Survivor: Samoa: Turns Out Russell Isn't So Bad After All

Is it just me, or is there nothing to talk about after last night's Survivor: Samoa?

I mean, it seems everything has fallen into place. The Galu guys installed Shambo as their tribal chief to serve their interests, the folks at Foa Foa eliminated another one... while there are interesting developments, it feels like either we somehow saw it coming or there's nothing much of interest to speculate on. And to think I started this season thinking that there'd be a lot to talk about, from nefarious schemes to the latest victims, thinking that Russell would be the most evil guy to ever join the game, or so the promos suggested.

Damn you, editors, you tricked me into it. Russell is not so bad after all.

Sure, on the very first night he got rid of his entire tribe's water supply. Worse, he took a sock from Jaison and burned it, scarring the poor law student for life--it's like depriving him of a security blanket and rendering him unsafe from the boogeyman. And then he came this close to quitting, as late as last night, when he virtually begged everyone to vote him off the island. But I digress.

Russell's reasoning for those moves were sensible but sinister anyway: he wanted to manipulate them from the very start, so they can do his bidding. Back on day one, it felt like he would do more of these things just to give himself the upper hand, and personally, I was bracing for his next ridiculously devious move... but it did not arrive. Instead, we saw him create alliances (and abandon them) left and right, and maybe do some taunting on the side, just like every other person who has joined Survivor. Nothing really groundbreaking there.

Two things: either he realized the error of his first actions, thinking if it got traced back to him he's going to be booted out--or he's got everyone under his control with one night's worth of mischief. Look, he's already de facto leader of his tribe, not in an official function but more of the devious advisor who's got his own agenda. He's leading the downtrodden against the oppressors that is Galu, and he's calling for a revolution, and he wants first blood even if his army is far bloodier--you get the idea, right? Instead of watching a guy who does all these unbelievable things, we're watching a guy who does what we expect everyone else to do: play the game as cunningly as possible, without being spectacular.

So, instead of talking about some nefarious schemes, we'll be talking about whether Russell has something up his sleeve once the merge begins. My initial answer: he doesn't really have much of a upper hand to speak of. But maybe, now he's got eight new people to play with, we can see him burning someone else's sock--or maybe drown a chicken, or maybe bury the fire-starting kit. That is evil.

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