If you’re just joining us, you missed the drama of last week, when the plotting of the dastardly Villains Russell and Parvati, the inanity of the spineless Coach and the vindictiveness of the misanthrope Jerri combined to eject Boston Rob from the game. Whether you love or hate Rob, the evidence is there that he was the clear leader of the Villains’ tribe and the person to count on when it came to winning challenges.
Russell is snidely boasting of his victory, “Boston Rob, the Super All-Star. He ain’t nothin’ to me. This is Russell Hantz.” It’s not much of a stretch to imagine green, slimy venom dripping from the corners of his mouth. Parvati’s almost giddy, “I love blindsiding people.”
Coach is running around weeping and wailing like a paid mourner at a funeral. He can’t decide which is worse, that Boston Rob is gone, or that the bully, Russell, is still around calling the shots. His “oh woe is me” act might be more believable if he hadn’t been ultimately responsible for Rob’s ouster. Jerri, hypocrite that she is, moans, “I miss him already.” Too late, Coach realizes the gravity and probable repercussions of their move, “The Villains are done. We’re toast.”
UP IDOL CREEK
If you recall, in an excess of bonhomie, the Heroes agreed that they would make the search for the hidden immunity idol a joint project of all tribe members and would then preserve it for the use of the common good. Those admirable intentions fall by the wayside the minute good-ole-boy JT sees the first glimmers of daylight. He tries to convince himself he’s doing nothing wrong, “[that idol]…best for me to see where it is. The clue said it was in a creek. I’m just gonna swing by and take a gander.”
Not realizing that a bespectacled Amanda, wearing a bikini evidently manufactured during a world-wide fabric shortage, is hot on his trail, JT reaches down and grabs the mud-encrusted idol. He pulls out his waistband, ready to stuff it into his pants. What? You think that means he isn’t planning to remove it later, and pass it around among his friends? Just in the nick of time, Amanda arrives on the scene. Candice is right on her heels.
JT looks a lot like Sylvester, a bunch of yellow feathers caught in his whiskers, protesting, “No, I don’t think I know anyone named Tweety Bird.” JT does his best to pretend he’s thrilled to see the girls, “I found the idol.” Back at camp, he brandishes the idol, promising, “We’ll save it for the first one who needs it after the merge.” Candice breaths a sigh of relief to Amanda, “How close was that?” She’s a bit afraid of JT, “JT’s running the tribe. I’m afraid to call him out; he’s like the Golden Boy. He’s in with everybody.”
PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES
The Villains are on the verge of despair. Jerri and Coach both claim to be near starvation. Coach announces gravely, “The time for exigency has ended.” Apparently Coach’s vocabulary came from the Dictionary According to Vice President Dan Quayle, “If we don’t succeed we run the risk of failure.”
Tree mail brings the announcement of a reward challenge and the promise of the longed-for meal. I’m not sure who has the idea—only Parvati and Danielle are shown in the discussion—but the Villains decide that the proper interpretation of the tree-mail is that there’s going to be a merge. It’s like Patton ordering the troops to get the H out of the Philippines: the Villains scurry around packing up every scrap around camp they think might be needed should the expected merge send them to another location.
Seeing the Villains march into camp with tarps and toolboxes, Colby panics, “I’m running it through in my mind: what did they find in that clue that I missed?”
Jeff announces the ousting of Boston Rob from the Villains. At least two of the Heroes think they’ve made a brilliant discovery. Rupert growls, “It’s a Girls’ Alliance!” JT, in good-ole-boy solidarity, mouths to Russell, “Hang in There.” Russell has to bite his lip to keep from guffawing.
The tribes take their seats on the bleachers. Host Probst starts to tout the virtues of the pizza and beer displayed behind him. I think I hear a faint squawk. Courtney has a death-grip on the top of a straw tote-bag in her lap. Trying to peck his way out to freedom is the Villains’ lone surviving chicken. I can hear those Villains lying to him now, “Be a good chicken and get in the basket. We’re taking a nice trip to your new home at the petting zoo.”
The Survivors practically salivate at the food in front of them. Jeff drones on about how they’re all so deserving of the sumptuous meal. He notes that the Villains have come prepared for a merge. “Before we move any further, let me answer the question on everyone’s minds. Drop your…” In unison, everyone reaches for his or her tribal buff (except for Rupert, who appears to be taking off his clothes in entirety). “expectations.” Jeff grins perniciously at the collective moan of disappointment.
Instead, Jeff says, they’ll be competing for the privilege of eating. The challenge is a repeat of the silly bowling game from last season. Two lanes are set up with pins at the end and gutters on the side. One person at a time from each tribe will roll twice. Winner of each heat gets a point. First team to three points wins.
The Villains have a heated discussion about which two people should “sit out” the challenge. Parvati argues with Coach that they should save their strongest players for the upcoming Immunity Challenge. Coach overrules her; he’s hell-bent on getting the food. He announces that Sandra and Courtney (clearly the weakest players) will sit out. The man is clearly mad, or missing an important part of his brain. It’s a stupid bowling game, using for a ball a lopsided coconut that nine times out of ten is going catawampus into the gutter. There’s no skill, no strength, required here. You’re not playing Survivor for the privilege of eating cold pizza; you’re playing to stay in the game and win a million bucks and the way you do that is with immunity at tribal councils. It’s suicidal not to save your strongest players for the immunity challenges.
