In an episode so nice they had to eliminate twice, Russell decides to rock the boat, sending one of his partners overboard

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 28, 2015 at 01:20 AM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS

Survivor

S20 E12
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Wow, so much to get into with the latest episode of Survivor: Heroes vs Villains. Two immunity challenges! Two eliminations! Tears! Name calling! Colored paint showers! But I thought I would start by…

Probst: ”Hold on there a second, Dalton.”

Me: ”Jeff Probst?!? What are you doing here? Don’t you have your own EW.com blog you should be working on? What’s up with you invading my personal space, man? Oh, were you hoping to embed another hidden immunity idol clue in my recap? When you said to ‘hold on a second’ were you, in fact, referring to the second page of my recap? Is there a hidden immunity idol somewhere on page 2?! And is that why Rupert is currently shoving page 3 in his pants to make people think that he already has it?”

Probst: ”Calm down, you skinny freak. There are no more hidden immunity idols. We’ve decided to cap the number we distribute throughout each season to a respectable 4,273. The prop department just couldn’t keep up with the demand.”

Me: ”But I thought the one Sandra found was only number 3,749?”

Probst: ”It was. But then she stumbled on — and I mean literally stumbled on — another one on the way back to camp, and Parvati dug up 37 on the beach after deciphering a cryptic message we had left that read, There are 37 hidden immunity idols buried on the beach. Oh, and then the contestants were super bored around camp, so we gave them three more to use to practice juggling with. We also stuffed 48 into Colby’s bag and told him all he had to do was open it to get them, but he seemed more interested in trying to find a DVD player so he could rewatch Treasure Island, so I’m not sure if those will come into play. And then there are another 435 out there that I lost track of. I think Russell may have them.”

Me: ”Okay, well, what gives then? I need to get going on this column. So if you don’t mind…”

Probst: ”Oh, I don’t mind. The question you should be asking yourself is: Do you mind?”

Me: ”That doesn’t make any sense.”

Probst: ”Crap. You’re right. Scratch that. Okay, look, here’s the deal — you can continue writing your recap, orrrrrrrrrr you can enjoy this covered item that I have brought along to tempt…”

Me: ”I’LL TAKE IT!”

Probst: ”But I haven’t even shown you what it is yet!”

Me: ”I don’t care. I’ll take it.”

Probst: ”Let me get this straight: Here we are, a pivotal episode in one of our most dramatic seasons ever, and you’re ready to call it quits right off the bat, just to get your hands on whatever is under here. Is that right?”

Me: ”That about sums it up. And if that is a can of Milwaukee’s Best under there, it will all be worth it.”

NEXT: Gone in 60 seconds

Probst: ”Okay. Drop your laptop and come on over.”

Me: ”Do I have to actually drop the laptop? I mean, this thing ain’t cheap.”

Probst: ”Drop it.”

S*#DN_)I+++++SIUhiuF&^ujnepok~~ (Laptop hitting ground.)

Probst: ”Okay, sucker. Here you go” (Takes covering off plate to reveal rolled up parchment)

Me (reading parchment): ”Dalton, either finish writing your Survivor recap or you’re totally fired. Love, EW.com editors. P.S. You owe us $1,000 for a new laptop. P.P.S. Please hand this to Russell when you are done as it also serves as another hidden immunity idol. P.P.P.S. Also give Russell your broken laptop. That’s now been turned into a hidden immunity idol, too. Recycling!”

Fear not, loyal Survivor recap reader! I would never punk out like Sandra and Russell in last night’s first immunity competition. One minute? They lasted one minute before quitting in exchange for an unknown object (that turned out to be cookies and milk)? I don’t care how safe you feel in this game, you never, ever take some sweets over a chance for immunity. How many times have we seen someone who thought they were safe getting turned on at the last minute (paging Danielle DiLorenzo!)? I don’t know what was lamer: a seemingly safe Russell and Sandra bowing out after 60 seconds, or a definitely-in-danger Colby calling it quits 20 minutes in for donuts and coffee. I don’t care how far he has made it: What a HUGE disappointment Colby has been this season. His awfulness in this competition was exceeded only by his lameness in the second immunity challenge when he came in dead last. And how shocking was it to hear the Villains talking about wanting to keep Colby around because of how pathetic he is in the challenges. This is Colby Donaldson we’re talking about! The original challenge dominator! What the hell happened to you, man?

The amazing thing about that first challenge (well, I suppose there were two amazing things if you include Danielle’s bikini bottom being washed away by a wave of purple fluid) is that only two people (Parvati and Rupert) did not quit for food. That’s pretty astounding. Think Candice now regrets stepping down for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Someone always does. In any event, this was one of the snippiest Survivor episodes we’ve seen in a while, with three different confrontations. Let’s take them one by one:

CONFRONTATION #1: Russell vs Rupert

”He could be worse than Johnny Fairplay,” Rupert commented on Russell, before amending his opinion. ”He is.” Rupert’s wrong about this: Both were big fat liars, but Russell’s gameplay is far more sound that Fairplay’s. Plus, Fairplay is a quitter and that is about as low as you can go in Survivor circles. Still stung by Russell’s deception, Rupert confronted him by the fire: ”You’ve already proven yourself to be a disgusting, terrible human being to swear on your kids’ life.” Look, I’m not here to say Russell’s a great guy, but I am a big believer in separating life inside and outside of the game. If you take someone’s word in this game, then shame on you, not them. And for a player in season 20 to still get upset over someone swearing on a family member’s life only to then go back on their word, well, it’s kind of naïve and kind of absurd. I actually thought Russell’s initial reaction of, ”It is the game. You really f—ed it up for yourself,” was pretty accurate. And as much as people both inside and outside of Survivor may not like Russell, I also know there were plenty of folks who enjoyed hearing him mock the bearded wonder: ”The great, powerful Rupert, The good guy. The second coming of Christ… You’re such a dumbass, Rupert.”

