Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains' episode 12 | EW.com

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Jeff Probst blogs 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains' episode 12

jeff-probst-survivorImage Credit: Monty Brinton/CBSRupert:  “There are no other heroes.”

Oh Rupert, I still love you, but after this season concludes you need shave the beard and create a new persona.  The one has grown tired. The lovable pirate who always puts integrity ahead of winning has served you very well and you will always be one of the most popular Survivors ever.  But it’s time for a change.  Listen, to be fair - I know I could take the same advice myself. Get me a new haircut, a different colored shirt and maybe some new dialogue, cause I’m sure the same argument could be made for me.  The Probst act has grown tired.

But, I’m the one writing the blog so that means I’m going to continue to focus my attention outward on everyone else… and leaving the inward thinking for my therapy sessions.

There were a few themes this episode.  Morality, hypocrisy and exhaustion. All three of them in full force.

It started with Rupert and Colby’s character assassination of Candice.

The reason we brought Candice back as a hero in the first place was because she stayed loyal to her alliance in the Cook Islands.  This time she is playing a different game.  Surprise, she wants to win.  But to listen to Rupert and Colby you’d think she had committed treason or some other terrible crime against humanity.

Colby: “Candice is so weak. She’s so pathetic.”
Rupert: “Self centered, greedy, manipulative. She killed us. Candice is a pitiful player.”

Really?  Isn’t she just playing Survivor like everybody else.  This exchange really stood out to me as a stunning example of what happens when you are tired and frustrated and looking for someone or some thing else to blame it on.  I don’t really think Candice is all those things anymore than I think Rupert is the savior he believes himself to be.  It’s all part of playing Survivor and the game is simply taking its toll on these intrepid but exhausted folks.

Case in point…

RUSSELL & RUPERT THE ARGUMENT
There is no doubt left in my mind.  The enormous emotional wear and tear of back-to back Survivors is severely impacting Russell’s game.  The man is flat out tired.  The kind of tired that makes you irritated just to be awake, but so tired you can’t fall asleep.  The kind of tired that lets you know you’re gonna bite somebody’s head off before they even say a word, you’re just waiting for them to so much as breathe… like a snake in the grass.  As a result, the microscopic filter system that Russell had been utilizing when in social situations is gone.

The ugliness that came out of his mouth while sitting across the fire from Rupert just made Russell one of the best candidates to take to the end because his chances of winning just took another nose dive. I’m not saying he can’t pull it out, but the odds are plummeting.   It wasn’t even so much what he said it was how he said it.  It was mean spirited, even for Russell.

I’m not making excuses for Russell when I say he’s exhausted.  He’s done a very good job of showing his true colors.  But I do believe that the emotional drain this show exacts is hard for the audience to truly understand.

The truly great players are “focused” on this game every single second of every single minute of every single day.  That kind of intense focus is so exhausting that once the game ends, many Survivors take months to get back to normal.  Think about it…you are in an environment that takes you out of your comfort zone, no creature comforts, where you cannot really trust anyone, where you have to watch your back at all times and on top of it all, you have to be thinking several moves ahead or you will lose the plot and your torch will be snuffed.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m eating and sleeping every day while we’re shooting and even I am exhausted at the end of a season.  I was a disaster after our back to backs in Samoa.  This game is nuts.  This season has been the most intense season we’ve ever had.  I’m amazed at the level of game play from these contestants.  We may never see something like this again.  It’s truly been a treat, but it’s taken its toll.  Look at their faces, their body language.

On my list of players that are still 100% focused on the game and only the game, there are four: Parvati, Sandra, Russell and Danielle.  All villains.  I know that offends everybody else left in the game but here’s my rational:

Colby is certainly a good strategist but his head has been in and out of the game this season and leaves him vulnerable.

Rupert is a decent strategist, but he gets too lost in the morality of what he deems to be appropriate behavior.  It’s wasted energy.

Candice is very smart but she doesn’t commit fast enough and it’s a fatal flaw.

Jerri just doesn’t have it in her DNA to only focus on the game.  Jerri will take time to enjoy a moment or stare at a sunset… I mean really stare at the sunset…and though it’s a great quality in life, it’s not one that works well in this game.

