Candice, Danielle sent to the jury after Russell gets fooled by “dangly” thing in Rupert’s pants

For some time now, Survivor has minimized the survival part of the game in exchange for strategy, and that’s mostly been okay. The relatively recent decline of the number of challenges, however, has led to an even higher percentage of strategizing, and an episode like last night’s–when we had two back-to-back episodes in one, basically–highlights that there’s a tipping point. When there’s barely any time for establishing shots of wildlife, the show doesn’t really work in the same way.

Still, in one episode, Survivor Heroes vs. Villains managed to get rid of the two people who I could barely remember from their previous seasons, and who didn’t really seem like heroes or villains at all. (Heck, when I talked to her before the game, even Danielle couldn’t seem to recall what she’d done, whereas Candice had a strategy as boring as her.) Both were eliminated with some pretty intense strategizing from unlikely sources, and though that was great, two episodes in one was a bit much.

The first started with an immunity challenge that was basically fought between Parvati–who won the same challenge in Micronesia after holding her arm in the air for six hours–and Rupert, who, as one of the two remaining heroes, needed immunity. Everyone else basically quit for food, which is lame, although since producers waited until day 31 for the challenge that forced us to stare into everyone’s armpits, maybe that was for the better. Anyway, Parvati won again, and Jeff Probst read everyone a clue to yet another hidden immunity idol.

Because she actually listened to the clue, Sandra found the idol almost immediately–let’s hope the change with hidden immunity idols next season is actually hiding them–but she didn’t tell anyone. Meanwhile, Rupert took a rock and put it in his pocket to make it look like he had the idol, which turned out to be a brilliant move.

Rupert previously told Russell, “you’ve already proven yourself to be a disgusting, terrible human being to swear on your kids’ life,” which prompted Russell to say, “I don’t give a fuck about you” and, hilariously, call the former hero “the second coming of Christ: Rupert.” Perhaps because they were in conflict, Russell stared down at his enemy’s pants and noticed that “Rupert has a big bulky thing in his pocket.”

Rupert said he found a rock that would “make it look a little dangly, a little big,” and that convinced Russell that Rupert had the idol. “I know exactly how they look, and I know how exactly they look in a pocket,” he told Sandra, who in her awesomely bemused way, told us, “Of course I know that’s a lie, because I have the freakin’ immunity idol.”

So, the villains alliance planned to split their votes, voting for Rupert in case he had the idol. They also decided to target Candice, because she was perceived to be a liability after flipping to help them last week. Colby either got word of this or predicted it, and he and Rupert decided to vote for Candice, too, thus joining with the three voting for Candice. Rupert, therefore, was never at risk, and Candice joined the jury as punishment for her relatively stupid–or at least pointless–flip last week.

Rupert not playing the idol and all the votes for Candice freaked Russell out, and he admitted, “I’m not fully in control of this game now.” The rupture in the space-time continuum caused by that confession quickly closed when Russell’s ego regained its gravitational force and he corrected himself, saying, “me and Parvati are equally in control” and then, “I’m going to take control.”

He did that by letting his insecurity get to him–again!–this time over Danielle and Parvati’s relationship. Russell said, “It’s supposed to be me and Parvati,” and that’s the kind of statement that makes the Parvati/Russell conspiracy theory sound even worse. Supposed to be? What?

Anyway, Russell told each woman that the other was targeting her, which prompted Parvati to say, immediately, “I want to talk to her” because “my final three from day one wants me out.” Russell hadn’t planned on this because myopic worldview doesn’t permit him to consider possibilities beyond the one he’s decided is right, so he threatened Parvati instead: “If you do that, you’re out of this game. I promise you.”

That was dumb, and Parvati responded in disbelief, challenging his insistence that she could not “have a fucking conversation with someone. Don’t tell me I can’t have a conversation with someone.” Russell, meanwhile, was convinced that “Parvati is going to be so scared of me she’s going to stick to me like glue.” Actually, she probably thinks Russell is about as harmless as the paste kindergartners eat for a snack.

While the net result of all of this was that Danielle joined the jury and Russell’s plan actually worked, I think what we saw was the end of the Parvati/Russell alliance because of his sloppiness. Parvati is too smart to be manipulated by Russell, and she can obviously see right through him. Her only play with him is to use him as a pawn to take to the final two or three because he’ll get no votes, but I hope she dumps him before that.

Anyway, Danielle was voted out after breaking down at Tribal over Russell’s lies. Parvati told Probst, “Russell’s trying to test loyalty,” and Probst said, “So Russell, you got caught.” Russell said, “I didn’t get caught doing nothing,” and it’s kind of hilarious that his double-negative meant he admitted getting caught doing something.

Danielle couldn’t believe Russell was lying, and she suddenly started crying at Tribal–it was so quick that a significant amount of time had clearly elapsed and was cut in the editing room, although I like my friend John’s explanation better: “Maybe she just looked down and saw her breasts.”

Freaked out, Danielle told Russell, “I’m closer to Parvati than you think.” That led Russell to whisper to Jerri to vote for Danielle, and Jerri went along with it, saying, “With this vote, I’m sealing my fate.” Let’s hope instead that it was Russell sealing his fate when he tried to play Danielle and Parvati against one another. Considering that the preview showed him reaching out to Colby and Rupert, of all people, he’s clearly very desperate. If he doesn’t go out Thursday, that means he makes it to the finale episode, and thus we’ve had two back-to-back seasons of Russell all the time. I’m ready for that to end.

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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.