I loved this week's episode for two reasons. One, we saw how smart these players really are. Two, we saw how dumb these players really are.
Parvati impressed me by not telling Russell about her Hidden Immunity Idol. Sure, if you're riding Russell's coattails the best you can argue to the jury was that made all of the decisions with him. But Parvati isn't riding Russell's coattails. She's letting him ride hers. Hiding the Idol from him proves that she's not reliant on him for anything.
She impressed me even more by sharing the information with Danielle. Parvati can now tell Danielle, "You know we're the real final two here, because I'm only telling you." Lest Danielle doubt Parvati, all she has to do is tell Russell herself and see how he reacts. His loss of control will only make her feel more in control. She was in the know. He wasn't.
On the other hand, I'm sorry, but J.T. just got completely punked. In fairness, I can imagine a parrallel universe where J.T.'s decision to give Russell the Idol could have gone down as one of the most brilliant and exciting moves in Survivor history. He pulled it off covertly.
If Russell really had been on the outside of an "all-devouring women's alliance" he could have played the Idol to oust Parvati, and her jaw would have been on the floor. After all, the Villains only had access to one Hidden Immunity Idol and she had it herself. The look on her face would have been priceless. Is J.T.'s move really dumber because he guessed wrong?
On the other hand, I can imagine a parrallel universe where pigs can fly. It ain't the case. J.T. gave Russell the Idol, and now he's gonna look like a complete clown when Parvati plays it this Thursday. The whole world knows it's coming. CBS has done practically nothing to hide it. I like J.T. a lot, but I'm gonna have a hard time not laughing.
Here's my question: Have we been setting this up all season? Have the editors been trying to turn us against J.T. so that we'll laugh harder when he falls?
Think back. Other than Coach and James, who seems to have changed the most since they played the game the first time? J.T. When we saw him play in Tocantins he was the white knight. Everybody liked him so much that he never received a vote against him and he swept the jury. Viewers would have been sympathetic if that guy had crashed and burned so epically.
Just a year later he seems like a jerk, shifting alliances, talking about how ruthless he is. But watch: Everyone still seems to like him.
Is it possible that J.T. hasn't changed? That he's still just as much of a Southern gentleman as he ever was? Usually I think the Survivor editors are very succesful in portraying people as they really are. I've met enough Survivors to say that most of them came across exactly like they had on camera. I just wonder if in this case the editors have made an exception. They have got to want the moment where J.T. slips on the banana peel to be pure comedy rather than tragedy.
Regardless of what's true, I am still laughing about the way Parvati read J.T.'s letter. "Big promises, J.T.!" Parvati's no Courtney. Her sarcasm is far more vicious. Yeah, make no mistake: Parvati belongs on the Villains tribe, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Keeping Sandra over Courtney was a huge mistake on her part, though. Sandra invented the "As long as it's not me!" strategy. By heading into a 5-5 tie with the Heroes, Russell and Parvati have practically given her no choice but to flip. Courtney never really shifted alliances in China or Heroes vs. Villains. She may have stayed loyal.
Will Sandra ruin everyone's fun by running to Rupert and telling him the true tribe dynamic (as we see in the preview)? Will she avert J.T.'s cataclysmic doom? Or will he just get a sick look on his face, knowing what's coming? I can't wait to find out.
(Image courtesy of CBS)
-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Guest Columnist