It’s Night 5 as Matt arrives on Redemption Island to meet Francisca. Isn’t the rigid Survivor schedule a vote every 3 days? When was that changed? Fran is shocked to see Matt because he is not one of the multiple crazies running around Ometepe, and Matt says he feels sick to his stomach getting blindsided by Rob so early.
“Why would they blindside me when I’m so exceedingly bland?”
He calls Boston Rob “Boston,” which sounds wrong and is the equivalent of calling Lady Gaga “Lady,” and then continues to complain about being blinded. Wow, I see why we haven’t adopted this format before, because people voted out after only five days have very little to say that’s actually interesting. On the other hand I wish this had come one season sooner so we could have had the joys of watching awful Shannon bond with Wendy Jo for three days.
Lest we forget.
Back at Ometepe, Rob is patting himself on the back for being awesome at everything. And well-deserved, if you agree that getting rid of Matt was best. He assures Phillip that he is now in the Grant/Natalie/Ashley alliance, but at the bottom rung. This is still probably the greatest moment of Phillip’s life. American heroism aside, of course.
Basically the Survivor Kiss of Death.
Phillip agrees to be amazingly loyal forever and ever. Rob says now his biggest threat is Andrea. For the love of God, Andrea, swing Phillip and Kristina! I want the craziest alliance ever to march to victory.
The next morning, Fran and Matt open their Redemption Island tree mail. It basically says it’s time to duel to the death. Man, this must be awkward.
Zapatera gets the note that says that two of them will get to watch the duel. They immediately choose colored rocks, but if you look closely at the note it says that they’re supposed to choose and only use the rocks if they can’t make a unanimous decision. Where’s our footage of Russell refusing to compromise, damnit? Steve and David are drawn, which will keep any info squarely outside the Russell Harem.
Ometepe also goes to the rocks (CONSPIRACY) and Andrea and Ashley are drawn, which is absolutely the worst for Rob because he doesn’t want Andrea and Matt anywhere near each other. You can tell when he gets nervous and angry because he switches into that loud, non-accented voice he sometimes uses.
Duel time! Basically this whole thing is going to be played like a really intense game of golf, and it’s not until you see what comes later in the episode that you hate Jeff Probst for making this part take twenty minutes.
Just look how concerned he is. A DUEL TO THE DEATH!
Fran and Matt are playing the standard Survivor get-the-key-outside-the-cage-door-game. Jeff explains the rules and Andrea jumps in and says she didn’t vote for either of them. One, that’s because your first vote was part of a split to get rid of either Fran or Kristina and two, shut up. That should be against the rules, no? Jeff tries to build drama but Fran and Matt are too classy and basically wish each other luck.
“These sticks are the worst. Too bad I made alliances with all of them.”
“How would Jesus escape this cage?”
You need three keys to open three locks, and it’s like ten minutes of quite building with Jeff using his best quiet dramatic voice to exclaim stupid stuff like “that stick looks like it’s working now!” Fran gets her first two keys like right away but then struggles and Matt comes back and wins it in a fairly dramatic ending. Bye Fran! I was definitely rooting for you because you keep things spicy with the Crazy Ometepes, but now we can have a nice Matt redemption storyline. Fran is asked to burn her buff and walk away, because Randy set the gold standard for how bitter players must exit the game.
Jeff tells Matt to head back and wait for his next opponent (though how crazy would it have been if Jeff was like, “surprise! You get to reenter right now! Redemption Island done.”) and Matt chuckles. Jeff demands to know why and Matt says this terrible camp is nothing like the fantastic Disneyland that blindsided his ass last night. Jeff tells everyone to make it interesting and lie, damnit.
Back at Ometepe everyone awesomely assumes that Matt was the winner and Ashley and Andrea play up how much he wanted revenge. Rob assures us that Redemption Island is real (luckily for the producers, because if Boston Rob said it was fake they’d have to cancel it) and he is worried about Matt coming back. He pulls Andrea aside and says a lot of ridiculous things about how he had no choice and they had to do it and couldn’t tell her. C’mon, Andrea. He HAD to rip apart his alliance at the second Tribal Council? She totally buys it and establishes herself as not worth rooting for by practically begging Rob to at least vote out Phillip and Kristina before her. Swing them! Aaarrgh! I don’t know how Rob gets this much power every season, but he’s so damn good. Oh Jesus, and then Andrea starts crying. DAY SIX, PEOPLE.
