We are nearing the halfway point of Survivor Heroes vs. Villains and I have to say right off the bat that this season as a whole has been surprising so far. The people that I thought were going to go far have already been voted out of the game. In contrast, there have also been people who have lasted FAR longer than I ever thought possible. That goes to show you that on an all star season, anything can happen. This unpredictable trend continues with this latest episode. Last time, the delusional Coach was sent to the jury. What will happen this week? Well, let's just say that false assumptions lead to a memorable moment in this episode that could have repercussions for certain individuals throughout the rest of the game. Let's get on with this review and find out what happens.
This episode begins with the Villains returning from their latest tribal council. Jerri is completely freaked out because she had no idea that Coach was leaving tonight. He was her closest ally in this game and now, Jerri is worried that her head is next on the chopping block. Jerri talks with Danielle in private and asks if she is the next to get voted off. Danielle assures Jerri that she is perfectly safe and that she will not be the next person going home. Afterwards, Jerri talks with Russell and asks him if he knew about the plan to oust Coach tonight (keep in mind Russell voted out Courtney at the last tribal council and not Coach, which makes Jerri believe that he was not in the know about this scheme. It's not entirely clear why Russell voted out Courtney instead, but the evidence points to some kind of plan that he cooked up with Parvati and Danielle. As to what that plan is, I'm not sure. It was never revealed to the viewers). Russell says he had a very strong inkling that Coach would be leaving, but he wasn't exactly sure (which is a complete lie, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. This is Russell we're talking about here, lol). Russell then voices over in a confessional that he doesn't trust Sandra and Courtney. He feels that one of them should be the next to go. I'm noticing that Jerri seems very vulnerable here. She's clearly been reduced to a pawn who will do whatever the dominating alliance wants. It's not a completely bad strategy and it has helped put her in a much better position than where Sandra and Courtney are. But this approach can also be very dangerous since it's very clear that she is the least important member of that alliance. Russell, Parvati, and Danielle will turn on her if it serves their best interests to do so down the road, so Jerri has to be on the lookout for this. I am quite surprised Jerri is still in this game since I predicted that she would be an early boot. She's doing much better than I anticipated and sticking with Russell's camp might get her farther than she's ever gotten in the game before. But if she truly wants to win, she may have to ditch Russell's camp for her own survival. Time will tell on that, though.
It's now time for this week's Reward Challenge, which is a rehash of a challenge from the Tocantins season (again, what is it with this show and its obsession with the Tocantins season? It seems like EVERY challenge we've had this season is taken from Survivor Tocantins. Can't the producers or challenge makers change it up every once in a while? lol). However, this challenge won't have the same rules that it had when it was played in the Tocantins. The last time this challenge was played, it was an individual challenge that happened post-merge (J.T. won that challenge by the way). This season, it will be a team challenge instead of an individual one since the merge this season has not happened yet. The Heroes and Villains will square off to see which team can endure the longest. For this challenge, the contestants must use their arms to brace themselves between two walls while their bare feet are perched on very narrow footholes. After ten minutes, the survivors must move their feet to an even smaller foothold. After another ten minutes, they must move their feet to the smallest foothold and remain in that position for as long as they can. One Hero will be squaring off against one villain in this challenge. The first person who drops to the ground will cause the other team to score a point. The first tribe that gets to three points will win this week's reward, which is a meal at Outback Steakhouse. Mmm...yummy. After Jeff explains the rules, the challenge gets underway. It becomes obvious right away that this challenge does not favor strong men. The physically weaker girls have a significant advantage here since they don't have as much weight to hold up. Seeing as how the Villains tribe is almost completely made up of girls at this point, it becomes pretty obvious which team will win this challenge. Colby, Rupert, and Amanda fall off their footholds in that order. It's no contest. By a score of 3-0, the Villains win the reward challenge. Jeff also mentions during this challenge that Amanda is celebrating her 100th day playing Survivor and is the first contestant in the history of the show to do so. That is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. Amanda lasted all the way to the end (but did not win) on both of her previous seasons and she's lasted quite a while on this season as well. Let's see how far she goes this time around. Also, J.T. tells Russell to "hang in there" after the Reward Challenge is over. J.T., along with the other Heroes, believe that there is an all female alliance on the Villains tribe (that's based on the fact that only men have been voted out of the Villains tribe up till this point). They believe that Russell is in danger of leaving since he is the only male left on the Villains tribe. It's extremely funny to watch this unfold because the Heroes have no idea how wrong they are about this assumption. Russell sure plays it up though at the Reward Challenge. While Russell is sitting out during the reward challenge, he puts on this puppy dog "help me" face to J.T. pretending to plead for his help. Rofl!!!! Oh, but we haven't seen the last of these hijinks. This assumption of an all female alliance on the Villains tribe will cause an interesting and unusual turn of events later on in this episode.
