'Survivor: Philippines': The end of an alliance
Did Lisa finally break her pledge of allegiance to the meanies in the Tandang tribe?
Last week on “Survivor: Philippines,” after the most contentious tribal council thus far, former Kalabaw leader – and baseball MVP – Jeff Kent was sent packing. But with everyone’s name bandied at the vote, things back at the Dangrayne camp would no doubt be an even bigger mess this week.
On Night 22, “Lisa made her big move to save me,” Skupin said. “The game could have been flipped with one or two more votes for Pete. But whether Pete went or Jeff went, it was win-win for me either way.”
And Abi was annoyed trying to figure out who had voted for her, and it turned out to be Penner. Running the numbers with Carter, he quickly realized that his not voting for Pete is what had sent Jeff home. “I don’t even know what happened,” Penner said. “There was no plan, nobody knew what was going to happen. But now I see where I stand. I’m a dead man walking anyway.”
Malcolm, meanwhile, said he forgave Lisa for her big move – which had put him right on the chopping block. “You know, I tried to make a big move, tried to play the game like a real survivor, and it’s just not me,” Lisa said. “I love this game, but I think it’s too big for me.”
Day 23, Penner was stressing, because their were five original Tandang who could take him down. But he saw the fissures in the tribe, and knew he could work them to his advantage. Step one: appeal to Skupin and Lisa’s hearts. Lisa was the easier mark, and Penner talked a good game, focusing on her child star history and the breadwinner syndrome. “I know that Penner is always struggling to find a way to stay, but it’s really struck something deep, this internal conflict,” she said. “My whole life has been based on public perception. I lived my life on a stage. Can I survive not being Little Miss Perfect?”
Reward Challenge Time! Two teams, a muddy obstacle course, gathering bags of balls, then shooting 12 balls into a slim basket. First team to make all 12 wins. The reward: an opportunity to be “Survivor” ambassadors to a local village, who would be preparing a feast for the winners.
Abi was sitting out the challenge – AGAIN. Penner and Skupin were competing first, and Skupin got the lead for yellow. Lisa was up next for yellow, and as Penner finally made it to the finish, Carter was next for red. Lisa slowed red down considerably as Carter completed the course and then Denise took third position for the team. As Pete dug in the mud for his bag for yellow, Malcolm grabbed the fourth and final bag for red, and they began shooting baskets. Two baskets in for red, Artis grabbed the fourth and final bag for yellow. Red had seven baskets before yellow had even started. Then ten, eleven. But the last one gave them trouble and yellow caught up with five, six, before red finally scored that last basket. So Penner, Malcolm, Denise and Carter won reward.
The quartet brought school supplies and toys to the village, where they were greeted by the locals, spent time chatting and playing games. “It seems to be the happiest community I’ve ever walked into,” Penner said. Malcolm was reminded of his time teaching school in Micronesia. “This means so much more to me than pouring drinks for girls in bars. It really was a life-shaping experience for me.”
Time to eat, beer and fish and crabs – plus a lot of strategy talk. The four discussed recruiting Lisa and Skupin to their side. “Right now, the lines have been drawn, and it’s former Tandang versus everyone else. But last night at tribal, they made a mockery of Skupin,” Carter said, getting all gung ho. “He’s been mistreated, and they mistreated Lisa. So we’re trying to Skupin and Lisa in with us. They’re going to play the biggest role in which alliance moves on and which starts getting picked off.”
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Back at camp, Pete was still smarting from tribal, but he knew he needed to get Skupin and Lisa back in line. But Abi wasn’t helping, with her lectures to Lisa. “I think you’re just gullible. I think you’re just naïve,” she told Lisa as the poor lady tried to get a word in. Artis was irritated with Abi. “She needs to shut up, before screws everything all up.”
Abi and Pete decided that Penner had to go home – and they had to create a united front against him. “I thought once we got to the island, we could get solid and be the Tandang five,” Lisa said, “but I got back here, and Abi was terrible. So maybe it makes sense to go with this other alliance.”
