Survivor Heroes vs Villains has its first blindside, surprising even us

Usually on Survivor, the editors present us with one of two possible outcomes, and one turns out to be a big red herring. That seemed to be the case again tonight, as the dysfunctional Heroes tribe made their way to Tribal Council again, and Colby and Tom clung to the hope that JT would switch his vote and help them get rid of super-strategist Cirie. Unlikely, for sure.

But no! Cirie went home! OMG. She got blindsided–for real–and so did we. At least she went out with style: “I don’t blame them at all,” she said. “My hat’s off to them. Got me.” Pre-game, she said she’d argue, “There are bigger targets out there than little ol’ me”, but after three seasons of playing hard, that argument just didn’t work.

I love Cirie, and am sad to see her gone, but am thrilled that the Micronesia alliance was taken down. And as Tom explained as he voted, “You are way too good at wrapping some of these weak minds around your little finger.” That was definitely true, as watching Cirie try to explain to Amanda why the JT/Tom/Colby plan wasn’t in their best interest made it clear who was in charge; Cirie even joked about Amanda being, well, dumb.

Cirie’s exit was super-surprising, especially since she didn’t get a whole lot of screen time this episode, but also because JT seemed resigned to sticking with the alliance that seemed resigned to sticking with their plan to vote out strong players even though that wasn’t helping them win and was driving Jeff Probst insane. “What part of that makes sense?” Probst demanded to know, insisting that “you’re all keeping your word” but that it’s hurting them as a tribe. Rupert reluctantly admitted that was true after Probst said, “you’re a part of the reason based on that philosophy, Rupert.”

I’m not quite sure if this was a good move for JT or not; since it resulted in a great turn, I’m kind of indifferent. I’m also interested to see how JT deals with the repercussions of his actions without Stephen around to use as a shield. And I am glad Tom and Colby are still around and a lot more secure than they were last week.

All of this played out because of the introduction of hidden immunity idols after the oily slip-‘n’-slide immunity challenge. The Villains’ reward of Sears products included a clue inside a knife sheath, while the Heroes found a similar rolled-up clue in their coffee. Coincidentally, or not, those clues were discovered when the tribes were together as a group, so everyone got the information all at once.

The Villains decided it’d be unfair for any one person to have an idol, an argument that makes little sense but became their group consensus. So smarty pants Russell subtly announced, “Hey, I’m going for a walk.” Hey, you are a dumbass. Sandra spied on him and realized he was searching for the idol, and said, “He’s a stupid ass,” announcing to her tribemates, “Russell sealed his own fate.” Meanwhile, Russell told us that “this is a bunch of idiots out here” and “I would become powerful in this game” if he found the idol. Uh, no, you’ll become even more marked than you are right now, not that I’m complaining.

The Heroes immediately splintered off and went looking for the idol; Tom found it, and tried to slip it into his sock, which Amanda saw, thereby making it public knowledge that he had the idol. After the Heroes lost the immunity challenge–a replay of the Samoa challenge that was, as Probst said, the only challenge in the show’s history to never be completed, because it was cancelled when Russell Swan collapsed–the dominant alliance planned to split their votes between Tom and Colby to flush out the idol. JT didn’t want to get rid of either, in part because he thinks he can trust them, so he considered switching his vote to vote with Tom and Colby.

But how many times have we seen a scenario like that that just doesn’t happen? And JT said something during Tribal about trusting people that made it seem like he was sticking with his original alliance. But he didn’t! And it was awesome.

The episode started with a bit of a non-sequitor: Coach bawling to Tyson about how other people don’t like him. You’d think that, based on how self-aware Coach was just a few weeks earlier, he wouldn’t have broken down so easily, but perhaps he just expected everyone to worship him instead of mock him. He did show some of that self-awareness (“I just hide it … behind a lot of machismo”) and cried “Why doesn’t anybody ever say anything good about me? Am I that bad of a person?” Tyson, awesomely, was supportive and also honest, telling Coach to stop with the stupid stories and tai chi; the preview for next week shows that advice didn’t stick, just as Coach’s threat to leave (“I’m done”) didn’t, either. Rob later gave Coach a pick-me-up lecture and picked up an ally, perhaps, and told him, “pick your fucking head up and act like a man, for real.” Maybe that can be his new character.

By the way, if you’re looking for even more entertainment from last night’s episode, read Jeff Probst’s EW piece. At least if he’s not going to take my advice, he’s bringing the entertainment by rambling incoherently. It’s seriously almost a joke now, especially when EW pretends it constitutes “insight.” I think Probst may have spent too much time around certain Survivor cast members.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.