The Villains reach a makeshift Outback Steakhouse counter in the middle of the beach and begin feasting on their reward. As they're all sitting at the table enjoying their food, Parvati reaches over to grab a big napkin before eating. Inside the napkin, a slip of rolled up paper falls out, but she cleverly conceals it under the table out of sight of the other Villains. After the meal is over, Parvati brings Danielle away from the other Villains and tells her that she has found a clue to another hidden immunity idol. The clue tells them that the idol is hidden under a tree near their camp. When the tribe returns from Outback Steakhouse, Parvati and Danielle decide to go on a hunt for it. After searching for a bit, the girls find the tree and Parvati digs up the hidden immunity idol. The idol is for Parvati to keep and both girls decide not to tell Russell about Parvati's discovery because he doesn't need to know about it at this point. I've said this many times and I will say it once more. Parvati is an extremely huge threat in this game and her discovery of the idol here only further cements that idea in stone. The brilliant thing about Parvati's approach to the game is her ability to be in complete control without making it seem as if she's running the show. All of the heat and attention is going to Russell while Parvati works in the background concocting her own schemes and making the real choices for Russell's team. Parvati is Dick Cheney to Russell's George W. Bush (granted, Russell isn't quite as dumb as Bush, but you get my point. lol). Russell believes he is in charge, but in actuality, Parvati is the one with the power. Add on the fact that Parvati has a much better social relationship with people than Russell does and it's fair to say that Parvati is someone to watch out for very closely. Parvati even goes on to say that the reason why she told Danielle about the idol clue was to keep Danielle's loyalty so that in the event that Danielle would have to choose between her and Russell, it's more likely that she chooses her over Russell. Parvati may seem like a blind Russell follower, but I guarantee you that she is using him much more than he is using her. At the end of the day, Parvati is an independent strategist who will do what she wants and not what Russell wants all the time. Parvati has gotten a lot of criticism from fans over the years, but you can't deny the fact that she is by far one of the best players of all time. She has won this game once before even though the odds were severely against her at the time. Coming into this season, I thought Parvati wouldn't do well at all given how successful she was last time she played and how unlikable she is. I thought she'd be an immediate target and she kind of was, but that changed and how Parv is in the driver's seat. If she can do this well under bad circumstances, then it's certainly possible that she can succeed and rise to the top again. Will she win again? We shall see as the season rolls on.
Over on the Heroes beach, we see the contestants a little upset about losing the reward challenge. But J.T. has an idea that is sure to perk up the spirits of every single hero on that tribe. J.T. realizes that the merge is coming soon and he wants to make sure that his tribe has the majority so that they can pick off the Villains one by one until there are only Heroes left. In order to ensure that this happens, J.T. wants to bring Russell over to the Heroes alliance so that they can have a 6-4 majority in the merged tribe (assuming that the Villains lose the next immunity challenge). However, J.T. is weary of the "female alliance" on the Villains tribe and he knows that Russell will be voted out next because the Villain girls will be coming after him. So in order to keep Russell safe, J.T. wants to give Russell his immunity idol. Attached to that idol will be a note that will tell Russell to vote out Parvati. If Russell uses his idol to save himself and everyone votes Russell out on his tribe, then Russell's vote will be the only one that counts and if Russell follows J.T.'s instructions, Parvati will be leaving the game. Most of the Heroes are on board with this plan. Amanda is a little skeptical of it because it's based entirely on assumptions and they don't know for sure what's happening over there. Amanda speaks with Candice about J.T.'s plan and Candice supports it only because it gets the idol away from J.T. and that is a good thing. Shortly after this discussion, we see J.T. writing his note to Russell. J.T. plans to pass this note, along with his idol, to Russell secretly once the immunity challenge gets underway. Looking at this from J.T.'s perspective, I can see why he would want to go through with this plan. It seems ingenious on a lot of levels and if his assumptions about the Villains were correct, this could've easily gone down as one of the most brilliant moves in Survivor history. However, J.T. is dead wrong about Russell and he intends to give a very ruthless player more power in this game. The Heroes don't know it yet, but they're about to walk into a big trap.
