The best move in Survivor history!
Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains Blog: Episode 6
6th Elimination: Tyson; 7th Elimination: James
WOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW! Three Words to sum up Episode 6 of Survivor: Heroes vs. Favorites…
Best. Move. Ever.
For two weeks I’d been itching to see how the Boston Rob/Russell showdown would play out. Never before have we seen such legendary players dead-set on a collision course to take each other down. This is the Survivor equivalent of Ali vs. Frazier, Magic vs. Bird, or The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. These are the types of moments that you’ll tell your grandkids about!
With that in mind, I became very fearful that this battle for the ages would become irreparably tarnished when Boston Rob won individual immunity. Yes, Russell had his own form of immunity as well, but the idol just isn’t the same as the necklace. You can still get voted out when you’re holding the idol. As soon as Boston Rob claimed the necklace, he became invincible. I was just waiting for Russell to play the idol incorrectly and get knocked off without ever having a legitimate chance to go after Rob. Had it happened, it would have been utterly deflating. Thankfully, what played out next was even better than I’d expected.
On one side, you’ve got Boston Rob, Tyson, Sandra, Coach, Courtney, and Jeri. On the other side, Russell, Parvati, and Danielle. Boston Rob’s got immunity. Russell has the idol. At first, it appeared that Boston Rob, a novice to the whole immunity idol gimmick, was going to pull the old “make Russell think we’re voting for him so that he plays the idol, and then we’ll vote Parvati” scheme. That move was sooooo five seasons ago! Russell, of course, sniffed this out immediately. At this point, I’m thinking that we’re for an interesting, but not shocking tribal council.
However, Boston Rob is no dope. He realized that by putting all their votes on one player, his alliance could potentially get bitten if the wrong person held the idol. The solution? Split the vote 3-3 between Russell and Parvati. Russell, Parvati, and Danielle would all vote for Tyson. Russell would have three votes. Parvati would have three votes. The person with the idol is safe and then everyone re-votes for Tyson or Russell/Parvati. Now, with the idol gone, Boston Rob’s alliance would prevail 6-3, and one of Russell/Parvati would be guaranteed to go home. At this point, I’m thinking it’s game over for Russell. Maybe he would survive the current vote, but his long-term prospects would be dismal without The Parv.
However, I forgot one Survivor fact that is so true that it’s nearly Manifesto-worthy: Never, ne-ever count out Russell!
In a move of brilliance, that I couldn’t even fathom at the time, Russell tells Tyson that he’s keeping the idol to himself. This leads Tyson to think that the vote will ultimately end up pitting himself in a tie-breaker with Parvati. Tyson, understandably, wasn’t all to keen on absorbing the slight risk that a tie-breaker would involve, and thought to himself, “if I just change my vote to Parvati, she’ll end up going home with a 4-3 vote, and it will never even get to a tie-breaker.”
So what happens? After the votes are cast, Russell gets up and prepares to play the idol. At this point, I’m glad that we’ll at least get the chance to see Russel and Rob go at it un-immunized, even if the numbers are highly stacked against Russell. But then, Russell shocks everyone by handing the idol to Parvati! As soon as he hands it over, two thoughts race through my head: #1 – He’s finished! #2 – This was a pretty weak move on Russell’s part. Instead of getting taken out by Rob next week, he’s pre-emptively taking himself out of the game by playing the “honor” card.
And then, the votes were read: Four votes Parvati, Three votes Tyson, Two votes Russell…
My mind = blown.
Russell, realizing that all his “sane” options had exhausted themselves, decided to leap off the cliff and hope that gravity would be defied. In this scenario, the only way Russell could possibly stay alive is if Tyson got so freaked out about a tie-breaker that realistically posed no danger to him, that he broke from his alliance’s rock-solid voting strategy. Honestly, this was be an epically stupid move on Tyson’s part, and had we not had the Micronesia season in which Ozzy got voted out by eating donuts and Erik got voted out by giving up the immunity necklace, I’d be having a serious discussion right now about whether or not Tyson’s decision was the dumbest move in Survivor history. However, even more impressive is the fact that for Russell’s plan to work, not only did Tyson have to freak out, but Tyson also needed to be assigned to vote for Russell by his alliance! Think about it! What if the plan had been for Tyson to cast one of the three votes for Parvati instead of casting one of the three votes for Russell? Had Tyson already been assigned to one of the three votes for Parvati, he would’ve been unable to cast the fourth and deciding vote against her!
So basically, Russell’s game plan involved freaking out an extremely safe player into breaking from a perfect voting strategy with only a 50-50 chance that the player could even affect the outcome. To execute this plan, he had to put his neck squarely on the line by handing over the hidden immunity idol. If he plays the idol himself, he’s guaranteed to make it to the next round. If he hands the idol to Parvati, there’s a 99.9% chance he’s getting eliminated, and a 0.1% chance that the plan works and he eliminates a major rival.
This was the Survivor equivalent of Bill Belichick intentionally taking a safety against the Denver Broncos in 2003. Conventional wisdom says you’re crazy to give up 2 points and the ball in the 4th quarter when you could just punt. But just like Belichick, Russell saw beyond conventional wisdom. When the odds were stacked against him, he made an incredibly bold move. If he played it safe, he would likely lose anyway, so why not roll the dice and play for the win? It’s a move unlike anything we’ve ever seen in 20 seasons of this game.
I’ve said more that once in this blog that Russell is the greatest player to ever face off against amateurs, but that he’d never succeed against an veteran All-Star cast. This move made me change my tune. Right now, there’s 13 people left in this game. Rob’s Alliance has six people. If Russell can survive one more week and they merge at 12, he could easily join with the Heroes to make it 6-6. Also, who’s to say that his move of “honor” just didn’t brainwash Coach once and for all? It’s still not looking good for Russell, but things certainly look better than they did last night and he somehow managed to survive that. Never, ne-ever count out Russell!
In other news, the Heroes decided to vote out James instead of Colby. I can certainly understand the decision, but if I were them, I would’ve stuck with the player who’s more likely to stay loyal, and who’s also managed to accumulate a couple of black marks on his resume’. Also, at this point, the Heroes numbers are so bad, they’re almost better to hit the merge with only 3 members or so. That way, they aren’t a threat and are far more likely to be taken in by one of the Villains to turn the game. When it’s 6-5, almost no one is fliping. When it’s 8-3, the Villians will start thinking more about blindsiding Boston Rob and Russell than they will about picking off some players who are completely outnumbered.
Next week is Boston Rob vs. Russell: Round 2! Can’t wait!