His best shot was a score
By Times staff and wire reports
NEW YORK -- This go-around, it's not earthshaking news, but the winner of Survivor: Africa is Ethan Zohn.
Zohn, the curly-headed soccer pro from Lexington, Mass., edged Kim Johnson, the retired teacher from Oyster Bay, N.Y., on Thursday's two-hour finale to win the "Sole Survivor" title and pocket $1-million from his African adventure.
Johnson gets $100,000.
Though the series was taped last summer, the final tally took place live on a Los Angeles sound stage. Zohn whooped as the vote was announced; Johnson threw her arms around him in an excited hug.
The extravaganza concluded an elimination process started in October when the full slate of 16 contestants was seen arriving in Kenya's Shaba National Reserve.
Somehow, it all seemed like a bigger deal when Richard Hatch won the original Survivor in summer 2000, or when Tina Wesson claimed the prize last May on Survivor: The Australian Outback.
But viewers still hooked on CBS' game-in-the-rough can take heart: It starts again when Survivor: Marquesas -- with a tropical setting, like the first edition -- premieres at 9 p.m. Feb. 28, the network announced.
Thursday's finale narrowed four contestants to one.
With trusty host Jeff Probst presiding, Tom Buchanan, the folksy cattle farmer from Rich Valley, Va., was voted out at the first tribal council 3-1.
After never winning an immunity challenge, Johnson, who at 57 was the oldest player, won both in the finale: a quiz about fellow contestants, then an endurance contest that involved standing with both feet on wooden poles of different heights while leaning forward to keep one hand on a small statue for hours in the 100-degree heat.
Winning the latter competition meant Johnson would single-handedly determine who faced her at the last tribal council. She voted out Lex van den Berghe, the excitable, seemingly loathed, multitattooed marketing manager from Santa Cruz, Calif.
She said while casting her vote that it was the hardest decision she ever had to make but she knew they would always be friends. In a later film clip on the show, she said she voted out van den Berghe because her impression was that he thought he deserved to be in the final two, while Zohn didn't think he deserved it.
That left Zohn to join her in confronting a jury of their peers -- seven ousted players maybe looking for payback.
Zohn's former soccer coach watched the final episode from home in West Yarmouth, Mass.
"Can you bloody believe it? Oh my God," Englishman Paul Turner, head coach of the Cape Cod Crusaders, said moments after Zohn won.
"I thought he was going to be too nice to win the whole thing," Turner said. "He stayed under the radar and did unbelievably well. He's very unassuming."
Zohn, 27 and single, played for the Crusaders in 1997 and 1998.
Although the watercooler quotient has evaporated, Survivor: Africa is tied (with the CBS sitcom Becker) for ninth place in household ratings for the TV season to date. That qualifies as a solid hit, with more sequels guaranteed.
Next up: Survivor: Marquesas, set on the island of Nuku Hiva, a distant neighbor of Tahiti in the South Pacific.
After Thursday's broadcast, a "reunion" was hosted live by Bryant Gumbel.
But that wasn't all for the former castaways. On CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, they were seen ticking off the "Top Ten" List -- Complaints of Survivor 3 Castaways.
The No. 2 complaint was Kim Johnson's: "Jeff Probst is all hands."
No. 1 was Tom Buchanan's: "Jeff Probst is all hands."
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the wire