Survivor”’s decision to air a new episode on the night before Thanksgiving is an interesting one. While the show has historically chosen to feature a special “recap” episode at this point in the season, the shift to Wednesday has made it possible for them to more safely air a new hour of television during the holidays.

On the one hand, the decision could reflect a desire to maintain the momentum of what has been a really terrific season, one that has me far more invested in the show than at any point in recent years (where I rarely got through an entire season). However, more cynically, one wonders if this episode is airing tonight in part because the result is inevitable. With the numbers shifting last week as a result of Skupin’s change of heart regarding the original Tandang, the surprise factor seems low, and Pete and Abi seem like they’re on their way out.

Could they be airing “Whiners and Wieners” because it reaches an inevitable conclusion, and those who choose to skip the episode won’t miss much when they return from their holiday next week and discover that all has gone according to expectation? Or are they hoping it’s so enthralling that “Survivor” will be all people can talk about at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow?

Click through for the full recap to find out…

Pre-credit sequence. When the tribe returns to their camp, Abi feels bad for Artis, and thinks they need another game plan. They fell asleep at the wheel, Pete says, and Abi doesn’t understand how it went down. She seems incredulous to the fact that someone might think “Keeping Tandang Strong” isn’t actually a useful strategy.

For the other side, it’s about finding a way to ensure that Pete and Abi go home before they do. Indeed, Skupin and Denise lay out a very basic plan: Abi and Pete are eliminated, and then the final six duke it out from there. It’s an ideal strategy for Malcolm and Denise (who are more closely aligned than some of the players seem to realize), and would probably work out well for a player like Carter (who, despite being incapable of completing a sentence, is very willing to follow a leader like Penner deep into the game). The credits roll with Skupin promising he has big plans for playing this game.



Breaking up is hard to do (even when she disrespects you at every turn). When they return from commercial, though, Lisa isn’t exactly sure she wants to be part of this six. Indeed, she’s sitting on the beach explaining to Abi that she has never wavered from their alliance. Effectively, Lisa sees this as a breakup, and she’s terrible at getting out of relationships. She’s lost her trust in them, and she finds them to be horrible people, and yet she just can’t quit them. Abi is trying to sell her on being at the top of an alliance—that’s a clear minority—but Lisa would rather be able to sleep at night. For her, aligning with the other five will better her time on “Survivor” and the rest of the life. It’s a bold statement, but Lisa’s gameplay has been so rewarding in part because of how much she’s worn her heart on her sleeve. It’s an honest moment, and one that quickly disperses with any notion that Lisa might be willing to stick around with Pete and Abi. The game is now 6 on 2.

Flipping a coin is harder than it looks. The Reward Challenge, however, is 4 on 4. With a spa day on the line—which yields excitement from Malcolm upon learning he could win a chance to wash his hair—the teams compete in a game of chaos and strategy: the teams each have three large medallions in the sand (with one of each in three circles), and their task is to—as individuals in a multi-round setup—flip your team’s medallions onto their proper side while also flipping back those from the other team. It’s the Red Team (Abi, Carter, Malcolm and Pete) against the Yellow Team (Skupin, Lisa, Penner, and Denise), which is very much divided along age lines. Unfortunately for the older team, this really is a game of speed: although Penner is great at strategizing in these kinds of challenges—think back to last week’s reward—Carter is simply faster, winning the first point based purely on foot speed between medallions.

However, as the next two rounds reveals, this is also a game that requires you to understand how it works. Despite Carter’s dead-eyed existence, it’s Malcolm and Abi who makes the mistakes: Malcolm forgets to flip the Yellow team’s medallion back over (giving Skupin an easy chance to get a point), while Abi proves why she’s sat out the majority of challenges when she flips over Lisa’s third medallion for her (“No, not really,” she says when Jeff asks her if she gets what is happening). Malcolm’s mental lapse and Abi’s fundamental misunderstanding of the game at hand give the Yellow team a lead until Pete outraces Denise to set up a rematch between Malcolm and Skupin in which Skupin “Pulls an Abi” and flips over the Red tile. With that, the young win a spa getaway, and the narrative shifts from naiveté to senility (if one can honestly make such a narrative as a group of incredibly tired people in extenuating circumstances race around flipping stuff in the sand).

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