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Survivor: "Don't You Work For Me?"

Illustration for article titled iSurvivor/i: Dont You Work For Me?
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There’s a little bit of a “the chicken or the egg” thing happening when it comes to this season of Survivor. Was the Redemption Island twist thought of first, and was Rob and Russell’s participation added later? Or was Redemption Island created as part of some sort of safety net in case the show's star players got the early boot? No matter whether it was the former or the latter, it’s a sure bet that there were a lot of producers huddled around video village during tonight’s duel, desperately praying for Russell to beat Matt and allow their golden boy another chance to fight his way back into the game and ultimately into a rematch of sorts with Rob.

Those prayers fell on deaf ears, however, as Matt defeated Russell, eliminating him from the game for good. It was a fairly close challenge all told, but watching people stack dominoes is just about as boring as you would imagine. (Not to the Dutch, however: They have a very popular show about it!) Not boring, however, was the drama that unfolded after Russell realized he was eliminated, which he celebrated by first becoming very emotional and then lashing out at his former tribe in response to those emotions, blaming their stupidity for his elimination. His refusal to adapt his game to this new situation seems like more of his downfall than any stupidity on Zapatera’s part, but what do I know?

Here’s the thing about a personality like Russell Hantz: Even when he's gone, the ripple effect of his presence still remains. All it takes is this one disparaging remark from an already (double!) eliminated Russell, and Ralph immediately loses his cool and begins bragging about having the hidden immunity idol right in front of Ometepe, giving them a clear view of what is happening with their competitors. Now, last week, there was some debate about the level of Ralph’s intelligence and strategy, and this outburst should shed a little more light on this. I’m not saying a player can’t be intelligent and still have an emotional reaction to something, but Ralph was just downright dumb tonight. His attempt to cover up his gaffe was especially pathetic.

Beyond Russell’s immediate effect post-duel, the ripples of his presence are also still being felt at Zapatera, as former alliance members Stephanie and Trisha still holding a bit of a torch for the one who was snuffed. This dynamic didn’t get much of a chance to play out this week, but it’s definitely simmering under the surface of the tribe and something to watch out for in the future.

At Ometepe, it’s basically business as usual for Rob and his legion of followers. He remains in complete control, which is only further cemented when he pulls off an easy scam in order to give him time to locate the immunity idol. The ease with which he hoodwinks the rest of his tribe is very indicative of the level of trust he’s built so far. The only wild card in Rob’s game right now is Phillip, because Phillip as an actual human being is the very definition of a wild card. Phillip tries to use the information he gained at the duel to cajole Rob into saving Kristina this week, which seems like a very odd play. Are he and Kristina close all of a sudden? Wasn’t Kristina one of the liars (along with Francesca) just a few short weeks ago? It’s all very confusing.

Rob easily gets him to spill the beans without promising anything, though, but this shadiness (along with Phillip’s general tendency to annoy anyone within a 10 foot radius) has his name at the top of the chopping block this week. That is, until Kristina reminds Rob that she’s there and she’s got a few brain cells to rub together (not to mention a mind of her own), and it would probably be in his best interest to boot her sooner rather than later. He uses his power of manipulation to convince his tribe of the same, and after Ometepe loses yet another immunity challenge, Kristina is voted off.

Although this episode wasn’t the most exciting, it was still awfully nice to see Russell completely lose his cool after knowing he would yet again fall short of the million dollars. The question is, does Russell still believe in the legend of Russell Hantz? My guess is yes, but America might be wavering a bit.

Stray observations:

  • Whatever assistant editor is in charge of blurring the players’ nasty bits should get hazard pay for having to deal with Phillip’s saggy red man panties this season. Yuck.
  • I feel like a tribe shakeup is coming soon. Otherwise, Zapatera is just going to railroad Ometepe until they merge with, like, Rob and one other person remaining.
  • “This is my last time playing the game. That’s it.” Whatever you say, Hantz.
  • “I haven’t thought about sex in two weeks. All I’m thinking about is food.”
  • “At this point, there’s an utter malice towards him that’s palpable.”

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