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Stephen’s Survivor Strategy Blog: Russell Woos Candice

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Rob Kim/Landov

“You make enemies of all those whom you have injured.” –Machiavelli, The Prince

Russell Hantz can smell disloyalty. It’s one of his Survivor superpowers, like summoning idols from the earth (and out of his opponents’ pockets). He can smell it on Sandra — and last night, he sniffed it on Candice, too. For using his idol to win over Candice’s vote and keep the Villains tribe dominant, Russell wins yet another Fishy Award.

Candice has a history of jumping ship. Her signature move on Cook Islands was mutinying from the Aitu tribe to Raro. She’s been waiting to flip on the Heroes since day three. She’s had nobody to trust all game, unless you count sad sack Colby, who would rather be shaking his cane at the kids these days and their shenanigans. JT was against her. Rupert was against her. James hated her. The show hinted at a nascent alliance with Amanda. But the two Heroines have been lying to each other’s faces for 30 days; after that, it’s easier to trust the devil you don’t know. And, too, sometimes at the merge, the other tribe just seems shiny and new. You’re not sick of their quirks; you haven’t heard their boring stories a billion times.

Russell plays to her disaffection perfectly. He tells her the strategic necessity of flipping: “Right now, the Hero ship is sinking,” he says. “And somebody, one person, has to jump.” He builds empathy: “I’m playing the game like you.” And, of course, he flashes her his idol.

With so much explosive idol play this season, it seemed almost quaint to see Russell once again pulling an idol out of his pants to build an alliance. Just like the good ol’ days in Samoa! Candice, for her part, cannot wait to see it. “Will you show it to me now?” she asks him in the middle of camp. “You want to see it now?” Russell asks. Even HE’S not that much of an exhibitionist. What if somebody else sees! But he steels his nerve and unwraps it. “I could take you places,” he tells her.

Candice likes what she sees. And who wouldn’t? Honestly — if you had the choice between finding idols and engineering blindsides with Russell or watching a movie and taking a nap with Colby, which would you choose? The Heroes tribe has fallen apart. The way Colby and Amanda just lay down and let Danielle gallop away with the clue to the idol was downright depressing. Only Rupert seems to have his beard screwed on straight. And seriously — when did Rupert become the Sage of Samoa? This whole season, the one-time pirate has seemed less like Blackbeard, more like Captain Crunch: complaining about his toe, obsessing over what it means to be a Hero, regulating the banana stash. Since the merge, though, he’s finally woken up. It’s like seeing his old tribe-mate, Sandra, reminded him of the dominant player he once was.

The problem for Candice comes not so much in the decision she makes, as the way in which she vacillates between her alliances. First she outs Sandra’s plans to target Russell to the Villains. Then she takes it all back with the Heroes. But then she really wants to stick with the Villains. Flip-floppers have a nasty way of ending up voted out next, as neither group particularly trusts them. Witness Coach Wade.

For now, however, Candice votes with the Villains — which forces Sandra to, as well. After all, Sandra’s going to vote with the numbers, wherever they are. So, as Courtney provides hilarious reactions from the sidelines, Yin Yang sends Amanda packing. By targeting the weak Hero rather than trying to build faith with the wayward Villain, Russell keeps his alliance dominant. Now only Sandra has both the will and the wisdom to take him out. The question is — who is there left who will help her? –Stephen Fishbach

Tell us: Did Candice make the right move? Will the Villains alliance fracture?Rob Kim/Landov