3:59pm PT by Parvati Shallow
Parvati Shallow Recaps 'Survivor: Philippines': $1 Million Winner Revealed
[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Sunday's episode.]
Before I bid you a teary farewell in my last and final recap of Survivor: Philippines, I would like to direct your attention to perhaps the biggest Survivor auction of all time benefiting Ethan Zohn’s life-giving charity, GrassRootSoccer. I’ve donated my notorious S16 Fans vs Faves bikini and winning finale dress and many of your favorite players have gotten involved and donated some pretty rad stuff, including game clothes, buffs and artifacts. Get in on the action for a good cause (and just in time for end of year tax write-offs) at http://stores.ebay.com/survivorstore.
Now that we’ve attended to some business, we can get right into the show. Last night, I had the privilege and honor of attending the live Survivor: Philippines finale on my Los Angeles home turf and, despite my heart palpitations watching the final four immunity challenge, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself. Since plunging myself back into the world of Survivor for the sake of the fans and readers of this recap, I’ve caught island fever, big time. As this season played out, I’ve been imagining myself out there, cold, wet, physically exhausted, yet hyper-focused on one goal: winning. It’s an exhilarating feeling and it’s been wild allowing myself to go back to that space for the past few months. While the taped show was airing, I had the pleasure of chatting it up with friend and fellow former Survivor contestant Rob Cesternino in the press room. I can’t say the rest of the journalists in the room were too pleased with all of our shouting and carrying on, but we had a grand old time making predictions and hurling our guacamole at the TV screen when Malcolm lost that final challenge.
And that’s where our story picks up.
Despite a final three agreement with Lisa and Skupin, his most sincere fist-bump and winning an advantage at the last reward challenge that gave him a second chance in the final immunity challenge, Malcolm’s shaky hands ultimately lost Survivor’s latest "golden boy" $1 million.
In the moments leading up to the final immunity challenge, we watch Skupin’s ego inflate tenfold as he pronounces, “I can beat him.” Referencing previous challenges in which he took the lead on Malcolm in the athletic portion, only to be destroyed by the comeback kid on the final puzzle, Skupin adamantly insists that he is capable of beating Malcolm at the final immunity challenge and even goes so far as to say he can beat him in the jury vote. Of course, now that Skupin is sitting pretty, knowing he’s headed to the final three no matter who wins, he feels comfortable making such brash statements. He’s a man who wants to make his family proud and the satisfaction of knowing that he’s the biggest, strongest, best man out there. Apparently, the konk on the noggin he received from that whale shark induced some sort of lagging head trauma, sparking delusions of grandeur.
Pity for Malcolm, Lisa is playing a much more realistic game and understands the danger of taking him to the final three. At least, this mama knows that she may have more of a fighting chance going up against Denise, who’s alienated Abi, now back at Ponderosa with her friends Pete and Artis. That’s potentially three votes for Lisa, should she go to the final three with Denise, thus making a compelling argument to dump Malcolm ASAP.
After Malcolm wins the final immunity advantage in the reward challenge, Denise approaches him with a plea to stay true to her to the final three, saying they could force a tie and make fire if they found themselves unable to sway Skupin or Lisa to come with them. Fresh off his recent reward challenge victory, Malcolm sketchily declines Denise’s offer, making it evident that he’s not interested in sticking with her. Malcolm, this is where you lose me. You’ve played a simply flawless game up to this point, and now that you’re so close to victory, you choke, strategically. Sometimes, once a player gets this close to the end, fear can take over and cause perception to narrow. Malcolm thinks he has a solid deal with Skupin and Lisa to the end. He wants to be sure to distinguish himself from Denise, who has played a similar game to his and would most likely steal votes from him. His reasoning makes logical sense, but this game is not logical and you never know what is waiting for you around the next corner.
In this case, around the next bend lies an exact replica of our final three immunity challenge in Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites. This challenge requires intense focus, deep breathing and unbroken concentration. It takes a stilling of the mind and a steadiness of hand. Skupin and Lisa are going into this challenge as a team, and it shows. As the challenge moves forward, Shakes McGee (Malcolm) is the first man out, with Denise following right behind. Skupin and Lisa, drawing from one another’s solidarity, strength and energy, stay calm and centered, until, eventually, Skupin is the ultimate victor. (Maybe he’s not quite as delusional as I thought.)
Now Skupin has the ultimate choice of who to take to the final three. He’s obviously committed to taking Lisa, but I’m not so sure that’s his best option. Honestly, he would do better to take both Malcolm and Denise with him in order to split votes between those two and to position himself in a place of singularity. The man whose story stands out as unique and individual has the best chance of winning this one. In Skupin’s case, he and Lisa have been allies for the long haul and haven’t had to endure much adversity. This is a lost cause no matter how you look at it. After some back and forth, Skupin decides on taking Denise along with Lisa to face the jury with him. Bad move, buddy. These women are mothers and, as such, have the innate ability to make people feel seen, heard and appreciated. Take that and compound the fact that Denise is a sex therapist who fosters rational decision-making among overly emotional clients as a living. Skupin is toast.
After a few impassioned jury speeches, including one where Penner, hell bent on going out in a blaze of glory, deems Denise "a bitch," we get to the vote.
Navigating 39 days of hunger, sleep deprivation, rain, physical challenges and strategizing paid off in a big way for Denise, our sole Survivor. Congratulations mama! Congratulations to all the contestants, producers and everyone who contributed in delivering yet another incredible season of Survivor. Love you all. Thanks for the ride! See you next time.
Parvati Shallow, three-time Survivor veteran, winner of Survivor: Micronesia and the official reigning Miss Survivor, will share her insight into Survivor: Philippines every week on THR.com. When she's not living on a deserted island, she can be found continent-hopping in search of the hottest spas and vacation destinations around the globe. She sometimes teaches yoga and meditation to an elite, in-the-know group of clients at ESP Wellness Center in Santa Monica. Follow her on Twitter at @parvatishallow or visit her newly launched website at www.parvatishallow.com. To catch her in Santa Monica, check out www.espwellnesscenter.com.