Survivor: South Pacific champ Sophie Clarke has more to thank for her upset victory than just her brains and ass-kickery.
"God was on my side this season," she told us after tonight's live finale.
So how did her tribe's "prayer-palooza" help her "strategically from day one"?
We got the scoop from the million-dollar winner herself right after Sunday's show—along with the personal postmortems of runner-up Coach Ben Wade, Albert Destrade, Brandon Hantz and fan favorite Ozzy "Ozzsome" Lusth…
When we asked whether her anointment by Coach as the new Dragon Slayer imbued the new champ with special powers, Sophie said, "That's a good point. I think it probably did. Definitely. The Dragon Slayer, God—everyone was on my side this season."
Ah, the "prayer-palooza." Even though Sophie leans toward the agnostic, she wasn't as opposed to her tribe's religious revivalism. "Strategically I loved it," she said. "It minimized variables. If they believe if they backstab me they're going to hell—who else do you want to play with?
"Sometimes it made me feel bit icky," she admitted. "I'm not that religious but you're supposed to [pray] to give you strength, right? [Instead] they were praying for, like, 'Give me the idol and make me win.' God doesn't give a crap. God's watching X Factor or something. Strategically…I'd want God on my tribe every time if this is the outcome."
Coach disagrees: "I lied a little bit [but] in the end I was out there for altruistic reasons." As for his vow "as a Christian man" that he would take Ozzy to the end, Coach felt he "was able to get out of that contract" because Ozzy lied to him.
For his part, Ozzy—the season's fan favorite (holler!)—has no regrets. "It was fun," he told us. "I played my heart out—I'm really happy America saw that." And deep down, Ozzy says, maybe he lost that last challenge for a reason. "My own subconscious wants me to keep working and not be a lazy bum. I've got work to do in this world, in this life. That million dollars would've made it more difficult for me. I would've started a coconut plantation in Mexico and started utopian society of surfers and skaters and that would've been it."
Instead, he continues to inspire others—including founding a nonprofit to build skate parks in Mexico. "Skateboarding has been a driving force in my life," he said, reiterating his truly moving message from the reunion show: "One of best lessons I've learned is how to fall down gracefully and pick yourself back up. It's such a valuable tool—we all fall down every day."
Brandon, who brought the cray-cray to Survivor: South Pacific, knows a thing about falling. One of the things he's most disappointed about are his disparaging comments about his uncle, evil genius Russell Hantz, and tribemate Mikayla Wingle, whom he villainized as some kind of evil temptress. "I disrespected Mikayla and it was uncalled for," he told us regretfully. "She didn't do anything—I was out of line. I prejudged her and I apologize for it—she's a wonderful girl. Russell doesn't deserve to be called names—despite what he's said about me.
In case you missed it, Jeff Probst teased a Hantz vs. Hantz season to come. "Survivor 25—get you some," Brandon told us. "Li'l Hantz is going to step up to Littler Hantz— Russell—and we're gonna do it. We're gonna go at it, it's gonna be explosive, and I can't wait. It's already done. That's set in my mind, it's gonna happen."
The real villain this season, of course, was Albert, who told us he had "no problem" with his portrayal. "If I wanted to go have fun and go camping I would've gotten a cooler and a tent and gone with some people I know.
Now that the game's over, Albert admits he blatantly lied about the Immunity Necklace at Tribal Council. "I knew 100 percent Brandon was going home that night. If someone hands you an Immunity Necklace when you have one foot out the door, you have to be foolish to give it back. Unfortunately that move in the long term cost me some jury votes."
But Albert has no regrets: "I know I got air-balled tonight, [but] I played a solid kickass game and I have nothing to be ashamed about."
Do you think Sophie deserved her win? What's your take on this season's "prayer-palooza"? Do you wish Ozzy won more than the Fan Favorite title? Speak out in the comments!