Survivor: Samoa: Macrame.

This week, I was celebrating the anniversary of President Obama's defeat of Sarah Palin and some old guy whose name slips my mind (and his), by taking a listen to my old, old friend (I mean it, he's old!) Will Wixon's Obama victory song, Yes We Can, when I had to turn away from lovely thoughts and return for an hour to Samoa, for one twisty episode of Survivor: Samoa. As we will see, Jeff Probst had a narrow escape this week.

As night fell on the remains of Tribe Zsa Zsa, realizing the merge was coming soon, Russell dipped into the Survivor cliche glossary for "When we get over there, dude, game on, the game starts." What have they been doing for the last 18 days? Come to think of it, with their pitiful record of challenge losses, they truly have not been playing the game.

Russell told us, ""We're all working as a team. So I'm not really nervous about my numbers. I'm too good for this game, I'm too sly." That must be why he keeps losing challenge after challenge. And I assume the numbers that aren't worrying him are his cholesterol numbers, because his tribe is outnumbered two-to-one, which is not good.

Okay, I think, after last week's episode, I've worked out which brunette bimbo is Laura, and which is Monica. Monica is the semi-pretty one. Laura is the conservative Christer biker pastor/lobbyist, who doesn't think it's a woman's role to be a pastor to men. For a woman who rides a Harley, she seems otherwise to live in a century from before the invention of the internal combustion engine, or thought. The show calls her an "office manager," but she's actually coordinates 400 Evil Republican lobbyists in Oregon, and she - get this, and be prepared to heave - admires Sarah Palin! Palin is a role model for her! Yup, she's loathsome; you betcha.

She has worked out that Shambles hates her. Finally I've found some common ground with Shambles. The ironic part is, Laura and Shambles are both Harley freaks. (lambasted on this week's South Park as lame beyond words, well, beyond one particular word.) You'd think they could bond over their mutual pathetic need to ride around with a noisy chunk of hot metal throbbing between their legs.

When Laura was sentenced to spend a day with Zsa Zsa, Danger Dave gave her canteen to Shambles for "safekeeping." What was he thinking? Shambles can't walk across camp without losing chickens and snorkel mouthpieces. Sure enough. She lost Laura's canteen, maybe even accidentally. Shambles can lose anything except her ridiculous hairstyle.

Shambles keeps accusing Laura of being "90210." I'm not sure just what she thinks she means by that. Is she accusing Laura of being an airheaded teenager? Wrong. Laura is a 39 year old airheaded grandmother. (She must have started dropping her hellspawn young!) Does she think Laura is a zip code? I think, at root, she's accusing Laura of not being her, which is the only thing in Laura's favor. It's not just that Shambles inhabits her own weird universe. It's that she thinks other people do, or at least should, live in her private world as well. One thing I am certain of, though. Shambles doesn't like "90210."

Ah, at last we got to the root of it. Shambles: "It's almost like those popular girls in high school, that are cheerleaders, that want to snob their nose ..." ["Snob their nose"??? What the hell does that mean?] "... at people who don't fit into their circle. I'm done with her. I have no use for her. None." So, Shambles is projecting onto Laura all the resentment she nurtured towards her not-socially-backward peers back in high school, a quarter of a century before. But wait! Back in episode 1, when we first had the misfortune to meet Shambles, she said: "People have gravitated to me my entire life. It's like 'Oh my God. This chick rocks. We love her'." I expressed doubt over the veracity of this absurd statement at the time. Now we discover that she was, in fact, an outcast, uncool, ridiculed by the popular kids. That is far more believable.

But the irony here is, as a conservative Christer, Laura must have been every bit as uncool in school as Shambles. Shambles channeled her resentment into the Marines, and learning to kill people. Laura channeled it into Christianity, and learning to kill progressive political action. The great thing about this conflict is, I can't stand either of them, so it's a win-win battle for me.

