“Going Down In Flames”
by Ian Walker
Parvati Shallow had defied the odds. She had made the merge. Going into Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, no one thought she would make it this far, especially her fellow competitors. She had entered the game with one of the biggest targets on her back, due to the reputation she had built as a devious and conniving player in her previous run, Survivor: Micronesia, where she emerged triumphantly as the winner.
Despite the winning streak the Villains tribe had at the beginning of the game, Parvati got off to a rocky start. Most of her tribe watched her with a skeptical eye, nervous of what she might be capable of, and eventually they took their shot during a tribal council for the ages. While she very nearly got voted out, Parvati avoided her date with Jeff Probst’s snuffer mainly thanks to her closest ally Russell Hantz, who played his hidden immunity idol on her in the ultimate hail mary play. After surviving that extremely close call, Parvati was able to find some footing in the game, and now at the merge, she had her first opportunity to really play, and what she did with that opportunity was something truly magical.
The biggest proponent of the Heroes’ (allegedly) imminent success was JT Thomas and the Survivor storytellers had a lot of fun at his expense. If Parvati’s legacy received the biggest boost this episode, then JT’s took the biggest hit.
JT came into this season a winner as well, playing one of the more dominant, and the first statistically perfect game, two seasons ago in Survivor: Tocantins. But by the end of this episode, all of the goodwill he had developed his previous season evaporated as he suffered his first Survivor defeat, the seeds of which were sewn in the last episode.
In one of the most questionable decisions in Survivor history, JT willingly handed over his hidden immunity idol to Russell on the Villains’ side, believing him to be the next victim of the all-female alliance headed by Parvati. By the look of it, the decision seemed to be a semi-decent one; Russell was the only guy left on his tribe, and Parvati’s black widow reputation spoke for itself. By giving Russell the idol, JT was making a play for the merge, hoping to gain a new ally for the Heroes’ side and to take out Parvati at the same time.
To JT, Russell seemed like an honest, good ol’ Southern boy, which speaks to the huge advantage Russell had going into this season- nobody had seen his previous season. Russell was able to buy into JT’s beliefs about him, despite being one of the biggest villains Survivor had ever seen. To JT, Russell seemed trustworthy, and in the game of Survivor, perception often equals reality.
Fast forward to the merge and JT is relieved to see Russell still in the game, but confused to see Parvati still standing as well. Russell came up with a (really flimsy) story about how he and Parvati both played idols at the same time, and, in the first moment of JT’s doofus downfall story, he wholeheartedly believed Russell, and was pumped to have a new ally on his side.
However, not all of JT’s allies were on board with trusting Russell.
Rupert Boneham had some suspicions, especially after talking with his Pearl Islands buddy Sandra Diaz-Twine. Sandra gave Rupert the scoop on the Villain’s side, telling him how Russell was running the show and how he could not be trusted. Upon learning this information, Rupert reported back to his fellow Heroes, but rather than being received, the intel fell on deaf ears. By this point in his Survivor career, Rupert wasn’t exactly known for having the sharpest mind for the game, so the rest of his alliance was very dismissive of his Russell paranoia, proving to be a sign of bad things to come. In another dodo moment for JT, he said in a confessional:
“There’s a reason that I’ve been doing Rupert’s strategical play for him thus far because he needs to be told how to vote by someone he can really trust and let that be done. So I’ve just been reminding him of that, being like, Rupert do you believe what Sandra told you or do you believe the obvious truth, I mean. If Sandra’s story turns out to be true and Russell did not play the idol, then that means I’m probably going home the next Tribal Council, I don’t know. Do I believe it? Not a chance in the world, but you never know in this game.”
Meanwhile, Parvati was busy having her own reunion, having her first in-game chat with Amanda Kimmel, her right-hand woman from Micronesia. Now on opposite sides, the two ladies tried to figure out if their games could work together again or if they were meant to fight it out in this season. Parvati knew she was on the hot seat with the Heroes, and pressed Amanda for anything she could share about the Heroes’ plans, and even dropped the nugget that she had a hidden immunity idol of her own. Amanda assured Parvati that she’d let her know when her head was truly on the chopping block, but Parvati quickly saw how cagey Amanda was being and determined that her former BFF definitely didn’t have her best interest at heart.
When it comes time to decide who to send home, the Heroes thought they had it all figured out. The plan was to tell Russell to vote for Parvati, while the five of them voted for somebody else to prove Russell’s loyalty to their side. They also hoped to flush Parvati’s immunity idol, and it fell on Amanda to convince her former ally to play it on herself. Using her classic Amanda Kimmel powers of persuasion (i.e. glassy-eyed and demure) she implored Parvati to play her idol on herself, or else she’d go home, but Parvati was not all that convinced.
Meanwhile, Russell handed the idol he got from JT to Parvati, believing her to be in actual danger. Now in possession of two hidden immunity idols, Parvati had a lot of room to play, making the upcoming tribal council, probably, the biggest one of her playing career. Even more so, she was finally starting to believe her own hype. “… apparently, everyone else in this game is, like, desperate to get rid of me and they said I’m the most dangerous player out here, so I dunno, I guess they’re right,” she says in a confessional. “I didn’t really think they were right until right now, now I really think they’re right.”
She proved just how right they were that night at tribal council. When the time came for any idols to be played, Parvati made her move, handing out idols to fellow Villains Sandra and Jerri Manthey, and her instincts were immediately proved correct. All five Hero votes bounced off of Jerri, allowing the five Villains to swoop in and vote JT out of the game.
It’s an awesomely badass play from Parvati, largely because she was the only person out of the entire group who knew what was about to happen, much to Russell’s chagrin. She knew where all of the votes were going, held all of the cards and could single-handedly decide how the vote would turn out, all depending on her reads of the other players in the game. She read the room correctly and won the day for her entire alliance.
While Parvati’s been a part of some great blindsides in the past, this is her most shining Survivor moment, because this move was all on her, and she emerged triumphantly, blowing the minds of Survivor fans everywhere and helping to deliver one of the most spectacular hours of television the show has ever produced.