I’ll spare you most of the boring details of the coconut rolls. Parvati and Danielle will not be joining the pro-bowling tour any time soon. They account for four balls in the gutters, and two points for the other side. Russell manages to knock down more pins than Colby and earns a point for the Villains. Coach can’t even win his turn; Amanda scores the winning point and the pizza for the Heroes.
Coach glowers at Probst and the world as the Villains and their poultry are sent back to reassemble their camp.
The Heroes gather around the table to gorge and to toast themselves as the “Fantastic Five” and, according to Amanda, “the best team of Survivor ever.” They’re pleased the merge did not occur; they hope to take out a couple more Villains before that happens. JT explains why he’s sure there’s an all-girl alliance in charge over on the Villains; it’s because “Rob was in charge of the guys.” He and Rupert warn Amanda and Candice not to even think post-merge about joining in the girl power.
“I HATE ‘EM ALL”
The Villains spend the afternoon attempting to put their camp back together and blaming one another for the disasters that have befallen. Jerri raves, “This whole thing was so stupid, packing up the camp. Boston Rob would have made sure Courtney and Sandra played today so we’d be strong in the immunity challenge.” For Jerri to complain about how bad things are without Rob is like the the guy who killed his parents begging for mercy because he’s an orphan.
Sandra and Jerri trade barbs. Sandra can’t believe Jerri is trying to put all the blame for the day’s loss on her and on Courtney. She points out, rightfully, that they weren’t even playing. Exactly, Jerri argues, and now you’re going to be the reason we lose the next one. This does not please the pugnacious Sandra, “I shouldn’t even be on this tribe: I hate ‘em all. I should be with the Heroes.”
Sandra isn’t wasting her time with the junior varsity; she has a plan to put into action. Sandra nudges Courtney, “You wanta get even with Coach? Russell’s the kind of guy, if he thinks somebody’s gunning for him, he’ll take ‘em out. I’m gonna work my magic, put a bug in his ear and we’ll both be here on Day 22.”
Coach and Courtney are sitting on the beach. Coach laments, “I hate playing the game with these people.” Courtney is having none of it, “I guess maybe you feel guilty. If I’m the next to do, that’s what it’ll be. It’s all based on Russell’s idea of what he wants Survivor to be and it’s based on fear or something.”
Courtney and Coach have not gone unobserved. Russell has them locked in his laser-sight, “She’s over there talking to Coach, but it don’t matter what she says. I will tell them how they’re voting.”
Sandra plants her insidious suggestion in Russell’s mind. “I heard Coach say he wants to get rid of you. I heard him say he was sorry he voted Rob out. I don’t know about your homeboy.”
Russell gets prickly, “He’s not my homeboy.”
Sandra (later) is exultant, “Russell’s so stupid; he ate that crap up. Yeah, he’s done good so far, but with me he don’t know what he’s got himself into.”
Russell, on the other hand, is perfectly happy with how things stand, (talking about Coach): “He’s gonna flip. The beautiful thing about this is, that leaves one guy left. They (the Heroes), are gonna think for sure it’s a Girls’ Alliance and they’re gonna come straight to me.”
TAG TEAM MUD RACING
The immunity challenge this week (repeating one from Micronesia) will take place in the mud pits. Two team members, tied together, must race over and under a set of obstacles set in a gloppy sea of mud to retrieve a flag. First team with two flags wins. It’s immediately apparent that the props department spent many happy hours calculating just how low they could set the bottom bars on the obstacles to insure maximum mud coverage of the contestants. Other crew members entertained by the challenge were the guys who pixellate exposed body parts; they were working overtime on this one. Thanks to Coach’s insatiable desire for greasy pepperoni and peppers, Danielle and Jerri will be spared.
First up are Russell and Sandra competing against Amanda and Candice. Sandra should not plan on a future career as a female mud-wrestler: she moves through the muck at the speed of a concrete block. Amanda and Candice, on the return trip with the flag, don’t even have to rush. At one point, Russell’s pants are pulled to his knees by the weight of the mud, and in the end, Sandra winds up “stuck” under the bottom bar of an obstacle and has to crawl backwards to free herself. If looks could kill, Russell would be serving time for murder right now.
Coach and Rupert will be facing off mano a mano because of an uneven number of players. Rupert maneuvers his keg-like frame with surprising adeptness and stays even with Coach for most of the race, though Coach edges him out at the finish.
The deciding heat will be between Parvati and Courtney for the Villains and JT and Colby for the Heroes. Even covered head to toe in thick brown mud, Courtney’s so thin she’s barely visible. I’ve seen piles of pick-up-sticks that looked sturdier. Courtney twists her ankle and limps off the course, supported by Parvati, long after JT and Colby have crossed the finish line.
CLOSE-UP ON: Amanda rubbing the mud across her bosom. (Don’t yell at me. It’s like the chicken in Courtney’s purse: it’s there and I have to report it.)
