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Illustration for article titled iSurvivor/i: Keep Hope Alive
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Two-plus seasons. Countless schemes. Seemingly endless immunity idols. One severely disgusting underarm rash. And now, a singular torch snuff. That’s right, folks, the legend known as Russell Hantz was voted out of the game tonight, for the first time in his Survivor career. Of course, the one time he’s voted out, the game has a built-in mechanism for him to come back, but let’s forget about that for a moment, shall we? Because Russell! Was voted out!

How did this turn of events come about? I’d like to say it was full of as much drama as the first Ometepe eviction, but it was simply good, quiet Survivor strategy. Russell came into the game with a huge target on his back, and without the likable personality to overcome this burden, he was bound to have a more difficult game this time around. Indeed, after dominating the last two challenges, the rest of Zapatera is so anxious to get rid of Russell that they scheme to throw the immunity challenge, just so they can be rid of him, and throw the challenge they do. It’s actually a bit disappointing in the end, because it would have been interesting to see if the legacy of Rob the puzzle master is still relevant this season.

The problem with throwing the challenge so successfully is that now Russell is very aware the tribe is throwing the challenge, and he knows he needs to start scheming to make sure he has enough votes to stay. He (correctly) guesses that the other six will do a split vote, just in case someone on his alliance has an immunity idol and realizes all he needs is one vote to swing his way in order to flip the script. He seems to do a decent job selling “old lady” Julie, but looks are deceiving, and when it comes time for Tribal, he is eliminated.

I will admit I haven’t been the biggest Russell fan in the past, but it was a bit unsatisfying to see him ousted so easily. The editors did manage to elicit a bit of suspense with a few sly Julie looks during Tribal, but this whole situation shows just how limited Russell’s Survivor gameplay range truly is. Without an idol to bolster his moves, his scheming can only go so far, since he cannot naturally engender himself towards his tribemates the way Rob can. Now, this doesn’t mean Russell can’t make one hell of a comeback. Redemption Island is there, and the producers have every reason to want to keep him around, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few very Russell-friendly duels in the next few weeks. (Although, what would a Russell-friendly challenge be? Is he especially adept at anything in particular, besides wearing annoying hats and finding immunity idols?)

Back at Ometepe, Rob’s main goal is to get back in Andrea’s good graces and to find the clue to the hidden immunity idol. He attempts the first and seems to still be on a bit of shaky ground, but that might not matter, as he very stealthily accomplishes the second, literally taking the clue right out from under Phillip. Unfortunately for him, the clue is a bit more vague than Rob would like, so he doesn’t find the idol. Considering the entire tribe is looking for both the clue and the idol, it should be interesting to see how this shakes out.

After threatening us with the Redemption Island twist since the beginning moments of the season premiere, Survivor finally got a chance to show off its latest trick tonight. How was it? Well… it was a challenge. Two people competed in it, and one person won. Nothing groundbreaking in and of itself, as they used a familiar game, but the challenge managed to be appropriately suspenseful. I can only imagine the stakes will get higher and higher each week, and the strategy of who you send to Redemption Island will come more into play with the tribes themselves, so this twist still has a ways to go before it can be called either a success or a bust. Frankly, I was just a little bit bummed that the lovely Francesca was sent home after starting the challenge so strong. Ultimately, though, an angry Matt is probably a more compelling foe for an angry Russell in next week’s duel.

Stray observations:

  • The decision to lie to Russell and tell him Francesca remained on Redemption Island instead of Matt seemed kind of like a useless fib.
  • I can tell we haven’t spent much time at Zapatera before tonight, because I didn’t know the names of half of the tribe members. What’s a Serita?
  • “This is the first step in your journey to get even.”
  • “He sits in the tent with his concubines and does nothing. He’s like a black hole, sucking in energy and light.”
  • "In the past, I ignored the hidden immunity idol. Well, that didn’t work out too well for me.”
  • “The clue basically could have read: The hidden immunity idol is somewhere.”
  • Ressell.
  • “I’ll be back and be ready.”
  • “Storm’s a coming.”

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