Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains Recap
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
February 17, 2010

They voted her off first? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yesterday, we touched on our lasting opinions of the various Heroes of this season of Survivor. The Villains are the reason why we are not enthusiastic about the current competition. Yes, we accept that a lot of viewers like to root for the bad guys on the show. We do not count ourselves among these numbers. In point of fact, we were nodding our heads in emphatic agreement when one of last season's contestants pointed out the madness of it all. The same people someone would never associate with in their professional much less their personal lives are the ones that a certain segment of the audience determines are fun to watch. This gives some total bastards the creative license to behave abominably and without judgment. We have a name for people who show this particular characteristic: they are called criminals. Last season's selection of Fan Favorite goes a long way in demonstrating that the premise of the movie Death Race is no longer unbelievable. This trend bothers us and if it continues in season 20, we've already said this will be our last time recapping the show. It's just not our cup of tea.

Keeping the above in mind, here are our thoughts on some of the various Villains. Tyson is infrequently funny and constantly mean-spirited. He is also a lousy strategist, making him absolutely no threat to win this game. Conversely, due to his blundering incompetence, he is a tremendous choice to play the role of patsy to one of his infinitely more cunning tribemates. In this regard, Randy Bailey also qualifies as he isn't much of a game play expert, either. In point of fact, he famously attempted to play a fake immunity idol at a Tribal Council moments before being voted off the show. It was one of the most embarrassing moments in the show's history. The difference between the two Villains is that Randy isn't vile, simply socially awkward. Toward the end of his season and even after his elimination, circumstances showed that Randy's heart was in the right place a lot of the time. It's just that he had the occasional problem with misguided anger. On the Villains tribe, Randy is one of the most likable contestants, but he still falls into the category of Likely Patsies.

Danielle is one of the least memorable finalists in the history of the show. She made an alliance with several tribe members who comprised six of the final seven participants during Survivor: Panama. Note that this was the same season that Heroes member Cirie finished in fourth place, two spots behind Danielle. The difference between the two women is that Cirie played a strong strategic game while Danielle was carried to the final three where she pulled off a huge upset and won the immunity challenge. She is a better player than Tyson or Randy and could make a deep run for the same reason she did during the Panama season. She's a decent strategist who also isn't a serious threat to win the final vote. Courtney is the same type of player. Like Heroes contestant Amanda, she made it to the final vote during the Survivor: China season yet failed to win a single vote from the jury. She demonstrated an ability to make strong alliances as well as aptly target the appropriate victims at Tribal Council. She was also quite funny with mean-spirited quips. Overall, she's pretty nasty and absolutely no physical threat due to falling into the same weight class as Karen Carpenter. Danielle and Courtney are both decent candidates to make extended runs in the game if the Villains win a lot of early Immunity Challenges. Both are solid strategists while being perceived as no threat to actually win. One of the core flaws of Survivor is that people like that inevitably get carried along in the game thanks to their personal failings.

The Useless Contingent is the trio of Jerri, Coach and Evil Loser Russell. Jerri decried her Survivor experience whenever possible, even attempting to deride the game during the post-finale live telecast for Survivor: All-Stars. It is telling that the entire live studio audience turned on her. Her main reason for returning is to continue her feud with Colby, the boy she liked who humiliated her on national television. And speaking of nationally televised humiliation, the last time we saw Evil Loser Russell, he was desperately trying to bribe the actual winner of his season in order to proclaim himself a better player. It was a fitting act of desperation for the most overrated player since Rob Cesternino. And we think Cesternino would wipe the floor with Russell. The total fraud is a non-factor this season just as he was last year in spite of the editing. We'll use him as a punchline as that's all he's good for. As for Coach, after seeing Russell for a full season, we're inclined to offer him an apology. Yes, he's an inveterate liar who is clearly mentally unstable but at least he doesn't have a pure hatred of women. All three of these people fall into the Comic Relief category. None of them is on a par with the better returning strategists, much less the great ones.

