Season 10: Episode 14 - TOM WESTMAN IS SOLE SURVIVOR
Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

Thirty-nine days, twenty Survivors, two tribes, dozens of lies, a laid-down torch, an incredible winning streak and finally, one Sole Survivor. Tom Westman, the 41-year-old NYC firefighter from Sayville, New York, dominated the Challenges and proved a major force around camp to secure the Jury vote that named him Sole Survivor and winner of the $1 million prize. Shamelessly displaying his strength from the beginning, Tom neither hid who he was nor deceived any of his tribemates on his way to becoming Sole Survivor.

As morning 38 dawned, the remaining Koror tribe members took stock of their situation as the Final Four. After enjoying a gift basket of champagne, eggs and oranges, Katie Gallagher, the 29-year-old advertising executive from Merced, California, Ian Rosenberger, the 23-year-old dolphin trainer from Key Largo, Florida and Jennifer Lyon, the 32-year-old nanny from Encino, California, agreed that if alpha-castaway Tom didn't win the next Immunity Challenge, he would be the one to go home. "I win the Challenge; Tom goes home. I don't win the Challenge; Tom's all of a sudden my best friend again," confessed Ian.

As the Final Four converged for an Immunity Challenge, they were greeted by a Chevrolet SSR, equipped with a check for one million dollars in the glove compartment. The winner of SURVIVOR: PALAU gets both. Host Jeff Probst explained that this Challenge required speed and agility: the Survivors must race along a tire crawl, then navigate through a series of vertical escape hatches to reach the top of a three-story tower. Once at the top of the tower, the Survivors must use grappling hooks to retrieve keys that unlock a hatch covering a flag, which they must raise. The first two players to finish would race down a flying fox into the ocean and retrieve a combination lock box containing another flag. After figuring out the box's combination, the Survivors must retrieve the flag and raise it. The first to raise this final flag wins Immunity.

The Challenge started with a flurry as the Final Four hurried into the field of tires. Tom took the early lead with Katie falling behind. It was a close competition as the castaways unlocked the various hatches and climbed up the tower. With Tom clearly ahead, Jennifer had difficulty using her grappling hook, yielding second place to Ian. Once again, the Challenge came down to Ian and Tom.

In the final stage, both Ian and Tom quickly descended the flying fox and splashed into the water. After both had collected their lock boxes and returned to shore, it was down to who could figure out the combination and free their flag first. A delighted Tom finally snapped open his padlock and raised his flag, seizing this crucial Immunity.

After winning the Immunity Challenge, Tom regretfully explained to Jennifer that he intended to honor his alliance with Ian and vote her off. As it was clear that Ian and Katie would follow suit, Jennifer tearfully understood. After Ian revealed that Tom's decision would've been a hard one for him to make, Tom was suddenly alarmed that Ian had planned to betray him. After Jennifer confirmed that to be true, Tom held Ian up to the fire. All Tom could say was, "Makes me think."

After thinking, Tom just couldn't let Ian's possible betrayal go, and he wrote down the name of his closest friend and competitor within Koror. As the Tribal Council ended in a tie between Jennifer and Ian, Jeff Probst announced that a fire-starting Challenge would determine who would stay and who would go. Both Survivors worked diligently to build a fire.

Jennifer could only watch as Ian's fire burned the rope, which raised his flag to secure him one more crucial day on Palau. Jennifer became the fifteenth castaway out of SURVIVOR: PALAU and will serve on the Jury that will soon decide who is named Sole Survivor.

Returning to camp from the emotional Tribal Council, the three remaining Survivors had it out. Both Tom and Katie assaulted Ian for what they saw as his lack of honesty. Always-likeable Ian had trouble accepting his tribemates' anger. "No matter what I say, I'm the bad guy tonight," the exasperated Ian exclaimed. "We're playing a game!"

After an early-morning visit from Jeff Probst, the three remaining Koror members were instructed to paddle through the Palauan waters and pay their respects to their fallen comrades. Paddling along, the Survivors dropped each fallen castaway's torch into the sea, then reminisced about the 38 days they had spent in Palau.

As the remaining three gathered for what would be their final Immunity Challenge, Jeff Probst explained that this was a test of endurance. The Survivors must each grab onto a navigational buoy and hang on while the buoy swayed from side to side. The last player left hanging on would win Final Immunity. After four-plus hours on the buoys, Katie lost her will and stepped off, leaving Tom and Ian to battle it out one last time. Battle it out they did, as hour after hour came and went. This test of endurance proved to be a marathon as both Koror stalwarts stood strong on their buoys deep into the night.

Shortly before the twelfth hour, Ian shocked Tom by offering him a strange deal. In a suicidal move, Ian claimed that he would step down if Tom promised to take Katie to the Final Two. Ian wanted to regain Tom and Katie's respect and was willing to forfeit his chance at one million dollars to do so. When Tom agreed, Ian stepped down, giving up his chance at one million dollars to regain the friendship and respect of his remaining tribemates. Ian became the sixteenth castaway out of Survivor: Palau and will serve on the Jury that ultimately decides who will hold the honor of Sole Survivor. Katie and Tom became Survivor: Palau's Final Two.

After 39 days and nights on Palau, Tom and Katie prepared to meet the Jury. They must each make their case for why they should be the Sole Survivor, thus deserving the million-dollar prize. "It's been tough here, but it's been the experience of the lifetime, and we're going to take this place apart with a little lump in our throat," Tom said.

As the Final Two sat down at Tribal Council, the Jury assembled to ask questions that would help them decide who would win the million dollars. As the questions rolled in and the answers rolled out, Tom defended his alliances as well as his integrity and asked to be judged on who he inherently was. Katie explained that her strategy was one of preservation as opposed to work ethic or proficiency at Challenges.

In the end, Tom and Katie delivered one last statement about why they deserved to win. After deliberating, the Jury awarded Tom Westman the title Sole Survivor of Palau.