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Survivor Recap: Well Played

Technically, the Heroes' losing streak continued on last night's Survivor, but seriously, who cares? Russell was cocky and genius! Boston Rob was cocky and stunned! Tyson was cocky and stupid! The drama at the Villains' tribal council was more riveting than the NCAA Tournament (except for you Cornell fans) that knocked the show out of its time slot this week . And James got in trouble for eating too many of the Heroes' bananas. Yes, a conversation about "banana etiquette" really happened, making it the second-most-hilarious banana moment in pop-culture history, behind Beverly Hills Cop's "Banana in the Tailpipe."

There would be two tribal councils last night; one member of each team would be going home. Which meant only one combo reward/immunity challenge, but done in two heats. Each team would compete separately, with one member of each getting individual immunity, but then the two victors would compete to see which team would get an added savory benefit: They would enjoy hot dogs and soda (and subsequent gastric pain) while watching the Losers' tribal council. J.T., Coach, and Tyson had all done the challenge before — navigating your body through an obstacle monkey-bar while tethered to a rope — but it didn't matter. Candice won the Heroes' race, definitely saving herself from the chopping block, but she fell to the Villains in the final showdown. Rob was the Villains' victor, seemingly ensuring Russell's departure.

But Russell is a squirrely creature. Even Jeff Probst's challenge play-by-play highlighted this quality: "Russell squirming through this fairly quickly!" And squirm he did — all the way into Boston Rob's brilliant head. The showdown between these two strategists is Survivor heaven. So how did Russell pull off his stunning upset and survive tribal while sending rival Tyson packing?

Russell had the individual-immunity idol and lied about it.
Rob knew Russell had the individual-immunity idol and was lying about it.

Rob, to get into Russell's head, told him he'd better find the idol, because otherwise he was going home.
Russell knew Rob was trying to get into his head and that Parvati was the real target.

Rob knew Russell would figure out Parvati was the real target, and possibly give her the idol. He told his team to split their six votes, which would lead to a 3–3–3 tie; whether Russell or Parvati played the idol, the tie would force a redo, the idol would already be spent, and the ruling alliance could pick their victim. Russell suspected they'd split the six votes, so he gave an Academy Award–worthy performance for Tyson where he vowed to vote off Parvati. This convinced Tyson (who was assigned to vote for Russell) to ignore his tribemates' instructions and vote for his true favored target, Parv (watch it below!).

Rob gave a Daytime Emmy–worthy performance for Russell where he insisted that Russell was the target of the vote, but it convinced him of nothing. Russell gave a BAFTA-worthy speech in which he seemed about to play the idol, but presented it to Parvati instead, who did play it. With Tyson voting for the immune Parvati, giving her four votes, there was no tie, and the person with the next highest number of votes was … Tyson.

So where did Rob go wrong? He didn't, really. It was all Tyson's fault, which he admitted upon his torch-snuffing interview: "I was the victim of my own stupidity … I'm still pretty awesome." Actually, Russell was pretty awesome at tribal, as he shocked his adversaries — all in front of Boston Rob's dumbfounded expression and Coach's magical feather earring. Imagine what Russell would have done if he heard Sandra tell him to "get in the ocean and wash your ass," which she proclaimed after scrawling his name (yes, that really happened, too).

Two other Villains' notes: First, who is Danielle and when did she arrive in Samoa? Has she been hiding the last five episodes? Second, Coach did manage to contradict himself this episode, so do not fret, all is right with the world. He gave a big speech about being in the middle of two alliances while maintaining he's a "man of his word." Bravo, sir.

As for the Heroes, their clear-cut decision to ax Colby for being an outsider who can't get his head in the game became muddy as James's leg failed to improve. James valiantly tried to prove his worth by racing J.T., and even listened intently while Amanda explained that everyone thought he was scarfing down too many bananas. Physically lame, James transformed into the wittiest player on the Heroes tribe, summarizing Colby's difficulties by musing, "Today he got beat by a cripple and a fat dude on an obstacle course. It's like finding out Superman was in a big girdle." Sorry to see you go just as you were getting entertaining, big guy. Next week: Rob calls Russell a suicide bomber!


Other Recaps:
EW.com's Dalton Ross does a little sleuthing and theorizes the scene where James tells Colby he wishes he'd get his head in the game was actually filmed after James got word he and his bum leg would be heading home. Nice work, Scoop.
E!'s Drusilla Moorhouse chuckles at Tyson getting played by a guy he called "absolutely harmless" and "not that smart, really."
TV Squad's Jackie Schnoop describes Rob's "WTF" face at tribal pretty accurately: "Rob looked confused, dazed and like a bomb went off in his underpants."

Photo: Courtesy of CBS