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Survivor: Philippines – Episode 4 – Move Over Ulong, We Have A New Pathetic Tribe

Is this 2003? Because this felt like a Survivor episode from long ago. It was one of those episodes that prove that the formula for Survivor works and really doesn’t need to be radically tweaked (i.e. Medallion of Power, Redemption Island, etc). Idol play was background and used to supplement the story – not be the story – in all three camps. The challenge was a raw physical challenge, with built in drama and real stakes that did not need manipulation. The breakdowns and conflict did not appear to be “look at me, I’m on TV” like they have been in many recent seasons. I half expected to see Lex, Jenna, Jerri or some old school Survivor wandering around camp at some point.

What I am trying to say is that this was a good installment of Survivor in what is shaping up to be a very interesting season. Matsing continues its headlong descent into Ulong Land, while the other two tribes continue to slowly boil over the side as they have been cooking for 10 days with the same six people and no chance to hit Tribal and air out the grievances. The story in the early going is the Matsing Melodrama – but we have lots of interesting things going on in the other camps in what I assume are some future plotlines waiting to explode. Just one thing…

…is the show going to shuffle the tribes before the merge or not? Because if that’s a no…then we have a very interesting scenario about to take shape. It is not going too far out on a limb to think that Malcolm and Denise will not be able to avoid last place as a Tribe of Two and are potentially the next two out. This would be remarkable for the show’s history – when Steph was a Tribe of One it was only for a night. She didn’t have to compete against Koror by herself. But let’s say the Ulonging of Matsing is complete and we wind up with six Tandang vs. six Kalabaw. Well, that’s probably the merge. All hell could break loose at that merge – neither tribe is completely unified (and next week’s previews bode very badly for Kalabaw) and there could be some scrambling.

RC is starting to see that her alliance has dissolved right behind her back. Abinormal is out of her mind (like the nickname? Thanks Mel Brooks). Could RC and Skupin flip to a new alliance with Kalabaw’s crew? What about the growing gender divide on Kalabaw? Could the Kalabaw men lure Artis and Skupin, with RC coming in with nowhere else to go? Could the women form a cross-tribe alliance? Might we have another 6 vs. 6 Tribal and some potential Cochran-style flipping? Or the second ever appearance of the Purple Rock?

How about this? Kent’s bad knee introduced in the first episode pulls him from the game next week and one Matsing survives to the merge. Does Malcolm/Denise join Kalabaw’s six and even things up, or join Tandang’s six to set up a Pagonging of Kalabaw? The later is a safer bet – as they go further and becomes the wedge vote in a dysfunctional group of six. Ironic if this scenario takes hold – the show wanted the three tribes to avoid the early alliances from domination, only to have one tribe implode and potentially ensure two early alliances to take power.

Tandang – I looked up my preview to see what I wrote about Pete, because he made no impression in the first two episodes before showing up with a vengeance last week. This week – more of that. I saw him as either an early out or a real player, depending on the execution of his Alpha Dog intentions. He wanted to be another Russell Hantz. Well, based on this week, he is on his way. The tribe found the idol clue peeking out of RC’s stuff – you know, the clue that was hidden previously. Abinormal lost it – she somehow saw this as RC’s betrayal of her and the split between the women became official. And Pete was the one who dug it up and planted it to ensure Abinormal would write off RC for good. He sees RC as his big threat in the tribe (correct) and he has now put her first in line for the vote should Tandang ever lose.

By the way, I know it is hard to reason with crazy, but just how would that clue’s appearance in RC’s stuff have betrayed Abinormal? Weren’t they supposedly a team searching for the idol – at least in RC’s mind? Wouldn’t that mean the clue was equally hers? Wouldn’t that also mean that it’s discovery would logically have been an error? An error is something you can be mad at her for committing – but to call it a betrayal? Not to mention – of course – that Abinormal is the one who betrayed RC by linking up with Pete and finding the idol without her!!! This is one wacky tribe.

Kalabaw – Amazing what an idol can do to the dynamic of a tribe. On Tandang, it exploded an alliance and formed a new one with an emerging mastermind. On Kalabaw, it saved Jonathan Penner. Like Coach, he was treated as an outsider by the new players at first. Unlike Coach, it’s taken him 10 days and an idol to change things (Coach did it after the first day or two). Thankfully for him, they haven’t had to go to Tribal at all, so he had the time to make things right. This week, he had another bit of good fortune. In a stunning bit of news (and I mean, not stunning at all), 40-something Kent is having a hard time talking to the younguns. Maybe having Penner – an intelligent, witty guy – around for a while ain’t exactly a bad idea after all. And he has an idol, which helps.

The interesting side effect is that the new Kent-Penner alliance – sealed with the full handshake, mind you – came with a little brother. Carter. It seems the previously unheard from Carter was unheard from for a reason. Oh my, if he goes deep he will be Samoa Brett all over again, a seemingly nice young guy with absolutely nothing to say.

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