Earlier today I was watching a YouTube video of Lukas the Horse. Lukas, a seventeen-year-old retired racehorse, can spell his name by picking out letter tiles. Lukas recognizes shapes. Lukas does dozens of other mental feats. Compared to many of the players on Survivor, Heroes vs. Villains, Lukas is a genius.
Last week on Survivor, both Sandra and Russell got their way when the self-anointed Dragon Slayer, Coach, was booted. This is a good thing in so many ways, not the least of which is the excitement of seeing what Coach wears to tribal council every week as a member of the jury. More about which later.
Back at camp after tribal, Jerri panics, wondering if her name is the next one on the hit list. Russell and Danielle swear to her that she’s not. It wouldn’t be surprising if she were, considering that she’s been playing Maid Marian to Coach’s Robin Hood all season. We now bring you our regularly scheduled personal interview with mastermind Russell: “ I got five girls left on the tribe. I trust three of ‘em. I don’t trust Sandra and Courtney. They’ll be the next to go; I promise you that.”
BROUGHT TO YOU BY OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE
Both tribes spend time strategizing after a lengthy tree-mail arrives, announcing that the reward challenge will require them to go head-to-head against a member of the other tribe, and that they must rank their five players according to strength. Rupert pirate-growls when the others don’t pick him as the strongest. Russell shrewdly saves himself the torture by pointing out that while he’s strong, he’s also the heaviest and wouldn’t do well. All that Parvati remembers about this particular challenge when it was played on the Toncantins season was that at the end Coach gave up, let out a primal scream and fell to the ground in a catatonic state.
I think this is one of the most miserable looking challenges ever played in the game—the player must balance on narrow footholds between a pair of stilts.. There are three sets of footholds, the final of which is about an inch wide. The first tribe with three players to outlast their individual opponent wins reward.
When the tribes arrive, Jeff wants a comment from the Heroes on the fact that Coach is gone. Arghhh, says, Rupert, “That woman’s alliance looks pretty strong.” Great Rupert, now the Villains know that you think you know what you really don’t know. Two things everyone knows about the game of Survivor: never make assumptions and keep the other team guessing.
I’ll bet –you’re dying to know, aren’t you: What wonderful thing will the winning tribe receive? Probst is about to tell us: it’s a huge dinner provided by Outback Steak House! If you’re watching on your DVR, you can fast-forward several minutes here while he recites the entire menu. Gosh, that must have taken him a while to memorize. Jerri has her eyes squeezed shut in apparent prayer. Sandra begins to give personal testimony in her own infomercial. Not only is Outback Steak House her own most favoritest place in the world, that’s also where her hubby demands to eat right before he ships off to war. After hearing her five-star review, I’d be tempted to go try the place myself, but the only one near me was closed down by the Health Department for unsanitary conditions.
Today, Jeff tells everyone, is a really special day. It’s the one hundredth day Amanda has played Survivor! Not mentioned: Amanda is the most pixellated person ever to play the game and gives notoriously crappy speeches at Final Tribal Councils.
As the five pairs grit their teeth and try to keep their balance, Jeff gets into some major trash-talking about their pain. Sandra’s just fine: she’s still yammering about Outback Steak House. Jerri scores the first point for the Villains when Colby goes down. Sandra, wearing a white feather in her bandana, no doubt in ironic tribute to Coach, cheers, “Hell’s yeahhh!” Jeff reminds Rupert of this broken toes. Jerri encourages Sandra: “You popped out two babies, this is nothing.” Sandra crows, about that feat “…didn’t even get so much as an aspirin.” Soon Rupert falls, and Sandra allows as how she’s so comfortable she’ll just stay up there for a while. The final point, and luncheon courtesy of Outback Steak House, goes to the Villains when Courtney outlasts Amanda. It couldn’t have been that hard for Courtney: I suspect she weighs less than the threshold level required before gravity kicks in.
IDOLS IDOLS EVERYWHERE
Luncheon is served, complete with the nicety of cloth napkins. When Parvati unfurls hers, a rolled-up slip of paper falls into her lap. With quick thinking and sleight of hand, she manages to keep it hidden from the others. Sandra is too busy to notice; she has more heart-warming tales from the Outback Steak House to tell. Even Russell does his part to help out with the Product Placement, announcing, “It’s the Outback Way.”