Immunity Challenge Time! Penner returned the idol, and then it was every player for his or herself. This time around, it was balancing a series of balls on indentations on a paddle, as they were added one by one, to have six sitting properly all at once. A game of balance and tenacity – with a steep learning curve. It was slow going all around, but Skupin took an early lead, followed by Pete. Then Skupin had three, and then four, with Pete close behind. Most of the other players hadn’t landed a single one. Skupin got his fifth, and Pete lost two, putting him far behind. And then Skupin landed his sixth, guaranteeing him immunity – and a one in eight shot at the game.
Artis was pleased with the outcome. He thought Tandang’s plan to take Penner out would go off without a hitch. But as we all know, things hardly ever go as planned on “Survivor.”
Day 25, post-challenge, and Penner was scrambling. Abi was still complaining about Mike Skupin, even though she needed him for the numbers. “Skupin is annoying,” she whined. “Penner is actually really charming – a little to smart for his own good. So it’s time for him to go home.”
Denise worried that Abi would use her immunity idol to save Pete. So recommended that she, Carter, Malcolm and Penner vote Artis instead. “The goal for tonight is to break the Tandang empire up, and then really continue to turn this game,” Denise said. “But the plan hinges on Skupin and Lisa.”
So Penner worked Lisa again. “Who are the underdogs? What does the audience want to have happen? The audience is going to watch you and say you’re being loyal to the people she’s been loyal to all along – but they’re not going to be happy that you’re helping these three guys go further. I hope that you and Skupin do the right thing and tell a better story.”
“My head is spinning,” Lisa said. “I still want to be loyal. But is that the old Lisa?”
Then Penner worked Skupin. “You’re the fulcrum vote. You can go either way,” he said. “Lisa orchestrated a pretty big to save me. So I want to play this game with Lisa. But I’ve got to make sure, if I’m going to make a bold move, she’s firmly on the side that I’m choosing.”
So then Lisa and Skupin finally chatted. “There are two thoughts,” Skupin said. “One: which group can you get further with? And two, which group would you rather get further with. How can we stay loyal to someone who hasn’t been loyal to?”
When Lisa asked about the bigger picture, Skupin reminded her that his bigger picture was that he and Lisa had an alliance to the very end. And Lisa said, then, that she could be swayed. “I want be able to say that, from the beginning, I’ve been loyal to Tandang,” Lisa said. “But if Tandang is no longer loyal to me, then am I being exactly what Abi accused me of being? Gullible and naïve?”
Tribal Council Time! Probst called the previous tribal one of the craziest he’d ever seen. “The fallout was so internal for me,” Lisa told him. “Yet when I got back to the island, I was welcomed with such grace. Everybody said that it’s a game. Didn’t play it too well, but you were playing it.”
When Probst asked if Abi had been graceful, Lisa said hell no. Her alliance was far less graceful than her competitors. That, of course, freaked Abi out. According to Probst, she looked simply venomous.
Artis, meanwhile, said the continued Tandang versus Kalabaw rivalry was exactly how the game was supposed to play out, but Denise warned him that his ideal scenario might not last. So Artis said he understood he could be blindsided at any moment.
Penner said, again, that there were a number of players at the moment who might serve as fulcrum votes. And Skupin was relishing his moment of glory. “I came out originally for the money,” he said, “but the game got bigger than the money.” That’s why he respected Lisa’s bold moves earlier.
Lisa, too, said that this had been a life-altering experience for her. “These 39 days are probably going to change me more than maybe 39 of my 49 years,” she said. “The game is bigger than me.”
What Kalabaw put on the line, really, was the hope that the numbers might shift. But Abi still held on to hope. She said she wasn’t sure about Lisa at this point. Lisa was flabbergasted, again, though she shouldn’t have been.
And then it was time to vote. No one brandished their hidden idol, and so, Probst tallied the votes. First: Artis. Second: Penner. Third: Artis Foruth: Penner. Fifth: Penner. Sixth: Penner. Seventh: Artis. Eighth: Artis – that’s four to four. The ninth and final vote: Artis.
The third member of the “Survivor: Philippines” jury: Artis.
And he only lost to Penner by one vote -- which means Lisa STILL voted for Penner, even after all those inspiring pep talks. Unbelievable!
Artis’s last words: “Well-played for Penner. He managed to pull off the improbable. All I can do is applaud him I could never have ill will toward anybody in the game because when it’s all said and done, it is a game. I could not have been more happy. Wait, I could, if I had won the million dollars.”
"Survivor: Philippines" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.