Sign up now to take our TODAY Food baking class with Gesine Bullock-Prado!

Pop Culture

Self-declared ruler gets faked out on ‘Survivor’

The "Survivor" all-stars have been in Samoa for 18 days, but they are still two separate tribes — and they remained that way after a reward challenge they all thought was actually a tribe merge.

Likewise, the self-declared ruler of the Villains tribe and the entire South Pacific, Russell , was faked out and/or overruled by Sandra, who saved herself and Courtney by lying to Russell and orchestrating Coach's exit.

Coach, however, will get a chance at revenge, as he became the first member of the jury.

The Villains tribe, having lost four straight challenges, headed back to Tribal Council, where Courtney seemed like their obvious target: She is horrible in challenges and even injured her ankle in the dirty immunity challenge that simply involved wallowing in mud and climbing over a fence.

  • Slideshow Photos

    MONTY BRINTON / CBS

    Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    Producers are bringing back some of the biggest personalities from the previous 19 seasons. From Rupert to Rob, Coach to Russell, they're now known by their first names thanks to their game play and/or behavior.

  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Producers are bringing back some of the biggest personalities from the previous 19 seasons. From Rupert to Rob, Coach to Russell, they're now known by their first names thanks to their game play and/or behavior.

    Some of them are very memorable: Nine of the 20 contestants will be making their third appearance on "Survivor," and many appeared recently on "Survivor Micronesia." The group includes three winners and seven runner-ups, and several fan favorites.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Rupert Boneham

    Team: Heroes Hometown: Indianapolis
    Previous season: Pearl Islands (10th out), All-Stars (13th out)

    Rupert is big and friendly and has a thick beard and a thicker laugh. He always wears tie-dye t-shirts, his trademark, and he loves to point out that he's "America's Favorite Survivor" for winning the fan favorite award after the first all-stars. But being likeable doesn't necessarily translate to being a good player. And he may not be 19 other Survivors' favorite Survivor. Rupert needs to bring more to the table than his laugh and t-shirt if he expects to do well this time around.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    James Clement

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: China (10th out), Micronesia (medically evacuated, 4th jury member)

    Despite his likability, gravedigger James' first two attempts at the game ended badly: He became, at the time, the dumbest Survivor ever in China when he was voted out with not one but two hidden immunity idols in his possession. And in Micronesia, he was forced out of the game by an infection that could have cost him his hand. If he can stay injury free and use his physical strength to power his tribe and them himself to immunity, he could have a shot -- if he doesn't let anyone play him again.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Colby Donaldson

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
    Previous seasons: Australia (runner-up), all-stars (5th out)

    Remember Colby's Texas flag in Australia? The flood that took away his tribe's supplies? And Jeff Probst trading new rice for the flag and their tarps? That was nine years ago, and although Colby returned for the all-star edition five years ago, he was a shadow of the player he was the first time he played. He didn't seem like the same player who'd almost effortlessly made it to the end during season two. Will age -- in Survivor years -- have any impact? Or will Colby's defeat in the first all-stars give him renewed energy, and cause others to underestimate him?

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Cirie Fields

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Norwalk, Conn.
    Previous seasons: Panama (12th out), Micronesia (15th out)

    Cirie is one of the most disarmingly smart contestants to ever play the game, masking her smart game play behind her smile. She's both social and sharp, and did well forming an alliance in Micronesia. In the "heroes" group, she may be the most cunning player, which could bode well for her, or it could mean they'll want to get rid of her fast. But her game play has been strong, if not perfect, during her previous two attempts, so expect Cirie to play hard and well once again.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Jessica 'Sugar' Kiper

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous season: Gabon (second runner-up)
    The teary pin-up Sugar surprised other players in Gabon by playing smartly and ruthlessly, although it came with a lot of emotion (read: endless tears). But she received zero votes, and even Susie, who was seen as a less strategic player, received three votes to the four that winner Bob received. Sugar was dealing with the death of her father in Gabon, but a year has passed since she first played, so we may see a different Sugar this time around. Still, there may be echoes of Gabon, as her castmate, and arch enemy, Randy is on the Villains tribe.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Amanda Kimmel

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: China (second runner-up), Micronesia (runner-up)

    Is the third time the charm, or strike three for Amanda? Amanda has come in second place twice, and none of her Survivor colleagues have done the same thing, so she obviously knows how to get to the end. But she doesn't know how to win, or at least doesn't know how to convince a jury that she should win. This time, she says she's going to play more aggressively. Her previous two seasons aired back-to-back, so she's had some time to rest and study her failures.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Stephenie LaGrossa

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Philadelphia
    Previous seasons: Palau (10th out), Guatemala (runner-up)

