Survivor Insights 139: Philippines – “Wonderful” (Episode 11)

Abi Wins

THE STAND-OUT: Who else that be but Abi-Maria! She never gave up and played very well. Without a doubt, she’s the best and #1 strategic player of the episode. What she did wasn’t a social strategy but it’s mainly about choosing the best decision for survival. In the Auction Challenge, she spent her money for an item she needed the most – The Immunity Advantage. In the Immunity Challenge, she lied to everyone about the real message of the clue. Do I think everyone bought it? No. There were only seven of them left and I don’t expect them to believe somebody who’s perceived as “unlikeable.” Was it a good lie? Yes. It could still cause a stir in the next episode but I’m not sure if it’s enough for her to escape the vote. Either Malcolm or Denise could tell if she was telling the truth or not.

Going back in the challenge, Abi was up and against Carter and Penner during the final stage. I really adored her confidence and speed as she’s untying those knots. She controlled her nerves well and didn’t put much pressure to herself. Although she had a hard time on the last knot and Cater was close to winning, I admired her for not panicking too much and slides her way to win the necklace.

THE GOOD: Carter was a good man. He’s playing this game with the numbers on his mind and it seems like for him, SURVIVOR is still a “we” game. In the Auction Reward, he went for bags of rice and beans instead of baked potato with toppings. He purchased the last item for $200, quite expensive I say, but to my surprise,  it was an item that was to be shared with everyone in sixty seconds. I don’t know if Carter got satisfied after the challenge. It’s priceless to share something but at some point, it’s unfair for two reasons. It’s unfair because he didn’t have an item to enjoy for himself and it’s unfair because he chose to feed six people who will only get rid of him.

THE BAD: Game-wise, it wasn’t a good move for Carter. He’s fighting for a last six spot and it’s still a big ask if the majority will keep him longer. Should I interpret the game based on the votes in Tribal Council, it’s clear Carter got no alliance. He was the last Kalabaw and his days are already numbered.

It’s too late for a change in alliance. The Denise-Malcolm-Lisa-Michael alliance looked strong and there’s no way Carter can break it. His only hope to the Final 4 is to win a necklace. Is it possible? Yes but it’s all a chance.

THE UNEXPECTED: There were no unexpected moments in the show since last week. I wasn’t also surprised Penner was eliminated. He was smart, he was a threat and getting rid of him should have happened before the merge. Kudos for Denise for coming up with the idea, which Jeff Kent got obsessed with. Without Denise, I don’t see Penner going to Ponderosa. Lisa was too nice and really wanted him to stay for some reasons I couldn’t understand. I could also sense Michael was a bit hesitant in getting rid of him. Penner saved him when it’s about time for him to go.

EPISODE RATING: 10 of 10 stars! This episode was for Abi-Maria. I don’t care if millions of people worldwide consider her as a loose cannon bitch. Truth is; we only see a little part of her in TV and it’s not fair at all to label her!

Photo Courtesy of: CBS

Survivor Insights 138: Philippines – “That Was Brutal By Them” (Episode 10)

THE BAD: Once again, Abi-Maria was the star of the episode. The camera loved her so much and it seems she got the most important airtime than Pete, who became the fourth jury member. Unfortunately, things were not good. Things became too much for Abi and tears simply flowed in her eyes right after Denise confronted her with the truth. Truth hurts, yes, but honestly, I felt sorry for Abi. It ain’t easy to be hated and to be misunderstood. The feeling sucked and I’m sure it’s more than a bull**** feeling when you’re in a place and is playing a cut-throat game. Abi must have felt depressed and was clearly out of her mind after the vote reading. She was all alone now with no idol nor a closest ally to protect her. Yet, you know what, even if other people considered her as “unlikeable,” I still give her props for not quitting.

