So we’re actually going to do things a little differently this year and start with the reunion, for a couple of reasons. For one, there’s actually more to discuss in the reunion than in the finale itself, and also I’m sure you guys are just itching to throw in your two cents on the outcome. And it turns out that I kind of have a lot to say about this. So…away we go!We begin right after it’s been announced that Natalie is the winner. Even Probst looks disappointed as he tells us to stay tuned for the reunion. Russell pulled two votes to Natalie’s seven, which is a pretty definitive win. If you need further evidence that Russell may have misplayed his social hand a little, you can see in the background (while Probst is literally saying the word “Russell” over and over again with a lack of irony bordering on hilarity), you’ll notice that no one is exactly greeting him with open arms.
Coming back from the break we get a montage of Natalie going to town on the challenges, and it is easy to forget what a badass she was, swinging from that platform and dragging puzzle pieces out of the water and whatnot.
Anyway, back from commercial it’s impossible not to notice that Russell honestly, literally looks as if he wants to cry, probably more than anyone ever on this show. I kind of feel…bad? For him? I mean, I don’t want his bullshit from this season vindicated, necessarily, and I don’t really think he deserved it any more than Natalie (which we’ll get to in a minute), but he’s clearly pretty floored.
Natalie thanks the jury. Probst points out that she had a hard time deciding whether to even join the cast or not; she missed her plane to go to casting, had to quit her job, all of it. She talks about how she did indeed sacrifice a lot, but obviously it paid off. Probst asks Natalie what “key move” she made to cement her victory, and she wisely points at Erik’s boot, and props to her for saying that because she did that pretty much singlehandedly. Probst then asks what her relationship with Russell was, and she says that they were a team, doing the same things and making the same moves. “I was doing the same thing, but it was a little more subtle. I played a better social game, and that was the difference.”
Russell interrupts Natalie’s time in the sun here like a dick, saying that her key move in the game was aligning with him. God forbid we take a break from The Russell Show to celebrate what was actually the very good gameplay of the WINNER. Jesus.
Natalie clearly wants to cut a bitch.
Russell also says that he disagrees with the fact that he played a bad social game, because he had Jaison, Mick, Natalie and Shambo eating out of his hand. “That seems like a pretty damn good social game to me,” he says indignantly. Russell is missing the point: creating a solid alliance is one PART of the social game. Making the people you beat feel respected enough to vote for you is also a major part of the social game, and he completely shit the bed there because he was too busy trying to look like a badass on television. And you know what that gets you? SECOND PLACE.
Probst points out here that Russ looks visibly upset. “I am upset, I think I played the best game out here, and the best strategic game in history,” he says, pausing so the audience can cheer. Dave Ball is behind him giving the ‘cut’ sign, and I can’t say I don’t agree with Dave. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Russell did not even come close to playing the best strategic game in history; he found idols. Yes, he made a good move here and there, but the “Russell is a master strategist” message is one that has largely been generated by this show to keep this season from completely sucking (since he was the only compelling character), and to keep the producers from looking stupid when he took advantage of their apathy to uncover some idols. I’m not saying his gameplay was bad; it was quite good at certain points. But the statement that he’s the best ever? Not even close to true. He’s not even the best player to never win.
The actual best player never to win: Rob C from Amazon.
Just to prove my point, here are a few people who are better than Russell: Boston Rob from All Stars. Rob C from the Amazon season (the best player to never win, in my opinion). JT from last season. Parvati in the Fans vs. Favorites Season. And no, I’m not kidding about that last one.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Russell is Jonny Fairplay with less hair. Russell made many of the same moves Fairplay did. Fairplay lies about his grandma, Russ lies about Hurricane Katrina. Fairplay makes alliances with everyone and overthrows the majority, Russell makes alliances with everyone and overthrows the majority. Jonny Fairplay plays a good (but not great) game and loses in the final three. Russell plays a good (but not great) game and loses in the final three. But here’s the most important similarity: Jonny Fairplay acts like a jackass for camera time, and it ends up costing him the game. And, guess what? Russell acts like a jackass for camera time, and it ends up costing him the game. There is absolutely, positively no difference between the two of them. And yet, you probably hate one and love the other. Just saying.