    Stephenie proved herself to be a formidable competitor both physically and mentally during both of her previous appearances. From outlasting everyone on her Palau tribe to her dominance in Guatemala -- although she wasn't dominant enough to win -- Stephenie is one of the strongest female competitors the show has ever seen. Her tribe will rely on her physicality, and if she can create new alliances, she'll power through the game once again.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    JT Thomas

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Samson, Ala.
    Previous season: Tocantins (winner)

    JT won his season after never receiving a single vote against him, ever, a Survivor record. Even other people who've won unanimously have received votes against them during the game. Can he play a perfect game again? He won't have his Tocantins number-two, Stephen Fishbach, to deflect attention and absorb the blame for his moves, and besides the fact that others know about his subtle strategy, he's also a target just because he already won the game. In the first all-stars, all of the winners were voted out before the merge.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Tom Westman

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: New York
    Previous season: Palau (winner)

    Tom Westman remains one of the series more well-known and loved winners, and fans and players alike respected him for his game play; he was strong physically and mentally. He didn't return for the first all-stars, and now, the former firefighter now faces off against a mostly younger group of people who know how beloved he is. Winners didn't fare well during the first all-stars, but Tom is also okay with being voted out early and doesn't seem to have anything to prove. And for a former winner, that could prove to be a winning strategy.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Candice Woodcock

    Team: Heroes
    Hometown: Fayetteville, NC
    Previous season: Cook Islands (13th out)

    Candace is one of the least recognizable people on "Heroes vs. Villains," and it's not even really obvious why she's a hero instead of a villain, considering her boldest move was to mutiny and join another tribe during her first season. But after the merge, her conflict with tribemates led her to be voted out, and she never really had a shot at the prize. Being so unknown could help her, or she could be seen as someone who's a wild card -- and one who will abandon her tribe when given the chance. That's not a great person to take into the merge, so she'll have to work hard to stay around.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Tyson Apostol

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Lindon, Utah
    Previous season: Tocantins (8th out)

    Tyson was Coach's No. 2, and was known for his acerbic and sometimes viscous humor in confessionals, which came into the game when he clashed with a fellow contestant. He gets annoyed easily, although he managed to sidestep a lot of conflict and blame, at least until he was voted out. This season, he has the advantage of having Coach on his initial tribe, and the two could band together once again. Tyson may also want to stand out, though, and forge his own path instead of remaining in the shadow of the dragon.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Randy Bailey

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Austin, Texas
    Previous season: Gabon (11th out)

    In Gabon, Randy stood out for being the grumpy, anti-social guy who was likely to say what he thought. But initially, he's facing nine other people who are very similar, and if he doesn't pick fights, could find himself overlooked because he's not the biggest and baddest of the villains. Ultimately, though, it's hard to see Randy get very far, because his social game isn't the best, and he tens to hold grudges.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Sandra Diaz

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Fayetteville, N.C.
    Previous season: Pearl Islands (winner)

    Sandra may be one of the more forgettable winners, which isn't something she probably wants to embrace -- except here, where having won a previous season is a good reason for a tribe to vote someone out early on. While Sandra never has a hard time telling people what she thinks, in a group of strong personalities, she might clash with them. However, just as she won the Pearl Islands by thinking strategically and not personally, making tough moves when she needed to. She could easily play this group of evil players.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Danielle DiLorenzo

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous season: Panama (runner-up)

    Like Candice, Danielle may prompt viewers and her tribemates alike to ask, "why is she here?" She did come in second place, but she was far less memorable than others. And her personality and game play led her tribes o exile her frequently to the game's first Exile Island. But in a tribe of villains who are far more well-known and outspoken, from Coach to Rob, Danielle could use her relative anonymity to her advantage.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Russell Hantz

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Dayton, Texas
    Previous season: Samoa (runner-up)
    Russell either has the biggest advantage or disadvantage on the cast. Because season 20 was filmed before "Survivor Samoa" was broadcast, no one knows who he is or knows anything about his smart but self-defeating strategy. So while viewers will be looking out for Russell to see if he can avenge his loss in Samoa, the other contestants won't. Will his sneaky ways work on a group of all-star players just as well as they did on a group of first-time players? Since Samoa finished filming just 20 days before season 20, he also may have fatigue from playing and living with minimal food for six weeks

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Rob Mariano

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
    Previous seasons: Marquesas (7th out), All-Stars (runner-up)

    Rob may have more to prove than anyone else on the cast. That's because this is his fifth shot at $1 million on a CBS reality show. He almost won the last all-star season, but his strategy burned members so they didn't vote for him, kind of like a certain Samoa runner-up named Russell. Because of his success during the previous all-stars, he could be seen as a formidable threat, and go home long before he has a chance to even be on the jury. But if his third appearance on "Survivor" (and two appearances on "The Amazing Race") proves anything, it's that Rob is quite resilient.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Jerri Manthey

