Category Archives: Survivor

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 10 – Is Abinormal The Worst Survivor?

Friends, I apologize for the late posting, but I say blame it on CBS. Why, oh why, would you air a new episode the day before Thanksgiving and expect well-intentioned bloggers to be able to watch, take notes, write and post an entry while traveling to see family. I mean, it is almost inhuman!

Speaking of inhuman…let’s talk about Abinormal. I’m sorry – that’s pretty mean. But it is ok – she probably can’t notice it. This week’s episode was interesting in the way therapist’s notes and analysis are interesting – it was all a glimpse into the troubled mind of Abinormal. A world where everything you do and say is perfect and where your actions and words have no consequences. A world, which solely revolves around you and where all of the other people living within that world, should expect to cater to your needs and have no feelings of their own. Is it a cultural divide, as Probst suspects? I don’t think so. I think she is just a clueless narcissist. Is it only show behavior? Possible. Survivor can often bring out the worst qualities hidden in people and bring them to the forefront – hunger, pain, discomfort, loneliness and paranoia all make for a dangerous cocktail.

Abinormal imploded at Tribal. It was like watching the real life embodiment of the end of The Sixth Sense, or The Usual Suspects, where all of the events from the past two hours whoosh by and you realize what had been staring you in the face the whole time but you were too blind to see. As she was mocked by group after claiming that she just failed to be able to be gentile, and how her friends back home love her passion, the whole remaining seven all smiled and sighed. She AGAIN called out Blair for not being trustworthy and said she was fighting back tears about being misunderstood. Then it happened.

Probst asked Denise about taking someone like Abinormal to the end. Denise said in past seasons players would bring the dead weight and unlikable to the end. She was beginning to explain how this applies here when Abinormal incredulously fought back against being called unlikable. Probst was amazed and wondered how she didn’t see how the group really felt about her. It all seemed to rush into her – the realization.

What followed was a microcosm of Abinormal’s time on the show – Denise tried to explain what she meant – and Abinormal interrupted and claimed to never have such hatred focused at her. Denise tried to explain there was no hate, just frustration. And she got interrupted. Denise began to talk about how Abinormal came back from this week’s Reward and seemed to be rubbing their noses in it. And Abinormal interrupted her. It kept happening. Abinormal needs to be the center of attention and have the other people fall in line. This time, it didn’t happen and she didn’t know what to do.

Is she the worst player on Show history? Not worst as in villainous – she’s not even close there. I mean worst player. It is not fair to lump in the early boots – many never really had a chance to play. I mean of those who made the jury – but who was so bad at this game that it was sad to watch. Or awesome to watch. You pick. Abinormal was in the perfect situation – a dominant tribe and numbers at the merge. All she had to do was trust in her alliance and not be rude to people. And she couldn’t do either one.

I was racking my brain to thing of other examples. Borneo’s Sean had that cockamamie alphabet voting system – a system that actually managed to affect the outcome when his vote for Jenna forced her out, and allowed Hatch to remain. Colby was horrible in HvV and made a terrible F3 decision in Australia – but he did make that finals and physically dominated that season. Africa’s Frank had no social skills and made the F7. Marquesas Sean had the same shortcomings. Amazon Christy continually made the wrong choices. Pearl Islands’ Lill made the Finals despite continually breaking down at every chance she had. Palau Janu actually quit the game. Guatemala Judd was the most annoying Survivor ever, and Lydia was the first who really just lingered very deep into the game. Candice made terrible choices in TWO seasons. China Denise failed time and again to make a move to avoid the inevitable F4 exit. FvF Jason found a stick and thought it was an idol. His cohort Erik gave up F5 immunity. Coach was bad in his first go around, but Coach 3.0 redeemed him. Shambo was used badly by Russell in Samoa, while Brett quietly almost won the whole season. JT’s win seems to be all Stephen after he got played by Russell in HvV. Let’s not forget the performance art that was RI Philip, crusader Brandon in SP, and Tarzan in One World.

