Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains Recap
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
April 8, 2010

You know you got voted off, right?

Previously on Survivor, the Villains finally did the right thing. As we had explicitly stated in the premiere recap, Boston Rob was THE most dangerous player in their tribe due to his skill set. A dominant challenge participant, Rob also has the ability to control a tribe through sheer force of will. Early on this season, he had almost single-handedly driven his Villains tribemates to victory in several key early challenge wins. He was also by far the hardest worker around camp. In short, Rob as the total package was someone whose presence could not be allowed deep into the game. We had been waiting for his opponents to realize this for some time. The executioner's axe finally fell in the most recent Tribal Council.

How the participants got there is the fascinating aspect of the story. Boston Rob had created a tight alliance of four players consisting of Tyson, Sandra, Courtney and himself. Coach and Jerri were also in the mix, but the former player is too erratic while the latter isn't good enough at this competition to be a useful component of a winning alliance. As such, their positioning was tenuous right up until the moment when Tyson failed to follow the basic instruction to vote for Russell. Had he done this, that quartet of Villains would be in complete control of this game. Instead, Tyson went off on his own for no particular reason (he has admitted as much in post-game interviews) with the end result being that he effectively voted himself out of the game, something the rules of Survivor are designed to prevent.

With Tyson gone, Jerri made the bold decision to go out on her own, aligning with her least favorite player in the game, Parvati, as well as her troll doll of a companion, Russell. Coach theoretically did not join them as he honored his promise not to vote against Rob. The end result was the same, however, meaning that Coach had a hand in Rob's demise. Did Jerri and Coach make the smart play? We're going to find out starting this week.

What is undeniable is that Rob's early success is the primary reason why there was not an initial insurgency against him. Similarly, his early success dictated that he be eliminated at the first opportunity wherein his absence around camp would not be too great an impediment for his tribemates. Rob was the one who made fire, built their shelter and readied the components for most of their meals. He was by definition their meal ticket. Now that the cord has been cut, the others will be motivated to show that his absence is not the detriment we expect it to be. If this does not prove to be the case, the tightly aligned Heroes tribe may yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. If JT and Sandra are given the opportunity to work together, they could still gain the requisite numbers to usurp Parvati as the power player in the game. Of course, we think it's more likely that Sandra is the next player voted out. Tonight's episode promises great expectations straight down to the title. Let's see if it delivers on said promise.

When the Villains arrive back at their camp, Coach is...full of regret. He fully realizes that Rob was the cause for much of their success, and as he notices the weakness of his cohorts due to hunger, Coach also comes to understand that challenges could become an issue. He believes that Evil Russell is a bully and that Jerri has just made a move that is nonsensical. Coach asks her about her strategy on how to play the next part of the game - will they align with ELR and hope he takes them to the Final as "promised" or will they make another move? Jerri's response is effectively, "well, let's wait and see." Way to be proactive!

After assessing all his teammates and pondering the makeup of the remaining Heroes, Coach seems to comprehend that his tribe might be in *just* a bit of trouble. "Pray for merge," he says.

Usually, when we visit the Heroes' camp, it's like a vision of rainbows and butterflies and happy, cute little animals all getting along and trotting alongside our beloved protagonists. Today, though, Amanda has noticed that JT seems to be missing. In fact, he's over at the creek searching for the hidden immunity idol. Despite the fact that the Heroes had agreed to search for the idol together, he's hoping to get the jump on his allies so he can use it to his advantage. Just after he finds it, Amanda walks up, so he's forced to act like he had planned to show it to the whole group all along. This leads Candice on a diatribe about how JT is in control of the game and he's got everyone fooled when in fact he is the dirtiest player in the game. She contends that they need to either vote out JT or flush out the idol. Amanda looks at her while she rants and replies, "Yeah." These are the kind of answers that lost you the title of Sole Survivor in previous games, Amanda.

Probst sighting! After reading the clue, the Villains conclude that there will be a merge at the Reward Challenge. After all, there is no mention of tribes, so it's just natural that they would surmise that it's time for everyone to come together and have a feast. Presuming they can gain an advantage on the Heroes, they gather up all their equipment and head out to meet Jeff. When the tribes come together, Rupert comments that there must be a female alliance since Boston Rob was voted out, which has ELR scrutinizing him. Even the Heroes completely discount Russell as a viable factor in this game.

Jeff quizzes the Villains on why they brought all their stuff with them, and they reply that they believe there will be a merge this evening. And so, after some pomp and tease, Probst tells them, "Drop your...expectations." No, there will be no merge. Instead, the Heroes and Villains will compete against each other for a tasty dinner made up of pizza, beer and brownies. Without their challenge stud Rob, will the Villains even be in this thing?

