Boston Rob tries to regroup after last week's blindside, but sneaky Russell has another trick up his sleeve
Rob Mariano
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S20 E7
  • TV Show

It’s been a strong season of Survivor. No doubt. We’ve watched the alleged ”Heroes” bicker and crumble. We’ve been treated to a gripping testosterone feud (Boston Rob vs. Russell). And we sat with mouths agape as Tyson made what was arguably the dumbest move in Survivor history. But a great as it’s been, I can’t escape the feeling that Heroes vs Villains has been missing something. Something that could have truly set it apart as a season for the ages. Something that you and I have been clamoring for since the day the cast was first announced. Something that, in a perfect world, would be in every episode of every season from now until the end of time (or Jeff Probst quits — whichever comes first). And that something is… Courtney on a trampoline net! See Courtney run. See Courtney fall. See Courtney stand 10 feet up on the rope web without moving, like a kid on a high dive ladder afraid to go either up or down. See Courtney finally jump down and attempt to land on her feet, leading to yet another awkward fall as well as assorted smack-talk laced commentary by Probst.

Now, I have no idea why Courtney was even competing in this challenge — why not use her in the less-important reward challenge so she could sit this one out? — but questioning that decision is like questioning how a case of Milwaukee’s Best somehow magically appears in your refrigerator. You don’t question it — you just grab some Funyuns and enjoy your good fortune. I had expected a lot of hilarity from Courtney this season, but instead she’s been getting the Brett edit. (At least, I think his name was Brett. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure of his name during his season.) Part of that is because Courtney has sat out pretty much every challenge, where she is usually at her most side-splitting, but it’s also because so much of the focus around camp has been on the Rob vs. Russell feud.

And I understand that, because what a delicious feud it was, right up through last night’s Tribal Council. Back and forth the two went, culminating with Rob questioning Russell’s idea of loyalty. ”Loyalty?” Russell responded, while bringing up his giving up the hidden immunity idol to Parvati. ”I put my butt on the line for my people. I was willing to go home. If that isn’t loyalty, I don’t know what is. I don’t think you have the guts to do what I did last Tribal.” That last line had to hurt, because how do you respond to that? Love Russell or loathe Russell, there is no denying that what he did last episode was the height of badassery. And don’t take that to mean I’ve been on Russell’s side, or Boston Rob’s side either, for that matter. I’m just on the side of riveting television, and as much as these guys don’t like each other, that is exactly what they have provided these past few weeks — a true heavyweight battle worthy of Ali vs. Frazier, Tyson vs. Holyfield, Manute Bol vs. William ”The Refrigerator” Perry (oh, don’t sit there and pretend that you didn’t watch Celebrity Boxing).

NEXT:Coach tries to hug it out

But as much as that last line hurt, it had to hurt Boston Rob even more to see his alliance turn on him. Just three days ago, he had six people ready to vote out Russell. Now, he couldn’t even keep a dude with the biggest man-crush I’ve ever seen in my life in line. Poor Coach, trying to give his dream lover a hug after Boston Rob was voted out, only to be rebuffed and told ”You’re a little man.” I don’t know if that was more or less humiliating than being told by Tyson that people didn’t believe his stories about being attacked by Amazonian dwarfs dispatched by the nefarious Serpentor from the old G.I. Joe cartoons, but I do know that it hurt a lot. And if I were more technologically savvy I would be creating a YouTube video right now of all of Coach and Rob’s special moments edited together into slow motion to the sweet sounds of Foreigner’s ”I Want to Know What Love Is.” It would be my tribute to Coach. And to love. And to Foreigner. But make no mistake: While Coach did not vote for Rob, writing down Courtney’s name instead, by not casting his vote for Russell, he knew he was sealing his wannabe soul mate’s fate and sending him home. Hence, no hug. No matter, Coach will survive. And not only will he survive, but he’ll also concoct an awesome story documenting every single element of his survival, perhaps adding in some bonus flourishes, like taking down Jeff Probst with nunchucks and turning the Tribal Council torches into flaming spears to ward off a hoard of ancient Samoan cannibals.

But as dramatic as Rob’s exit was, it was a bummer to see him go. No matter which side of the feud you were on — and, as I said, I was neutral — you had to love the drama it brought to the screen, and you had to want that to continue for a few more episodes. Anytime a character of this stature leaves the game this early, it is a bit of a blow, but Rob made the most of his time. Yes, he got bested, but he kicked butt in challenges, made fire without flint, and was undoubtedly a tribe leader… until enough of his tribe turned on him.