THE GOOD: It must be a good thing for Denise to confront Abi with the truth. It hurts bad, it’s brutal as what Abi described it, yet it must have been an eye opener moment for both. For Abi, she discovered how other people perceived her and even if the discovery came in an unfavorable situation with millions of people watching, the realization made her a better person in and outside the game. As for Denise, I have nothing against with what she said. I’m not sure if it’s only the edit but the confrontation appeared a bit sharp, in which some things should have been discussed privately. For this, I’m hoping to see a more personal talk between Denise and Abi in next week’s episode.

THE STAND-OUT: I love the reward challenge. Its concept is simple, ordinary even, but when it’s played, it totally requires speed and strategy. Carter did well against Penner. He ran faster and he flipped the drum near the edge of a circle. For this, Penner would need to run farther before reaching the red drum.

Even with mistakes, I’m glad to see the young generation won. They were a fun to watch in the spa reward, just enjoying the company and no serious topics were talked about.

* * * * *

Unexpectedly, Carter won immunity for the second time. It’s truly an awesome moment to watch how he handled the mental pressure to finish the challenge from behind.

Question now is: Just because he won immunity, is Carter the best strategic player for this episode? I can say, the answer is still no.  Perhaps, he came second or third.

It’s still Michael! Even with a runner-up finish in the challenge, Michael’s game was still running smoothly. The idea of blindsiding Malcolm was arguably the biggest decision he could have done. Yet, his game wasn’t destroyed by refusing to follow Pete. It seems like Michael was figuring out the right timing to attack.

It’s not yet the final five and Malcolm was already too sure he’ll make the final four with Denise, Michael and Lisa. To some extent, I’m still 50-50 with this strategy. Malcolm chose the most stand-out people in the group and he may not win against them. Yes, he might win consecutive immunity challenges but I’m not too confident with his decision to declare it in front of them.

It appears Malcolm was thinking ahead without calculating the risks. You know, his decision could easily be misinterpreted if one of them decides to explore other opportunities. And, why the heck think about the future when you still have the present to look into?

Episode Rating: 8 of 10 stars!

Photos courtesy of CBS

Survivor Insights 137: Philippines – Good vs. Evil (Episode 9)

THE GOOD: Finally, Mike Skupin was playing the game! He won an immunity necklace and ousted Artis, an original member of Tandang. It wasn’t the most powerful or the riskiest move. It’s pretty safe but for sure, it’s the right thing to do and Mike was getting in the right direction.

Kudos for Mike for joining the good people. It was only his second season to play the game and for eight episodes in, you must realize Mike isn’t clearly a villain. It’s only a game, yes, yet there’s no good reason why he needs to join the Axis of Evil. He may not win the title against them but come on, it will be the most memorable win if Mike convinces the jury why he’s more deserving to win against Denise or Malcolm or Carter or Penner.

I remembered it was Penner who convinced Mike to jump shift. While watching the scene, I seem to notice this alliance is breakable considering Mike is still loyal with Lisa. Am I see a Final 2 here?

THE BAD: I couldn’t think of one bad event in the episode. It seems the events were slow and the airtime highlighted the “personal bonding” or shall I say a “counseling session” between Penner and Lisa. Penner really thought he’s in real danger and he’s selling hard. He even used his superior storytelling ability to survive. These scenes were Good TV and I didn’t expect Penner could effectively play the role of a therapist. Did Denise give him some notes?

Of course, there’s Abi! Fans could describe her in different negative ways. They either hate or love her. But you know what, I still like her. Abi-Maria completes this season. Thanks for her impulsive explosions in Tribal Council.

THE STAND-OUT: Mike Skupin played the best strategic game this episode. There’s no doubt about it. Yet, if I have to select someone to rank second, that would be Denise. She effectively controlled the social aspect of the game without breaking a glass.

THE UNLUCKIEST: It’s hard to describe Artis as a castaway. In nine episodes, Artis was portrayed as an under-the-radar angry person who simply chose to ride along with Pete and Abi.  I sensed Artis was lucky to have an unbeatable group in challenges. If not for Tandang’s consecutive wins in Immunity Challenges, Artis may have exited the game before the merge.