I think of all of them – I put Candice, Sean, Shambo, Judd and Denise ahead of Abinormal on my list of worst successfully players. I actually felt badly for PBP who had his boot episode dominated by her. It was rather anticlimactic for him as the staggered immunity challenge (top 5 make the first cut, then top 3) left him and Abinormal out in the first round and no drama as to who was going home. PBP and Abi tried to scramble up with a pretty good plan – take out Malcolm and in the process a good player and two idols (Abi plays hers, and Malcolm eats his). It is essentially the Hantz/Tyson strategy – but no one was as dumb as Tyson here. They had no capital to use to get the plan to work. No one wanted to hear it. Plus – should someone like Scoopin’ go for it, he would be on the outs in the next TC as Penner/Denise/Carter would be linked up and he would have to talk Blair into re-joining Abinormal. A very tough sell.

A couple of other things that came to mind this week – Blair saying she has a hard time with breakups. No kidding. No wonder Facts of Life went on for so long! Remember those horrible boutique episodes at the end? Plus, she just ended her marriage before the season began – so that claim had real double meaning.

Also, Penner. I love you man, but when someone comes to you with a F4 plan for when you are a F6, you say yes. Even if you don’t mean it. All of a sudden with this inexplicable strategy choice, Penner went from an real chance at making the end, to the likely F5 boot (Carter going sixth). If that holds, imagine at the first episodes of the season if you were told Blair and Scoopin’ would be the last Tandang, that Matsing would have two in the end, and Kalabaw would be no more. By the way, this F4 is bad for Scoopin’ – there is no matchup for him with those three where he wins the vote at the end. None.

Anyway, I’ll add that if I am ever on Survivor and I win a reward I will come back with a) a very short summary of the trip that uses few adjectives, and b) table scraps for those who didn’t go. With that, I will go right into the Treemail as I write in the dark while sharing a bed in a hotel room with my kid who is continually kicking me in the shin under the covers.

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.

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!

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 7 – All Bets Are Off

Well, that sucked. Well, let me explain, it was awesome, but it sucked. That doesn’t make much sense. It was awesome whirlwind Survivor gameplay, leading to a Tribal Council which was uncertain until the last moment. However, it sucks because I lost one player in a leopard print bikini who I love, and I am about to lose one of my favorite players next week…two weeks max.

That’s right, we are not going to have traditional Pagonging this season as not only have alliances shifted substantially but they very possibly have split into three or four factions. This is a good thing. What is a bad thing? The people seemingly in charge are not the people I want to be in charge.

That’s right – 25 seasons and we can still have craziness. We can still have an episode featuring pivotal laundry incidents, two guys moving their way from being atop an alliance of six to being at the bottom of an alliance of eight, and one guy walking around with a clue sticking out of his butt. We have the first tribe to ever face their first tribal council after the merge. We had the first jury member who was eliminated in her first trip to Tribal. We had wheeling. We had dealing. We had a tribe who lost that loving feeling. Heck, we even had a reference to the Church Lady!

We learned that sitcom stars from the early 80s are more recognizable than very successful baseball players. We learned that Denise is a bad ass – oh wait, we knew that. And we learned that it is very likely that the Survivor gods do not want Jonathan Penner to win Survivor. Call it the Curse of the Candice Mutiny.
So, that’s where we are. The tribes merged at 11 members, and boy, isn’t it clear that Kalabaw could really have needed The Tattooed Lady at what should have been a merge at 12. Instead, they merge down 7-4. What Kalabaw has on their side is the fact that RC and Skupin have been treated poorly and are ready to flip. I’ll never know why tribes on this show ever alienate people among their number, even if they hate them. So many times that has resulted in power shifts – Cochran, Shambo, etc. So, Kalabaw should have an easy go at forming a new alliance.

However, what we saw was anything but that. Sure, RC and Skupin were ready to go. However, we got to see Kent reviving his anti-returning player vibe. It seems the five-fingered handshake doesn’t have much of a bond. He was on an anti-Penner witch hunt. And he found some folks very open to his quest in PBP and his alliance. So, Kent and Carter chose to abandon their Kalabaw alliance and throw in with the Tandang power group. Boo!!!

Interesting though, the world of Twitter taught me something after the show aired. Penner tweeted that while Kent and Carter were getting the focus of the attention for flipping, it was the other Kalabaw member who was more at fault. That’s right – badass Denise is the reason we may be forced to have PBP and Abinormal all the way to the end. Denise chose to abandon her Kalabaw folks and link back up with her Matsing ally Malcolm. She didn’t set out to flip him to their side; instead she became absorbed into his Tandang alliance. Once Denise did that, the Kalabaw + RC/Skupin deal was dead. It made no sense for Skupin to flip. It is actually certainly possible that she gave them a heads up that the vote was going to go to Penner/RC split and Penner was able to burn his idol to gain three more days to figure something out.
This means that there are three current factions allied, and two wild cards.

