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‘Survivor’s’ heroes abandon strategy for loyalty

The Losers tribe — or, uh, Heroes — lost yet again, unable to compete physically or mentally with the Villains and keeping their losing streak. Then they did their best to stay losers by keeping someone who's literally unable to walk. So heroic!

As Jeff Probst said at the end of the episode — our last episode for two weeks, because basketball will interrupt next week — "Even with a bad leg, James is more valuable to the tribe than Tom." But before he was voted out, "Survivor: Palau" winner Tom Westman identified the real reason during Tribal Council: other arguments are "all nonsense," Tom said, because James is "being kept because he's a loyal vote."

The reward challenge almost knocked James out of the game. It was a replay of the brutal "Survivor: Samoa" challenge Schmergen Brawl. Having participated in a rehearsal in Samoa before that cast did the challenge, I can promise you it's very, very brutal, and we weren't even playing for $1 million.

That was evident when Rupert, who likes to remind people that he's America's favorite Survivor, slammed Jerri Manthey's face into a post. He did apologize ("I did not mean to do that"), but Jerri, who wasn't bleeding, didn't care ("Whatever, dude, whatever").

On "Survivor: Samoa," Schmergen Brawl made history because Ben was thrown out of it. This time, another person was removed, but for medical reasons: James fell and did something to his knee that prevented him from being able to walk.

James left "Survivor: Micronesia" two years ago for an injury, and it looked like it was going to happen again when medical personnel said that "he's done severe enough damage" to pull himself out of the game.

But no! He came limping slowly back to camp down the beach with his leg in a brace, and with the support of a tribe who'd rather have someone who can't walk than someone who isn't part of their alliance.

Because he didn't technically sit out the reward challenge, he had to participate in the immunity challenge. Luckily, he was able to sit during the game and called out commands to blindfolded tribemates who had to fetch large puzzle pieces from a field.

That was comical as always, as people fell over obstacles or slammed into other cast members carrying their large puzzle pieces.

Even more comical was the fact that the Heroes had a huge lead and then blew it once again. The Villains easily overtook them, and the Villains have now won four of five immunity challenges, and six of eight challenges overall. Like so many other seasons of "Survivor," one tribe is dominating and just decimating the other.

The Villains are enjoying their victories, lounging under a hut, eating various kinds of chocolate for their reward and swimming in an amazing-looking swimming hole. They are ready to pounce, though: Russell Hantz skipped Coach's "Dragon Slayer Chi" to find a hidden immunity idol, and then told both Parvati and Coach, because we know Russell likes to tell people about his idol.

Coach was so thrilled that he told Russell, "I honor you for trusting me," and then knelt before him. "As the king that I am, I knight the Dragon Slayer," Russell said. Soon, perhaps, the troll and his knight will get banished from the kingdom, but only if the Heroes pull it together and actually win.

With a team member who can't even walk, that's even less likely than it was up until now.

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