Jaison is the master of understatement: "We're not super confident in our ability to win challenges anymore." He loses eight out of ten challenges, and suddenly he's not super confident anymore? Defeatist!

The Merge: At last, Galu and Zsa Zsa are no more. Time for the Merge Feast. All the hungry survivors were happy for the feast, but none more so than Shambles: "I am on top of the world, man." (If only she's said "Top of the world, Ma," so that, like darling Jimmy Cagney in White Heat she could be blown up.) "I'm in Heaven right now." Well, maybe Laura the Palin-wannabe could show her around. Laura can see earth from her house! Well, almost. Here's where we pray for all the babies roasting in hell forever because their parents weren't Christians, or at least, weren't the right variety of Christians. And over here is where we pray for the homosexuals being tortured in Hell for eternity, which is all of them. Isn't Heaven nice?

Shambles: "I'm on such a sugar high right now. My prayers were answered, totally." She prayed for sugar? Oh wait. Shambles took off 70 pounds to do Survivor. She probably does pray for sugar.

Jaison and Rocket Scientist John instantly bonded over both having brains and educations. Natalie told Danger Dave that Russell was "the best crab catcher." Won't medical give him a cream for those? He's creepy enough as it is.

Russell, watching his former ex-Zsa Zsasians working the former Galuvians, said, "We're steps ahead of them. We have our plan down." It doesn't occur to him that the Galuvians might be doing the exact same thing back. Russell's belief that he's outsmarting a tribe that has been kicking his ass for three weeks running is an almost amusing bit of egotistical self-delusion. "I can already see that I'm going to rule in this kingdom. I mean, come on, who gets grapes fed to them? The kings do!" Actually Russell, I used to feed grapes to my dog. You're a lot mangier than he was, and he was housebroken.

Natalie, on arriving at the Galu camp: "The Galu camp? I love it. It's awesome. I feel like I'm at the Hilton." Would that be the Black Hole of Calcutta Hilton? I have to assume Natalie has never set foot in a real Hilton. Watching Natalie bond with Laura Palin was making me ill, but then, watching anyone bond with that evil witch would make me ill. Natalie hasn't caught on to just what Laura Palin is yet, "It was really important for me to talk to Laura to find crack in this group." Natalie, conservative Christers are not the people to try and score crack from, not that that's a good idea anywhere with anyone. But Ms Palin's drug of choice is Jesus, "The Opium of the Masses."

They picked their new tribe name, "Aiga," pronounced I-ga, which Brett, in the third sentence he's spoken this season, told us means "extended family" in Samoan. Actually, facing the prospect of being in a tribe with Russell, Shambles and Laura, I'd go with the name "Igag."

Erik is completely aware of the ex-Zsa Zsasians plans. Russell assumes that he's five steps ahead of the Galuvians, but Erik is a step or two ahead of him, and both Russell and Erik have immunity idols in their pockets, unless they're just glad to see each other, and that hardly seems likely.

Now Russell initiated the bizarre second step of his plan. This one was harder to anticipate, because it's so bone-headed: showing people the immunity idol, to fake that he 'trusts" them. Immunity idols are only of any use if they're secret! Russell thinks this is brilliant strategy. It's actually just his compulsive need to brag.

First he showed it to Laura Palin. "You know what this is?" he said, pulling something out of his pants. Given her conservatism, he's lucky she didn't just scream and run away. You'd also think she'd remember that only four days before he had told her that Ben had had the idol and wasted it, so it was gone. Establishing that you lied to someone's face four days earlier seems to me to be an odd way to gain their trust.

He handed her this line of bull: that if she took him to the Top Seven (like it would be up to her), he would give her the idol, as a present. Only a complete moron would believe this. Oh wait. Laura admires and emulates Sarah Palin, a woman who really knows how to lose. She can believe anything, as long as it's idiotic. She probably believes dinosaurs lived with humans, which would explain Russell.

Laura: "Does anybody know you have it?"

