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[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Wednesday’s episode.]
This is Abi’s episode all the way. Beginning with tears and ending with triumph, she uses the hurt and anger she’s experiencing from the brutal beatdown she took at the last tribal council to fuel her strategy moving forward. Our island warrior won’t be going down without a fight, and it seems she may be trying to forge some sort of friendship with Malcolm (who just keeps getting hotter as his hair gets dirtier) while she’s at it. Malcolm’s smart to keep her close as he needs to ensure he has her vote in the end. Knowing it’s best to have as many friends as possible in the end, he even goes so far as to give our teary eyed jalapeno popper a nice awkward hug while the two blossoming buddies fetch tree mail. Aww, ain’t that sweet?
Food auction mania ensues as Denise and Skupin both plow through their 500 bones for a short stack of pancakes and a plate of nuts. Watching the consumption of comfort food so close by seduces Malcolm, Penner, Carter and Lisa into greedily getting involved. These guys are all nuts. Everybody who’s ever watched a Survivor auction knows there will always be a chance to pick up some kind of game-changing advantage. Now the only person with all her money left is Abi, the one outcast everybody agrees on voting out next. Way to plan ahead, guys. What happened to the pre-challenge group huddle where everyone says they will pool their money for the clue to make sure Abi doesn’t get it? The six alliance mates are failing to see the reality of the present situation and are playing ahead of themselves, assuming they’ll send Abi home next without fail. When trading the long-term goal for instant gratification, someone is inevitably bound to get burned. Assumption and complacency are poison in this game and kill quickly before the loser knows what hit him.
The stage is set for Abi’s grand play and she makes it. Snatching up the “game-changing advantage” with all the money she’s retained buys her some protection and time to formulate a plan. Without any alliance mates, she’s learning what she’s made of and we’re seeing a serious gamer emerge. She takes her letter from the auction (which turns out to be automatic in to the final round of the immunity challenge and a one-in-three chance of winning) and pretends to have a clue to the immunity idol. With a devilish gleam in her eye, she pulls Malcolm aside and informs him that she’s safe at the next tribal … she has an idol.
I like where your head’s at Abi, but this is a rookie mistake. Be vague and keep disappearing so others get suspicious, but don’t come straight out and say “I have an idol” when you don’t. Once you make that claim, people are going to want proof and if you have nothing to show for it (or it’s just a f—ing stick, as in the case of Jason on Fans vs. Favorites) you’ve lost credibility and power. Nonetheless, Abi’s still in this thing and with everyone underestimating her, we move into the immunity challenge.
Oh, this is good. The crew is called into the challenge, and Probst spurs Abi to read her note aloud to the group. No one has any idea what the letter says and Abi seizes this opportunity to stir up a little paranoia. She claims there are two parts of the letter: one, an automatic in to the final round of the challenge and two, she doesn’t want to share. Then, in true Inspector Gadget form, she shreds the document on the spot. Quite the clever ruse you’ve created my little party crasher. Well played.
Do you guys recognize this knotty challenge? It’s very similar to the one we played for hotdogs and immunity in Heroes vs. Villains when Tyson bit the bullet — and it is truly exhausting. Abi has a huge advantage by not having to compete in the first few legs. With the rest of the players pretty wiped out, she races through the course like her life depends on it and blows past Penner and Carter for the goose-bump-inducing win.
Now we see what happens when people get too comfortable. The once-tight gang of six is going to have to self-destruct. With Skupin, Lisa, Malcolm and Denise’s final four agreement, Penner and Carter are on the outs. Hmmm, tough call. Penner’s a strategic gamer and he hasn’t betrayed anyone, thus making him a real threat in the end to take jury votes. Carter’s a … wait … Carter? Who’s Carter?
Malcolm deems Penner public enemy No. 1 and insists on getting rid of him immediately. Malcolm is the kingpin here and has been controlling this game since its inception. He has all the power, and all the rest of the contestants are foolish not to bounce him and his idol out pronto. Skupin and Lisa royally screwed up. They hurried to form an alliance so they’d feel safe and, now, they are going to have to remain loyal to Malcolm and Denise and lose or carry the guilt of betraying their alliance and make a play to win. Damned if you do. Damned if you do.
Lisa isn’t ready to just vote out her friend Penner without professing her undying love for him. She coyly confesses she’s not cut out for this game. Alarm bells sound. Sirens scream. Jonathan Penner is not safe and he knows it. Pulling Lisa aside for a walk, he gets her to confess that she’s formed an alliance of four and is voting him out tonight. Uh oh. Penner best get his scramble on.
Since Malcolm has the idol, Penner goes to Carter and Abi and gets them on board to vote Denise. Brilliant idea, as Denise and Malcolm are super tight and totally in control. Penner needs one more person to make his plan operational. Lisa’s out — her game is based on loyalty and she won’t betray her alliance despite her schoolgirl crush.
Penner takes his idea to Skupin, placing him in the precarious position of being the swing vote. With all of Skupin’s talk of making bold moves and how threatened he feels by Malcolm, there’s a real possibility of a blindside going down and Denise going home.
This season’s tribal councils are like open therapy with Dr. Jeff. With his back against the wall, Penner makes the argument that no one can win against Malcolm and Denise, so best to jump ship and vote Denise out now. The anguish on Lisa’s face as Penner speaks catches our host’s eye and he starts getting deep with her. Jeff is so good at reading body language and nonverbal cues. He really knows how to get right to the raw emotions of a person and stir things up. Maybe it’s enough to make Lisa vote with Penner.
It’s not. Penner is sent home, skipping and whistling down the merry path. In his exit interview, he describes his time in the game as “fun and extremely painful.” It takes a three-time vet to describe the experience of playing the game of Survivor so perfectly on point. You will be missed, my friend.
We’re getting down to the wire. With six players left, will Skupin actually make a move and blindside his biggest threat, Malcolm? Abi’s still up for a fight and has the gang guessing about her possession of an idol. Someone needs to realize the genius of taking Abi to the end. Anybody? I mean, her social skills could use some fine-tuning, to say the least, and she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. Somebody do us all a favor, make some moves to dump Malcolm and take a scapegoat to the end. This is Survivor, people!
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. To catch her in Santa Monica, check out www.espwellnesscenter.com.
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