<p>&quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot; winner Denise</p>

"Survivor: Philippines" winner Denise

Credit: CBS

Interview: Denise Stapley discusses her 'Survivor: Philippines' win

The Sole Survivor talks about her path to the 'Survivor' million
We've reached the end of the "Survivor: Philippines" exit interview road, which means we've reached the peak.
 
In the past three days, you've read my interview with popular 4th place finisher Malcolm Freberg, as well as the conversations with Mike Skupin and Lisa Whelchel, who made it to the Finals, but received only one vote apiece. 
 
That brings us to the million dollar winner, Denise Stapley. Calm, analytical, tough Denise, who made an alliance with Malcolm on Day One and chose exactly the right moment to separate from that alliance and stand on her own, received six of eight Jury votes to comfortably take the title of Sole Survivor. 
 
A sex therapist from Iowa, Denise was strong in challenges and masterfully read the competition in her confessional segments. And if she was sometimes just a wee bit too blunt when it came to taking down lesser players -- Sorry, Abi -- it made her look decisive compared to the wishy-washy Tandang duo she faced at the Jury.
 
In her exit interview, Denise discusses that Jury, including the harsh reactions from Malcolm and Jonathan Penner (who both voted for her anyway).  She also talks about the "Survivor" advantage that came from her profession, as well as the difficult journey from a struggling early tribe to victory.
 
Click through for the final "Survivor: Philippines" exit interview...
 

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<p>The &quot;X Factor&quot; Season 2 Top 3</p>

The "X Factor" Season 2 Top 3

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 2 Finale - The Winner Is...

Carly Rose Sonenclar, Tate Stevens and Fifth Harmony spend two hours waiting on results

From now on, whenever a reality show features a contrivance that clearly hoses one contestant and gives a big boost to others, I'm going to refer to it Rimesing, in honor of "The X Factor" taking co-favorite Carly Rose Sonenclar and forcing her to perform with the desiccated remains of LeAnn Rimes on Wednesday's finale. LeAnn Rimes was so disconnected from reality and so musically dreadful that she dragged an amazingly young singer down with her and made Tate Stevens the prohibitive favorite going into Thursday's finale. And Fifth Harmony now seems like the plausible spoiler. And poor Carly Rose Sonenclar will always wonder if she could have won if she hadn't been Rimesed.

Or maybe I'm about to be surprised?

Click through for two full hours of live-blogging before we get to results...

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<p>Lisa Whelchel of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Lisa Whelchel of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Lisa Whelchel talks 'Survivor: Philippines'

The former Blair Warner talks about her run to the Final 3
As befits her past as a child sitcom star, the beginning of Lisa Whelchel's "Survivor: Philippines" journey was a joke.
 
Best knew as Blair Warner on "Facts of Life," Lisa struggled to understand the facts of "Survivor" and coasted to the Merge seemingly at the bottom of a Tandang alliance, frequently uncertain and frequently in tears. Lisa seemed unprepared for the elements and also unprepared for the social aspect of the game and she remained around because her tribe was unbeatable. 
 
Then, something shifted. In a bold move, Lisa attempted to orchestrate a game-changing blindside on strong and popular Malcolm. The move failed spectacularly, but it displayed Lisa's willingness to play "Survivor." 
 
After a brief regression into regret, Lisa bounced back after a visit from younger brother Justice, as she began taking control of her own fate, aligning with and then backstabbing Malcolm and taking the most powerful player out of the game. In the end, Lisa and Mike Skupin finished tied for second behind winner Denise, but audiences respected the journey that Lisa took from meek to somewhat-mighty and gave her the fan-voted Player of the Game.
 
In her exit interview, Lisa talks about that journey, including the impressive fact that in 39 days only Jonathan Penner and Skupin recognized her from her sitcom glory. We discussed her strategy, the moment she realized she couldn't actually win and the faith that she demonstrated vocally in her last days in the game.
 
Click through for the full conversation.
 

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<p>Fifth Harmony</p>

Fifth Harmony

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 2 Finale - Performances

Demi Lovato, LeAnn Rimes and Little Big Town join the finalists

If you can measure a reality show's clout or buzz by the acts clamoring to be involved with its finale, FOX has to be absolutely terrified by how chilly "The X Factor" is. 

It was previously announced that Thursday's whopping two-hour finale would feature performances by One Direction, who have already performed two songs on "X Factor" this season and owe their entire career to Simon Cowell and the show, and Pitbull, an artist so desperate for exposure that he'd probably appear at a well-attended bar mitzvah.

