Recap: 'Survivor: Philippines' - 'Dead Man Walking'

A straight-forward episode goes pear-shaped, leading to a wacky Tribal Council

<p>Jonathan Penner of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Jonathan Penner of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS
Pre-credit sequence. Hell hath no fury like a Penner scorned. Jonathan is perplexed and frustrated with Jeff Kent and Man-Dana. Penner doesn't like secrets and he doesn't like betrayal. Denise is at least straight-forward and honest with Penner about writing his name, while Jeff Kent talks in widening circles without saying anything. Jeff Kent remains determined to target Penner in the future, though he also knows he's given up some power and authority. Skupin tells Penner not to quit and that there are cracks in the main alliance and urges his fellow returning player to wait for those cracks to grow. "I have no alliances. I have no allegiances. I don't care. Everybody's equal. They are all ready to die," Penner announces. Damn. If Penner were a '90s rapper, he'd be talking about his glock and making lewd statements about the sex he had with all of their significant others. He's gangsta!
 
Jeff Kent is a questionable judge of people. I found Nemo! He's off the coast of the Dangrayne camp, along with dolphins and other fish. And Jonathan Penner has decided to find Nemo and eat him. But Blair Warner is hatching a plan. She says she wants to stay with Tandang, but she's willing to boot the returning players first, strategizing with Jeff Kent. They agree that they're looking forward to breaking up the Everybody Hates Them alliance of Artis, Abi and Pete. Despite that, Jeff Kent is calling Blair Warner "nice" and "soft" and "naive," but he sees her as a chance to flip from the bottom of an alliance to the top.
 
Caught in a fish trap. I can't walk out. It's time for Reward. The tribe will split into two teams. They'll swim out to collect four fish traps. Somebody has to dig up a key, which unlocks puzzle pieces. The puzzle will be solved. Want to know what they're playing for? A river cruise and ribs and lemonade and apple pie. Everybody agrees it's worth playing for. We've got Skupin, Pete, Artis, Man-Dana and Abi on the Blue Team going against... well... everybody else on the Yellow Team. With Jeff Kent leading the way, Yellow gets out to an early lead, but Man-Dana dominates Blair Warner in the water and pulls Blue ahead. It's neck-and-neck when we reach the puzzle, which Penner and Jeff Kent performer impressively on, giving the Yellow team Reward. Abi pouts, because that's what Abi does. 
 
Abi cadaver. The challenge losers return to Dangrayne camp. Artis wanted Reward, but he's in this for a million dollars. He's prepared to eat beans-and-rice for as long as it will take to win. They're trying to talk their way through the current alliances and Pete begins to worry that Abi is becoming insecure, so he reassures her that everything's OK and that they're going to target Kalabaw, starting with Penner. "Abi's kinda immature. She thinks everybody's out to get her and I wish I could vote her out, but I know if she's in a Final 3, she's not getting any votes," Pete says aptly after yelling at Abi.
 
Axis of Evil. The winners, meanwhile, are out on the river devouring ribs. Denise is happy to be with this particular optimistic, happy group. Lisa only pities Skupin, stuck with the Negative Nellies or, as Malcolm calls them, The Evil Three. "I hate that kind of bullying," Penner says, hoping to sway distaste against Artis, Abi and Pete. Penner reassures the rest of the picnickers that he doesn't think he can win, so he'd like to help one of them take the prize instead. Interesting. Remember "naive" and "soft" Blair Warner? She's had a revelation: She wants to win and that means maybe going the distance with people she doesn't like, but who she'd beat with a Jury. "The same rules don't apply in the game of 'Survivor' as they do in real life," Blair Warner says.
 
Clan of the Cave Blair. "I anticipate that after Penner goes home, somebody's going to wake up and realize this is the time to do a 5-4 alliance," Blair Warner decides the next day. And she's also decided she wants to go to the end with Skupin, but also Artis, Abi and Pete. She sets things in motion by going to Skupin and revealing the secret of Malcolm's Immunity Idol, announcing that after Penner is out, blindsiding Malcolm may be the next smart move. "Lisa is now in this game to win it," notices Skupin. Penner interrupts their conversation and announces that whatever plans they're making will get thrown out of synch after he wins Individual Immunity, something he's never done before in "Survivor."
 
Over the Top. Immunity is back up for grabs. And after having two necklaces last week, there's only one Immunity tonight. The challenge begins with a puzzle-piece-collecting obstacle course, but only the first three finishers will get to attempt to solve the puzzle. Lots of untying of nots and flopping over posts. It's Pete, Jeff Kent and Penner, diving across the finish line ahead of Skupin, advancing to the puzzle-making. Initially, Pete races ahead and Penner is lagging. "Puzzles take a long time and anything can happen," Jeff Probst teases. Everybody on the sideline is rooting for Pete or even Jeff, but suddenly Penner starts solving one piece after another. It was a ruse. He was going over-the-top, Lincoln Hawk style! It's Penner! And things are about to get interesting, or at least confusing. "First time ever," Penner says. "What a joke," Jeff Kent observes, though I don't know what he's referring to. 
 
