The main difference between scripted series and reality television is that true reality television is seldom influenced by the audience (with the exception of those shows which require America to vote in certain categories). For this reason, the fan favorites on shows like The Amazing Race hardly ever win and the most enjoyable roommates on The Real World barely get air time. So the best episodes of these reality shows occur when the viewer feels as though the episode was written for them (with the exception of those clearly scripted shows like The Hills or The Kardashians).

What I’m getting at here, is tonight’s Survivor felt scripted…in the amazing that’s-exactly-what-I-wanted-to-happen way. The episode began on a dreary note with Jeff announcing that the players would be competing for individual immunity because each tribe would be voting someone off. This has been a clear ploy at causing drama on both tribes for a few years now, and for the most part it’s always seemed incredibly unfair. It’s one thing to get rid of two players during the merger but the tribes should be all about forming a strong tribe to win. Essentially, the Villains deserved another chance at completely clobbering the Heroes, but instead one of them was fairly sent packing for viewer reasons.

After getting past my initial frustrations, I settled in for the most exciting tribal councils this season. Candace out performed all the men on her tribe to win immunity (even beating the self proclaimed niece out-doer James and his roid rage). Colby quickly settled in for his eviction and even honorably told the tribe not to scheme and to just enjoy their last day with him. Apparently reverse psychology works best you aren’t even trying to use it, because within minutes J.T., Rupert, and Amanda were arguing over whether or not James’ injury really would be a detriment to the tribe. Amanda, playing the worst game of Survivor to date, once again showed her emotions routing for James and convinced him to demonstrate his racing abilities….which he did but failed at.

Over in the Villians’ camp, it was automatically decided that Parvati would leave but everyone would make Russell think it was his turn so they could flush out the idol.If Rob were playing a chess game against Russell, this would be the point where he puts Russell’s king in check. Unfortunately, for the first time this season, Russell flexed his brain muscles and quickly caught wind of their plan. He pulled aside Parvati and Danielle and threw out a plan to give Parvati the idol thus ensuring both of them stay in. Looks like Russell escaped that check and planted one of his own on Rob’s queen. Unfortunately for Russell, Rob is proving to be quite the enemy as he realizes Russell could potentially give away the idol and thus the best decision would be to split the votes 3 to 3 (with Rob, Coach, Jerry, Courtney, Tyson, and Sandra splitting their votes between Parvati and Russell). And check to Russell’s queen…again. But wait! Russell retaliates by attempting to convince Tyson of his desire to give in and vote out Parvati, hoping that Tyson would change his vote to Parvati and leaving 2 votes for Russell instead of the necessary three.

Regardless of all the back and forth between the tribes, the expectation was the Russell’s plan would inevitably fail and he would be sent home, while the idiotic Heroes would continue their poor moves and vote out Colby. The Villains arrive at tribal to vote someone out first and then they have the opportunity to watch the Heroes’ tribal (a reward from their challenge win when Rob outperformed Candace for some hot dogs). The suspense builds as Jeff asks for any hidden immunity idols and then…commercial break! ARGH! After commercial, Russell stands up and walks over to Jeff with the idol (my initial reaction: I knew this guy lost his game this season, he may be saving himself but there goes his last chance for survival due to his own pride). Russell shocks the world, and re-fosters some much needed love on my part, when he makes a speech to Coach about keeping his word and demonstrates his integrity by giving the immunity to Parvatie. As Jeff reads the votes, Parvati’s 4 votes are voided and Tyson receives 3 votes to Russells 2.

Next, the Heroes walk in as the Villains begin their hot dog feast. The Heroes’ resident villain, James, shows his classless nature again by insulting Colby and comparing him to someone in a fat suit (if Colby is fat than I am obese) and showing his poor sportsmanship by complaining about the hot dog eating opponents. In the end, the Heroes shocked the world by making the first smart decision and getting rid of James. HALLELUJAH THE VILLAIN IS GONE! What’s that? Two of my least favorite contestants gone in one night? FANTASTIC.

Further Thoughts:
*Candace is lucky she won that immunity. The girl worked hard for it and deserved some extra time on the island. Had she lost, however, James would still be in and you can bet Candace would have been gone without a second thought.
*Russell finally shows his strategy but a huge amount of luck helped him out. More than luck, actually, what cemented Russell’s plan was Tyson’s stupidity. When you have a solid alliance of 6 people, you stick to that regardless. Tyson’s instructions were to vote out Russell and had he done that he would still be in the game.
*Thus, I predict if the Villains lose again Russell will leave.
*I’m beginning to think this is going to be a season where the strong winning alliance will definitely not be from one tribe. None of the Heroes have strong ties left (possibly Amanda, J.T., and Rupert but the first two definitely have friends on the other tribe who are more important to them) and the Villains will likely team up with some Heroes to get rid of the outsiders on their team (notable Parvati and Danielle if they make it to the merger, assuming Russell doesn’t).
*Rob won his tribe yet another victory with the reward of hot dogs. His physical strength will surely keep him around for a while but he may need to calm it down a bit or else everyone will see him as the indisputable threat.
*Watch for Amanda to actually start playing the game well. Her emotional connection to James has been severely holding her back and this is a girl who has made the finals twice. Now all she needs to do is hide her already apparent alliance with Parvati if the two make it to the merge.