That was a bad sign.

Then came Wednesday's (December 19) announcement that finalists Carly Rose Sonenclar, Tate Stevens and Fifth Harmony would duet on tonight's show with LeAnn Rimes, Little Big Town and Demi Lovato, respectively.

That's right. Tonight's big guests are an "X Factor" judge who didn't have anything else to do, a country singer more notorious for tabloid exploits than anything in her recent music output and a reasonably successful country act with only moderate crossover appeal. That's... weak.

Why is Carly Rose Sonenclar being asked to sing with a less vocally gifted singer in a genre she's never displayed any interest in? Is Demi singing with Fifth Harmony because they did one of her songs once? And are they keeping Tate from doing a duet with a female artist because they don't want to alienate voters who think Tate only has chemistry with his wife? 

I'm very confused. 

On to tonight's recap!

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 162 - Best of 2012

Dan and Alan discuss their favorite TV shows of the year

The

Happy Wednesday, Boys & Girls!
 
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it's time for The Firewall & Iceberg's Best of 2012 Podcast.
 
You may already know our respective Top 10s either from HitFix's TV Critics' Poll or from Sepinwall's Top 10 and Top 20 lists, but you haven't heard us chatter about them.
 
And yes, we're planning on doing a Worst of 2012 Podcast. It'll probably record this week and then post on Monday as a pre-Christmas treat for those who like that sort of thing!
 
Please note that I'm not doing a time breakdown for this podcast because it's more than 20 back-and-forth segments on various shows and I'm not eager to go insane. However, we were both fairly conscious of not spoiling plotpoints, particularly when discussing our favorite dramas (we spoil some comedy stuff, but that's probably OK...). I can't guarantee that you can listen to this podcast and remain 100% pure on spoilers on shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" and "Homeland," but I think we're close to 98 percent pure. Maybe 99 percent?

 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Naomi Watts discusses the real life inspiration for 'The Impossible'

Naomi Watts discusses the real life inspiration for 'The Impossible'

SAG and Golden Globe nominee has praise for co-star Tom Holland
Naomi Watts has played her share of real people.
 
In addition to appearing in biopics like "Ned Kelly" and "J. Edgar," Watts starred as Valerie Plame in "Fair Game" and she'll be playing Princess Diana in a 2013 film. 
 
J.A. Bayona's new disaster film "The Impossible" tells the true story of a family of tourists who are separated from each other in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with Watts' Maria and son Lucas (Tom Holland) split off from husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their younger sons (Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast). 
 
The real-life Maria Belon worked hand-in-hand with screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez to bring the story to the big screen and took an active role in guaranteeing the story was told properly, making her perhaps the most invested and available of the actual people Watts has played over the years.
 
I sat down with Watts a couple weeks ago to talk about the role Maria Belon played in shaping her character, as well as the preparation that went into the harrowing film. [Check out the behind-the-scenes footage that plays with the interview. It's insane.]
 
Watts, who has subsequently been nominated for a SAG Award and a Golden Globe for her performance, also talked about her confidence in sharing most of her scenes with movie-acting neophyte Holland and with the challenges of crafting a character like this when working out-of-sequence.
 
Check it out...
 
"The Impossible" opens Friday (December 21) in limited release and goes nationwide on January 4.

 

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<p>Mike Skupin of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Mike Skupin of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Mike Skupin talks 'Survivor: Philippines'

Returning player avoided falling into the fire and made the Top 3
More than any of the returning players on "Survivor: Philippines," Mike Skupin was an enigma. 
 
Jonathan Penner had played twice and we knew what to expect from him.
 
Russell Swan was a mystery, because barely anybody remembered him, but saying he was an enigma implies people had given him thought.
 
But Mike Skupin? He killed a pig. He fell into the fire. But for the full decade after his departure from "Survivor: The Australian Outback," he was always the show's great "What if?"
 
After seeing Skupin make it to the end of a "Survivor" season, some of the uncertainty has been cleared up. Even 11 years older, Skupin remains a formidable challenge force and a strong, uncompromising personality. And he made a strong alliance with Lisa Whelchel and knew when to break up his old alliance, which took him all the way to the finale. 
 
Something was still missing from Skupin's game. He and Lisa only got one Jury vote apiece, losing to Denise, who Skupin was determined to take to the end because he was sure she was more beatable than Malcolm. He misjudged the Final 3 strategy and based on some of the less-than-complimentary reactions from his fellow castaways, he misjudged several of parts of the social game.
 
