By People Staff
Updated December 01, 2020 03:48 PM
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Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS(2)

“It cannot be called virtue to kill one’s fellow-citizens, to betray one’s friends, to be treacherous and merciless and irreligious; power may be gained by acting in such ways, but not glory.”— Machiavelli, The Prince

Sandra Diaz-Twine is the best Survivor player ever. It’s just empirically true. She’s won twice and never lost. Parvati may have played more days than Sandra, but she’s been given more chances. For winning Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, Sandra wins the season’s final Fishy Award. That’s almost as valuable as a million dollars.

Russell has claimed that he was born to play the game, but Sandra actually may be made for Survivor. It takes an incredibly unique combination of skills to be a Survivor winner — to navigate the very different waters of the pre-merge, the merge, the endgame and the final tribal council. Somehow, Sandra’s kindness, loyalty, craftiness, weakness in challenges, killer sense of humor, blunt honesty, self-control and superhuman ability to read match up perfectly with the demands of the game. Yes, as Colby and Tom both said, you need a ton of luck to get to the end. But you also need to know how to make the most of that luck — and that takes a ton of skill. Oh, and I’m sure the fact that Sandra’s a working mom whose husband is in Afghanistan doesn’t hurt when it comes down to a jury vote.

Russell may have been the season’s dominant personality, but he had a complete disregard for winning the hearts and minds of his tribemates. Parvati may have made more big moves — but some of those moves were mistakes. Hiding an idol from Russell seemed clever at the time but ultimately served only to antagonize him and pegged her as being too close to Danielle.

Furthermore, Sandra may be the most pragmatic player in show history. When the tribes merged, Sandra snuck away to tip Rupert off about Russell’s machinations. But when the Heroes didn’t heed her warnings, Sandra voted with the Villains with an impassive poker face. Compare that to the blinders Boston Rob wore, so that all he could see in the world was Russell. In move after move, decision after decision, Sandra showed herself smart, self-controlled, and willing to do what it takes to get to the end.

That was nowhere more clear than in the final tribal council. While all three finalists laid out their strategies, only Sandra understood that you’re not trying to convince the jury, you’re trying to win them over. While Sandra reminded the Heroes how she had tried to help them, Russell insisted he never needed any luck, and Parvati complained about how hard she had it in the beginning, then bragged about her “ultimate” game.” Parvati and Russell came off as both over-confident and plaintive. Only Sandra’s speech was tailored to win the good graces of the jury on a sub-conscious level.

For their part, the jury seemed to have made a conscious decision to give Russell as little opportunity to defend himself as possible. Courtney and Amanda both simply asked Sandra to talk about how good her game was, and hardly anybody asked Russell a question at all. When he did speak, however, he only made his situation worse.

Sandra’s major piece of luck was probably that the Heroes didn’t take her advice and vote out Russell. She was like the similarly-named ancient prophetess, Cassandra, who was destined to tell the truth and have nobody believe her. As a result, all of the Heroes were filled with bitterness towards Russell and regret for ignoring her. She received every single Hero vote — and one Villain vote from Courtney, who was the beans to her rice.

Parvati and Russell both played incredible games. I had the good fortune to watch the finale live in the Ed Sullivan Theater; while the announcer tried to rile the crowd up in support of their favorites, the room was filled with cheering for all three finalists — and just general overwhelming enthusiasm for what was probably the best season in the show’s history. However, there can be only one Survivor. Congratulations, Sandra. … – Stephen Fishbach

Tell Us: What did you think of Sandra’s victory? Did she deserve to win?

Monty Brinton/CBS(2)