Category Archives: Survivor

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 4 – The Filipino Gollum

The Shamar Show. You were cancelled before your time. Just like Firefly. And Freaks and Geeks. And The Chevy Chase Show. Oh, ok, maybe not that last one.

Actually, now that I think about it, yeah, The Shamar Show was just as horrible as the Chevy Chase Show. But at least it is over.

Nothing against Sgt. Hulka – his service is amazing, and I am sure he’s a nice guy outside of the game, but boy, it was incredibly tiring to watch Hulka fight with his tribe. I don’t think I could have made it much long with that kind of crazy – because, goodness knows, there is more than enough crazy going on already. And based on the coming attractions…there’s an insane amount of Hantzian crazy coming next week.

Hulka was a horrible Survivor player. The funny thing is – he really looked on paper like he was going to be a very good Survivor player. Not sure what happened, but boy, what a disappointment. And, not to belittle his injury – because it looked legit – but he didn’t even go out in a bad-ass Skupin Falls In The Fire way. In fact, this ranks up there with James’ punctured finger back in the original FvF. Interestingly, we have the two FvF racking up the injuries – three hurt and one almost insane. Let’s see how many more similarities the two seasons have – if we have an all-Faves finale, then we may have a trend.

But, Hulka’s removal from the game due to his scratched cornea (ouch) put the Fans in a must win situation for the Elimination Challenge. As correctly mentioned last week by Cougar, if Hulka quit, it could lead to them losing two players in rapid succession and a bad numbers deficit. He chose not to quit then, but couldn’t avoid it this time. And might I add…I did NOT enjoy the eye touching that Survivor Medical had to do with him. I still have the heebie jeebies from that. Even if there was some sort of magical, Snape-brewed orange potion used to check for the eye injury.

The Fans were experiencing some serious Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome as Hulka lounged and complained. Michael said that Hulka couldn’t find his “happy place,” but who can? Reynold thought he was an effin’ Marine, he should be tougher. At least later on when it became clear that Hulka was not faking it, Rey had a mea culpa. Of course, he did also call him lazy and disrespectful…so, that apology sucked.

Bye bye Hulka. You made it through two tours of duty in Iraq without getting hurt, but one week on Survivor put you in the hospital. That’s messed up.

So, the Fans have to win the Elimination Challenge or they will fall into a 9-6 numbers hole. Even with a tribal shuffle, that could potentially leave them in the minority on both tribes. We have yet another puzzle-free challenge – and another water-based one. The challenge had five Survivors climb over a tile bridge in the water – often leading to some epic falling down – and eventually swimming out to a big platform. Once there, they leap with a small Quidditch bat and smash a tile dangling above. That frees up a key, which they retrieve and bring back. Once all five have done it, the other two have to find the three keys that work on a locked trunk. They then take out balls and have to knock over a bunch of blocks. The Faves sit out Dawn and Corinne. The challenge is basically won in the first moments. Cougar and Erik are the first two swimmers – with Erik continuing to prove his status as Ozzy-lite on water challenges. Meanwhile, Cougar misses the tile and has to climb back on and go again. Brandon’s second leg is just as good, and ZZ Top is unable to make up much ground. On the third leg, Brenda essentially laps the Fans and finishes – despite a huge fall – at the same time as ZZ Top. Eddie finally does a good job on a challenge and cuts into Andrea’s lead a bit. Julia’s fourth leg is going on as Malcolm gets the final key. Phillip and Cochran open the locks as Michael ends the last leg.

Essentially, Phillip and Reynold are the only one throwing. Cochran and Laura only opened locks – and not even that well. Phil has a huge lead before Rey throws a single toss. And, once again, Phillip is the key to a challenge. Anyone see Phil as being the challenge monster in a season with Erik, Malcolm, and a bunch of big fans? Rey makes a nice comeback, but Phil hits some clutch final shots – along with a fairly impressive pitching motion – and wins it. The Fans are in trouble.

The vote preparation led to an existential Survivor debate – Loyalty vs. Physicality. On the bright side, no matter what, Reynold’s idol was about to get flushed. He’d be crazy not to play it at this point. Clearly, the two young guys are in trouble – especially the idol-less Eddie. However, they get an unexpected savior in the form of ZZ Top. He’s had enough of losing challenges and thinks they need to keep the dudes. That presents the power Fan alliance with a choice – alliance or the strong guys. Laura points out the main point for keeping her instead of Eddie – in the likelihood of a tribal shift…the guys are more likely to bolt. This is classic Survivor tribe management – don’t clash too badly with the minority because they will abandon you at the first chance. Ask Galu about this – we call it the Shambo Factor.

Might I add…they ain’t actually tearing it up with Meathead and Pretty Boy. They’d probably be much better off staying together and hoping for better days coming up. At this point, the situation is very volatile. The Cougar/Julia/ZZ Top/Michael alliance could easily dissolve and turn into an all-male alliance. But they choose to go with boys – something the amount of Laura highlights shown in the “previously on Survivor” section gave away.

In fact, now that I think about it. Can anyone anticipate where any of the alliances are going? We have the Fan situation, as mentioned, and the Stealth R Us Alliance in the Faves tribe. Or, in other words…the entire Faves Tribe. The alliance of Phil/Cochran/Dawn/Malcolm/Corinne/Andrea was in clear control of the tribe – but now Phillip went ahead and added the other three into the group. This is now an alliance of nine. This is the strangest alliance in history. Who’s in power?!?

What the hell is going on this season, anyway? The next thing you know, one of them is going to go batshit crazy and tear down the joint.

Oh wait…

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 3 – Hopelessly Devoted to You

At least, that’s what the Fans Tribe is saying about Sgt. Hulka, just one week into the game. But unlike the sweet singing of Olivia Newton-John and her dreamy young love for John Travolta , we are talking about the group’s decision to throw in with someone who just seems to like to yell at them a lot.

That’s right – we have yet another episode where the Fans’ tribe dynamic is shaped through the prism of Sgt. Hulka. That’s three for three. Once again, Sgt. Hulka did lots of yelling. We see them return from Tribal Council – after the tribe voted to KEEP him – and got another earful of his patented repeat yell. “DID I SAY YOU!?! DID I SAY YOU!?!”

Hulka yells at Reynold – which is ok. He kind of has it coming. Especially after he essentially throws his alliance under the bus by telling the others they have to keep him because he is good in challenges. But then Hulka yells at Matt for no apparent reason at all, except that ZZ Top has dared to speak during the diatribe. He turns on Julia – and I can’t understand why, since she hasn’t spoken in the first two episodes.

