Survivor Recap: 'Biggest Blindside Ever'?

Kudos to the Survivor editing team for giving this week’s Tribal Council a classic aura of “will she or won’t she?” suspense. Indeed, it all came down to quiet, reasoned firefighter Julie (or “the old lady,” as Russell likes to call her) and whether or not she’d sell out her alliance to join forces with the franchise’s infamous villain and his two “concubines” (Mike’s word choice, not mine).

But first, it was off to Redemptions Island Arena for a “duel” between Matt and Francesca involving sticks, ropes, locks, and plenty of dramatic violin music to alert us to the fact that this was all more exciting than it looked. Now while I appreciate the way Survivor can go all MacGyver and whip up white-knuckle thrills using stuff that can be found in the average American garage, I’ve got to admit this standoff felt a little low-stakes, kind of like a bronze medal matchup in Olympic hockey. Maybe it’s because, at the end of the day, Matt and Francesca were the first two players to get their torches snuffed — and we’ve had 21 previous seasons telling us that these types of early evictees should be immediately discarded and forgotten. Or maybe it’s because it seems pretty certain producers won’t reintroduce the Redemption Island comeback kid into the general Survivor population for at least six or seven weeks. So, really, why get too invested in the proceedings now, when chances are neither Matt or Francesca is going to win that many showdowns in succession?

In the end, while Matt’s hastiness cost him in the early stages of the “build a pole/snatch three keys” challenge, Francesca’s too-too-deliberate approach allowed her rival to come back from a two-keys-to-none deficit and pull off a handy win. Props to Probst, though, for calling out blondie on his whining about the lack of amenities at the Redemption Island camp: “It’s on you. Get back to Redemption — make it happen!” Yes, sir!

The action at Ometepe this week was pretty low-key, but mainly centered around fallout from last week’s betrayal of Matt and Andrea. Rob reassured Andrea she was still the fifth person in the dominant alliance, but she later sat down for a tearful confessional to (wisely) say she didn’t trust the master strategist. If Andrea had been smart, though, she would’ve been a lot more reassuring in her chats with Rob. Why not lie and say something like, “Rob, I totally respect your move. You really didn’t have anything to worry about, but if I was in your shoes, I’d probably have done the same thing. Power couples are a threat, so no hard feelings here — I hope you know I’m as loyal as ever.”

The other main development at Ometepe involved Phillip’s hind end — but thankfully not a wardrobe malfunction for the man with the heinous fuchsia undies. Nope, Rob lucked out and found the clue to the hidden immunity idol “right underneath [Phillip’s] ass.” Unfortunately, our Boston protagonist had trouble deciphering the message. “The clue basically could’ve read ‘the hidden immunity idol is somewhere,'” he sighed.

The real action this week, however, went down at Zapatera, where the alliance of six (Steve, David, Mike, Sarita, Ralph, and Julie) decided it was time to throw the immunity challenge in order to flush Russell, his possible immunity idol (faked by wily Stephanie), and his armpit pustules from the game. I’ll say this: I understood Julie’s hesitation to deliberately try to lose the challenge — especially since none of her five cohorts had to submit to having their heads plunged violently underwater while strapped to the Water Wheel of Doom. (Am I the only one who thinks of Gina Davis’ massively underrated action flick The Long Kiss Goodnight at the sight of this challenge?)

As for the prudence of Zapatera choosing to lose a tribe member — and turning a potential three-member lead into a one-member edge — well, that’s a tough call. Stephanie barked at her tribemates that it was “not strategy, but plain stupidity,” but it’s hard to take seriously the word of a bratty kid who huffs and puffs and eye-rolls her way through any interaction where she’s not in the driver’s seat. And then there was Stephanie’s attempt to bring Julie to the dark side. “BIGGEST! BLINDSIDE! EVER!” Stephanie squealed, thinking she’d sealed the deal with her contemplative tribemate.

