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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)

Very intersting comments. I truly believe Russell dominated the game and should had won. I believe the jury lets their emotions come to make their decision. Russell is a mastermind. Just think about it. He would had Jerri in the final three if he wanted. He would had Sandra out of the final three if he wanted. He was dominating the game. Unfortunately the jury comes down to a high school popularity and bitterness which is sad because these are suppose to be veterans.

Another reality TV show ending with an incorrect result. I am a Survivor FANATIC; I love the show and am absolutely obsessed with it! With that being said, I still don't understand the winner of this season. Sandra in no way, shape, or form deserved the title of Sole Survivor. What did she do the whole entire game? Gun for Russell. Is the point of the game to look to get out one single person the whole entire game??? No, the point is to "outwit, outplay, and outlast". Sandra couldn't outlast Parvati or Russell if she tried. Her sassy attitude makes me dislike her even more. She threw Russell's hat into the fire! This is a game, Sandra, and there are going to be people you don't like!! That doesn't mean you need to take their personal belonging and destroy them! I'm sure she never even wondered if that hat had sentimental value; as Russell said he used that hat in both Survivor Samoa and Heroes vs Villains. Anyways, if you ask me, Parvati was the ultimate player in this game. She dominated challenges, outwit Russell, and played the best strategic game; not to mention she SAVED Sandra with her immunity idol. Russell is indeed a very entertaining and strategic player but he just never seems to remember the fact that the jury hates him! In the game of Survivor, you need to play the physical, social, and strategic game. In my opinion, however, the jury should use less of their social opinion in the final vote. But as the Survivors themselves say, "anything can happen in Survivor"!!

Ok, a few things here:

- Russell Hantz goes down in my book as the master of "outplaying" others in Survivor. To me, you don't have to win the $1M prize to do that. He literally gets into people's heads (witness Danielle just breaking down completely, and Russell simply looking at Jerri and saying one word "Danielle". And who goes home? Danielle.) and gets them to do what HE wants to do. Only Sandra was maneuvering to get rid of Russell. EVERYONE was out to get Pavarti (I'll get to this in a second...)
- Russell also has to be up their in the top with Pavarti in terms of "outwitting" in Survivor history. Especially Pavarti, who had a target on her back for the past 2 times she's been on the show, yet still getting to the end and playing the most days in Survivor history. But when you consider Russell would have been gone no less than 2 times in the past 2 seasons without finding hidden immunity idols, and how MANY he found (5 by my count) in 2 seasons, it's a really close call.
- But, the one place Russell falls short is "outlasting" everyone. The only person that can say that are the winners. Be it a bitter jury, or his complete lack of social grace, it is the fatal flaw in his gameplay which, in a format like Survivor, is not going to get you the money. Now, in his case he doesn't NEED it (and let's face it, the man's won the most money of someone who has NOT been the sole survivor, $400,000 in 2 seasons played) because he's already a multi-millionaire.
- Russell does have someone in common: Todd Herzog of Survivor: China. He was every bit as scheming and backstabbing as Russell. However, he showed the one thing Russell could not at the final tribal council: A dose of humility that it was "part of the game" and that he was "sorry" but that it's part of the gameplay. Russell simply cannot show that side because I don't think it actually exists in him.

Now let's get back to Sandra vs. Pavarti:

- You make the bed you lay in. Sandra has NO tie to Russell except perhaps the final couple of votes. Pavarti rode Russell's coattails all the way to the end, but that means she got stained with his virus (Russell's seed?). Had that not happened, I believe she would have won. But without Russell, she's gone WAY before the merge. So I would take 2nd place vs. the 12th or 11th she would have finished. (wherever Tyson was).
- That being said, Russell is right: Sandra is the worst winner in terms of physical (or even mental) individual immunity challenges. That should come into being a factor when the jury is determing who is deserving of a million dollars. Parvarti (by my count) won 3 individual challenges after the merge. And Russell managed to win the most important one.
- For everyone saying that Parvarti or Sandra would have drug Russell along if he had not won the final immunity challenge, you're just morons, considering they did NOT SEE Survivor: Samoa. There's no cross talk between the jury and the surviving members. I'm certain they would have loved nothing more than to deny Russell a spot in the final 3, and probably would have guessed they could beat Jerri just as easily (what, exactly did Jerri do? She was almost as useless as Sandra...)

In the end, it was Russell's lack of grace (especially his fireside diatribe against Rupert) that ended up being his Achilles heel. And it was Pavarti's alliance with Russell that cost her $900,000.

So who is the best Survivor of all time? Here's where I put them:

#1: Pavarti (3 seasons, 1 win)
The most days played in Survivor history, a previous winner, someone who people knew was a threat and yet she STILL made it to the end multiple times. Good in challenges and knows how to play the social game. For my money, she is #1.
#2: Sandra (2 seasons, 2 wins)
Sandra's physically worthless, but she STILL is the only multiple winner. No matter what argument you want to make for Russell, you can't put him above someone that's won twice.
#3: Russell (2 seasons, 0 wins, 2 times in final 3)
Russell will go down as the most intimidating and controlling gameplayer in Survivor history. If he could have mixed about 10% of humility in there, he very well could have won twice. It almost seems like he burns out once it's down to the final 5 and makes poor endgame decisions on who to take. Maybe in Season 21 he'll figure it out? (Or he'll get voted out right away.)

