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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': Like watching chess grandmasters at work [Updated]

98305_D12116 In the battle of Rob versus Russell, Tyson was the loser.

Has there ever been a greater intellectual battle in "Survivor" history than Rob against Russell? Watching them strategize against each other Thursday, each trying to get one step ahead of the other's thinking, was like getting inside the heads of two chess grandmasters.

In chess, of course, often times the winner is not the person who protects the king but the one who uses the pawn. And Russell played the pawn named Tyson perfectly, which is why his alliance of three beat Rob's alliance of six.

All of us fans, of course, should be grateful that the producers had the wisdom to make this one of those episodes in which both teams go to tribal council. Could anyone stand to see the heroes lose again and vote out another person through their constantly flip-flopping strategy? Not me.

So we got the mercy of a single challenge in which, after Rob and Candice each won individual immunity on their teams, Rob of course won the final reward for the villains: a chance to eat hot dogs while they watched the heroes' tribal council.

And yes, the heroes hung around the beach talking as if maybe Colby was going to go, but in the end, for reasons never really made clear, they sent James home. Why now instead of getting rid of him last in the last episode and keeping Tom? No idea. It sure doesn't make sense to me. But the heroes just haven't been bringing their A-game in elimination challenges or in tribal councils. Yawn.

Anyway, on to the interesting stuff. Let's list the back-and-forth between Rob and Russell. Too bad I can't draw a flow-chart for you all:

1. Rob starts convincing his alliance members to vote for Parvati. However, he also wants to get Russell to play the idol, so he starts telling Russell that he's the target.

2. Russell sees right through Rob's ruse. Tells Parvati and Danielle they should vote for Tyson and he'll give the idol to Parvati, thus getting rid of Tyson despite having a minority of votes.

3. Rob realizes Russell might give the idol to Parvati and vote for Tyson. So he gets his six-person alliance to split their votes evenly between Russell and Parvati. That way, whichever one plays the idol, there will be a re-vote between the other one and Tyson and Tyson will prevail.

4. Russell realizes Rob may have his alliance split the vote. "That would be a genius move," he admits. This leaves him in a box. He can't beat Rob on the votes because Rob's alliance is bigger. So, in one of the most brilliant moves I've ever seen on "Survivor," he convinces Tyson to switch his vote to Parvati, correctly reading that he'd be happy to get rid of her. It never occurs to Tyson what would happen if Russell gave her the idol.

5. After making a show of playing the idol himself, that's exactly what Russell does. It's the first time that I can recall -- and please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong -- that someone has successfully given an idol to another player. Sure enough, Tyson is gone after all four votes for Parvati are void and we end up with three votes for him and two for Russell.

There's just one nagging question in my mind: Why did Russell and his alliance get rid of Tyson and not Rob? Russell clearly sees Rob as his biggest threat and said outright after Rob told him, "It's better to play with me than against me" that "I'm going to make him eat those words." [Updated 10:15 a.m.: The obvious reason Russell voted out Tyson instead of Rob is that Rob had immunity. I was just testing you guys to make sure you were paying attention. It’s not like I had already forgotten 30 minutes after watching the show.]

Russell won this battle, but his war with Rob continues.  I'm glad, because the war of Russell and Rob is making "Heroes vs. Villains" one of the best seasons of "Survivor" ever. I hope neither one gets eliminated for a long time.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Russel Hantz. Credit: Robert Voets / CBS

Comments () | Archives (24)

"There's just one nagging question in my mind: Why did Russell and his alliance get rid of Tyson and not Rob?"

- Because Rob has immunity. DOH.

Russell could notget rid of Rob because he had immunity

"There's just one nagging question in my mind: Why did Russell and his alliance get rid of Tyson and not Rob?"

Because Rob had the immunity idol.


Russell couldn't vote Rob out because he won the immunity challenge.

The reason Russell didn't go after Rob was ROB WON IMMUNITY! Jeez.

Russell could not go after Rob because Rob had won immunity. He was safe from the vote.

Russell & Co. couldn't vote off Boston Rob this episode because he won the immunity challenge.

And, btw...Yes...without a doubt one of the boldest and most ingenious moves ever played in Survivor! I cannot see both Rob and Russell going much further on the show together...too much bad blood. Eventually one will win out over the other as it's now become personal. As fans, we can only hope this plays out as long as possible! Amazing show, huh?

because rob had the immunity idol?

hey ben, you silly goose! rob had immunity--no one could have voted for him.

Dude, Rob won immunity.

"Why did Russell and his alliance get rid of Tyson and not Rob?"

Rob had individual immunity !!
Did you even watch this episode before reviewing ???

Rob had individual immunity, so he couldn't be voted out, correct?

Q: There's just one nagging question in my mind: Why did Russell and his alliance get rid of Tyson and not Rob?

A: Because Rob had the immunity idol.

*sigh* LA Times

Rob had immunity and couldn't be voted out. The look on his face when he realized he'd been had was priceless. good stuff.

The best part of the episode was the look on Rob's face. He looked confused, and with his simple-minded arrogance on display just moments before it appeared all was beyond his pondering.

Russell is the king of Survivor.

Tyson is a huge idiot--all he had to do was stick to the plan, and Russell would've gone home. Even IF Russell was really switching his vote to Pavarti, then who cares...either a) Pavarti really goes home (3 votes under the plan + 1) or b) if Russell lies, you still protect yourselves under the plan.

I fail to see one single benefit for him to switch his vote (so that there are 5 votes instead of 4 for her?).

yes, Tyson is a huge moron. a gigantic moron. but you still have to give evil russell credit for knowing exactly which buttons to push

Yes, it was a great move by Russell. But what is not being shown is that Russell has a spy in Rob's camp in the name of Coach whom he "knighted" last episode. So he probably knew exactly what their plan was. The producers obviously edited out Coach's and Russell's interaction to give the episode more suspense.

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