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''Survivor: Anticlimax''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 11, 2005

There was a Christmas music concert at my church tonight, so I didn't get home until about 9, just in time to see Lydia voted out. (Thank goodness for football overruns.) The only remaining suspense involved the last immunity challenge and whom Stephenie might take with her to the final if she won immunity. But if either Rafe or Danni won, taking Stephenie seemed a no-brainer; she had enough enemies on the jury to put her at a huge disadvantage against anyone else, and it's been that way for several weeks.

So all of Danni's agonizing after she won immunity seemed pointless, and Rafe's ''I release you from your PROMISE'' gambit was transparent. The smart move was to take Stephenie. So Danni did, and it paid off for her. The jury deliberations made clear there were at least four votes against Steph that were unmoving, and only sure vote for her (Rafe's). So it was just a question of how big a blowout it could be.

Not that I let myself rest entirely. I kept waiting for one of those stunning twists where everyone goes, shoot, Stephenie played ''Survivor'' exactly the way you're supposed to play it, so why not vote for her? I think she probably did a lot to kill those votes by telling all the jurors she had outwitted them; you're supposed to let them figure that out on their own.

Also, when the solution to ''Survivor'' seems obvious to me, I start to rethink, because I am so bad at picking winners.

The fact that even I knew Danni could beat Steph -- and had sensed awhile back that Steph probably couldn't beat anyone left but Judd -- tells me that this was, finally, a disappointing series of ''Survivor.''

The ending should feel more dramatic. There should be greater doubt in the air. And Stephenie never should have come back to the show; any good will she built up on her first go-round was wiped out by her machinations and ruthlessness this time. It wasn't just the jury she ticked off. It was a lot of us viewers.

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