Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSPREVIOUSLY ON… SURVIVOR
Russell lies back in his homemade bed of palm fronds and coconut husk. He takes one last puff before on his imaginary Survivor cigarette before extinguishing it into the imaginary mud.
He puts his arms behind his head and smiles as he traces back the thoughts of last night…
… the seventh person voted out… Boston Rob.
Russell turns to Parvati, who is of course not really there.
Ahh. That was really good.
He gives her a peck on the cheek and effortlessly pops to his feet. With a flash he is gone for there is more Survivor left to play.
THIS WEEK ON… SURVIVOR.
Boston Rob is gone. Russell is in charge. Or is he? Who really is in charge over at the Villains camp? Is it Russell? Is it Parvati? Is it Parvati and Danielle? Or is it truly a power trio of Russell, Parvati, and Danielle? Expect a battle for true leadership to emerge at some point because Parvati takes a back seat to nobody. Either way you slice it, the Villains are in trouble.
More on that later.
THE HIDDEN IDOL
Oh, J.T.: Dude, you got caught! Sweet.
J.T. was like a six-year old kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He can try all he wants to make it a “tribe idol,” but the damage is done. He got busted. It didn’t play out in this episode, but rest assured it will in future episodes. J.T. has some major recovering to do because he flat out got busted and it didn’t go over well with the rest of the tribe that he went looking for the idol without telling anybody.
THE LOVE STORY THAT MAY NEVER BE
Coach and Jerri continue to captivate me. Their love story, and in my book it is a love story, is one of the best we’ve ever had. Sure, it may be a story of unrequited love, since Jerri just doesn’t seem to be into it, but it’s been so enjoyable to watch. They make me feel as though I’m in the midst of some sort of 15th century epic war movie where you know Jerri will finally proclaim her love for Coach only as he is dying in her arms after saving her life.
INSIGHT: FAKE MERGE PART DEUX!
It’s been a long time since we last tried to pull off a “fake merge.” It was way back on Survivor: Thailand when Shi-Ann took the bait, believing that we were in fact merging and ultimately made a strategic mistake that cost her a shot at the million dollars.
This week, we knew that both tribes were expecting (even hoping for) a merge so we played on that expectation even though there was no merge planned for this episode.
The first thing we did was write a tree-mail that would help set the trap. If you go back and listen to the tree-mail again, the content is the same as any other challenge tree-mail. It explains the challenge and it teases the reward. But the way “tree-mail poet” and challenge producer John Kirhoffer wrote it played on their expectations of a merge. It was a subtle shift but it worked. It set the trap.
The result: The Villians believed they were merging and so they took apart their entire camp and brought everything with them to the challenge, anticipating that they would not be going back to their camp.
Yes, that made us very happy because keep in mind that after 20 seasons it is extremely difficult for us to get anything past them. So many players today are students of the game combined with the fact that we’ve used up most of our tricks over the last 10 years. So any small victory is a reason to celebrate.
The next thing we did to help sell the idea of a merge was to let them “see” the reward when they walked in, which is also a bit unusual. Normally I “reveal” the reward only after explaining the challenge. When they saw the food sitting on the table it again fueled their expectations — the food had to be the merge feast. Why else would it be sitting out like that? Wrong again. More celebration for us.
The final lure was the language I used when addressing them, which inclued the beginning words of the phrase that we always use when we merge:
“Everybody… drop… your…”
As I was slowly saying the words, I saw Rupert begin to take off his buff. I’ll admit I couldn’t help but smile inside. These are our best and smartest players. Some of them have played three times. To pull something over on them on any level is just good ole plain fun.
The final beat was the last word…
“Everybody drop your… expectations.”
It was followed with a large groan by both tribes as they realized we were not merging.
The Villains were especially bummed since they had taken down their entire camp. Yes, they went back to camp and had to rebuild everything.
WHY THE VILLAINS ARE IN TROUBLE
The Villains do not have a leader. Russell is not a leader. He’s a great strategist, but he doesn’t know the first thing about how to lead a group of people. Parvati is certainly not a leader. She’s a spy. Coach would love to be a leader and if this were a women’s soccer team, perhaps he’d be a very good leader. But this is Survivor and Coach cannot lead a group like this.
Boston Rob was a leader. He led his tribe. But Boston Rob is gone.
When the Villains were strategizing about whom to sit out at the reward challenge, it was Coach that was taking the leadership role. Coach was asking silly questions like “Who is good at bowling?” What? Coach, this isn’t the PBA with oiled up lanes and a Black Diamond 16 lb ball. This is Survivor bowling. It’s 90 percent luck for crying out loud. When you have to sit someone out, the question should never be about the Reward Challenge, it should always be about the upcoming Immunity Challenge. You have to keep in mind that whoever sits out in the Reward challenge has to play in the Immunity Challenge.
