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Season 15: Episode 13 - Buckle Up: Flight Attendant Todd is Sole Survivor
Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

After surviving 39 days of intense heat, huge personalities, two Hidden Immunity Idols and countless votes, Todd Herzog, the 22-year-old flight attendant from Pleasant Grove, Utah, is voted the winner of SURVIVOR: CHINA.

Todd, who was once the founder of his high school Survivor Club and was voted "Most likely to appear on SURVIVOR," has his dream come true as he proves worthy of the title of Sole Survivor. Controlling the game from its onset with his strategic moves and unparalleled passion for the game, Todd convinces the majority of the Jury to vote for him and is awarded the million-dollar prize!

Final Four
After Tribal Council, the final four celebrates the departure of Peih-Gee and congratulates each other for staying true to their alliance. "I thought I would be out in sixteenth place. And here I am guaranteed at least a one in four chance at winning," explains an excited Courtney. The final four savors the moment with a group hug and soon hunker down for the night.

Tree Mail 
On day 37, the tribe awakes after yet another uncomfortable night's sleep in their makeshift hut made of uneven bamboo. Amanda reads Tree Mail, notifying the tribe of an upcoming Reward Challenge. Her desire to win is strong: "This Reward is probably the most important one we have had thus far because we know we have Immunity coming up and we need energy!"

Reward Challenge
The Final Four arrive at the Challenge, where Jeff Probst explains the rules. For this Challenge, they must race to construct a Survivor version of The Great Wall of China. First, they will start on top of the wall and race down a ladder. Next, they must race to assemble and cross a puzzle bridge. Once across, they will use a traditional Chinese Yoke to stack their puzzle blocks and carry them back through the course up the ladder. Finally, using the puzzle blocks, they must complete their section of the wall by fitting the properly shaped pieces in the correct slots. First person to successfully complete their puzzle wall wins Reward--an advantage for the upcoming Immunity Challenge in the form of fuel, consisting of pizza, beer, soda and brownies.

The Challenge begins as the Survivors race down their ladders and head to the puzzle bridge. Todd arrives first and begins to build his bridge while Amanda trails just behind. Courtney and Denise finally arrive and begin to construct their bridges as well, but struggle to solve the puzzle. Amanda finishes first, begins to gather her puzzle bricks in her yoke and transports them back to the wall. Todd is close behind. As Amanda begins to reconstruct her wall, Todd catches up. They both frantically attempt to place the bricks in their proper place as Amanda takes a slight lead and never relinquishes it. Amanda finishes first and wins Reward. Jeff Probst then allows Amanda to select one or two other people to join her on the Reward. Amanda decides just to bring Todd.

Adding Fuel to the Fire
Amanda and Todd sit to enjoy the Reward. Amanda takes advantage of her time alone with Todd and questions his loyalty to her: "Honestly, I don't trust you that much. From what I have heard, I just have a feeling that if anyone were to backstab me right now, you would." Todd is shocked by Amanda's accusation and, in hopes of calming her nerves, replies, "There is one girl in this game that I have been honest to literally since day one and it has been you." After the two clear the air, conversation turns to the vote when Todd states, "I am not cool with losing to Denise or Courtney. I swear on my life I am in this to the end of this with you." All Amanda can do is listen and hope the crafty strategist is telling her the truth.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Denise and Courtney escape the intense heat by cooling off in the lake as Courtney asks Denise whom she wants to vote out next. Denise replies, "Todd." Agreeing with Denise, Courtney states, "He's a slippery little sucker."

Three's a Crowd?
Todd and Amanda return to camp from their Reward as Todd finds himself alone in the hut with Denise to discuss the vote. Courtney sits nearby, eavesdropping on their conversation. Denise informs Todd that she isn't ready to leave the game yet, while Todd, nervous about the gender difference on the tribe, states, "I just feel like it's going to go girl power tomorrow and I will probably be the one that's gone." Denise then asks Todd who he feels has the best chance of winning and he tells her Amanda or Courtney. "Todd is a slippery sucker and always manages to weasel his way into something. Todd does not look out for you, he does not care. He is looking out for himself," states the spying Courtney.