PBP/Abinormal/Artis are the core Tandang alliance. Kent/Carter form the duo from Kalabaw. Skupin and Penner are kind of on their own, with Skupin sticking with the cool kids to save his own skin for a while. Meanwhile, the reformed Matsing alliance of Malcolm/Denise added an interesting ally – Blair. After the merge, Blair decided to do laundry for the new merged tribe. However, she didn’t realize that Malcolm, in his haste to recover his HII in the 10 minutes allotted before leaving the Tandang camp, had the idol stuffed in his clothes. Whoopsie! Now, all of a sudden, Malcolm had to bring Blair in to a Final Three alliance. Her allegiance will be interesting at the PBP trio believes that Blair is their fourth.

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 6 – Let’s Make A Deal!

Every once in a while I get to say this, and I am always surprised when it happens. Perhaps I should stop being surprised. But, we are in Season 25 of Survivor and something happened which never happened before. And frankly, I love it. This really just proves that the Survivor formula simply works. By putting 16-20 people together in this format, with crazy challenges, you put them in situations where something unexpected is bound to happen. In this case, we got some good old fashioned wheeling and dealing between the tribes.

The Reward Challenge (welcome back to the game RCs) was a classic Survivor theme. Pit contestants against one another in a challenge where the main object is to wrestle and slam each other to the ground. The task itself is a bit of a MacGuffin. The purpose is to have some violence, arguments, and potentially some removed bathing suits. In this one, three members had to move a Large Wicker Ball across a very, very muddy field to a goal. The first tribe to three wins a reward of dryness, sandwiches, soups, chips and brownies. And as we learn later, letters from home, but teams do not know that. Tandang sits out Artis and RC. So in theory, Abinormal actually gets to play. However…

…that was not meant to be. The first matchup pitted Blair/PBP/Skupin against Penner/Carter/Denise. To sum it up – Carter and PBP kept body slamming each other. Mostly PBP body slamming Carter. Blair grabbed a hold of Denise and wouldn’t let go, no matter how much the therapist writhed. Penner and Skupin focused on the Large Wicker Ball before getting into it themselves. To prevent Skupin from moving the ball, Penner got awfully close to, well, his Skupins, as he reached underneath the Outback veteran to grab some wicker and give some wedgies. In return, Skupin chose to sit down. So, to recap. PBP and Carter wrestled, Blair and Denise wrestled, Penner had Skupin’s crotch, and Skupin was sitting on Penner’s face.
Best line? Skupin – “This is like heaven.” Penner – “Yeah, it’s like something.” HA!!

And then, they sat. Frozen. For an hour. No movement. Essentially, they beat each other up to the point that their exhausted bodies were spent. The lack of any traction whatsoever thanks to the mud made it impossible to move the LWB anywhere. This was an impasse. The only way to move the ball at this point would be for one team to give up. And that’s where Penner and Skupin went to work. Penner suggested a deal where Kalabaw would win the reward. What would it take?

Earlier, we got a glimpse of Tandang camp life where Skupin is oblivious to the anger surrounding him from The Most Obnoxious Alliance on Earth. PBP, Artis and Abinormal are bitching about Skupin, because that’s what they do. At least, in this case, they have a point. Skupin keeps eating the raw rice, claiming that it will cook in your body. And, um, I’m no chef, but I don’t think your stomach works the way he thinks it does. So, their rice supply is running very low.

So, presented with a swap option, Skupin suggests the challenge for the remainder of Kalabaw’s rice. And the tribes began to debate it. Tandang looked to Artis for thoughts since it appears they wanted to win the challenge to give him a birthday celebration. He didn’t want to give up. Big words from the guy sitting out the challenge. Did he not see the impasse before them? Probst tells the tribes that for the deal to take place, the tribes must all agree. That means Artis, PBP, Carter and all of the others who later complained said yes. If they thought the deal stunk for them – they should have said no. They only have themselves to blame.

As for me, my knee jerk reaction was that this was a terrible deal for Kalabaw. They get the big feast, but give up all food reserves in the process. It seemed like a huge gamble. Penner especially took on immense risk by not only proposing the deal, but by selling it with a claim to be able to catch fish. Should he fail – and he basically did – that is huge reason to vote him out. They also are gambling that they can bridge the gap to the looming merge with fish, foraging, and the feast.