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Jerri Manthey

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: Australia (8th out), All-Stars (7th out)

    Jerri was one of the first reality TV villains, although the Jerri we saw during the previous all-star season was significantly different than the Australia season, and she seems to have mellowed even more in the last five years. In addition, there's no way she matches up to villains like Russell, Coach, and Rob, or even Parvati and Courtney, so she could benefit from the company she finds herself in by flying under the radar. Nine years ago, that would have been inconceivable for Jerri, but now it seems like a significant possibility.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Parvati Shallow

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Los Angeles
    Previous seasons: Cook Islands (15th out), Micronesia (winner)

    Parvati is the role model for many women who've played "Survivor" since she won the "Fans vs. Favorites" season, and her alternately flirty and unflinching strategy worked extremely well for her in Micronesia, as did her alliance building. But here, she doesn't have any naive Eriks to play, so if she wants to win again, she'll have to find another Amanda and convince everyone she's not a threat. She'll need to do that early, because she doesn't want to go home pre-merge like her winner colleagues during the first all-stars.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Benjamin Wade

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: Susanville, Calif.
    Previous season: Tocantins (11th out)

    Before there was Russell, there was the Dragon Slayer. Just a year ago, no one knew of Benjamin "Coach" Wade, but his over-the-top personality and delusional antics drew viewers' attention rapidly. The arrogance that made him think he could change "Survivor" forever and control other people will probably return, even though he lost in Brazil, but this time, he has to compete with Russell Hantz -- never mind eight other strong personalities -- for attention and control in his tribe. The other Villains who watched him on TV may dismiss him as a joke, and if he doesn't let that bruise his ego, he could use it to his advantage.

    AP / AP
  • Image:

    ‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’

    of

    Courtney Yates

    Team: Villains
    Hometown: New York
    Previous season: China (runner-up)

    Courtney did extremely well in China, aligning herself with eventual winner Todd and runner-up Amanda, and together they dominated the game. But she lost because the jury credited Todd for his strategy and being honest about his lying, while she clashed with others. May be more well-known now for her appearance; during her season, ABC News called her an "emaciated waitress" and CBS News asked if she was anorexic. She says she's not, but she's still very thin, so if she lasts long, more weight loss might prompt discussion about her body instead of her game play once again.

    AP / AP

To save herself and Courtney, Sandra decided to play Russell, and it worked — sort of. As she told Courtney, Russell likes to think he's in control, and so Sandra's plan was to "put a bug in his ear that Coach is gunning for him." She did just that and Russell bought the lie. "Russell's so stupid he ate that crap up," Sandra said, adding that "he doesn't know how to play this game."

But as it turned out, Russell actually voted for Courtney. Still, Coach went home, so it's clear Russell is not in control, though he ranted earlier like only he can rant: "I have the power in this game. I send home who I want to send home."

There was some worrying about last week's vote to get rid of Rob.

Jerri told Coach that "voting out Rob was a big mistake," and when Russell suggested voting out Coach — after Sandra planted that idea — the other members of his alliance became frustrated, arguing that would make them even weaker as a tribe.

The odd thing was, those people — particularly Danielle — ended up voting for Coach while Russell voted for Courtney. What? The editing clearly manipulated and left viewers confused.

What's not confusing is how Russell's cockiness has rubbed off on the Villains, and it worked against them at the reward challenge.

Based on the tree-mail clue they received, they were so confident that a merge was coming that they disassembled their shelter and brought their tarp, along with the tools and other supplies they won during various reward challenges.

With beer and pizza waiting, both tribes were sure that they'd arrived at the merge feast. And host Jeff Probst led them on: "You will all have an opportunity to enjoy this feast," he said.

"Before we move any further, let me answer the question on everybody's mind. Everybody, drop your ..."

Of course, everyone expected him to say "buffs," the standard Probst line for tribe merges or switches. But instead he finished with "expectations. We are not merging." The Survivors were crushed and we were amused.

The Villains lost that reward challenge, so the Heroes enjoyed the pizza while the other team reconstructed its camp. But can the Villains reconstruct their tribe before the merge, or will the Heroes pick them off one by one?

The Villains still have a chance, because Hero JT's sexist assumption was that Boston Rob's exit was orchestrated by the women on the Villains tribe. He believes that means he might confide in and trust Russell, who, as we all know, is controlling the tribe, the game, the tides and solar system.

is a writer, TV critic and editor of reality blurred. Follow him on and .

TOP