The others (winning doesn't make them the best necessarily)
#4: Boston Rob
Like him or hate him, he's the reason Amber won in All Stars. Without him convincing Lex to keep Amber around, she wouldn't have won that season. (And if I recall, EVERYONE knew they were a thing and they STILL didn't break them up). Unlike Marquesas, he was VERY strong in this season and had Tyson not went boneheaded and changed his vote, Pavarti would have gone, and Russell would have followed her out the door, and (likely) Rob could have won.
#5: Amber
You have to give props to someone who has played the 2nd most days in Survivor history, but she does lack that "killer instinct" (as Jeff put it). If she ever gets that, she would actually be a lot higher on this list.
#6: Colby
He's here because he's won the most individual immunity challenges (7) and he'd be higher had he not encountered his own bitter jury who gave Tina the million bucks. So what you see in Season 20 dates back to Season 2. This wasn't his best season at all, but to make it to 5th in that group says a lot IMO
#7: Todd
Probably one of the more dominating performances in Survivor history in a season not too many people cared about (Survivor: China) which was more famous for James getting blindsided having 2 hidden immunity idols in his pocket. Todd showed the humility that Russell did not and won as a result.
#8: Tom
The Heroes went REALLY boneheaded in voting him out over James (who was one 1 leg) but Tom was dominate in his season as well (Survivor: Palau) and well, he plays the game the right way. Had they got rid of James, Tom could have went a heck of a long way and Colby would have been gone.
#9: Jenna
She only played 1 season I believe (winning Survivor: The Amazon) but again, she was dominate in the season she played. If you're wondering how I'm putting her below Colby, I think it says a lot to come back a 2nd or 3rd time to play.
#10: Coach
Ok, yes I know he didn't win. And yes, I know he didn't ever make it to the final tribal in his 2 tries. But man, if ever someone was made for TV and a game like Survivor it was Coach. CBS needs to give him his own show!

So here are my thoughts on Survivor: Nicaragua (21)

- First off, you're going to see where a Survivor can only play 1 hidden immunity idol (i.e. "Russell proofing") during the game and can't be given another. That will add a whole other layer of strategy to the game.
- Speaking of Russell, do not be shocked if he's playing in season 21. That's one of the "twists" I see coming
- Another thing...and I pain to think of this...you're going to see some kind of "outcast" thing come back in a form.
- This is also going to be the first Survivor since season 12 which will have men against women in 2 tribes.

I agree with sammysmom. I totally respect the jurors of Big Brother as they are normally able to put their petty egos aside in order to cast the best vote for the most deserving. It's their egos talking, plain and simple.

I disagree with Dan, although I don't have time to read all of your comment yet, Russell has proven that he is able to give credit where credit is due - even when he is duped.

johno, I believe Rupert knew the outcome of Pearl Islands, before he went into the all stars game.

Russell didn't even know he had lost when he entered into this season. Big difference. I think you missed my point, entirely. Which wasn't anything about being the all knowing one on Survivor facts. I certainly would fail at that.

Sandra was entirely deserving of her win, though Parvati was just as worthy, and it really could have gone either way.

The game of Survivor involves playing the hand that you're dealt, which is exactly what Sandra did. She stayed under the radar when necessary, allowing louder and more aggressive players to meet their end, (Boston Rob, Danielle,). She made big moves and played people when she had to, (lying to Russell about Coach, thus saving Courtney and herself,), and retreated in times when attempted plays were destined to fail. Wiser to softly retreat, and attack again then to fall in a blaze of blue-TV screen glory. Besides, it's not her fault the heroes were intent on self destructing. She gave them ample opportunities to get rid of Russell, and I imagine the final three would have looked a lot different had they the sense to accept the offer. Lastly, she allowed others to think they were playing her, when really it was the other way around. I don't think she ever believed anything that Russell said to her, yet on multiple occassions she was able to pull the wool over his eyes.

Sandra possessed the intuition necessary to preserve her place in the game. Just because she wasn't the loudest, craziest, most venomous person out there doesn't mean she did nothing. She was there, she was playing, her head was never out of the game.

Much of the same can be said of Parvati, and despite a great game, she did fall prey to the fact that the jury has feelings, the jury is egotistical, and the jury hates Russell. Not everyone can play aggressive and in your face the way Russell did, and obviously playing so that way doesn't exactly work. I'm not surprised the jury didn't vote for Russell- would you vote for Napoleon?

I think all the haters aren't recognizing that a subtle, quietly played game has as much merit, and in this case more, than a loud and domineering one. Maybe Sandra's strategy didn't make for exciting TV the way Russell's and Parvati's did, and maybe that is a flaw in the Survivor business model, as ultimately this is all for viewer consumption. But in the confines of the game itself, where you are to outwit, (which Sadra did,), outplay, (physically no, mentally, yes,) and outlast, (obviously,), Sandra is absolutely deserving of the win.

