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Survivor Recap: Immunity Idol Tug-o-War

Last week's episode of Survivor started with an even number of Heroes and Villains, five on five. Two hidden immunity idols, one insanely stupid decision, one double-cross, one cozy movie night (with popcorn!), one more hidden idol, and a fairly stupid decision later, the Heroes are down two players. If you presume the Villains are kicking ass and taking names, though, you'd be wrong: Thirty days into the 39-day game, the Heroes are really the ones picking themselves off. This week Amanda — the Hero who helped put Parvati on the defensive, leading to one of the show's most stunning tribal councils ever — gets her hands on a clue to a hidden immunity idol and literally hands it back to the Villains out of guilt. Seriously? They call the game Survivor, not Morality. What's going on here?

The unbelievable moment comes during the reward, which Colby earns for himself, Danielle, and Amanda in a game of (yawn) Survivor table shuffleboard. After touring Robert Louis Stevenson's house, the trio curl up in a single bed to watch Treasure Island. (It's weird enough seeing Survivor players indoors; this scene is straight-up wacky.) Colby lays bored and lifeless in the middle, Amanda is tweaking out scanning the room for the idol clue, and Danielle sticks her hand into the popcorn bowl and hits the rolled-up scroll of paper. Amanda senses a disturbance in the Force and walks over to Danielle's side of the bed, grabbing the clue that Danielle had dropped on the floor instead of sticking in her undies, à la Parv. After a brief scuffle during which Danielle shouts the incredible line, "What are you doing, you're a psychopath!" A wearily catatonic Colby flatly instructs Amanda to return the clue to Danielle, whom he deems its rightful owner because she laid hands on it first. What kind of wussy logic is that? Loser logic.

It's pretty clear Amanda regrets her decision to hand back the clue almost immediately, and had pirate-rules Rupert been there instead of Colby, you can bet he would have used the two-against-one team-up against Danielle to score the scroll. Once Danielle returns to the Villains with the clue, Russell goes off to help her find it and secretly pockets it himself, of course. He's mighty pissed at his alliance for hiding an idol from him last week, when he was surprised at tribal council by Parvati's double-idol-whammy, and he lets them know it. (Mad Russell is almost twice as annoying as cocky everyday Russell.)

At the immunity challenge, Jerri (yup, she's still here) just edges out Russell in a competition to stack 150 wooden blocks ten feet (both challenges are pretty lame this week — can't we stick them in a giant hamster ball and send them down an obstacle course or something?). Russell literally loses by seconds, and mostly because he drops a tile to the ground that he then needs to go retrieve in order to have enough to meet the height requirement. While Jerri celebrates her first-ever immunity win, Sandra and Candice start scrambling.

Russell's got Candice's ear, showing her the idol and promising to take her into his alliance. But Colby is now listening to Sandra and bringing her in. Are both women flipping sides? Are they flipping on each other? The promises and arguments are flying so fast, and their conversations are so filled with double-talk, it's actually hard to keep up. Sandra claims she wants to oust Russell as revenge, "And this is for Courtney, Boston Rob, Tyson, and even Coach who I don't care about, but I'll stick him in there, too." But then, unable to flip Candice back to the Heroes, she abandons the losing proposition and votes for Amanda along with Team Russell. (A nervous Russell plays his idol, even though the Heroes vote for Parvati — close call for her, whom we'd like to see tangle with Russell until the end.)

So Russell is once again pack leader of the lady Survivors — only Colby and Rupert seem on the outs with him now, and they're two of the only three Heroes left in the game, the other having abandoned them to live in Villain town. Save some sort of epic miracle, a Villain is walking off with the million bucks this season. But could that miracle happen in the form of an internecine Parvati-Russell battle? Next week: villain fight!

Other Recaps:
EW's Dalton Ross argues Amanda's pivotal decision to return the clue to Danielle was dumber than J.T. giving Russell an idol — gotta disagree there. The Amanda incident happened in the heat of the moment, while J.T. carefully reasoned himself into stupidity.
The Huffington Post's Tallulah Morehead takes a jab at the episode's lackluster challenges: "Next week, maybe we can watch people play tiddlywinks to decide who gets to see a screening of The Love Guru."
Reality TV Calendar's Kathleen breaks down Amanda's transformation from solid player to Ozzie gal pal to "garden gnome." Not a totally fair assessment since she did some solid work last episode, but this week she did appear to just sit back and accept her fate.

Photo: CBS