In our exit interview, Skupin mostly filibustered. He didn't answer several of my questions and dodged a couple others. He was, however, very happy to discuss whether or not he's accident-prone in his everyday life [a question I rushed to when it became clear I wasn't getting anything on my original approaches]. So there's that.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
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<p>Malcolm Freberg of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Malcolm Freberg of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Malcolm Freberg talks 'Survivor: Philippines'

Popular fourth place finisher discusses his relationship with Denise and more
Malcolm Freberg may not have won "Survivor: Philippines." That crown went to his alliance-mate Denise.
 
He also may not have won the audience-voted Player of the Game prize with its cash award. That went to Lisa Whelchel, the former child star who flipped on Malcolm at the Final 4, knowing she couldn't beat him.
 
Malcolm did, however, win something far less valuable, at least in the short term: The 25-year-old bartender from Hermosa Beach ended the "Survivor: Philippines" season as probably the installment's most respected and best liked player. 
 
In his "Survivor" run, Malcolm proved to be physically capable, strategically adroit and excelled at puzzles. All the ladies wanted to flirt with him, all of the alpha males wanted to hang out with him and the "Survivor" producers knew that Malcolm was good for a quotable confessional whenever the camera was pointed in his direction. This is the sort of winning-but-not-winning combination that has led to extended open contracts in the "Survivor" family, as one could easily compare Malcolm to such three-time players as Colby or Ozzy.
 
The Colby comparisons came up in my recaps this season as Malcolm made an early bond with Denise, who seemed destined to become his Tina as they went deeper and deeper into the game. It's a concern that Malcolm admits that he felt as well.
 
In his exit interview, Malcolm talks about overcoming his horrible original tribe, his frustrations on the jury and his certainty that regardless of what people said at the Reunion show, he'd have beaten Denise if they'd been in the finals together. Oh and, like me, Malcolm remains unhappy with the ball-balancing final Immunity.
 
Click through for the full conversation...
 
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<p>The &quot;Gossip Girl&quot; finale</p>

The "Gossip Girl" finale

Credit: The CW

'Gossip Girl' finale reveals Gossip Girl and the Upper East Side future

Did you enjoy the big surprise? And all of the cameos?
"Gossip Girl," which concluded its six-season run on The CW on Monday (December 17) night, was never a great show. I'm not sure if it ever was a particularly good show. But for much of its 121 episode run, it was a stylish, entertaining guilty pleasure that offered enough moments of cleverness to compensate for (but never excuse) some astonishingly icky sexual politics.
 
Titled "New York, I Love You XOXO," Monday's finale mostly steered away from the key plotlines in what has been a largely dismal concluding season.  
 
Dreadful relationships were discarded or severed or ignored. Twisty revenge schemes were deemed irrelevant or accelerated or ignored. And romantic stumbling blocks were removed with characteristic gracelessness or ignored.
 
The result? An mostly amusing finale that answered a few questions, tied up arcs in neat bows and featured enough cameos and guest stars to please and distract and placate most fans. 
 
Did they finally give Chuck Bass a monkey? 
 
No. 
 
But other than that, I guess I got what I wanted out of the "Gossip Girl" finale, namely a free Monday hour on my DVR and the identity of the enigmatic Gossip Girl.
 
Click through for some brief thoughts on the "Gossip Girl" finale. I don't write about this show very often, but I've never missed an episode, so I might as well say farewell... With spoilers, duh.
 
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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 161

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 161

Dan and Alan talk 'Dexter' and 'Homeland' finales and the Baseball Hall of Fame

The

 
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. It's time for the first of this week's two installments of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Somehow this ended up being a long podcast. I'm not sure how that happened. But it should have many easily skippable segments. For example, you may not care about my thoughts on a slew of CW shows Alan doesn't watch. Skip that segment! Or you may not have seen last night's finales for "Homeland" & "Dexter." Skip that segment! And odds are REALLY good that you don't care about our journey through the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, or why Alan's love affair with the Knicks has been rekindled! Skip that!
 
If you don't skip anything, this podcast is a robust 1:43, but I'm sure you can trim a lot from that.
 
And stay tuned later this week for our Best of 2012 Podcast.
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"1600 Penn" (00:01:10 - 00:14:20)
Dan's CW Roundup (00:14:25 - 00:30:35)
"Dexter" (00:30:55 - 00:45:10)
"Homeland" (00:45:10 - 01:17:00)
Sports Talk - Baseball Hall of Fame (01:17:30 - 01:36:15)
Sports Talk - Alan Loves the Knicks (01:36:20 - 01:43:10)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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