by Drusilla Moorhouse | Sun., Dec. 20, 2009 7:30 PM
After 39 days as virtual pawns in the hands of Survivor's most cunning strategist, Texas oilman Russell Hantz, the votes cast in Samoa by the nine jury members—all but one of them from the originally victorious Galu tribe—were counted tonight and Jeff Probst named the winning sole Survivor.
But did the mastermind take home the million dollars?
Blindside! In Russell's own words, "the nice girl outwitted and outplayed him" when the Survivor: Samoa jurors awarded the top prize to Hantz's loyal
follower ally Natalie White. The 26-year-old pharmaceutical rep from Van Buren, Ark., was an unwitting member of his infamous "dumb-girls alliance." But early in the game, the Southern blond beauty surprised her tribe when she triumphantly returned to camp with food: a rat she had killed all by herself. In the end, the castaways helped Natalie stomp out the rat who betrayed them all, with only a minority voting for Russell, even though he controlled the game from day one.
Russell wouldn't go home empty-handed, however: the surprisingly tearful runner-up won the $100,000 fan favorite prize for Player of the Season.
The Texas Machiavellian may have found all the hidden immunity idols (without clues!), but Russell ensured his place in the final three with his first individual immunity win, sending former phantom player Brett back to obscurity and the jury. "In my opinion, I just won the game," he boasted (inaccurately, as it turned out).
The new season of Survivor, pitting former cunning Castaways against those who most prized integrity, premieres Feb. 11.
Not ready to head back to civilization? Check out our Survivor: Samoa gallery.