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

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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Comments () | Archives (31)

No neither Russel or Pavorti deserved to win because both forgot one key element to winning the Million. You have to get the Jurys Votes. Russel will never learn that being a snake and weasel may get you to the end but it will not get you the Votes you need to win the Game... Same goes for Pavorti who really rode Russels Coat tails for most of the game. If it weren't for Russel miscalculating and Voting to Keep Pavorti in she would've been sent home easily. Sandra was loyal to Rob and her original alliance. She is the one who fooled Russel into thinking she was with him and not a threat. She was also the main person trying to convince the Heros that they needed to get rid of Russell and Pavorti but the Heros always turned on her siding with Russel who immediatly got them out.. As Boston Rob said, Russel plays to make it to the end but not to win the Million... Same goes for Pavorti.. Russell believes that lying and cheating should be rewarded? The Man is just not dealing with Reality and his strategy in Survivor is a reflection of his true self... Sandra played Russel and never showed any fear of him. She clearly told him when asked are you with me "I'm against you Russel" and to top it off she burnt his hat which is justifiable because Russel burried and threw away many of the other Survivors possesions like Robs Hatchet.. Survivor shows that Good people will win in the end...

I am a fan of "Survivor", but there has been one thing that has bothered me almost from the beginning about the game. The fact that there is always such bitterness from the jury towards the person that has really played the game the best. (In this case and last season, Russell)

To me, there is nothing worst than the part of the show where the jury gets to address the last 3 contestants (BTW why 3? It was better with only 2) and moan and whine about how they were "wronged" or "deceived" by the finalists.

I'm not saying Russell necessarily should have won, but Sandra? Again? Really?

A great season once again followed by a lame conclusion. Sandra did nothing to deserve the million dollars. Jurors need to stop voting with their bitter heart and seriously look to who outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted! Russel is right in that Natalie and Sandra were weak and did not deserve their wins. America does need to be part of the vote it seems. IN this case...Parvati should have been the sole survivor.

I was the biggest Russel fan last season and thought he really deserved that win. But this season both Parvati and Sandra outplayed him. Parvati most definitely did not ride his coat tail. Russel made one critical move when he saved Parvati (ironic) Parvati made ALL the rest and she won several immunity challenges. I don't know how anybody can say she rode coat tails. I'm sorry but Parvati and Sandra were running that game not Russel. Unfortunately for Sandra her fellow heroes were too busy listening to J.T. and Colby who, although they are nice guys, have no concept of how to play the game Survivor. Sandra had no reason to be lying to them about Russell, they should have listened to her. J.T. ,with the idol, I agree dumbest move ever, even if you thought you were going next, next doesn't occur until you get there. You don't assume that you know what's going on because you don't. The only reason Russell was not eliminated was not due to his game play but because everyone knew they could beat him for votes. That's why he was kept around not because of any brilliant move he made. He's still a good player but Parvati and Sandra were both better. If your not a physical player you have to win it some other way, and Sandra figured out how to make it to the end. Don't hate.

Didn’t see or wish for that ending. This show never fails to surprise me.

The human maze was really exciting I was glad to see Russell win, and also glad that he won the $100,000. prize. He deserved that, and much more. And he’s is absolutely correct, if America had ANY say in the outcome of the game, Russell would have won the million BOTH times. Neither one of the gals deserved it.

Parvati never once protected Russell as he did her – and her coattail riding skills certainly aren’t worth the win. I sure was tired of hearing Probst blow smoke up her behind. So now Sandra’s lame inability to win ANY physical challenge is considered strategy and her misplaced loyalty to Courtney worth a million dollars??? *gag*

And all those self righteous babies in the jury who stood up and TRIED to behave like adults and claim they’re NOT voting in vengeance don’t even have the intelligence to see themselves for who they really are – which is a bunch of pathetic, sore losers!

Every one of those hypocrites who claim to despise Russell for his game tactics couldn’t WAIT to align themselves with him the minute he asked them to! What a bunch of phonies! They’re bitter and immature and NONE of them had the decency to give the strongest player the vote. I have more respect for Russell than ANY of the jury members. At least he is true to himself and has the guts to stand by his actions.


Why both teams didn't get rid of previous winners FIRST was the biggest stunner. But Russell, the great strategist, had a strategy that was flawed from the jump. He would have had a chance if Colby had been on one side and Rupert on the other - the heroes would have split their team jury votes. By keeping two of his own tribe, both women, made it easy to give the money to anybody but him.

