“Survivor: Samoa” recap: The Puppet Master

The baddest Russell of them all

After seeing the cool nature shots of waterfalls, volcanic mountains and crashing waves, we hear some impressions the players have formed about each other while rowing in. One woman (Marisa, we find out later) says she wouldn’t want to mess with the man she describes as a pit bull (Russell, we find out later. Actually, there are two Russells, so I’ll call this one “Bad Russell”).

The tribes, Galu and Foa Foa, must each elect a tribe leader. People vote, describing others by their clothes, gender, race or, when describing Non-Bad Russell, a resemblance to Lennox Lewis.

Non-Bad Russell (hereafter just called “Russell”) wins the Galu election for leader, beating out Shambo, a former Marine who’s half Shannon, half Rambo.

The Foa Foa tribe … OK, I’m sure the second “Foa” is important, but I just can’t commit to typing it every time I refer to the tribe. Foa Squared? Double Foa? I’ll just stick with one Foa — one Foa all, and all Foa one.

Anyhoo, Mick (“red shirt, jeans, khaki jacket”) beats out Jaison (the “tall, nicely dressed, Yale-type black man”) as leader of Foa. Ben tells the camera that he’s not really surprised he didn’t get any leadership votes, but he points out that he has “shot, killed and cleaned about everything you’re allowed to in Missouri, and probably a few things you’re not,” and that a lot of his tribemates are “kind of candy-asses.” I think Ben could be this season’s J.T., only without any of the things that made everyone like J.T.

The leaders need to decide who will participate in the opening challenge. They have to pick the best swimmer (Mick picks Jaison, who’s surprised that Mick ignored the stereotype of black guys not being able to swim; Russell picks John), the strongest (Mick picks Bad Russell; Russell picks Erik), the most agile (Mick picks Marisa, who pronounces her name Mareesa, and very few people get it right; Russell chooses Yasmin), and the smartest (Mick picks Liz, who’s a little miffed because she’s Asian (I mean, she’s not miffed that she’s Asian; she’s concerned that people may slap her with the “Asians are smart and devious” stereotype); Russell picks Shambo).

In the challenge (which is for the reward of a flint to make fire), the swimmer swims, the strong person moves heavy bundles of logs, the agile person walks on a balance beam, and the smart person solves a puzzle. Foa wins the challenge, but Russell proclaims that he’s proud of his losing tribe. The participant drawing the most negative attention is John, who didn’t swim as well as Jaison and was slow at getting up at the end of the challenge.

At the Foa camp, Ben identifies himself as a hillbilly who knows how to build things. Meanwhile, Bad Russell lets us know, “I didn’t come here to work; I came here to play.” He individually talks with three of the young women on the tribe, telling the camera he plans to have a “secret alliance with each one of these dumb girls. … I like to call ’em my Dumb-Ass Girl Alliance.” He also aligns with Betsy, an older woman he suspects may be smarter than the young ones. Indeed, she tells the camera that she doesn’t trust him, and she later tells a tribemate that her “women’s intuition” is warning her about Bad Russell.

On the Galu tribe, Russell somewhat steps up to lead, but Shambo is frustrated at how much the men are talking about work instead of working. In particular, rocket scientist John wants to think, plan and say things like “I think the wind needs to be addressed.” Later, the others frolic in the water while Shambo watches and broods about how Russell needs to be assertive and lay down the law.

At night, Bad Russell tells his tribemates about how he’s a fireman who survived Hurricane Katrina but lost his precious German shepherd. The women gasp in sympathy, and then he tells the camera that he’s never lived in New Orleans, had a German shepherd or was a fireman. He crows, “You can break their hearts by telling them a lie!”

Marisa knows that although Bad Russell’s Katrina story is “probably very true,” she’s starting to question if she can trust him.

Oh, she has no idea. While his tribe sleeps, Bad Russell empties the others’ water canteens and burns someone’s socks. “I plan on making it as miserable as possible for everybody,” he says. “If I can control how they feel, I can control how they think.” He says he’s a multi-millionaire who doesn’t need the money and just wants to show how easy it is to win the game. In the morning, Bad Russell thinks his strategy is working brilliantly, as various tribemates are thirsty, sockless and crabby.

For the immunity challenge, six people race over A-frames and then pull a heavy crate; the other four tribemates take apart the crate and use the slats to solve a puzzle.

It’s a fairly close race, but Foa gets lost with the puzzle and Galu wins, after which they hop in a circle and chant, “Galu! Galu! Galu is in the house!” That’s cool. I want more of that. While Foa is at Tribal Council, Galu should work on some more chants.

Back at camp, Foa talks about who to kick off. Mike (the tribe’s oldest guy, who, to someone like me who doesn’t watch Dr. Phil, looks like Dr. Phil) thinks they need to focus on strength, and that Ashley is the weakest. (This is from the guy whose main contribution in the challenge was standing at the puzzle and looking away disinterestedly while a piece was taken from him.)

Marisa talks with Bad Russell and says she’s wary because although the two of them have an alliance, she has seen him talking individually with everyone. Bad Russell says she “threatened him” by saying “You’re not making me comfortable” (Seriously? That’s a threat? Perhaps this man has never been threatened before.), and he tells others to vote against Marisa. He thinks he’s the puppet master, and the tribe will do whatever he says.

Turns out, most of them do. After a Tribal Council discussion during which Bad Russell says that she “came at him” (with her wariness, apparently), Marisa is voted off.

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Photo: © CBS

1 Comment

  1. You are not being hard enough on Bad Russell. The man is has some serious psychological flaws. Will the camera crew be allowed to intervene, I wonder, when he decides to push someone off a cliff?

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