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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': Russell and Coach escape the hot seat

March 5, 2010 |  7:53 am

Rob I think Russell owes Boston Rob a big debt of gratitude. Or is it Coach?

One of them wouldn't be on "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" anymore if the player proving himself to be a superstar among stars didn't win yet another challenge for the villains.

Just as he did in the second episode, Rob Mariano almost single-handedly won a challenge for the villains by being the team's brains, guiding them through the strategic part of the immunity challenge. Frankly, once I saw that it was the "person in the rolling ball" challenge from last season -- the same one in which Russell Swan infamously passed out -- I knew the villains would win. Tom, the guy in the ball for the heroes, is smart and a good leader, but Rob is at least as smart and an even better leader, with a team that's good at taking orders.

With all due respect to the heroes, it's a shame, because both Coach and Russell were begging to go. In the opening of the show, Coach was literally crying like a little girl to Tyson (who shockingly dropped his normal jackass personality for a moment) because Sandra offended him at tribal council. Rob put it best: "That's not much of a coach if you ask me."

It didn't take long, however, until the target went from Coach to Russell, who doesn't seem to be aware he has gone from little league to the big leagues. Last season on Samoa he was able to intimidate his teammates by constantly going after immunity idols. This time he basically begged his experienced teammates to vote him out when everybody else decided not to act on the immunity idol clue they found together and he went to look for it by claiming he was going on a "walk," possibly the dumbest move on "Survivor" since Erik gave away his idol on "Samoa." He couldn't even wait to do it in the middle of the night?

Thanks to Boston Rob's leadership, however, it was the heroes on the hot seat for the third time in four episodes. When the heroes found their clue and all ran off to look for the idol -- no unity on this tribe -- Tom found it. But because they were all together, Amanda saw him get it and soon everyone knew he had it, turning the guy already on the outs with his tribe into someone not just disliked, but a threat.

"I wish I didn't have the idol," Tom soon admitted. Hard to blame him. Because there were so many votes against him and Colby that the alliance of six could guarantee either he or his pal-on-the-outs Colby would be gone.

Except ... for J.T. If Boston Rob is the smartest player on "Heroes vs. Villains" and the best at challenges, J.T. may be the most strategic. He flipped, joined with Tom and Colby, and voted our Cirie. Which was a very smart move.

I adore Cirie and am so sad to see her go. Probably the saddest moments for me in all my years of watching "Survivor" was when she just barely missed winning the final challenge in "fans versus favorites." But she's a smart player and not a particularly loyal one. Since she expected J.T. to stick with her, she wouldn't have been any more loyal to him after the vote. But by flipping, J.T. earned the loyalty of Tom and Colby, two excellent players who will now stay as tight with him as Chewbacca was with Han Solo.

Before I go, a special shout-out to my girl Cirie, who may just be my personal favorite Survivor ever. In her third defeat, she stayed as classy as she has always been, stating, "I felt like I was got by one of my moves. My hat's off to them." For the third time, I'm going to miss her.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Rob Mariano during the immunity challenge. Credit: Robert Voets / CBS Broadcasting

RELATED:

'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': Parvati and Russell get too close for tribe's comfort

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

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