After two tremendous episodes to kick off Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, the bar might have been set too high for the this week's installment.
We had been treated to dramatic challenges, unexpected ousters, great tribal discord and plenty of great quotes. Unfortunately, the third episode didn’t really give us any of these things and the show suffered because of it.
Despite an early confrontation between Coach, Boston Rob and Russell about Parvati where the two former Villains try to warn Russell about his relationship with the Survivor: Micronesia winner, nothing comes of it later in the episode after the Villains get thumped in the immunity challenge. CBS tried its best to build up the drama about whether Randy or Parvati were heading home, but the vote clearly indicates that the tribe was unified in sending Randy home.
An interesting side effect of Boston Rob and Coach’s confrontation of Russell is Rob admitting that the strategy Russell is using and Coach is inadvertently building – a male/female duo running the show – is a dangerous one. He would know: he rode his alliance/romance with Amber to the final two.
While he was clearly pulling the strings of that alliance, the threat of two votes, not just one, when you crossed Rob is what allowed him to dominate the show. Russell and Parvati or Coach and Jerri could try the same idea this season and Rob does not have his “Ambuh” wingman to help him out.
One of the lesser known aspects of the game Survivor vs. the broadcast is how CBS will often edit a challenge so that it is more dramatic while maintaining the outcome. For instance, in the premiere the opening reward challenge was a race to three wins according to the broadcast, but in reality was a best of nine series.
The initial reaction is to feel cheated by CBS manipulating the game for the purposes of making the broadcast more dramatic, but with a challenge like that one where one two on two could last fifteen minutes, clearly everything can’t be shown.Certainly when Jeff describes the reward/immunity challenge as a race to eight wins this week, CBS was planning on cutting what was broadcast to something a bit more entertaining. However, the Heroes foiled the production plan and simply knocked off the Villains one by one for eight straight victories.
The only Villains who really put up much of an effort and even seemed to have a chance to win at any point were Danielle and Coach. Perhaps the only interesting thing about the challenge was the confirmation that Coach might be more physical that he’s given credit for.
One interesting note about the challenge: what the heck is wrong with James?
While he was well over the top with his chastising of Stephanie after last week’s loss, at least he was right. But this week, why was he (and the entire Heroes tribe for that matter) a complete jerk after thrashing Randy in the challenge? Randy articulates James’s irrational aggression by saying “you like to pick on old men, don’t you?” before getting pummeled by James. His team was up 7-0.
He’s twice the size and half the age of Randy. What’s the point of throwing his blocker at a fallen Randy after pushing him off the platform? James was previously one of my favorite Survivor’s heading into this season, but Parvati said it best: “James, I told you that you belonged over here.”
God Bless Russell for keeping things interesting. After the awkward confrontation from Coach and Boston Rob, Russell feels that things are too comfortable at camp (which is particularly interesting considering their comments about camp in tribal council) and decides to dip into his Survivor: Palau playbook.
Russell decides that by removing/hiding the machete the tribe will not be able to make fire, open coconuts or chop wood – all essentials to life at camp.
It’s a brilliant strategy that doesn’t manifest itself in this week’s episode besides one side comment by Sandra at tribal council, but will certainly lead to drama in weeks to come. Russell’s prediction that Boston Rob will lose his mind when he realizes the machete is gone is likely right. The Survivor: Palau runner up certainly has the best attitude when it comes to living on the island and uses it to his advantage by making life miserable for his tribe mates.
Despite not getting much out of this week’s episode, there is still plenty to consider heading into next week:
- How will Russell’s hiding of the machete affect the Villains?
- Will James’s intense aggression come back to haunt him?
- Are there any hidden immunity idols this season? Is Russell looking for them?
- Can the couples – Russell and Parvati or Coach and Jerri – neutralize Boston Rob?
- We’re headed for a Boston Rob v. Russell show down eventually – can they make it to the merge before it happens?