Host Probst sternly reminds the losing Villains that this makes “four straight” challenges they’ve blown. On the way back to camp Danielle protests that “It’s not fair to keep people in the game that don’t have any physical ability at all, actually making us lose.” She has a point.
Back at camp, Coach preens like a rooster and pretends to be exhilarated. “What a challenge; muddiest one yet! Way I look at it, it’s like going to a spa.” The others? Why, says Coach, “Everyone’s down, everyone’s hurt, everyone’s nauseous. The Dragon Slayer is just coming into his own, heading off into the horizon.” Apparently Dragon slayers babble a lot. Then he mentions, off-handedly, that it might be a good idea to get rid of Russell, but it’s pretty clear he isn’t serious about that.
Russell as usual, is strutting around, congratulating himself, “I send home who I want sent home. Sandra and Courtney, I think they’ll vote for Coach.”
Danielle and Russell are involved in a shouting match. I can’t believe she’s actually standing up to him, arguing that “We need to keep him right now. At least with him we have some sort of chance.” Russell, who may or may not be thinking of Sandra’s suggestion that the Dragon Slayer may be beginning to have some doubts about the Troll, scorns her suggestion, “That’s stupid. We’re losing with Coach.” Danielle comes right back, “Because of Sandra and Courtney!” Sandra, unknown to either Russell or Danielle, is happily watching the two of them at each others’ throats.
CAMERA ON: The camp’s AX, embedded in a log, Rusell right behind it.
CUT TO: Coach in the ocean, doing his super-secret, known-only-to-himself tai chi.
Russell, returning from parts unknown, trots up to Danielle and Parvati. “I’ve had a change of heart. We need to keep him one more time, then we can get rid of him.”
Parvati is bemused: “This tribe cannot get its act together.”
Okay, here I’m thinking that either my cable was out for about twenty minutes and I failed to notice, or the producers have been playing fast and loose with the edit. There had to be a lot more happening around that camp all afternoon. I’ve seen Russell Hantz play: he isn’t leaving that much to chance.
“I HOPE THEY GET WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE MAP”
Tribal Council begins with Jeff demanding to know what in the dickens the Villains were thinking in voting out both Tyson and Boston Rob before Courtney, “'If given the choice of Tyson or Boston Rob over Courtney, I think 99 out of 100 people would probably pick Tyson or Boston Rob. No disrespect.''
Courtney sarcastically says, “Thank you, Jeffrey.”
Rubbing salt in their wounds, Jeff goes on to point out that the only point scored in the day’s challenge for the Villains was by Coach. At that, Coach lights up as if he’s just been awarded an Olympic gold medal in survivorship. He grins and preens. Note to Coach: Jeff was slamming the others, not praising you.
A heated discussion follows in which Coach is accused of, and denies, being the cause of the tribe’s demoralization. He bemoans the loss of Tyson and Rob, and Jeff reminds him that’s his own fault.
But enough about Coach; let’s get back to the seventy-pound weaking, Courtney. Jeff asks Parvati if she isn’t worried that the tribe’s on a downhill slide that can’t be stopped. Parvati admits, “It’s not hard to see that they’re (the Heroes) are more physical than us.”
Coach throws in one of his useless observations about how “all we want is for Courtney to say ‘I want to do that’.” Courtney throws Coach of look of utter disdain and says, “Thanks, dad.”
Courtney takes her final defensive stand: “I’m like the Poster Child for weakest Survivor…but I’m a determined little bitch and I will put up with a lot of crap to get to the end.”
They proceed to the vote. Courtney casts hers for Coach, “You’re a freakin’ lunatic. I’m just glad I don’t have to live with you any more. Nice feather in your hair.”
As Jeff goes to retrieve the votes, Coach smiles with satisfaction. I don’t think he has any idea he’s in danger.
Jeff reads the vote: first two for Coach, then three for Courtney. Another one for Coach, and Jeff opens the last slip, with “the ninth person voted out of Survivor 20 and the first member of our jury, Coach.” Coach looks as if he could have been knocked over with his own feather—he’s that shocked. Danielle, Sandra, Courtney and Parvati have been the reason for Coach’s ouster. Since I do not for one second believe that either Danielle or Parvati voted against Russell’s wishes, I have to assume that Russell’s vote for Courtney was designed to give him “plausible deniability” later in hoping for Coach’s support on the jury.
Jeff’s valediction: “I’m sure Coach would agree: the problem with trust is you don’t know it’s gone until it’s too late.”
On his way out the door, Coach vents, “I am probably more pissed off than I have been in a number of years. I am not a very vindictive person, but I hope they get wiped off the face of the map.”
As for me, I’m shedding no tears over the man who was a legend only in his own mind. As far as I’m concerned, he signed his own death warrant in taking out Tyson and Rob.
Do be here next week. Here’s the tease: “In 20 seasons, we’ve seen a lot of dumb moves, but next week you might see one that tops them all.” JT, it appears, is thinking about handing the hidden immunity idol over to Russell. You have to admit: it can’t get dumber than that.