JT and the awesomely stupid letter to Russell

Amanda Kimmel has now played Survivor for 100 days, longer than any other person (though Parvati will reach that milestone on the first day of the next episode). That experience may have contributed to the fact that Amanda is the only sane person on the Heroes tribe, because she was the only person to object to her tribe giving an immunity idol to a member of the other tribe who happens to be one of the most cunning players ever, not that they’d know.

Thankfully, the Heroes didn’t listen to her, but only because we wouldn’t have gotten the comedy that was JT’s letter, the best letter ever written in the history of reality TV.

First, JT came up with the plan we saw previewed last week: Counter the deviousness coming from the vaginas on the other tribe by secretly handing Russell an immunity idol so that before he gets voted off–because of course the vaginas will vote off the penis before turning on themselves, duh–so Russell’s single vote for Parvati would send her out of the game. Not a bad strategy, at least according to Jeff Probst and his blog of sexism, except it’s totally a dumb strategy when, as Amanda said, “we don’t know” what’s happening on the other tribe.

But at the immunity challenge, after declaring “This is Survivor history,” Colby Donaldson told Russell about the plan in a conversation that should get the crew an Emmy for capturing so cleanly even while the challenge was going on. As the two waited for their turns on platforms floating in the water, the last two to go, Colby said, “When the challenge is over, you go to JT” and “you come on board with us.” Russell played along brilliantly, asking “Who should I get rid of?” and saying, “I wish I could shake your hand.” But because he’s Russell, he then got a smirk on his face that illustrated his incredulity, and then he pulled out a megaphone and told everyone, “I am king Russell!” (Actually, the editors did that with some heavy-handed fake thunder and lightening–at least, it seemed totally fake, even though it was raining.)

Tangent: I think Russell may have actually used the “king” nickname around his tribemates, not just in interviews that we hear, or someone leaked that to Parvati, too. Because after she found another hidden immunity idol–they’re like cockroaches in Samoa, apparently, just everywhere–she told us she wouldn’t tell Russell. “He’s not the king of Survivor, I’m the queen. And usually the king does what the queen says anyway,” she said.

Anyway, Russell and JT hugged after the challenge and Russell grabbed JT’s package, and then took it back to camp where Parvati read the letter aloud in the most sarcastic, mocking voice imaginable. It was beautiful, and there was a lot to mock in JT’s writing: “This is not fake.” “I feel like I can trust you.” “You will be completely safe with us.” Best of all, he wrote, “Read in complete privacy” at the top and “Destroy this right when you finish Reading!” at the end, all of it in scrawled, printed handwriting that made sure no one would confuse it with a four-grader’s love letter. Because of that, Parvati also added flourishes like “XOXO JT” and “your BFF.”

Although Russell now has a hidden immunity idol, and did a good job of playing along when all of this went down, he doesn’t get too much credit, because it was all JT and the Heroes who made this decision based on, well, no information. Even if they assume Parvati has a similar alliance like the one she had in Micronesia, it’s dumb to assume anything in a game like this, as Amanda said. I’m now hoping for an Amanda and Sandra final two, with Amanda finally winning. I’m delusional, I know.

Now that JT crawled out from under his blanket fort to pass a note and an idol to the bridge troll, the tribes will be merging. That presents a problem for Russell because he has the idol and Parvati’s still around, meaning it looks like he ignored his new BFFs. He’ll have to come up with a plausible story, perhaps that he saved himself but the women split their votes so Parvati didn’t go home as planned.

So it was dumb, and dumb, but really, will this have a big impact? Of course, Russell has another idol, but with the merge, and Sandra’s willingness to turn on Russell which the preview revealed, things might change significantly. Clearly, it’s a new game once the tribes merge.

By the way, it’s notable that what happened at Tribal Council was probably the least interesting thing about the episode, even though Coach found a Samoan drag queen’s closet and raided it, and showed up to watch Courtney be voted out.

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

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.