Aaaand here we go!
Finally, we get to see how the 'duel' format was going to work. The producers were smart when they decided two have only two members of each tribe picked randomly to witness the event. This adds a level of complexity to the game, as the witnesses are not obliged to tell the truth of the proceedings to the rest of their tribe.
As for the duel, it essentially plays out like a one-on-one challenge. Basically, Pony Boy and Francesca have to break themselves out of jail by fashioning a pole out of sticks and twine to reach past a locked door to grab three keys to open three locks. First one to open the door wins. Francesca rushes to an early lead, but her pole breaks before she can get the third key. This gives Pony Boy the edge he needs as he catches up and passes Francesca, opening the locks and winning the duel. Francesca is the first person actually eliminated from Survivor.
I have a bone to pick with CBS. I expected Ashley to go on a raging tear based on how they teased this week ("hell hath no fury" and all that....). Instead, we are shown Boston Rob giving her the full-on Robfather speech ("I did what had to be done"), and her securing his promise that Kristina and Phillip will be voted off first before her. Then, we see her crying when she brings up in a confessional what Rob did to her pretty Pony Boy. Yeah, she's upset at Rob, but this is not the firestorm I was led to believe was coming.
Remember what I said about witnesses at the duel not having to tell the truth about what happened? Well Steve and Dave at Zapatera decide to lie through their teeth to Russell and tell him that Francesca won the duel. See, this tribe wants Russell gone in the worst way. He is described as a "black hole": he does nothing but suck the light and energy out of everything. They want him gone so badly they decide on a risky venture, throwing the Immunity Challenge. The lie about Francesca would essentially be adding insult to injury.
Throwing an Immunity Challenge is a very risky strategy. It's generally a high risk-low reward proposition. But since the target of this is Russell, I say the risk is worth it. Problem was, they were so obvious about it. From Steve barely pushing the wheel, to Julie missing the buckwet when she spat, to Dave actually stopping to move puzzle pieces (to his credit, he did pantomime like he was still trying to figure the puzzle out in his head) you would have to be blind not to see that the challenge was thrown. They even managed to make it obvious to Gollum (my new name for Russell).
Gollum knows he's in a bad spot. He has been unable to find his 'precious', he has a minority alliance, and now his tribe just threw a challenge. Even disfigured hobbits can read the writing on the wall. His only chance is to try and pick off the "Tyson" from the main alliance. So, he sends in Stephanie (she of the "Biggest blindside E-VER!" hyperbole) to do a sell job on Julie. Julie actually seems to become charmed by the idea of flipping, and apparently expresses an agreement to do just that. In her confessional, she expresses ambivalence about flipping, and so we head off to tribal with a possible blindside in play.
It ends up being for naught, as Julie sticks with her alliance and Gollum is sent off to fight the Pony Boy.
I have to say that so far every Tribal Council has delivered the goods big-time! Tonight we had Stephanie flip her bitch switch and lay into the tribe for throwing the challenge and for not recognizing the blazing genius that is Gollum. As she went on, I realized she reminded me of Gina Kincaid (as played by Vanessa Marcil) from Beverly Hills 90210. Gina was also a petite brunette with a bitch streak in her as long as the Bay Bridge. She whispered to Julie after the final vote that a "Storm's a coming!" This one, I'm certain will deliver on her threats!