Parvati becomes a true Survivor idol as Russell’s seed explodes in JT’s face

The best part of a very amazing Survivor Tribal Council last night was not that JT got blindsided, nor that we got blindsided when Parvati played both her hidden immunity idols (she had two!), nor that Russell got blindsided when Parvati revealed she had a second idol after he’d given her yet another one, nor that Jerri and Sandra were the surprised recipients of Parvati’s idols, nor that Russell was exposed to the Heroes as a double-agent.

The best part was that all of that happened within the same few seconds. Holy Probst, Parvati!

After the shock wore off, a bit of confusion set in. As spectacular as Parvati’s move was, we were clearly deceived as the show returned to old-school editing and didn’t allow us to see something critical to the game play that contributed to the outcome. (There was a clue that was coming when we saw most of the votes being cast, setting us up for a tie.)

The big mystery is why Parvati played both idols but used neither on herself — especially after Amanda told her to, and especially after she set herself up to be an even bigger target by quitting the immunity challenge, thereby indicating that she felt secure. And why did Parvati use one on Jerri, who seemed like the least-likely target, at least from the Villains’ perspective? Parvati’s decision obviously worked to her advantage and what she did was obviously a smart, game-changing move, but without some kind of information, her actions would have been ridiculously dumb. Two idols and you don’t use one on yourself even when you’ve been told you’re the biggest target ever?

The most likely possibility is that Parvati learned from Amanda (or someone else?) that Jerri and Sandra were their targets, not her. Or if you like your conspiracy theories with a side of idol, Parvati was tipped off by the producers. I’m pretty sure we’ll see that it was the former next week or later in the season; perhaps there’s a secret alliance we don’t know about.

Russell’s seed, having been implanted deep within JT after last week’s encounter with his package, grew into an alien and finally burst out of JT’s chest. The editors had fun using JT’s cockiness against him: “Therefore there are no idols in the game. It’s a known fact,” he said at one point, when we, of course, knew that there were two. JT even acknowledged the possibility that Russell could be playing him and he could go home. “Do I believe it? Not a chance in the world,” he said. He also said, “I trust him explicitly.”

After getting voted out, JT said to Russell, “well done,” which was cool, but then he blamed his exit on all women in his exit confessional: “don’t ever trust women, ever, ever,” he said. If you thought JT’s assumption that the women were in control on the Villains tribe was just good analysis rather than sexism, his reaction here should at least make you question that: JT congratulates the person largely responsible for getting him ejected from the game while castigating all women as untrustworthy? That’s pathetic. Why not say “well done” to Parvati, too? Oh, because she’s a woman.

In my very first conversation with JT, he bragged that he was underestimated because “I’ve never even had to write my own papers; I always had girls write them for me.” This didn’t endear him to me, but his record perfect game in Brazil indicated that he knew how to play a solid game, and most importantly, knew how to form relationships, which led him to getting all the votes to Stephen’s zero, despite the fact they’d played similar strategic games. Anyway, he also reiterated his thoughts about women in our pre-HvV conversation: “deep in my mind I know who is going to turn on me first … that’s those girls, man; they’re crazy.” Notice how he doesn’t give them credit for being smart or strategic, nor does he entertain the possibility than a man could be cunning–and even after meeting one, Russell, he’s still in denial. Oh well.

Also last night, the tribes merged, with the Villains going to the Heroes’ beach. Russell showed “a map to our new home” that they got in tree mail. I can’t believe I used to believe those maps were real and accurate. The tribe beaches are actually very close to one another, but require a trek in a vehicle up and down a hill/mountain. They didn’t just walk through the trees along a super-fake dotted line.

The merged tribe named themselves “Yin-Yang,” and apparently wanting to honor Coach’s memory, mangled and oversimplified its meaning: “it means good and evil,” Russell told Probst. (Aside to future Survivor players who make it to the merge: Please name your tribe something NOT STUPID. Thanks.) Parvati moped around camp and ate plantains, irritating the Heroes, although in retrospect that just looks like confidence.

Everything leading up to the Tribal Council was kind of slow, actually, especially since there was only one challenge. Danielle clung to her pole longest and won the immunity necklace–thankfully, since it covered up whatever the hell she has done to her chest. And that gave the five Villains three immunity idols between them. Of course, Parvati ended up with both of the hidden idols when Russell handed his over, incredibly. Parvati called them “two little green men, protecting me,” but even though her alliance is in control, she now has zero, and she has one pissed-off troll wondering why he was left out, which he hates. The preview for next week showed him saying, “you lied to me,” so if it’s possible for this to get any better, it looks like we’re in for a great ride during the final four episodes.

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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.