Tonight the torch was finally snuffed on Survivor: Nicaragua.
It was an epic fail of a season—double quitters, the early elimination of fan favorite Jimmy Johnson, grossly mismatched old vs. young tribes and the cringe-worthy Medallion of Power—but host Jeff Probst had to award the title of Sole Survivor to somebody.
So who received the million bucks?
Jud Birza, aka the lovable puppy-dog Fabio, at least gave fans a happy ending.
No one stood a chance after Fabio's tearful Tribal Council tribute to his family—who inspired him to basically kick ass—had most of the jury (including Benry!) wiping their eyes.
Tonight Fabio once again proved he's smarter than the average surfer dude by winning three straight immunities, including tonight's puzzle (!) and coin-stacking challenges.
Another reason to love the guy? Youngest. Winner. Ever.
Nothing elicited more laughs in tonight's Survivor studio audience than King Fabio exulting in his new power from the comfort of his stone throne. Who's the chess grand master now, Marty?
(Speaking of gaming moves, producers revealed that going forward it will be up to them to decide whether to put postmerge quitters on the jury or not.)
Fan Favorite Jane Bright picked up $100,000, winning with the most votes and by the largest margin ever.
Also bringing the joy was the (too-late) ouster of Dan Lembo. Dan's expiration date lapsed on day one, but his tribe finally did the right thing and chucked out the moldy meatball. Too bad he waited until his signoff—slamming the "liars" and calling Holly a "crook" who should have her "damn hands cut off" (fair enough)—to show us the Sicilian spirit he promised at the outset.
Following on his heels was struggling small-town farmer congressman's wife Holly, whose Survivor hands were metaphorically chopped off when the guys voted her off for a boys club final three. After drowning Dan's shoes, it's remarkable she made it this far.
After tonight's show, Holly broke down the shoe incident to us: "Dan just got under my skin. He was constantly bragging about what he had and constantly complaining about sand on his feet." Ergo, she hushed those puppies.
For a lackluster season, tonight's youth-oriented Final Tribal Council was one of Survivor's most entertaining. Sash raised Susan Hawk-like wrath of his betrayed tribemates who called him every name in the Snake and the Rat Handbook. Plus, "dumb" and wishy-washy Chase actually scored enough votes (4 to Fabio's 5) to make the finish a real nailbiter.
One person who wasn't surprised by the vote? Chase himself, who told us after show, "I thought it was 5-4. [Tonight's vote] went exactly as I thought it would. I wasn't surprised at all."
Sash told us he was "disappointed" he didn't receive a single vote from the jury. "I misjudged some people," he said. "I really thought some people on the jury respected the game as much as I did."
The Sole Survivor relished the close vote. "I was nervous, dude," Fabio admitted to us, "but I got to experience it full on. I trusted my friends on the jury." As for the other dramz, "None of it was directed towards me—resentment, jealousy, vindictive[ness]...whatever, we're all still best friends. Emotions run high, especially in an atmosphere like that."
How did Fabio react to eliciting tears from Benry & Co. in his heartfelt affirmation about his family? "Yeah, we got Benry too!" he cackled. "Benry wiped his eye. That's why people go to the theater." So was he acting? "I was being genuine and very truthful," Fabio assured us, "but I do study theater and know what I'm doing...and what matters."
How's that for a million-dollar performance?
Check back here later for more scoop from the Survivor: Nicaragua afterparty—and more scoop about next season's Survivor: Redemption Island, which we're unofficially calling Survivor: Epic vs. Awesome.