Shambo was out last night, and that probably bodes not-too-well for ol' Russ, insofar as now, he's lost an easy and malleable vote, and is heading into Sunday's finale with Brett still in the hunt.

 I did a quick story on Russ the other day, and if you  missed. Here it 'tis, below. I just don't see how it can happen...but the guy certainly has a unique gift for this game.

 Who knows...who knows...

 ("Survivor," if I'm not totally wrong here and may well be, filmed the 20th season right after wrapping the 19th, and there was some talk that it would be the "Heroes Vs. Villains" edition. Could that then mean that Russell, after wrapping the 19th, walked across the street to another beach, and started up his lyin' backstabbin' ways all over again?)

  Here's yesterday's column...

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  THE SHOW "Survivor"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 8 on CBS/2

REASON TO WATCH Is Russell the greatest villain of them all?

CATCHING UP In Thursday's penultimate episode, only six are left: Brett Clouser, Russell Hantz, Jaison Robinson, Mick Trimming, Shambo Waters and Natalie White. The winner will be announced Sunday night.

WHAT THURSDAY'S ABOUT Shattered alliances! Shocking betrayal! What else! The episode is called "Two Brains Are Better Than One," which CBS says "leaves one nervous castaway on the chopping block and brings everyone's strategy into question."

MY SAY As the grand old man of reality TV approaches 20 editions (and its 10th anniversary next year), "Survivor" feels an urge bordering on primal to get back to basics. One of those basics - the well-wrought villain, who so perfectly captures the true nature of this game that we can't help but cheer and hiss at the same time. (In the case of Richard Hatch , we also covered our eyes - the pain, the pain.)

Our master class villain this time is Hantz, 36, of Dayton , Texas . Russell comes out of central casting - blue of eye, dark of intent, he speaks with a forked tongue and has the heart of Voldemort. His motto, if he had one, would be "malice toward all, charity toward none."

We all have our favorite baddies, or quasi-baddies - Rob Mariano , Jerri Lynn Manthey, Lex van den Berghe and, of course Johnny Fairplay - but Hantz may be their superior because he so perfectly embraces rule No. 1 in "Survivor": Lie to everyone, but just remember all your lies. (Plus, it's really nice to find all the immunity idols.)

BOTTOM LINE Russell has overlooked rule No. 2 - at the end of the game, the jury votes for you, not against you, so best to not be too treacherous. (Oops.) This baddie can't possibly win - can he?

GRADE B+

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