“Don’t nod”: Survivor Philippines Finale

16 Dec

Denise took home the million dollars, which was not that surprising (it had to be her or Malcolm), but there were certainly some unexpected twists along the way.

The episode begins with Skupin and Malcolm having a conversation that for whatever reason is shown in a very art-house black-and-white. It turns out Mike and Malcolm have had a final-three alliance for two weeks (?). And equally surprisingly we find out that Malcolm and Denise had never expressly said they’d go together to the final three. She suggests the idea but he doesn’t want to commit… I have no idea why he didn’t just lie (and neither did Jeff Probst, as we find out at the reunion show).

This gets Denise and Lisa to talking. Lisa says: “Malcolm is the kind of guy that will put his arm around you, stab you, then visit you at the hospital the next day.” He’s also the kind of guy who wins challenges, and his prize for the reward challenge is an unspecified advantage at the immunity challenge. Before we get to that though, it’s time for the fallen comrades tribute. We see long-forgotten contestants like Angie, whose quote “I’m kind of well-rounded” accompanies a shot of her fake boobs. Russell reminds us that his group was the “worst tribe in Survivor history”… hmm, since it ended up contributing two people to the final four, maybe more of the badness came from Russell than he thinks. And Dawson lets us know “I’ll never be the same”… referring not to living in the jungle but to kissing Jeff Probst!

On to the challenge, which takes place on a clearing at the top of a hill with a spectacular vista in the background (I half expected to see Ben and Courtney from The Bachelor having a picnic up there). Now, I do miss the days when the final challenge was a test of nothing but pure endurance. Why did they ever get away from that, since many of those were absolute classics? This one involved holding a wooden rod with a tiny groove in it in which you have to balance a metal ball without having it fall off (it’s mentioned at the reunion show that this was used in Micronesia previously). The setup didn’t look that interesting but there were some very tense sequences when we saw tight closeups of the ball as the players would have it slide a little bit to one side.

It turns out Malcolm’s reward advantage was that he got one do-over at this challenge, i.e. could have his ball fall off once without immediately losing. For one of the season’s top challenge aces to have this in his pocket to boot meant he had the challenge in the bag right? One problem: when it comes to hand-steadiness, he’s right there with the Waco Kid from “Blazing Saddles.” He quickly becomes the first out, even with his advantage, and Denise soon follows. Skupin wins, and Lisa quickly says “We made it together,” just so Mike doesn’t get any odd ideas. Also, we soon hear that this is the third immunity Skupin has won.

Malcolm is ousted at tribal council and becomes the last member of an eight-person jury (I didn’t recall that there had been an even-numbered jury before, but apparently there is a precedent). So it’s on to the final tribal council. As usual based on the speeches you’d think you had three masterminds in front of the jury. Skupin talks about how hard he played from day one when it seemed to me he was low-keying it from day one. Lisa says she “threw a punch that knocked out the heavyweight champion of this season.” But what did she do to knock Malcolm out? It was more his twitchy hand at the challenge along with his failure to fib to Denise than anything Lisa did. In general, Lisa was heard from a lot, both in this episode and the reunion show, and it was the same stuff we’ve heard from her all season. Groan.

Time for questions from the jury. For weeks, one had the feeling that RC and Jeff Kent were working up some doozies, unfortunately the people they would’ve wanted to unload on did not make the finals. Carter looked more stoned than Fabio Birza at a Willie Nelson concert, and Malcolm earned cheers from me by telling Denise “don’t nod!” before asking her a question (the 888,888 times she nodded this season will have to do). I figured Abi Maria would be accorded the final question, but instead it was Penner, who had zingers on tap for each contestant. To Denise: “You shared with me once that the one thing you were sort of afraid of being seen as was a bitch. You can rest assured that you have now shown the world that side.”  (Not sure where that came from, though her speech was perhaps a bit cockier than what I expected). Penner tells Skupin that Mike has not had his name written down once in this game and in that regard “you may find that you have a perfect record even after tonight.”

And now we come to the moment Penner goes too far: he outs Lisa to the jury as a former “Facts of Life” TV star, though not without patting himself on the back for keeping the secret up to that point! To say that was a jerky thing to do was an understatement, and it really casts Penner in a negative light for me. Particularly because I don’t think he even believed his other zingers anyway, but just wanted something to maximize his camera time.

It appears that Denise got six of the eight votes, with Skupin only getting the nod from Carter and RC being the only one to vote for Lisa (no love for her ex-buddy Skupin?). Before the jury vote began I thought Skupin could also get the votes of Penner and RC, and perhaps have a chance with Abi, but it wasn’t to be.

This was the best season we’ve had in a while, but it sort of crawled to the finish line after some slam-bang episodes in the middle part. I’ll be back with some final thoughts soon.


One Response to ““Don’t nod”: Survivor Philippines Finale”


  1. “Things are shakin’ up.” Survivor: Ghost Island May 9, 2018 recap | Barry's Reality Blog - May 11, 2018

    […] Philippines, namely a challenge do-over, and in fact the challenge is going to be the same one Malcolm participated in back then. You have to hold a stick with a little groove in it and balance the ball in that groove. Wendell […]

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