of my frustration in the jury room, this was a great game. I think I could go on and on about this game and what a difficult decision this was, but lunch time is over and I don’t think anybody really wants to read that anyway.

So how do I vote? GUILTY!**

I vote, to even my great surprise, for Sarah Bizek. Sarah, I’m sorry we never got to speak in this game. It was a flaw in my game plan, and it ended up killing me.

Shawn, you once declared yourself a Ninja. I said we would have to see about that. Turns out you were right. I declare you to be the Head Ninja of the newly created Ninja Department of Jonny-Jon Records (literally the greatest imaginary record company in the history of human existence). I haven’t handed out a new title in at least ten years, so as you can see it is the most dubious of honors. Feel free to add it to the special skills section of your resume.

*Just kidding. I’m not from America’s Hat.
**I just can’t get enough of this jury joke. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.


Hmm. Maybe I should have put a word limit on the vote, eh?

But seriously, folks:

The Champion of Spookymilk Survivor XIII: Sarah “Clarence’s Hope” Bizek

This was a very hard game for the jury to assess. So many of the tricky things SCB pulled off weren’t really made public (for instance, her role in Novak’s demise) and I think that could have helped her, but players saw enough of what she was doing anyway. Beezy’s submission for “It Lives” will go down as one of my all-time favorites, as will the beautiful, horrible incest story. Her road to this point was taken much differently than the road other winners took, and that took some adjustment for the jury.

This is also the biggest Survivor comeback in history, as SCB spent her first five games nonsubbing out before even reaching the merge before putting together a nice game and just barely missing the jury in Turbo. Here, though, I never doubted her, bitches (seriously, at the merge, I predicted she’d win. Brooks can vouch for this!).

It’s nice to finally have a female on the top of the hill again, but this goes deeper than that: Beezy is whip-smart, passionate, a laugh riot and one of the greatest goddamned people I’ve ever had the chance to know. I am thrilled that she won this game and am proud to immortalize her on the sidebar. Class of ’96 kicks, woooOO!

Meanwhile, there’s Shawn “What’s Wrong With You?” Ashley. So much of that stuff can apply to her too, and I definitely love some of the same things in her as are in Bizek (the casual cynicism and biting sarcasm, for instance). Shawn played a game worthy of the win in many seasons and I’m glad she wasn’t shut out. I figure she’ll win this game someday – hell, Novak finished in third and second before pulling one down.

So psyched that it was you two at the end, ladies. SO. PSYCHED. It’s nice to have a theater party at the end, because theater parties don’t quit. They’re so much more…well, you know.

What I’m saying is: EVERYONE GET NAKED.

Cheers, Survivor.


(Other votes)

Brian David: Sarah Bizek.

Melissa Diamond: Sarah Bizek. “I take back the fickle, mercurial, and handsome things I said in the jury room. You *were* in this to win it. Shawn, you wrote well, and you chose a path that worked for you. Bizek, though — she saw the smoldering, zombie-pocked ruins of Survivor post-Novak, and she took up her sheriff’s badge and shotgun. She dawned her hat, spit out the last of her chaw, and mowed us the eff down.”

Oh, hell. Well, that’s just beautiful, right there.