Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains' episode 9 |

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Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains' episode 9

survivor-jeff-probstImage Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSHEROES V. VILLAINS – IT JUST KEEPS GETTIN’ BETTER
Man oh man.  Episode eight and this season has not slowed down one bit.

I know I use a lot of hyperbole in my blogs, it’s in part just so I can read your comments criticizing me for doing so, but sometimes the hype is justified.  That’s certainly the case with what I’m about to write….

JT made perhaps the biggest and boldest move in the history of our show last night.  It will go down as one of the most controversial decisions ever made by a player.  Some will call him flat out dumb, while others… like myself …see the wisdom in what he was attempting to pull off.

More on that later…

I have loved this challenge every time we’ve done it in the past, but this time we added a great twist.  We made it a tribe challenge pitting opposite tribe members against each other and the twist yielded great results.  It was no longer a challenge based simply on strength and will-power, now it mattered who you matched up against.  That changed everything.

It’s very clear that Rupert truly believes he is the strongest person left in this game. I love you Pirate Man, but on this note you’re delusional.  Maybe you were one of the strongest players back in the Pearl Islands, but not this year.  You’re not the strongest.  You’re not even top three.  In a head to head match up in most challenges I’d take Amanda, Candace, Parvati, Jerri & Danielle over you, and I’m just starting.  Most every player left in this game is strong (both physically and strategically) and that’s why it’s going to be an exciting finish.

I think this challenge was won in large part because of the people that had hurt the Villains in earlier challenges.  Sandra and Courtney were shoo-ins to win their match up.  Courtney’s small stature made this an easy one for her to dominate, in fact she won a similar type of challenge in China.  As for Sandra, these challenges play right into her wheel-house because they rely on pure will-power and nothing else.  Sandra has an endless supply of will power.  Like she said during the challenge, “two kids and not so much as an asprin!”  That gave the villains 2 guaranteed points right off the bat.
When I saw the match-ups, I didn’t think the heroes had much chance at all.

Amanda and Parvati have both reached 100 days in the game of Survivor.  You have to tip your hat to that amazing feat.  Both of these women are fantastic players.   You do not last that long in this game three times in a row without doing a lot of things very well.  There are many things you could find to criticize about both of them, but it will never outweigh the fact that they’ve lasted longer than anybody else who has ever played.   Now the question becomes who will have the most days played when the game is over?  Will it still be a tie?  And will either one of them have a million dollars as a result?

The way Parvati handled the finding of the clue and the idol is just one of the reasons Parvati has been so successful in this game. Parvati is playing to win.  Her instant decision to hide the idol note from everybody except Danielle speaks to her prowess in this game.

Parvati: “We’ll fill Russell in on a need to know basis.  Right now he doesn’t need to know.” If she chooses to keep this a secret from Russell and then surprises him with it, there will be repercussions, unless of course she uses it to vote him out.

I’ve said it many times this season because I believe it.  Parvati has found a weakness in Russell and it’s a weakness that haunts most men – our ego when it comes to the opposite sex.  I know some of you don’t like to talk about sex or the relationship between men and women, but there is no denying it plays a part in Survivor and in our daily lives.  Parvati is a good flirt and there is zero doubt in my mind that she senses that she has just a slight edge over Russell so long as she can keep him dancing.

Parvati isn’t kidding when she says she wants to see Russell squirm a bit, she wants it to be very clear to Russell that she’s in charge.  It’s a bold move and I respect it, but whoa girl, watch out if and when Russell finds out what you’ve been doing.  You better use that idol to vote him out or use it to save him in a way that you can sell as an “alliance” move later in the game.  Otherwise this could get really ugly and all the flirting in the world will not save you.

Okay, let’s get down to it.

JT…wants… to… give… a hidden immunity idol… to Russell.   What?!

JT wants to give Russell an idol.  He wants to hand him a get out of jail free card and along with it the power to change the vote at Tribal and decide who goes home.   No amount of hyperbole could over sell this decision.  This is JT.  The guy who won this game in Brazil now wants to give away the single most powerful weapon in the game to the single most untrustworthy person left in the game?

It boggles the mind.  It’s one of the most jaw-dropping decisions I’ve heard in the last 769 days of Survivor.  (My math may be a day or two off, but I think that’s how many days the game has been played.)

It’s jaw-dropping but was it really crazy?  That’s up for debate.  What I like about the move is that it’s a big move and typically (not always) big moves are required if you’re going to have a shot at winning the game.

It’s easy to say it’s a silly idea when you’re watching from home and you know what everybody else is saying and doing.  All JT had to go on was the mistaken belief that Russell was in trouble was probably going to be voted out.  JT reasoned that if they merged then the female alliance would take over the game.  But, if he could save Russell then Russell would be free to join the heroes and they would have the numbers at the merge and JT and his alliance would be in good shape.  Based on the information JT had, it was actually a pretty inventive idea.  If JT was right, it could have swung the game 180 degrees.