What Russell and his supporters forget is that it was no big deal for him to go to the final three. Everyone in the game wanted to sit by Russell in the final three because they knew he could not win. Sandra even said that a few episodes ago.

Nobody rode Russell's coattails. He rode theirs.

johno: Since your entire comment was aimed at me I will address you on the issue of of personal belonging destruction.

I must have missed the segment where Russell burned Jaison's socks, as I do not remember it. It's a childish, classless act. I'm not a survivor fact hound, and unlike many - I'm not here for any other reason than to post my personal opinion, which I am entitled to. And I will assume that Jaison was not WEARING his socks when Russell burned them. lol

Clearly I feel it's unacceptable to destroy the personal belongings of another contestant - NO MATTER WHO DOES IT. I feel that should be grounds for elimination from the game. But obviously, if the Survivor lords allowed it when Russell did it, they surely shouldn't step in when Sandra does the same.

There - happy???
Have I covered all pertinent issues?
Can I post in peace now?

Tee, I’m not certain that Rupert knew the outcome of “Survivor: Pearl Islands” before he went into “Survivor: All-Stars.” Per his Wikipedia page, he was home only one month between seasons. Like “The Amazing Race” (my favorite current reality show), “Survivor” typically starts airing months after filming is complete. Wiki’s “Survivor: Pearl Islands” page doesn’t say when filming ended (only that it was filmed in 2003), but does say the season started airing on Sep. 18, 2003. The “Survivor: All-Stars” page says the season was filmed in 2003 and started airing Feb. 1, 2004.

On yesterday’s “The Early Show,” during the “Survivor” segment in which Sandra was presented with her $1 million check, Russell said he had been home for two weeks before leaving for “Fans vs. Favorites.”

I am an avid fan of the game, but hardly consider myself to be the all-knowing one on “Survivor” facts and figures. There are many others with far greater knowledge of the minutiae of the game. Besides, that’s what Web sites like Wikipedia are for!

I loved Russell in the Samoa season. While he claims to have been in control of this season, last season was when he really was the puppet master controlling each and every occurrence in the game. There was not ONE single situation in Samoa where someone that Russell wanted gone, went. Post-merge, almost every single major decision and move involved him in some way. And when he needed to come through in challenges, he always did (the one instance that comes to mind is when he beat Brett in the final immunity challenge, as if Brett had won he surely would have won the jury over by a landslide). And then of course, there was the finding the immunity idols without the clues, which still remains the most impressive thing I've seen on Survivor to date.

But in both the Samoa season and this one, it wasn't so much that Russ alienated himself by lying, cheating, and deceiving. It's that when he got into the final 3, he couldn't even make a good case for why he had done it. He honestly SUCKS at tribal. I mean think about it, he did have a good case for why he played well: he made big moves, saved Parvati with his own immunity idol (and she never displayed any similar form of loyalty), convinced Tyson to switch his vote (which screwed over Boston Rob's foolproof plan), caused Danielle to break down and sway Jerri. THESE WERE HUGE MOVES. But most of all, he willingly accepted the role of primary villain, and the target that comes along with that. Who else could be so hated by everyone, yet resourceful enough to not only make sure they stay in game, but to play a determining role in almost every major decision? He really should have pushed that angle in arguing his case. The facts that:

1. He was willing to take all the hate and vitriol, while he was still in cahoots with Parvati and Danielle
2. He took the ONE person that he was truly and always aligned with (Parvati) to the final
3. He only ever really lied to people that he was going to vote of, and that was in the interest of preserving his alliance to the end
4. He wanted to win the game as one who played hard from day 1, and was not willing to let other contestants make his own luck for him

In the end he just wound up being stubborn, arrogant, and digging his grave deeper by not acknowledging the fact that he and Parvati were reliant on each other, or that there was no luck involved in the game, or that he was sure that Jerri would vote for him even if she voted him off. You've seen the show dude! You KNOW that people are going to vote based on their personal feelings toward you. His best bet was just to level with everyone and acknowledge his devious ways. As JT said, "I made my bed, let me lie in. you should lie in yours." I'm not saying that he would have won if he argued this case - but he certainly would have had a better shot.

It's disappointing to me that such a smart player in some ways, can be so lacking in others.

Russell made a mistake , should have kept jerri and coby. neither one has one the million and since Russell is milliaire anyway, he should haven other folks a change to win and he go back to his million dollar oil company.
I have been a fan since 1998, and i must say it is disappointing to see the person "of two season to walk away without a million!
I didnt like the swearing on his family -that wasnt called for. If Russell was that bad, and broke all the mortal" what player hasnt!!! unreal- I have had enough. The Vill vs hero will be our last, all 12 of us have had it.. Sandra- 110% in phy chag, but yet she threw chag. dont even make sinces.
lst season for our group!!!!!! good luck with your next one.

 
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