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It was like double-coupon day at the grocery. Thanks to this season’s Redemption Island feature, Russell Hantz had his hat handed to him twice in one season.

Matt is sleeping when Russell arrives at Redemption in the full throes of a Troll Tantrum directed at his tribe for snuffing his torch, “I wanted to bitch-slap every one of ‘em.” Revenge is on his mind, “My tribe’s gonna come here. I’m gonna pick ‘em off, gonna make ‘em suffer, gonna say, ‘Sleep in the mud, [i[Fool[/i].’”

The next morning, Matt is cool, calm and collected. He’s playing he says, “I’m fighting to honor my God, and because I want it so truly and deeply, I think it’ll come out all right.” Advantage: Matt. Somehow, Russell’s egomaniacal god-complex just isn’t the same thing.

At Ometepe, the whole tribe is roused from their sleep by Secret Agent Pink Panties sweeping the dirt with a tree branch. Natalie is annoyed, “He’s a pain in the butt, so weird.”

Rob is horrified, “Saggy bottoms. I could go 39 days without seein’ that. Who goes on Survivor wearing pink tight-whities with the stuff just hanging out and flopping around everywhere? It’s not only disturbing, it’s disgusting. It’s like his dad should have bought him a new pair weeks ago. You don’t want your friends comin’ over and seein’ that.” As for Phillip, he tells us he’s prepared to “go undercover” at any time.

Stephanie and Krista, Russell’s little tag-alongs on Zapatera, have gone off by themselves, obviously looking for the hidden immunity idol. The others are worried about the girls finding the idol, but Ralph confidently assures them, “I have it under control.” He can’t keep his secret any longer (stupid man), and shares that he found the idol.



YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO WIN REDEMPTION

The audience for the Redemption Challenge is an all-volunteer one. No rocks in the sock this week. Phillip is dying to attend because he’s certain he’ll be able to pick up valuable intel for his undercover work; Kristina wants to come along, because, well, she doesn’t have anything better to do, being the odd-gal-out at camp. Zapatera’s representatives are Ralph and Sarita, who are hoping to see Russell further humiliated.

The challenge is to arrange dozens of wooden blocks along a series of planks so that when the first is tipped, the rest fall in succession, domino-style. Complicating the task are various trip-ropes which will jar the planks and knock off the blocks prematurely. Matt gets his blocks set up first, but the knock-over stops halfway and he has to begin again. Then Russell gives his a go, and has the same problem. On the second try, Matt, who never seems to lose his cool or get rattled in these contests, succeeds. Hoorah!!

I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING MYSELF

Russell is so furious he’s crying (did you know when troll-tears hit the ground they turn into worms?). Before he pulls his ugly hat down over his ugly face, we get a glimpse of the fury in his eyes. Jeff (don’t get me started on Probst’s absurd worship of Russell Hantz as ‘greatest Survivor player ever’: I might say what I think) extolls Russell for “baring his soul out here in ways that few have.”

That’s all Russell needs to launch into a rant about the “people like my tribe that throws a challenge just to get rid of me because I’m Russell–not even worried about Boston Rob and his team and numbers. So it’s hard to be a professional quarterback and have Pee-Wee leaguers on your team. I gotta run the ball; I gotta catch the ball; I gotta throw the ball. I gotta do everything.”

That goads Ralph into throwing into Russell’s face that he has the idol, “I’d already found it fifteen seconds into the game.” Russell calls Ralph a liar and dares him to show him the idol. Sarita is begging Ralph not to do it. Ralph backs down and sheepishly tries to make it seem as if he might have been faking.

Russell isn’t buying that, and neither is our crack Secret Agent, Phillip, who starts screaming, “It was not a lie. It was not a lie. I earned my living discerning if someone was telling the truth or not, and you have an idol.” Triumphantly, he warns Ralph, “You’ll probably get an opportunity to use it if I have anything to do with it.”

As for Russell, he claims to be retiring, “This is my last time playin’ this game. I have nothing else left to prove.” Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. See you next season, when the producers will have the game rigged so you can finally win it. Maybe give you a whole box of idols before you get to the island. Or institute a rule that you can’t be voted against, ever. And how much did you say you got paid just to be on this season, anyway? If Probst wants so badly to play with Hantz, he should invite him over for a game of Twister or something, not infest another season of Survivor.

Oh, and before he goes, he tries to stir up trouble by telling Phillip and Kristina that Sarita is running things at Ometepe

BEACH BLANKET BINGO

While Phillip and Kristina are off watching the duel at Redemption, Rob has plans. The last time he played, he says, “I ignored the idol and it cost me.” This time, he’s going to do his best to find it, despite the fact that the clue he got last week said the idol was hidden “somewhere on the island, in a tree, in the sand, somewhere on the island. What a great clue.”

Rob cheerfully organizes a “beach day” of fun in the sun. He marches the crew down the beach as far away from camp as possible, gets them organized into some sort of ring toss game, waits until Grant heads out into the water, and tells the girls he’s been constipated, but suddenly has the urge.

