Survivor Survival Guide: “Survivor History”

“He just handed me $1 million. I guess he can afford it.” – Russell

“I cannot believe that kid won.” – Parvati

Don’t do it, JT. Don’t do it!

JT did it.

Continuing to act under the assumption that a strong all-female alliance is running the Villains, JT made his boldest—and dumbest—move yet: He gave away his own hidden immunity idol to Russell, thinking the architect behind the Villains’ actual alliance was on the chopping block. The move could have far-reaching ramifications as the two tribes prepare to merge with five members on each side.

“Survivor History” started with some especially blatant product placement from Outback Steakhouse. The winners of the Reward Challenge—which involved balancing between two walls on increasingly small pegs—would get a feast from Outback. Now, it isn’t new for Survivor to pimp products; I’m just not used to hearing contestants say things like “We just love Outback; we always go to Outback” (Sandra) and “Anything you want it—the Outback way” (Russell). The challenge had a nice strategic twist to it where each tribe had to rank its members from strongest to weakest to determine the matchups, but the Villains won so easily that it didn’t really come into play (Jerri outlasted Colby, Sandra beat Rupert, and Courtney took care of Amanda).*

*Sandra AND Courtney contributing to a challenge victory? Outrageous!

At the feast, Parvati found a clue to another hidden immunity idol in her napkin—like the 19th different idol available on this season. I know the hidden idol adds a level of strategy and intrigue to the game, but not if everyone has one. Two idols have already been played, and, after Parvati found her idol (because the idols are also really easy to find these days), two more are still left in the game. Parvati shared the clue with Danielle, ostensibly to strengthen their bond, although it also helped that Danielle could hide the clue from the others at the feast in her, shall we say, ample bosom.

Before the Immunity Challenge, JT laid out his plan to give Russell his hidden immunity idol to his tribemates. JT figured Russell was next to go because of the all-female alliance and that, if they could win the challenge and still save Russell before the merge, they can swing the numbers in their favor (6 to 4). Amanda was the only one on the Heroes to show any sort of objection, wondering why they were doing something so significant based on an assumption they didn’t know was true, but she and Candice seemed so set on getting the idol out of JT’s hands that they were okay with it.* JT then wrote the plan down in his best sixth-grade script and in excruciating detail on a piece of paper to hand to Russell if and when the Heroes won the Immunity Challenge.

*This also leads to the issue of what Amanda (and less importantly, Candice) does after the merge. The Heroes have played up this tight group of five the last few episodes, but there really isn’t a solid alliance there. JT has led them for a few weeks, but Amanda and Candice clearly don’t trust him. Rupert and Amanda spearheaded the original alliance with James, but they don’t always seem on the same page. Would Amanda consider jumping to the Villains’ alliance, especially if she thinks it might be the same kind of all-female alliance she and Parvati were a part of on Fans v. Favorites?

The challenge itself was again anticlimactic. Everything leading up to it in the episode (and in the previous three) strongly suggested that the Heroes would win. Having to move bags of puzzle pieces through a rope maze (what else is new?) and to construct a totem pole out of those pieces, the Heroes won rather handily. Toward the end of the challenge, when Colby and Russell were waiting to be the last leg of the relay, Colby explained his tribe’s plan to Russell, who said he was going to go home and that Parvati was “running the show” as he was barely able to contain a smirk.* When the challenge was over and while the two teams were exchanging handshakes,** JT slipped Russell the idol wrapped in the note.

*Russell really could have impressed me here if he saw enough ahead to tell Colby that either Courtney or Sandra was in charge and not Parvati. Right now, the Heroes expect Parvati to be gone when they merge, and Russell will have to explain why he didn’t blindside the self-described leader of the all-female alliance. If, when Colby had told him to vote Parvati out, Russell had said “Well…Sandra’s the one behind it all,” he could have voted out who he wanted to while maintaining the illusion of the all-female alliance more. All that said, it’s awfully tough to think of that on the spur of the moment.

**Do they do this at every challenge? I’ve never noticed before.

Back at camp, Russell showed Parvati the note, and the two shared a hearty laugh at JT and the Heroes’ expense. “Now I don’t have to find idols; people are actually giving me idols!” Russell exclaimed. “You don’t hand an enemy an idol, especially if his name is Russell Hantz.” The two shared the news with a disbelieving Danielle, and then laughed some more at the specificity of JT’s note.* When Jerri joined them, they went back and forth on whether to vote off Courtney or Sandra—the final two pieces of Boston Rob’s alliance that had exhausted their strategies to save themselves.