That’s a big risk for a tribe already down in numbers to potentially compete on very empty stomachs. What we didn’t know until later is that Kalabaw’s rice supply was quite low as well. They had barely enough to get through the next cycle of days to the potential merge. Tandang also risked the Curse of the Blown Challenge which has burned so many tribes in the past. So, the bottom line – it was a good deal. Both sides took risks, both sides earned gains.

However, Carter sure complained a lot, albeit verrrrrry, verrrrry slooooooowwwlllllyyyyy. Man, this guy takes a week to finish a sentence. Also complaining? All of Tandang’s Evil Alliance. Not sure what Blair is doing with that trio – they are insufferable, and she’s pretty interesting. Malcolm tried to “put a positive spin on it” and was literally taken aback by the hissing and venom from the tribe. Not literal venom, but he visibly moved his body backward after speaking as if to avoid the bad energy from this group.

Penner failed to spear a wayward sting ray and then set out to fish in deeper water. He got nothing but a couple of tiny bites. That meant the tribe would head to the challenge, presumably rather hungry.

Immunity Challenge – Another classic Survivor challenge. One member launches a ball with a giant slingshot, while the others try to catch them in the net. It doesn’t matter which color ball you catch, it is a point. The four pairs of outfielders start off by grasping a pole (shut up) together and can only move once the ball is in the air. The first team to five points wins. Of course, Abinormal sits out for Tandang, along with Skupin. Blair and Denise are the launchers. The paired off catchers are – Artis/Penner, Malcolm/Carter, Kent/PBP, and RC/Katie. In a nutshell, Artis and Katie are useless. Neither do anything at all – Katie is only mentioned when she forgot to “put her hand on the pole.” Heh. (Shut up – let me have this). Carter is only mentioned because once again PBP is wiping the floor with him – not literally this time. Penner lands the first one before PBP and RC simultaneously catch the next two points. Kent intercepts PBP for the tie. Kent spent a career getting under pop ups in the infield – albeit not often fighting with a younger, fitter man to catch said pop ups – so one would expect he’d be the star of the challenge. After Kent catches the third and fourth point for Kalabaw, it appears he will be the star, as the tribe now lead 4-2. At this point, Skupin calls in some advice – Blair just should keep shooting it over to Malcolm. Why was this not the original strategy?

Of course, Malcolm makes short work of Carter on two in a row, meanwhile Kent dropped the potential game winning catch. With the score tied and the next point deciding the winner, Kalabaw switches Kent over to defend Malcolm and even that battle up. However, Kent flails and misses, while Malcolm scoops up the fifth and deciding point. Boom. Look how much has changed thanks to the 50-50 chance of the buff pull between Malcolm and Denise. Tandang got a challenge monster, and Kalabaw got a jinx. I love Denise, but she will now be attending every single Tribal Council possible. And if she goes deep post-merge, she could be a part of every one for the season.

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 5 – So Long, Farewell. Auf Wiedersehen. Good Night.

To Matsing, that is.

One thing you can’t say about this episode…is that nothing happened. Boy, we had a LOT of developments for the season as a whole. The balance of power shifted in dramatic ways this week and we now have a clear picture of what to expect down the stretch – barring any unforeseen power moves. And for fans of Penner, like me, it does not bode well.
The crux of the episode is twofold – first was the mercy killing of Matsing, and second was the double whammy inflicted upon Kalabaw. We are now faced with a 7-5 Tandang lead and a merge likely on the horizon. The Pagonging of Kalabaw is now a distinct possibility unless something gets done – specifically a delayed merge and a Kalabaw win in the next immunity challenge. So, get ready America…PBP, Abinormal, TV’s Blair and quiet man Artis are currently the power team in Survivor and could be your Final Four.

First, we have the last two Matsing members returning after booting Swan. Malcolm was hoping to be in a tiny tribe, but on Day 39, not Day 10. They speculate about what their fate will be – linger, get absorbed into one Tribe, or get split up. But before they go off on their merry way…time to find the idol. They scour the campsite, finally hitting on the rice pot as an option. They are one step away from breaking apart the grains looking for the idol when Malcolm pries off the panel and BOOM, he has an idol. He tosses the machete into the air, which I highly discourage others from doing.