Hulka was making no sense whatsoever, and I can’t figure out what he was yelling about. The sensation of watching this man randomly yell in the dark was just strange. It was like walking into a room and witnessing the middle of a heated argument – “I SAID I DON’T WANT GRAPE JELLY, HOW DARE YOU?!?!” Not only is it uncomfortable to watch two people fight when you are not involved, but you walk away puzzled by what could have been so wrong with grape jelly that would have prompted such an outburst. That’s how I felt watching this scene – Hulka screaming about proverbial grape jelly.

By the way, I call “Proverbial Grape Jelly” for my new band name.

Later on, the Sgt. Hulka show continued. Let’s be honest – when you are on the same cast as The Specialist and Brandon Hantz and YOU are the crazy one…you know you’ve had a bad couple of episodes. Hulka seemed to come down from his rage the next day, and judging by the sad piano on the soundtrack, we are about to see the quiet, sensitive Hulka. He claims he is done and does not want to be “the angry black man on Survivor.” Sigh. Too late. You’re already filling way too many unfortunate Survivor minority stereotypes and it’s only the third episode. Bottom line – he wants to quit. He alludes to the horrors of war in his past, his alcoholism and anger issues, and that he doesn’t like the lying nature of the game. Amazingly, he says from the get go he wanted to be uplifting to everyone in the tribe. We have video evidence from the first day as he and ZZ Top clashed over the shelter construction.

The next thing we know, he is ready to quit. And I agree with Reynold (that just feels wrong), there are too many people who want to be on this show to have those who made it threaten to quit. Just let him go. Cougar Sherri, however, doesn’t want to quit him. Selfishly, she wants him to be her attention buffer and loyal vote. Very smartly though, she reminds him that if he gives up now and they lose the challenge, they are two players down, a la Kalabaw last season.

Interestingly, seated underneath the Kat-Issued Orange Hoodie is Eddie, listening in to the Hulka therapy session. Odd that he would be a part of this, but there he was. But Hulka decides to stay and, I don’t know about you, but I know can’t look at Hulka/Cougar scenes without expecting to see him suit up in a Ravens jersey.

You want more Hulka? We got more. After he and Eddie got into it over their failure in the challenge, we got the Fans’ plan for the vote. Split between Eddie and Hope to account for Reynold’s idol, while the remaining pretty people vote for Hulka. Then, if no idol, send all remaining votes to Hope in order to keep Eddie for challenges. Of course, Eddie’s failure to win his part of the challenge is puzzling for this plan, but there you go. Essentially, this is the Redemption Island boot Russell plan.

Hulka decides to turn it into a Tyson voting himself out of the game moment. He chats with Hope and tries to spread out some break crumbs for her leading her to the realization that a vote for Eddie is in her best interest. Of course, Hope doesn’t understand it and blabs to Laura that Hulka is revealing the plan. The ladies freak out and consider turning on Hulka, who must be working with the other side. My reaction was…what?!? If Hulka was working with the pretty people, it would be the greatest con in the history of Survivor cons. And even if he was, to what end? That’s four votes out of nine.

As it turns out, Sgt. Hulka was safe and Hope went away after the re-vote. That means we have had three votes and three women booted from the game. Let’s see if that trend continues.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 2 – Honey Badger Don’t Care

We are back for the second epis…

Awww, hell, Dawn is crying again. I guess we are back on South Pacific. I am sure Ozzy will help her out. What? Oh, no, this isn’t a rerun. OK, so Brandon went crazy and…

Come on, I am sure we are still watching South Pacific. Next thing you know Cochran will be giving a confessional in a weird position. SEE! There he is on some weird rock throne borrowed from the set of the Aquaman movie they made on “Entourage.” This IS South Pacific!

Wait, no, it is Caramoan, because Philip is there and he’s talking about Stealth R Us…

Wait, it can’t be Redemption Island all over again because Boston Rob isn’t there and Andrea isn’t fading into the background of the majority alliance. Um…I’m so confused.

OK, this is a new season. I have confirmation because unlike Gabon and Nicaragua, they have failed to provide ample shots of Brenda’s bikini body or of Corinne making biting comments about her tribesmates. Have any of the favorites actually had any amount of character development (yeah, I know they are real people, but still) since they last played the game? Philip is still weird, Dawn still cries, Brandon is still crazy, and the others have all regressed in the background in the shadow of the huge personalities.

So the Favorites are acting like amateurs, I am sure the Fans will show a deep understanding and knowledge of the game and not make any really stupid beginner mistakes.

Oh, crap.

Sgt. Hulka is fulfilling every unfortunate stereotype this show has ever been accused of employing. He is proud to have spent 19 hours in the shelter one day. Needless to say, the rest of the tribe has had it up to here with him. He is big and loud – his words – and won’t do work around camp. If he is trying to win Survivor, he is failing miserably, because this is not a winning formula. If he is trying to be the latest in a long line of characters that annoy and get carried deep into the game, then he is doing a bang up job. And boy, the argument style of yelling the same thing over and over again and closing with “Shut up” is totally endearing.

That said, despite it all, I am kinda digging Sgt. Hulka. Sue me.

The Lovers Alliance still thinks they are in charge, despite having only four members. Correction – for some reason they think the M&M Boys are going to be on their side. My question – why oh why, would the M&M Boys do that? They are a clear-cut minority in that alliance – why would two dudes link up with two couples? They have a better shot at being in the Alliance of Six with Hulka and the other three women.

Reynold has pulled a Hantz better than Brandon ever will – and this is not the sabotage angle. He has gone off and found an immunity idol with no clues. Good for you, Rey. Boo on you Show for making it too easy again. However, Reynold’s vanity and his tight pants come back to haunt him as he tried to stuff the tiny idol in his pocket. Jeez, how tight were his pants? That was a small medallion on a cloth necklace! And what are you doing wearing skintight pants on Survivor? When will these people learn how to dress properly for this show? And isn’t he a friggin’ Super Fan?!?! Rule #1 – don’t get caught with the idol before you can use it to your benefit.

Kudos to Laura for – um – checking out his bulge as they left for Tribal. And, might I add, that as a progressive, confident-in-his-own-sexuality, heterosexual man, I am already uncomfortable talking so much about the bulge in Reynold’s pants. Just as I am already over talking about Brandon going crazy and threatening to do Russell Hantzian things. Although, if he wants to keep calling himself a honey badger, I am perfectly fine with that. Honey badger don’t care.

Another thing, Fans. When you game plan for a challenge, game plan for the friggin’ challenge! It was not hard to understand that when you get three people to dive in the water to complete a task that you should send three people perfectly capable of diving (See Breasty McImplants last season), and that you actually use them all. The Faves did a fine job of rotating Erik, Andrea and Brenda, while Sherri the Cougar tried to do the whole thing herself and, of course, ran out of breath. The Fans were in a huge hole by the time they got their act together.