Zapatera tells Russell that Fran won (I’m not 100% sold on the strategic advantage of feeding Russell this fake info, but hey, anything to hurt Russell is aOK with me). And now it’s time to begin Russell’s pathetic downfall.
The first stirrings of concern.
He notes that it’s 6-3 in his tribe (entirely your fault) so maybe the producers should hurry up and hand him an idol or something. “If I find the idol, Russell gets another blindside” he promises. Playing for blindsides and drama instead of alliances, there’s a good strategy. Then he notes how vague the clue is, pointing only to something alive next to something now alive. Nature lesson with Dr. Hantz: “the trees are alive, the running water is alive.” 50% isn’t bad. And then, lots of awesome footage of Russell looking everywhere and Stephanie beginning to realize she’s made poor, poor choices.
She decides that they need to make a fake idol, which we never see, and then sells this by carrying her bag all over camp as nonchalantly as possible. Russell tries to hint to Steve that that could be the idol, but it just comes off as really creepy in a sex offender way. Then, for good measure, assures Steve that whatever he orders the girls will do. WHAT? How does that even make sense? Not even when Russell is trying to create paranoia can he refrain from asserting how great he is. Steve tells us that everyone just needs to get Russell out and then they’ll be fine.
Steve: Smarter than at least two whole Survivor casts.
AND THEN THE WORST THING EVER HAPPENS KIDS RUN FOR YOUR LIVES.
We’re going to EARN our Russell-ousting episode, damnit.
Apparently Russell has been shaving his armpits (I’ll just ask it: why?) and they got infected, so now he lies around all the time. Hey, show, don’t try to make excuses for Russell! He’s not gonna get a sympathetic edit as long as there’s breath in my body, damnit. Dave says some hilarious things about him lounging around with his harem and all the other guys decide that he’s done. GOOD. And then Steve proposes that they throw the next challenge. I am a huge fan of this idea, and let me tell you why. 1: It means no more Russell. 2: It means that Russell is SUCH a bad social player that not only was he an easy first vote, they all went out of their ways to get rid of him. 3: Most importantly, I love it when tribes throw challenges and Jeff LOSES it. See: Sudoku-playing Peih-Gee in China.
The guys propose it to Sarita and Julie, and Julie reasonably counters that it’s never a good idea to put one’s tribe down in numbers because then Ometepe could gain momentum. True. This is definitely a multi-sided argument. Is a duplicitous tribemate better than no tribemate? Discuss. They decide that if once they get there they decide to throw it, they’ll give each other a thumbs up. Man, I love all the stupid signals this season. And not even from Special Agent Phillip!
Challenge time. Jeff asks if they’re ready and everyone mumbles yes except Phillip, who boldly intones “we are.” I love him. Today they’re doing that spinning wheel challenge from last season where we almost drowned people, and then someone has to do a puzzle. Winner gets immunity and some pillows and tarps and stuff.
Sarita and David immediately throw the thumbs up, and hey, rare insights into their strategizing time! Ometepe’s amounts to “uh, put Rob on the puzzle” but everyone in the Zapatera Six agrees to throw it, minus hesitant Julie.
So the wheels are turning and everyone is spitting, but Julie just purposely misses and Steve spins slower than he could. How come Jeff isn’t losing it, damnit?
In fairness to Ometepe, I would not be surprised in Kristina spun around on giant wheels and spat water into tubes as part of her daily routine.
Ometepe releases their ball and Rob gets to work. The Zapatera ball falls but David just kind of…does nothing. Russell is not happy. And it’s the first win for Ometepe. Russell calls them all bitches in confessional, which makes you wonder why they would want to vote out such a charmer.
Back at camp Ometepe puts the tarp on their roof and everyone starts looking for the idol clue. I am a big fan of the hiding them in rewards policy.
And also Kristina decides to dig under this tree for some reason.
Rob says that he used to ignore immunity idols but that didn’t work out, so now he looks everywhere for them. Then, we get an AWESOME sequence where Phillip is sitting in one of the chairs that they won and Rob notices the clue wedged underneath the fabric. Rob, because he is the best at this game, tells Phillip he needs to fix the chair and gets him to move, then swipes it. Now imagine if he had been Naonka.
Rob says he’s happy Phillip is so fat that he noticed it (you’re no Courtney yourself, Rob) and then gets the super-vague clue, but can’t find the idol yet.