This doesn’t mean Colby, Rupert, Candice and Jerri can’t make it to the end and win. I’m only pointing out that right now there are four people who are truly focused on this game and with each passing day the toll of the game will make it harder and harder for each of them to focus.  Those who hold it together the longest have the best chance of winning.

FIRST IMMUNITY CHALLENGE
I continued to be amazed at how quickly people will step out of a challenge for food.  It happens season after season.  People voluntarily stepping out of a challenge for immunity. Nuts.  They always blame it on “I wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.”  But after 20 seasons I believe it is simply evidence of Maslows Hierarchy Of Needs: Physiological needs - breathing, food, water – will always win out.  Playing Survivor does not even make the top five.

Much like Russell can’t help himself from saying ugly things with true malice, when you’re as hungry as these guys are, the desire to eat overpowers the less immediate desire to win a game show and a million dollars.

Sometimes I understand that people believe in their alliance so strongly that they do not feel they are in danger so they take the food.  But Colby was a surprise.  I’m sure by now Donaldson figures I’m picking on him but I’m really not.  Well, a little.  But come on, this is Colby Donaldson.  There are expectations that come with being the original hero.  One of them is you never give up.  The Colby of old would have stayed in that challenge until his arm fell asleep, then held on as it turned blue and only would have given up when the doctors pulled him out due to gangrene setting in.  But the Colby of 2010 is tired.  He stepped out of another immunity challenge despite knowing he is a major target to be voted out.

Rupert & Parvati were the only two that hung in there.  Parvati represented the villains, and her job was to defeat Rupert so they could vote him out at Tribal Council.  Rupert knew his job – win the challenge so he could stay in the game.  He did an admirable job, finally falling out due to a momentary loss of concentration.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.  Rupert, for all of my making fun of you becoming larger than life, I admire your effort in challenges.

Parvati wins another immunity challenge.  Parvati is a player.  She fights hard on all levels and she always wants to win.  Always.

THE IDOL IS BACK IN PLAY
After Russell played the idol at the last tribal council it was put back in play and boy what fun it was to be able to read the clue to the contestants.  You could anticipate the craziness that was going to take place back at camp.

And whadaya know, Sandra the lippiest Survivor in history finds the idol.  The moment just after she found it – where she is trying to hide it on her person and then ultimately hides it in the jungle - is the kind of moment that makes all of us on the production side smile with glee and jump for joy.  Those real moments are fantastic.

But even better than the Sandra moment was Rupert deciding to put a rock in his pocket and pretend it’s an idol.  And it worked.  If not for this brilliant decision and subtle Emmy worthy performance, Rupert was a shoo-in to be voted out.  This gave him life and a chance to stay in the game.  Sometimes that is all you need.  A chance.

Rupert’s acting was a performance that nobody could appreciate more than Russell.  Ironic, given that Russell is the one that fell for it the hardest.  I’m telling you the man is exhausted.  But it was fun to see Russell fail, right?  It’s always fun to see the guy on top… drop.  It reminded me how many times Russell has been right in the past.  Not this time.  He is slowly crumbling and if he doesn’t get it together quickly and wake up, Russell will not make it to the end.

FIRST TRIBAL COUNCIL
Colby was on Candice again at Tribal Council.  I really don’t get it.  His lecture at tribal council was an admonishment.  Like a parent scolding their child for misbehaving.  It could be the wear and tear alone or it could be that Colby isn’t used to losing and is having a difficult time accepting it.  Either way it seemed misplaced.  Candice is not even top ten of the dirtiest players in this game.  If she were, she’d probably still be in the game.

THE AFTERMATH OF TRIBAL
Oh-oh.  Russell is not happy.

Russell:  “I’m not fully in control of this game right now.  But you know what, I’m gonna take control of this game so fast they’re not gonna know what hit ‘em.”

Russell …just woke up.

