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Survivor: Philippines – Episode 11 – Hell Hath Frozen Over

I will start with an apology to Abinormal. Well, a partial one. My theme last week was speculating if she was the worst Survivor ever – essentially arguing that not only has she alienated everyone, had zero sense of reality on how she was being perceived, but through her actions she actually made her position of power worse and worse as the game progressed. Well, this week, Abinormal had a good episode. Not perfect, but she did well.

First thing she did well – she saved her auction money. Abinormal had passed the point of being attractive to the others in an I’ll-beat-her-in-the-Finals way. She knew that her survival would come with an immunity win – and she’s been awful in challenges this season. Last week, she couldn’t even figure out how to compete in the challenge. So, as they filed into the Auction, she decided to hold her money and wait for the advantage (now, I must add, I am not entirely sure she knew the advantage was coming and just lucked out, but let’s assume she knew about it). And she got it. Shame on the other Survivors – especially the returning players – for not knowing or caring about the advantage.

I present the example of one Danni Boatwright. Way back in Survivor 11, Danni was a lone wolf, a woman without an alliance when she purchased the first immunity advantage clue in the Survivor Auction. That group had an excuse for failing to stop her – it had never happened before. She won the hint, it enabled her to win immunity and avoid elimination. She managed to drive a wedge into the power alliance, and lo and behold…she walked away a millionaire. THAT’s why you always prepare to block that hint from getting in the hands of the lone wolf.
But this group failed to do this and as a result, they had to eat one of their own. And man, why did it have to be Penner? Well, actually, I know why. It’s because he forgot for a moment to play Survivor. That moment last week was huge. When Blair and Scoopin’ decided they’d rather be in a Final Four with Penner and Carter, instead of Malcolm and Denise, they brought the idea to Jonathan. For some reason he failed to say yes, thrusting them into the arms of the former Matsing duo. We talked about it last week, but it sure begs repeating now. Penner was looking ahead at the Final Six and at jury votes. He forgot there was still a couple of stages left to play.

As a result, when Abinormal won immunity, it was time for the Final Four alliance to kick in. Malcolm and Denise called in that chip with Scoopin’ and Blair, and it became official. Penner was doomed. Blair actually gave him warning, and called him out on the failure to take the deal. He was stunned that he was going home, but he had a few hours to make something happen. Malcolm and Denise just outplayed the vet.

Penner had a good plan but he needed either Scoopin’ or Blair to flip his way. That was not going to be easy. He did give them a fantastic and accurate reason to go his way – They have locked themselves into an alliance that provides them little to no chance of winning the big prize. As Penner said, by voting him out they are handing the cash to either an out of work bartender or a Midwestern sex therapist. Think about it – would any of the old Tandang vote for them? Would Penner or the now doomed Carter go for them now? If Denise or Malcolm it the Finals solo, it could be another Earl or JT kind of blowout. If together, we could see a Cook Islands kind of close vote. Either way, Penner was right. Vote me out, and you win now, but lose later.

One last thing about Jonathan Penner, as his whistling into the darkness will be the last we hear of him on Survivor apart from his jury question and the reunion. Where does he rank in the lexicon? This ouster gives him two seventh place finishes and the injury removal. His two jury finishes were marked by a moment of bad decision making each time – the mutiny and the failure with Blair and Scoopin. A better finish and he would have moved up substantially, a la Coach in South Pacific. Instead, he’s more like James – an interesting character who got three shots and never really came close. I love Penner, he will always be on my short list of Survivors. When Mark Burnett calls me and asks me to cast Survivor: JNT’s Choice, Penner is one the first men I mention. But sadly, he won’t ever get a chance to make his case for the million and earn some Boston Rob style redemption.

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