So basically, while somewhat entertaining, we had a fairly lazy episode of Survivor. There were a couple of bright spots though – and not just Cochran’s rock chair.

1 – The Cougar has game. And so does Laura, very quietly. Laura and Sherri were the ones to notice the break off Lovers Alliance last week and gathered up the rejected others to form a competing alliance. Laura noticed the aforementioned bulge and acted on it by calling out Reynold at Tribal Council – thus backing him into a bit of a corner. Sherri not only instigated the alliance, but also noticed the value of Hulka as a number and as a source to absorb attention and vitriol. These two could be very dangerous

2 – Stealth R Us. If you didn’t realize it from the previous episode, we have a six-person alliance with the Faves too. Phillip seemingly runs it, but I wonder if we will eventually learn of who is calling the shots behind the scenes. However, he has resurrected the Stealth R Us name from his pairing with Boston Rob and Grant back in S22. This time, The Specialist has doled out names to the other five members of the alliance – and nice to see that Dawn/Cochran are now officially part of the majority this time. We learn their new names in a strange moment as the crew breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera crew. Let’s hope the boom mike guy doesn’t have a thing for Andrea. The names – Malcolm=The Enforcer, Andrea=The Eliminator, Corinne=The Dominatrix (still awesome), Cochran=Intelligencia Attache (um, ok), and Dawn=True Grit. No eyepatch, I assume. I did love how The Eliminator did a cute little wave at the camera as it panned the group. I hope the Gorilla and the Lion make an appearance this season as well.

3 – Brandon and Erik. How did this happen? How did these two become a duo? Did they link up because they share the moronic distinction of handing over immunity and getting booted after doing so? However, I did love how Erik stood nearby like Beavis as Brandon went the Full Butt-head and started to compare himself to Russell, Rambo and turn the word “dirty” into two separate words. IF they stick around, the Beavis and Butt-head alliance could be fun to watch.

4 – I would like to see a tribal shuffle and the alliance of Brenda, Malcolm, Julia and Hope emerge because I wonder if an alliance formed and never spoke, would it make a sound?

Challenge – Boo! No separate reward challenge! This one takes place at the 19 minute mark in the episode and telegraphed the idol footage, in my opinion. The winning tribe earns immunity and fishing gear. The best part of the challenge…Phillip failing to stick the flag into the sand. Never change, Specialist.

In this challenge, three sit on a raft and are pulled out to an underwater cage by three other people. Once out there, the three dive down and pull out bamboo rods to free up nine rings. They get pulled back and the last three toss them at three poles – the first to three wins the challenge. Beavis/Andrea/Brenda dive against Cougar/Hope/Julia. Butt-head/Corinne/Cochran(!) pull against Hulka/ZZ Top/Eddie. And Malcolm/Phillip/Dawn toss against Reynold/Mike/Allie/.

Highlights – Cougar is great until she runs out of gas. The Faves work like machines. They hold a 9-2 lead in rings before the Fans swap out. Hulka’s well-rested strength helps them catch up somewhat, but by the time they get to the beach Malcolm had already landed two rings. Reynold gets one quickly and you start to wonder if he’s going to catch up to Malcolm once again, but Phillip lands the third one and the Faves go nuts.

Tribal Council – Interestingly, it seems that the Fans view Eddie and Hope as a couple despite the Intense Snuggling Session enjoyed by Reynold and Allie. Hey, as a longtime Yankee fan, how did I miss THIS reference?
Michael makes a baseball reference though (see what I did there?) by comparing their poor strategizing to that of a team leaving their pitcher off the field. Laura called out Rey’s idol and the Fans’ tribe just got interesting. He vowed to play the idol right then and there. Like Malcolm last season – interestingly, a season none of these fans watched – Rey bluffed. Now he is a man with a big target on his back. His big chance remains to convince the M&M Boys to come over to join the remaining three pretty people. Tell them it is better to be part of a Group of Five than a Group of Six. Tell them there is an idol in the mix. Tell them Hulka goes next. Tell them whatever you have to.

If not…pray for a tribal shuffle. Or for Butt-head to come by and pee on somebody.

Treemail Top 10
• If voting out Francesca was one of the harshest things he has ever seen in his life, then Butt-head should consider himself lucky. And, good for Michael for instantly realizing the irony of her first boot repeat.
• Did Cochran really compare Butt-head to a psychopath? Granted, Lil Hantz continues to be volatile, but come on Cochran.
• I don’t recall Boston Rob bringing up anything about telling people on his tribe that they belong in middle management and have opinions that don’t matter at all. And yet, there’s Phillip supposedly following the BR Rules, and doing just that to Butt-head. What I think is scarier…Brandon Hantz managing anyone.
• To his credit though, Lil Hantz’s comparison of The Specialist to the Pink Panther and Inspector Gadget was hysterical and perfectly in character. I’m sure that’s the level of TV viewing he’s enjoyed over the years. He’s the same old Brandon this season, but he doesn’t have Coach there to take the edge off.
• During the Stealth R Us sequence, the very next shot is of a wacky Specialist Dance. Interestingly, Brenda is now in the shot. Was she there for all of that? Or was this a strange edit. I think it was creative editing.
• Eddie upon losing the fishing gear – “Oh well, no fish here anyway.” That’s a great attitude there, Ed.
• Vote For Shamar Day. Do we get off from work for it…because…makes sense, right?
• ZZ Top made a great point which would have worked on some others but not this crew. Vote out Hulka and the M&M Boys and ladies would still lead 5-4. But that forgets about Cougar’s need for having Hulka around.
• Let me just say, that only on this show would Laura not be considered one of the pretty people.
• Reynold wanted to make sure he “checked himself” before Tribal Council re: idol. Presumably, he also checked himself before he wrecked himself.

Votes – Allie 6 (Hulka, Cougar, ZZ Top, Michael, Julia, Laura), Hulka 4 (Allie, Rey, Eddie, Hope)

Next week – More Hulka drama. More Butt-head drama. More aspirin in my house.

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Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 1 – It’s DeJa Vu All Over Again

Hello Survivor fans and welcome to Season 26. If the locale looks familiar, well, it should. We are back in the Philippines. Again. This time with fewer sitcom actors and guys who fell into fires. Although, with the same amount of Malcolms. After watching Probst risk his life with an amazing cold open stunt – seriously, he was standing on top of some giant, Dr. Seussian rock spire as helicopters carrying Favorites came zooming past him – we meet the 10 Fans. If they didn’t think that the 10 of them weren’t going to be facing a group of returning Survivors, then they couldn’t have been big fans. Why else would they have been separated from the rest of the competitors?

