Russell Swan just can't get it together. The 45-year-old attorney is one of three returning players on Survivor this season, and the only one of the three to visit tribal council so far. Russell's tribe, the blue-clad Matsing, voted out its second teammate on this week's episode of Survivor: Philippines, opting to send home seminary student Roxy Morris over cookie-craving snuggle-magnet Angie Layton, who spent much of the episode literally and figuratively cozying up with bulky bartender Malcolm Freberg.
Only four players remain on the Matsing tribe, with Russell on the outside of a three-person alliance; if he returns to tribal council next week, there's very little he'll be able to do to survive. But is it officially lights out for Russell and the rest of the Matsing gang? Not necessarily, according to two-time Survivor contestant Rob Cesternino, who joined Spinoff Online for a quick recap of this week's episode.
Spinoff Online: Survivor is a game filled with booby traps. This week's episode, those booby traps were pretty literal, as Malcolm and especially Angie became targets for snuggling up together at night. It's never good to attract that kind of attention in this game, is it?
Rob Cesternino: Malcolm is definitely treading into dangerous water here. Survivor is not necessarily the place you want to go for hook-ups. It's not spring break. It's not The Jersey Shore. You want to maintain an air of dignity about what you're doing, being somewhat professional about why you're out there: for the game. Like Jerry Seinfeld once experienced, Malcolm's genitals are in an epic chess game with his brain right now — and the genitals are winning!
It looked bad for Angie for a while, but Roxy was the one who got voted off. Did Matsing make the right call?
I think Denise made the right call. Angie is basically another number for her and Malcolm along the way. If they go to tribal council again, Denise and Malcolm are now in a position to have a three-to-one advantage against Russell. If they had voted out Angie, then they're still a two-person alliance, up against Russell and Roxy as a two-person alliance. For Denise, it was definitely self-preservation. There was no real major difference to the tribe to keep Roxy over Angie. It's four quarters for a dollar.
If Matsing goes back to tribal council, Russell is toast. He doesn't have the numbers on his side, and really, he's just not playing a good game.
It's been a real comedy of errors for Russell so far through six days of the game. Nothing has gone right for his tribe. He's made all of the wrong moves so far throughout the game. He doesn't look long for this world. If Matsing goes back to tribal council again, there's no question that Russell is the one who gets voted out. There's nothing he can do there. And he didn't learn from his mistake last week. The lesson to be learned wasn't, "Okay, I'm really not going to be the leader now." The lesson from last week should have been, "I'm riding the fence too much. I need to own that I'm the leader. I need to get this tribe into shape. I need to fix this." Not, "I need to back off more."
I think Russell could very seriously find himself out of this game, and it'll be his own doing. He let this tribe become what it's become. Other than Denise, these people are in their 20s. Russell is the grown-up here. You can't let Malcolm and Angie call all of the shots. He's the returning player, he's the grown-up, and he needs to be calling the shots on how this tribe is going to be. Don't be a jerk about it, but you have to step up to the plate. He hasn't done that.
It's interesting, with the returning players. It hasn't really come up much yet because his tribe is doing well in the challenges, but Penner isn't playing a great game, either. He found an immunity idol and that's a big get for him, but socially, he's dead last on his tribe.
Penner is playing a different game than anybody, but it worked. He does have the idol. We've seen Russell Hantz on Heroes vs. Villains go out and alienate himself on a search for an idol, and he parlayed that into power. That could well happen for Penner, whether it's something where the whole tribe votes for him and he plays the idol to vote somebody else out, or now that he has the idol he starts to get in somebody's good graces. But Penner has not played the social game yet. He's not in a good spot at this point. We'll see if he can turn it around.
Closing out, other than cookies, how can Matsing turn things around?
They need to figure out a way to work together as a team and win a challenge. Simple. I don't think that's impossible to do. Of the four people that they have, they're all somewhat athletic. This last challenge was hard, because they needed somebody to go twice. That was a disadvantage for them. All they need to do next time is not come in last. They only have to beat one team. Get it together — and no more horrible speeches from Russell Swan if they lose.
Survivor: Philippines airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.