Friday, April 02, 2010

Reality Rant: Russellmania II

On the Television Without Pity forums, you cannot talk about the forums on episode or character threads. Therefore, you cannot say something along the lines of, "I don't get why everybody feels this way." And like the good poster that I am, I try to follow the rules. However, if the policy was not put in place, I would have to say the following to those who are contemplating abandoning Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains now that Rob Mariano has been voted off the show . . .

*clearing throat*


Whew! Man, I am glad that's out of my system.

I admit that a few episodes ago, I was pissed off. Tom Westman, perhaps the greatest player of all time (if not merely in the top five) got the boot over an injured James and an injured and fat Rupert. And I was pissed off. I got even more steamed the following episode, when the Heroes were forced into Tribal Council again -- as part of a double execution -- and decided that now was the time to get rid of James instead of Colby, who had more or less rolled over and declared himself to be dead. But the Villains had to lose somebody as well, and the viewers turned to the one man who has kept this show interesting since the previous season: Russell Hantz.

Look, I know that Russell is a scumbag. Anybody that lies about losing a dog to Hurricane Katrina deserves to be worked over with a crowbar by New Orleans residents. His tendency to create chaos at camp shows that he's a borderline sociopath, if not full-fledged. But dammit, you can't help but admire his gameplay, even if luck plays a huge part of it. He made Samoa fun to watch because damn near everybody was too stupid to play the game. The man is a troll forever looking for a bridge to live underneath, but you develop Stockholm Syndrome watching the show. Suddenly, he becomes a semi-attractive antihero.

For instance: when the Villains had to vote somebody off, the two choices were Russell and his alliance mate, the "lovely" Parvati, who had lucked her way into a million bucks two years ago on Micronesia -- Fans Vs. Favorites. Rob was safe because he had won individual immunity, and he was itching to get Russell and Parvati the hell off the show. At this point, he had become Saint Robert of Boston, a man who could do no wrong to the fans, as he pitched in around camp and helped the tribe win immunity and rewards galore. Barely everybody forgot his thuggish debut in Marquesas and his way-too-fortunate run in All-Stars. It just seemed to me that the posters I read were a little too eager to shine Rob's nuts.

Anyway, a plan was hatched out of suspicion that Russell had found the hidden immunity idol: the six person majority would split their votes between Russell and Parvati. If one of them played the idol, the other would be tied with the minority bloc, and whomever was left would be zinged on the revote. But Russell got to Tyson and lied about voting for Parvati, convincing Tyson to join in on a pile-on. And at Tribal Council, Russell got up, went to Jeff Probst, presented the idol . . . then decided against it and gave it to Parvati. And sure enough, Pavarti had four votes against her that was negated. Russell himself got two votes. And guess who Russell, Parvati and Danielle (who? Exactly!) voted for? Tyson. In other words, Tyson voted himself out of the game. Never mind that this ruined my prediction that Tyson would win the game. All I could think of was the same thing I thought the previous season: "How can Russell walk around with balls that big?" I figure it would be something like this (1:03 mark; really not for the faint at heart).

Fast forward to the latest episode. The Heroes rebounded, winning both reward and immunity challenges, sending the Villains to tribal council again. This time, though, Jerri decides to cast her lot with Russell. Coach, being an asshole about "honor" and such bullshit, sticks to his word and votes Courtney (again . . . who?), leading to Rob getting boned, 4-3-1. And the funny thing? It was mostly Rob's fault. He could have heeded Randy's "warning" vote over Parvati in the third episode. He could have tried to solidify the split vote plan and made sure Tyson (a close yet dim ally) wouldn't go rogue. And he could have tried him damnedest to keep Jerri in the fold. He did not trust Russell . . . which was smart, since he was an unknown factor. But he screwed up damn near everything else. It's like he couldn't operate with smart people. Put him on the Heroes tribe, and he would've had the likes of JT, Amanda and Rupert around his finger. But all Rob could do was get up, call Coach a "little man" (devastating, given Russell's stature) and get his torch snuffed. Even more delicious: Rob goes straight to the Loser Lounge, perhaps the last people to be eliminated from the game before the jury phase begins. That means he can't make pissy faces on the sidelines, preparing for his huge "My question is: you suck" speech on Day 39. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go back to the arms of your wife and little bambina, a loser for the fifth time . . . sixth if you count the bullshit "America's Choice" vote after All-Stars which was rigged to give Rupert $1 million he clearly didn't deserve.

So what's the up side? Simple . . . without Rob at camp to lead them, the Villains will fall apart . . . at least according to the teaser for next week's episode. Meanwhile, the Heroes (lead by a resurgent Colby) are on the rebound, and it is possible that a misfit fivesome consisting of the strong (Colby), the seat-filler (Candice), the dumb (JT), the dumber (Amanda) and the dumbest (Rupert) can go far in the game. Without the Villains imploding, the game becomes uninteresting and stale. And you need a villain like Russell to have around. That's one of the reasons The Amazing Race is sagging a little . . . there's nobody to hate. Sure, there's been a huge douchebag move (the narcs Blind U-Turning Joe & Heidi as a "fuck you" gesture), a callous couple (lesbians Carol & Brandy) and a team (Brent & Caite) that couldn't walk and eat a baguette at the same time, but there's no team to root against. Over on the upcoming Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat II, there are two villains in Wes and Kenny, but you can't really root for one against the other. You can only home they both get hit by a bus at the same time.

Bottom line? Survivor is must-see television again, and if that means Rob's head joins the rest of Russell's victims mounted on the wall, so be it. Besides, given Russell's meltdown at the Samoa reunion, the odds are pretty good that somebody is sizing him up for a trip to the taxidermist. And maybe the Stockholm Syndrome I have will wear off in time for the reunion.

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