Stephen M. Silverman
December 12, 2003 10:12 AM

With CBS’s “Survivor: Pearl Islands” nearing its grand finale, the females took control.

On Thursday night’s episode, the three remaining women finalists banded together to oust Burton Roberts, 31, a San Francisco marketing executive, who put his best spin on his farewell announcement.

“I wish Jon the best, and I hope he wins,” said Roberts. “Lill, I hope you can live with yourself. We had an alliance; you broke it.”

The episode kicked off with Sandra Diaz-Twine, 29, still stinging from last week’s ouster of her best friend, Christa Hastie, 24, and realizing she very well could be next. She prepared to fight that — and wreak her revenge. “I’m going to hide the pick-axe, all the knives, all the machetes. I mean, little by little, they just won’t see it coming,” she said.

Suspense built while Jon Dalton 29, an art consultant from Danville, Va., Roberts and Lillian Morris (51, a scout leader from Cincinnati) went snail hunting. The men told Morris that that Darrah had to go, which didn’t sit well with Morris, who realized that, maybe, Dalton and Roberts weren’t to be trusted.

For the Reward Challenge, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst, 41, had the castaways run an obstacle course that began with being tied up, with the reward being a night in Panama City camping out among ruins and eating a feast of local food.

Roberts won the challenge and chose Dalton to join him for the trip to Panama City — where Roberts opined, “Those three girls have all been riding coattails the entire time they’ve been out here.”

Back at camp, the three “girls” did a little opining of their own. Morris told Mississippi mortician Darrah Johnson, 22, that the deceitful men had to go in order to make it a “women only” Final Three, and they plotted a scheme in which Morris and Johnson would pretend to be allies of the guys.

Once they got back from Panama City, Roberts didn’t believe Morris, while Diaz-Twine, speaking to Dalton, swore on the head of her two children that she would vote off whomever he wanted to go.

Johnson won the Immunity Challenge, which involved walking the plank, for her third consecutive victory.

In the end, the women’s scheming worked, and Roberts was given the boot in a 3-2 (women-versus-men) vote.

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