Parvati can hardly wait to slip away and share her good news with Danielle, who’s [bleeping] excited. My first reaction is that Parvati is crazy not to keep the existence of a new idol to herself, but she seems to be acting deliberately, “…just so Danielle knows. Part of my plan is to make her feel really connected to me, so at the end of the game she’ll be more loyal to me than to Russell. Right now Russell doesn’t need to know.”
Back at camp, Parvati and Danielle somehow manage to get themselves, and a large shovel, out of camp without being noticed. Unbeknownst to them, the troll Russell is right behind them. The camera keeps cutting between the girls and Russell, making us chew our nails about whether they’re going to get caught. By a gnat’s whisker, they find the idol, stuff it into Danielle’s bikini top and get clear. Parvati’s pretty pleased with herself, “I’m the happiest girl in the world I found the idol. It gives me control of the game now. Russell’s not the King of Survivor. I’m the Queen. The Queen rules.” Lady, you’d better hope the King stays in the dark about your little bauble or he’ll make Henry VIII look like a humanitarian.
While the Villains were feasting, the Heroes tried to be philosophical about their loss of food. What the heck, JT tells them, I’ve eaten thousands of steaks, cut them from my own cows. Wow, that’s a visual I didn’t need. All that protein and cholesterol seems to have fried JT’s brain. Gather round, folks, JT has an idea.
“If we win the next immunity challenge,” JT confidently tells his tribe-mates, I’ve got a plan. I’d bet my life on a merge. At the next immunity challenge, if we get a chance to talk, I give him the idol and tell him to get rid of Parvati.” The Heroes are proceeding on an assumption that there’s an all-girl alliance running things in the Villain tribe, and that Russell, post-merge, will be more than willing to join up with the Heroes. JT and Rupert were the ones, last week, who jumped to that conclusion when they discovered that Boston Rob had been outed. They became even more convinced at the reward challenge, when they first learned that Coach, too, had been eliminated. On Survivor, it’s better not to trust even what you think you know. It’s far more dangerous to base your actions on guesses.
Only Amanda expresses any reservations about JT’s proposal, “'I think it's really crazy to give Russell the idol. We don't know what's going on over there. He could be in with the girls for all we know. Like, we don't know!” Exactly.
Even if they can get the idol into Russell’s hands, and what with him being on the opposing tribe and all, there’s still going to be the problem of how to tell him what to do with it. I know, says JT, let’s write him a letter! (I was wondering where in the world he was going to find pen and paper in the middle of desert island, but happily Host Probst answered that in his blog today. It was one of Amanda’s “luxury items” to which the Heroes had earlier won access.) With the help of his fellow Heroes, JT scratches his head and begins to commit his sentiments to the page. The letter is then folded around the immunity necklace and tied securely with twine. More about which later.
Today is an immunity challenge. Tribe members start from a floating platform, and one by one have to transport bags of puzzle pieces over and under a series of water obstacles, then assemble the puzzle. It’s not complicated, but the puzzle bags get heavy as they fill with water. Rupert gets ahead of Jerri and establishes a big lead for the Heroes. The Villains make up some time, but at the end the Heroes are way ahead. Only Colby and Russell are left on their respective platforms.
I’m going to assume here that there’s a lot of cheering and screaming going on, so only the video microphones are picking up the cryptic conversation between Colby and Russell.
Colby: “Are you going home tonight?”
Russell grunts assent, “Umm, hmm.”
Colby: “We’ve got something for you. Get to JT after the challenge.”
At the last second, Russell remembers to ask, “Who should I vote for?
Colby directs, “Parvati.”
Russell gravely assures Colby, “I wish I could shake your hand. Managing not to show his utter astonishment, he gives Colby a barely perceptible nod.
With Russell still trudging through the water with his bag of puzzle pieces, rain pouring down and thunder rumbling, the Heroes complete their puzzle and win immunity. Talk about Pyrrhic victories.
JT, who’s secreted the idol wrapped in a letter in his shoe, manages to slip it into Russell’s hands as they engage in a post-game hug of sportsmanship.
Back at camp, sitting on the beach, the idol in his fist, Russell exults, “Now I don’t even have to find idols. People are actually giving me idols. You don’t hand the enemy the idol. Not when his name is Russell Hantz. How do you give the King an idol? I think JT just handed me one million dollars. Good thing he can afford it.”
