Pre-credit sequence. I still haven’t gotten over just how big a moron Erik was last week and how completely responsible he was for his own shocking blindside. But if the “Survivor” editors want to give Natalie credit, I guess that’s fine. Back at Aiga camp that night, Russell is feeling regret at having played his Idol at Tribal Council. Laura is also astounded by Russell’s self-outing, gloating, “It could not have happened any better for us.” She promises that Russell is out next. Russell has spent the entire season telling the camera about his own brilliance, but his only real achievement was finding the poorly hidden Immunity Idol that he subsequently wasted. Well, Russell… What do you have up your sleeve? Or are you a wizard in a wife-beater? Thursday (Nov. 12) night’s “Survivor: Samoa” may be a make-or-break episode for Russell. He either does something appropriately diabolical, or he gets my vote as the most overrated contestant in “Survivor” history.
The Country Mouse. The City Mouse. And the BBQed Mouse. [Or, “The Mouse Who Roasted.] We’re up to Day 22 of the game. Natalie is out for a walk, when she sees a rat. Or maybe it’s a mouse. Or a chipmunk? She’s terrified, but she also sees the potential for dinner. After all, she’s wasting away. Or, as we look at her in her bikini, parts of her are wasting away. After urging the critter to eat its snack, she whacks the rodent with a stick, drops it in a coconut husk and returns to camp, proud as a peacock (a peacock she also would have killed, had there been one in the forest). “I killed something, y’all,” she announces to her tribemates. It’s unclear what she expects from her comrades. What she mostly gets is incredulity. In no time, Brett (or somebody as uninteresting as Brett) has skinned the animal, stuck it on a spit and roasted it. Natalie’s catch is pronounced delicious. Jaison is particularly impressed with Natalie’s journey. A new Tree-Mail gives Russell hope that there might be another Immunity Idol hidden at the camp. The missive mentions a feast and something digital.
You either put the lime in the coconut or the coconut in the lock. Either way, drink ’em both together. Reward time. They’re divided into two teams and then… I have absolutely no way of explaining what they’re being asked to do. They have to make numbers with multi-colored coconuts. Then they have to pass the numbers along and they become the combination for a lock, which has to be cracked blindfolded. Want to know what they’re playing for? They’re going to be taken to a natural rock slide, where they’re get a picnic lunch, with brownies and fried chicken. The teams are Jaison, Laura, Brett, Mick and Russell as the Yellow team, against everybody else, the Purpose team. Natalie is Odd Woman Out. She has to pick a team to support, to piggyback on their reward. She opts for the Yellow team and heads to the bench. The coconut rotation is complicated, though it’s hard to play along at home. The Purple Team is certain they have their number first, passing it along to Monica. Yellow is way behind, but they pass their number along to Laura. Monica ends up finishing first, depriving Natalie of an effort-free reward.
Time to start a petition to bring Mika to “Survivor.” The natural waterslide is quite lovely, but I can only think of it in terms of how miserable it would make Mika from “The Amazing Race.” Alleged Rocket Scientist and Anonymous Hippy Chick Kelly are especially happy. Monica is reminded of her family in Puerto Rico. They dine on chicken and donuts, which have to be better than grilled rat. They also get a scroll, which contains the the first clue to the next Immunity Idol. The Reward is Galu-only and they vow to share the information with the other Galuvians back at camp. Over food, they discuss the next elimination. Kelly and Monica want Russell out, but Shambo thinks Russell can be easily defeated in challenges. What’s Shambo watching, exactly? Kelly can imagine Shambo jumping sides. But she doesn’t care.
Either Russell is a genius, or the “Survivor” production staff is made up of idiots. I’m thinking the latter. Back at Aiga, Russell is on the prowl. “I’m going to find the next Immunity Idol and I ain’t gonna tell a damn soul,” he grins. He starts poking around in the vicinity of notable camp landmarks. He knows that Immunity Idols are always hidden around landmarks. But having been exposed previously, maybe “Survivor” got smarter with the rehiding? HAHAHA. And, under a bridge, he finds the Idol. “That easy,” Russell says. This is the second Immunity Idol he’s found without a clue. Umm… “Survivor”? It may be time to fire whichever production assistants you entrust with hiding these Idols, eh? “Am I that damn good?” Russell asks.