The challenge is Tiki Bowling, which is as simple as it sounds. Each contestant has two throws to knock down as many pins (out of a possible ten) as they can. The person with the most pins down after each round wins a point for his or her team. First up, Rupert takes on Parvati, and she throws two gutterballs, which allows Rupert to get a point for the Heroes. Then, JT goes up against Danielle, who has nice bowling form but also rolls two in the gutter. JT knocks some pins down, and that's enough for another Heroes point.

Next, we have Colby against the evil troll doll Russell. After a botched throw (his arms seem a little long for the challenge), Colby only knocks down one pin total, which opens the door for ELR to capture a point for the Villains. He does, which gives the Heroes a little longer to toy with their prey. The next pairing is Amanda versus Coach, and even though he puts forth a valliant effort, Amanda wins by a pin, giving the Heroes a Reward Challenge win. Probst smugly tells the Villains to grab all their crap and go back to camp.

While the Heroes enjoy their feast and discuss the stupidity of voting out Boston Rob before the Villains had secured post-merge dominance, the Villains hold a bitch fest. The basis for it is that Jerri is mad at herself over her decision to betray Rob at the last Tribal Council. She knew she was placing herself in a position to be miserable around camp for an indefinite period, which is exactly what happens when you make the odd choice to align with people you don't like. In order to take out her frustration, Jerri vents about the decision to sit Courtney and Sandra during a less important Reward Challenge. In her estimation, they're now doomed at the Immunity Challenge, because a pair of players she considers to be the weakest of the group will be forced to compete. She's blaming Coach for not being a decision maker on the level of Rob, Courtney and Sandra for not forcefully offering to participate in the Reward Challenge, and the other players for not being as good at challenges as Rob. What she's primarily doing is beating herself up for Rob's absence.

One of our favorite aspects of Sandra's forceful personality is that she cedes no quarters to others. She has too much pride to silently listen to people talk about her failings in front of her, which is bad news for Jerri, as she finds her bitch session interrupted in mid-tantrum. Sandra correctly points out that Jerri seems to be explicitly blaming her and Courtney for a challenge loss in which they did not participate, while also showing no confidence in them in the challenge yet to come. The one person on this tribe you do not want to piss off is Sandra. Jerri is not having a good day.

Coach, David and Kim here with some advice. CONTROL YOUR WOMAN!

We've always maintained that Sandra is one of the best Survivor players in the history of the game. The next segment embodies why we hold her in such high esteem. Recognizing that she and Courtney are screwed, Sandra employs the same consistent strategy that she always has throughout both this season and the one where she one - survive the next vote. To that end, she has noticed that ELR has a few...shortcomings. Sandra correctly assess his personality as one that is volatile enough that if he believes someone is gunning for him, Evil Loser Russell will then turn around and vote that person as quickly as possible. Since all Sandra and Courtney need to do today is survive the current vote, she has the very clever idea that they should plant some seeds of doubt in Evil Loser Russell that Coach sees the little troll doll as the next person to leave the island. This will cause ELR to target Coach instead of one of Sandra or Courtney. It may work and it may not, but Sandra is doing everything right here. It's her best possible play and it's all because she is so good at understanding the things that make people tick and how to best use them to her benefit.

We're always skeptical about the editing, especially after the Tyson fiction two episodes ago, but this plan seems to go perfectly for Courtney and Sandra. Courtney makes sure to be seen having a conversation with Coach, and Sandra makes sure that Evil Loser Russell is sitting by the beach noticing it. Sandra plays it cool, letting Russell be the one to point out the conversation and lets him think that he is the one pressing her for information. Once he's taken the bait, she slyly indicates that Coach regrets the decision to vote off Rob and wants to eliminate Evil Loser Russell as soon as possible. We'll let Sandra describe how well the conversation goes:

"I told Russell that Coach was talking about voting for him, and Russell's so stupid he ate that crap up. I'm telling you, he's like, 'oh my gosh, I can't trust him and the sooner he goes the better.' So Russell, he don't know how to play this game. Yeah, he's done good so far, but with me, he don't know what he got himself into."

We think the entire sequence is hilarious; however, we are worried that Sandra has fallen victim to one of the cardinal rules of Survivor. Never fixate on one person. She's starting to seem too focused on garnering revenge against Evil Loser Russell due to the Boston Rob vote.

For his part, ELR is as gullible as ever. He repeats last week's behavior by acting like the best play in the world is the one that was actually originally suggested to him by someone else. Of course, he plays it off like it's his own idea and does his usual schtick where he talks about what a genius plan he has created. Parvati does the same thing she always does. She giggles and acts like ELR is the bee's knees, all the while wondering what he tastes like medium rare with a bit of barbecue sauce. It's not that ELR is just the drone to her queen bee, but it's that he hasn't even noticed he's living inside her nest.

Probst returns! Today's Immunity Challenge has Survivors roped together as they navigate a mud-filled obstacle course to retrieve a flag. First tribe to three points wins immunity.

