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Joan E. Dowlin Headshot

Natalie's Survivor Win Renews My Faith in Human Nature

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Natalie White may be the most unexpected winner of Survivor since the series began ten years ago. She is a skinny, non-athletic, unassuming 26 year old who purposely stayed "under the radar" throughout the season. As the saying goes: "Never underestimate the power of a woman." Natalie had taken a risk to join the cast of the show by quitting her job as a pharmaceutical sales representative in Van Buren, Arkansas.

As she professed in her speech pleading her case to the jury on the last show, it was all part of her plan to be underestimated and not a threat. She saw how one after another of the "strong" women were being eliminated and she decided to lay low. She also made a smart alliance with Russell Hantz (more on him later) which took her to the final three. She also stated at the final jury counsel that she had grown stronger throughout the Survivor: Samoa experience, even at one point killing a rat for food.

Her two closest competitors and team members that made it to the final three seemed shocked that she had won. Mick, the "feckless" (as called by Shambo, ex-Marine female of the opposing team, Galu) leader of Foa Foa blew it in his speech to the jury when he rambled on about moral "perimeters" to justify his actions. No one, including me, knew what the heck he was talking about as evidenced by the rolled eyes and shaking heads of the jury.

This brings us back to Russell Hantz. He was the most strategic, manipulative, cunning, and ruthless competitor ever to play the game. I admit it was fascinating to watch him and he kept me tuning in every week. He was always up to mischief: emptying his own teammates canteens and burning socks, and letting the chickens out of their coop. He kept saying he wanted to create chaos to keep his team off balance. I kept hoping he would get caught so they would vote him off, but they never did.

Russell had an uncanny gift for finding the hidden immunity idol which saved him at Tribal Counsel several times. His tribe constantly lost challenges to Galu. This had several Foa Foa members feeling they were cursed. The truth is they were and the source was Russell. As they had to lose members each episode, behind the scenes Russell was orchestrating who got voted off.

One of the flaws of Russell's plan was that by losing all of his teammates early, the jury was made up entirely of the opposing team, Galu. This would come back to haunt him in the end.

The power seemed to shift after Galu lost its leader (another Russell) to a medical evacuation and the teams merged into one. Russell Hantz, renewing his conniving ways, began bribing and lying and making alliances with his new teammates. It seemed to be working for him as the four remaining Foa Foa members stayed in tact while the eight Galu were blind-sided and voted out one by one.

Meanwhile, Natalie stayed under the radar, making a "dumb-ass girl alliance" (Russell's term) with the female members of Galu. She started a move to oust Erik, a strong male leader in Galu which began the downfall of the remaining members of that tribe.

If the show were a war, Russell would have definitely won because he eliminated his enemies and was the strongest player left standing. However, he forgot that in the end it comes down to the jury voting for or against you. He forgot about the "K" word: Karma. It's the Golden Rule in reverse in play here. "Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you" becomes "Others will do unto you what you have done unto them."

Did Russell really expect people he had stabbed in the back and blind-sided to vote for him to win a million dollars? Natalie knew better as she had made friends and was careful not to offend too many of the jury. It turns out that her strategic plan worked and as Jeff Probst pointed out to Russell in the finale, "the dumb-ass girl beat your ass."

Russell, a successful oil company owner who was clearly in disbelief when he lost, attempted to buy the title from Natalie for $100,000. Thankfully, she refused, further renewing my faith in her integrity.

Russell, I need to tell you that sometimes being a selfish, manipulative, conniving back stabber doesn't work and the underdog and seemingly weak "dumb ass girl" who is a genuine human being will triumph. I hope you learned a lesson. Even if you haven't, this year's Survivor results have restored my faith in the goodness of basic human nature. You go, smart-ass-girl Natalie!