One of the best episodes ever: Survivor Philippines Episode 8

7 Nov

Watching this episode was such a great feeling. It was akin to finding true love after a series of heartbreaks: Survivor fans who have persevered through several lousy seasons just got another taste of how good the show can be when it’s at its best.

Boy did this one deliver. It was the best show at least since the Heroes vs. Villains season (#20, and we’re on #24 now). But let’s get right to the action.

We begin with Penner coming to grips with the fact that he’d have been voted out if he hadn’t played his idol. Even a seasoned veteran such as he takes a little bit of offense, and since he has no allies left, he declares to the camera, “Everybody’s equal. They are all ready to die.” At least his fellow vet Skupin consoles him by saying there are cracks in the game’s alliances that can be exploited.

Meanwhile we find out that Lisa no longer sees herself as allied with Pete, Abi, and Artis, something that was not made clear previously. Speaking of Abi, as she strategizes with Pete we see that she gets just as bitchy with him as she was with RC back when they were allies. Pete astutely observes to the camera, “If she’s in the final three she’s not getting any votes.” Malcolm sees the game as a “good-versus-evil dynamic” (Abi and her two guy pals being the evil). I was tempted to move Artis onto my no-chance list, except for one thing: what if he’s in a final three with Pete and Abi?

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that Penner will be the next to be voted out (including Skupin who’s just glad it isn’t him). And Penner mentions that he has never won an individual immunity… but he wins this one! It’s a fist-pumping moment (though the challenge itself was generic), and everyone else has a pained expression because they know they’ll have to find an alternative when they get back to camp.

I think the main reason this season is going so well is that there are not a bunch of coattail-riders who aren’t really playing the game (last season this applied to at least three out of the final ten, arguably more). In fact other than possibly Artis, every single player is playing, playing hard, and for the most part playing well!

That certainly includes Lisa. When everyone returns to camp, the instant consensus is that Skupin should be the one to go. In fact, everyone’s so comfortable with that choice that Lisa sees this as the perfect opportunity to blindside a presumably complacent Malcolm, so she reveals to Pete that Malcolm has the idol (which she discovered while hanging up wet clothes, remember?) and suggests the blindside plan. Here’s where Pete messes up: he asks Malcolm point-blank if he has the idol, which Malcolm smoothly denies, but then Pete tells him that Lisa is his source, and worse, that she suggested a plan to vote Malcolm out! Big mistake, though it’s comical to watch Malcolm’s eye bulge as he hears the news. Malcolm promptly freaks out and asks who else thinks he has the idol, and Peter sees this paranoia as proof positive…. that Malcolm doesn‘t have it (???), and therefore suggests voting out Jeff.

Then Pete denies to Lisa that he told Malcolm he found out from her. Lisa obviously has the sixth sense that all mothers have about BS, and she isn’t buying it.

Now, all of the preceding made for entertaining fare and an above-average episode at worst… but in the last 16 minutes things are kicked up another notch: as some players discuss the plan to vote out Jeff, someone warns Malcolm “watch out, Jeff’s behind you,” and he is… about two feet behind him! Jeff’s suspicious and asks what’s going on, and after some confusing exchanges there’s a realization they could have six people vote for Pete: Malcolm, Denise, Jeff, Skupin, Penner, and Carter. The plan is quickly communicated, but there are so many different plans, which will end up happening? Malcolm unearths his idol just in case.

At tribal council, we begin with the customary entrance of the jury, of which there’s only one member so far, namely R.C. This tradition is usually fairly uneventful, but not so when everyone sees the dress R.C. has been poured into (R.C. cleans up well, to say the least). Abi glares at her, Penner has an ear-to-ear grin, Skupin has a skeptical look and Pete offers an approving “right on.”

Well, in no time Malcolm has called out Lisa for “throwing him under the bus,” which she cops to. Then he pulls out the idol for all to see and says “this thing’s getting played.” After that drama, Jeff Probst half-jokingly asks if anyone else has an idol they want to show, and loose cannon Abi actually whips hers out! There’s more entertaining back and forth, and as Jeff Kent points out near the end of it, there are lots of people potentially in trouble: Jeff himself (according to Pete’s plan), Skupin (the original plan), Pete (by his own admission), Abi (since she announced the idol), Lisa (for her move against Malcolm) and Malcolm (because of his idol).

Everyone casts his or her vote, and when Probst asks if anyone wants to play an idol, neither Malcolm (despite what he just said) or Abi steps forward (I thought for a minute she might give hers to Pete, but i guess she’s not the type). Probst reads the votes: one for Abi, four for Pete, and five for Jeff Kent. Jeff Kent is voted out!

This is actually pretty delicious, because as noted last week, Jeff’s overriding and irrational obsession was to get Penner out at all costs, and last episode he made a stupid move (all in the name of ousting Penner) that considerably weakened Jeff’s own position. Now what do you know, this came back to bite Jeff and he’s voted out, and Penner is still there! In Jeff’s parting words, he mentions that he made $60 million playing baseball but really wanted this million even though “It’s $600 grand by the time Obama takes it.” I would say Jeff Kent should run for office now, as I like his position on taxes, but I’m sure his “Penner must not win Survivor, even though he’s never done anything to me” raison d’etre would handicap him.

As the players filed out, Probst’s last words were that this was one of the great missed opportunities in the history of Survivor. It wasn’t clear what he was talking about until the final votes were shown. What happened to the six votes for Pete that Jeff Kent thought he had? Well, Carter, Jeff, Malcolm, and Denise did vote for Pete, but Skupin voted for Jeff, and Penner voted for …. Abi??? If Penner had just voted for Pete it would have been a tie. Upon reflection I can understand Skupin’s thinking: his original yellow tribe likes him better than Jeff Kent does (here is yet another way Jeff’s “returning players must not win” credo came back to bite him). But Penner’s vote makes no sense. Why wouldn’t he vote Pete out after basically campaigning for this to happen during tribal council, and if he decided he’d rather have Pete around, why a vote against his ally Abi?

The last 15 minutes of this one were worth watching twice, and I may yet watch it a third time.

Memorable challenge: Penner wins immunity in an episode when he certainly would have been voted out otherwise.

Great tribal council: Two players reveal they have idols, among many other fireworks.

Contender rankings: 1. Denise, 2. Malcolm, 3. Carter, 4. Skupin, 5. Penner, 6. Artis

No-chance list: Abi-Maria, Lisa, Pete

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: R.C. (Skupin), Jeff (Carter)

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