But if I’d been on Zapatera, and more specifically in Julie’s shoes, I think I’d have taken the taken the same exact path: Double-crossing Russell at the last minute. After all, the benefits were two-fold: Ridding Zapatera of a poisonous presence that threatened morale more than any reduced numbers gap could do, and providing a moment of pure “suck it, Russell!” awesomeness that can be savored long after the game is finished. If I was part of the alliance of six, I’d wallpaper my bathroom with screengrabs of Russell’s surly response to his ouster. “This is my game, suckah”? Think again!

As far as post-vote reactions go, Julie’s unrepentant grin spoke far more powerfully than Stephanie’s “storm’s a comin'” hokum or Russell’s “I’ll be back, and I’ll be ready” caveat. The only question that remains now, as Jeff pointed out, is whether the decision to vote out “one of the most successful players in the history of Survivor” will come back to haunt Zapatera. What do you think? Would you have thrown the challenge and booted Russell if he was on your tribe? Were you stressed by the fact that Zapatera was splitting the vote between Stephanie and Russell, based on the possibility of them having an immunity idol, while Ralph held said idol in his pocket? Which players do you think have the potential to make the final three? And how do you think Russell will react when he discovers it’s Matt, not Francesca, who survived the Redemption Island duel? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Heather says:

    Throwing a challenge is the dumbest thing you can do this early in the game. They had all the momentum but because they were blinded by their hate for Russell, they made a bad decision. When you are winning, you keep going and destroy the other team…you don’t give them an opening and that’s exactly what they did. Hope it doesn’t come back to bite them in the end!

  2. susela says:

    It made no sense to throw the challenge. They could simply have voted Russell out whenever they legitimately lost their first challenge.

    • Kiki says:

      100% agree. You’re going to lose eventually and it just makes for an easy decision at tribal.

    • Lili says:

      In punchily, I don’t like throwing challenges, but when you have a cancer like Russ, I understand the tribe’s desperation to excise it as quickly as possible. In previous seasons, Russ was able to plant his “Russell” seed and entrench himself like a difficult and impossible to kill weed. Not this year. Well done, Zapatera.

  3. Willowbysam says:

    I would have teamed up with Russell. Quite frankly, that was a stupid move. It is still a numbers game right now. Russell could get you to the end, he is willing to get blood on his hands with no qualms and no one would give him the money. It was a winning situation for whomever was smart enough to get on board. Now, these dummies, who say they watch the show have forgotten about the curse of throwing a competion. I hope they all lose for the stupidity displayed here.

  4. AlistairCrane says:

    I’m glad they threw the competition and got rid of that d-bag. I would have done just that in the first week! It was so very satisfying to see Russell’s torch get snuffed out. Hahaha…karma’s a bitch, baby! :-D

  5. WB Frog says:

    I can’t stand when a tribe throws a challenge. There is NO excuse when you’re playing Survivor! Hope Zapatera goes down big and hard. No one is playing Survivor on Zapatera.

  6. Doris says:

    I despise the troll, so I’m very glad to see him voted off; I’m a big fan of Boston Rob, and Russell got him off way too early last time they were on. I’m sure Rob is going to be chuckling to himself when he learns about it. Karma is a bitch!

  7. George says:

    To me, Russell’s (possibly) short stint in this game shows that he’s not necessarily as a strong a player as he’s perceived to be. He only knows how to play the game one way. The last time he played he benefitted from the fact that his first season hadn’t aired yet and nobody knew his strategy. I was dissapointed (well…not really) that this third time time around, with all his cards on the table, his game never evolved and he didn’t have any new tricks up his sleeve…

  8. buffy522 says:

    I’m not sure at all if they could have won that challenge anyway. Rob is really good with puzzles and the spitting in the bottle could go either way. I hate the concept, but Russell is a cancer and very tricky. Hope he comes back. Love Rob and hope he stays. I have no clue yet who will start moving up. Christine is so desperate it is annoying. She is another one who could suck up to Rob and make a great ally. And Ralph seriously needs a body was. He is gross too!

