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Survivor: Philippines – Episode 9 – I’m Like A Storyteller

Clap. Clap. Clap.

This season just keeps on delivering. It is not going out on a limb to call this the best Survivor season in the last few cycles – probably the best since Heroes vs. Villains, and perhaps better that that season. I am close to saying that barring a fizzled out ending, this season is well on its way to Top 5 overall and perhaps better.

Why is it so good? Just like every season it comes down to casting – and this season has hit a home run. The stunt casting has been stellar – Penner, Scoopin’, Kent and Blair all have been solid to great players. Even Swan provided entertainment, albeit unintentionally. The new players have brought some character and good game play – think Malcolm, Denise, RC, Abinormal, PBP. And don’t forget Angie’s…um…contributions to our TV viewing. Even dudes who have advanced far, like Carter and Artis, cannot bring the show down.

I would like very much for more three tribe seasons. This dynamic is a good one and Survivor has a reputation over the years of tinkering with the formula and keeping what works (hidden idols), and discarding the mistakes (Medallion of Power). The wild card of Denise/Malcolm on the merge has added some spice this season. However, the better ingredient is one that is hard to factor in – the willingness for tribal allegiances to shift.
Think about where we are after the seismic shift in power this week. We have a Final 8 with no real power alliance which can safely run the table. None. The PBP alliance is shattered – it is now only a duo of PBP/Abinormal. And I am positive that is not sealed – both of them would bolt on the other in a heartbeat. The only truly solid one is Malcolm/Denise. Scoopin’/Blair is another decent bond – but the vote split from the two of them this week needs some explanation. And then there are the Kalabaw survivors – Penner and Carter. Are either bound to each other? Not that we have seen before – Carter was more Kent’s guy.

In theory, we could have four duos vying for power. There could be mad scrambles for combinations before each remaining Tribal Council. Truly incredible to see how after 25 seasons, the dynamic can be unique. The closest season to this full-on free-for-all that I can think of was the Amazon way back in Season 6. Alliances rose and fell that season seemingly each week. The next five cuts this season could be similar.

Survivor has never won the Emmy for Best Reality Series – heck, the Amazing Race has won almost all of them (one for Top Chef) – and in fact, has not even been nominated in recent years. This season deserves consideration – specifically this episode, or last week’s episode. There is one scene this week which I think should go down in the archives of classic Survivor scenes. The beach therapy session between Blair and Penner.

After the insane Tribal Council, Blair seems to be getting push back from her Tandang allies. This is weird, because if memory serves, she basically scrambled together votes at the last minute to save the Tandang alliance. She tried to flush Malcolm’s idol, and her tribe failed to believe her or go along with her. She suggested Plan B out in the open – cobbling together the vote victory and confusing Penner in the process. She has been nothing but a loyal vote despite being treated like crap by her alliance. Penner being the Survivor vet that he is – and having played a very intriguing season back on Cook Islands – knows that the Tandang alliance was ready to crumble. He just needed to find the right bricks to pull – ironically, he pulled them, but a different section collapsed.

He and Blair came to the beach and he began to work on her like a master. He read her because he understood show business. Blair was a child star – she’s been an actress her whole life, even if she wasn’t working as one. Part of the actress persona is one where you seek to entertain, to gain approval from smiles, applause and attention. As a child star, you are put into the strange position of potentially out-earning your parents and becoming a professional at the same age most kids are just being kids. Penner is an actor/writer – and he knows that. He tells her he knows she has always been a pleaser, and been worried her whole life about whether she is pretty enough, or gained too much weight. She stares at him with tears going down her cheeks and just mutters, “How do you know this?” Penner smiles and says, “Because it’s my business too.”

Seriously, it’s like dialogue from a Kate Hudson movie. Well played, Penner. Is he manipulating her? Yes. Is it game play? Absolutely. Does he mean every word he said to her? I think so.

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