I’m having a hard time getting stoked about the “Redemption Island duels” that are becoming a central component of this current (and otherwise pretty darn thrilling) Survivor season. Wednesday night’s showdown, however, got my pulse racing — and not because I’m a huge fan of high-stakes dominoes. Nope, Survivor‘s latest faceoff pitted infamous franchise villain Russell Hantz (unceremoniously dumped by his Zapatera tribe last week) against Ometepe outcast Matt. Russell brought his patented brand of bravado to Redemption Island, declaring his plans to oust Matt from his perch, then heap abuse on any Zapatera members who turned up at Redemption’s zero-star accommodations. “Sleep in the mud, fool!” snarled Russell, practicing his “welcome” speech.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. After gaining an edge in the head-to-head battle when Matt’s stacked track of dominoes failed to reach all the way to the end of a series of ramps and knock a ball onto a tile, Russell made the same mistake, and ended up getting handily defeated. Before you could say “Franchasquea,” Survivor‘s resident tough guy bowed his head and began to weep — pulling his hat over his eyes to shield his tears from the cameras. “Russell, you have bared your soul out here in ways that very few have,” said host Jeff Probst, who took a good 30-second pause, then asked what was motivating the tears: “Is it sadness that you’re out of the game? Is it embarrassment at finally losing?” None of the above, said Russell, who then expressed his fury about Zapatera throwing its previous challenge and disrespecting the game in the process. “It’s hard to be a professional quarterback and have pee-wee leaguers on your team,” he huffed. “‘Cause I gotta run the ball, I gotta catch the ball, I gotta throw the ball, I gotta do everything.”
Russell’s standard-operating bravado prompted Ralph to reveal he was in possession of an immunity idol — in front of Ometepe observers Phillip and Kristina! And that allowed Russell one last chance at self-aggrandizement, and he professed his belief that if/when Ometepe picked off members of Zapatera, it would mean “more power” to himself. Whatever you’ve got to tell yourself to get through the elimination, buddy.
What I’m curious about, though, is how you felt seeing Russell’s breakdown, especially in light of the fact that the guy says he won’t come back for a fourth season. “This is my last time playing this game. That’s it. I have nothing else to prove to myself or my family,” he said, as he dropped his Survivor buff into the fire. Me? I didn’t feel much of anything. I mean, it’s a little bit of a bummer that such a nefarious presence won’t have a chance to go back and wreak vengeful havoc on his terrified tribe mates — “I’m so relieved he’s not gonna come back and get me!” said Julie — but I’m also not going to reach for the Kleenex watching a grown-ass man make his final exit from a long-running reality franchise. What about you? Share your feelings in the poll below, then head to the comments to explain your vote.
Oh, and underneath the poll, you’ll find a bonus screengrab of Ometepe’s Ashley and Natalie reacting to Phillip’s underwear “situation.” Let’s roll tape on Boston Rob: “Who comes on Survivor and wears pink tighty-whities with the stuff just hanging out? You know, just flapping out everywhere. It’s not only disturbing, it’s disgusting!”