  9. sash fan says:

    Russell should be interesting on Redemption Island. I’ll bet they do a stamina challenge — standing motionless holding something up. Russell is pretty good at those. I think he’s unlikely to make it back into the game, though.

    I’m not a Russell fan. I think he plays the game well, but he’s just to unnecessarily mean in interviews.

  10. jef says:

    Getting rid of Russell sooner rather than later was a great move! He is dangerous and loathsome.

  11. Tina says:

    I’m amazed at how much Russell Kool-Aid Stephanie was drinking. The way she was talking at Tribal, you’d have thought she and Russell had the number on there side 6 to 3 or something. Would like to see her go also. Russell is underestimating his team. Should be really interesting if he comes back. I’m actually rooting for Rob this time.

  12. cheri says:

    I was confused by Stephanie’s ‘storm’s a coming’ too. Ummm…does she know that she currently in a 2 person alliance vs a 6 person alliance? She will be the next to go! So with no idea when the person is coming back from Redemption Island, I think she is SOL.
    I do not like when tribe’s throw challenges either, but it was nice to see Russell go with a bit of drama!

  13. Buffy Freak says:

    Stephanie sounded like Squeeky Fromme defending Charles Manson…she’s a freakin’ loon. As for wanting to go to the merge with numbers, that doesn’t always work…often times the bottom people in the main alliance will jump to the other tribe once the merge happens so there is no guarantee that having the numbers would mean anything.

  14. Adam says:

    Throwing a challenge is always bullsh*t. I don’t care if you hate Russell or not, they messed up. Other team has momentum now, and I foresee more losses for purple. Oh well, that’s the game.

    Slezak, glad someone else likes Long Kiss Goodnight too!

  15. Jerri says:

    They are not fully rid of Russell yet….There is still a chance the troll could get back to the game if he wins against Matt on RI next week..

  16. darclyte says:

    As rewarding as it was to see Russell get voted out, I was hoping that Julie would’ve switched it up and joined Russell and his girls. It would have been instant karma or instant justice to have them lose one of the strongest guys (Ralph) along with the Hidden Immunity Idol in his possession after having thrown the challenge. Keeping Russell around would have been worth it to see Farmboy blindsided with the HII on him.

    Also, how dumb is Julie? Being in a 4 person alliance more likely improves your odds over being in a 6 person alliance. I doubt that she’s “ranked” higher than 5 or 6 in that alliance, and had she joined Russell’s she could probably easily figure out how to outwit 2 much younger, and seemingly dumber, girls.

    Throwing a challenge when only up 2 people is not very bright, and it may very well bite them in the behind. As much as I’d want Russell gone, I’d try too keep winning (as Charlie Sheen might say) as long as possible, and at the first time we lost I’d get rid of him. I especially would have wanted that tarp. Out there in the elements, that tarp is worth a million dollar gamble. Even if Russell stuck around and found the HII, it’d have been worth it, especially to (a) get the tarp and (b) knock the other tribe down as much as possible. At that point in the game, I don’t think the risk was worth it. It could turn out in their favor in terms of people, but if it does or not, it didn’t get them that tarp.

  17. shaunna says:

    this was hardly the biggest blindside ever.

    people were toasting all over america when
    Russel got sent to Redemption island

    so glad you are doing the recaps- love yor recaps

  18. shaunna says:

    I thought JUlie was gonna blow it and vote for someone other than Russel. then she would have had 4 against her for sure intead of three including russel. yes- morale is important better to be one ahead with high morale I think than keep Russel around, unless it would mean they have less than the other side has in an alliance- in this case they still have more- I thinbk they did the right thing- can you imagine their angst if they had not voted him off, and later he won? Feel worse than jJames of old having 2 immunity idols and being sent home. Who would not want to vote russel off?
    Russel still doesn’t get it- what it really takes to win

  19. shaunna says: