Puppetmaster Russell's Biggest Mistake (video)

Yes, it's just a game, but try to tell the other players that!

Now, I love my couch and pajamas, but there’s just nothing like watching the finale of an amazing reality show in a studio full of fellow fans (and a complete Tribal Council set). That’s the opportunity I had last night when I attended the live finale screening and reunion of “Survivor: Samoa.”   

Natalie White, a founding member of Russell’s “Dumbass Girl Alliance,” walked away with the title of Sole Survivor in the reality powerhouse’s 19th installment. Looks like being a prayer warrior really paid off. She doesn’t seem like such a dumbass now, does she, Russell? 

Russell came in second, and no votes were revealed for third place finalist Mick.

Russell fans, don’t dismay; there is some justice.  Our unlikely hero took home $100,000 from Sprint (not that he needs it) and the honor of Fan Favorite. (Glad my votes weren’t cast in vain!)

The outcome of the game begs the question: is “Survivor” a game of social interactions of is it a game of strategy? In the jury’s eyes, the social aspect seemed to trump the strategic one.  Truly, the prize of a million dollars could not have gone to a nicer person. That’s why I was so shocked when Shambo said that a “C” word was resonating in her mind when it came to Natalie.

("Survivor" live on the red carpet:)

No, not that word. Coattails.  

“Survivor Barbie” claimed that she did, in fact, have a strategy and that it was playing the underdog. She told me on the red carpet that, much like Barbie herself, she is often underestimated based on looks. I mean, Barbie has been everything from a veterinarian to an astronaut; why can't she be Sole Survivor? She noticed right away that the strong women were picked off the quickest and that while she and Russell played essentially the same game, he was the one who took the bullets. I guess that’s a legitimate strategy, but it really seems like she won because she was just a nice girl.    

And what about the Puppetmaster, Russell, who, in his own words, “played this game strategically better than anybody, maybe in history?” 

Perhaps his biggest strategic mistake was bringing Natalie all the way to the finals, thinking that he could beat her in jury votes without a doubt. While Natalie had formed bonds with the other members of Aiga, sharing Bible verses and the like, Russell banked on the jury having “respect for the game.”  

I agree with him that that’s the way it should be. It is, after all, “just a game” and it’s annoying that some of the players take everything so personally. But the reality is that they do take things personally, and Russell should’ve been savvy enough to address that. 

Russell argued that he did play a social game — how else could he have so many followers and alliances? You do have to hand it to the man; he’s charming in a millionaire redneck kind of way. It’s hard to say why, but despite the fact that he straight up tells you he is a liar and a cheat, there’s just something about that toothless grin of his that says “trust me.”

Russell was a little teary-eyed once the winner was revealed and, as much as I love him, it was a little refreshing to see him show some humility. Hopefully Team Russell will get the chance to root for our favorite oil man again. He told me that he didn’t think he could ever put himself through another season of “Survivor,” but word on the street is that he is one of the cast members in the upcoming “Survivor 20: Heroes Vs. Villains,” which also filmed in Samoa following Season 19.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to log on in January when Reality Watch will be replaced with Idol Musings, focusing exclusively on “American Idol.”