Survivor: How Russell Hantz Remains a Force

Survivor: South Pacific - Recap by Stephen Fishbach
Stephen Fishbach (left) and Russell Hantz
Monty Brinton/CBS(2)

09/29/2011 AT 08:30 AM EDT

"You must not copy others, but use weapons which you can handle properly."
– Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Last night on Survivor, a surprise twist blindsided America. Turns out, there's an extra player this season. He's a devious hobbit that Survivor just can't seem vote out.

"I do see a little Russell in [Brandon]," Coach says to Sophie. "He's Russell's nephew!" Mikayla exclaims. "I had a relapse of what my uncle used to do," Brandon moans.

Russell's been more of a force in this game than Dawn, Elyse and Stacey combined. He's controlling Brandon's actions. He's featured in the season's commercials. I think there's a good chance he may get a jury vote or two.



For having a major story impact on a season he's not even on – and because nothing else particularly strategic happened this episode – Russell wins this week's Fishy Award.

Keep It In Your Hantz
Brandon's story is the opposite of Matt's from last season. While Matt wrestled to be more like God, Brandon tries not to be the Devil.

But Brandon's deluding himself if he thinks his creepy fantasies about Mikayla have anything to do with Uncle Russell. Russell was a Survivor villain because he made aggressive strategic moves to get himself and his alliance deeper into the game. Brandon's a perv who needs a cold shower.

I wish we could see less of Brandon's whining and more of Sophie and Albert. The strategic center of the Upolu alliance has been overshadowed by their more famous tribemates. But Sophie's secret scene from last week shows that she knows as much about Survivor strategy as many of the game's best players. And did anybody else catch Sophie and Albert exchanging glances during Brandon's blowup? You could see the wheels turning.

For his part, elder stateslayer Coach does a good job of calming Brandon down. Brandon's monologues about inner demons and nefarious uncles are pure melodrama. That's a world in which the Slayer feels at home.

Savaii
Over on Savaii, Ozzy reveals to Keith that he has the idol. Then Keith immediately scurries off and tells Whitney. Which has to make you wonder – there's a Whitney on this season?

Ozzy's hoping for a Rob-and-Grant bromance with Keith. Unfortunately for Oz, Keith's hoping for a Rob-and-Amber romance with Whitney.

"I told Whitney because I want her to trust me just in case something were to happen down the line where I thought Ozzy might be making a move," Keith says.

That's smart gameplay. Many players have built bonds over having the idol. Clearly, that's what Ozzy was trying to do. But how often have you seen someone use frustration over not having the idol to cement an alliance?

You have to give credit to the 90210 tribe. They may all have long, beautiful hair, but this isn't the Groupie Alliance redux. Keith has done a lot more to build social and strategic bonds than, say, brainiac Cochran.

Even Cochran and Papa Bear are making baby steps to better their positions in the game. Cochran refrains from scrambling or seeking out the idol, trying to "foster a culture of trust in the tribe."

Papa Bear takes the opposite approach. He runs into the jungle in a last ditch effort to save his hide. Pretending that he finds the idol isn't a bad move. How could he know that Ozzy already had it? (Seriously, though, weren't idols supposed to be hard to find this season?)

And I loved the scene where Papa Bear rolls his eyes at Ozzy and Jim and their obvious line of BS. "Papa Bear is on the chopping block, big time," he says.

I'm only sorry that he's right.

Who's next to go? Did you catch Ozzy's poker tell?

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