It is a good thing they found it – or should I say, Malcolm found it, because Denise ain’t getting diddly at this point – as they arrive at the season’s first pure Reward Challenge to the news that Matsing is no more. They randomly pick out buffs and Malcolm joins Tandang, with Denise going to Kalabaw. Tandang is thrilled to land the fit young man – but let’s see how much they like it once he becomes a threat. Both Malcolm and Denise blend in extremely well into their new tribes – and instantly become second and third on my rooting list behind Penner. RC is a close fourth – even if she is arguably the most endangered of all of them.

On Tandang, everyone loves Malcolm. Abinormal and Pete start to bond with him. RC rubs her breasts on him. Blair starts getting cougary in talking about how nice and good looking he is. The dude is a sought after man. PBP confides in the new guy that he has the idol, which was an odd move. Pete already has the majority, why would he reveal his secrets to the guy he just met. Malcolm, however, wisely keeps his mouth shut about his own idol. While they seem paired up for now, I am hoping for a Pretty Boy Pete vs. Malcolm showdown post-merge.

Meanwhile, on Kalabaw, they are bummed to have lost out on Malcolm for his challenge ability, but they have not done poorly in adding Denise. She rocks physically – but granted, the two young guys on Tandang are formidable. Carter is not as big as they are, and the only other guys on Kalabaw are hobbly Kent and flabby Penner. Throw in bumbly but fit Skupin on the other side and the Kalabawians are now in a physical hole.

Speaking of physical holes, The Tattooed Lady is falling down one before our eyes. She is a mess. Basically, she’s got Colton Syndrome. She’s massively dehydrated, she’s burning up with fever and she’s puking more than 100 pound freshman at a fraternity party. She also has a knife-like pain in her abdomen. She is curled up in a ball in the shelter. Penner hysterically comments about how the conditions and weather suck, and he’s a big fat guy so he can take it. She is freezing and weighs 47 pounds. Boy, that number 47 sure has some connotations.– both in real life and in the world of Hollywood.

Anyway, Penner is a rock star in this sequence. He tells her to take off the wet clothes and get under the blanket – the tribe will keep her warm. She winds up curling herself onto Penner’s lap while Dawson comments about the state of her fever. It is bad, folks. Probst and the medical team come, although the noted absence of Dr. Ramona makes me treat Dr. Joe with a great bit of trepidation, especially after his jargon term of her “tummy being irritated.” Tummy. Whoa there – try English, Doctor Medical Books. Where is the ouchy again?

So, she is given a choice regarding her status. She is not in life-threatening danger like Swan was in Samoa, or Penner’s risk of infection in Micronesia, or Skupin’s shock from the burns. She is in a bad way though. She is given a chance to go back and give it about 12 hours to see if it goes away or gets a little better, but the pain is too great and she bows out. She apologizes to her tribe, but Penner instantly waves it off, they’re sorry for her and they love and respect her. Boy, this is why I love Penner. Great Survivor. And when did he become the Kalabaw leader, because he sure seems like it.

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.

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 3 – Skupin, Bleeding From The Face!

This really had little to do with the goings on in the episode – as the plot was squarely in Matsing yet again – but it may be one of my favorite Probstisms ever on the show. I mean – just take that out of context. How often in life could you exclaim that someone was bleeding from the face, and not have any responsibility to do anything to help that person? And seriously, is this going to be a thing this year? Skupin hurting himself? Was this season brought to you by the Irony Fairy? It makes you wonder if the fire incident was all that surprising after all!

But, it doesn’t matter much – at least for now – just how much Skupin bleeds from his face, because he was just a minor player in this rather disappointing episode. We had Miss Utah Angie and her Soon To Be Delicious Plate of Ponderosa Cookies. We had the budding Penner/Kent drama. And we had the implosion of the RC/Abi alliance. I think those are the important developments.

First, we head to Tandang and the worst Day 1 alliance in show history. RC and Abi got together at the start of the season and have since become frenemies. After this week, they are going to become enemies soon. Abi has turned out to be Single White Female crazy in some ways – I have to be honest, I watched the beach argument with RC twice and I have no friggin idea what they are arguing about. She’s a nutcase. RC walked away because, really, what can you do when someone is getting mean and vicious to you for no reason.

