It's the last episode before Sunday's finale, and the six remaining contestants exhibit the same behaviors that have either charmed (or really annoyed) us all season.
Jane Bright, one of our North Carolinians, is a feisty farm girl who doesn't take junk from anyone. Chase Rice, below, our other Tar Heel, is one of the most indecisive people ever to play the game.
Sash is a conniver who thinks way too highly of himself. Holly hides her manipulative side under the guise of being a supportive mother figure. Dan is a noncompetitive nonentity who should have been voted out 10 or 11 Tribal Councils ago. And Fabio is a sweet-natured doofus who may just be playing us all with his dumb surfer act.
The episode veers from heartwarming to bitterly caustic, and in the end, our Tar Heel alliance is shattered. And it ain't pretty.
After last week's Tribal Council, in which Benry was blindsided, Fabio fears he will be next. But Sash, after reminding us that he is in control of this game now, tells Fabio not to worry. Then, in an interview, he says Fabio will, of course, be the next to go. But Fabio says that he's really smarter than anyone gives him credit for and that he's on "high alert." So the Fabio Threat Level has moved from "Really Dumb Blond" to just "Dumb Blond."
The castaways receive an EVO phone by Sprint (remember that phrase, you'll hear it a lot) that tells them about the Reward Challenge. On the phone (EVO by Sprint) are short videos from the families of the contestants. Everyone cries.
Fabio, left, is particularly emotional. "I just want to see my family man, I really do." Chase tells Fabio that if he wins the reward, he'll take Fabio with him. (Uh-oh. Fabio better be on "high alert." Last week, Chase promised Sash the same thing, then didn't take him along.)
At the challenge, we meet the moms of Chase, Fabio and Sash. Each boy is very attached to his mama. Jane's daughter is there, along with Dan's son and Holly's husband. Jane notes that since the death of her husband, she and her daughter have grown closer on their Moore County farm. "It's just me and her against the world."
The family members will be joining the contestants for the challenge. The survivors must race through an obstacle course and into the water to retrieve two bags of letter tiles, then give them to their respective family members. The family members have to form the tiles to read "Family comes first." The winners will set sail down the Nicaraguan coast and have a feast of sandwiches, chips, beer and champagne.
Everyone races furiously except, of course, Dan. As usual, he flounders about. I feel for his son, who has to watch helplessly as his father again shows why he shouldn't be in the game any longer.
Chase and his mom win, and here comes the moment of truth. Chase gets to pick two other survivors and their family members to accompany him on the reward. He picks Sash and ... Holly. Fabio is visibly upset, leading to a pep talk from his mom. "Get your head in the game," she says. "We're going to have tons of time when you come home."
Fabio, Dan and Jane head back to camp, and Fabio wonders why Chase continues to choose Holly, right, to go on rewards. Jane says she feels like the odd person out in her four-member alliance with Chase, Holly and Sash. She's smart to feel that way, because at that very moment, Chase, Holly and Sash are drinking champagne with the relatives and toasting the fact that they will be the final three. Oh, and they're also taking pictures with the cell phone provided to them. (EVO by Sprint, don't you know?)
Once the winning threesome return to camp, a sullen Fabio asks Chase how it was. As Chase dumbly begins to describe the great reward, Fabio snaps, "That was a rhetorical question." It's moments like this that make me think Fabio is a lot smarter than he is letting on.
We're off to the Immunity Challenge, in which the contestants, while blindfolded, must maneuever their way through an obstacle course, then get a feel for the raised emblems on a shield. Once they've memorized the emblems, they must try to recreate the order on a separate shield. All while still blindfolded. Everyone races quickly except -- wait for it! -- pathetic Dan. Ultimately, Fabio wins immunity.
Unable to vote out Fabio, Sash wants to oust Jane. (OK, it has to be said -- what about Dan? The guy who can barely walk? The person who has no business being in the top five? What does this guy have on you people?)
Chase isn't sure about voting out his fellow North Carolinian yet, but Holly and Sash think Jane should go. Then Jane, left, walks up to the three and asks them point blank if they're still united to vote out Dan. They give her the worst poker faces ever, and she realizes that she's on the chopping block.
Jane is furious, to say the least. She flips off Sash and calls them "flippers, liars, cheats and backstabbers." "If I was Chase, I wouldn't show my ass back in North Carolina," Jane says. She promises "the wrath of Jane" at Tribal Council and even douses the campfire before they leave. "By God, I started it. I'll put it out," she says.
At Tribal Council, it's on. Jane immediately calls out Holly for destroying Dan's $1,400 shoes earlier in the season. Jane also expresses her disappointment in Sash and, especially, Chase.
Host Jeff Probst clearly has fun with his questions, asking the alliance of Sash, Chase and Holly who'll they'll be voting out next. Dan and Fabio, of course. Probst then asks the question he says his mother would ask (mothers are a real theme tonight) -- how come Fabio, Dan and Jane don't have their own alliance against the other three? Jane wants that to happen and encourages Dan and Fabio to vote out Holly, because she doesn't have a hidden immunity idol like Chase and Sash do. (And this is the last time those idols can be played.)
"Chase, the look on your face is utter confusion," Probst goads just before the vote.
But it is all to no avail. Everyone votes against our homegirl Jane, and she is sent packing. (She even votes for Sash over Holly, for some reason.)
We're down to Chase, Sash, Holly, Dan and Fabio for Sunday's final show. Hate to say it fellow Tar Heels, but I think Chase is just too flighty to win this thing. I'm kind of pulling for Fabio.
And there's some hope for Jane, too. CBS and Sprint will award $100,000 on Sunday to the fan-selected "Player of the Season." (You can vote over at www.cbs.com.) You've got to figure that Jane is a strong contender for that.