Russell (lying like Dick Cheney under oath): Nope.

We've seen him show it to Jaison and Mick. He's done every thing short of wearing it around his neck. Laura, a woman accustomed to believing that virgins can give birth and carpenters can rise from the dead (Rise, Karen Carpenter, rise!), nonetheless, didn't fall for the "I'll give it to you" nonsense. She works with political lobbyists, where everything is quid pro quo. Also, she can count. (So she learned something in that seminary!) She knows she has numbers and he doesn't.

Russell made the condition that she could pick off any of his fellow Zsa Zsasians (Nice bit of treachery, that), but first, they had to pick off a Galuvian, as an offering of loyalty.

Laura: "That won't happen... It will be one of your guys, or [Shambles]." Sacrificing Shambles works for me. But the Russell-Laura alliance isn't happening. She now knows that they have to blindside Russell to get around his idol. (Good plan.)

Russell had his usual reaction when someone turns out to be too smart for him to manipulate (and Laura is an idiot): "Laura's digging her own grave. ... She might be the first to go." Works for me also, though Russell's belief that he's running the game when he has nothing to back it up with is getting increasingly deranged.

Russell trotted off to see if the same lame strategy would work with She-Who-Is-Not-Laura, a.k.a. Monica. Once again, out pops his idol. He can not keep it in his pants. Typical male.

Monica: "Does anybody else know you have this?"

Russell: "Nobody." Well, almost nobody. Well, not many. Well, not everybody. Well, my mother doesn't know. And I haven't told Shambles yet.

Since that Top Seven idea failed faster than a Zsa Zsa challenge effort, he upped it to Top Two with Monica, promising to give it to her if he knew she was on the chopping block.

Monica: "I'm in."

This time, Russell didn't buy it (and he was now wearing the idol around his neck, at least for his confessional interviews.), but he felt he could manipulate her into joining his new plan (about his fifth new plan this episode) to get rid of Laura.

Russell, like a greedy trick-or-treater determined to hit every house in his town, now scurried off to show the idol to Rocket Scientist John. Here was his line to John: "I'm telling you, dude, we can be in control of this game without them even knowing it."

Now follow this weird turn of events. Laura, the conservative Christer who wants to be the Oregon Sarah Palin, in short, a dangerous fool, understood that Russell was full of bull (though she hadn't the wit to let him think she fell for it). John, an educated scientist with a brain, fell for it. He assumed that Russell could see he was smarter than most of his tribemates (Admittedly, the chickens are smarter than Shambles. In fact, the one that got away had literally outwitted her.), and thus went only to him for an alliance. Vanity snared him.

So John is suddenly onboard with Russell's plan to oust Laura. Actually, so am I, but if Galu votes out one of their own, instead of a Zsa Zsasian, they're idiots. They need to press their number advantage while they have it.

But then, it's hard not to sympathize with wanting to get rid of Laura.

Next on Russell's alliance shopping list: Shambles. Russell's weird theory on why people trust him (those that do.): "I think it has a lot to do with my southern background. People trust The South." That is news to me. I "trust" The South to screw up elections, keep the religious wrong a political force, and ever pine nostalgically for slavery, but that's it. Ask Black America how much they "trust" The South.

But Russell only had to breathe the name Laura, and Shambles's hatred of her came gushing out, music to Russell's ears. When Shambles heard that Russell wanted Laura gone, she was as in love as she's ever been with any man. Shambles on Russell: "I trust Russell implicitly. The guy's definitely cut from the same cloth as me." He's secretly a formerly-obese military biker "chick" and warrior, with no brain nor guile? I'll give her this, like her, he's probably never dated a man, and he's almost as butch as she is. There is the small problem of his being, like the chickens, considerably smarter than she is.

Following Major Shambles's orders, Russell informed his Zsa Zsa mates to vote for Laura, which was a tad premature, since they hadn't even had the immunity challenge yet. Jesus could give Laura what Sarah Palin hasn't had in a while: a win, and all bets would be off.

