Russell proves that clues are for suckers by finding a second hidden immunity idol

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 28, 2015 at 02:36 AM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS

Survivor

S19 E9
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There are few things sweeter than watching people get duped at Tribal Council. Wedding day. Birth of my kids. I’ll get in serious trouble if I don’t put those above it. Seeing the Cowboys lose is pretty great. And the fight scene from They Live is about as amazing as amazing gets (“Put on the glasses!!!”). But after all that comes watching people get duped at Tribal Council. And it’s especially sweet when the dupees have only themselves to blame. Galu was sitting pretty up 8-4 at the merge. But they got complacent and decided to vote off one of their own. Well, guess what? Now, after ditching Erik, ostracizing Shambo, and allowing Russell to find a second hidden immunity idol with no clues — we are looking at a 5-5 deadlock. Nineteen seasons in and people still cannot grasp the fundamentals of the game. I love it. And those of you who hate Russell — and lord knows you have your reasons what with his silly hat, grandstanding, and wicked words about women — you had to kinda love it as well. Why? For two reasons. (1) He’s playing the game! He found two idols with no clues. Now, don’t get me wrong, producers make it so easy to find these damn things, you could practically stumble into them (as Parvati claims she did in Micronesia). But still, he was the only one smart enough to look. The one thing true hardcore Survivor fans want are contestants who would kill to be there and will scrape, fight, and claw to stay in the game. Well, in Samoa, that contestant is Russell. If you respect nothing else about him, respect the effort. (2) He’s now the underdog. Everyone loves the underdog. As the biggest target of a tribe that was down four members, every week he sticks around is flat-out incredible. And whether it is deserved or not — nice, happy, friendly Galu have now been cast in the role of entitled bullies. What’s more fun to watch: Galu picking off their helpless underlings one by one, or the seemingly outmatched minority fighting back? You know my answer.

So to all you hardcore Russell haters out there, admit it: When he stood up as the votes were about to be read, and Dave’s mouth fell open and Erik started punching the air with his fists, and Russell calmly and coolly looked at the Galu members and said, “I ain’t finished playin’ just yet” — you were totally into it. You can go back to wanting him eradicated from existence next week, but this? It was pretty sweet. So sweet that I wasn’t even that upset that it meant the hottest girl on the show (Kelly) was no longer.

Of course, we knew Russell was not going home from the previews last week showing everyone talking about voting him out. Our suspicions were confirmed two minutes into the episode when Laura boldly proclaimed, “Russell is going to be gone next” — always a sure sign that the intended target will slip by unscathed. But not everyone was as lucky as Russell. I’m speaking, of course, about the rat Natalie pummeled into submission with her big stick. Honestly, I didn’t know Natalie had it in her, although it would have been a bit more badass had she not then apologized to the rat after killing it.

NEXT: Russell’s second chance with the idol

After their vermin feast, it was off to the reward challenge, which was a case of the blind literally leading the (half) naked. Teams were split into two and told to collect and arrange poles that would make a four digit number which a blindfolded member then had to arrange to open a lock. Perhaps as punishment for bludgeoning a poor, defenseless rat, Natalie was not selected for either team, but instead had to pick one side to root for, and if they won, she could join them in sliding down a wet rock. Unsurprisingly, the team that won was the one with all Galu members on it. At their little rockslide getaway, the winners were presented with a clue to a new hidden immunity idol. (Is there a Survivor sweatshop set up somewhere churning these things out by the hundreds, or what?)

But back at camp, Russell was already searching for it. “I’m gonna find the next immunity idol and I’m not gonna tell a damn soul.” (Don’t believe the last half of that sentence.) And find it he did, right under the bridge. “That easy,” he said. And he’s right, it was easy. They’re always easy to find. That’s intentional as the producers like the drama that unfolds when idols are secretly put into play. Of course, Russell couldn’t help himself and immediately started blabbing to everyone about how he found the idol, starting with Shambo. At least I think he told her. Honestly, I’ve tried to wipe the entire scene from my mind due to Shambo’s shorts riding uncomfortably high in the crotch region. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she also engaged in the longest upper inner thigh scratch I have ever witnessed in my entire life. Seriously, it went on so long, I thought the producers had merely looped it for comedic effect. But no! It was just Shambo scratching away. Where’s the blurry pixilation when you need it? This is the 8p.m. “Family Hour” for crissakes! You want me to sic Yul Kwon and the FCC on your ass?

