I apologize, I’ve yet to do a recap of Lost this week. I’m rather intimidated by it. Three solid hours (well two) is a lot to cut through and so much to absorb. I’m still thinking on it.
What I want to blog on is another show long waited to premiere and that’s Survivor. Another all star season that has split the returning cast members into two categories, villains and heroes.
I thought I was done with the last season. But I was rather dismayed at how many people I’ve come across insisting that Natalie stole Russell’s rightful claim of being the winner. What? Am I the only one who saw through the CBS propaganda of lunacy? Were people really fooled into thinking he was this brilliant strategist? Maybe I was missing something and I just over thinking the situation. While I don’t mean to suppose that Natalie was a superb manipulator herself, I do think she deserved to win as much, if not more, than Russell. So I’ve decided to go ahead and go over the Russell history from Samoa and recap. I hope to not miss anything, and now that we have the ability of hindsight, really analyze his moves in game play.
It’s really funny to think back to the beginning of the season, that first episode where we “met” twenty people. What’s funny about it is, I never learned half their names. It really did revolve around Russell, the other Russell, Natalie, Jaison, Shambo, Erik and a few girls from Galu who together resulted in a “Mean Girls” clique. Even before the show aired, CBS was calling that this season of Survivor had the greatest villain we would ever see! Wow, really? Greater than Rich? Greater than Jon who lied about having a dead grandma? Really?
Well, the first few episodes started. Let’s run down Russell’s game play from the start. First, he lies about being a Katrina victim. Now granted, that’s certainly a manipulation of one’s heartstrings and to try to conjure up sympathy. But it’s not exactly original nor do I consider it a good strategic move. Johnny Fairplay already did that several seasons ago, and way more successfully, orchestrating with his best friend way before he even started. It angered many people, and rightfully so. Russell elected to use the great tragedy of New Orleans’s hurricane, which is still fresh in many REAL survivors minds, as his “dead grandmother”. First, he did it straight off the bat, the very first night it looked like. It’s as if he didn’t know how to keep something to himself (a weakness we will discuss later). Second, again, using the Katrina situation would be seen the same as someone pretending to be a 9/11 survivor. The public doesn’t take well to such claims and it minimizes that real people have experienced and attempted to overcome on their own. Seeing a con man on TV attempting to use that so he can win a reality TV show sets a bad taste in my mouth.
But wait, there’s more. Also from this first episode, Russell goes about sabotaging his tribe. Yes, during a time when winning competitions is the best way to stay on this show, he is over there emptying water buckets and burning socks. (Yes, I said burning socks). Now, CBS seems to think this goes under villain category. I think the term villain is so misused here. One can be a jerk without getting the respect of being called a villain. Russell’s actions caused a bit of turmoil in the short run, but in the long run, it hurt his tribe and started them off badly. One could argue they never recovered from this and that’s why they went into the merge so outnumbered. After that, Russell’s game play seemed to just target the women on his tribe who were seeing through him.
The question of the immunity idol gets it’s own category. I will give props when it’s due, and Russell definitely deserved it. The idea of searching for the idol right away without a clue is so simplistically brilliant, it makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. Russell was taped running around camp, searching diligently for anything that looked like a hiding place. One hilarious moment has him waist deep in the bottom of a tree, his legs wagging while a fellow tribemate ignores him by sleeping in a hammock. It’s quite comical, but makes you wonder the mindset of the people he’s up against, who don’t show the slightest concern at what he could be doing. I also don’t begrudge Russell using that idol the first time. Laura seemed to take some great victory in that move, but I didn’t think so. Russell had the idol, he couldn’t be sure he was safe from the vote so he used it. That’s what it’s for, and better to use it then be stuck walking out with it, like Erik.
But what does bug me is Russell finding it not one more time, but two more times. That is not a testament to Russell’s genius game play. It is simply evidence that Probst’s survivor team as well as Russell’s enemies were lazy and refused to bother to truly hide it. The second time he found it “one afternoon” while his competing tribe was away on a reward. It was under a man made bridge. When I saw that, I was convinced Russell was not a real player. The show putting it there was ridiculous as it’s an easy place to look. I also wouldn’t have been surprised if the show was helping him at that point, since the tides had turned and Fao Fao was the underdog tribe (and who’s fault was it that Fao Fao seemed to never gain the upper hand from the first challenge?) The third time he found it was outrageous. He freaking had a PICTURE of it. No, he actually a video of it in a 360 degree angle. The moss on the rock made it clear that there could be only one place to find it. The hardest part was he had to ditch THE ONE GUY from Galu who was trying to follow him to find it.
