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Survivor: Philippines – Episode 8 – What In Holy Hell Just Happened?

So, I think I am a pretty smart guy. I sure spent enough money on my education to ensure that smartitude. I have also seen every episode of Survivor and feel fairly confident that I usually know what is happening and can make an educated analysis of the goings-on. My gift to you, my loyal readers. That said, what in holy hell just happened in that Tribal Council? I mean, really, what the hell happened?

There was never a Tribal Council much like this in 25 seasons. So many things happened. And it all happened thanks to the survival of Jonathan Penner. That’s right – despite what I said last week, we have not experienced our final non-jury episode of Penner. That’s because the man who had never won an individual immunity challenge managed to step up. The challenge was one of the physical challenges to weed it down to three contenders, and then a puzzle segment at the end. It was not a memorable challenge when it comes to nuts and bolts – maneuver around a series of obstacles and collect bags of puzzle pieces, and then solve a puzzle…a snake puzzle. I guess the winner gets immunity and a place in Slytherin.

The interesting part is that Penner needed to win or he was doomed. He had never won immunity in Cook Islands, and was removed before the merge in Fans vs. Favorites. PBP and Kent finished first and second which left one slot open in the Finals. Penner was with several others at the finish, but it came down to him vs. Skupin for the third place. Amazingly, Penner dove over the finish line barely ahead of Skupin for the win. It was that close. And in a puzzle challenge – Penner is one of the best. He’s no Boston Rob, but he’s good. He lagged behind for a while before figuring it out and blasting ahead of the others and winning the challenge. He punctuated it with a Mary Tyler Moore hat toss and a Usain Bolt pose. Love. Penner.

That’s how close this came to being a very different episode – Penner almost lost twice, with the second time to Kent. Mere seconds from it being very different.

So, the tribe could not vote out Penner. Commence scrambling!

While the Penner survival was a huge portion of the episode the other part was the revelation of Blair’s game. We shall see how the season progresses, but Blair is shaping up to be the second coming of Cirie. She started off horribly and then all of a sudden burst out with this huge strategic game. She started the episode with a plan to join with the Kent faction and wound up turning on her Matsing allies following the Reward challenge. She pulled Skupin aside and pulled a new plan out of nowhere – after Penner goes, instead of Scoopin’ (new nickname!) going next, she would plead with PBP that Malcolm should get blindsided. Why? Because of his idol. Yep – despite her promise to Malcolm, she has turned on him.

Of course, Penner won immunity, so the tribe needed a new plan. After the initial plan to turn to Scoopin’ for the vote, Blair unleashed her Get Malcolm plan on PBP – who was shocked, just shocked, that Malcolm would not share with him the info about the idol. So he confronted him. And Malcolm lied. And PBP – the self-proclaimed mastermind – believed him. He “looked into his soul” and decided there was no idol. Granted, Malcolm did some decent lying, but still. Upon buying the lie, now the vote has fallen upon Kent.

However, Malcolm was now getting his house in order and floated Carter’s name. The other tribe was stunned as they forgot Carter was part of the tribe. But then, Kent sensing some troubles started to move against PBP. He gathered up Carter, Penner, Scoopin’ & Penner, and the Matsing Duo and built a six-person, anti-PBP coalition. So we head to Tribal with possible votes being cast against Kent, PBP, Malcolm, Carter and Scoopin’. And it all seemed to take place in about a half an hour of real time. Insane. And amazingly, when the votes were cast, two of them got votes and a third person who was NOT mentioned wound up with one.

At Tribal, it started early when Malcolm called Blair out for turning on him. She fully admits to plotting against him, calling him a huge threat. But it escalated. Abinormal pandered a bit to Malcolm – calling him “one of us” and thus worth keeping. Blair threw it back at her – if Malcolm was one of us, why was she so sour on Scoopin’ who actually was one of them from the start. Abinormal made her first fail by arguing that it was always her, Blair, PBP and Artis – prompting an “I told you so” reaction from Malcolm.

Blair alludes to the idol, leading Malcolm to show it. “There’s way too much chaos…I’m safe. I’m playing it. If you vote for me, there will be a mean surprise for you in a second.” Wow. Probst was surprised/impressed and jokingly asked if anyone else would be willing to show an idol. And Abinormal did!!!!! For no reason, she exposed her secret. Penner hysterically said, “This is awesome!” He and Kent were reacting to the goings ons like a couple of fans watching from home.

Penner then turned and said to the group – let’s keep our group of six together. Kent muttered a “wow,” which in retrospect could now mean anything. Blair very carefully made her pitch to the group to move to her Plan B, focusing on loyalty. As the Survivors voted, Penner made a “boom” motion with his hands – things just blew up. I’ll be honest – as Probst read the votes, I had no clue who was going to go home.

Spoiler alert – It was Kent. I was very curious to see who voted for whom at the end of the episode and upon doing so became even more confused. Kent got five votes – Artis, PBP, Abinormal, Blair and Scoopin’. PBP got four votes from Carter, Kent, Malcolm and Denise. Penner voted for Abinormal. Why? I don’t get that. If Penner voted for PBP, it would have been 5-5 and a revote between Kent and PBP. Assuming no one flipped, it would have been Purple Rock time. Perhaps Penner saw that as a possibility and tossed a vote aside.

Maybe Penner was just as confused as everyone else and had no idea where the votes were going. But that seems doubtful – he is a savvy player. The only thing I can think of is that Penner knew that Blair and Scoopin’ were not on board with the PBP vote and he latched on to that group. He’s the sixth in that six. He’s Blair’s Plan B. If so, it bodes badly for Carter this week. However, the intriguing part comes at the F8 where Blair/Scoopin’/Penner decide if they should flip the game on the PBP crew or not.

However, there was one more thing which I loved, loved, loved and which has put me firmly in a fandom position for this guy. Malcolm. As Probst asked for idols, Malcolm, who just moments before had told the tribe that he was playing his idol…decided not to. HA! Huge bluff from Malcolm. Remember, you really have a hard time winning Survivor if you fail to take chances and make big decisions. Malcolm just made one. And I think it makes the F8 scenario even more interesting. We now will have a weekly game of chicken between Malcolm and the rest of the crew – will he play it or not. Bold. And awesome.

Oh, and Kent is a bitter Republican. Just saying – even if you hate the President, Kent, remember that taxes are lower now than they were under W (look it up, it is true). Also, $600,000 could change lives – don’t be a prick. And last, this show was filmed in the spring and aired the day after the election. What if Mitt Romney had won? Bet you would have felt stupid there. Damn, I just can’t escape politics – even on Survivor!