Rob lopes back to camp as fast as he can run. He knows he can’t be gone too long, or the others will be suspicious. He’s moving like a whirling dervish searching for the idol. Just as Grant is about to come looking for him, Rob spots the idol in a tree. He grins with delight, “Maybe I learned somethin’ last time. I’m diggin’ through rocks; I’m climbin’ trees. I just start searching tree to tree. I need to get back to the beach, otherwise it’s gonna be suspicious. There must be forty trees in our camp. I think it was about 38 or 39, I finally looked up.”

EXPERIENCE IN COVERT MATTERS

Phillip has a plot of a different kind. He thinks he can use Russell’s revelations at Redemption to barter his way into a stronger position with Rob. He tells Kristina not to tell the tribe anything that happened: he wants to with-hold the information ‘til the merge, then use it to blackmail Rob. Kristina, with a remarkably straight face, agrees, “Well, you have the experience in these covert matters.”

Apparently, the Secret Agent can’t keep a secret, because soon he’s telling Rob that Ralph has an idol and trying to convince Rob that he needs to pay Phillip for the intel by giving Kristina a break. Rob, privately, is amused and astounded by Phillip’s move, “Hey, dude, aren’t you in my alliance? Don’t you work for me?”

ANOTHER PRODUCT PLACEMENT CHALLENGE

Today’s immunity/reward challenge is brought to us by a large national chain of home improvement/clothing/appliance stores whose thousand-page catalogs were formerly used as toilet paper in rural outhouses. Raise your hands people: how many of you DVR the show and watch it later, fast-forwarding through commericials? Well, according the sermon delivered by Jeff Probst on his blog, it is entirely your fault that Survivor has had to resort to such blatant product placement challenges. Otherwise, the sponsors wouldn’t pay.

The challenge is demanding. Teams must first use a crowbar to pry open a crate and retrieve a shovel. The shovel is used to dig an axe out of a sand pit, then the axe wielded to hack through a log, which releases two saws. (All tools provided by Product Placement sponsor, which shall, due to my contrariness, remain nameless.) Two team members have to simultaneous saw down through a row of planks so that the planks, which are perforated on the edge may be lined up to correspond with pegs on a ramp. The team first up the ramp to set the product-placement marked toolbox on the table wins both immunity and the reward, a barbeque set and lots of food–steaks, sausages, bread, vegetables.

So far this season, all the challenges have been very physical ones. Zapatera has a definite advantage there, particularly since Ometepe got rid of one of their stronger players, Matt. Phillip, whose responsibility is the saw, shows the strength of a slug. Zapatera wins handily. Ralph deserves most of the credit; he handled the majority of the tasks himself.

Zapatera is enjoying their feast. Mike marvels, “This victory truly was exponential. I haven’t thought about sex in two weeks. All I think about is food.” David, though “not wishing the other tribe ill” is “glad we’re not sitting in their shoes.” Ralph is disgustingly gross. He wants to lick the leftovers from under people’s fingernails and the mustard off someone’s nose.

At Ometepe, Phillip tries to hold one of his post-defeat “debriefs.” Everyone is repelled.
•Rob: “Phillip is never one to shy away from a moment in the sun. Nobody likes him. It’s palpable.”
•Ashley: “Phillip. I can’t stand him. I can’t even look at him.”
•Kristina: “When I have to endure a loss, the last thing I want is to have to put up with Phillip.”

Though it would seem that Phillip is in danger of going home, and Grant and Natalie want nothing more, the others are concerned that Kristina may have another idol. Rob, of course, knows she does not, but keeps it to himself. His worry is that somehow Kristina might convince someone in his alliance to flip.

TRIBAL SPEAK

Tribal council has begun, and Jeff encourages Kristina to speak. She admits, “I started out on the wrong side of the numbers, but I’ll keep trying.”

Rob observes that Kristina “just joined this tribe; for the first eight days she wasn’t with us.”

Kristina tries to direct the attention to Phillip, “I think the tribe should vote out the person who’s the most disruptive.” Jeff asks “Who?” and she doesn’t hesitate to name Phillip.

Phillip, pumped with pride, tells Jeff, “I have a history with this tribe. I’m actually a DO-ER.” Kristina jumps in, “I actually do a lot of things around camp, too.”

Jeff prompts Phillip, “You’re a DO-ER.”

Phillip is puffed up like a puffer-fish, “I have what’s called the Shepherd Stamp. Three years in the US Army, winning an Honorable Discharge and the second highest medal given by Congress...” This high accolade, he explains, was for his exceptional service in his specialty, Field Sanitation. I looked it up: that’s digging latrines and carrying off the garbage. And for the record, it was the Army Service Medal (not Distinguished Service Medal) which is handed out to pretty much anybody who stays around for four months or completes their “specialty” training. It seems Phillip was at least adquate on the ditch-digging detail.

Kristina makes a feeble effort to assure her tribe that she can be trusted, but it’s of no use, and her torch is snuffed. She is sanguine as she departs, “I just got my rear end raked across the coals. It’s a whole new ballgame now. I have to face Matt, go all- out there, rock it.”

Jeff warns Ometepe before he sends them back to camp, “If you don’t start winning, time is going to run out for this tribe.”

Next week: shifting alliances and “on Zapatera, Russell has taught his girls well.”