Tyson votes himself out of Survivor and, worse, saves Russell

I was prepared to hate this episode of Survivor Heroes vs Villains, which had a challenge that wasn’t interesting to watch played three times in a row, followed by some relatively straightforward strategizing. At the double Tribal Council, I expected the Heroes to keep James again, though there was a ray of hope in that the Villains had a plan to vote out Parvati or Russell, and since we all knew Russell would play the idol, that meant Parvati would go home and not win again.

But then Tyson Apostol voted himself out of the game and saved Russell Hantz. Holyfuckingshit!

In about four seconds, I went from elated (Russell is finally getting voted out!) to completely shock (Tyson just fucked himself, and not in the fun way). And Tyson now holds the record for dumbest Tribal Council move ever.

This unfolded in a pretty incredible way, and that troll Russell did something smart yet again. The Villains alliance wanted to get rid of Parvati and flush out Russell’s idol, so they decided to split their votes 3-3. With Danielle, Parvati, and Russell voting for one person, that’d force a re-vote even if Russell played his idol. Rob insisted that this would be the best way to ensure that they got the idol and Russell, and Tyson was assigned to vote for Russell.

While Russell anticipated that they might do this (“That would be a genius move. I don’t know if they’re that smart.”), he talked to Tyson and said he’d vote for Parvati, too. Apparently, Tyson believed Russell, so the vote then would have been 4-3-2, with Parvati going home. If that’s the outcome Tyson wanted, he didn’t have to do anything. But instead he changed his vote, apparently just to pile on (it doesn’t make sense to change it for any other reason, because even if Tyson voted for Russell, Parvati still would have had four votes).

Somewhat ironically, Tyson told me pre-game that he wanted to be “more cutthroat” because “I got screwed last time by maybe not playing as hard as I could have at a certain point in the game, this time, I’m chopping everybody down.” Of course, he only chopped himself down, which is even funnier considering that he also told me, “I need to prepare for Tribal Council like I’m being voted out.” Didn’t think about that this time, did you, buddy?

Probst’s reading of the votes was preceded by an amazing moment: Russell played the hidden immunity idol, but after approaching Probst with it, said, “No, not this way,” and gave it to Parvati. She was shocked–“Are you serious?” and then she said to Probst, “I guess I’m playing it. Such a gentleman.”–and so was everyone else. Russell had just fucked himself, it seemed, and we were going to finally be rid of that arrogant little troll.

But no! Tyson’s changed vote meant that Parvati’s four votes were cancelled, and Tyson’s three votes outnumbered vulnerable Russell’s two votes, sending Tyson home. Incredible. You can’t script stuff like that.

After that drama, the Heroes voted out James, although it’s a week too late, and seemed somewhat odd because James did outperform Colby in the challenge. But apparently the tribe came to its senses and/or had enough of James’ banana-stealing shenanigans. Amanda approached James at camp and said, “Can you run? You’re going to have to show everyone. I’m serious. And you can’t steal any more bananas when you come into camp.” James tried to deny it, but eventually relented; then he tried to race JT, but JT easily beat him while running backwards.

As to the suspiciously edited preview: the audio was completely different on the preview compared to the broadcast version, so it was dubbed. However, Russell said the same thing (“I don’t have it”), so it wasn’t deceptive. Basically, it seems like someone re-dubbed the line to make sure it was audible, because Russell muttered it.

At least what he said is now true: he doesn’t have the idol, so a Villains loss means Russell will go home–unless he can do something else incredible, which he very well may. And if it keeps being this entertaining and dramatic, that’s okay.

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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.