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

November 5, 2009 | 10:19 pm

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. 

Russell

"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)

Related:

'Survivor': Shambo finally gets her day in the sun

'Survivor': Russell Swan talks about his serious health scare

Complete 'Survivor' Coverage on Show Tracker

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.

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