So, who are the best Villains this year? If we were playing on the Villains side, the three people who we would view as the strongest threats are Sandra, Parvati and Boston Rob. We feel a bit strange about putting Parvati on the level of the other two, but the explanation for this is simple. She won Micronesia, a season that was effectively a trial run for Heroes vs. Villains. Two of the people in her alliance that year have returned this season, meaning that if Cirie, Parvati and Amanda make the merge, history could repeat itself. We have to believe that the other contestants will do everything in their power to prevent that from happening, though.

As for Boston Rob, there is no amount of praise we may offer him that would be enough for how impressed we are by him as a reality show contestant. He dominated the first All-Stars competition physically as well as mentally and the only reason he didn't win it was a showing of sour grapes from those he had vanquished. Since his future wife got the money instead, it wasn't even an effective repudiation of his tactics. When Rob and Amber went on The Amazing Race, they absolutely eviscerated the competition and would have won handily had the producers of that show not interfered by stopping a plane from take-off. It's the worst fix we've ever seen on reality television. Rob Mariano is THE best contestant in the history of reality television competition. If the other players allow him to make any in-roads whatsoever in terms of forming alliances, they deserve to lose. There is simply no excuse for him to be allowed to survive any longer than is absolutely necessary. He's just too dangerous.

This brings us to the player we think is the most intriguing returning player in the entire game, Sandra. The winner of Survivor: Pearl Islands is one who is universally named as the most surprising victor in the show's history. That tidbit alone demonstrates what a deft touch she had in manipulating the opinions of others in a way that could not be tracked back to her. Sandra came up with a gloriously simple strategy. Whenever the idea of a vote was discussed, she maneuvered the conversation in such a way that others were suggested. She was always agreeable to whatever name was raised. As long as her name was not on the chopping block, she acquiesced to any request. The end result was that she was a favorite of others as they attempted to garner a voting bloc against a particular enemy. She was somehow apolitically political. Sandra never received a single vote her entire season on her way to victory. As was the case with the first All-Stars when Tina Wesson returned, the most dangerous player this year in terms of strategy and manipulation is a woman. The question is whether Sandra can again manipulate her opponents in such a way as to avoid Wesson's fate of being quickly eliminated as punishment for being too good at Survivor.

PS: Yes, we know that our opinions of many of the Villains listed above fly in the face of convention. Feel free to look through the Survivor archive (BOP has recapped every season since our inception in 2001) to read the specifics of how we reached all of our conclusions.

Now then, let's continue on with the recap of the season premiere. When we ended yesterday's column, the Heroes had just claimed victory in the first challenge thanks to a topless sprint by Sugar. In the process, a couple of Heroes received broken bones. It was an intense start to the season, offering the promise of a true blood feud between the two tribes. Given the inordinate amount of interaction many of them have had over the years, we had hoped that some personal schisms might be on full display this season and this was definitely the case in the initial event. Here's hoping this rivalry permeates throughout the pre-merge portion of the season.

One of the captivating aspects of this season of Survivor should be tribe dynamics. Yes, that's always true to an extent, but the mechanics of this one are abnormal. One group of ten players is composed of some of the hardest workers in the history of the game. And Cirie. They take pride in all of their endeavors and will not sit idly by until all tasks are completed in order to have the best shelter and foot/water supplies. Except for Cirie. Their interactions as a group should theoretically present a paradisiacal living environment. In reality, it will not approach that in any way, shape or form. What should unfold is that over the course of the first few episodes, a few of the people who appeared Heroic at first blush slowly devolve into being Villainous in all but name. Cirie is the blueprint example of this as her placement on this tribe is questionable to start. Stephenie is another good choice for this role as well since she already behaved similarly during her second appearance.

The flip side of this scenario is on the other end of the island. Some of the bad guys will seem much less annoying when compared to someone like Russell, who really ought to be in jail right now. The tribe of Villains is comprised of some of the laziest, least motivated players in the history of the game. Over half of them were notorious for their sense of entitlement during their prior appearances. Their logic of letting fellow tribemates do all of the work in order to take advantage of them being exhausted during challenges worked quite well in some cases in the past.

