Feeding grapes is not as hard as Carter makes it look. They arrive at the spa getaway to discover massage tables and bathtubs, and immediately agree they’re not going to talk about strategy (thus putting the kybosh on my thoughts regarding why it could be interesting). Abi loves that there’s no old people, and is all too willing to not talk about strategy, a suggestion Malcolm makes in part because he’s going to have to eliminate these people to get to the final three. Pete is smart and fit, so now believes he has the fuel to kick some butt, while Carter decides to feed Malcolm some grapes, because why not. The show wastes no time getting them back to camp, which implies they really didn’t talk about strategy, which really is pretty silly.
Foot in the mouth, but no foot in the door. But then again, Abi never has been great at the whole “talking” thing. Abi comes back from the reward and flaunts it, using words like “breathtaking” and describing her food baby in vivid detail. Carter’s favorite part was a spicy sauce—I know when I think of Carter, I think “Spicy!”—but Abi is now Cinderella of “Survivor,” plucked from poverty to become royalty (a cultural reference that proves valuable foreshadowing for Tribal). Malcolm suggests she has the social grace of a Mack truck, and she proves it when she hears her name in a conversation, gives a speech in which she quits kitchen duty, and just completely checks out of the game. A pouting Abi takes us to commercial, which raises the question: is there any way we leave this episode without Abi or Pete being voted off?
Together until the final four (or until, like, something else comes up). To keep things interesting, the focus shifts to the other side of the equation. Skupin and Malcolm make their plans known: Skupin knows Malcolm and Denise are going to vote together, and Malcolm thinks Lisa is the logical fourth. Of course, Lisa actually thinks Penner is more trustworthy is based on their transcendent conversation last week. Penner is uncomfortable with commitment at this stage in the game—relationship metaphors abound!—even if it means he could be blindsided, as getting ahead of the game seems dangerous. Lisa thinks it’s a missed opportunity for Penner, and then it’s settled: Malcolm, Lisa, Skupin and Denise disappear into the woods and make an alliance. Skupin thinks Malcolm is a gamer, and he’s a bit nervous, but he’s in it nonetheless.
Screaming can’t make an anti-climax more exciting, Jeff. It seems like a big moment in terms of the larger game plan, but it also adds a new dimension to the Immunity Challenge given that Penner and Carter are now officially on the outside and could potentially be voted out early. Mind you, the odds are against Pete winning Immunity—the only situation which would keep them from successfully voting out Pete and flushing out Abi’s Immunity Idol, so that suspense could be misplaced. But it at least adds some dimension to the typical “Thread an Object Through Ropes” task, this year featuring a buoy. The first round drops them to five, the second round (a balance beam) drops them to three, and then a water version decides who gets immunity.
Pete’s plight is finally mentioned outright, but it’s a quick end to the narrative when Carter grabs the final spot in the second round. Pete and Abi are left to sit out with Lisa, which is why the editors were trying to give Skupin and Penner more prominence in the pre-challenge editing. The balance beam has Malcolm and Penner struggling, with Carter and Denise joining Skupin in the final three. Carter continues to fight back against his edit by showing some prowess, figuring out a way to avoid leaving a boat the ropes are wrapped around. However, Carter’s strategy works less effectively on the next obstacle, leading to a close showdown for the final knot; in the end, though, it’s Carter’s second individual immunity win. Probst’s commentary makes this sound like an exciting showdown, but it’s between two members of a majority alliance, so his hysterics could only do so much.
We call the big one flighty. Abi thought today’s challenge was really swell, but bad news: she didn’t win, and neither did Peter. Sadface, y’all. So her alliance—which now includes the hidden immunity idol, which unfortunately for Abi can’t vote—is pretty much doomed, at which point Penner seems like the master planner: three vote for Pete, three vote for Abi, and if she plays the Idol Pete goes home. It’s the exact strategy every person who watches the show presumed would be in play this week, so it’s hard to believe it’s “Penner’s idea” so much as a group consensus. But the editors want to present Penner as vulnerable after his conversation with Lisa and Skupin, so he’s put front and center.
Meanwhile, Abi and Pete are scheming. They think they can convince Skupin and Lisa—the two people who just made a secret alliance with Malcolm—to get rid of Malcolm, who is too dangerous. Pete thinks Skupin is flighty, and Abi thinks Lisa is their better bet, but they’re going to pitch it to everyone. Lisa thinks it’s a wonderful plan, and pats Abi on the head for coming up to it, but now that she’s in another alliance she’s given them their word and that’s that. Carter mumbles that he’s in a pretty good spot, and Penner explains to Abi that he’s won his partners’ trust and has no reason to blindside someone and fit into that dangerous narrative.