Survivor: Samoa
This Game Ain't Over
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
December 20, 2009

We're happy we didn't have to post a picture of Russell in a bikini.

Previously on Survivor, Galu absolutely destroyed Foa Foa, then somehow, Foa Foa was able to return the favor after being one of the most incompetent tribes ever in Immunity Challenges. The core four players of Mick, Jaison, Natalie and Evil Russell rode a combination of poor decision making, treachery, lack of strategy and blind stinking luck into four of the five spots in the finale. The only remaining member of Galu is low key Brett, whose personality, if it were a color, would be...well, what's the most boring color ever? Let's just create one and name it Brett. On the Foa Foa side, Natalie seems best positioned to win, as she has played an exemplary strategic game, and has managed to make no enemies along the way. Sizing up the odds for Mick (remember way back when he was tribe leader?) and Jaison seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Most fans of the show have a fervent opinion that one has been a key decision maker while the other has been a hanger on, but there isn't a consensus opinion about which is which. We like Jaison to win a little more than Mick, but we think both of them have proven to be tenacious, opportunistic competitors.

And then there's Evil Russell.

The reality show incarnation of Loki has been the subject of almost all the discussion involving the show this season. Love him or hate him, you must acknowledge three things: 1) He's a total bastard. 2) His unearthing three hidden immunity idols without clues is arguably the most impressive individual feat in the show's history. 3) Jack the Ripper had more respect for women than he does. Evil Russell's candidacy in this game comes down to whether he can convince a jury that absolutely loathes him that they should vote for him anyway since he has outplayed them. Little stunts like not playing the last hidden immunity idol at the final tribal council where he could do so are exactly the kind of implosions on his part that will likely keep him from winning. If he does, we'll tip our cap to the guy, and dread the upcoming season where he will appear again. We hope Jim recaps that season. We're sick of talking about him (no, not Jim). He's gotten more face time on Survivor this year than Jeff Probst has...much more.

The episode begins with tree mail, which makes us happy because it means we're going straight to an Immunity Challenge. As the Foa Foa Four discuss the fact that they must eliminate Brett, it soon becomes clear that their choice for the next vote if Brett does win immunity is Natalie. Their reasoning for this is simple. If Brett is in the Final Four, they need the strongest three players to work together to eliminate him in the next challenge. Evil Russell makes the interesting decision to inform Natalie that she will in fact be going home if Brett wins immunity. This news goes over about as well as you would expect. She understood their alliance to the final two to actually mean that the two of them would be going to the final. How cute.

Probst sighting! The challenge has the Survivors running out across a narrow plank and then over some netting to retrieve a bag of puzzle pieces. They must then turn around and run back, ending the challenge by climbing a steep platform and completing the puzzle. It is very close between all five until the puzzle completion portion arises. Jaison is unable to get going, but Evil Russell, Mick and Brett are all moving along very quickly. In the end, Mick and Brett are neck and neck, but the world's must boring Survivor contestant ever takes Immunity. One of the Foa Foa Four will be voted out at Tribal Council tonight.

Does that mean it's time to play It's Anyone But Natalie? We're skeptical it will be that simple. What we're about to find out is who has the strongest alliance between the four Foa Foas. You'd expect some scrambling and a lot of discussion between the various people so that they can make a move to vote out someone, well, who isn't them. Instead, what we get is Natalie and Russell discussing whether to vote out Mick or Jaison. No alarm bells ring for either Mick or Jaison, who could have made a move to band with Brett and vote out either Natalie or Russell. Instead, we sit through an incredibly dull Tribal Council before seeing Jaison be eliminated. While his comments indicate that he holds a grudge against Evil Russell, the reality is that he shows almost no emotion when the vote is read. He's been mentally fatigued for almost a month now and doesn't have much fight left in him. At this point, we have an appreciation for just how much the members of Foa Foa have had to overcome to get to this position.

When we return from the commercial, Evil Russell realizes that there is someone left on the island with whom he hadn't cut a deal. He slithers up to Brett and starts running some game. Russ has had more intimate relationships this season than Tiger Woods has over the last couple of years. Brett and Evil Russell both talk about how they want to be in the final with the strongest players, but we all know that's bullshit. You want to be in the final with someone you can beat. That's the point. Either way, Evil Russell is convinced that he now has an alliance with all remaining players. He tries to shake hands with Brett to seal the deal, and we find ourselves thinking that Brett should wear a hand condom.

Tree mail brings the arrival of what we've come to know as the Fast Forward portion of the finale. It's that time when the remaining contestants reflect on all their earlier competitors and how they barely knew them. It's a waste of time and we hate it. But hey, it gets us almost halfway through the show.

Speaking of which, how many times do you think we would have to badmouth Russell to get Jim to recap the next season?

We're to the final immunity challenge, which requires the Survivors to balance a statue on a round platform attached to a pole. Every few minutes, they add a section to their pole, and they have to keep their hands below a certain point. This is one of those typical final challenges that favors no one, so we like it better than what they've done the past few contests. Mick is first out of the challenged, followed soon by Natalie. Evil Russell and Brett and in a tough spot, particularly because their poles are quite high. It's also windy. There's a tricky transition to seven feet of pole, but Russell manages to pull it off somehow. Brett then struggles for a moment, but regains his composure. In the end, though, Russell wins his very first Immunity Challenge. He believes it to be a million dollar Immunity Necklace. If it is, this will truly go down as the worst season ever.