Probst asks Russell if he brought the wrong people to the final, and then he wants to do one of those stupid fake votes he always does with Russ in a hypothetical final three with Shambo and Jaison. This is dumb, because everyone’s already seen the show, which alters their perceptions enough that this is irrelevant. But Probst seems vindicated when Russell wins the stupid fake vote.
“Congratulations, you win a fake vote! Enjoy your fake million.”
“I have a question for Natalie,” Russell says, zooming right past this. It turns out he wants to purchase the “title of Sole Survivor” from her for ten thousand dollars if Jeff will call him the Sole Survivor and puts it on paper. I found this extremely distasteful, by the way. Natalie beat you fair and square, dick. Give her the time in the spotlight that she’s earned.
“Are you asking her to admit that you’re the better player?” Probst asks. “No, I want her to tell you to tell me that I’m the Sole Survivor!” he says, and people laugh. OMG, isn’t being a sore loser hilarious?
Probst goes to Erik here, strangely, asking him whether Natalie’s win means that she’s actually the best player. Erik wins points from me by declaring that allowing the blustering jackass to take all the bullets for you is a perfectly legitimate strategy, and he gets an applause as loud as Russell’s been getting. It seems like the audience might be fairly divided on this issue.
Probst then asks Jaison to make a statement about social politics, for some reason. Why? Anyway, Jaison says the game is a lot like the workplace, where people are trying to get a team win while attaining individual distinction at the same time. “I find it interesting that people seem to be valuing Russell’s negative contributions over someone like Natalie who is trying to be more positive.” Jaison gets loud applause here, too. I happen to think he’s full of shit, because it’s a stupid comparison to make: Work is real life, and Survivor is a game. If I beat your ass at Monopoly by bankrupting you, that doesn’t mean I’m going to try and steal your money in real life, and it certainly doesn’t make me a hypocrite for congratulating people for making bold moves and trying to win at GAMES. Shut it, Jaison.
Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean that everything you say is smart.
Jaison mentions the sock burning from the first episode and how it was unnecessary (which it was, and if I were Jaison I would certainly be holding a grudge too). Russell is all “Jaison is still upset about the socks, quit being a baby!” and then he pulls a new pair of socks out of his pocket and tosses them into the fire on live television. Was that really necessary? It’s a pretty douchey move, it’s mean spirited, and it’s all for show so that Russell look like a badass. It’s a shocker that these people wouldn’t vote for him, don’t you think? His game was so perfect, except for the fact that he tries to be intentionally mean so that he can get attention. It’s just not necessary, it’s needlessly dickish, it’s this kind of asshole thing that cost him the game, and it’s exactly why he doesn’t deserve to win.
Best response ever is: “Yeah, burn your million dollars. Oh, wait, YOU LOST!”
After the break, it’s time to talk to Shambo, unfortunately. Sham says she’s getting a positive reaction from everyone, apparently. Who are these people giving her a positive reaction, The Thundercats? “This game just gives me a venue to lambast (!) positive energy and touch kid’s lives,” Shambo says. If anyone can explain to me what that means, I will pay you cash money.
Probsts asks her about her hair, and they show a pretty great picture from 1986. Shambo is hilariously horrified at the picture, despite the fact that she has changed absolutely nothing about her look since then. She tells them the photo is from 1986, but the mullet actually started in 1984. That mullet is positively Orwellian, y’all. Big Brother is watching from beneath those flowing locks.
Wait, which one is from 1986?
The subject of Laura comes up. Shambo tells P that they’re both strong women that “rule the roost” at home, so when they saw each other they just kind of did the “BWAWK!” and walked away from each other. And yes, she makes that noise.
Laura says that she doesn’t recall the whole “BWAWK!” part, but that Shambo was probably threatened when Laura was viewed as strongest woman on the tribe, a title that Shambo thought she deserved. Jeff asks whether asks what the status of their relationship is today, and it’s pretty apparent that they’re not super friendly, but have resolved their differences.
Jeff moves on to Brett, telling him that “a carnival game thought up in a field somewhere cost him a million dollars”. I’m sure the producers are ecstatic about their challenges being called “carnival games”, incidentally. Brett says that it hurts, duh. He’s boring.
