Wearing an "I Love Rob" T-shirt and an engagement ring that Boston Rob Mariano had slipped on her finger only moments earlier, Amber Brkich took home the $1 million prize last night on "Survivor: All-Stars."
Secured by an airtight romantic alliance with Boston Rob that brought her all the way to the end of the game, Brkich's "Survivor" triumph reversed an old adage. Love, it seems, can buy you money.
The passive half of the season's power couple, Brkich prevailed by a single vote over fellow finalist Rob. And she was anointed by one of the series' most ambivalent and hostile juries ever. The final tribal council was a volcano of bitter feelings, as Lex, Kathy, Alicia, and Big Tom tore into Rob for his serial betrayals. "You have not outclassed us," Alicia said. "You used your friendships as steppingstones," Kathy said.
"You sold out your values, you sold out your character, you sold out your friends for a stack of greenbacks," Lex said.
"I'm sorry to each and every one of you," Rob said. Squeezing out an unconvincing tear, he added, "It got a lot more personal than I thought it ever would."
Indeed, last night's episode was the most eventful and dramatic in a season marred by predictable behavior and overly familiar faces (and, especially in the case of Richard Hatch, bodies). Clearly, the jury didn't want to support either finalist. Only Jenna appeared to believe the pair deserved to be the last two standing, and she urged them not to feel ashamed of the way they played.
If you heard a strange noise a little after 10 p.m., it was a collective sigh from the direction of Canton, Rob's hometown. It was a sigh of disappointment when their boy lost, after host Jeff Probst announced Brkich's name live from Madison Square Garden. And it was a sigh of pleasure that Rob had secured his beloved Am-buh, after she accepted his televised marriage proposal made only moments before she won.
Yes, for a moment "Survivor: All-Stars" looked suspiciously like "The Bachelor." Here's hoping the young lovers are prepared for the inevitable prenup question from the press.
Strangely enough, Rob's proposal was not the earth-shattering, history-making, mind-blowing surprise that CBS had been promoting endlessly in its ads for the finale.
The big twist, which Probst announced close to 11 p.m., is that CBS is allowing viewers to award one of the 17 losing contestants a $1 million prize. Taking a page out of the "American Idol" handbook, the network is letting us invest in the voting process. The people's choice will be announced live next Thursday.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.