Courtney takes her newfound information aand approaches Amanda to fill her in on what she has learned from Todd and Denise's conversation. While the two girls are talking, Todd arrives and reveals his suspicions. "I know I am feeling paranoia to be left out alone. I see people gather off on their own and that bugs me." Todd asks Amanda and Courtney if Denise is next to go and receives a yes from Amanda. "I am hoping that Courtney and Amanda are still on the same wavelength as me so that Denise can be the next on the chopping block instead of them going all girl power and voting me out. So paranoia on my side is high and I hate being paranoid, I hate it," states a nervous Todd.

Rights of Passage
On Day 38, the tribe awakes as Todd reads Tree Mail, which instructs them to paddle to the giant statue of Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of compassion and mercy.

As the final four arrives at the steps of the statue and makes their way to the top, they find the torches of those who have been previously voted out. Paying homage to their fallen comrades, they light a set of ceremonial firecrackers at each torch and give thanks to their former competitors as they reflect on their time spent in the game.

Final Immunity Challenge
The tribe greets Jeff Probst for the final Immunity Challenge. In a test of focus and strength, the Survivors will stack porcelain dishes on a long, wobbly balancing arm. The more dishes they stack and the longer they must hold them, the more difficult it is to keep them stable. Once a dish falls off of the balancing plate, they are out of the challenge. Last person left standing with their dishes stacked wins Immunity, guaranteeing them a spot in the finals and a one in three chance at a million dollars.

The challenge begins as each Survivor awkwardly balances the first plate on the wobbly device. Jeff Probst instructs them to add another plate, bowl or cup to their ever-increasing stack. The pressure builds as Todd loses his concentration and balance, sending his stack crashing to the ground. Ironically, the waitress from New York City, Courtney, can't hold the dishes any longer and is next to go as the pain of keeping her arm steady is too much.

Amanda and Denise find themselves the only two remaining. Denise seizes the opportunity to strike a deal with Amanda and pleads, "Come on Amanda, let's make a deal. I won't write your name down, you won't write mine down." Amanda doesn't go for Denise's proposal and remains focused. When Jeff Probst instructs them to place one more item on their teetering stacks, Denise loses balance and watches her stack tumble to the ground, shattering the porcelain along with her hopes of Immunity. Amanda's victory keeps her safe from the night's vote, guaranteeing her a one in three shot of winning the million dollars.

Power and Responsibility
The tribe returns to camp, where they congratulate the proud winner. "I am so excited for being in the final three. I have nothing to worry about tonight, but I am afraid that whoever gets voted out tonight is going to think that it was because of me. It could be such a good thing, then it could be such a bad thing," states Amanda, as she weighs the pros and cons of winning the final Immunity Necklace. Feeling anxious as the night's vote looms, Denise approaches Amanda in hopes of convincing her to keep her around. "I really admire you and respect your determination and how you don't give up," Amanda tells her. Denise tries to gain Amanda's sympathy: "This is all I got right now. After this I have to go back to my family. I am not saying that it's a bad thing. I'm just saying that, you know, that I'm going to go back to making seven dollars an hour working as the lunch lady doing the same things day after day like I have been doing."

Welfare Not Fair
Courtney and Todd discuss the vote as they watch Amanda talk to Denise. After both agreeing to vote out Denise, Todd states, "I guess all we can do now is hope and trust Amanda. If I have to lose to someone, I don't want to lose to Denise."

Agreeing with Todd, Courtney offers her opinion regarding Denise: "This isn't welfare. You know, like she doesn't deserve it just because, you know, she sucks at life. I'm the biggest bitch on the planet," admits a smirking Courtney.

Meanwhile Denise tells Amanda she is voting for Todd in hopes that she joins her on the vote. "I will have to think about it a little more, but I will guarantee you that I will not vote for you tonight, but I cannot guarantee you how they will vote," Amanda responds.