We are treated to montage of the exploits of the returning Favorites – and interestingly, we don’t see much victory. Cochran flipping, Corinne bitching out Sugar, Malcolm blowing the million, Philip being Philip, and both Erik and Brandon giving away immunity. This group truly is a random collection of flawed Survivors. They are so flawed that I totally expect to see the Smoke Monster show up and Merry the Hobbit to say, “Guys, where are we?” If Cochran has Daddy Issues, we have some eerie business.

Meanwhile, the Others…er…the Fans, are hard to get a feel for – this is the nature of Fans vs. Favorites. I remember from the first one, it took a few episodes to really get to know the new guys. The Favorites are so familiar and full of big personalities we already know that it is just easier to gravitate attention towards them. The Fans, not so much. We have a few of them getting some attention this week, but several others barely got much screen time. Meanwhile, Favorites like Corinne and Brenda also got little attention, but we know them already, so it doesn’t have the same feel to it. This is natural – we know these 10 so it is easy to relate to them instantly.

But let’s not avoid the obvious with this first episode…we had Survivor history made. Just as Jacob and the Smoke Monster represented opposites on “Lost,” we now have our counterpart to Sandra Diaz-Twine. Welcome to Survivor infamy, Francesca. It was almost too perfect an outcome for entertainment purposes to have Francesca go out first again, so perfect that I expected it wasn’t going to happen. I sat there watching and expecting to see my preseason pick to go all the way get booted first – how embarrassing. But despite getting four votes, Andrea survived, presumably thanks to the mini-coalition of Cochran and Dawn siding with her. This meant that Francesca was bested once again by The Specialist and his supporters.

Let’s talk about the dynamic as it unfolded – and recall that alliances formed on the first three days have often resulted in foreshadowing of the season’s endgame. Recall the Day 1 alliances of Rob and Amber, of Yul and Becky, of Russell and Natalie (and Parvati), and of Coach’s Crew in South Pacific. Sometimes we can learn a lot by these first few scenes.

The Legacy of Boston Rob – We may never get to see Boston Rob play Survivor again. After playing the perfect game in his fourth try, Rob is probably done barring an all-winners edition. And speaking of that – imagine how good that would be, with real life couples Rob/Amber and Jenna/Ethan competing against each other! However, his legacy lives on – this time with Philip and Andrea. Each are trying to take their experience with him in Season 22 and use it to their benefit. Philip has even developed the BR Rules – including forming a strong alliance, creating a sub-alliance, and bailing on your alliance before they bail on you. He probably shouldn’t forget Rob’s initial reasoning for allying with Amber.

Philip leading an alliance seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but Andrea can easily slip into that role. Philips interaction with Erik indicates that while he may have the lessons down pat, he may not be the best at implementing them. Andrea can. Just as long as she isn’t as obvious about it as she was this week, as her duplicity was caught onto right away. She was able to hide her allegiance from Matt the last time, so we know she has the skills.

The two Redemption Island castaways have linked up – so it seems – with Malcolm and Corinne. Brandon, Erik and Brenda appear to be on the opposite side for now in the minority alliance, as the South Pacific duo of Cochran and Dawn have teamed up to be the power swing votes. I’ll tell you this – Cochran and Dawn seem really determined to shake off their experiences in their first season and to win this time around. You can see it jump off the screen when they spoke, as you could whenever Andrea and Philip were on. I didn’t get that from the others. It seemed to me that Brenda, Corinne and Malcolm were almost sleepwalking through the beginning of the game – although Malcolm’s first challenge performance was quite impressive.

Will this Redemption Island/South Pacific grouping be what drives the season? Impossible to tell now, but they did get a lot of noticeable airtime. I expect a tribal shuffle to come at some point, so many groupings now could become moot as that happens, but from time to time you see these early alliances even survive those shuffles – see South Pacific, Vanuatu, and others.

Meanwhile, the Fans have a similar grouping happening, but with a bit more comedy. It seems Mike and Matt – the M&M Boys – have become the Fans’ version of Cochran and Dawn. Their two votes could alter the Fan balance of power between the Mean Girls/Guys alliance of four and the other three women with Sgt. Slaughter. I personally hope they avoid the Mean Ones if only because I like to see arrogance and stupidity punished. Just like the Meathead Alliance from South Pacific, basic math skills are needed. And when I say basic math, I mean math my six year old learned to do two years ago. Four out of 10 does not a majority make. And note to Eddie, you’re not even the best looking dude on your tribe. This red-blooded heterosexual man can safely say that title belongs to Reynold.

Oh, and Reynold, way to insult Allie’s looks in a confessional and then grope her ass the first night you sleep together in the shelter. It’s the first night! Way to class up the joint, guys. Although, if you’re going to snog someone, might as well do it before the halitosis and body odor kicks in. And comparing yourselves to the “cool kids lunch table” at school is a sure fire way to piss off the vast majority of the viewers, most of whom did not sit at the cool kids’ table. Seriously, these people are fans of the show?

I would include Sgt. Slaughter (Shamar) on the list of dumb fan moves based on his immediate arguing with Matt over whether or not shelter or fire should be stressed. Quick and easy answer…the both should be stressed. What do you have, an appointment or something later that day? You have plenty of time to build a shelter and try to make a fire. However, I can’t kill Sgt. for this as when they did spend the time on the fire…they made it. Good for them – that’s really hard to do.

First Challenge – No time wasting this season! The Favorites land and the most love from the Fans seems to go to Cochran, Dawn, Brandon and Philip. No one seems to react to Corinne and Brenda, while Malcolm is a total stranger to these people, as this season was filmed two weeks after the last one ended. Sgt, Slaugher seems to think the Faves are lunchmeat. Yum, I’ll have a Boehlke sub. Or a Meehan hoagie. Is a Brenda Lowe grinder a bit too raunchy for you guys?

Anyway, the challenge is to have groups of two from each tribe to wade out into shallow water and retrieve a large ring. Then they must bring it back to their team’s pole. The trick is, of course, to avoid the other team who will try to steal it or drag you to their pole.

Round 1 – Dawn/Erik vs. Sgt./Julia. Erik gives a hilarious “oh sh*t” moment upon getting a good look at the hulking Sgt. Wait, forget Slaughter… he’s Sgt. Hulka!!! The Fans easily take a 1-0 lead.

Round 2 – Brandon/Andrea vs. Eddie/Hope. The love story between the “best looking Survivors” begins in a rough manner. Eddie the fireman gets owned by Brandon the wacko. Eddie tosses the ring down the course and almost takes out Probst. Little Andrea manages to pull the beauty queen across to the pole, but Brandon manages to lug all of them to the goal. 1-1 tie.