Immunity Challenge: The challenge was a pretty simple game of hitting a ball off a tee into areas marked with different scores. The twist was, double immunity. One woman, and one man, would each win immunity. This was kind of a cool new slant. It increased Laura's chances of winning safety, and I think it doubled Shambles's odds, as I believe she was allowed to play for either or both. After all, along with being one of the butchest players there, the Galuvian guys had made her an "Honorary Dude," last week. (I'm assuming it's "honorary.")

All of Igag was calling Dave "Danger Dave," so I assume they were all reading these columns months before they were written. They were cheering him on. "Go, Danger Dave." Why? They each want to win. It's no longer a team game. You should want him to lose, not win.

"Baseball your game?" Jeff asked, although my limited knowledge of sports believes that teeing off towards a target area is more golf than baseball.

"No. Making love's my sport." Yeah? To whom? No wife. No girl friend. No known history with women. Former flight attendant with a degree in Opera. I'm not saying he's gay, mind you. He might be as straight as Niles Crane. And I might be Queen of the Oompa-Loopas. (And they must be gay!)

Jeff: "You play a lot?" Why do you ask, Jeff? Getting lonely out in Samoa?

DD: "Not enough." Now that I believe.

Rocket Scientist John won for the men.

I don't mean to be mean (Who am I kidding? Yes I do.), but Monica swings like a girl.

Kelly materialized out of the ether to play. Where's she been? She's such an obscure player, Russell hasn't even shown her his Never-Hidden Immunity Idol.

Super butch Shambles took a big, hefty swing, and fouled out. Several of the men went out of bounds too, but they did so by over-shooting it. Shambles hit what I'm told in baseball is called a "foul tip." (Named, I suspect, in honor of Russell's - ah - knob.)

Laura, the designated fall guy for this episode, went last. And Jesus came through. Unlike her idol, Sarah Palin, Laura squeezed out a victory.

"That sucked," said Shambles, "Because I really wanted her gone." That's what you get for doing all your plotting before the Immunity Challenge. But look at the bright side, Shambles. Now they could vote out you!

For that matter, blindsiding Russell would be a good idea, now that he's shown the immunity idol to the entire population of the South Pacific. I think he even went around the Dharma Initiative, making alliances with them, and they were all purged back in 1992.

Russell tried moving against Monica. That was an immediate no-go. She hasn't pissed anyone off yet. You have to know a player exists before you can vote them out, and so far Monica's identity has been simply "Not-Laura."

Laura blabbed to Erik that Russell has an idol. Oops. Now we see the flaw in Russell's tell-everyone-indiscriminately-you-have-an-idol strategy. They know to target you, even if only to get you to play it, and thus eliminate it. So much for "outwitting" Galu. Russell is Outwitlessing Galu.

The name Erik spelled with a K, the way Erik does, was also the name of The Phantom of the Opera, and true to his evil name, Erik's next plan was actually to target Jaison. (since, if Russell played the idol, the person with the second-highest vote count would go.) No! Not my beautiful Jaison. Who would I have to look at with him gone? I'm stuck watching the whole season to do these columns. Am I supposed to enjoy looking at Erik, with his motley excuse for a build? John, who is handsome, but seldom shirtless, and when he is, not really well-built. MickMoron? He actually has a nice body, but he's lamer and lamer with every passing episode. Danger Dave? Actually, I wish he'd wear more shirts. He has a singularly unattractive torso. Shambles? He never goes shirtless at all, and besides, a man who's just lost 70 pounds in the weeks immediately before going on the show is apt to look really horrible with his -- What's that, Dougie? Shambles is a woman? Oh right! Slipped my mind. It's an easy error. She's like a drag king. Between the aggressive stupidity and the Billy Ray Cyrus-15-years-ago hair, it's hard to tell. But my point is, leave Jaison alone!

