Survivor: Why Parvati Should Have Won Over Sandra

 Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

It's a good thing I'm sitting down. Because I'm watching the Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains live reunion show right now, and I actually agree with Evil Russell.

Namely… If Sandra — Sandra! — can win Survivor twice, something is amiss.

OK, this isn't a Natalie-level catastrophe here. (Read: A finalist sweeps jury vote just to get revenge against the evil top dog. Nothing against the Survivor: Samoa winner, but I will bet you a million bucks that she's going to be banished to Vecepia-land in the Survivor champ galaxy). Sandra certainly deserves props for her anti-B.S. attitude, avoiding the flip-flops and, above all else, throwing Evil Russell's hat into the fire on Day 39. It was so A Nightmare on Elm Street. Loves!

But this does not a winner make. Though she won Survivor: Pearl Islands, Sandra was a true sleeper this time. She was not even close to being the most hated person in her game. (Congrats, Jonny Fairplay!). In fact, as a Survivor fanatic to the core, I was shocked that she not only made the cut this season, but she was chosen for the Villains tribe. How is eavesdropping on other players‚ conversations a poisonous game-playing move? Throw in the kids and the husband fighting for our country overseas, and voila, a hero is made.

Of course she consistently slid through tribal councils. Think about it. If you were on the Villains tribe, would you vote out Sandra? She was a non-factor in every immunity challenge and was never outspoken enough to formulate a self-made game plan, let alone carry it out. I'm sorry, but in the game of Survivor, being a self-proclaimed follower is an easy cop-out.

Which brings me to Parvati. She should have won. Period.

1. As she mentioned several times during the final tribal council, Parvati had the target on her back from Day One. The mastermind of Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites‚ black-widow alliance (and the season's winner!), every villain was well aware that behind that cheerleader giggle was a master manipulator. The fact that she still made it to the finals — 114 days over three seasons — is damn impressive. (I swear like Jack Bauer when I'm riled up.)

2. She aligned herself with Evil Russell — and completely played him. (I don't recall Evil Russell ever giving away his beloved immunity idols to his Samoa alliance-mates.) How frustrating that the jury members were under the impression that she was under his thumb. Other way around, fools! Keep in mind: For all his chest-thumping, Evil Russell never had the you-know-whats to get rid of the queen bee. Instead, he was more comfortable chucking alliance members such as Danielle, whom he could have crushed in the final T.C. He surely cost himself a few jury votes by keeping Parvati around until that last vote. After all, wishy-washy follower Jerri would not have received a single vote. I wonder if some of those Sandra voters are second-guessing themselves after watching the game unfold on TV. I'm looking at you, J.T.

3. She killed in the challenges. I'm not talking about those lame Survivor bowling games either. She won the hard-core ones. Try holding up your arm above your head right now for one minute. Now envision doing that same action in humidity-soaked South Pacific weather. On almost no sleep. Or food. Or water. With TV cameras on you. For more than two hours. Parvati did it — with that smile on her face! Amazing. She also kicked butt in that awesome penultimate challenge with the plates and bowls. Colby may have wussed out physically throughout the season, but the ole‚ cowboy was visibly gunning for that final win — and he still couldn't beat her. In retrospect, he never had a chance.

4. She was the brains behind one of the most shrewd moves in tribal council history. In a very special episode of Idols Give Back, Parvati gave one hidden immunity idol to Jerri — and the other to Sandra. If she hadn't done that, we could have been looking at Candice in the final tribal council. For that alone, I commend you, Ms. Shallow.

Oh well. I'm not in the business of feeling too sorry for a pretty kick-boxer who was just handed a $1 million check two years ago. And watching Evil Russell sulk on a makeshift bench in these live final tribal councils never gets old. So congratulations to Sandra for taking the title in the most of the most entertaining and nail-biting seasons in Survivor's 10-year history. Enjoy your winnings in good health. And may I suggest a celebratory dinner at Outback Steakhouse?

By Mara Reinstein for For more of Mara's TV recaps and interviews, click here.

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