Round 3 – Philip/Brenda vs. Sherri/Mike. The Specialist turns into the Foot Specialist, or the Podiatrist, if you will. He drags Mike though the water by his foot and dominates the challenge. 2-1 Faves.

Round 4 – Cochran/Francesca vs. Matt/Laura. Poor Cochran gets put opposite the woman. Already he’s getting emasculated. The four of them slow walk the course to the ring and Laura taunts Cochran, “You think you can handle me?” To which Cochran gives the awesome comeback, “You wouldn’t believe what I can handle.” HA!! Francesca smacks down the Bearded Man and Cochran gets down and dirty with the scrum as Francesca pulls them to the goal. Faves 3-1.

Round 5, FTW – Corinne/Malcolm vs. Reynold/Allie. The other pair of lovebirds battle to avoid the loss. Reynold and Malcolm sprint to the ring and then get into it. Hard. Malcolm loses his pants and women (and select men) around the world swoon. It is rough, but Malcolm slowly pulls the pile to the end and the 4-1 victory. Then gets slammed into the water by a jubilant Brandon. Maybe this is why Malcolm was so quiet afterwards.

Second Challenge – Unfortunately for Cochran the Tomato, there is a second challenge. The good news is he didn’t die. This challenge is a vertical one – five stories of ladders and crates on each level. Groups of two race to each successive level and toss the crates over the side to release sandbags. The final pair collect them, and for some reason, only one seems to toss them into six holes. The first to toss one into all six holes wins.

Level 1 – Cochran/Philip and Sherri/Laura head to the first level. No real surprises here – Cochran really couldn’t do much more with the giant sunburn feet.

Level 2 – Francesca/Corinne and Mike/Hope go to the second floor. No changes – sides are even.

Level 3 – Erik/Brenda and Matt/Julia clash. Erik flies up the ladders and gives the Faves a slight lead. We start getting the really cool camera angles from the top levels.

Level 4 – Brandon/Andrea and Eddie/Allie head up, and once again Brandon does a good job on the challenge. Andrea too. That’s two in a row for them.

Level 5 – Malcolm/Dawn and Shamar/Reynold. The Faves maintain the lead and Malcolm stakes them to an early 3-0 lead in bags. That’s before Reynold storms back and seemingly nails six shots in relatively quick fashion. He is an unexpected sand bag savant. The Fans win immunity and get the flint they lost in the first challenge. Malcolm, who no one has a relationship with, is in serious danger at this point.

Tribal Council – Except, no one really ever brings up Malcolm’s name. Curious. The Faves do a whirlwind of scrambling to figure out who is going out first. Phil’s name is tossed out there, as is Francesca’s. Then Corinne becomes an option – not sure if that’s due to her unexpected kind move in providing Cochran with a “delightful” cold homemade washcloth to soothe his burns. Philip is focused laser-like on Francesca, and apparently her extended family and hometown.

Francesca begins to overthink things and speculates that Philip and Malcolm’s easy-going attitude implies one has an idol. It appears she never considers the fact that they may be relaxed because they have the numbers. Brandon, of course, doesn’t trust Andrea. Probably because she’s a beautiful woman and … we know all about Brandon’s unease around the attractive ladies. So now Andrea is the target. This all seems to happen over a 15 minute span before Tribal Council.

At Tribal, Brandon thinks they are all chiefs and thus no leader and much chaos. Philip admits to purposefully mispronouncing Francesca’s name the last time around as he says, “Francesca, Francesca, Francesca.” Incredibly, Beetlejuice didn’t show up, unlike on “Community.” Francesca suggests she just may be bad at Survivor, and Probst calls her on it. D’oh! She also admits to getting paranoid. They all admit to paranoia – and Cochran says that even at the last minute things could change, and recalls Boston Rob doing the “hand on the shoulder” to get Phil to vote for Kristina and flush her idol. Malcolm hilariously puts his hand on Cochran’s shoulder and probably causes much sunburn pain as a result.

We only see two votes, leading me to think it may be a 9-1 thing, but it is Francesca vs. Andrea and a somewhat split vote. Andrea hides behind her hands and thanks the tribe (specifically, I presume, Dawn and Cochran) for sparing her. And Francesca makes history. Two Survivor stints, and she has spent less than a week in the game. Ouch.

Treemail Top 10
• First words of the season go to the Bearded Man. Will Matt go far? Is that foreshadowing? Will see more shots of Hope in night vision, as she is instantly the best looking person ever shot in night vision. Seriously, how does one get that talent?
• Probst wonders as the Favorites arrive in the helicopters – will it be explosive once these personalities collide? Well, hopefully not while they are still in the helicopters!
• Watch out Fans! That gator is sneaking up on you! And speaking of animals, how awesome was that monkey/bear thing chomping on the grasshopper?
• More “Lost” fun…anyone notice them arriving on a boat called “Vincent”? It surely was “Not Penny’s Boat.”
• Cochran’s sunburn was hilarious because it was not me. That looked painful. He was so swollen he looked like he was turning into the Red Hulk.
• Sgt. Hulka called for Mike to break Philip and Brenda’s wrists. Probst wondered about that one, but he meant it in the figurative-batting-swing sense, not the broken-bones-get-kicked-off-Survivor sense. One thing about him – that man can stretch. Yowsa!
• You knew Phil had to have the underpants, which seem saggier this season, and Cochran had to have the sweater vest. Are those items of clothing the most iconic in show history at this point? Maybe Boston Rob’s Patriots (S4) and Red Sox hats (the other three times) are first. Jerri’s hat? Rupert’s tie dye shirt. Russell’s hat. Penner’s hat. Lots of hats.
• Was there anything more awkward than Francesca and Philip’s first on-screen interaction since Redemption Island’s first Tribal Council? Perhaps Probst can produce the rock that Francesca said she would eat if she got voted out first again.
• Point for Philip – calling Corinne “The Dominatrix” might be the greatest use of nickname in the history of the show. Andrea The Eliminator is a good one too – but man, I’m jealous of that nickname creation.
• Anyone notice that we got lots of action on Day 1, culminating in the Allie groping, and then cut to Cochran’s sunburn and the rest of the action on Day 3. Did nothing happen on Day 2?

Votes – Francesca 6 (Cochran, Dawn, Malcolm, Philip, Corinne, Andrea), Andrea 4 (Brandon, Erik, Brenda, Francesca).

Next week – Brandon goes crazy already. Surprised it took this long.

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Survivor: Caramoan – Preview – Fans vs. Favorites Part Two. Electric Boogaloo.

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.

