updated 12/18/2011 AT 10:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/18/2011 AT 11:00 PM ET
Not even halfway into the night, Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth had made a total turnaround.
In one last but not least-grueling duel on Survivor: South Pacific, he outlasted Brandon Hantz, 19 – who, just a week prior, made a lethal decision to yield his immunity necklace – on a challenge that required each competitor to hang onto a pole as long as he could.
No longer a resident of Redemption Island, his domination continued. Ozzy, who has competed on the reality show two other times, won the first challenge of the finale, where each castaway had the delicate task of building a house of cards while steadying a balancing board – a win that earned him immunity in the first round of elimination.
“Plan A: win,” Lusth, 30, said. “Plan B: win.” Also competing for the $1 million-prize and sole survivor-title: Benjamin “Coach” Wade (also a Survivor veteran), 39; Albert Destrade, 26; Rick Nelson, 51; and Sophie Clarke, 22.
The third time was not the charm for Ozzy, and after 39 days, Sophie, a medical student from Willsboro, N.Y., is the winner of the 23rd season of Survivor, host Jeff Probst announced lived from Los Angeles.
"The Pulse of the Game"
After Rick was the first to be eliminated by the remaining members of the Te Tuna tribe, Sophie beat out Ozzy to score the final immunity necklace in a part-obstacle-course, part-puzzle-building challenge. In the second elimination of the finale, the tribe spoke again, this time eliminating Ozzy with three votes (Albert received one).
The final three were then brought back in front of nine members of the original tribes to make their final case. Ultimately, Sophie received six votes, and Coach received three.
“I had a feeling, but you never know,” she said in a reunion special after the big reveal. “I think I had my finger on the pulse of the game the whole time.”