Anyway, I gave Russell a lot of crap for not keeping his previous HII under wraps, but telling the people he told this time made sense. He needed them to be on board for his plan to use it and instead have the votes bounce back onto Laura. But Laura has proved herself to be an immunity idol-winning machine. She just barely made it out of the first round in the latest immunity competition, roping in her puzzle bags a hair before Russell did, and then fell way behind in round two when she could not open her bag. But then the woman entered The Zone, throwing peg pieces into holes at a furious pace to overtake Shambo and Mick (who sat there mesmerized without moving for so long that I thought he was auditioning for a part inThe Men Who Stare at Goats 2: Leaders Who Don’t Actually Know How to Lead.) Laura grabbed immunity, so the target shifted to Kelly.

NEXT: Russell plays his hand

Meanwhile, the Galuians were deciding how they were planning to vote. Monica brought up the option of splitting the vote in case Russell had found another idol. “We can’t worry about that right now,” replied Dave. Yeah, you know why you can’t worry about it? BECAUSE YOU VOTED OUT ERIK AND SHUNNED SHAMBO AND NOW DON’T HAVE THE NUMBERS TO SPLIT THEM UP! But Russell playing another idol was a concern. John the rocket scientist said it was not rocket science that Foa would be looking for an idol, and Laura agreed. Then Dave (who until this episode seemed like a smart guy) uttered something so shockingly dumb that I had thought we were experiencing a Freaky Friday moment and that he had morphed into Shambo for a minute. “If he suspects there’s one here, I’d be surprised,” said Dave/Shambo. Surprised at what? First off, Russell found one at his camp, so why wouldn’t he think there would be one at this camp as well? And if he found an idol with no clue already, what makes you think he needs a clue now? Weird stuff. Almost as weird as when they also let Russell overhear them talking about maybe ousting Natalie. This led to some momentary indecision on Russell’s part: “I don’t want to be the dumbass that gets voted out with the idol in his pocket. And I don’t want to be the dumbass that uses the idol and then nobody votes my name, like last time.” Trust me, Russell, if you want to be the dumbass in this episode, you better take a number, brother, because there is a loooooooong line in front of ya.

As a viewer, this is the situation you want to be in heading into a Tribal Council, where there are multiple parties with necks potentially on the line: in this case, Russell, Natalie, and Kelly. And this Tribal did not disappoint. Even before Russell played the idol, you had Erik making evil eyes at his former friends and tribemates. You had Dave (perhaps still in the midst of his body switcheroo with Shambo) making incredibly idiotic statements like “To be honest, our tribe was weakened from within by Erik’s presence.” Why would you ever openly dis and dismiss a jury member that you could later be asking to hand you a million dollars? What possible good does that do you? Moments like these are infuriating and hilarious at the same time. Kelly then went on to call Erik a snake, and I bet they’re having simply a fantastic time together at Ponderosa.

Of course, the best part of all was Russell playing the idol, Dave repeatedly mouthing the word “Wow!” to nobody in particular, and Probst just reading vote after vote that all said “Russell” and all meant about as much as my framed Gheorghe Muresan Fan Club certificate — which is to say, absolutely nothing. (How much you want to bet the Galu folks are still waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with the words “Russell — does not count… Russell — does not count… Russell — does not count…” running through their heads?) Then Probst read the first Kelly vote, and it was all over. “He just stirred up a whole lot of hell is what he did,” said Laura. And she’s right, but you know what? We love it! That’s exactly why we watch people stranded on an island together — well, that and the skimpy swimsuits. (Again, sucks to lose Kelly in that regard.)

And the hunt for the next immunity idol has already begun. Judging by previews for next week’s episode, it looks like one great big scavenger hunt. This is a delicate dilemma for producers. Obviously, the HII adds great drama to the game, but it also gets a little absurd when people are finding idols so easily and so often. And before we finish up, I’ve had some fun at Shambo’s expense the past few weeks, but props must be given where props are due, and I LOVE the way she played dumb when Russell used the idol. She looked as shocked as everyone else, and then even nodded in agreement at Laura’s comment about stirring up hell. Well played, serial inner thigh scratcher!

As always, a few programming notes. The newest exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode is below. Also, one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Courtney Yates of Survivor: China, will be interviewing Kelly with me on Survivor Talk (you can check that out as well as past episodes and deleted scenes at our sparkling Survivor Video hub. Of course, Jeff Probst has all the inside scoop on the big Tribal Council craziness, so make sure to enjoy his latest weekly blog. Now, your three questions of the week, which I’d love to hear answers for in the comments section: 1) Has Galu’s stupidity turned you into a Russell rooter? 2) Did Shambo make the right move defecting? 3) Are the hidden immunity idols too damn easy to find? Sound off on the message boards and let us know!

And to get all the latest Survivor scoop, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.

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