Reality shows always get juicy when people start losing their minds and begin blabbing about each other without any self-censoring whatsoever. The Bachelor and every show on VH1 use alcohol to lubricate this process, but it's naturally built right into Survivor, no bar budget necessary: The players are starving, paranoid, and half naked. Last week, Russell pioneered the idea of discussing tribemates he wants to eliminate right in front of them. This week, nobody held their tongues, not even Jeff Probst, who hinted that Russell's "ego may have put the Villains in a hole they can't get out of" during his show-opening voice-over. Et tu, Probst?
Seriously, though, the Villains are screwed (for now: see possible insane twist below). They've consistently voted off their strongest players, and last week's dismissal of Boston Rob was so ridiculously stupid, the Heroes laughed their asses off about it while they were enjoying one of their wins this week. That's right, wins: The Villains' strategy of eliminating all the strong players who may pose a threat to King Russell isn't working so well.
Without wise Rob, the Villains can't read Tree Mail accurately! They show up to the reward challenge with their whole camp packed up, convinced there's a merge. (Probst really relished shooting them down by slowly revealing, "Everybody, drop your expectations. We are not merging." Burned!) The Villains can't even pick who's sitting out challenges well! They sputter and Coach half-assedly selects Courtney and Sandra at reward, which means those two weak ladies will have to participate in the far more valuable immunity challenge.
So it's no surprise when the Villains get whooped at Survivor Bowling and then start turning on each other. Jerri bitches, "Every single person on this tribe is an idiot." Sandra admits, "I equally hate them all." The outlook is much cheerier in the Heroes' camp, even though J.T. breaks the pact to look for the hidden immunity idol together. He finds it quickly and doesn't have time to hide it, so when he's caught by Amanda, he shares the news with the Fantastic Five (man, does Rupert love saying that). Candice, whose head was on the chopping block a few votes ago, seems like the only Hero to openly question J.T.'s motivations. And though the Heroes rack up their third and fourth consecutive wins, they're not infallible. In fact, they're wrongly convinced that the Villains are picking off strong guys owing to a power-lady alliance — and why wouldn't they think that? That's how Parvati, who's been eerily quiet the past few episodes, orchestrated her win in Micronesia.
There's no question about Russell's motivations on the Villains' side, and Sandra cracks the code pretty easily: Want someone gone? Tell Russell he/she is gunning for him, then sit back and watch Russell's twisted little mind churn. After losing the immunity challenge (navigating a muddy obstacle course while tethered to a teammate), Sandra has to kick it into high gear. Courtney's up for elimination because she's built like a sparrow, so Sandra lets Russell know Coach is a threat and tiptoes away to let the magic happen. Russell stews and gets so heated, he nearly bites Danielle's head off when she suggests keeping Coach around for another week since he's at least an asset during challenges (and he truly is this week; nice work, Dragon Slayer).
At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst gets the party started by saying what EW's Dalton Ross has been thinking: "Courtney, you've sat out a majority of the challenges." Her replies are gold: "Insulting me is not going to bring [the strong players] back" and "I'm a determined little bitch." Now we're talking! (And may we nominate Courtney for next season of The Bad Girls Club?) Courtney's kicker comes during the vote, when she writes down Coach's name and spits, "You're a freaking lunatic — nice feather in your hair." (Watch some of Tribal's best zingers below.)
That insult would have fallen mighty flat had Courtney been the one voted off, but she wins this round by a single vote and Coach exits to become the first member of the jury with his choice final thought: "I'm not a vindictive person, but I hope they get wiped off the face of the map." That might not happen thanks to the scariest "Next time on Survivor" ever: After a montage of the most bone-headed moves in the show's history, J.T. suggests, "I get a chance to talk to Russell, I give him the hidden immunity idol." In unison now: NO!!
EW's Dalton Ross says what we were thinking during the muddy immunity challenge: "Rupert somehow magically morphed into a freakin' Sasquatch before our very eyes."
E!'s Drusilla Moorhouse goes postal on Danielle for blaming Courtney for the Villains' immunity loss after having such a big hand in removing all the strong competitors from the tribe.
MSNBC's Andy Dehnart checks off the list of things Russell will likely claim credit for controlling: "The tribe, the game, the tides and solar system."