Leadership. Forward thinking. Sorely missing.
WHY I LOVE SANDRA
Sandra is really underestimated. Not only does she know when to avoid a fight, she also knows when to start a fight. Strategy is all about timing, and Sandra is very good at gauging the right time to stir up trouble. She did it back in the Pearl Islands and used it to get the heat off of her back, which allowed her to win the game. She did it again this episode by starting a rift between Coach and Russell. Brilliantly played. I loved it. Let’s be honest, Sandra could have easily been sent home by now and had Courtney been voted out tonight, Sandra would be a shoo-in for next week. But because of her well-timed strategic maneuver, Sandra is still alive.
With this one little move, Sandra again revealed Russell’s Achilles heel. It’s not that he’s “stupid” as Sandra suggested. It’s his ego. Pure ego. In this case, it’s that he can’t stand thinking Coach is having second thoughts about him. Nobody has second thoughts about Russell Hantz. “I’m Russell Hantz!”
With Parvati, it’s his ego that is leading him to believe she really likes him. She doesn’t. Parvati doesn’t like anybody. We all know that. We’ve watched her play this game three times now. She’s a flirt. A very good flirt. A million-dollar flirt. But she doesn’t like you, Russell.
When Parvati and Russell were talking about their plan, she said to Russell: “It’s all falling together perfectly…” Russell should have stopped and listened to his gut. His reply to Parvati — “You’ve done that before…” — tells you that he knew something wasn’t right, but he didn’t listen. The reason he didn’t listen? His ego. To admit to himself that Parvati might be playing him would mean he would have to admit that maybe Parvati wasn’t as “into him” as he wants to think she is. Ego is a powerful thing. Russell’s ego is so powerful that it overrode his usually spot-on strategic sense and has left him very vulnerable. At this moment in the game, Russell is in trouble. He doesn’t see it, but he is.
THE IMMUNITY CHALLENGE
The villains never really had a chance. Courtney has hurt them in back-to-back challenges. She hurt them last week, and she hurt them again this week. I’m not picking on Courtney! Relax. I’m just observing. Courtney should not have sat out of the bowling challenge. She should have bowled. Sandra should have bowled too. Bowling is a non-contact, non-physical challenge for reward. You don’t put yourself in a position to have Courtney and Sandra both forced to compete in the Immunity Challenge when you only have 5 people competing. That’s nearly half your tribe. I’ll say it again: leadership. Voting out Rob was a mistake they are paying for dearly.
TO FUTURE PLAYERS
If you find yourself on a tribe with a really great leader or a really great strategist or a really great food provider, or someone who dominates at challenges — think before you vote them out. Yes, they may be a threat later in the game, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to vote them out immediately. Better to work with them, use their skills to get YOU as far in the game as you can go. Ride the horse in the direction it’s going… then when the end is in sight, you cut their neck. The short-sighted nature of so many Survivor players is the single biggest reason they never have a shot at the money.
In a sense, you have to play this game backwards. Think about it. You must get to the end to have a shot at the money, right? So, you have to survey the scene and ask yourself, who can help me get to the end? Guys like Russell and Rob and women like Parvati and Sandra, they can help you get to the end. If you find yourself in a situation where you sense somebody is very good, latch onto them and take a ride. I’m not suggesting flying under the radar, but I am suggesting you look for someone you fear — and instead of fearing them, join them. Just don’t forget to cut their throat before they cut yours.
Oh, now Danielle wants Courtney gone?!! Finally, a good idea. Danielle is right. But it’s too late, and she’s the wrong person to make a suggestion to Russell. Russell doesn’t respect Danielle. Parvati might have a shot at convincing Russell but she’s fine getting rid of Coach, because remember… it’s all “falling together perfectly.”
WHAT COULD SAVE THE VILLAINS
This slowly emerging idea that the Heroes think there is a “women’s alliance” on the villain tribe could be their salvation. It remains to be seen how and if it will play out but the Villains will need some sort of a break because right now they are in major trouble.
I won’t do a “goodbye Coach” tribute. You all know that I hated to see Coach go. From my vantage point, he’s one of the most fascinating people we’ve had on the show, but there is nothing to be done about it — he’s gone. My tissue box is still empty from last week’s dismissal of Boston Rob so the tears will have to simply fall down my face and onto the floor.
NEXT WEEK ON SURVIVOR…
If you missed the tease for next week’s episode, it’s a good one!!