I;ve had enough of Russell for a long time.

The first person who commented is borderline delusional if they think anyone can win Survivor without lying...Every player has to lie at one point or another, weather its about having the idol, or who the next person being voted off is, they all lie, plot, scheme, and mislead..Russell never cheated, to accuse him of that is quite ridiculous. If Russell cheated he would have been removed from the show by the show's producers, he would not be allowed to continue on while cheating other players. I'm quite sure you only call him a cheater because he out smarted whatever player you preferred. He built alliances and tricked certain people into believing they were in positions they were not, thats called playing the game, not cheating...Tricking someone with words is not against the rule, while burning someone's personal property should be...Sandra claims she burned the hat because of all the things Russell did to her, but please tell me, what exactly did Russell do to her besides out play her?..Another thing, how does one cheat in survivor? is it even possible? if so, please explain how one cheats without Jeff Probes or any of the producers noticing? I bet you can't do it, lol... How was Russel a "snake"? By out smarting, out witting, and out thinking the other contestants he's a snake? This is not friendship island, its not about loyalty, or telling the truth, or being a rock someone can lean on, its survivor island, turn on another channel if you want squeaky clean morals..Russell plays with strategy, but the other contestants(not all but most) play the game with emotion and basically leave it up to luck, so in the end they do not reward strategy, instead they vote based on emotions(jealousy, envy, bitterness, anger)..If you notice, the players always have some illogical, emotional reason why they are angry, with none offering any real basis for why Russell should not win, atleast not a logical basis....What needs to happen is America should have a say in the winner, if you notice for two seasons in a row America, the non bias participant, has chosen RUSSELL AS THE WINNER...so if Russell does not play to win, apparently the majority of Americans who watch the show disagrees.

Sandra "won" Survivor. That even sounds wrong. Sandra did nothing but talk during this season. Her social game, physical game and strategic game were nothing but lame. The only two possible winners were Russell and Parvati. To a lot of people, Russell deserved to win. Yeah, he lied a lot, plotted and did what ever it took. Parvati is the perennial school girl that writes a good paper but expects a great grade because she's so cute. She is the stomach turning high school queen that expects rewards based on looks and "cuteness."

Boston Rob said it best, "Russell plays to get to the end, not to win."

In any case, Sandra DID NOT deserve to win either time she "played" Survivor.

Survivor is the game of office politics. You don't win by humiliating others. Sooner or later they will be in a position to do you some harm.

It was very amusing that Russell thought he had a chance of winning, when everyone watching knew that he wouldn't get a single vote. It was also amusing that he thought no one would vote for Sandra. It must have been quite an eye-opener for him to view the show on TV.

I was surprised that Rupert was nominated for fan favorite. He was pretty weak. Someone mentioned Boston Rob, and he would have been a good choice, except he's been gone so long that everyone had forgotten him.

I miss the survival aspect of the show. I like to see what they are eating, and if they are catching fish. I like to see someone being kept on the show because they are providing food.

I don't think Sandra should have won, but the way the game is designed, people like Russell will never win. He doesn't have the social game. I do agree with him that there needs to be a tweaking of the rules. They are now set up so that blandness wins... Natalie, Sandra, etc... arggh.

As for the stupidest thing ever, I don't think anything comes close to what Colby did in Season 2, taking a likeable (but bland) person to the final, and casting out an unlikeable fellow who wouldn't have gotten 1 vote. He handed over $1 million with that decision. All Erik did, for example, was speed up his departure by a week or two: there was no way he would ever win.

Russell was robbed once again by a bunch of emotional babies. If Big Brother jury can give the prize to Evil Dick, who equals Russell then there is seriously a lot of emotional baggage that the exiled survivors must experience and I cannot understand.