The problem here is that Boston Rob can only do so much. The other nine will have to pitch in some, meaning that a person like Coach who may not have done much in his season is now the second hardest worker on his tribe. We will repeat that again to insure that you appreciate the significance of that statement. On the Villains tribe, Coach is probably the second hardest worker. The third hardest worker is who? Randy? Sandra? Their daily living situation could depreciate quickly and they're not inclined to play friendly with others to begin with. Imagine what they'll be like after a few rainy days without shelter or consistent meals. We've made the Lord of the Flies joke (too) many times in the past, but this may be the logical extreme of the scenario. We are not ruling out the possibility that Tyson attempts to backstab and eat one of his opponents. He probably shouldn't pick Courtney, though. There is absolutely no meat on those bones.

The rogues gallery of Survivor villains immediately starts to feel each other out on strength/weakness as well as potential allies. The whole thing feels like a Justice League comic where the setting is Legion of Doom Headquarters. Evil Loser Russell immediately renews his prior failed strategy of trying to garner allegiances from female players, thereby exemplifying just how much of a thinker he is. "It didn't work last time and the players here are even better. What's Plan B? Oh, I have no Plan B." What a motard. We're not even going to call him by his name for a while. He has to earn that honor back through accomplishing -something- at some point on the show. If there are no hidden immunity idols this season, it will never happen.

The Heroes tribe starts with a competition among all of the players to out-work one another, right on queue. Spirits are high, plans are quickly put into motion, and the whole sequence of events plays out like a Disney animated movie. All that's missing is for doves to fly in and braid Sugar's hair. And if you believe in karma (or the meddling of the show's producers), the Heroes immediately receive the best of signs. A trio of chickens and a rooster show up on the outskirts of camp. Every time this scenario unfolds on the show, the would-be egg providers escape their captors and flee into the trees. Every time but this one. All four are ensnared in netting and become a protein source for the Heroes for the foreseeable future. It's like Survivor Thanksgiving. If this wasn't a fix, it was as if the Heroes received a blessing from the Survivor Gods.

Yeah, so, Coach and Jerri Manthey start flirting at Villains camp. How did this come to pass? Remember earlier when we mentioned that Jerri was still humiliated by Colby? And remember earlier when we said that Coach outplayed Colby in the first challenge. There you go. Hopefully, this will be the last we have to talk about this. At birth, that child will carry the mark of the beast.

The one aspect of the Heroes camp that shines through in the premiere is that all of the players are wary of one another. JT and James, arguably the strongest physical players in the game, quickly warm to one another. This concerns Colby a great deal, who shares his concern with Candice, who is equally worried about JT and Amanda operating as allies. And Stephenie and Tom operating as allies. And Cirie and Amanda and... Well, you catch our drift. One of the novel aspects of these seasons featuring returning players is that they interact with one another outside the confines of the show's environment. As such, relationships have developed that pose a threat the instant they re-enter the confines of the game once more. If you are like Colby or Candice and have not developed such relationships with the players in your tribe, you are on the outside looking in from the moment the game begins, an unsettling proposition. On the other hand, this should countermand the prevailing thought that Colby wasn't much of a strategist as a Survivor player. That was never the case and while he did get tricked in the end, thereby snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, his decision making in season two was otherwise sound.

As anticipated, Boston Rob is the only one willing to do anything around the camp. To wit, the loss at the reward challenge means that the Villains tribe does not have fire. Rob embarks upon an attempt to produce it on his own, which goes over about as well as New Coke. Randy, whom we were stating a moment ago qualifies for one of the hard workers in this tribe, asks him to blow the whole thing off. Everyone else looks on in horror and pity as Rob sneers at them in his mind. He remains tactful during his attempt, and he quickly produces fire. This makes Coach hotter than anything Jerri Manthey could ever do. Rob has just become the warrior of legend that the prophecies had foretold would come to Coach and aid him in his eternal battle with He Who Shall Not Yet Be Voted Out at Tribal Council. Meanwhile, Evil Loser Whatshisname looks on with unmistakable loathing and jealousy. A priceless moment.