Ahh, yes, the merge. It looked like Fao Fao’s days were numbered and no matter how “evil” Russell truly was, nothing could take down the high numbers of Galu. Well, this is where I think Russell didn’t seem to do much of anything. He worried and fretted and tried to make alliances. He targeted Shambo, who had already been to his tribe several times and felt like an outcast by Galu. Of course, Shambo didn’t need much to betray her tribe. They ostracized her over and over, something Fao Fao was fully aware of, and it’s hardly masterful game play to select the most likely person to flip to your tribe.
The problem was even with Shambo they were still way down. They needed a target from Galu and they found one in Erik. He had made his own enemies on his tribe and decided he was going to be the new leader of the merged tribe. Seeing their chance, Fao Fao approached Galu about taking advantage of their high numbers and voting off Erik, that thorn in their side. They would still have plenty of time to destroy Fao Fao later, why not use this lull and remove their biggest headache when they had a chance? This manipulation worked, and Laura from Galu seemed to buy it hook, line, and sinker along with the rest of her tribe mates. I think this was probably the best move of the game, because after this, we had Fao Fao start to chip away at Galu’s numbers and work their way up. Of course, the person who stepped up and talked to Galu was not Russell. He was nowhere near anyone to do anything like this. Jaison and Natalie discussed it, and it was the latter who orchestrated it by using her girl power talks with Laura and the Mean Girls gang. For this alone, I am fine with Natalie winning at the end because it proved when the chips were down she was willing to step up and take the heat, but she did it in such a way that nobody really remembered to blame her later.
Now from there, I will admit Russell’s idol collecting came in especially handy for the tribe. They were able to fool Galu into thinking they didn’t have it the first time which picked off another of their team, then used Shambo’s betrayal to pick off another. But as stated earlier, Russell was practically given the 2nd and 3rd idols and the true amazing feat was he was able to keep his mouth shut about them (Well, the first two anyway. Well, to most people on his tribe. More like to most people on his tribe and Shambo. Oh, and that other guy he told). Russell was never one to keep his mouth shut period. He liked to talk, and he liked to share secrets. He liked to tell people about his idol and how awesome he was in finding it. He also liked to create alliances. He alliances with everyone on his own tribe after the merge. This goes to the myth he “screwed” so many players. Nope, he actually only screwed Jaison and I don’t blame him for choosing to cut him off since Jaison would have made mincemeat of him at the final tribal council. His only alliance to Galu was Shambo at first but he didn’t seem to make it clear to her he would keep her over his own original tribe, thus no hard feelings when she was voted off. I did laugh myself silly when the last Galu member remained, Brett, and in speaking to him, Russell was prompting him to do an alliance. Yes, an alliance, with the one guy who was everybody’s best friend. In the end he changed his mind, but it made no sense to even suggest it, and it clouded any chance of a Brett vote Russell could have expected.
Finally, I can’t begin to even touch on how often Russell told everyone he was already a millionaire. (Something that’s tough to believe given his bad oral hygiene). First it was just to us. Then, it was to his alliance mates. Which was three people. Then he told Shambo. Then he found out someone told Galu and went berserk even though it was clearly a trick from a Galu member. I just think if anyone has paid attention to Survivor, the last thing you want to do is let them know you already have money. That puts you with the biggest target on your back but I think Russell is someone who can’t NOT talk about himself or share perceived accomplishments. He’s got the biggest head of the game, even before he thought he won it, when he didn’t and cried nearly like a girl on live TV over it.
Now Russell did win that last immunity challenge (though the Internet is quite vocal about a moment got on camera where Russell does have his hand below the illegal line and should have been disqualified. Supports my theory CBS wanted him to win but whatever). He did get into the F3. But I strike that up to being cast opposite some of the worst players I’ve ever seen in this game, (not just Shambo). I’m very interested in seeing how Russell will fair against people who have played this game before hard. He actually does have an advantage over them, the timing of the filming prevented everyone in seeing how Russell played. I’m very curious to see when up against people with actual brains and ambition, how far will Russell really go?