Do we even have to play It's Anyone But? Obviously, Brett is Dead Meat tonight. There are a few moments where we see Evil Russell talk about how awesome Brett is - he even hopes his daughters meet a boy like him one day. He discusses potentially doing a vote for Mick with Brett, which might force a fire challenge between the two people who are tied. He's obviously thinking that he'll curry favor by throwing Brett his vote and "being bold". The ridiculous thing about this is he's more likely to win against Mick. Is he over-thinking things or is this just a big, dumb swerve?

Once again, Tribal Council is a snorefest. Evil Russell yammers on about wanting to take the best player (aka Brett) to the final with him, while Natalie and Mick (correctly) point out that such a move would be foolhardy. And Evil Russell is smart enough to realize that they're right. Brett is voted out, and his final words make us want to stab our ears with pencils because he's so freaking dull. Foa Foa has pulled off the almost impossible Mick, Natalie and the loathsome Evil Russell are our Final Three, and will have an opportunity to argue their case before the jury.

Before the final Tribal Council, Evil Russell tries a little psychological warfare where he tells the other two that they cannot possibly beat him. He believes that he has secured five votes, including Shambo, Dave, Brett, John and Erik. We'll compare this to the actual results later. P.S. Who's Erik? P.P.S. Who's Brett?

The Final Tribal Council begins. Mick reminds people that, well...he's Mick and he's actually been there for the past 39 days. Remember when they picked Tribe Captains on the first day? He was one of them! Natalie's strategy is to thank the jury. Russell 3:16 talks about how the game has gone exactly according to his plan. He states that he doesn't think either Natalie or Mick outplayed or outwitted him, and finishes with, "May the best man win." Ah, a he-man woman hater to the very end.

Jaison is the first person to speak for the jury, and says that he's going to give his Foa Foa friends a chance to reveal who they really are. He says if they don't tell the truth about their situation, he will. Natalie says that she had been a pharmaceutical rep but is currently unemployed, Russ says that he's been a successful businessman, and Mick notes that he has a medical degree but still owes money on his education. Jaison notes that none of them lied exactly, but also says that none of them is broke. He advises the jury that they should make their decision on other qualifications.

Next up is Shambo. She's decided to be a finger wagger. She is questioning her own judgment in dismantling Galu. She accuses Mick of being feckless. He says he'd have to look that word up before he could respond. She tells him that would be a good idea (for the record, we don't think she knows what it means, either). She accuses Natalie of being a coat-tail rider and while Natalie defends herself, she says there is no way either one of them is getting her vote. Score one for Evil Russell.

Brett's question is a little bit uncomfortable, as he seems to be asking Mick on a date. He tells Mick that they are going on a "bro-date" when this whole thing is over and wonders what it will be like. Mick mumbles some stuff about watching some news and hanging out and talking about sports. Brett doesn't question the other two.

As for Kelly, she seems to have the most kinship with Natalie (they're both pretty!). Kelly says that she herself was self-reliant, but didn't see the same effort from Natalie. Clearly we have another Survivor who thinks Natalie is a coat-tail rider. She asks Evil Russell if he's a liar, cheater and schemer in real life. Russ says he's completely different in real life. *wink* She finds that hard to believe. She does not question Mick.

Monica claims that she wants to see fight from Mick and Natalie. She asks each of them why the two people sitting beside them should not win. Mick says that Natalie didn't make any moves and relied on other players to carry her through. Mick hits Evil Russell for his bastard gameplay, but Evil Russell then claims that Natalie and Mick both congratulated him every time he made a dick move. Natalie winds up not being questioned.

Dave has a stupid question where he asks them what they think their chances of winning are. Mick says 20-25%, Natalie says 30% and Evil Russell says 50%, though he claims this is down significantly from the beginning of Tribal Council.

Laura asks Evil Russell what he learned about her that helped him to eliminate her. Russ answers some mumbo jumbo about realizing she was one of the strongest players and a huge threat. She doesn't seem particularly mollified by this answer.

John wants the players to give them a "hard sell" about why they should win. Mick claims to have been a stand-up guy and is a worthy champion. Natalie explains her reasons for aligning with Russell and her knowledge of and contribution to a lot of the voting decisions. John claims that her explanation is very illuminating. We think he's kind of loony.

Erik (Derek?) gets to go last. He has no question. Erik tells Mick he did nothing and that no one on Foa Foa had any guts. He tells Evil Russell that they have nothing in common. He is unable to understand why Russell could be there instead of him. As far as Natalie that people may perceive her as weak, but why is this any worse than either of the other two? He rants and raves for a bit and tells Natalie that he has her vote. Did we say we thought John was crazy? Never mind. He's positively sane.

Well, it sounds like each of the contestants have their pluses and minuses for the various jury members. Probst brings the voting basket to the studio and Natalie and Mick look great, while Russell looks nothing but nervous. In fact, he even looks sad. And he's right to do so, because Natalie wins Survivor: Samoa. Yes, Evil Loser Russell has lost to a girl. The "even dumber long-haired blonde," in fact.

The game actually came full circle in the end. Galu dominated Foa Foa, putting themselves in a position where one of them would win the game. Then, one of them (Erik) got arrogant and the game changed, which ended in Foa Foa going to the Final Three. At the last feast, Evil Russell blustered on about how he would win the game, but when he went to Tribal Council completely full of himself, it slipped away from him, too. Perhaps Erik was disgusted by Evil Loser Russell because he saw some of Russ in himself, even if he didn't want to admit it.

Thanks for joining us for Survivor: Samoa. Thank goodness we never have to see Evil Loser Russell again...oh, wait. He'll be back for the Heroes versus Villains season that starts in January. *sigh*