Tribal Council
At Tribal Council, Denise helps seal her fate when she openly admits that she is a threat to win the game: "They think because I have kids that I would have a better chance with the Jury being sympathetic, and they don't want to keep me here because that will weigh on the Jury's mind. I hope Amanda votes with me and not against me!" When Denise claims that Amanda promised to watch her back in the game but Amanda denies it, Todd reacts with a smirk. When questioned about his reaction, Todd explains, "It was sly to tell Denise that she had her back, but I was reacting for Denise."

When the votes are read, Denise's worst nightmare comes true as Amanda does not turn against Todd and is voted out of the game three votes to one. With the final three set in stone, Denise becomes thirteenth member to be voted out of SURVIVOR: CHINA and the final member of the Jury that will ultimately decide the million-dollar winner.

As Denise leaves Tribal Council, she gives her final words: "I definitely believe I would have won this entire thing if I had stayed in the game. I am just proud of what I have accomplished. To make it 38 days out here is just a spectacular thing for a 40-year-old woman."

Bittersweet Final 3
Returning to camp for what should be a celebration for making it to the end of the game, Amanda instead voices her frustrations at Todd for making her look foolish in front of the Jury. Amanda explains: "I feel horrible. In essence, Todd made me look bad in front of the Jury." Todd attempts to explain himself to Amanda. However, his plea falls on deaf ears as she refutes his apology: "You guys can celebrate. I am going to bed."

Morning Feast
On the final day, Courtney, Todd and Amanda trek to Tree Mail and are delighted to find a bounty of breakfast food awaiting them. Overzealous, they head back to camp to prepare their final meal together.

While they enjoy their breakfast, Courtney reflects back on the emotional rollercoaster of her SURVIVOR: CHINA experience. "I am glad that China was as hard as it was. It is like a building experience. I am proud of myself and I can't believe it. My final goal was to make the final three and I did."

Later, before leaving for Tribal Council, Courtney, Todd and Amanda build a small bonfire, burning the camp's contents and paying homage to their time spent in the game. Todd reflects, "I think China has actually helped me grow up!" His thoughts then turn back to the final task at hand: convincing the Jury to vote for him. He states, "I feel like looking at the Jury, I stand an okay shot. I backstabbed and lied to a lot of them but I was playing the game. Whether I win a million dollars tonight or not, I feel like I have accomplished a lot and I am so proud."

As the flames heat up, the final three exit their camp and paddle to the final Tribal Council. Amanda prepares herself for the Jury, stating, "I think it's anyone's game at this point. I have a 33-percent chance of winning the money. I am going to go into tonight and tell them the honest truth about my game and how I played." She continues, "I think a lot of my fears have been minimalized because of this experience and I am ready to do it now and I am not afraid."

Opening Statements
Todd, Amanda and Courtney arrive at the final Tribal Council, where they give their opening statements as the Jury listens intently. "There are some things that I have done that I am not proud of. I voted for some people that didn't think that I was going to vote for them. I am sorry that I hurt your feelings and really respect playing the game with all of you," says Amanda. Todd follows, as he hopes the Jury can understand the many facets of his game: "The main thing I can ask tonight is that you are able to see the difference between my strategic game and the relations that I actually built with you because they were all real." Courtney then admits she was clueless from the beginning and stakes her claim at the million dollars by saying, "I figured out how to survive in a game that was completely physical in the beginning. I started the game weighing ninety-five pounds and I was physically scared to be in this game. You have to give a little credit to the little girl who everyone thought would be gone in the first six days and is still sitting here on day 39."

Facing the Jury
One at a time, the Jury attempts to rattle the final three with their intense questioning in order to decide who is most deserving of the million dollars. Deflecting answers and explaining their strategies is all Amanda, Todd and Courtney can do. When Jean-Robert questions Todd as to why he was voted out, Todd states, "You are a great strategic player in your daily life. I had to get rid of my greatest strategic threat and that was you." Amanda and Todd feel more heat from Peih-Gee as she questions their game strategy, while Courtney explains to Frosti and Jaime why she deserves to be there and didn't just ride the coattails of others to the end. Exhausted from the intense questioning, Todd, Courtney and Amanda await the final vote.

In the end, the Jury deems that Todd played the best game, and he is voted the winner of SURVIVOR: CHINA and awarded the million-dollar check that comes with it!