Probst then holds ANOTHER fake vote with Brett in the final three, and it’s pretty clear that he would have won. “When you saw that challenge replayed, did you relive it?” he asks. What kind of question is that? “It’s tough to have your fate determined by a figurine falling over,” Brett says. This would be valid, except for the part where Brett’s terrible strategy painted him into a corner in the first place, and therefore the statue was just the final straw in a haystack of idiocy, but whatever.
Seriously, no idea who this guy is.
Hey, let’s relive Nice Russell’s near death experience, shall we? Delightful! He tells Probst that he was pretty mad at him for removing him from the game, and he had no idea just how bad he was until he watched the episode a few weeks ago. There’s also a cute little story about how he argued with his wife about whether or not he is still currently living.
Back from the break, Probst asks Natalie whether she’s going to take Russell’s offer of ten grand. She declines it, and good for her: she won. That’s it. Eat it, Bitter McGee. He then ups it to 100 grand, and she still says no. Because we’ve now reached the part of the show that’s actually been allocated to Russell (as opposed to the other parts of the show featuring Russell, where he simply hijacked the spotlight rudely), Probst gets to ask his pre-written questions. What do people on the street think about Russell? He says people hated him at first, but now they love him. Then Probst asks what children think, for some reason. Who gives a shit what kids think about Russell? Of all the questions you could ask him, this is what you choose?
I asked some babies what they thought of Russell, and they were all “He’s alright, mostly because all his teeth haven’t come in yet, either.”
Probst admits that production was surprised that he managed to find idols without any clues, and Russell tells Probst the same thing he’s been saying, which is that he knew that the idols had to be near landmarks. He also admits that it took him a really long time (like, days) to find them all. “Did we create a monster? You’re really into this game, aren’t you?” Probst says. “Yes, I take it very seriously, and I thought I’d win because everyone else did too, but apparently that’s not the case,” he says indignantly. There is no possible way the jury could legitimately think Natalie actually deserved to win, right? Yes, Russell, the only way that these people can “respect the game” is to admit your awesomeness and award you money. Convenient. Fuck you in the pants, dude. Jesus, I can’t believe I have to watch this shit again next season.
Probst points out that Russell has two little girls and a wife, and yet he talked a lot about his “dumb ass girl alliance”, which a lot of women thought was disrespectful. “Do you regret saying that, Russell?” Probst asks.
Russell’s response is the most telling thing he’s done all season: “I have no regrets for how I played the game,” he says. Here’s the thing: Russell called Natalie a “dumb ass girl” in a confessional, an aspect of the show that has literally nothing to do with gameplay and everything to do with angling for camera time. That comment is not a part of Russell’s gameplay, it’s something Russell did to earn some attention, because Russell is 49% strategist, and 51% camera whore. In short, Natalie spent her time thinking about how to win the money, while Russell spent his time thinking about how to get on camera. This is why he will never, ever be the best player in the history of the show: he’s too busy trying to LOOK like the best player, which is entirely different from actually BEING a good player.
It doesn’t make Russell The Best Player Ever to call someone a dumbass or burn their shit, and these people are not babies for refusing to reward that kind of behavior. Like I’ve said a million times, if he had just shut the hell up and played the game, I’d like him a lot more, the audience would like him a lot more, and most importantly, he’d probably be a millionaire. But time and time again, Russell has chosen to LOOK like a badass instead of actually BEING a badass.
The truly sad thing? Is that he can’t make the distinction. Doing mean shit for no reason other than to look cool is not “taking the game seriously”, as he seems to think. It’s being a dickhole. There’s a difference.
Maybe next time don’t be such a dick. It’s not that hard.
The whole “dumb ass girls” thing is just one instance of Russell choosing attention over resourcefulness. Burning the socks (both times)? Paying Natalie to give up the title? The countless other mean spirited things he said to production only that have no real purpose in the game itself, and exist only to make him look awesome while belittling others? These things are designed to earn Russell attention. The fact that he thinks it’s “gameplay” is ridiculous, and that’s the shit that cost him the win. None of it makes him a good player, it makes him kind of sad, and he got what he deserved when all that stuff came back and bit him in the ass.
Okay, I’m done.
“Well, it looks like one of those “dumb ass girls” beat your ass,” Probst says to very correct whoops and hollers. Good for Natalie for getting in on that action too, because he’s been rude to her this whole time.