If you've ever seen highlights of the Nine Inch Nail's performance at Woodstock '94, you have a good idea what this looks like - and if you haven't, that's why God invented YouTube. The first leg is ELR and Sandra versus Amanda and Candice. To say Sandra struggles would be an understatement. To say that Evil Loser Russell handles it well would be a lie. If ELR had all the power he actually feels he deserves, she'd be getting the Kunta Kinte treatment when they got back to camp.

The next event is a one-on-one competition between Coach and Rupert. The sight gag here is when mud gets stuck in Rupert's beard, making him look a remarkable amount like Bill Nighy as Davy Jones. It's a very back-and-forth race, with Rupert having a slight edge on the way back because his ample belly creates a bigger hole under one of the obstacles. His slight lead is erased at the finish line, though, when Coach wins the sprint.

This means that the final leg will determine which tribe will be voting out a member tonight. It's Colby and JT versus Courtney and Parvati in what we are terming the "dead meat" round. Basically, the men don't even have to try, but they do anyway (they're Heroes, after all). This means that they have finished the course before their opponents can reach the halfway point. A salt in the wound moment occurs when Courtney injures her ankle. Heroes win immunity, and Jerri leaves muttering to herself about how she was right about what an idiot Coach is, how much her tribemates suck, and how much she misses Boston Rob. This is the Survivor equivalent of seller's remorse.

It's time to play It's Anyone But Courtney/Sandra - wait, hold the phone. Coach wants his name in there instead. He spends the first minute back from commercial break doing Hulk Hogan poses for the camera. We have now bumped his chances of being voted out to 98%.

Coach and ELR stand on the beach talking to each other about what the voting plan is, with both men using vague enough language that either one could be concerned about his own safety. Evil Loser Russell approaches Danielle, and she attempts to make an argument for Courtney's elimination. ELR gives her all of the consideration that Homer Simpson would get at a meeting of MENSA. Eventually, he interrupts her in mid-sentence and walks away. Stating the obvious, we've seen closer alliances.

Sandra lurks in the bushes and overhears the conversation, quickly informing Courtney of their status. She feels they have a chance to get Coach eliminated, but realizes it's going to be long odds. Eventually, ELR comes back to Danielle and Parvati (and Parvati's nipple) to announce that he's changed his mind. When Evil Loser Russell states that he wants to vote out Courtney, we cut to a rare monologue from Parvati, whose lack of presence in the last two episodes would seem to indicate an extended run in this season. She talks about the idiot she's dealing with (Evil Loser Russell), and while she doesn't explicitly state it, it's pretty clear that she thinks the best thing to do is let these nimrods fight amongst themselves. She's just biding time until the merge...and probably trying to figure out what kind of gem she wants on her scepter. All hail Queen Foxy Boxer.

At Tribal Council, Jeff puts his neutrality aside for once and berates the Villains for complaining about being too weak to win physical challenges a few days after voting off their strongest player. Meanwhile, everyone is mad at Coach (for his coaching skills) and Courtney (for being the suckiest suck who ever sucked). To her credit, Courtney accepts this criticism with the following quote:

"It's target the weak, and I'm, like, poster child for weak Survivor. But I'm still here over a bunch of strong players, so twisted ankle, skinny chick, whatever, I'm a determined little bitch and I'll put up with a lot of crap to get to the end."

Sandra rewards her girl power demonstration with a fist bump. These are the tightest two Villains. By far. It would be a huge mistake to let both of them survive this vote, but that's exactly what happens. Evil Loser Russell joins his frenemy Coach and Mrs. Coach (aka Jerri) in voting against Courtney. Danielle and Parvati accidentally or intentionally implement a girls' alliance when the two of them, along with Courtney and Sandra, vote Coach out of the game. The Dragon Slayer's surprise at this is...significant.

This move is strange. We're looking forward to the explanation for the vote, because Parvati is generally not a passive player. Essentially, since a vote for Coach was a vote that showed Jerri she is insignificant, the numbers are even - or at the very least we have a 3-2-1 situation with Jerri's vote being very much up for grabs. Also, we're shaky on Danielle and Evil Loser Russell being able to work together. His tendency toward dismissiveness does not blend well with her lust for righteous indignation. Although the vote shakes out as ELR, Jerri and Coach voting for Courtney while Parvati, Danielle, Sandra and Courtney vote for Coach, we're not thinking Russell's swerve is indicative of any surprising swerve. He shows absolutely no surprise when Coach is eliminated. There is clearly a plan in play, but we're failing to appreciate the beauty in it quite yet.

Next week's teaser indicates that JT is going to just give ELR an immunity idol, so this could wind up being another instance where the Villains make a poor decision that gets rewarded. It's been the theme of their season so far.