Todd wins Survivor China; viewers give James $100,000; Mark Burnett gives Denise $50,000

Todd Herzog, who Jeff Probst pointed out was just 14 when Survivor first debuted seven and a half years ago, was a student of the game, and that helped him win the game by a vote of 4-2-1. Late last month, a magazine cover referred to Todd as the “million dollar man,” but since the accompanying article was substance-less and revealed nothing, never mind that the votes were counted live last night, it was most likely a coincidence, not a spoiler.

Todd defeated Courtney, who received two votes, and Amanda, his ally from the very first day of the game, after an excellent performance at the final Tribal Council. Going into the final Tribal Council, Amanda seemed almost unbeatable, or at least had an even chance of winning against Todd. Denise was voted out fourth, failing to gather enough sympathy to keep herself in the game, and realizing only later that aligning with Peih-Gee would have been a better move in the long run. Denise’s falling out with Amanda was one of the things that probably hurt Amanda in the end.

During the live reunion, Jeff Probst revealed that Denise, James, and Peih-Gee were the top-three viewer favorites, and James won the $100,000 fan favorite award. In news no one actually cares about, Jaime and Erik revealed that they’re dating. Jeff Probst asked him, “are you still a virgin?” and Erik said, “Of course.” Thankfully, Jeff quickly moved on, so no viewers slipped into a coma while watching Erik.

The saddest part of the reunion was not when lunch lady Denise explained her mullet (which had to do with gender roles, and her desire to retain her femininity for her husband despite needing short hair for her job), but when she revealed that she lost her job because of her newfound fame. “They didn’t give me my job back,” Denise said, so she’s “a janitor now. … I miss dinner with my family. … I’m missing out on a lot more than I’d originally planned on doing.” That’s because her bosses “said it’d be too distracting” for her to work in the lunchroom because the kids are so excited to see her.

Later, however, Jeff Probst said that the show’s executive producer decided backstage to help Denise out, telling the host to “let Denise know that Mark Burnett is gonna give Denise $50,000 to help get your life the way you want it.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.