And it is done: Russell Hantz is out of Survivor–forever, he says. After three seasons with nothing but Russell all the time, I don’t even want to think about the possibility that he’ll return someday, but instead will celebrate his loss, and his crying breakdown afterward, which made it all the more delicious.
Before arriving at the challenge, Russell promised us that he’d beat Matt (“I’ll just take him out”) and then everyone else (“I’m going to pick them off, and I’m going to make them suffer”). I momentarily considered rooting for Russell when Matt said “I’m fighting to honor my god,” because I completely loathe reality contestants who act as if god is involved in helping them win challenges but not, say, in ending genocide or starvation.
As with many of Russell’s promises, his promise to win failed to come true. Still, the Redemption Island challenge was quite dramatic: Matt and Russell had to assemble wood block dominoes, basically, along planks connected to rope that would cause the planks to vibrate if they were touched. Matt finished quickly, but his dominoes failed to all connect with one another. Russell tried, but he, too, had a problem, and Matt’s second chance gave him the win.
That’s when Russell started sobbing, pulling his hat over his eyes so we couldn’t see. Jeff Probst couldn’t help but kiss up to Russell one last time, saying, “Russell, brand new for you. You are out of this game,” and perhaps to stop the crying, added, “You’ve played a very, very strong game two times.” That’s debatable, but I’m tired of making that argument.
Of course, Russell couldn’t go home before being Russell, drying his eyes and returning to his arrogance and ego and stubborn, sore-loser dismissal of any part of the game that doesn’t work in his favor. “I respect this game too much to go out this way,” he said. (So much respect he leaked the results of two seasons.) “It’s hard to be a professional quarterback and have pee-wee leaguers on your team,” he said. Once again, Russell is incapable of wrapping his brain around his own loss; things that don’t go his way are never right, and everything else is. After all, it’s not like his tribe members burned his clothing or lied constantly and then demanded respect for being truthful.
Russell also complained about “people who didn’t really come here to play the game” (shut up already) and insisted, “This is my last time playing this game; that’s it. I have nothing else to prove.” To Russell’s credit, he did give credit to his competition: “Matt, I give him props. Beat me.”
But the episode was barely getting started and there was even more drama thanks to crazypants (figuratively and literally, thanks to his droopy pink briefs) Phillip and ego-driven Ralph, who started by bragging to Russell that he’d found an individual immunity idol. Dumb! Sarita, who was also a Redemption Island arena spectator, stopped him before he could produce the idol, and then he pretended like he was lying. Meanwhile, Phillip used his secret agent skills to determine that Ralph was telling the truth (no duh) and called him out. And as Russell sparred with Ralph, he tried to turn himself into a ghost in the game by giving away his tribe’s secrets and telling them to Phillip and Kristina.
Ralph, by the way, showed the hidden immunity idol to his tribemates, and turned into a hairier version of Russell when he said, “I told you guys, I had it under control.” Mike then observed, “We’re controlling this tribe.” Um, you are the entire tribe! There are only two people not in your alliance, dummy! I think that tribe will implode spectacularly once they get rid of Russell’s two proteges, unless those two women can pull off an upset. Since Stephanie annoys the heck out of me, I hope they go home first, and then the rest of the tribe implodes when they realize they have no strategy beyond being anti-Russell and his allies.
Phillip, that dummy, went back to his tribe with knowledge of what had happened, and tried to use that to blackmail Rob into keeping Kristina, who in a delightful turn of events, turned on Phillip before being voted out. Rob’s reaction was priceless, though he didn’t say it to Phillip’s face: “Hey dumbass, aren’t you in my alliance?”
Rob, meanwhile, has a kind of renewed vigor, lying about being constipated to sneak back to camp to find the new hidden immunity idol–which he did. “This time I’m gonna make it 39 days and win,” he said.
His tribe lost the challenge, which seemed hilariously dangerous–flying saws, buried hatchets, chopping and sawing through wood–but it was insanely close and competitive and dramatic. It was a creative challenge, too; awesome to make them cut their own puzzle planks from a wall. The challenge also featured some subtle SEARS product placement because they had to carry a CRAFTSMAN BRAND toolkit with them, and the CRAFTSMAN BRAND logo was constantly visible, although I prefer close-ups on that to Phillip’s blurred bulge any day.
After his tribe lost, Rob worried that he’d be Tysoned again, with people in his alliance voting out Phillip instead of Kristina, who Rob probably correctly perceives as a greater threat, even though she seemed kind of defeated and not at all willing to play beyond trying to get people to vote for Phillip. Phillip, as always, was television gold, and Probst couldn’t help but mock him to his face: “You’re a doer,” Probst said. Then again, Phillip did mock himself, pointing out that, in the army, he did “field sanitation. What a glorious job,” he said.
As long as he keeps shoveling shit, he’s probably pretty safe, because Rob can use him as a shield, and the editors can use him as reliable, non-Russell-based entertainment. And then we all win.