On the other side, JT thinks he’s done something wonderful. “We made Survivor history with this one today guys.” Indeed, JT, for this you shall be remembered.
Russell can’t wait to share the Heroes’ stupidity with Parvati. (I almost suspect that all the hidden immunity idols this season are implanted with one of those sound-buttons that are found in greeting cards. Instead of a song, the ones on the island must play a recorded message to “Show me to someone.” No one seems to be able to get one and keep that fact to himself.)
Russell shows the idol and the letter to Parvati. Her dramatic reading, complete with demonstrative hand gestures, was the single most hilarious scene ever on the show. I’ve included a screen-shot of this epistle to avoid being accused of taking license with the truth. It’s so junior-high I’ll bet JT’s cows are hiding in embarrassment. Here are the highlights:
Heading (in large letters): Read in Complete Privacy
This is a huge turning point in the game. This is not fake. I wouldn’t waste your time or mind. Just competing against you and by the handshakes we’ve shared, I feel I can trust you.”
The letter goes on to direct Russell to take the idol to tribal council and “play it right before Jeff starts reading the votes. I think you should write Parvati’s (double-underlined) name down and send her home. No matter what, when you play the idol, you’re safe for entire tribal council.”
I’m sure Russell is ever-so-grateful to finally learn how to play an idol at tribal council.
“We will most likely merge at 10 people and then you will be safe with us.”
At this point, I’m matching Parvati hoot-for-hoot.
“Our five plus you will remain strong til the girls are done with. We can then work on getting to the final 3.” (Final 3 what, I wonder—inmates at the asylum?)
At the bottom of the page, in great big impossible-to-miss letters, JT warns, “Destroy This Right When You Finish Reading It.”
Parvati howls as she adds her own salutation, “YOUR BFF FOREVER. JT. XOXO”
Parvati sums up the whole affair, “JT gave Russell his heart today and Russell is just gonna stab it ten times, a million times over and hand it to me and I’m gonna eat it.” She mimes cutting up food and popping it into her mouth.
FAREWELL TO THE STICK FIGURE
The afternoon at the Villains’ camp is filled with pseudo-discussions as to how the vote should go. Parvati wonders if she should make an effort to keep Courtney around on the theory that Courtney will be easier to keep under her thumb after a merge.
Russell and Parvati can’t keep the glorious news about getting their hands on the Heroes’ only idol to themselves. They share with Jerri and Danielle. There is much rejoicing and further talk of the Heroes’ mistaken belief in an all-girl alliance. To the camera, Jerri confides that it may look like the girls are in control, but “Russell is calling the shots.”
Courtney makes a half-hearted attempt to talk Parvati into keeping her, suggesting that maybe perhaps possibly after the merge she might have some influence with Amanda. It’s pretty clear she doesn’t have much hope here.
The Villains gather and light torches at tribal council. Jeff announces the “first member of our jury, Coach.” Coach meanders in. He’s dressed for the occasion in a tropical-print robe that looks like something grabbed on the way out of a Singapore brothel. Warrior-like he not. Further ridicule heap will I on him seated in lotus-position.
Jeff does his best to stir up trouble, bring up the issue of Trust, singling out Sandra. Sandra is waaay too savvy to fall into that particular trap, “Jeff, if I’m home sittin’ in my living room, the person Jeff axes the trust question to, that’s the person that has to worry.”
Danielle tries to defend her betrayal of Coach by saying the others made her an outcast and left her with no choice but to go to Parvati and Russell for protection. Sandra warns her, “That’s what you do with Parvati. She tells you what to do.”
Russell avers that the tightness of his “alliance of three” will take them to the end.
Jerri tries to deny that she was ever part of any alliance. Courtney accuses Jerri of flipping sides, along with Coach.
No one, including Courtney, is surprised that she’s voted out. For the record, even Sandra voted against her, but Jeff stops before reading the last vote, so Courtney doesn’t know that. Courtney laughs as she says goodbye, “Good luck, fishes. See you later.”
Jeff points out the obvious, that the sides are now even, five team members each. And we’ve reached another milestone! Tomorrow will be Parvati’s 100th day of playing Survivor.
Next week, Survivor fans, promises to be must-watch-TV. Will a good deed go unpunished? Keep your eye on the idols.