NEXT: Pride and Prejudice and Colby

I’m not defending Russell or saying how swell he is. But I am always amazed that people in this game have no problem with lying and backstabbing…until it happens to them. Rupert had no moral objections when he thought that Russell was lying to his Villain buddies. But when he found out he was on the receiving end of the ruse, well, then, that makes Russell the scum of the earth all of a sudden. And if Rupert thinks Russell is so despicable, then why do we see them perhaps forming an alliance together in next week’s episode? Ethical rage sure can conveniently come and go in this game. However, I will give Rupert small props for figuring out that he should fake having found the hidden immunity idol. Even though his painful fumbling around with it when Probst asked at Tribal if anyone wanted to use one didn’t make any sense whatsoever (the votes have been cast already! You don’t need to act anymore!).

CONFRONTATION #2: Colby vs Candice

About once every five episodes, Colby actually shows he cares about something. He’s kinda like a guy waking up out of coma, mumbling a few incoherent sentences, and then drifting back off to sleep. His latest momentary reawakening occurred at the first Tribal Council as Candice explained how she was not responsible for putting the final nail in the Heroes’ coffin. ”I have no respect for the excuses,” barked out Colby, which one can only hope extends to any excuses that one might make about sucking in challenges and/or daydreaming all day at the beach. When Candice rephrased to explain that ”it’s not gonna get me any further in the game to go down on a sinking ship,” aggro-Colby responded with ”Well, then that’s what you should have said right there!” Then, while casting his vote for Candice (who was voted out 5-3 over Rupert), Colby went the high and mighty route, proclaiming, ”I can honestly say I am proud of the way I played this game. Can you?” Hey, you know what would make me proud? Winning. You know what would not make me proud? Losing. That’s as far as pride should extend into this game, if you ask me. Still, of all the things for Colby to get so angry about (J.T.’s stupidity, Russell’s deception, Rupert obsession with tie-dye), this one seemed a bit on the random side. It obviously was taxing for Colby as well, and as a result, he slept completely through the next immunity challenge.

NEXT: Russell, Danielle, and the sealing of fate

CONFRONTATION #3: Russell vs. Danielle

The last dust-up was easily the most confusing and dramatic. The one thing I always thought was overlooked about Russell in Samoa is that once he settled on a final four, he stuck with that group to the very end. For all the talk about him being a backstabber, he was far more loyal to his alliance than many, many others (including several ”Heroes” that we have seen in that position). I thought we’d see the same thing here (especially when he handed off two hidden immunity idols to alliance-mate Parvati). I thought wrong. In Samoa, Russell’s leadership was never challenged, but he started becoming very uncomfortable here that he would be the odd man out in a Parvati-Danielle alliance. And he may have been right. So I don’t fault him for being paranoid. I think he was on to something. But I still think his move to oust Danielle was ill conceived.

First he made the mistake of playing Parvati and Danielle against each other, thinking they wouldn’t compare notes. When Parvati explained that she was going to go talk to Danielle, Russell started screaming at her, realizing he was about to be caught red-handed. This is called overplaying your hand: going out of your way to make people trust you less, not more. Still, it looked like the Villains would all still vote as a block to get rid of Rupert, but then came Tribal Council.

Danielle, seeing herself on the verge of going from top of the pack to bottom of the food chain due to no fault of her own, had an emotional breakdown, bawling and in between tears explaining that, ”I’m just a freakin’ wreck. I’m so exhausted. It’s too much for me right now.” She and Russell went back and forth on what really happened in their talk on the beach when she finally made her fatal flaw, saying that, ”I’m closer to Parvati than you think.” This confirmed all of Russell’s worst fears that he may be on the outside looking in, and he immediately turned his head to Jerri and seemingly told her to change her vote to Danielle. ”I have absolutely no idea what just happened,” said Jerri as she wrote Danielle’s name down, ”but with this vote I am sealing my fate.” And, perhaps, Russell’s.

NEXT: Who has Russell’s back?

As I said, I don’t think Russell was incorrect in sensing that he may have been lower on the totem pole than he thought, and I’m not saying he shouldn’t have tried measures to get himself in a better position. But steamrolling over his two partners from day one was not the way to do it. All he needed to do was remind each of then how much the jury hated him and how there was no way he would attract even a single jury vote (both true, by the way), and that would make a pretty convincing argument to bring him to the finals, without making an enemy of new jury member Danielle, and probably turning Parvati against him as well. The other reason it didn’t make sense to oust Danielle is that it puts Rupert and Colby one step closer to the finals, and like invisible-powered Brett last season, if either of them make the finals, they’re going to win. Not Russell’s strongest play by a longshot. You always need someone is this game to have your back. With one move, Russell may have gone from having two such people, to none.

You know that Jeff Probst has plenty of thoughts on last night’s double elimination, so head on over to his blog post to see what he’s serving. For an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as pep talks that Danielle and Candice recorded before the game to cheer themselves up in the event they were voted out, check out the video player below. We’ll also have exit interviews up on Friday with both Candice and Danielle so come back later for those. But now it’s your turn: Did Russell seal his own fate by sending Danielle home? Why is Colby so lame this season? And who at this point is playing the game the best? (My vote: Parvati.) Hit the message boards and let us know. And for all the Survivor news and views, you can follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. See ya next week!

[Sorry, video not available]

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Survivor

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

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