Shambo knows the word “impeccably.” Remember how Russell told us last segment that he wasn’t going to tell anybody about his Idol this time? He lied! He’s just that tricky. He pulls Shambo aside and reveals his new Idol. She’s giddy. Shambo calls Russell a “lucky bastard,” which isn’t exactly right. Shambo says that she “impeccably” trusts Russell. Russell’s plan is to put his own head on the chopping block, have everybody in their alliance vote Laura and have the minority report knock Laura out. There’s a simple elegance to this plan.
Square pegs. There’s only one Immunity necklace up for grabs. The funny thing is that by my count, Russell’s alliance *doesn’t* want him to win, right? Because that eliminates their reverse. Immunity involves grappling hooks and bags of puzzle pegs. It’s a multi-stage competition, with Shambo, MickDreamy and Laura moving on. Shambo gets out to a lead, Laura catches her from behind and races out front. I can’t describe it, but the climactic puzzle looks like tremendous fun. Laura wins! Once again, the the best laid plans of Mice and Russell often go astray. Laura proudly declares that “Tonight, Russell’s going home.” Sigh. So much hubris.
Mobilizing the troops. So who will Russell and Shambo target instead of Laura? “My heart is broken,” moans Shambo, who would be well played by Rainn Wilson in an “SNL” skit. Shambo’s new plan is to eliminate Kelly. Remember how Russell told us he wasn’t going to tell anybody about his Idol and then told one person? Now he tells another person, yoking Jaison in on his new conspiracy. Jaison knows that there can’t be any doubt that Russell is the vote tonight and invites MickDreamy and Natalie in on Russell’s latest exploits. “It’s unbelievable how he finds these things. And so quickly too,” says the amazed MickDreamy, who wants to put an end to the Galu arrogance. Monica proposes to the Galu conspirators that they find a contingency in case Russell found the Idol. For some reason, Dave talks everybody out of listening to Monica. But Russell is walking by and he overhears a mention of Natalie as their second choice. He didn’t hear context and suddenly he’s confused. The Galuvians remain confident and they plan the celebratory sacrifice of a chicken for whenever the Foa Foas are all gone.
Tribal Council. Erik is the first member of our jury. He comes out looking angry. He gets even angrier when Dave says that Erik was weakening their tribe from within. Kelly agrees that Erik was like a snake. Jeff Probst pokes and prods at various old wounds, expanding the rifts between the former tribes. MickDreamy and Jaison agree that their only chance is for another Erik to emerge. Russell puts on a show of being resigned to his own elimination. Dave says that they’ll be voting out the person who’s most dangerous, based on several criteria, calling their choice a consensus. If this backfires on Galu, Dave is totally to blame.
The vote. The drums bang loudly. Extra loudly? Adding to the tension, we don’t see a single vote beforehand, though Dave and Laura share a knowing smirk. Jeff offers them the chance to play Idols and Russell pulls it out, announcing, “I ain’t finished playing just yet.” Dave says “Oh wow” and can’t seem to pick his jaw off the floor. Why are you so amazed, Dave? This is EXACTLY what Monica warned you might happen. Erik is now strongly rooting for Russell, who gets the first seven votes. Funny how the votes were read in that order. Dave’s jaw drops when the votes against Kelly are read aloud. Farewell, Kelly. You did nothing for 24 days.
Bottom Line. “Survivor” tried playing this up as the most shocking Tribal Council ever, but was it really? A bigger shock would have been if Galu had been smart enough to anticipate this possibility. They were too blinded by their hatred for Russell. Poorly played, Dave. Poorly played. Want to see the best Tribal Council in “Survivor” history? Well, my vote goes with This One. Oh, Amanda Kimmel. You were so awesome except for when it came to finales.
Bottom Line Part II. Perhaps the “Survivor” producers should have put one Idol in a familiar location and then hidden the other one some place more complicated and then Jeff could have said something like, “That’s a special Decorative Idol. The real Idol is still out there and you’ll need the clues to find it.” Adapt on the fly, y’all!
So was Russell brilliant tonight? Or were Dave and the “Survivor” producers just dumb? And which “Survivor” Tribal Council has been *your* favorite? Sound off, readers…