Edit-wise, even Pete failed for the first time in saving his close ally.

EPISODE RATING: 8 of 10 stars!

Photo courtesy of: CBS

Survivor Insights 136: Philippines – Left And Right Chaos (Episode 8)

THE BAD: Jeff Kent was voted-out and just like that, I’m down to my two first-impression bets!

I can think of two reasons for Kent’s elimination. First, for not blindsiding Penner in Episode 6. Second, for not winning the Immunity Challenge against Penner.

I know it sounds too negative to say “if only” but I have to. It’s tempting to use the term. “If only” Jeff Kent blindsided Penner, he could have stayed longer. I’m not sure if he’ll win but I’m confident he could be in the Final 4. When they won the Reward Challenge, I like the idea of having him, Lisa, Denise and Malcolm. They are the most deserving people for the title.

It’s expected for Penner to win puzzle challenges. Penner was a puzzle-god and he played like he visualized it right before he even started putting the pieces. When Jeff Kent lost the challenge, it wasn’t a big surprise rather it’s a disappointment to watch. He almost won the challenge and “if only” he was a bit faster than Penner by ten seconds, being in the Final 4 was even closer.

Oh there’s a third one. Kent has no Plan C.

He’s too busy gunning for the returnees to a point where he must have forgotten he’s still playing a game with six other people.

And there’s also a fourth. I know blaming is unnecessary, especially in Survivor.

Blaming is useless, it’s for the losers, right? Though if I’m going to put a blame on someone, that would be Penner. Penner voted against Abi which means it’s his way of saying “It’s time for you to go Mr. Kent. Take this as my sweet revenge.”

Strategy-wise, what Penner did was worth praising. He took the opportunity to his advantage and he knew it was his perfect timing to vote someone out who dislike him.

WHO STANDS OUT: In real life, I hate backstabbers! In Survivor, they’re making the show more interesting. Unfortunately for Lisa, the label fits her. She betrayed Malcolm and she betrayed Denise too. It seems to me Lisa’s act wasn’t intentional. She simply wanted to believe she can trust Pete. The biggest problem here was, Pete wasn’t loyal to Lisa. I don’t know what in his mind why  he trusted Malcolm who he just met.

Lisa played aggressively though she overdid the strategy.

What’s her Plan B now? That’s the question I have in mind after watching the preview. Now that the dirty secret was out and Lisa realized she wasn’t part of the Axis of Evil alliance, where will she go? Will Malcolm and Denise forgive her? Or, she will only be eliminated for no one trust her anymore?

A lot of possibilities can happen to Lisa. She’s still a likeable character yet, for the bad choices she made this episode, I’m not sure if she has the right tools to fix the situation.

THE GOOD: Pete ranks second if these remaining castaways are evaluated based on strategy (My #1 is Penner). Everything was going on his terms. Last week, Jeff found a friend in him when they were planning to flush out Penner’s idol. It happened.

Pete was successful in convincing Jeff to cut RC first before Michael.

The votes between Pete and Penner were so close. Somehow, Pete was lucky and must be thankful for Penner. His vote was the reason why Pete wasn’t having a romantic date with RC in Ponderosa.

Another important thing to note, Pete controls Abi-Maria even if she has the idol. The two were married in the game. There were in a power position and I’m quite sure Pete won’t let go of her. Pete must know he cant win the title against anyone except for Abi.

I’m wondering why there were no talks around the camp to separate them.

Malcolm did a brave decision. It seems he’s tired of all the “craziness” in Tribal Council and for them to shut up, he showed them his idol – it’s his way of saying “I got it, are you satisfied?”

He felt confident he wasn’t going anywhere so it’s a smart decision not to play it. After the vote reading, it looked like Malcolm felt angry. Frustrated. Pissed. His plan was shattered. He may have the idea that Penner didn’t follow the plan. However, blaming him won’t solve his problem. Malcolm already knew he was a threat. Even his idol and his alliance with Denise and Carter aren’t enough to protect him. He needs to win back-to-back-to-back Immunity Challenges to have these extra layers of protection.