Season 26 is kicking off this week, and we are continuing the recent trend of returning players. And why not? It works. As you know, this is the eighth season to incorporate returning players. All-Stars and HvV were all returning players, so of course the Finals had all returners. And both seasons were very entertaining for varying reasons – ie, Rob and Amber and Really Dumb Heroes. In Guatemala, Steph’s evil twin strong armed her way through many alliances to the end. In Redemption Island, Boston Rob played the most perfect game of Survivor ever. In South Pacific, Coach 3.0 almost pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the show’s history as he put much distance between himself and buffoonish Coach 1.0. Last season, Skupin slipped into the Finals in one of the most unlikely paths to the jury as we have ever seen.

And back in Season 16 we had Fans vs. Favorites. Ten superfans (although many proved to be dumb superfans) against 10 returning favorites. Not all-stars, but favorites. Although, if you recall that original 10 Favorite list, there were no winners, but it had tons of Survivors who made it very deep into their original seasons. Cirie (4th), Amanda (3rd), Parvati (6th), Ami (6th), and Eliza (4th) for the ladies. And, Yau-Man (4th), Fairplay (3rd), Ozzy (2nd), James (7th) and Jonathan (7th) for the guys. There were favorites with a lot of game. Ozzy, Cirie, Amanda, Yau-Man and Fairplay all had legit chances to win their seasons if they got better breaks at the end, or played a jury a bit better. Eliza was one of the greatest scramblers ever. James and Penner were there for personality, and Ami had a dominant alliance she controlled before she got blind to the threat from within. That was a solid, if not spectacular group.

And you know what? That season rocked. It started off in grand fashion with Yau-Man slamming Fairplay headfirst into a canoe. We had Fairplay essentially mailing it in and quitting after a couple of days. We had the Odd Couple battling of Joel and Chet. We had the pairing up of Favorites into couples – with Ozzy and Amanda making out at one point. We had Ozzy trying to do more than physical dominance as he tried to lead an alliance. We had injuries galore – with Penner going out in one of the more brutal challenges ever. We had Kathy virtually having a mental breakdown, and James getting one of the lamest Survivor injuries ever.

And boy, did we have blindsides. Eliza thought she was getting an immunity idol from Jason, only to discover he had been fooled by the worst attempt at a fake idol ever. “It’s a effing stick!!” is going down in Survivor quote lore. We had the women banding together to upset Ozzy’s apple cart and give perhaps the best blindside ever. We had Jason quitting on an immunity challenge to score points with the tribe, only to have the tribe vote him out. We had Amanda find an idol when she needed it most and do her best acting ever to use it properly. And we had Erik give up his Final Five immunity necklace in what still ranks as the dumbest move ever. The Black Widow alliance powered to the end and conspiracy theorists still question the fact that there was a Final Two, and thus preventing Cirie a chance to play for the win. It is considered a Top Three Survivor season of all-time.

A lot to live up to for the new crop. And speaking of the new crop…this ain’t exactly the most stellar collection of returning players ever assembled. It’s not that it isn’t populated with past jury members – it mostly is. Only one Finalist, and amazingly, one who lasted only three days the first time around. It is that unlike that first crew, this group failed to really show a lot of skill the first time around. Some did, but most were case studies on what not to do on Survivor. Some were certifiable mental cases. And yet, I will be selecting at least two of them to make the finals, because that’s what returning players do. If this group pulls that off, you know that it is a mega-advantage to have played this once before, assuming the current evidence of that does not already indicate this phenomenon.

So, without further ado, our new (and old) crop of Survivors. As always, the bio info is courtesy of the CBS Survivor website and the Dalton Ross gallery on Entertainment Weekly website.

Survivor: Philippines –Reunion – The Kissing Bandit

Denise has won, she celebrates with her husband and daughter and the group settles into their ranked seating. However, it must be stated that before the votes are read, Probst leads the cast, crew and audience in a moment of silence for the Newtown children and teachers murdered last week. One moment just doesn’t feel like enough respect – but that was a nice gesture by the show.

Denise is given just a cursory bit of attention from Probst – probably because she isn’t a dude or a 25-year-old hottie. She talks about having to constantly scramble as she bounced to three tribes and faced Tribal Council each time. Her toughest move to make was her betrayal of Malcolm – and betrayal is somewhat harsh, as he was moving to betray her at the same time. Probst asks her about her clients – a fair question, as the therapist-client relationship is pretty intimate. Especially a sex therapist. But she said that it has done wonders for her relationships – including frank talks on body image, religion and other deep feelings. And that’s all the attention our Sole Survivor gets in the reunion until she is handed a check at the end.

Why? Well, we surely needed to have Lisa Whelchel preach about herself, her religion, books she read and quote the friggin’ Facts of Life theme. I remember all of the past third place finishers getting such attention in the reunions – remember when Albert went on and on about philosophy? Or we learned just what Mick thought about religion? Or how Sugar planned on bringing about world peace? Or Becky’s thoughts on the designated hitter? Sigh.

Penner isn’t even given much to say or do. He talks about his inaction which led to his ouster and how he didn’t realize the end game was upon them. At the Final 7, he didn’t realize the end game was there. Maybe I overestimated Penner’s Survivor skills. He also jokes that he thought he and Jeff Kent were good to go early on – he shook his hand with five fingers twice. Heh. Kent explained that he was using Penner to deflect attention from him, and that the big problem was really Denise refused to go along with their plans. Her loyalties to Malcolm trumped her Kalabaw loyalties.
After Lisa/Blair jokes about Kent’s anti-Obama comments, and how the mil is really 600K, Kent doubles down by saying more now. How’s that Romney working out for you Jeff? Millionaires for billionaires – a great, winning political strategy. Whatever, he talks about competitiveness. Blah blah, I’m an athlete, blah blah, Barry Bonds sucks, blah blah I’m going back into obscurity unless I get voted into the Hall of Fame, which is doubtful because every baseball writer hates me.

Probst called Skupin “Mr. Magoo” which is hysterical. We see a montage of his accidents and speculate that if the fire incident hadn’t happened in Season 2, we may have seen more. He also gives Skupin the shattered mask from the early swim challenge – the one where Skupin dove in the water incorrectly and broke his own tribe’s mask in his face.

And then a huge section with Lisa. Religion. Blair Warner. A dubious remark about how her religion is about acceptance – which I am sure is news to the entire gay community. I’m officially done with Lisa, even if somehow Survivor fans thought she deserved the Player of the Season 100K. She wouldn’t have even made my Top 5 – Malcolm, Denise, Penner, Skupin, Abi.