Then, in the middle of the crazy, Abi went and made a great strategic move. She gathered up Pretty Boy Pete and shared the idol clue with him. If RC was on the outs with Abi, she was going to go around her back to grab up the idol. She went all around the camp searching for it. Pretty Boy Pete – or PBP – asked if she stuck her hand in the rice to find it. Thanks for the help there, PBP; I’m sure they never thought of that one. And thanks for sticking your dirty hands in the rice, Abi. The best part was after she found it she went crazy and said she knew it was there. Well, why didn’t you START looking there? Was she trying to build the drama?

PBP was all for it, and really, why wouldn’t he be all for it. He made some weird comments about being on surveillance, which makes me wonder if he isn’t reporting to The Specialist on the side. However, PBP actually showed some game of his own – he found Blair and threw her a lifeline as part of a budding four-way alliance with him, Abi and Artis. Of course, she said yes because she was the next to go. If this foursome holds, Skupin and RC are all of a sudden in trouble, which is a shame because I dig RC. She was an all-star during the challenge. She dived down to get the puzzle pieces in three consecutive dives, and then later went back for more.

Meanwhile, on Kalabaw, if you were looking forward to hearing from Maria or Dawson – skip ahead and move on to the next section. They were not heard from. Carter (who?) was also barely heard from – he mentioned blindsiding Penner as part of a pow-wow, but that was about it. The Tattoo Lady didn’t speak either – just a few shots of her doing the diving challenge. So, it was essentially a two-man, two-act play between Penner and Kent. Penner starts off the play with one of the greatest first lines of any play ever written – “My ass hurts.” Thanks, Jonathan. While he opines about his painful butt, the tribe notices the missing part of the rice container. Penner plays dumb, but Kent instantly knows what happened. The idol has been found, and Penner has it. He chides himself for not realizing it, and that’s the brilliance of this hiding spot, it is just too easy. And we are left with the growing impression that Kent is actually more than stunt casting – he’s a player. And, he may actually be a villain.

After the tribe bangs out the challenge in workmanlike form, we actually head back to the tribe. I was wondering what was going on when we went to the challenge only 19 minutes into the episode – I suspected that lots of stuff at Matsing was about to go down, but I now realize it was two other reasons. First, it was the incredible lack of anything interesting on Day 6, and second, it was the Penner/Kent scene and the Abi Idol Search that provided the most interesting things on those tribes. Because we get a follow-up moment between the two last names. Penner realizes that Kent knows that he knows he knows. So he approaches him about working together. Kent agrees – why not keep the Idol Man close by, after all!

Except there was a catch to the deal after they shook hands and Penner went off on his merry way. It seems, Kent used the dreaded four-finger handshake. This is the long-lost cousin of the crossed fingers behind the back clause to any handshake agreement, so it seems. In the Book of Kent, only a firm manly handshake can seal a deal with the same permanence as the Unbreakable Vow. We will see how this plays out down the road, especially since the previews indicate a manly five finger handshake between the two next week.

Survivor: Philippines – Episode 2 – C Is For Cookie

Back for the second dip into the Philippines pool and all of a sudden I have an unexplained urge to have milk and cookies.

Actually, it may not be all that difficult to explain after all. A tad juvenile, and full of cheap boob humor. But not difficult to explain.

You have to appreciate an episode of family hour programming that is so focused on large breasts. At least I have to appreciate that. Because that’s what we had here. I’m going to forego being coy about the tribe that lost and go straight into it, because most of the action took place fully on Matsing sand. They lost the challenge and had to vote out a second member – and surprising to those who watched last week – it was not going to be Swan.

This was going to come down to the two younger women for two very different reasons, but at the heart of it, for essentially the same reason. Roxy was on the hot seat because of her mini-breakdown. Angie was on the hot seat because she has a hot seat. Well, a hot rack is more accurate, but not as poetic. Let’s review.

It seems that Malcolm is doing his best to prove the age old theory that even the smartest guys will turn into morons in the presence of breasts. Especially when they are mashed against you in snuggle form on cold nights. Angie and Malcolm have become snuggle partners – which can be potentially dangerous. Ask the All-Stars about how much a couple can dominate a season. Now, in all seriousness, EVERY season has cuddling for warmth. However, there is a snuggle/cuddle difference. Snuggle has extra meaning. And Malcolm/Angie has that. Check out the aggressive leg sweep from Angie, and the subtle finger caress from Malcolm. Seriously, dude, there are cameras on you at all times!