Zapatera comes back. The Six decide that they’ll split their votes 3-3 between Russell and Stephanie. And you can note that I am VERY surprised Ralph didn’t share that he had the idol with his group. And then it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Russell starts crying.
“No, I just have a hidden immunity idol in my eye.”
Yes, he realizes he has no idol, no majority alliance, and has burned through these people’s will to tolerate him in a scant eight days. What does 16th place do to your overall average, Russell? And if you lose the duel it’s actually 17th. Even Amanda cracked the Top Ten her third time out.
So Stephanie realizes that Russell is basically worthless when he can’t threaten or bully or play idols and springs into action, so she approaches Julie (or “the old lady” as Russell calls her). Steph tells her she should consider voting with them because they “have stuff up their sleeves” and the idol, and Julie appears to fall for it entirely because Russell knows how to get to the top and she wants to be there. Then she gives a lot of confessionals in which she appears really overwhelmed. Dear Julie, make the right choice. Love, America.
Stephanie freaks out about this being the biggest blindside ever and Russell goes and shakes her hand, realizing this is his very last chance. He tells her to vote Ralph and he’ll have her back forever and she agrees. Then he flexes his really dumb “keep hope alive” bicep tattoo. Only Phillip gets a free pass on this sort of thing because he is Phillip. Also, there’s a scary lack of confessionals from Julie in which she says she’s still undecided so I am FREAKING OUT at this point.
Tribal Council. Ralph says tribal is good and bad and then starts slurring his way through an answer about getting to vote someone off. Steve comes right out and says Russell and his two girls are apart from everyone else and Sarita cites all his usual terrible behavior. Russell says that he’s here to win and not lose, and then calls them out on throwing the challenge.
This is like a murder accusation to Jeff, who asks Mike if it’s true. Mike says they didn’t go 100% but they didn’t throw it. Wrong answer, Mike! You either deny deny deny or just own it, none of this halfway stuff. But he also says they have fat on the tribe that they need to trim. HA!
Julie the swing-vote says that she wants to enter the merge with numbers, and then Stephanie jumps in and argues that Russell would be a huge part of moving forward after the merge and Russell does this AWFUL grin and head-shake that confirms they totally rehearsed this earlier.
This screenshot just says so much about each of them.
Stephanie calls them all dumb because they aren’t considering each other stabbing them in the back, which kind of seems to run counter to the point she just made about keeping numbers for the merge. David tries to interupt her and she Mean-Girls him down.
This Tribal Council actually could have been done entirely in photos.
She keeps squawking about how dumb it is to throw numbers, and Jeff says that an incohesive 9 is a better than a tight 6 in a merge. Have we been watching the same show, Probst? See Samoa and Tocantins for examples of tight groups outlasting a more incohesive majority. I can’t believe he would claim that.
Jeff then tries to egg David on for doing an awful job with the puzzle and Stephanie also attacks him for it. Sarita says Russell is awful and Stephanie AGAIN opens her mouth and starts bitching about how Russell is God. Ralph slurs some more. In the immortal words of Naonka, can we vote yet Jeff?
Oh, and remember last week when Jeff asked to look at his man-crush’s bicep? He does it again with Russell. I can’t write this stuff, though I totally did last week.
“Russell, how much do you bench? And do you maybe want to get coffee after this?”
So Russell gets one last chance to say vague stuff about how great he is, and then it’s time to vote. I’M ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT.
Ralph votes for “Ressell” and Russell votes for Ralph and says “this is my game, sucka” because he is a pro-wrestler from the late 90s.
Time to read the votes. It comes down to 3/3/2 Russell/Ralph/Stephanie and the last vote is…Stephanie! And Julie even grinned at Russell right before the last vote in a perfect screw-you! AMERICA LOVES JULIE! Revote time, sucka.
So long Russell. His name comes up, his torch is snuffed, he says something dumb. It’s all we’ve ever dreamed of and more.
WELL. Well, well, well. How happy are we? How fucked is “Storms a’coming Stephanie?” And what do we think of the Zapatera Six? I sort of like how it’s an alliance made up of older people that aren’t attention whores, which sort of reminds me of old-school Survivor. If there’s a merge, I’m definitely on their side over Stephanie and the Rob Mariano Mafia at Ometepe. Minus Phillip and Kristina of course. I root for them over all else.