Russell talks about how the rain was non-stop for three weeks, exactly as it was in Samoa. So, it’s HIS fault!! Dana mentions how she barely remembers her illness – she was foggy and delusional. Malcolm’s section includes him admitting that he knew once he saw it was the Micronesia balance challenge that he was toast. He could have had 100 chances and still lost. He gives us an explanation on how swagger is what everyone needs to catch fish. I don’t know, it was getting late and I was getting really, really bored with this reunion.

Abinormal actually appeared to be, well, normal. She jokes that if you were watching the show you saw why she needed a learning experience. She was abrasive and passive aggressive and needs to calm down. Speaking of needing to calm down, RC…let it go. You lost. Pete turned Abi against you and how were not able to recover from it. That’s happened in every season of Survivor. Except this all happened months ago – time to move on. I loved your laugh, your serious skills in challenges and well, the leopard bikini, but you really, really, really need to reel it in.

Probst hysterically leads into an Angie question by commenting on her heart, but as he does he reflexively puffs out his chest. Awesome. Zane said his proverbial car ran out of gas – perhaps due to the nicotine withdrawal. Roxy is yelling very loudly for no reason. Katie gently gets on Probst’s case for his constant callouts to her about bad challenge play. And might I add, why do the Survivor women always have to wear such insane amounts of makeup during the reunions? Is the lighting that harsh? Do they have amateur makeup artists working these shows? These are good looking women who turn the corner the other way sometimes due to makeup. And while I’m at it – didn’t it look like Penner was wearing Joker-levels of makeup too? But I digress.

Artis said he is not the angry black man he saw on TV. We’ll have to take his word for it. Carter was supposedly bubbly and talkative in his interviews. Again, we’ll have to take their word for it. Dawson did something that….WHOA she just rushed Probst!! This time, Dawson plants one right on the lips, and boy, she is really incredibly quick. That was incredibly funny. Probst feels obligated to mention his wife, which is not necessary. We all know that Dawson’s kiss didn’t put a magical love potion spell on him. And one hopes Mrs. Probst is not that insecure in her marriage that she found Dawson’s actions remotely threatening.

Next season will be called Survivor: Caramoan. It is also in the Philippines, but like many past repeat locations, it needed a new name. It is also going to be a Fans vs. Favorites season, a la Season 16. The 10 favorites’ names have leaked and I’ll mention them after the jump. If you don’t want to see them, we shall bid adieu now until February.

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And now for the spoiler…

Survivor: Philippines Finale – 25 Seasons, And A 24th Winner Is Named

Before I start – my mind has been just as distracted as everyone else’s in the last few days, and it has rendered my appreciation of reality TV muted. As the father of a six-year-old, my heart breaks every time I read a story or imagine the horrors felt by those beautiful children and their caregivers in their final moments, the lifelong wounds left on the minds of the boys and girls who walked away, and the untreatable tearing of the souls of the parents who have to come home to a room full of toys and no child. The whole nation hurts and it feels almost impossible to not hurt. As a dye in the wool Democrat, I couldn’t even watch my President deliver a beautiful speech last night because I knew I would be a bawling mess. I was stunned to see online the pathetic comments by some who wondered where their football was, or where Survivor was. Talk about priorities.

This is where my mind is and probably will be for a while. I can’t fathom the loss felt in Connecticut, only that I know if I was in their shoes, I would be ruined. But I am not. And you are not. And we need things like football games. We need things like Survivor to steer our minds away from evil acts and devastating loss and focus on who has won a million dollars by enduring 39 days on an island. We need to be distracted, because if we focus too much on those terrible moments in that school, well, it sure ain’t healthy. So, that said, I enjoyed three hours of Survivor last night and will now regale you with my pithy comments, sage insights and award-winning wit.**

**Never won an award

One thing is for sure after this finale…I was very wrong about the potential of a Final Two, but I was very right about a couple of other things. I thought up until that Reward Challenge that there would be a surprise twist Final Three. I really did. But once I saw a reward coming, I knew that the show had messed with the formula and would be spending two hours on one elimination and the jury vote. The rest was really just filler. To offset that, the Reward was going to not be food, or comfort, or the long-forgotten Car Curse Challenge (remember those?). It was an advantage in the final Elimination Challenge. I did not like that.

Personally, I am a purist with two challenges. The first post-merge challenge and the final challenge. To me, they should both be basic endurance challenges. I would prefer a classic Borneo hand-on-pole, or All-Stars hand-on-rock, or Palau balance on a buoy. I can live with the Tocantins ball challenge, or the Micronesia ball balance. This is good, because the Final Four here got to do the very challenge that ended Cirie’s chances for her likely win and earned Parvati the prize. However, thanks to his Reward win, Malcolm was going to have an advantage going into this challenge.

As it turns out, Malcolm suffers from shaky hands and really had no shot of winning this balance challenge. But that can’t be guaranteed. Someone, one day, is going to succeed thanks to the advantage if they keep this up, and I still think that this final ticket to the Finals should be a simple “how much do you want it” challenge. Not a “how much do you want it, but boy, it was lucky you won a different challenge” challenge.

So between this useless Reward, a seemingly-endless March of the Dead Survivors and a lot of camp filler, this episode dragged on and on and on – just as I suspected it would. Until the Jury vote, as this jury got its say. If you watched the Ponderosa videos, you knew this lot was going to be trouble. Usually Ponderosa is kind of fun for the jury – remember Coach/JT/Courtney starting a band? This group kind of just brooded. You knew it was going to be bitter, and everyone but Blair and Scoopin’ knew that they were not going to be well-liked.

You and I saw Blair and Scoopin’ huddling and doing strategizing and playing the game, but those scenes were not seen by the other Survivors. What did they see? Blair was crying every other minute and Scoopin’ wrecking his body every which way. How could they be considered a player like Boston Rob or Kim who manipulated events? Even if they really did in a lot of ways. Meanwhile, as every jury member saw coming, and which I (and many of you) correctly predicted, the third member of the Finals was going to win the money. Either Malcolm or Denise would win this game.

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 13 – Cookies and Flippers and the Final Four

So, this Wednesday’s final episode before Sunday’s finale was typical of these last regular episodes – pretty non-eventful and kind of boring. You can tell that they had less to work with by the inclusion of the full opening credits. I mean, we all knew who was on the outs, so that elimination was not surprising. What was surprising is that the Final Four never really seemed to entertain the possibility of mixing things up with that fifth vote just sitting there.

Spoiler alert – Abinormal is gone. Sent off to Ponderosa for her Trial By RC. The bigger story is – why is Abinormal gone? With two factions of two surviving with her, she becomes that all-too-important third vote. For Scoopin’ and Blair, that third vote could have been the ticket to a million bucks. With Abinormal, they could have voted out Denise this week and held the hammer over Malcolm in the next vote. It seems super simple – keep the wacko, take out the popular, skilled players and battle for the big prize.