LOL @ the notion that Russell is a good player. A good player always has a strategy in mind to not only keep him/herself in the game, but also to win votes on the jury. Just getting to the finals doesn't constitute victory; in fact, it's barely half the battle. Russell can't/won't acknowledge that, and thus rightly loses, again.

savvydude: Russell would have never kept Colby & Rupert because he is a chauvinist little man. His alliances are always with women which he consider inferior and easily manipulated. For sure he's one of those dudes that has a trophy wife whom always has to look like a model and serve him like a maid but he is all out of shape and is even missing a tooth (hard to understand for a supposed millionaire)

I am so sick of hearing about Russell lying and being evil, and various other things. That is how the game is played. This ended up being the worst final EVER. Sandra didn't do anything this time or last time she won. I will not watch Survivor again unless the viewers have the vote. Any idiot would grasp the concept that the jury is going to be mad at the person who instigated their removal and not vote for them. The concept of the show indicates the person who plays the "game" best will win. It is plain silly to expect ones enemies to let go of their anger. Russell should have won this time and last time, too. The show is a sham.

Thank you Troy!

Russell controlled this game - straight out! He was proactive and he left NOTHING to chance. He didn't "hope" things would happen - he MADE them happen.

And I agree, burning a person's personal property should qualify for removal from the game! One never knows what significance personal property might hold to another...it may have been a gift a deceased grandfather! Just goes to show what a classless tramp Sandra is!

AND one other very important factor was never mentioned by anyone BUT Russell...he really played only ONCE. He didn't have the luxury like all those others to go home, unwind and watch the game play out on TV. He didn't have the ability to learn from his mistakes - which I'm sure he would have. How many of the others actually learned from their previous game(s)? He played BACK to BACK! No other player has done that.

I like that Russel was shown telling the audience he'd lost Season 19. If that segment was taped last summer, like the rest of Season 20, then they must have had him tape a segment talking as if he'd won Season 19, too. OR that segment was taped in front of a green screen in recent months. Phony.

I personally think Parvati and Russell played the game equally well. Parvati could have truly taken control of the game on a few occasions, but chose instead to keep her trust in Russell and her original alliance. I can't fault that. Ironically, if she ever HAD voted out Russell at those few opportune junctions in the game (and thus become the sole mastermind in the game), I find it hard to believe Russell would have voted for her come jury time. He would have been too upset and angry, because quite frankly, he is incapable of understanding that any strategy other than his own might also have merit. So to everyone who believes the jury were a bunch of whiny spoiled babies, ask yourself how Russell would have reacted to being blindsided? Would he REALLY vote for who was the strategic mastermind, or would he put up a fit? Look at the way he acts when anybody criticizes him in any way. He simply can't see past his shortcomings.... he doesn't believe he has any.

That brings me to my more major point-- Yes, Russell played a great game. But Survivor is NOT just about the brilliant strategies, backstabbing and manipulating. Part of the genius of the game lies in the fact that the social game IS a HUGE part of it. Russell does not realize that, plain and simple. Like it or not, the social game is part of the game, and has been since season 1. Like Jeff said at the reunion, a game based solely on strategy is a DIFFERENT game. It's not Survivor as Survivor was created. Perhaps the name "Survivor" would better suit the type of game Russell desires, but that's not the game Mark Burnett created, and that game would certainly lack one of the most brilliant complexities the current Survivor has to offer-- the need to manipulate to get to the end, but earn the respect of your peers. While the current game does not always produce the most *satisfying* winner, I tend to agree with Tom Westman's assessment that the winner of the season always deserved to win.

Bravo on another great season!

sandra is the only player to win survivor that i like--so, i'm happy she one twice.

Sandra had absolutely no business winning...again. She did nothing--I mean NOTHING--to deserve that honor. Russell played his conniving ass off right from the get-go, and Parvati played brilliantly. Sandra? NOTHING!!

Too bad the jurors are idiots. They're letting their emotions get in the way. They SHOULD be voting based on strategic game play--yes, even when that involves lying and scheming and betraying, because that's what Survivor is about and they knew that coming in--and not voting like little kids whose feelings have been hurt.

This isn't about which player was the nicest, it's about which player got to the end by playing the most strategic game. In this case, as last season, it was Russell. The audience at home recognized that--BOTH times! Too bad the jurors didn't.

Tee, if burning another contestant’s personal property were grounds for removal from the game, Russell would have been removed from “Survivor: Samoa” and, consequently, would not have been cast in “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villians.” He burned Jaison’s socks in “Survivor: Samoa.”

Also, Russell is not the first contestant to play in back-to-back seasons. That title goes to Rupert Boneham, who went from “Survivor: Pearl Islands” to “Survivor: All-Stars” (seasons 7 and 8, respectively).

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