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Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

Thirty-nine days, 16 castaways, four tribes, dozens of broken alliances, a quitter, a grandmother who isn't really dead, and now, one Sole Survivor! Sandra Diaz-Twine, the 29-year-old office assistant from Ft. Lewis, Washington, captured the million-dollar prize. In the gut-wrenching final Tribal Council, Sandra pleaded to the Jury that she went along with whatever alliance would have her without asking questions. Sandra claimed she never got in anyone's way, staying quietly in the background, and that she deserved to be the Sole Survivor. The Jury agreed in a 6 to 1 decision, making Sandra the Sole Survivor and the recipient of the one million dollar prize.

Awakened early in the morning by the hum of a motorboat, the four remaining Survivors were excited to see host Jeff Probst emerge with breakfast and champagne. After enjoying the morning meal and toasting with mimosas, the castaways were even more excited to receive letters from home. Emotions ran high as the four remaining Balboa tribe members read the missives from their loved ones. "It's hard, because you haven't talked to anybody in thirty-seven days. I just mainly worried if my dog was okay and, you know, my family," cried Darrah Johnson, the 22 year-old mortician from Liberty, Mississippi.

Feeling vulnerable as the only man remaining, Jon Dalton, the 29-year-old art consultant from Danville, Virginia, brought everything out into the open by claiming that he knew the women planned on voting him out. Jon explained to Darrah that it would be strategically smarter to vote out Lillian Morris, the 51-year-old scout troop leader from Cincinnati, Ohio, due to Lill's ability to get the Jury on her side. This caused a rift between Lill and Darrah. Lill convinced Sandra that it was in everybody's best interest to vote out Darrah due to her strength in Immunity Challenges, thus playing right into Jon's plans. "Whenever you're in the hot seat and someone's ready to vote you off, create tension between two other people and those two people's heads are on the chopping block," laughed Jon.

In an unusual Immunity Challenge/Tribal Council combination, Jeff Probst explained that each castaway would have to compete against each other as well as the combined Jury in a test of survival and pirate folklore knowledge. The Jury would be playing as a team, and in the event they won, nobody would own Immunity. If Darrah, Jon, Lill or Sandra won the competition, they would win individual Immunity, and then they would all immediately vote out the thirteenth Survivor.

The Jury took an early lead by answering the first two questions correctly. Jon evened the score on a seemingly simple answer involving shark attacks. But the Jury pulled ahead and answered the fifth question correctly, thus stealing Immunity away from the remaining castaways, creating the first-ever Immunity-free Tribal Council.

Despite being the smallest Survivor out of the 16, Darrah was viewed as the strongest because of her record of three straight Immunity Challenge wins. Because she was viewed as the biggest threat, Darrah was voted out of the tribe in a three to one decision. Upon seeing her torch extinguished, Darrah claimed, "It's pretty bad when people think you're a physical threat when you weigh about sixty pounds soaking wet."

After receiving an unusual midnight Tree Mail, the three remaining Balboa members rose early in order to paddle to the shipwreck. Jeff Probst explained that they had assembled in a ceremony for their fallen castaways. The remaining Survivors were to take the extinguished torches and place them in the shipwreck with a few words in eulogy. In an emotional observance, the remaining members of the Balboa tribe reminisced about the 38 days and nights they had spent on the Pearl Islands and of those with whom they had spent the time. After the torches were placed on the wreck, the Final Three shot muskets onto the wreck's sail. In the end, the shipwreck erupted in a blaze of glory and burned to the ground.

As the Final Three gathered for what would be their final Immunity Challenge, Jeff Probst explained that they would battle in a test of endurance based on an ancient pirate torture. The Survivors would have to balance themselves on a small raft wafting in the water. They could use their feet and hands for balance, but not their bottoms or knees. The last one standing would win Immunity, thus deciding who would sit next to them at the final vote.

After fifteen minutes, Jon and Sandra were both uncomfortable, while Lill claimed she felt great. Sandra lost her balance early in the competition, leaving Lill and Jon to battle it out. Jon tried desperately to make a deal with Lill, who would have none of it. Despite holding out for over two hours, Jon lost his balance, and Lillian was granted her first and most important Immunity in the game.

Because Lill had both their fates in her hands, Jon and Sandra lobbied her extensively to bring each of them with her to the final Jury. Jon explained that his being universally hated would guarantee Lill a million dollars, thus strategically, she should vote out Sandra at that evening's Tribal Council. Sandra played on Lill's heartstrings by pointing out that she also had a family she'd like to provide for. Both made good points, while neither knew how Lill was going to vote. "I'm thinking on two different areas as far as selecting the right person to go with me tonight," explained Lill.

After much deliberation, Lillian decided to vote out Jon, based on her moral Sandra's noble motivations of providing for her family. Lill chose to follow her fortitude. Lill simply thought Jon's aspirations immature and trivial compared to heart by voting out Jon Dalton. Shortly after Tribal Council, Jon noted, "I'm pretty proud of myself. I never gave up, and I didn't play fair, and I didn't plan on it."

After spending a final night together at camp, Sandra and Lill prepared to meet the Jury the next day. Each would each have to plead her case as to why she should be the Sole Survivor and why she deserved the million-dollar prize. Despite competing with each other for the final slot, Lill and Sandra had enormous respect for one another as they took one last look at camp and headed for the final, and most important, Tribal Council.

As the Final Two Balboa tribe members sat down at Tribal Council, the Jury assembled in order to ask questions that would help them to decide who would win the million dollars. As the questions rolled in and the answers rolled out, Lill defended her honesty and admitted it had been a mistake to bring her Boy Scout oath and uniform into the game. Sandra defended her work ethic while claiming she didn't "ride anybody's coattails." After the interrogation from the Jury, Lill and Sandra each gave one last statement as to why they deserved to win. Following much deliberation, the Jury voted 6 to 1 to declare Sandra the Sole Survivor and the winner of SURVIVOR: Pearl Islands.