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'Survivor': The merge brings everyone together -- for an instant

Laura2 There's a point in every season of "Survivor" where just for an instant, alliances are set aside and the players let go of fear and anger: the highly anticipated merge.

As per usual, things were all ice cream and rainbows when Galu and Foa Foa were joined as one at the merge this season. Members of both tribes embraced one another and shrieked in excitement for a moment of temporary friendship. Then all dived at an elaborate food spread, picking at chicken breasts and licking pastries like ravenous animals. Afterward, they settled upon a new tribe name: Aiga, which is slang for 'extended family' in Samoa (Erik, for one, found the name gag-inducing).

Of course, the players quickly started scrambling to figure out who would be the first to go, and I was thrilled when it seemed like everyone was on board to vote out Laura. Like Shambo, I can't stand the chick. There's something holier-than-thou about her that isn't justified whatsoever -- in Shambo's words, she's like one of those "popular girls in high school that want to snob up their nose at people who don't fit into their clique."

"There's this '90210' little young thing in you going on, and it's bizarre to me," Shambo later said, confronting Laura and trying to get to the root of their issues. 

And then Laura won the immunity idol, which killed me. It was so disappointing to watch her get up to bat and manage to eek out a win. It seemed like the plan to take her out of the game was so set in stone, and then she got off the hook. 

Meanwhile, even though Russell is meant to be this season's villain, I've oddly found myself endeared to him. Perhaps it's because he's so upfront (in his interviews, at least) about who he is and the game he's playing. The stuff he says is so ridiculous and over-the-top that it makes his overinflated ego comical instead of disgusting. 


"Who gets grapes fed to them? The Kings do," he said after Monica dangled some fruit into his mouth at the feast.

Still, I was surprised at how quickly he exposed his hidden immunity idol to numerous members of the old Galu tribe, promising each he'd take them to the end if they followed his plan. Unfortunately for Russell, it looks like no one kept his confessions a secret. 

It was too bad he gave into his paranoia and played his hidden immunity idol at tribal council when he didn't receive a single vote. And with Laura sliding by this week, it looks like she'll be gunning for him during the next tribal. 

That just proves that Russell's instincts were right -- which is why I think I like him so much. He knows which players talk too much and who's too conniving, and he tries to cut them loose as soon as possible. Did you see the way his eyes widened the second Shambo called Laura a "bitch"? He's able to pick up on the social dynamics of the group and doesn't run around screaming his findings to everyone else.

Sadly, I think his luck may run out before he has a chance to prove he's the ultimate "Survivor" player he claims to be.

Do you think Russell's demise is imminent now that he's without the hidden immunity idol? And why is Laura so darn annoying? Let's talk in the comments below.

--Amy Kaufman (follow me on Twitter @AmyKinLA)


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Photo: (Top) Laura Morett hits a ball and wins an immunity challenge. (Below) Russell Hantz tries to convince fellow tribe members to align with him. Credit: CBS.

Comments () | Archives (7)

I find Russell interesting, however the way he talks about people and the names he calls them is repulsive. He obviously has a Nepolian complex. I wish producers would have a follow-up segment about what the fellow survivors would say after they watched his antics and heard his comments.

What a fool for laying out his immunity idol needlessly. During the council the heated exchanges never included him. He was flying under the radar.

Amy, as I read the article I was thinking, hmmmm, did *I* write this? I'm not kidding, I think I had every single thought during last night's episode that you wrote about. Especially about Russell! As recently as last night--before the show--I hated him. Minutes into it, after one of his interviews, I had completely turned around. I was really disappointed that he wasted the immunity idol but, of course, he had no way of KNOWING that he wasn't going to be voted out.

As for Erik, what can I say? To be voted off with an immunity idol in your pocket? Wow. That's a blindside vote that will go down in Survivor history.

The only reason I think Russell is not in danger next week is because the previews were a bit too heavy-handed in showing us that he's in danger next week. That's usually a clue that something else will happen.

I have a feeling Galu will continue to implode. Shambo voted with Erik - so she's going to be worried - and gunning hard for Laura. Natalie did a masterful job in getting the Galu gals to vote for Erik - planting seeds in their minds about the Galu guys. I have a hard time accepting that Galu is suddenly going to rally and pick off the old Foa Foa. Especially since the 4 Foa Foa seem to be the only ones really hanging in together. That's a powerful incentive for certain Galu members to utilize.

Even if Russel is voted out, he"ll be back in next season's "best of the best" Survivor they are planning...

It's hard to believe that Russell owns an oil company and is supposedly rich. Have you seen his teeth? Or should I say missing teeth?

Russell is great. I didn't like him in episode 1, but every show after that he has been the most entertaining player on the show. He is a crack-up. I disagree with the writer that he has great instincts because he did everything wrong at the merge. He singled out Laura as the first person to speak to on Galu when she was the last person with any pull on that tribe. He should have kept it simple and talked to one of the guys.

It's a shame he played his idol because it could have bought him one more tribal council. He is definitely next on the chopping block because of his behavior at the merge. We all knew his game was too destructive to go all the way but I would like him stick around. He makes me laugh.

I think you all missed the point of Russell with the idol.
I think that he knew that the idol was worthless now that everyone knows he has it. John has figured out that Erik must have the idol after Shambo gave them the clue. You know that John probably searched that tree 100 times and didn't find it so Erik must have it. John and Russell seemed to have clicked and I think he told Russell that Erik probably has the idol.
Russell had to have known of Erik's plan to flush out Russell's idol by saying they are voting Russell and vote Jaison instead.
I think it was all planned by everyone to have Russell play the idol to make Erik believe that his plan was still in effect so that he doesn't play his idol. Look at all the faces when Russell played the idol. They were not surprised, in fact, they were happy. Also, they all looked at Erik's response and smiled when they knew he "bit" the hook. I believe it was all stratgized beforehand.
Go "On Demand" and check out the tribal council again and I think you will be able to read the body-language better and see that the idol play was to secure Erik's fate.


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