Laura's reaction to Erik's plan to oust Jaison? "Perfect." Some Christian. They're not supposed to worship Satan!

When Erik took his plan to John, John tried deflecting it to Monica. Mind you, Erik told John that Russell had showed his idol to Laura, which means John now knows that Russell lied to him, yet he stuck to his Russell Plan of vote-out-the-women, or Shambles. (Have you noticed that all season, all of Russell's targets have been women? Is it just me, or is Russell one huge misogynist? The way he appears to hate women, it's clear he really is married! There's nothing like having a wife to turn a straight man into a woman-hater. Or maybe it's that, as a born bully, he naturally targets women because, like all bullies, he's a coward, and he's afraid of the men?)

John described the vote-out-Zsa Zsa strategy as "Junior Varsity Survivor," and while I disagree, it was a good, funny line. Hey John, I'll handle the jokes. You just fire off your rocket.

John won over Erik, who then went and suggested to Danger Dave and Brett to vote out Monica, and not to clue Shambles in at all. "Let her vote for whoever she wants. I don't give a sh** if she votes for Probst tonight." Now that would be one hell of a blindside. "And the ninth person voted out of Survivor; Samoa is me! Jeff, the tribe has spoken."

Danger Dave, captain of the Survivor Junior Varsity Squad, still wants to gun for Zsa Zsa, so now he's suspicious of Erik. The important thing is, the target is moving back off of Jaison.

Danger Dave thinks Erik is "a crafty, crafty guy." I'd be more impressed if Dave could have come up with a second adjective, but his degree is in opera, so maybe his adjective vocabulary is all in Italian, but he has a point. Erik spoke to Jaison, MickMoron, and Natalie, telling them all to vote for Monica, but not to tell Russell. The idea being to make Russell paranoid enough to use his idol, and flush it out. This is a really good plan, as long as their loyalty to Russell is non-existent.

This plan didn't sit well with Jaison, who proposed to MickMoron and Natalie that they say they'll do that, and instead, vote for Erik. Now I don't see where four votes for Erik would do much more than paint targets on them, since there will be eight other votes, most of them probably for Monica, but it is refreshing to see an episode where, going into the last quarter hour, I haven't any idea how this will play out. This vote is wide open.

So then Natalie tried selling voting for Erik to Laura and this Kelly person. Who is going to tattle to whom next?

Kelly went scurrying over to Monica, telling her of Erik's plot against her (although it was really John's idea), which got her onboard with voting out Erik.

Needless to say, Not-Laura was fine with not being voted out, and then they were off to Danger Dave. Dave was now all for it.

When Natalie brought this plan to Russell, his natural deviousness went into doublethink: "I don't think you talked them into it. I think you think you did."

I had to put up a bulletin board to make a mosaic, like on FlashForward, of who is plotting against whom, with threads leading from player to player for each separate plot, only by now, the threads were turning into a macrame plant holder.

Great moment: Danger Dave speaking to Shambles: "Kelly said the plan's changed. Tonight, Erik goes."

Shambles: "Who's Erik?" Shambles is stupid on an epic scale. Frankly, they should have just gone ahead and told her to vote for Probst.

Jaison warned Russell: "This could be a game to get rid of the idol." This, of course, is the perfect way to get that paranoid cretin to play the idol. My mosaic board threads are now in a Gordian Knot.

Russell: "This is the first time that I don't know nothin'." Not even to avoid using double negatives, though, knowing Russell, it was probably a lie. I'll bet he's known nothing many, many times. Russell now suspects that its all a diversion to blindside him. I'm beginning to anticipate a vote where every player except the two with immunity gets one vote each.

Tribal Council: For once, I had no idea what was going to happen, and apparently, neither does anyone else in Igag. As Jeff Probst watched them file in, he had no inkling that he might be blindsided at any moment, and he has no immunity. I could feel Tom Bergeron, lurking about, waiting to take over the show.