The amazing thing to me is that Angie was stunned to learn that this behavior put a target on her. Has she ever actually watched Survivor? Refreshing thing…Malcolm fully admitting that he is “blinded by the headlights,” as I steal Denise’s line. He knows he is screwing up, but he just can’t help himself.

Meanwhile, Roxy is having some issues with the game. As has happened often, the reality of Survivor is hitting her hard. The constant rain. The starvation. The heat. The cold at night. Lack of sleep. The one thing that seems to be a constant from the hundreds of people who have played Survivor over the years is that you can’t understand what it is like until you are out there. And then it just kicks your ass. Roxy is feeling that, and is breaking down. And, along with Blair in another camp, is helped along by the classy CBS Twitter hashtag – #survivorbreakdown.

Roxy is also speaking in Esperanto or some made up language she created while on acid in her dorm room. Her attempts to bring God into this season were not welcome – I still remember South Pacific, my friends. Not the musical, the Survivor season. It was worth it for Denise’s smackdown on all things religious in reality shows – and by extension, sports, music, and awards shows. “I don’t pray for anything, if I get to the end of the game, it’s me. You just dig in, dig deep and make it happen.” YEAH!!!! Thank you, Denise. You just scored a bunch of points in my book – now if only you don’t screw it up by voting badly…

Survivor: Philippines – Premiere – The Strangest Game of Chess. Ever.

Happy 25th Surivor!! Now you can rent a car. In all seriousness, we have embarked on the 25th season of Survivor – Quarter Quell (Hunger Games Spoiler Alert within) as I said in my preview. And the 90 minute episode was full of interesting moments. Expanded Survivor episodes (which lead to only one elimination) can tend to drag at times, and this one did a bit, but for the most part we got our money’s worth to open the season. It started like every other season with gorgeous shots of the islands, of animals, storms, Probst. And of 15 people sitting on a boat with various supplies. If they didn’t see both the addition of additional players and a water marooning, then they have never seen this show before. Only once before has Survivor had an odd number of players (Fiji), and that was due to a very last second quitting by a player before the cameras rolled.

The biggest takeaway I got from this episode – people are not as star struck with these returnees as they were with Rob, Coach and Ozzy. And only one of the returnees seems to have a good plan. However, instead of the returnees, we have a couple of potential stars brewing among the newbies.

Before Probst even joins up with the 15 people on a boat, we hear from six people in confessionals. Baseball player Jeff Kent knows all about pressure, and we get clips of his days with the SF Giants. Former child actress Lisa Whelchel wants to not be considered Blair, she wants to be Just Lisa. Which will coincidentally be the title of her new talk show. And tire repairman Zane had the first of several odd moments when he talked about his Frankenstein tattoo and said that he, like the monster, could pick flowers with you or strangle you. Um. Great. It’s a date.

The other three are from our returnees. Russell Swan said Survivor kicked him in the chops the first time, after he passed out from dehydration. Jonathan Penner can taste and see the victory – no word if he can hear it, feel it or smell it. Michael Skupin doesn’t see his fire accident as a failure, it is part of him now. Unlike his hand skin, which no longer is a part of him. By the way, he played this game so long ago that one of his tribemates was nine years old when that episode aired.

Probst starts to chat with the newbies and alludes to the hard core nature of the game and the past injuries before bringing in the three extra players. Roxy even recalls Swan’s accident, not realizing the irony that he will be soon joining her tribe. Probst hammers home the need to keep these guys around because they have something none of the others do – experience in the wild. Except for Malcolm – who apparently lived in Micronesia for a year teaching English to Micronesians. There will be HIIs in play, and hilariously as Probst points out how important they are, we cut right to Penner nodding his head. He knows this to be quite true.

The tribes have one minute to clear off the boat with all of the crap they can gather. Penner is in classic form already mouthing off to Probst, “Before what happens?” There is fruit, chickens and tons of supplies. I think the tribes better watch their chickens, we know Penner likes to steal them. The big event here is that Jeff Kent tumbles over the side, spilling the tribes supplies into the water, and as we later learn, injuring his knee in the process.
Probst did say the show was rough, Kent.

From there, we go tribe hopping leading up to the challenge. So let’s focus on each tribe one at a time.