'Survivor: Samoa' finale: Natalie White wins Russell Hantz's game

russell-hantz-survivor-samoa.jpgWell, here we are at the end of the "Survivor: Samoa" season, pretty much where we thought we'd be with Russell having manipulated himself safely into the Final Five.

Actually, that's not 100 percent true. In the beginning, we thought Russell was all bluster and his cocky ways would get him kicked out sooner rather than later. But then he managed to blindside the other players week after week -- not to mention collecting all the individual Immunity Idols like they were poorly hidden Easter eggs -- and we grudgingly had to admit that yeah, he might just be the best "Survivor" player yet.

So, how good is he? Can anyone possibly snag that million dollar prize from his clutches? Let's find out ...

Day 37 arrives with Aiga receiving an early morning tree mail announcing an immunity challenge. The Foa Foa Four are still bound and determined to get rid of the last remaining Galu member, Brett, but Russell feels the need to tell Natalie that if Brett manages to win immunity for the third time, she's probably going to be the one going home so that he, Mick and Jaison have one more shot to get rid of him.

Russell, already cranky that he's left with "misfits" when he "should be here with superstars" is also a bit put out by Mick and Jaison being in awe of Brett's sudden immunity winning streak.

"He's no Mike Tyson," Russell scoffs. "He's Brett."

Of course, who should win immunity? That's right. Brett.

Russell, who never had any intention of getting rid of Natalie because he's positive he can beat her when it comes voting time, is trying to figure out if he should get rid of Jaison (who he could beat in front of the jury, but who can't beat Brett) or Mick (who he might not be able to beat in front of the jury, but who could beat Brett). Decisions. Decisions. Dec ... ah, decision made.

Jaison joins the jury and suddenly becomes a Brett supporter.

Russell immediately sets up his insurance policy with Brett so that he now has a deal with everyone. As to how solid any of them are remains to be seen. After all, Brett and Natalie were flirting through Bible verses just last week.

Filler! Also known as The Walk of the Fallen Comrades.

That kills a good deal of time, but then we get to another challenge, this time securing the winner a place in the Final Three.

The Final Four balance a statue on a pole, adding a new one-foot section of pole every two minutes until their statue falls and they are knocked out. Mick is the first one out, followed quickly by Natalie.

brett-clouser-survivor-samoa.jpgThe wind starts to pick up as Russell and Brett face off over what Jeff has dubbed the "million dollar challenge." They both add another section before Brett begins to wobble. He recovers, but when Russell starts to do the same he loses his focus and his statue goes crashing down.

Russell wins his first Individual Immunity challenge. He says that in his opinion he "just won the game."

Too bad we have another hour before we find out.

Of course Russell is now in a bad spot since he's promised Mick, Brett and Natalie that he'll take them all to the Final Three with him. His way around this is by telling Brett that the two of them will vote Mick while Mick and Natalie will vote Brett, making for a tie which would put the burden of Brett or Mick staying in their own hands.

While he toys with this idea, instead he decides to go along with the original Foa Foa Four plan and all three vote out Brett.

OK, while the last-minute Russell/Brett tussle was entertaining, at this point Russell had better win because Mick and Natalie haven't done a damn thing. Still, we all know this, so Russell really doesn't need to point it out to Natalie and Mick over and over again.

See, there he goes being cocky again. Is the jury going to knock him down in the 11th hour or let him bulldoze his way to victory?

natalie-white-survivor-samoa.jpgIn the opening statements, Mick speaks about his trustworthiness to much shaking of the head from the jury members. Natalie gets indulgent smiles. Russell meanwhile lists his accomplishments in pulling the strings of getting everyone of them kicked off. It's the old I-outwitted-and-outplayed-you-all argument which is, after all, the point of the game.

During the Q&A portion, Jaison points out that none of the three are hurting for money (even though Mick says he's $320,000 in debt), Shambo calls Mick "feckless" and accuses Natalie of riding on coattails. Brett asks Mick what they would do if they went on a Bro Date together. Dave wants to know what they think their chances of winning are. Eric sticks up for Natalie's weak game play and berates Mick and Russell, bringing Natalie to tears.

One last round of voting takes place and ... seamless segue to the live "Survivor" reunion in Los Angeles.

With little fanfare the votes are read and Russell ... er, Natalie wins.

Are you kidding? Natalie? Are we supposed to be happy about this? We can guarantee Russell sure isn't.

What about you? Did Natalie deserve to win or was Russell robbed?

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Photo credit: CBS