Everything is not all ambrosia and unicorns at the Heroes camp. Rupert is unable to produce fire despite having the distinct advantage of flint. As Cirie looks on in not so quiet judgment, he goes through about half of the good spots on the flint before acknowledging his failure. Oddly, he blames his broken toe, which we have trouble following logically. At this point, Stephenie, JT and Colby relieve him of duty and while he walks around a bit, they almost immediately acquire the appropriate spark. Rupert worries about this placing him toward the bottom of the tribe, but the editing shows he has nothing to worry about. Others have been worried of Sugar's reputation for crying and leaning on the strong men of the tribe. When she attempts to cozy up to Colby, she meets only a slightly less harsh fate than Jerri Manthey had once upon a time. Suffice it to say that he isn't interested and that he finds Sugar very, very annoying. We begin to worry if Colby shares the same perspective of women as ELW.

Probst Sighting!

The first immunity challenge of Heroes vs. Villains is the rote combination of an assembled boat being raced to a designated location followed by puzzle solving. In fact, it is a rehash of a Cook Islands challenge that Parvati and Candice competed in and jointly won back in the day. If they had any advantage because of this, it didn't show. The contest starts as a blowout with the Heroes eviscerating their opponents. Editing always creates difficulty in determining how big a lead one team has over the other, but it's clearly several minutes. The Heroes have almost returned to shore by the time the Villains make their vessel sea-worthy. How low is morale at this point? Jerri Manthey bitchily mutters (is that redundant?), "I hate them so bad." There is basically no hope for the Villains as the Heroes begin to work on their puzzle. Alas, that lead doesn't hold as the Heroes choke in trying to decipher the puzzle. It is a stunning reversal of fortune that sees the Villains not just win the competition but win easily. So, each tribe wins a challenge in the season premiere, but the Villains win the one that matters most. A Hero will be the first player eliminated.

It's time to play It's Anyone But Sugar. Given the awkward editing of the Sugar/Colby relationship, one that Sugar herself later discounted as factually inaccurate (she claims she was crushing on JT the whole time, which sounds more believable to us...unless she is a huge fan of Colby's appearance in Red Eye), we know something is up. None of the other Heroes have been featured enough to qualify for having their heads on the chopping block save for maybe Rupert. Given the difference in respect the players have for Sugar and Rupert (we love love love Sugar but other players do not seem to share our point of view), this feels like a foregone conclusion. And that is exactly what happens.

After Sugar goes on a crying jag, the others quickly agree that she is the logical choice for elimination. While she is given some lip service about the others voting for Amanda, it simply is not believable. The one intriguing aspect of the discussion, one that will come to a head in a later episode, is that Tom astutely points out that Sugar is more of a follower than a leader this season. If they wanted to target someone who is a long term threat, Cirie would be the more logical selection. This is exactly correct due to the reasons we mentioned in profiling her. She is the most treacherous of the Heroes as well as the least valuable around camp. She also isn't that strong of a competitor whereas Sugar had a topless touchdown in the first episode. At least she should get a Lingerie Bowl audition out of this.

Tom also points out that there was a plan in place during his season to eliminate him. The mistake the opposing players made was they waited too long to make a move and by that point, he had the numbers to ward off such a challenge. He fears that his teammates may wait too long to target Cirie and that if they do so, she will be able to reunite with Parvati, thereby garnering an additional vote and more power at later Tribal Councils. The game is definitely afoot between Tom and Cirie but for the purposes of this episode, all that matters is that everyone but Sugar votes against Sugar, making her the first eliminated player for Heroes vs. Villains. We still love you, baby, and we understand that you landed a role as Magenta in a Los Angeles presentation of Rocky Horror Picture Show. We are very much looking forward to seeing pictures of you in costume...for educational purposes only, of course.