Airdate: March 9, 2011
Boot: Russell Hantz (eliminated from Redemption Island); Kristina Kell
Quote: “If I am able to watch Russell walk off and go home, that would be my million dollars almost.” – Sarita White
Rating: 6 + Tier E (1) = 7
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. The first season I have to double-dip into is easily my least favorite season of all time (although stay tuned for season 38!). With this episode, I will have reviewed as many episodes from Redemption Island as I have from the first 11 seasons combined. Well, on the bright side, it means I’m a step closer to wrapping up this snoozefest, and this is the episode where Russell gets eliminated so I guess that’s cool. Of course, it would have been a lot more satisfying if his Tribal Council vote-off in the previous episode had been his final bow, instead of watching him cry after losing a domino-stacking challenge. Or maybe he was crying over Jeff Probst’s contrived use of Eminem lyrics. After all, Probst did send Russell a “Stan” letter.
“My torch got snuffed, I’m wondering why I was on this season at all.”
The producers lucked out for sure in the good vs. evil battle that took place on Redemption Island between Matt and Russell, and this is always a pretty tense challenge to watch. I think it works better when there are more competitors, but it was a solid choice to adapt for a duel. It’s after the duel that things go haywire, in an admittedly entertaining but frustrating way.
Like many fans, I’ve always hated Redemption Island for a multitude of reasons, but rewatching this episode has opened my eyes to why this season is so much worse than South Pacific, despite the two seasons sharing the exact same format. Pretty much every single player in this cast is annoying, stupid, anonymous, or some combination thereof. This is evidenced after Russell is eliminated and Ralph, wanting to get in one last dig against his adversary, boasts that he found the idol 15 seconds into the game. He’s about to show it–not just to Russell, mind you, but active members of the opposing tribe as well–when Sarita convinces him not to. Ralph switches gears and declares that this was an epic bluff to prove how amazingly deceptive he can be. That’s like if some teenagers ask you to buy them beer and you refuse but also decide to buy some beer for the sole purpose of proving to them that you’re 21.
And then you drink that full can of PBR in front of them to make sure they know you are a man with refined tastes.
How is this not remembered as one of the most unnecessarily dumbass moves of all time? I thought Domenick making a fake idol to prove to Chris that he has an idol while he does in fact have an actual idol was convoluted, but this takes the cake. Literally no part of this chain of events–letting others (especially non-allies) know that you have an idol, highlighting your willingness to lie at ease (poorly at that)–has any logical sense to it. So Ralph covers the stupid part. Phillip naturally delivers the annoying, angrily declaring that his skills as a former federal agent have trained him to spot a lie, and Ralph was telling the truth about having an idol. Gee, nothing gets past this guy. In other Phillip Sheppard revelations, Judd’s idol was not on the ground, Cochran did not single-handedly send Ozzy to Redemption Island, and OJ did it. At one point, Phillip makes the curious observation that his teammates don’t know whether he’s a criminal or a school teacher. Why can’t he be both like Mary Kay Letourneau?
Let me just reference the Menendez brothers here to complete the hat trick of Jay Leno’s favorite 90s criminals.
As for anonymous, just look at 80% of the cast. One of the few exceptions is Kristina, who is surprisingly savvy and bearable…and for this, she became an instant outsider on Ometepe. Everyone else is under Rob’s spell, and his constipation fake-out (a much better performance than Ralph’s) in order to find the idol works like a charm. That said, solo idol hunt scenes are probably the most boring thing to watch on Survivor, regardless of whether you’re a legendary character like Boston Rob. Honestly though, given that this is his fourth stint and he had just played a year earlier, it’s hard not to feel like we’re being served leftovers here. I know he’s divisive, but I like Boston Rob. I would have been thrilled to see him win Heroes vs. Villains. But he’s just going through the motions here. How are we supposed to be excited about his coronation season if he isn’t?