SECOND IMMUNITY CHALLENGE
I loved this challenge.  It’s exciting, it’s big and anybody can win.  Parvati continues to impress me.  I don’t know that Parvati and I would ever be great friends and I’m pretty sure she’d be a tough woman to date, but if I’m in a fox hole, with the enemy approaching, I’d be very confident in our chances if she was the one who had my back.  The girl plays to win… at everything she does.

Remember how I said Russell woke up.  Well, he is wide-awake now.  With immunity around his neck, he can now attempt to get back in control of this game.

Russell’s attempt to break up his own alliance is a huge move.  Big moves can cost you the game.  Big moves can also get you to the final.  They’re risky, that’s why they are big moves.  Russell wants to win and he’s afraid that he may get left behind.  This is what you call “going for broke.”  It will either work or it won’t, but there will not be any middle ground.

I appreciate the move.  Whether it works or not, Russell’s game play continues to be one of the big reasons this season is so good.  But he’s going up against Parvati and Parvati as stated earlier, does not back down, from anybody.

THE LOVERS SPAT
Russell and Parvati’s argument in the jungle was their first lovers spat.  Go watch it again.  They are behaving like a couple and they are arguing.  Even their language is different.  It’s the language of a couple.  I know a lot of you are laughing at my ridiculousness, but I’m serious.  I know they’re not a real couple per se, but their bond has gotten to a point where the language reflects something different from mere Survivor play.

WHAT A LOAD OF HYPOCRISY
Russell’s decision to bring in Colby and Rupert is a perfect example of the hypocrisy in this game.  Russell who moments earlier had sarcastically called Rupert, “the second coming of Christ” offered to align with him so they could take out Danielle.  First he approached Colby, who had no issue aligning with Russell.  Then he approached Rupert, the man who despised Russell so much he had called him a “disgusting terrible human being.”  They bumped fists like brothers, without so much as a word and just like that… they’re allies.

That’s Survivor.  Right there.  Leave your morality at home.  Save your speeches for the shower.  Here’s the thing though.  Russell’s move doesn’t surprise me at all.  He has always said, “I’m a villain who is playing a game.”  Rupert on the other hand has made his name and a decent living off being the morally superior one. You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t stand on a pedestal and proclaim yourself the most moral of all only to hop off the pedestal the minute a better situation presents itself.  Changing sides and changing your mind is fine – that’s basic Survivor.  But you can’t have it both ways.

Let me be really clear about something.  I do not root for Russell.  I do not root against Rupert. I do not root for or against anybody.  I merely observe and comment.  Russell makes no bones about how he plays.  Neither for that matter does Parvati or Sandra.  They play hard and they know it could cost them in the game.  What is annoying me (now I’m the one losing my mind!) is the holier than thou crap spewing out of people’s mouths.  Rupert just proved the point better than any rant I could ever make.  He’d team up with Russell right now if he thought it would get him to the end.  To repeat, there is nothing wrong with changing strategies, but the lectures about right v wrong have grown tired.

Okay, thank you.  I feel better now.  I think I need to go stand in a good rain storm.   Anybody wanna join me?

2nd TRIBAL COUNCIL
Wow.  I have to gather energy to continue because what happened at this tribal council was damn near historic.  A breakdown.  The wear and tear that I’ve been talking about this entire blog showed itself again.  Danielle has played so hard.  She has been so focused.  She has given tremendous effort.  But she lost it tonight.  While Parvati remained calm, Danielle panicked and it cost her.  She lost focus.  She took Russell’s bait and he got inside her head.  If only Danielle could have hit pause on the Tivo she could have gotten it back together.  But Survivor doesn’t have a pause button.  It goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.  I would never criticize somebody for being tired.  It’s a result of playing a very difficult game.  It’s just the way it goes.  There was a showdown.  Russell won.  Danielle lost.

She played a heckuva game but she came up short.  See ya on the jury Danielle.

SOMETHING FUN
At the live reunion show in NY on May 16th, we are going to crown one Survivor the winner of the “Dumbest Move” in the history of Survivor.  You will decide who wins the trophy!  Cast your vote at:
http://www.cbs.com/primetime/survivor/vote/

See ya next week!

Originally posted May 7 2010 — 6:00 AM EDT

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