We now get to this week's immunity challenge. Both tribes will start out on a platform floating on the water. There are five bags of puzzle pieces for each team and they're attached to a rope in the water that weaves through an obstacle course. One at a time, a player will take one of the puzzle bags and maneuver it through the rope and the obstacle course as fast as they can. Once a tribe has gotten all of their puzzle piece bags through the course and onto the beach, they will then open the puzzle piece bag and put the puzzle together. The first team to correctly assemble their puzzle will win immunity and be safe from tribal council. The losing tribe has to vote someone out of the game. The challenge gets underway and the Heroes and Villains leave the platform one at a time in a fast race to win immunity. The challenge progresses on and toward the end, Russell and Colby are the last two people on their platform for their respective teams. As they're both waiting for their turn to jump in the water, Colby looks at Russell and asks him if he's going home tonight. Russell says "Mmm-hmm". Colby then says that Russell needs to go to J.T. when the challenge is over because he'll have "something" for him to use tonight to get rid of one of the girls on his tribe. Russell asks Colby who he should get rid of and he says Parvati. Russell plays into Colby's beliefs by telling him that Parvati is running the show (which she is, but not in the way Colby believes. Colby believes Parvati is gunning to get rid of Russell next, but that is not the case). Colby then tells Russell to "get rid of her ass". Russell then delivers my favorite line of this episode. He says "I wish I could shake your hand". That comment is such a slap in the face on so many levels, but I couldn't stop grinning when he said it. After Colby leaves his platform, we get a close up on Russell and the expression on his face is priceless. It's a look that says "These Heroes are so stupid I can't even put it into words". Rofl!!!! Russell has got to be one of the luckiest people to ever play this game. This "female alliance" belief has really taken hold amongst the Heroes and Russell is playing up the "victim" role to a t. He knew exactly what to say to Colby to feed into his false assumptions of what was going on at the Villains camp. Love him or hate him, Russell is quick on his feet and can adapt to a lot of situations easily. The Heroes have no idea what they've just done, lol. Anyway, the challenge ends with the Heroes winning. The Heroes are safe from tribal council and the Villains must kick someone out of the game. As the two tribes are hugging each other after the challenge, J.T. slips Russell the idol and the note without anyone looking. As the two tribes are leaving, we hear a voiceover of Russell saying "I don't even have to find idols. People are actually GIVING me idols. You don't hand the enemy the idol. Especially when his name is Russell Hantz. You don't do that. That's a no-no." Rofl!! Boy, if the Heroes only knew. Back at the Heroes camp, they are celebrating their bold move in giving Russell the idol. What they don't realize is that they've most likely shot themselves in the foot and now, a vicious power player has yet another idol. What a turn of events this has been to put it mildly, lol.