EPISODE RATING: 10 of 10 stars! The last eight minutes of the episode was the craziest. Without a doubt, that’s the most chaotic Tribal Council next to Heroes vs. Villains Double Elimination in Episode 6.

Photos courtesy of: CBS

Survivor Insights 135: Philippines – Best Merge of All Time (Episode 7)

5 REASONS WHY this is the best merge of all time (in no particular order)

Reason #1: Lisa found Malcolm’s hidden idol. It’s totally an accident and she was so sorry for it.

In my mind while watching the scene, Lisa must not be sorry. It’s totally unnecessary, it’s all a game. I blame Malcolm for what happened. He should have been more cautious with the idol or have buried it the moment they arrived at their new home. Strategy-wise, this move made by Lisa was purely accident but it was her biggest moment since the first day.

However, things were not in Malcolm’s control all the time. Unexpected things happen and his act of inviting Lisa for an involuntary alliance was the safest way of cleaning the mess. Involuntary alliances don’t occur all the time but by the way the edit went, it’s one of the smartest move I’ve seen in 25 seasons. The negotiation was thoroughly planned, I assumed, and it’s nice to hear Malcolm understood that his end game was at risk.

Is there a way to let go of Lisa? I don’t know. Let’s see and wait.

Reason #2: Denise finally won something!

She won the very First Individual Immunity Challenge of the season. I can firmly say that her win was her way of showing others that her losses in the past episodes proved nothing. Those losses were already a memory. It’s only a part of her history.

What matters most was Denise chose to dig-in and dig-deep, and won the challenge in her terms. Congratulations Denise!

Carter won an immunity for men. His win was 60% unexpected for having no enough food and water. In the past six episodes, Carter only flew under the radar. He’s getting weak in camp and in group challenges. He couldn’t even outmuscle Malcolm in last week’s Immunity Challenge. That’s why; it’s fair to say this win was arguably his best moment yet considering that he’s up against Jeff Kent, Artis, Malcolm and Pete who all looked fitter than him.

Reason #3: If I’ll rank the remaining castaways based on strategy, Jeff Kent tops my list this week. I like the idea that he took calculated risks and chose to be with Pete + Abi + Artis to drop one of their own. Jeff’s target since Day 1 was Jonathan Penner and to make it happen, RC was a sacrifice. It wasn’t that Jeff hated her. RC’s exit was only a nice prelude to Penner’s exit.

Of course, Jeff was well-aware of the risks. He knew Pete couldn’t be trusted completely. Worst things that may happen is, Pete won’t vote Penner out next week. Or, Penner will explore other opportunities. Underdogs in the past seasons (Shii Ann in All-Stars, Brett in Survivor Samoa, Troyzan in Survivor One World) won immunity the next episode.

Reason #4: Pete felt scared for the first time. In the past episodes, Pete was running the camp. He’s the puppet master and he perceived himself as the boss. Pete could surely cut Michael or RC should Tandang lost before the merge.

Yet, his bossy days might come to an end now that the rest of Dangrayne knew Abi got the hidden idol. Anyone could have the power to control the pair. I just don’t know who. Maybe Jeff Kent? Malcolm? Lisa?

Reason #5: Sorry for the term but RC’s kissing-ass gameplay didn’t work. It’s completely unnecessary to say “We’re still a family” when the reality was, Tandang was a tribe divided from the beginning.

There are various photos in CBS that are not shown in TV. Therefore, I got this idea in mind that RC tried her best to find the right people on her side. I’m not sure what happened but it seems things were not working. At Tribal Council, RC knew she was completely done the moment Penner played his idol. What’s left of her was her class.

All smiles, RC exited the game with class, no resentment at all.

Episode Rating: 10 of 10 stars! This is arguably the best merge of all time. The eleven castaways got a fair amount of airtime and no one is 100% safe.