Sandra deceives Russell, Survivor editors deceive us

Wait, what? All of Survivor made sense last night until the votes were revealed, and since I watched in a hotel instead of on a DVR, I couldn’t go back to do a DVR double-take. But Russell voted for Courtney, yet his alliance-mates Parvati and Danielle voted for Coach, sending him home. What?

Basically, Sandra, Courtney, Danielle, and Parvati voted together, which would suggest that Russell is even less in control than he thought he was before. Had Russell voted for Coach, we’d still have all the evidence we need that Russell is not in control, despite the voices in his head that tell him that he is responsible for the tribe’s votes, the game, small children’s happiness and/or fear, and the earth’s rotation.

Whatever happened with the vote, Sandra is either in control or played Russell or both. Sandra endeared herself to me long ago, but I practically shrieked when she said, “Russell’s so stupid he ate that crap up,” adding that “he doesn’t know how to play this game.” Amen, amen. Russell said things like, “I have the power in this game. I send home who I want to send home,” but instead of getting all flame-faced over that like I do, Sandra used that to her advantage.

Realizing that Russell hates being played more than anything else, Sandra lied to him and convinced him that Coach was going to go after him–which wasn’t too far from the truth, since Coach wanted to have the testicles to vote against Russell last week but did not. That set Russell on the path to dumping Coach, and thus when Danielle approached him to suggest that it might make sense to vote off Courtney before she breaks apart, splinters, and gets into everyone’s eyes, Russell became enraged. “I don’t want to fucking talk to you,” he said. But he changed his mind a little while later, though Danielle also changed her’s, too. What? Obviously, the editors left something out in order to deceive us.

For most of the episode, it did seem like Courtney was going home, ending with her aggression at Tribal Council, when Probst pointed out that she kind of sucks at challenges, and she said, “Thank you, Jeffrey,” in that awesomely condescending tone. In only the way she can, Courtney admitted that “it’s target the weak, and I’m, like, the poster child for weak Survivor.” But the weak stick around on all-star seasons, so she was okay.

Meanwhile, there was no merge, but was deliberate deception on the producers’ part to play on that perception. I learned that from Jeff Probst’s EW column, which this week has a few paragraphs of actual behind-the-scenes insight! It must be opposite day! Anyway, the trainwreck Villains brought all of their camp valuables with them, having been convinced by the intentionally vague tree mail. Probst, obviously tipped off about this, faked them out by showing them a feast and saying, “Before we move any further, let me answer the question on everybody’s mind. Everybody, drop your,” but instead of “buffs” he said “expectations. We are not merging.” He might have also meant: Drop your expectations that we will have an interesting challenge instead of just recycling the shitty, and I mean shitty, bowling challenge from Samoa.

Despite the lack of a merge, there is now a jury, and quietly pissed Coach (“I am probably more pissed off than I have been in a number of years”) is its first member. I’m sure we can count on a great speech from him in a few weeks.

Though the Heroes got very little screen time, there was a seed that, based on the preview, may grow into an ugly weed for them extremely rapidly, and may save the Villains from being picked off one by one whenever the merge does happen.

If there’s any doubt that sexism is a dangerous thing, look no further than JT’s assumption about Rob’s exit. “It’s obvious, there’s an all-girl alliance,” JT said after seeing the results of their last vote. With no knowledge at all except that there were just two men left, he assumed that men would be smart enough to keep other strong men (after all, who will you do the elephant walk with if you don’t have enough men around?), so Rob’s exit must be the work of those devious girls and their devious, bleeding vaginas.

I’m exaggerating, but only slightly: JT seems to now think he can trust Russell because Russell couldn’t possibly have voted for Rob, on account of them both having penises and all. After all, penises don’t bleed, or at least aren’t supposed to.

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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.