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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': It's better to be lucky than smart

April 16, 2010 |  7:21 am

98305_D14328 This was simultaneously the most exciting and most boring "Survivor" of the season. The actual mechanics -- who won the challenges and who went home -- were rather dull, but the stunning twist in the middle could shape the rest of the season.

You really have to wonder what Russell has promised the devil to get what he has gotten on "Survivor." Last year, he combined savvy, tenacity and stupid teammates to get all the way to the finals.

This season, I thought for sure he wouldn't last long. He was up against a rival, Boston Rob, at least as smart as he is and much better at challenges. But when Tyson was suckered into voting for Parvati, Russell survived and managed to take out Rob. That's skill, but also luck that Tyson was that dumb. 

Then Thursday, somebody gives him the idol. Somebody from the other team. Who hasn't even spoken to him.

How do you even comprehend a move that boneheaded? Sure, the assumption by J.T. and Rupert and others that there is an all-female alliance on the villains' side is reasonable. But it takes a breathtaking degree of arrogance to be so confident in that assumption that you then make the incredibly risky move of giving away an idol to someone on the other team in order to gain his trust post-merge.

If this move backfires on J.T., as it very easily could, he may go down as the most stupid Survivor since Erik (who infamously gave his idol to Natalie in the "fans vs. favorites" season and was immediately voted out). And even though I used to like J.T., I'm the first to say now that he utterly deserves that.

Watching him compose his ridiculous, condescending note to Russell with instructions to vote out Parvati but "act like you expect to be voted out" and "destroy after reading" was so painful I could barely look at the screen. I haven't been that embarrassed for someone since I saw Chris Klein last year in "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li." (Seriously, rent it; he was robbed at the Razzies.)

The only thing that may save J.T. is that the game dynamics are so fluid that Russell may not be able to use this mistake to his advantage. Yes, he has an idol, because of course he didn't play it. But keeping the heroes from finding out he has it will be difficult.

Of course, that's all in the future. Stuff did happen this episode, but it wasn't too interesting. The villains won the reward challenge and got to eat a meal sponsored by Outback Steakhouse (the first food-reward product placement in "Survivor" history that I can recall). It was the first time the villains have won a challenge based purely on physical skill this season -- even though it was mainly about standing up on tiny little pegs, not raw strength.

The elimination challenge was about raw strength, which is why, as they always have, the heroes kicked butt. Then Russell, Parvati, Danielle and Jerri had to decide whether to vote out Courtney or Sandra. Neither one can be trusted to stay loyal post-merge, so Courtney was eliminated in what was essentially a coin flip.

In the end, it just felt like a prologue to the really interesting stuff that will happen next week when there's a merge and the villains come in with two idols (one found this episode by Parvati, the other given to Russell by J.T.) and the heroes have none (smart, J.T.).

The good news for the heroes is that Sandra is likely to flip (we got a hint of that in the preview for next week) and the heroes are, as their name would suggest, more likely to stick together. Assuming the heroes can figure out that Russell has their idol (Sandra might tell them, or they might put two and two together when Parvati shows up), they should be able to take control.

Although honestly, I'm hard pressed to bet against Russell after what went down this episode. Maybe J.T. will win individual immunity next week and then just give it to Russell.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: "Heroes" J.T. and Colby. Credit: Robert Voets / CBS