By People Staff
Updated December 01, 2020 03:43 PM
Credit: Rob Kim/Landov

“A ruler should act with due prudence and humanity so that being overconfident will not make him incautious, and being suspicious will not render him insupportable”– Machiavelli, The Prince

Russell Hantz thrives on chaos.

He’s created an epic poem’s worth of metaphors to describe the way he turns against each other -… he’s the puppet master, the zombie king, and Johnny Russell-seed, traipsing through Samoa planting misinformation.

But as Heroes vs. Villains draws to a close, Russell’s not playing against amateurs anymore. All five of his remaining opponents are seasoned Survivor veterans … – Parvati, Rupert, Colby and Jerri are all third-timers, and both Parvati and Sandra won their seasons. Last episode, when Russell tried to pit Parvati against Danielle, Parvati sensibly just went and asked Danielle what he was talking about.

This episode, Russell learns from Rupert that Sandra is trying to vote him out. So he charges over to where Sandra and Parvati are lying in the shelter and demands, “Are you with me, or are you against me?” Russell’s used to panicking when he interrogates them. That tactic may still work on Jerri, who seems the only person left who’s legitimately afraid of him. (“Don’t get Russell riled up and against you!” she warns the camera.) Sandra just rolls her eyes. “I’m against you, Russell,” she says.

Sandra earns this week’s Fishy award for refusing to play Russell’s mind games. Witness what happened to Danielle last week: She was driven to tears when Russell turned the full force of his antagonism on her. “I don’t know why he’s testing me,” she said at Tribal Council. Danielle failed the test, admitted her super-secret alliance with Parvati, and was voted out. But Sandra just rips up the test and hands it back to the teacher. Grade: A.

When Sandra blows him off, Russell can only stand there, shocked. “Either you’re with me, or you’re against me,” he repeats. “If you’re against me, you’re going home next.” But Sandra still keeps her cool. “I’m comfortable,” she says. “Why should I not be comfortable?” The tribe ends up voting out Rupert.

The week’s episode is a great reminder of the deprivations of Survivor life, and how personal that strategy becomes. Witness Russell’s reaction when Jerri takes Sandra and Parvati on reward. “What was she thinking? It don’t make any sense,” he complains to Rupert. Russell is clearly worn out and coming undone. Being denied those few moments with his wife seems like the greatest indignity in the world to him.

Watching at home, I think may not fully appreciate how much those family visits mean. The contestants have only been away for a month, after all, and are headed back to civilization in a week. But after a month where every single thing you do … from what you eat to how much you sleep … is being scrutinized and judged, where you’re forced to betray your friends and sleep intimately with you hate, being able to confide in someone who you completely trust breaks down all your walls. (That, anyway, is how I justify bawling like a baby when I saw my brother in Tocantins.)

Russell’s response is to take strategic revenge and form a temporary alliance with Rupert and Colby. And that alliance fizzles too, for personal reasons. No way that Russell can pull in Jerri to vote off Sandra, after Rupert gives in to his nighttime wood fetish.

“I want to kill Rupert right now,” says Jerri. “Honestly, I want him gone more than anything in the entire universe.” Rupert is being disruptive at night and disturbing the precious few hours of uncomfortable sleep that Yin Yang can grab. That transgression probably sealed his fate as much as any strategic necessity.

Tell us: Did the tribe do the right thing by voting out Rupert? Should Sandra have played the idol? Who will win it all?