I hate this guy, but he does deserve to win.

By Gina Carbone
gina_carbone@comcast.net

Evil Russell Hantz (lest we forget, the first night on Samoa, Russell convinced everyone he was a Hurricane Katrina survivor. He wasn’t.) just dethroned prayer warrior Brett Clouser as the immunity king.

But the name of the final episode of “Survivor: Samoa” is “This Game Ain’t Over,” and since that sounds like the kind of vernacular Russell uses, I’m hesitant before naming him the winner of this season.

Still, how can he lose? Other than Jaison Robinson, who said he would not vote for Russell (see below), who on the jury could deny Russell the Puppet Master?

Unless … Russell is actually true to his word to Brett and keeps him in the final three.

I’m thinking there’s no chance of that, but we’ll see. Russell also promised to keep Mick.

Can’t wait to see how Russell defends his nastiness in the reunion special tonight.

*** Update: 9:23 p.m. ***

FINAL TRIBAL COUNCIL VOTE

Russell — it always comes down to Russell — decided to dump Brett and keep a pure Foa Foa final. Erik — who can always be counted on to whisper commentary from the jury — whispered “They did it.”

They did indeed.

Russell may well want his daughters to marry someone like Brett (if they are anything like their father they don’t deserve Brett) but he could never keep Brett in the game. Brett is, as Jaison put it, what they were: The underdog.

So it’s Russell, Mick and Natalie in the end. I hate when it’s a three-way finale. I want Natalie vs. Russell. Russell will win anyway, but Mick is just dead weight at this point.

Except, Mick is right when it comes to Russell.

Russell was grilling Natalie about what answers she would give the jury. He kept pressing and pressing and I’m wondering why the heck he cares. Even Natalie told him to let up. Mick said Russell made some good points about how he was up against a nice guy and a nice girl, but he needs to be reminded he couldn’t have done it without them.

Mick is right. And Russell is getting cocky. That can backfire. Tell me it backfires.

Russell said if Mick or Natalie won over him it would be “a shame” and not make sense to him. (That’s because you’re an arrogant arse.)

*** Update: 9:38 p.m. ******

JURY LAYS DOWN THE LAW

Very different opening statements to the jury.

Mick basically said he wanted to play a moral game where he never screwed anybody over and accomplished it.

Natalie basically wanted to prove to herself she could do this and now she has more confidence. She thanked the jury for getting her there.

Russell — and I think this is his one big bad move so far — gloated. Gloated hard. Pointed out his moves from getting rid of Marisa and Betsy to his big moves with Kelly, Laura, John and Brett.

He openly congratulated himself at the expense of several jury members. He’s right that he did outwit and outplay Mick and Natalie. But no one likes to be insulted while you have your hand out for a million bucks.

Jaison wanted the three to talk about who they really were. They did. He said none of them lied but they didn’t mention they are not suffering for money and the jury should not base the vote on who needs the money. Why would they? What a wasted question.

Shambo apologized for breaking up Galu, then said Mick’s overall game would have to be called “feckless.” She said Natalie deserves a word that starts with a “c” … coattails. She was nasty! Where was this nastiness for her own tribe? Or Russell, who said she had “ass breath.” “Natalie, Mick, no way in God’s green earth you’re getting my vote.” Why does she still support Russell? And did she fart?

Brett congratulated them, then asked Mick what they would do on a road date. (?) Umm… Mick said they would check out the news, grab something to eat, talk about girls and sports. That was it? Brett wanted to see how much they had paid attention to who he was.

Kelly said she and Natalie were perceived as similar, but Natalie was never on the field. (So not true.) Kelly said Natalie always asked for help. Natalie tried to defend herself. Kelly asked about Russell’s lying. Russell said he’s not like this at all at home and he doesn’t want his kids to think he’s like this. Kelly asked what three words — instead of lie, cheat and steal — he would use to describe himself. He said honor, integrity and loyalty. She had trouble believing that.

Monica wanted fight from Mick and Natalie. She asked each one why they deserve the money over the other two. Mick sold Natalie out and said she did nothing but ride Russell’s coattails. Russell lied and pit people against each other and his ego got out of control. Russell said Mick and Natalie gave him high fives for being a snake. They didn’t mind following the snake.

Dave asked them all what they thought their chances were. Mick said 25 percent. Natalie said maybe a 30-40 percent. Russell said he came in with a larger percentage but now he’s thinking 55 percent.

Laura asked Russell what he learned about her to beat her. Russell said she was the biggest threat and he had to get rid of her.

John asked for the hard sell from Mick. “Blow my mind right now.” Mick went for the character argument, saying the ends don’t justify the means. “I don’t think you can give it to a more stand-up dude up here.” John said Natalie got here tucked under Russell’s wing, so how can she justify winning? She said she saw how the strongest women were voted out first so she learned from that. And she killed a rat. John said that was the argument — or the fight — some of the jurors were waiting to hear from her.

Erik said Mick was named Foa Foa leader but did nothing as a leader. No one on the team did anything and they had no guts. It was his responsibility and he never rose to that challenge. Erik said Russell played an unethical game but he was rewarded. “Did you get to the right place while behaving the wrong way?” He said Russell was sitting there proud of it. Erik said people will call Natalie weak and undeserving, but why are those characteristics any less admirable than lying, cheating and stealing? Why does Russell get a free pass while she is admonished? “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this game, perception is not reality.” Natalie would say she is the least deserving, but maybe in an environment of arrogance (Russell) and self-delusion (Mick), maybe she is the most deserving. She has his vote. Natalie seemed to tear up during his speech.

Yes! Natalie for the win? If perception is not reality, then the perception that Russell should win may not be the reality after all…

*** Update: 10 p.m. ******

I WILL NOW READ THE VOTES

1. Natalie

2. Russell

3. Natalie

4. Russell

5. Natalie

6. Natalie

7. Natalie

Woo hoo!

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