As for Russell, last week there was a lot of chatter on the message boards about how ”Russell didn’t do anything. He was just lucky that Tyson made such a stupid decision.” Now I’m sure there are those of you that will say ”Russell just got lucky again by flipping Jerri and Coach.” But that’s not luck. Finding people that are vulnerable and then exploiting those vulnerabilities is a skill. If Russell doesn’t plant that seed in Tyson’s head last week — and yes, the idea of ”Russell seed” grosses me out as well — he goes home. If Russell doesn’t recognize that Jerri could be ready to flip, and if Russell doesn’t work Coach over at the previous Tribal Council with that ridiculous speech about honor, then they don’t budge either. I’m not saying you have to love the guy, but give respect where respect is due. (Although it should be noted that Russell had a huge advantage in that none of the other contestants had seen his previous season. Jerri said she didn’t trust Boston Rob because of how he played in All-Stars, but how would she have felt about Russell had she watched Samoa?)

NEXT: Colby shows Jerri how he really feels

Russell was also responsible for my favorite scene of the episode — yes, even more than Courtney’s limbs being stretched comically in all directions. After losing the immunity challenge, Russell, Rob, Courtney, and Sandra were all sitting together back at camp and the discussion turned to whom the tribe should vote out:

Russell: I think we need to weed off the weak.

Rob: Who do you suggest?

Russell: (pointing to Courtney and Sandra, sitting right in front of them) One of these.

Rob: One of who?

Russell: (pointing again to Courtney and Sandra) Right here.

This was fantastic. We’ve obviously seen players plotting behind tribemates’ backs before. We’ve also seen players come up and apologize to someone before voting them out (”Sorry, dude, gotta do it. Nothing personal.”). And we’ve even seen players in a huff of anger tell people that they’re going to vote against them. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen someone so casually — with no apparent malice — dismiss other people right in front of their faces. It was just so… odd. And therefore, wonderful.

Also wonderful were the challenges this week. The water basketball reward challenge was one we saw inTocantins, and just like that time, Mark Burnett once again magically dialed up some rain for extra dramatic effect. Colby was a man on a mission. Only that mission was to shoot lots of air balls. Lucky for him, Coach shot even more airballs. But there is no doubt that Colby finally looked aggressive again. So aggressive, in fact, that he threw Jerri aside like a rag doll, causing the Black Widow to open her mouth in a combination of shock and pain. See, look at me, Heroes! Aren’t you glad you kept me around? I’m totally better than that cripple James. Sure, he can beat up on old men at Sumo challenges, but did you see me just pummel that broad in the water? Yep, still got it. I’m back to the Australian Outback Colby, baby! Now does anyone have a truck handy that my mom and I can go sleep in? No? Oh well, then please excuse me while I go celebrate by grabbing a fist full of Candice’s ass. And if she doesn’t like it, I’ll throw her down in the water too! Unfortunately, Rupert missed out on Colby’s big celebration as he and Russell were too busy pawing at each other like two drunken rivals too wasted to throw a punch. I love how after the win, Rupert kept insisting on referring to the Heroes as ”the fantastic five,” seeing as how there has been nothing fantastic about that tribe in the least. And that is the last thing I will write about the Heroes this week because they are boring and lame. Heck, they even found a way to make the discovery of a new immunity idol boring.

As for the immunity challenge, watching people (like Courtney) fall on their faces is always good fun (although the best face-plant of all was Sandra back at camp). I fully expected Rob and Sandra to catch the puzzle-phobic Heroes in the end once again, but alas, it was not meant to be, leaving us with the Samoan showdown between Rob and Russell. And what a showdown it was, albeit one that I wish could have gone on a bit longer. To continue the boxing analogy from earlier, while this may not have a been a 15-rounder, it was like the 1985 ”Marvelous” Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy ”Hitman” Hearns three round brawl. And for those of you actually still reading this, I would like to thank you for your immense perseverance for not clicking away the second I referenced a 25-year-old boxing match. And make sure not to click away until you check out the exclusive deleted scene below, as well as a special pep talk that Boston Rob recorded for himself before the game to pick himself up in case he was voted out. Then make sure to head on over to Jeff Probst’s blog to see what the host-with-the-most has shaking. And don’t forget to come back Friday afternoon to read my exit Q&A with Boston Rob. In the meantime, it’s your turn to weigh in. Did Jerri and Coach make the right move in flipping? Who’s Coach gonna crush on now that Rob is gone? And how good is Russell? Hit the message boards and let us know. And for all the Survivor news and views sent right to you, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. See ya next week!

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Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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