Regardless of who you think deserved to win the title of sole Survivor, Natalie clearly could have better benefited from the million dollars. Right? Not so fast.
Whether you think Natalie or Russell could have better used the money, and whether that matters, is inextricably linked to politics.
Natalie - unemployed, with no car and no insurance, living in an Arkansas factory town - has the opportunity to change her whole life. She could buy a home, transportation, do something to help her family and still invest money in interest-building accounts.
She's still in her 20s. Whether you were thinking about education, work experience, love or self confidence, how many times have you thought, "If I had just gotten everything I needed when I was young, all of the crap in my life could have been avoided. I could have built on my early success forever." Natalie has that chance, and she'll take it.
To be fair, Russell is a small business owner. He could expand his empire by hiring new employees to create new revenue streams. If he paid 30k a year he could hire 33 employees. In this recession, in Dayton, Texas, that could change the lives of a lot of hard working people like Natalie.
If you think he's too much of a troll to spend it that way, just remember that Russell never inherited anything. He didn't go to college. He just built a multi-million dollar business. He's driven by power and he's willing to make bold investments to get it.
Think how many hardworking Texans won't be spending a little more generously on Christmas this year because of the jury's decision.
If you think the outcome was just a matter of sour grapes, ask the people who voted. Several jurors, like Monica, have said financial need was a decider for them; which raises an interesting problem. The title of sole Survivor and the million dollar prize cannot be separated. You cannot give someone the money without claiming they earned it more than the other guy.
As it happens, I believe Natalie did earn the title of sole Survivor just as much as Russell, but for a completely different reason. She was the toreador who handled the bull. While everyone else was getting gored, she was stepping out of harm's way and telling him where to go. He got the blood on his horns, but that doesn't mean he was the one in control.
From Marisa and Betsy's eliminations on we saw Natalie buddying up to the people who went home .She held their hand while they waited for their execution. She told them she cared. She won their hearts and votes.
But if you were to assume for a minute that Russell was the better player, as most fans contend, then should the jury have given Natalie a million dollars because she didn't have one? Or should they have given the money to the person who 'earned it'?
Is Natalie's success the American dream story for the times we live in? Or is Russell's loss a symptom of the death of that dream, a biting illustration of America rewarding mediocrity over excellence?
Every fan is going to come to a different, likely intense, verdict. But ask yourself one thing. Does your reaction as a fan support or contradict your other worldviews? And if not, what does that say?