Now I have the pleasure of describing my absolute favorite moment of this episode. The "reading of J.T.'s letter to Russell". After the Villains return to their camp, Russell immediately shows the letter to Parvati. Parvati then proceeds to read the letter as if it is a "love letter" from J.T. to Russell! She embellishes the letter a bit by adding phrases such as "BFF" (Best Friends Forever) and "xoxo". All the while, Parvati and Russell are cracking up as she's reading it. I don't blame them. I was cracking up too watching it from home. It was quite hilarious, I must admit. The best part was the message at the end of the note which said "Destroy this right when you finish reading" as if this was a mission impossible note or something, lol. Also, Parvati makes a great comment in confessional when she says that J.T. gave Russell his heart and Russell is going to stab it a bunch of times. Then Parvati will take the heart and eat it, rofl!!! I know most people can't stand these two, but I was highly amused at their take on the letter. It does seem very fifth grade-ish to pass notes and they're certainly a lot of humor in that in and of itself, but I can't blame J.T. for making this move. Keep in mind he doesn't know what is going on at the Villains camp and he wants to make a major move before the merge to give him and his allies the upper hand in the game. Yes, his assumption was completely wrong and yes, he could have waited before acting. But if he was right about the "female alliance" and if he missed this golden opportunity to destroy it once and for all, he would lose the game and he knew it. I don't think J.T.'s assumption was an unreasonable one and also, Russell is a good enough actor to keep him in the dark about the truth. He had to act before he became the target of this imaginary alliance, so I can't completely blame J.T. for what he did. However, this doesn't change the fact that the note was extremely funny. Again, we as the audience know the truth, so it's fun to laugh at it. But if a lot of us were out there and if we were in J.T.'s position, we all might have done the same thing. So again, I'm not going to call J.T. completely stupid for this move, but this will certainly go down as one of the funniest moments in Survivor history, that's for sure. :-)
Anyway, after lettergate comes to a close, we hear the Villains discuss who they want to get out of the game next. Russell, Parvati, Danielle, and Jerri are all in the same alliance with Sandra and Courtney on the outs. This means that either Sandra or Courtney will be going home tonight. The foursome talk it over and decide that Courtney has to be the next to go because they're afraid that she'll join up with the Heroes once the merge happens. However, Parvati has a private chat with Courtney out in the forest away from the other Villains. Courtney tells Parvati that she can get in good with Amanda over on the other side and bring Parvati along with them. Parvati, being intrigued by this plan, attempts to convince the others in her alliance to get rid of Sandra instead so that she can keep Courtney in her back pocket. It appears as if Parvati is making some headway because Russell says that Courtney would be easier to keep track of than Sandra, but ultimately, it doesn't matter to him which one of them goes. Who will go home this week? Will it be Sandra or Courtney? Well, when we get to tribal council, we find out. The vote is unanimous. Courtney is the tenth person voted out of Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. She is also the second member of the jury.
I have to give a lot of props to Courtney. She lasted a LOT longer than I thought she would. Before this season started, I was certain that Courtney would be one of the first people to leave the game. She's weak physically, she's just "ok" when it comes to strategy, and it seemed as if she did not have much to offer the Villains tribe. However, Courtney surprised everyone by outlasting both Rob and Tyson in the game, which I didn't think was possible. Granted, she survived this long due to the power struggle between Rob and Russell which allowed her to get under the radar where no one was looking to get her out. This is the same way that Courtney played on her original season as well. On that season, Courtney got into a powerful alliance and managed to steer clear of being a target. This allowed Courtney to make it all the way to second place on her original season which isn't bad at all for someone who is perceived to be a very weak player. But this time, the target got on her back much earlier than it did on her original season and she was taken out of the game. However, Courtney did much better than I expected and I give her a lot of credit for that. Now only one question remains. Did the tribe make the right call in getting Courtney out? Again, we can't take physical strength into account since the merge is most likely coming soon, so there's no need to "keep the tribe strong physically" anymore. It seems as if the main reason she was voted out was because of the fear that she would join the Heroes post-merge. That is a good reason to get rid of her and I do think it's likely she might have flipped and switched alliances. However, I think ultimately that the tribe should've kept Courtney and taken out Sandra. We know from her past seasons that Sandra can be very persuasive and if Sandra joins the Heroes, she could very well succeed in getting rid of the Villains. I think Sandra is much more of a threat to flip and join the Heroes than Courtney is. Therefore, I will say that the tribe simply made a "good" decision in taking out Courtney, but not a "great" one. Getting rid of Sandra would have been "great" and I think it would've lessened the chances of a Villain flipping to join the Heroes. The Villains might have just screwed themselves by keeping Sandra around. Sandra is a former winner for a reason. She's good with talking and manipulation. Because of this, I think it's a bad idea to keep her around from the Villains perspective. Oh well. We'll see what happens later on down the road.
Well, this ends another great Survivor episode. We are at the halfway point. Ten people have been voted out and only ten people remain. Five of them are Heroes and five of them are Villains. It's split right down the middle. If we get a merge next week, things should get very interesting. Till then.
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