Blunt Woman’s Bluff: Survivor Philippines Episode 11

28 Nov

The food auction has become a Survivor standby, and past seasons have proven that playing it correctly can be a key moment for winning the entire game (Danni in Guatemala), while misplaying it can even lead to your immediate ouster (John the rocket scientist in Samoa). One of the auction lots is always an unspecified advantage in the next immunity challenge, and the only way to be sure of getting that lot is to avoid bidding on any of the yummy food, and then bidding your entire budget on the “advantage” lot as fast as you can shout it out. (Admittedly, this is easier to do when you’ve had two enormous chili dogs right before watching the show, as I did, than for someone who has eaten mostly rice for a month.)

Only one savvy player made the right move this time, and that person was… Abi? No, it wasn’t Penner, who bid $100 on a food item. If not quite John-like in its stupidity, that was a mistake. Presumably Penner assumed there was no way Abi could win immunity later in the episode, advantage or not, given her abysmal performance in every previous challenge. The probabilities were on his side…  but you know, each time you get on a plane it probably won’t crash, yet every now and then one does. I was also somewhat surprised Skupin felt safe enough to bid on food. Meanwhile, Carter was unlucky enough to win a food item that came with the opportunity to trade it in return for more rice and beans for the whole tribe (the producers love these no-win situations). He wisely made the swap, eliminating any chance that he’d join Abi in the “people the tribe is irked at” list.

It turns out that what Abi won was the opportunity to jump right to the final round of the upcoming challenge. But she decides to tell Malcolm that her auction score was an additional immunity idol. Does Malcolm buy it? That’s not clear, but what is clear is that he has an amazing library of non-sequiturs to use when he doesn’t want to commit to any answer. Earlier in the season he simply said “sick.” In this situation, his comment was “fancy fancy.”

Then at tribal council when asked to read out the advantage written on her scroll, Abi goes for a great bluff by saying it’s a 2-parter and she’s only supposed to read out the first advantage, namely the power to jump ahead in the challenge. She then tears up the note, and Jeff Probst remains deadpan. It was a risk worth taking, since Probst is well-known to love anytime something happens that has never happened before, so it was fair to assume he would let this play out. And as paranoid as Survivor players get, maybe the idol part of the bluff will work!

The immunity challenge is one of the usual rope courses with lots of knot-untying, but an additional twist is that before each round the contestants are asked trivia questions about the Philippines and loaded up with more weight if they get them wrong. These geography quizzes were much more common in the early seasons of Survivor but have been largely phased out, presumably because the show has re-used locations a couple of times and didn’t want to call undue attention to that fact. Here, the second and third questions provided so little drama that they weren’t even shown, but we’re told Penner gets all of the trivia right. Alas, he still finishes third, and Abi wins immunity.

The result of this is that Malcolm and Denise target Penner, and alliance-mates Skupin and Lisa go along with it. Lisa is conflicted enough to tell Penner about this, and though she won’t change her vote, she encourages him to “Go do your magic that you do.” He puts on his hat at a jaunty angle and seeks out Skupin for a very entertaining conversation. Jonathan says, “Unfortunately for you, my brilliant, wise old chum, you’ve put yourself in the driver’s seat.” Skupin thinks he could beat Penner in the final three (he says this to the camera, not to Jonathan).

At tribal council, as the jury including a skeptical Jeff (“I’m a decimillionaire but will die unhappy because of my obsession with Penner”) Kent look on, Penner delivers a brilliant closing argument that voting him out would be handing the million dollars to either Malcolm or Denise. And you know what, I think he’s right! Alas, Lisa and Skupin both vote for Penner, and he’s out, as only Abi and Carter joined him in voting for Denise. Oddly, Penner announced out loud that he was voting for Denise, apparently dismissing the possibility that Malcolm might give his idol to her.

All of this means that things look pretty grim for Carter, who suddenly has no alliance, and I doubt it went unnoticed by other players that Carter now has two good pals on the jury, and is not someone you’d want to take to the finals.

Finally, in the preview of next week we see that it will be one of my least favorite Survivor standbys, the “loved ones” episode. On the bright side, we are shown a glimpse of a buddy of Malcolm’s who might have the potential to be the most knuckleheaded loved one since Jonny Fairplay’s pal with his unforgettable line “She died, dude.” I can’t wait for next week.

Dumb move: (from the previous episode, with consequences in this one) Penner turns down an alliance with Lisa.

Contender rankings: 1. Denise, 2. Malcolm, 3. Carter, 4. Skupin

No-chance list: Abi-Maria, Lisa

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

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