'Survivor: Heroes vs Villains': A rock in a pocket changes everything
Usually when "Survivor" gives us a two-fer -- two eliminations in a single episode -- that means nothing interesting happened either time and the producers are just trying to speed through the boring parts.
But "Heroes vs. Villains" has proven itself to be the Courtney Love of "Survivor" seasons: never short on surprises and always at least a little bit crazy.
After last week, common sense and "Survivor" 101 logic told us that Rupert and Colby were done for. Self-serving, shortsighted Candice had flipped to the villains, giving them a commanding 6-2 lead.
In past "Survivor" seasons, a timely immunity win has turned things around. But while Rupert fought valiantly in the "hold up your arm" challenge, a slip of his feet on a platform spelled his doom and gave villain Parvati the win.
The next step to losing, "Survivor" history would tell us, is that the villains would start squabbling among themselves and the minority faction would pull in the two heroes for a blind side. But that didn't happen either. The six of them agreed on a plan and stuck to it.
So how did Rupert survive? A rock in his pocket.
All eight players were looking for the hidden immunity idol after Probst read the clue aloud. Sandra found it, but realizing it would be visible in her pocket, she hid it. Rupert, unaware anyone had found it, came up with the brilliant plan of putting a rock in his pocket to make it look like he had found the idol. And Russell fell for the scam hook, line and sinker.
Let me just pause here to observe that Rupert has gone from hard-working nice guy on his first season to brilliant tactician in this, his third. He was the first one to see that Russell was (and is) a snake and he was the only hero to argue strongly against giving the chief villain an immunity idol, the boneheaded move that did in J.T.
Because the villains thought Rupert had the idol, they decided to split their votes to ensure they couldn't be defeated even if Rupert played it. And because Jerri distrusted Danielle for flipping to their side, she convinced the villains to cast their three non-Rupert votes for her instead of Colby. Colby overheard this plan. (How, exactly? The producers kind of glossed over a key point here) So he and Rupert very smartly voted for Danielle, effectively blindsiding the villains and voting out Candice, despite being outnumbered 6-2.
That was better than most "Survivor" episodes, period, but we were only halfway done. Next we got another immunity challenge and another narrow loss for Rupert, who was defeated this time by Russell.
Surely now the villains would be savvy enough to stay together and vote off Rupert and Colby, both of whom have enough goodwill and friends on the jury to quite possibly win the $1 million at the end.
But Russell -- maybe exhausted from playing two seasons of "Survivor" in a row? -- decided to take that cannon aimed directly at Rupert and Colby's peashooter and turn it back on his own team. After correctly observing that the tightly allied Parvati and Danielle posed a threat to him, he decided that now was the time to vote one of them out.
And his method for doing so was to tell each that the other was trying to blindside them, a transparent lie that neither believed.
In the short run, Russell had a victory. Thanks in part to a dumb comment by Danielle during tribal council that "I'm closer to Parvati than you think," Russell convinced the weak-minded Jerri -- Is she even interested in the game anymore? -- to join him, Rupert and Colby in voting off Danielle.
But to what end? Now Parvati hates Russell. Rupert has already made clear he doesn't trust him, and neither does Colby. Sandra hasn't liked him since they were on the villains' tribe together and Jerri, as we saw, is easily manipulated. So he's left with no loyal allies.
During Russell's manipulations at camp before the vote, Parvati accurately observed what was going on: "He's getting outplayed by me and it's making him a little nervous."
Now I have to wonder if Russell has outplayed himself. Of the six remaining players, only Rupert and Colby have a real bond. Everyone else is up for grabs, which all but guarantees to me that the final two episodes are going to be beyond awesome.
And none of it would be possible if Rupert hadn't slipped that rock into his pocket.
Photo: Rupert Boneham, the man with a rock in his pocket. Credit: CBS