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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': It's good to be bad

February 19, 2010 |  6:42 am

98305_D03414 If I learned anything from Thursday night's episode of "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains," it's that I'd rather live with a bunch of heroes, but I'd rather go into war with villains. It's no coincidence that JT and Cirie and Tom and Rupert have the better camp life. Everybody works hard, nobody complains and as a result there's a leak-free shelter and good spirits.

Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom... I mean the villains' camp, they have gone through five different shelter constructions, all of which leak. With the exception of Boston Rob (more on him later), nobody works hard and everybody whines and is self-involved. At one point, Jerri says they're going to "spiral down into a pit of negativity." Speak the truth, sister. I'd rather watch the complete series of "According to Jim" than live in the jungle with Coach and Randy and Tyson.

There's no question who I'd rather go into battle with, though. Once again, the villains kicked major butt in the immunity challenge for one simple reason: They have a very smart dictator and they're willing to take orders. This, my friends, is why the Army is not a democracy.

The first half of this episode was essentially the Boston Rob show. After complaining about how lazy his fellow villains are around camp, he walked out in a huff and then collapsed like a jungle diva. Once he was revived by the medical team, who pronounced in their sultry Australian accents that there was nothing wrong with him beyond a short-term flu, Rob gave us the clip that would surely be used at the Oscars if reality shows were eligible and he were a good actor: "I feel like ['Survivor' is] getting the best of me. And I love and respect it too much... to not play."

By the immunity challenge -- which was, without explanation, combined with the reward challenge -- Rob was back in good shape. The heroes took an early lead in the first half of the challenge, which involved pushing heavy boxes, for a simple reason: They all worked hard. And then the villains caught up and won the second half of the challenge, which involved solving a puzzle with those boxes. Why? Because Rob took control and they all followed his directions.

JT was allegedly in charge of the heroes, but due to some combination of his not being as smart as Rob and his team not following orders, they completely fell apart. Which should sound familiar, because that's almost exactly what happened last week when the heroes took an early lead in the physical part of the final challenge and then lost the puzzle-solving portion and thus immunity.

It's after they lost that things got really interesting. Or is that insane? Sweet, kind, modest James lost his cool, and possibly his mind, yelling at Stephenie and blaming her for their loss. We never saw any evidence that she in particular caused confusion in the challenge, but James became convinced that past was prologue for Stephenie because she was the sole survivor from the disastrous Ulong tribe on Palau. James seems to think she carries a curse, instead of being talented enough to claw her way out of disaster.

Of course, Rupert -- who's not nearly as nice this time around as on his last two seasons -- was complaining about Stephenie early on, so either she has been annoying people in ways we haven't seen or they see her as a threat. Her only allies, it turned out, were Tom and Colby, who were also on the outs among the Heroes. With Rupert, James, JT and Amanda allied on the other side, that left Cirie and Candice in the power position. And for whatever reason, they decided to go with the plurality.

Or maybe they just didn't want to irk James. The formerly even-tempered, musclebound gravedigger went ballistic in tribal council, once again blaming Stephenie for all the tribe's problems because of her evil gypsy's curse. And when she was voted out and, after keeping her mouth shut all episode, gave some sarcastic advice to her hapless former teammates, James couldn't even be gracious in victory: "Shut your mouth," he yelled as she walked away with her extinguished torch. Way to be classy.

"I had no idea it would shift from a team mentality to self-preservation this early," Colby commented aptly. But that's what you get with a bunch of experienced all-stars thinking 10 steps down the road, I suppose. I don't know about you guys, but I'm thinking I'd rather endure life with the villains and win than enjoy life with the heroes and participate in what's starting to be an epic implosion.

--Ben Fritz

Photo: James Clement and Candice Woodcock. Credit: Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting Inc.

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