Word, Probst. Man, it’s weird to say that.
At this point Probst goes out into the audience to introduce us to Russell’s wife. She looks exactly like what you would expect: pretty, simple, probably a lot of fun, but dressed like new money. She tells Jeff that Russell is actually very charming, and calls him a “great guy and father”. Russell does look legitimately sad here that he couldn’t bring the win home for her. To qualify, I’m sure he is a great guy when he’s not on television. However, I’ve only ever seen him on television, so: asshole.
By the way, my theory is that Russell would not have won, no matter who he took with him. Jaison wins if he goes (he’s too good at speaking), Natalie wins if she goes (for obvious reasons), Mick probably wins if it’s Russell-Mick-Shambo, for the same reason that Natalie just won. You can’t have your douchebag flavored cake and eat it too. Plenty of people have dominated the game, didn’t have the best reputation, and won at the end, because they only did sneaky things in order to advance themselves, not to look tricky for America. JT, for instance. He did literally ALL the same shit Russell did, but he was a better player because he made it look like did it because he had to and not because he wanted to. Parvati, who blindsided literally everyone and still managed to win. I could keep going.
Anyway, at the break, there is a bongo player who is just WAY too into it.
Bongo Guy for the viewer prize.
After the break, I guess we have to talk to Ben, who is still flashing the stupid outlaw tattoo like the poseur he is. Probst asks if he made up with Yasmin. The correct answer is: no one cares.
Now it’s time for the viewer awarded prize, which should be abolished forever. The top three turn out to be Russell, Shambo and Brett, mostly because America never got the chance to meet anyone else. The money ends up going to Russell. Again, if anyone in America had any idea who the rest of these people on stage were, this could be seen as legitimate. “Hey America! Who’s your favorite character on The Russell Show? Why, it’s Russell? Shocking!”
And now it’s time to talk briefly with some of the also-rans. Mike B who passed out in the second episode makes fun of Russell for crying on camera, heh. Ashley watches Survivor with her dad. Monica says she had fun. Yasmin says she’s forgiven Ben and they hug, forever united by the power of racism. Probst tells us that people apparently really liked Betsy, who says that Jeff “makes her sweat”. Information I did not need to know, but Jeff gets a nice little comic moment here.
Up next: a preview of Survivor 20! We get a montage of some great Survivor moments. Sue Hawk’s snakes and rats speech. Mike from Australia falling into the fire and getting burnt, which makes that whole “Russell Swan passing out” episode look pretty tame by comparison. Jonny Fairplay lying about his grandma. Coach slaying non-existent dragons. Erik with the floppy hair giving his immunity away to Natalie on the Fans versus Favorites season, then promptly getting voted out. Russell playing the one immunity idol he used effectively.
So, the worst kept secret ever is officially revealed: next season is going to be an All-Star edition, pitting Survivor Heroes versus Survivor Villains. Here’s what’s going to happen:
1)Yes, Russell will very likely be on it.
2)The news stories tell us that Season 20 was filmed back to back with Season 19 for budgetary reasons (revealed because a natural disaster hit Samoa), which therefore means that the other castaways will have no knowledge about him whatsoever, which is a huge advantage, if you think about it. During the first All Star season, everyone had at least seen a few episodes of Rupert before they all left.
3)This means that Russell will probably do well, given that he will be both familiar with the terrain and unknown to the others, which means no prejudices, which means that they are more likely to trust him. He will also very likely continue to be a dick. He’ll probably pull all the exact same shit, including finding the idols, thereby making next season boring to watch, because we’ve all already seen it once.
4)Therefore, if life is just, he will make the final three and then be promptly served a tasty Second Place Sandwich, just like he was this season. Except it will not be as satisfying as it should, because:
5)Stupid CBS will give away ANOTHER viewer million, thereby enraging me and completing Russell’s transformation into Alternate Dimension Rupert.
Seriously, watch it happen, people. If he’s not voted out in the first episode, I’m rooting for him to get to the end just to watch him pull an Amanda.
And with that, what I believe to be the single worst season of Survivor ever draws to a close. Congratulations, Thailand Season: you’re the real winner here. See everyone in February!