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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': The winner is ... anyone but Russell

May 17, 2010 |  7:36 am

99235_D0190 For two seasons in a row, the path to winning "Survivor" has been clear: Do whatever you have to do to get to the end while staying as far away from Russell as possible.

Between the questions and statements at the final tribal council and the comments at the reunion show, it was clear that Russell didn't just alienate the jury, he was quite possibly the most hated "Survivor" player, among his peers, to ever make it to the end.

We've seen super-strategic players who make it to the final vote lose because they annoyed too many jury members, but have we ever seen them not get a single vote? Nobody admired Russell's intelligence and tenacity enough to give him a vote.

When he accused Sandra on the reunion show of being the worst physical player ever on the show, she should have shot back that he was the worst social player ever.

For my money, Parvati deserved to win. She came from a position of weakness, with people gunning for her numerous times, and made it to the end with a combination of cunning, charm and toughness in challenges. She successfully used Russell, which is the ultimate ploy when playing with him.

But it seems like the fact that Russell chose to take her with him to the end instead of Jerri, essentially confirming that she was in an alliance with him, is what did in Parvati with the majority of the jury.

Sandra, much like Natalie last season, was simply the person left standing with no connection to Russell. The one smart move she actually made herself that helped her in the end was pushing so many times to get the heroes to vote off Russell. It confirmed her opposition to "Jury Enemy No. 1" and, as Rupert said during tribal council, positioned her as the savior-who-could-have-been for the heroes, if only they had listened to her.

So she ends up as the only player to win the $1-million prize twice and gets to claim she's the best player ever. Which is a bit like saying "American Idol" is the best show on television. There's a difference between "most successful" and "best." When using the latter to describe oneself, a bit of modesty is called for -- a quality Sandra doesn't possess.

The final episode started off with one of the most boring eliminations all season. Colby was obviously the correct person to get rid of, given his fellow heroes on the jury, and after he lost the balancing challenge to Parvati, the villains chose wisely. No surprise, no drama.

In the final challenge, however, things heated up as Russell won in a dramatic squeaker, finding that immunity idol while blindfolded with Parvati and Jerri just inches away.

Jerri's loyalty to Russell did her in as he bet that she would be most likely to vote for him. He was probably right that she was more likely to vote for him than Parvati would have been, though being likely to do something and doing it are, as he learned, quite different.

What Russell really should have done after winning final immunity is gotten rid of Sandra. He thought nobody on the jury would vote for her because she didn't make any strategic moves or win any challenges -- in other words, she didn't play like Russell, which in his mind is the definition of a worthy player. But given that the jury in the end voted for someone not associated with Russell, his best move would have been to keep the people most closely associated with him.

During the reunion show, Russell argued that the public should have a vote in picking the sole survivor. "There is a flaw in the game," he said of the fact that Sandra has won twice. Sorry, buddy. As Jeff put it, you can't redefine the rules of a game because you lose.

Sure, it's impressive (and, I'll admit, surprising) that he won the audience-awarded $100,000 prize. But perhaps what that proves is that the only way Russell can win a prize is if the judges don't have to be in close physical proximity to him.

Besides, what do the viewers know? As shown on the reunion, we voted JT as having made the most stupid move ever on "Survivor," a prize that clearly belongs to Erik, the man who gave away individual immunity and got voted out five minutes later.

Even if my preferred winner didn't take home the $1 million (and seriously, Mark Burnett, isn't it time to raise that to $1.5 million or $2 million?), I leave "Survivors: Heroes vs. Villains" eminently satisfied. This was the best season ever of the best reality show on television. There wasn't an unworthy player on the show, and hardly an episode went by without a shocking and/or brilliant move. Blindsides, betrayals, breakdowns, idols given away, idols faked, two idols played at once. ... It simply doesn't get any better.

Do you agree this was the best "Survivor" ever? And do you think the right person won? I rarely side with Russell, but for the purposes of Show Tracker at least, I think it is time for the public to have a say. Cast your votes in these two polls below.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Left to right: Jerri Manthey, Parvati Shallow, Russell Hantz and Sandra Diaz-Twine Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab / CBS

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