Not-Laura: "In this game, you never really know who to trust." Welcome to Life, Not-Laura.

Erik, now adding cocky to crafty, ran down all the Zsa Zsasians, noting how Russell has been working everyone, MickMoron has turned passive, and accepting of whatever happens to him, Natalie has just been trying to avoid stepping on toes, and Jaison hasn't "come together." Erik clearly feels he's running the game now, although the last fifteen minutes of airtime has shown that no one is running the game this week, and nobody has warned Jeff of his danger.

Jaison defended his game play, and Erik patronizingly said, "Well, I like that, you know, I like that in a player. If I was your coach, I would say that's what I like to hear." Erik seems to have forgotten he is not Jaison's, nor anyone else's, coach. Oxford graduate Jaison isn't taking this bull from a bartender.

Jaison: "I guess the point is, I don't care what you like." Snap! Jaison, when you're strong like that, you make my heart flutter.

Erik's patronizing attitude was making Jaison and Russell both smirk, though Russell may have tipped his hand too much when he said he would talk and strategize with each and every player up there to stay in the game, since most of Igag has noticed him doing just exactly that, except for Shambles, who was still trying to figure out who Erik is, and wondering if she can ask Jeff how to spell his name.

Russell, turning artistic, drew a happy face on his ballot beside Erik's name.

Lot's of suspense. Would Russell or Erik sense their danger and use their idols? And, of course, who voted for whom?

Russell leapt to his feet, and played his idol. He was now safe, but did he need to? Would there be enough Russell votes to have ousted him or has he wasted it? Either way, He'll be fair game in the future. Of course, there would have been no drive to get him to use his idol if he hadn't shown it to single every person in Samoa, and most of Hawaii as well.

We quickly learned that at least two members of Igag thought Jaison's name was "Jason." This was followed by learning that there was dissension in Igag as to whether it was spelled "Erik or "Eric." Kids, it's Erik with a K, not Liza with a Z, 'cause Liza with a Z goes zzz, not sss.

By the fourth vote for Erik, you could see that he was starting to regret not playing the idol then burning a hole in his pocket. On the fifth Erik vote, Shambles started looking puzzled, though whether this was because she thought someone else was to be voted out, or whether she still had no idea who Erik was, was not clear. In any event, watching Erik go from overconfident, to smugly amused, to mildly puzzled, to deeply alarmed to grimly disgusted, was sweet. Over-confidence is always the kiss of death on Survivor. And running around ordering people to vote this way or that is a sure way to get yourself ousted. And thus Erik became the first member of what will be a large jury. (In fact, it will be a jury of 10, an even number, which leaves me to suspect that they will only be going to a final 3, instead of a final 2, as only that will give them a jury of 9.) Erik walked off with his idol unplayed. Which means that both idols are gone now. No more hidden immunity.

Probst: "Well, your first vote as a new tribe, your first blindside. This is most definitely a new game." I've got to say. Jeff, it looks exactly like the same old game to me. We haven't seen a blindside since - well - last week.

In Erik's "Family Moment," someone I assume to be his dad said, "We need the money." Better get a job, Dad. Erik isn't bringing home the million.

The previews showed everyone turning on Russell (and about time too), and the idoless man desperate. This can only mean one thing. He'll win immunity next week, because they wouldn't have edited the previews to look like he was doomed if he was actually going to get eliminated. Drat!

For the record, Russell got no votes at all, so he utterly wasted his idol on paranoia, as Erik intended. Danger Dave, was one of the tribe members who misspelled "Eric," and the always-clueless Shambles was the second vote for Jaison. Dave told her the vote was for Erik. Did she not believe it, decided Erik's orders outweighed Dave's, forget who to vote for, or not believe there really was an "Erik"? We'll never know.

Cheers darlings.

To read more of Tallulah Morehead, go to The Morehead, the Merrier, or buy her book, My Lush Life.