But, looking behind the numbers, maybe it wasn’t so simple. Turning on Denise/Malcolm in this vote, following Malcolm’s immunity win, means keeping your plans really, really quiet. They had to be incredibly confident that the former Matsing duo would get no whiff of the plans, because if they did, Malcolm could easily slip that hidden idol over to Denise for the vote. There was really no indication that they brought this into their thinking – but I would be stunned if it wasn’t part of the decision making. Plus, if they backed out on their deal, it would put Malcolm and Denise on the jury and their votes in serious jeopardy. There would be quite the dilemma on the jury between voting for Abinormal or one of the folks who literally betrayed everyone on the jury.

What we did see though was Malcolm looking at his end game – he sees the mistake of sitting next to Denise at the end. So, on the reward he cuts a deal with Scoopin’ and Blair to become the Final 3. Smart move from him. Unless…

…my theory about the Finals is correct. One thing has to give – either it is a Final Two, or the formula for the Finals has to change. Normally, for a Final Three, we have two hours – Final Five challenge, Tribal, March of the Dead Survivors, Final Four challenge, Tribal, free breakfast, Final Tribal. As we head into the two-hour finale – we have four left and if the formula holds, that leaves us with a Final Two. If the formula doesn’t hold – then we have a lot of time to fill. It means we either get a final Reward challenge or something is going down that requires attention. Or we will have a very boring finale.

If the Final Two happens it will be a surprise to the Survivors, and would be the absolute best thing for Scoopin’ and Blair. Right now, I think the only way either one wins – barring an error, or a Todd-like Final Tribal performance – is if they are the only choices. Based on what we have seen all season long, the Tandang tribe does not very much care for Scoopin’ very much. Couple this with Kent’s obsession with not having a returning player win, which leaves Penner and RC as his only likely votes. Maybe Carter. Blair has begun to play for the jury – as seen with her response to Denise’s comments about the greatness of Tandang – and may emerge as a threat. The question is – how many of them will respect her game? Will the former Tandang see her as worthy – or will they see her as the reason they are sitting in Ponderosa?

However, it seems as if I am just shouting in the dark here. Probst has seemed to imply publicly that it is a Final Three, and in Ponderosa, they said the last jury member will be coming soon. I get that – but Survivor is always full of surprises and my theory makes sense. If wrong, I am very curious to see how they fill the time on Sunday.

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 12 – We Are Family!

Before I get into the Family Visit episode, I want to point something out. Something rather curious. This Sunday is going to be the finale of the Amazing Race. I am sure you are thinking – well, that’s true, but what does that have to do with Survivor. Well, let me tell you. Traditionally, CBS ends the Amazing Race on one Sunday night, and then does the special Survivor finale the following Sunday. There is usually one more Survivor episode during the week in between. With the latest vote-off, we are now at the Final Five. That means Wednesday’s episode will make it a Final Four, with that cast off becoming the eighth member of the jury.

There has been an eight-person jury only one time on Survivor – Fans vs. Favorites. Also, the traditional Finale has always been structured with two Tribal Councils, leading up to the final Tribal. With a Final Four, that means the plotting structure would indicate a Final Two this season – the first one since JT shut out Stephen. If not, then we will have a LOT of time to cover in the finale with no second Tribal Council. Get ready for a very long March of the Dead Survivors.

Let’s talk about the possibility of a Final Two instead of a Final Three, because it presents the possibility of something very intriguing. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Abinormal’s time comes to end with the next vote. That would put the alliance of Scoopin/Blair/Denise/Malcolm into the F4. That would mean they would have to turn on each other at that point. However, with a Final Three is becomes easy to do – one wins immunity, one from each pair is given votes and tie at 2-2 and compete in the fire challenge to move on. But with another tribal at F3, is there a fire challenge? There was in Exile island, but there wasn’t in Marquesas. Is the more recent Exile Island rule the current rule? Not sure. But if it wasn’t, would this group draw rocks? Or would one of the pairs crumble?

Another interesting scenario is what happens with this next vote. Abinormal could play her cards correctly – and judging by the previews, she may – and sell herself to one of the pairs as the solution to that 2-2 problem. She’s their third, majority vote if they want it. For Scoopin’ and Blair, this may be their last chance to win Survivor. I stand by my belief that if Denise and/or Malcolm manage to make their way to the end – they will win this thing. Only in a full Tandang finals could either the returning player or the child star win this game. I am skeptical that they will have the balls to pull this off, or if Abinormal will have the skills to sell it.

Although, following her brother’s visit, Blair may be willing to go back on her word once it is given. Justice Whelchel is not a soap character, nor someone serving on the bench. He is the much younger little brother of the former Blair Warner. If not mistaken, he wasn’t even alive while Blair Warner was alive on our TV screens. But he does provide some much needed boost to his sister, who is slowly turning into one of those Survivors with a mush brain by season’s end. In fact, I would say that if we had to endure Brandon Hantz, perhaps payback should be casting Justice Whelchel in the future.
Perhaps pair him with Michael Skupin. Junior. In what was one of the better family visit episodes, the sheer glee of the Scoopins meeting up was infectious. Dad freaked out and demanded his boy – well, his oldest kid, who is a grown ass man (tm Season 9 Rory) – let his dad see him. He called the younger Scoopin’ the “best human being he knows.” I am going to formally submit my petition to the gods and fates that one day I get to say that about my boy. So far, so good.

Meanwhile, the Whelchels met up and Blair totally lost it. She devolved into a medley of Carrie Matheson cry faces that made Claire Danes call her up and tell her to tone it down a bit. In fact, there wasn’t much of the blubbering that usually comes with this episode – she did it for everyone. What it did have was a strangely intense sprint for the family members as they appeared on camera, almost as if they were being chased by a large cat.

Other family observations…Carter’s mom looks about as young as Carter and is hobbit-sized. Denise’s husband is about a foot taller than her and looks like every dad in the PTA meeting. Abinormal’s mom speaks no English and must think this is the strangest thing in the whole world. And Malcolm’s brother, Miles, is, well, he’s a character. Please don’t cast him, Mark Burnett. He just looks and acts like he would make me long for Johnny Fairplay. The boys in the family not only share the “M” initial, but they also share the Troy Polamalu hair. While Malcolm seems to have inherited the good looking genes, Miles has gotten the goofy behavior genes.

Maybe it’s the hair, but the M&M boys win the challenge and Malcolm wins a visit at camp with his brother. Eschewing the usual screw-ups with doling out additional reward winners, Malcolm does it correctly. He and Denise are cool. They each know that. The correct move is to reward his two new allies – and that’s what he did. Way to go. I love it when players make the correct moves.

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.