And if indeed there was an alliance, it didn’t matter that Russell wasn’t trustworthy because as far as JT knew, Russell had no other option so that made Russell need the heroes as much as the heroes needed Russell.

There’s been a lot of debate about whether Russell had an advantage or a disadvantage since nobody knew anything about him coming into this season.  My take is that he had neither.  We told everybody at the start of the show that they should read a lot into the fact that while they hadn’t seen Russell play, Russell was selected as one of the 5 most notorious male villains of all time.  These are seasoned players, they knew this meant that Russell was a bad dude.  On the flip side, when we asked Russell to join the H v V cast, we told him there is a very good chance you’ll be voted out early because nobody knows you, nobody has played with you and therefore nobody can trust you.  Russell knew that was a risk going in.  So both sides had fair warning. They were just as likely to vote him out in episode one for fear of the unknown as they were to keep him.  Once Russell survived a couple of votes and showed what kind of player he is – intimidating, calculating, cunning – all bets were off.

JT’s hand-written letter to Russell is the kind of moment that reality producers dream about.  You just can’t believe it’s really happening and you hold your breath that he won’t change his mind.  (By the way, you’re no doubt wondering where they got pen and paper?  It was part of Amanda’s luxury item that they won in an earlier episode.)

When the hand-off of the idol and the note finally happened the entire producing team popped a bottle of champagne.  Okay that’s a lie, we don’t drink while shooting the show.   But when we got back to basecamp. Whoooeee, it was party time!  Actually, that’s another lie.  When we get back to basecamp, most of us fall asleep at catering.  Okay, fine… that too is a lie, a lot of us avoid catering because it’s not the kind of catering you’re imagining.  It’s more like Army catering.  Hold your plate out and take what’s given to you.  So there wasn’t really any formal celebration.  But inside, we were really jazzed.

At the end of the day, hindsight is once again, 20-20.  Turns out there isn’t a female alliance and as a result JT and the heroes just made a huge mistake.  A monumental mistake.

Once again the credit for this goes to the Villain tribe with “special recognition” to Russell for a Golden Globe worthy performance.

Hopefully you were so enraptured that you didn’t even notice the amazing camera and audio coverage during the challenge in which all of the idol drama played out.  So let me pat our team on the back.  We were all over it.  First, our crew captured Colby telling Russell the plan as the two stood out on the platform during the challenge.   Then, our producers and editors found a beautiful way of letting the moment play within the challenge by fading the audio of the challenge and bringing you right into the moment of their conversation out in the middle of the water.

Then, we got a little love from Mother Nature when she brought us a heavy rain which added to the drama… and you know how much I love me some rain during Survivor.

Finally, our camera crew captured JT giving Russell the idol when they hugged after the challenge.  All of this was done without giving anything away to any of the other players.  It appeared to be just another challenge.

For all of my lippy comments and for all the times I take credit for things that I have nothing to do with – here’s the real truth… It’s humbling to be a part of this team.  Ten years ago I got the greatest break of my career when I stumbled onto this show.

If I may…  Survivor: Heroes v Villains is as good as it gets when it comes to storytelling in the reality world and even a lot of the scripted world for that matter.  We’re twenty seasons in and the show is as strong as ever.

I hold no hope for any love from the Emmy’s but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think the show deserved to be recognized again for outstanding achievement.   Am I biased?  Sure.  Do I believe it?  Absolutely.

I’m sure most of you have noticed that I’ve been more vocal and more aggressive at Tribal Council this season.  The reason is pretty simple – these 20 players are very experienced and as a result very good.  To get anything out of them you have to be more direct and more relentless.

I hope you all understand that I never bring up anything at Tribal Council that hasn’t already been discussed or isn’t already known.  I would never betray or reveal secret information.  When you hear them fighting back with me, that’s just part of the game and often, the words they are saying to me, are actually intended to send a signal to someone else.

It’s a very elaborate game of cat and mouse and the reason this season is so good is because we started with 20 fantastic players who continue to deliver week after week.  I bust their chops on this blog every week because that’s the fun part of writing a blog, but since I’m feeling very “confessional” today – the truth is we painstakingly hand selected every person this season and we’re really pleased with the results.  Every single player gave us something, even Sugar.  Every single player left in the game has a legitimate shot at winning. Even Candace.  Ah, I love to kid Candace.

You may find this hard to believe but I miss her.  I really dig Courtney.  One of the reasons I enjoy her is her laser sharp wit.  She could talk me under the table (as you saw at many a tribal council) but I still like taking my swings.  I think Courtney enjoyed herself out there more than she likes to admit.  I look forward to seeing her on the jury.  I expect interesting wardrobe choices and lots of dramatic facial expressions during Tribal.

While we’re on it…

I would be remiss if I did not comment on Coach’s wardrobe as the first jury member.  Love him or hate him, the man owns his “personae” and I dig it.

Until next week.

More Survivor: Heroes vs Villains:
Survivor: Heroes vs Villains
recap: Take my immunity idol, please!


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