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Survivor Recap: Let the Blindsiding Begin!

Last night, Survivor demonstrated its awesome powers, turning what was shaping up to be a ho-hum hour of nature TV into a strategic tornado that concluded with a massive blind side. Are you people not watching this show? Why are you not watching this show!? Last night alone had oiled up, half-naked contestants hurling themselves down a glorified Slip 'n Slide (okay, it was tamer than The L Word version, but still), stupid scheming, brilliant scheming, Coach crying, contestants in American Gladiator balls, the host freaking, and a tribal-council stunner.

But first, let's pour a little out for Coach, who got his feelings hurt at last week's tribal council and blubbers to Tyson, "I did noble things out here, and I look ignoble." Did he win a thesaurus in a reward challenge that we don't know about? Tyson's advice: don't wear feathers, tell crazy stories, or do tai chi in public. Rob's advice: "Act like a man." Our advice: Get thee to Xenu, stat. Your cluelessness and ego will fit in there.

Let's pour a little more out for bad boy Russell, who's flying too close to the sun. Already on the outs because he's the great unknown (since his season aired after Heroes vs. Villains taped, he's the most slippery character), Russell aggravates his tenuous status by searching for the hidden immunity idol after the Villains agree nobody will go after it. (How oddly gentlemanly; everyone on the Heroes tribe hits the beach running once they discover their clue.) None of the Villains know that Russell is a literal immunity idol magnet, so much so that the clue for the current one winds up in his hands first, tucked into the tool set they win at the reward challenge. When they spy him digging around under a palm tree, he is so busted. "He's a stupid ass," observes Sandra. "Russell's a bonehead. He's like the hobbit on crack," quips Boston Rob.

Like Russell spilling out his tribemates' canteens to create chaos, let's pour even a little more out for the Heroes' inability to win freaking anything. The good guys fail at the reward challenge, where players grease up and slide towards numbered balls, grab one, and toss it into a hoop. Then they blow the immunity challenge, the one that took out team leader Russell Swan last season on Samoa (a player strapped in a giant ball guides blindfolded players who roll him, then complete a ball maze). Boston Rob — who is single-handedly keeping the Villains alive — seriously, he is ridiculously good at this — barks his way to victory by mere seconds.

So the Heroes are scrambling to eliminate one of their own yet again, but this time, there's a wrinkle: Tom has the immunity idol and everyone knows it. Tom tries to convince J.T. and Amanda to join up with himself and Colby. Everyone's down to do it and ax Candice until Cirie gets word of the plan and flips out. Within three minutes of Survivor editing she looks like the dumbest player in the game (she insists on voting out a strong player like Tom or Colby, which is silly at this still relatively early stage of the game) and the smartest (she grabs back the power from J.T. and Amanda by obliterating their suggested plan).

Tom's brilliant plot to save himself hinges entirely on J.T. flipping at the last second and betraying his alliance (and burning that hidden idol pretty early on). Seem implausible? It certainly does during the questioning phase of tribal council, when Rupert admits he's just voting on alliance lines. This sets off Jeff Probst like a Roman candle. "'I'm not sure it's the best vote, but I will be keeping my word' … what part of that makes sense?" he demands. James's wise contribution? He calls the social game of Survivor "a distraction." Perhaps he's still distracted when J.T.'s social game dances all over his face and Cirie goes packing with no warning. Next week: another injury!

Other Recaps:
EW's Dalton Ross goes off on leopard-Speedo-wearing Tyson for trying to mess with Coach's psychotic style.
MSNBC's Andy Dehnart praises the slippery challenge for leaving the players with baby-soft skin. They did have nice shimmer.
The Examiner's Matt Carter noticed the reward challenge was sponsored by Sears? Hey, did you?

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS