Survivor: Samoa
This Is the Man Test
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
October 23, 2009

Evil Russell has triumphed over Good Russell. Somehow.

Previously on Survivor, everyone lived. Tonight on Survivor, someone will DIE! Or at least that's what the previews would have you believe. We don't mean to be macabre about this, but it wouldn't break our heart two see a few of the contestants...okay, Evil discomfort.

More seriously, last week was the second straight time that someone targeted by Evil Russell was not voted off. Even though he ultimately voted for the person eliminated, he really had wanted it to be someone else. For strategy's sake, he went with the whims of his tribe.

As the show begins, Jaison is miserable and talks of quitting again, indicating that nature itself is against his tribe's success. He kind of sounds like a Tennessee Titan (sorry, Kyle Vanden Bosh. Kim still loves you). Meanwhile, Evil Russell thinks that Evil Russell is quite possibly the greatest person who ever lived. He relishes the suffering of others, making us wonder if he somehow missed his calling as a middle school gym teacher (Bombardment!).

All kidding aside, the entirety of Foa Foa seems destined to sit on the top couple of rows at the Survivor reunion special.

We occasionally see seasons where the elements are a huge factor. Generally, it's the heat that wears people down, but this season the combination of constant rain and cold weather is destroying the spirit of most of the Survivors. They're trying to huddle wherever they can for warmth, but with wet clothes and patchy shelters, it's impossible to be comfortable. Good Russell does his best to keep Galu's fire going, but his teammates don't particularly appreciate it. They worry that he's overexerting himself and comment both that they never asked him to do this work and also that if he'd picked a tarp over comfort items in an earlier challenge win, they wouldn't be suffering as much as they are now. We think they're overestimating the power of a tarp.

The mood changes at Galu the following morning when after 26 hours of rain, Erik believes he has prayed away the inclement weather. While we're not certain the situation was dire enough to call for divine intervention, we do agree that the morning rainbow is beautiful.

Probst sighting! This is the time when Jeff really earns his money. We've maintained for awhile that people don't appreciate how good Jeff is at his job. No one will be debating that after this episode.

Today's challenge combines reward and immunity again. The winners receive a pizza dinner and get to eat it while watching their opponents suffer through Tribal Council. The competition sees one player from each team strapped into a giant hamster ball. Two blindfolded people will push ball down a track to a ball maze. Since they are blindfolded, they must rely on the person in the ball to give them directions. Galu is required to sit four players, and several of them suggest that Good Russell should sit this one out. The argument is that his strength is noticeably diminished in the past few days, emphasized when he stumbled at their bed and complained of a chill. He has tried to play it off as an aggravation thus far. His teammates believe that he could use a break. After a moment of deliberation, Good Russell decides to ignore their instincts and has Shambo, Dave, Monica and Kelly take a spot on the bench.

Foa Foa sticks Liz in the ball, with Evil Russell and Jaison pushing. Meanwhile, Laura is in the ball for Galu, while Good Russell and Erik push. Galu gains a quick lead, but eventually gets stuck across a tree and starts to go from side to side instead of straight forward. If you watch the logistics of what is happening, you soon realize that one side of the ball is being pushed harder than the other. Good Russell's stamina gives out quickly and past a certain point, he's just hanging on to the ball rather than aiding in its movement. As they approach the puzzle, he leaves the ball and stumbles. His teammates scream at him to go to the appropriate place so they can begin the puzzle. They do not realize that Good Russell is effectively unconscious on his feet. Instinct alone is driving him to the finish.

As Laura yells instructions on how to balance the table in order to make the ball navigate the maze, Good Russell follows none of it. In fact, he collapses, but the board supports him from falling down completely. After a moment, Probst notices his plight and comes over to assess the situation. At this point, Jeff realizes the seriousness of the matter and stops the challenge, calling for medical. Good Russell claims to be okay, but as we cut to commercial break, he seems to be completely numb. In fact, when the table is moved from under him, it looks as if he could have even damaged a knee ligament, because he falls down in an awkward manner. The two female medics try to support him, but he goes completely limp and they lay him down on his back as a bigger crew comes in to assist.

The next segment of the show focuses upon the attempts to medically restore Good Russell to the competition. Suffice it to say that they fail. Jeff calls off challenge and makes the decision that both tribes will vote out cast members to night. The reason he makes this call is obvious. We say without hyperbole that this was the scariest moment in the show's history. When they try to sit Good Russell up, his heart rate plummets from 97 to 68 in seconds. The medics say he must be pulled from the show. Good Russell cries and tries to say he's just a bit dehydrated, and we are sincerely wowed by his competitive spirit. The entire time he was blacking out, he was somehow trying to honor the instructions of his teammates. After losing consciousness twice in a matter of moments, his primary concern is making sure his family doesn't see him as a quitter. Jeff tries to console him but ultimately, Good Russell is heartbroken. The leader of the dominant tribe this season is unexpectedly eliminated from competition.

We see some really horrible game play in the next segment. At Foa Foa, the girls give up. They figure the two of them could never possibly swing a third vote to win a majority, or maybe they just relish the thought of being the only woman among men. Either way, it looks like Evil Russell is going back to getting his way.

As for Galu, Monica has decided that she will vote for the person who has voted for her - regardless of that person's value to the tribe. Revenge never works out well as a motive on Survivor, and we expect that to stay the case. The women who are not Shambo seem convinced that the winner answer tonight is Shambo. The rocket scientist, who has all the other guys on his side, uses something heretofore unforeseen in this episode. We'll call it strategy. He realizes that Shambo is valuable around camp and in challenges while posing very little actual threat to become a Survivor winner. The girls think that she's not as pretty as they are. This really isn't an exaggeration. We're flat out disgusted by the game play this season.

Tribal Council is surprisingly entertaining, given what happened. It's a welcome respite from an otherwise grim episode. All 13 remaining contestants are seated together and the effect feels like something choreographed by Don King. Foa Foa, a tribe consisting of five people, three of whom have grown apathetic about remaining in the competition, cheerily claims victory in the day's challenge. Russell (nee Evil Russell) proclaims that his group is ready to shock the world. We don't think he's very good at taking the temperature in a room. Dr. Mick goes so far as to say that since they were ahead and the challenge wound up a tie, Foa Foa won. You heard us correctly. Disbelief is written all over Erik's face. "They got a tie, and that's supposed to make us nervous about a momentum shift? I don't think so," he says. We couldn't have put it better ourselves, Erik. Interestingly, the comments from Foa Foa seem to ignite all of the tribe members of Galu, and it looks like Erik's comments do something similar to Liz and Jaison of Foa Foa.

Jeff surprises everyone by announcing that rather than eliminating two people tonight, there will be no vote. For Galu, this means there is no further punishment on top of the unfortunate Good Russell situation. In the case of Foa Foa, it means they don't have to reduce their tribe by 20%.

As a final note, we think that Survivor might have been dangerously close to seeing a contestant die. Over the 19 seasons of the show, they've subjected the contestants to ever more grueling conditions and more punishing challenges. This season has seen two men removed from the show for health reasons that at least partially seem to have resulted from conditions on the island and the intensity of the challenges. The producers of the show might think this is good television, but we have to concur with Probst when he says this is the scariest thing he's seen in all his years as host. We don't watch the show to see a guy black out while his eyes are still open. All best wishes to Russell Swan.