I was under the impression that this week was going to involve a double elimination. That ended up not happening — not really. We did in fact see two people leave, but in separate tribal councils and after having played separate immunity challenges. It was more like having two full episodes condensed down into one hour which, you know, I’m pretty okay with. No boring camp life filler, no reward challenge, just good meaty Survivor start to finish. I can handle it.
Because I was under the impression this week would be double elimination, I had a rant all prepared to go up here tonight. It’s kind of moot now, but it would have involved a lot of complaining about not wanting to see twists, curveballs or mix-ups this late in the game. Post-merge Survivor is interesting enough without scary bottles with notes in; no need to stir the pot any.
Especially not this pot. This pot is boiling over.
Immunity challenge #1: Rupert vs. Parvati. Everyone else stepped down off their little platform as soon as Probst tempted them with donuts and coffee. Even Colby, who apparently would rather have a snack here on Day 31 than an immunity idol. James was right: Superman sucks. Between last week’s blunder where he told his ally to give the immunity clue to his enemy, and this week’s where he sabotaged his alliance by willingly walking off a challenge… yeah, I’m over Colby. You suck, dude. Go home.
Anyway, Parvati won. Yay, I guess.
The twist to the challenge ended up being Probst reading a clue to the next hidden idol, which means another fun scene of the entire tribe scrambling to find it. Sandra ended up taking the prize, but nobody knows that except her, so she gets bonus points. She also found a note along with the idol, but she hasn’t read it yet. We ended the episode not seeing its contents. Whether this ends up being some cliffhanger dealie, or it’s entirely inconsequential, nobody can say.
The exciting news is that Rupert — Rupert! — has decided to start playing the game. 30+ days into his third time out, sure, but better late than never. Not having found the idol, he packs a rock into his back pocket so as to deceive the Villains into believing he has it. This causes the Villains to need to split their vote between Rupert and Candice. All Rupert and Colby had to do was throw in two more votes for Candice and send her home, a trick they played with a clear conscience because they’re both virtuous white knights and she’s an evil backstabbing harpy.
It was a gamble, because it meant banking on the Villains splitting for Candice instead of Colby, but it was a good play nonetheless. I mean, Rupert’s best play up to this point was “get really mad at anyone who votes for me”. So… he’s still not anywhere near Russell or Parvati’s level, but he’s in the game. And that’s what counts. Sending Candice home was a moral victory for him if nothing else.
Immunity challenge #2: A long convoluted marathon which ended up with Russell victorious. Not that he was in any trouble to begin with, of course, but it’s nice to see him with an idol around his neck rather than in his pocket for once.
Now we see where Russell’s game truly shines, and where he and Parvati diverge. Parvati is a great player, but she is still a social creature. She equates alliance with friendship, and her closest friend/ally in the game right now is Danielle. Russell is, and always has been, playing a completely individual game. From his point of view the game isn’t “five Villains vs. two Heroes” — it’s “Parvati + Daniell vs. Russell”.
And he’s right. Parvati and Danielle totally would cut Russell’s neck if they were a little closer to the finish line. If Russell wants to prevent it, he has to do so now. In my final Samoa write-up, I commented on Russell’s choice to make the very last day on the beach miserable for all the finalists. No game at that point — he just wanted to get in their heads and fluster them for the finale. No player ever has done that. Survivor tradition dictates that the finalists spend their last day maxin’ and relaxin’, and enjoying the quiet knowledge that the stress is all on someone else now.
That’s what we saw this week, too. Russell could have coasted to the end with Parvati and Danielle. Final three, right there. But he can’t not play nasty. He planted so much discord and spun so many tales that Danielle broke down in tears at tribal council. He had Rupert and Colby with him, obviously; Rupe even knux’d on it. And all it took to manipulate Jerri was to scare her a little. Danielle’s buddy-buddy with Parvati didn’t have a shot in hell against any of it, and her tears did not save her. Russell dismantled her at tribal council, and she left crying and bewildered.
Parvati can’t betray him. Who else would take her? Jerri is terrified of him. Colby and Rupert will do whatever he says as long as they can stay in the game. Sandra can sit smug on her idol with the knowledge that she tried to warn everyone, and now it’s too late. That said…
Who’s gonna win? It won’t be Russell. I am almost certain of that. He is awesome at the game parts of the game. He can find idols and dick around inside folks’ brains. He can manipulate the pieces and cherry-pick his victories at challenges. If Survivor were a numbers game, he’d win every time he played.
He didn’t win last time he played.
Russell loves taking risks, but the risks he’s taking now don’t involve him going home if he fails — they involve him losing against the jury. Everyone on that jury despises Russell — and why not? He eliminated all of them. You can’t tell me you can reduce a player to tears and then win their vote in the finale. There have been jurors in the past who have cast their vote in favor of a player they hated… people who were able to set aside the personal biases and just pick the best player. Richard Hatch won like that. I don’t think anyone else has.
Rupert said it perfectly: Russell is worse than Johnny Fairplay.
So who’s gonna win? Whomever goes up against Russell in the finals. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like one of our remaining previous winners: Sandra or Parvati. Sandra won before by going up against the worst Villain before Russell came along, and Parvati won by charming the very people she was stabbing in the back.
Sorry Russell. You is still my boy, but you’re doomed to forever be runner-up as far as that million dollar check is concerned.