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Chief Mode

WARNING: SURVIVOR SPOILERS AHEAD. >> Whatever the three returning castaways thought their strategies would be on Survivor: Philippines, tonight's season premiere showed them falling into leadership roles they didn't necessarily want. They just didn't seem to be able to help themselves. All three of them -- Russell Swan, Jonathan Penner and Michael Skupin -- had experience that filled gaps in whatever the newbies were bringing to the game.

On the other hand, what in the world was Michael thinking? He passed out in the fire and had to be airlifted out of the Australian outback, and here on his new adventure so many years later he's not paying attention and chopping holes in his hands and feet. He claimed not to be injury-prone, but the evidence spoke differently to the other members of Tandang.

Jonathan was known as a shady player in his previous seasons, and the first thing he did was sneak off to look for the hidden Immunity Idol. The less experienced members of Kalabaw had at least enough Survivor knowledge to realize that this was a pattern that turns a teammate into a target.

Sometimes a person's actions contradict his words, and that was definitely the case with Russell. He protested that he would avoid any vote for chief and let any "idiot" who wanted to be a leader fill that role. No sir, no leadership for Russell this time. Except for this: As soon as he hit the beach, he started barking orders and taking charge and talking nonstop about all the things he knows that no one else on the Matsing tribe could possibly know.

Then, when Matsing lost the Immunity Challenge, fingers were pointed at him because he had been accused of not listening to anyone else in assigning tasks. He had Zane, who just quit smoking, as one of the runners, and RC, who pointedly told him she can't solve puzzles, solving puzzles. There was no arguing with him, either. He made it clear that he was giving the orders. And they lost, rather badly.

In a fit of hubris after the challenge, Russell gave his tribe a pep talk, telling them to dig deep, and all the other usual clich├ęs. For some reason, Zane interrupted him and told them that he had been weak in the challenge and should probably be voted out. The funny part is that Zane actually thought this was a brilliant strategy, and it almost seemed to be working. He had people coming to him asking him not to give up. They had been ready to cut Russell, and Zane was getting in the way of that.

At Tribal Council, neither Russell nor Zane could shut up, and they both dug their own graves. In the end, Zane's brilliant strategy backfired and he was voted out 5-1. He had been on everyone's radar since day one, when he made individual alliances with each of the three women on his tribe, then went to the other two men and told them about it, as if that would make him valuable to them instead of making him seem way too sketchy to trust.

As for the celebrities, both baseball player Jeff Kent and former child star Lisa Whelchel tried to keep their identities secret. And both were recognized immediately, but only by one person on their respective tribes. Michael wanted Lisa to use her fame to impress the younger players but agreed to keep her secret for now.

Dawson recognized Jeff but decided to hold onto that knowledge until it could serve her game. Jeff banged up his knee so badly getting off the boat, though, that he might not be around long enough for Dawson to blackmail him, or whatever she's planning. For now, he's trying to hide his injury. We'll see how long that lasts.


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