Can I just say this on the subject of “honor” and “integrity”? If you really possess either of those things as a hard-line quality, and you truthfully live your entire life with those tenets at its very core… why would you play on a skeevy gameshow like Survivor? Everybody lies in this game. Everybody. Want to play on Survivor without lying, cheating or backstabbing? Great! Enjoy your three days, because that’s all you’ll get.
That’s what strikes me as so funny about players like Mike, Steve and Ralph, who were so focused on eliminating the conniving, lying, cancerous Russell that they don’t even stop to think about what they’re doing to achieve that goal. I think part of the reason a lot of my favorite players end up being the “villains” is because nothing turns me off faster than hypocrisy. If you go on Survivor and talk big about how you never lie, and then I watch you lie — sorry mate, you’ve lost me.
I bring all of this up, of course, because Russell is finally out of the game. Make no mistake, he was not knocked out because he was playing particularly well. He was knocked out because his tribe knew he was a threat, and took measures to eliminate him. And more power to them! If only the Ometepe tribe had half their smarts, they wouldn’t be over there slobbering over Boston Rob!
Here’s the truth about Russell, though: he’s one of the most honest people to ever play Survivor. He never once rationalized his actions or somehow justified them to himself. He simply said, “I am here to play. I am going to play hard. I am going to stomp a motherfucker if that’s what it takes.” This has always been one of my favorite qualities in Survivor players, be it in the machinations of Boston Rob, or the chess metaphors of Richard Hatch, or the good ol’ charismatic charm of J.T. These are all players who can look the camera — the audience — straight in the eye and say, yes, I lied. I’m not sorry, and I’ll do it again.
Russell is honest in the other direction, too. Look at his pre-duel confessional, where he says very plainly: “I like Matt. In the real world, I would root for Matt. But this isn’t the real world. This is Survivor.” At the duel, Matt was not his enemy. He was not out to destroy poor little Matt. And when he lost, the first thing he did was shake Matt’s hand and congratulate him. A lesser player, one with more “integrity”, would have taken the whole thing far more personally. Notice how Ralph has been taunting Ometepe after every challenge with his over-the-top rooster crowing?
The second thing Russell did after losing that duel was break down. I think he meant what he said: he has a great deal of respect for Survivor and getting knocked out of the game the way he did was unbearable to him. It sucks when your fellow players tell you, “Look, you’re too good at this. We don’t want to play with you.”
In game terms, though, Russell got one over on Ralph at the end — and Ralph knows it. Ralph couldn’t help but brag about the immunity idol he found, and was just about to pull it out of his bag before Sarita stopped him. Russell’s face lit up, of course, because Phillip and Kristina were sitting on the other side of the field. Ralph immediately tried to backpedal by setting his bag down and saying, “Nope, I lied. I don’t have it!”
He defended in his position in the game by lying about lying.
Okay, I’m 600 words in. Russell spilled everything he knew about Zapatera to the Ometepe folks, then split. If you need more Russell analysis, Probst has a fifteen minute interview with him on his website. Farewell, my man. The rest of us are moving on.
How great is this Matt storyline? I don’t much like Matt, primarily because his “God will see me through” attitude is really offensive to me, but damn is he in a good position right now. I mean, yeah, he has to win every single duel if he wants to get back in the game… but I think if anyone can do it, it’s him. He’s young, fit, strong, and most importantly, calm. He won both of his duels by remaining composed during his challenges, even in the face of setbacks. That’s a quality that I don’t think a lot of competitors have. If/when Matt rejoins the game, it will very likely be late in the game where two mostly-even alliances are looking to smash the other. He’ll have skipped most of the scheming and backstabbing, only to find himself as the most sought-after commodity on the island. Rice ain’t got nothin’ on a good, tasty swing vote.
I am knee-deep in Redemption Island Kool-Aid right now. This twist has not only changed the format of the game, but the flow of the episodes. “Duel/immunity/tribal” is a much more satisfying format than “fluff/reward/immunity/tribal” ever was. Rewards are a big part of the game, but not big enough to devote a full 30% of an episode to. Most reward challenges throughout history, nothing’s really been at stake. In this new season, though, there’s something valuable happening in every single scene. It’s riveting. It’s what the show needed after 20+ seasons.
I’m gushing. Back to what happened.
Phillip came back from the duel and told Rob, “I’ll tell you what happened, but you have to promise to keep Kristina.” This was stupid, of course, because Phillip has nothing to bargain with, and Rob has no incentive to keep his word, or even give it in the first place. All Phillip ended up accomplishing was letting Rob know he didn’t feel safe. Rob got the message loud and clear, of course.
Speaking of Rob, he’s got Ometepe marching to his drum so thoroughly they don’t even realize they’re doing it. He says, “Hey guys, let’s all spend the day at the beach!” and they all move to the beach. He says, “Hey guys, I have to take a fifteen minute shit!” and they all show their genuine concern. He was, of course, searching for the hidden immunity idol — and found it. His tribe trusts him so thoroughly that nobody suspects him at all. It’s mesmerizing. How different would this game be if Rob had landed on the skeptical Zapatera tribe, with Russell on the starstruck Ometepe?
The immunity challenge was nail-biting. Primarily, I was curious to see if Zapatera’s gambit last episode would cost them greatly. Ometepe really did seem to be putting their momentum to good work, but they lost a lot of steam during on leg of the challenge (sawing through a wooden wall), and weren’t able to recover. If Zapatera can stack another win or two on them, throwing that one challenge may prove to have been the right thing to do after all. Well, first time for everything.
Rob told Phillip that they were, in no uncertain terms, voting out Kristina. At this point in the game state a lot of things could have happened: Phillip could have lost control again, Grant could have challenged Rob for the alpha-male position, any one of the girls could have pulled Andrea aside and coordinated a switch-up. But no, Ometepe are good little soldiers, and did precisely what Rob wanted. Next week we get to see Matt squash Kristina at Redemption Island.
Who’s gonna win? Boston Rob is still my pick, but he’s in a precarious place. If Ometepe ever wakes up they’ll realize they’re being taken to school, and eject him. And if they don’t, but they still don’t start winning, he’s going to be in a bad way when Zapatera comes along with the numbers and the wherewithal to eliminate him.