*Seriously, JT practically explained the purpose of a hidden immunity idol.

The four initially settled on Courtney before she approached Parvati to tell her she would stick with the alliance and try to draw Amanda—her fellow China castmate—onboard. It became a debate over whether Sandra or Courtney was more likely to flop to the Heroes’ alliance after the merge. In the end, they decided there wasn’t much distinction between the two of them, and Courtney became the second member of the jury (joining a kimono-clad Coach).

It was sad to see Courtney go almost immediately after she became my favorite player on the season. One week after snarking her way through Tribal, she did it again, eviscerating Jerri’s strategy by pointing out that she had voted against both alliances of which she’s been a part, and that she’s only left because she switched sides at the right time (which is, of course, sound strategy). She really won me over in her farewell, saying among other things, “It’s actually one of my Survivor dreams to be on a jury” and “I cannot wait to hang out more with Coach. I’m going to pull out all my dress kimonos, and we’ll have several tea services together.”*

*I don’t usually watch Ponderosa, but I may have to just to see Courtney and Coach hanging out one-on-one.

The first Expanded, Assuming-a-Merge Aristocracy:

THIRD ESTATE: Jerri, Colby, Candice

SECOND ESTATE: JT, Amanda, Rupert, Sandra

FIRST ESTATE: Russell and Danielle

THE KING: Parvati

I’m excited to see how the merger plays out. The numbers are 5-5, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Sandra, who’s clearly on the outs with the Villains, switch sides and give the Heroes the edge. At the same time, the Villains have two immunity idols, including the one the Heroes gave Russell. If Russell can adequately convince the Heroes that he used it last night and that he had to vote off Courtney with it (the second part of that will be tougher), then he can use it next episode to blindside one of the Heroes (if Sandra flips, that is). To me, Sandra holds the key to the remaining weeks; if she flips to the Heroes and can reveal that there is no female alliance, that Russell is running the show, and that he did not use the immunity idol yet, the Heroes still have a chance (my bet: she says all this and JT thinks she’s lying).

Jerri, Colby, and Candice comprise the Third Estate because I can envision almost no scenario in which any of them make the finals. Jerri can get to the final four if the Villains’ alliance takes over, but not beyond that (unless, Suzie-style, she stunningly wins immunity in that episode). Colby and Candice have never been central parts of the Heroes’ alliance, so even if that wins out, they’re not part of the final three.

Parvati, Russell, and Danielle are clearly the frontrunners right now, and I give the biggest edge to Parvati, who not only has the extra immunity idol that Russell doesn’t know about, but also doesn’t have to blatantly betray people in the same manner Russell will have to in the forthcoming weeks. (As Parvati said, “It’s not Russell running the show here. He’s not the king of Survivor. I’m the queen. And usually the king does what the queen wants anyway.”) It’s possible Danielle would beat Parvati in a final three composed of that alliance, if only because Parvati has already won the million.

As for where JT’s decision ranks among the dumbest all-time on Survivor, I’m still liable to place it behind Eric giving up individual immunity to Natalie on Fans v. Favorites, and then immediately getting voted off (and maybe Ian’s “I love you, Tom!” decision at the end of that season, too, when he told Tom he’d quit an immunity challenge provided that Tom voted him off because he had purportedly betrayed Tom’s trust). While acting off a wrong assumption, JT is at least acting off a plausible one.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] to Danielle or not. Sure, she found it, but it’s not even like Amanda took it out of her pocket (or her ample bosom); she just took it from Danielle’s poor hiding place. It’s Survivor! The tagline is […]

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  2. […] Sprint Palm Pre about which the survivors—and later Jeff—carefully choreographed their praise (for the second time this season).* The phone revealed brief messages from the final six’s family members, which of course always […]

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  3. […] enough time for a Colby-sucks-but-then-he-redeems-himself-but-now-he-sucks-even-more storyline, JT giving an immunity idol to Russell, a catfight–albeit a disappointing one–between Danielle and Amanda officiated by Colby […]

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