By the power of Greyskull, who the heck's got the power? Penner leads the way back to camp. He's all smiles. "That was maybe the best thing I ever did in my life," Penner says. "It just threw everyone's plans for a loop," Malcolm says, invoking Murphy's Law. The initial consensus is that Skupin is out next. "He's just bought himself another three days of a Dead Man Walking," says Jeff Kent of Penner. But Blair Warner is going around informing on Malcolm's Idol, telling Pete that blindsiding Malcolm is the only play. "I actually kinda trusted Malcolm," a disappointed Pete says. Pete even confronts Malcolm about the Idol, which gets an immediate lie from Malcolm.  Pete seems to trust Malcolm and vows to help him by going against Jeff Kent first. Pete interprets Malcolm's freaked out lying as a sign of genuine shock and, Demi Lovato-style, looks deep into his soul and decides he's telling the truth. Now thinking that Blair Warner is scheming, Pete tells everybody about the Idol Malcolm doesn't have and they all agree they're voting Jeff out. There's a lot of lying going on as Pete tells Blair Warner that Malcolm knows, but doesn't tell her that he informed on her. "Everything just hit the fan," Blair Warner summarizes. "Playing the mastermind is definitely very hard work," Pete tells us. Jeff overhears some conversation about his name and, at the least second, he proposes to Malcolm that they can get six people going against Pete. Scramble! Scramble! Scramble! "I thought they were sending you home tonight," dead-eyed Man-Dana tells Jeff Kent. Malcolm packs his Idol and heads off to Tribal Council prepared to vote Pete, but also prepared for insanity. So who's got the power? We're about to find out.
 
Tribal Council. RC arrives as the first member of the Jury and Penner is pleased with how RC cleaned up. Skupin tells Probst that he was initially nervous, but became less nervous when he heard talk around camp. Malcolm laughs and declares, "I put my faith in a little Texas girl and she me under the bus pretty hard today," Malcolm says of Blair Warner, who agrees that she targeted him. "Every crack is an opportunity," Denise says. Abi's annoyed by the mess Blair Warner has made of everything, with Blair Warner trying to articulate her strategy very clear. Malcolm whips his Idol out and says he's playing the Idol no matter what, because he's not going home. "Anybody else want to reveal they have an Idol?" Probst asks, rhetorically. "I have it, yes," Abi says. Everybody looks at Abi like she's The World's Biggest Moron, which she kinda is, but you've gotta hand it to her: This Tribal Council is all about baffling transparency and... that was pretty much transparent enough that we can see her quivering brain-jelly. Penner is loving this. Probst is loving this. Penner calls time-out, announces that there are six of them ready to go forward as an alliance and requests nods of agreement. Blair Warner pleads that if they go with Plan B, they can stay together. "I feel like they're coming after me," Pete agrees. "This is pretty fun, Jeff," says Jeff Kent to the host, who calls this the most complicated and entertaining Tribal Council in his tenure. "Boom!" says Jonathan Penner.
 
The vote. Lisa writes Jeff Kent's name. Denise writes Pete's name. Probst goes to tally the votes. Is anybody actually gonna play their Idols tonight? Hilarious. Malcolm holds his Idol. Brilliant bluff, but did he read everybody correctly? The votes: Abi. Jeff. Pete. Jeff. Pete. Jeff. Pete. Jeff. Pete. JEFF KENT is done. There are a lot of stunned expressions, particularly from Malcolm and Man-Dana. "That vote may go down as one of the biggest blown opportunities in the history of this game," Probst says, accurately. Wow. We're all going to be paying VERY close attention to the reveal of the votes over the closing credits. Jeff Kent rants about the amount that Obama would have taken from his check and closes with, "I'm a Game 7 World Series loser. I played in the biggest games in the world and the worst games in the world, but this just sucks."
 
The breakdown: The Jeff Votes: Artis, Skupin, Pete, Abi, Lisa. The Peter Votes: Man-Dana, Malcolm, Jeff, Denise. The Abi Vote: Penner.
 
Bottom Line: That was pretty wacky, eh? It was like playing an open-handed game of poker, only with absurdly high stakes. Who does that? Nobody. It's hard to break down all of the winners and losers of this episode, but I guess I'll try?
 
Bottom Line - Winners: That was a pretty great episode for Jonathan Penner. Even if he goes home next week, he made an absolutely mess of everything with that slow-play Immunity win. He also ate ribs and he got rid of the guy with the pathological need to get rid of him. I'd be lying if I said I knew with certainty what he was going for with the vote against Abi. Was it to get Jeff Kent out in the most passive-aggressive way possible? I mean, if all he wanted was Kent out, he could have just voted for Jeff Kent, right? I guess Mike Skupin was also a winner, since he dodged a bullet that should have been heading directly at him and redirected it in a way that settles his position with a theoretically strong alliance of his choosing (though he could have done the same thing with the other side by voting against Pete). We're sorta confused by Skupin's motives at this point, aren't we? Because his vote last week was semi-inexplicable as well. So did Penner vote Abi because he assumed Skupin was voting Pete and therefore... Something? Oh, I don't know.
 
Bottom Line - Losers: Well, Jeff Kent. He made a move he didn't have to make last week and he paid for it this week. There was no target anywhere near him last week and he threw everything akimbo. [Jeff Kent's actually a two-time Game 7 loser, if you include the 2004 NLCS. In his two Game 7 loses, Jeff Kent went 0-6, though he reached base twice in the NLCS game.] I feel like Pete's probably also a loser, even though he survived this vote, because he seems to be increasingly aware that his closest tie is to an unpredictable lunatic, while he also now knows that he's pretty much been misreading Malcolm and Lisa and EVERYTHING. And Abi's always a loser.
 
Bottom Line: Winners/Losers: Blair Warner went from off-the-radar sweetie to game-studying mastermind in very short time. Any of us who doubted her fortitude? Well, we've been proven wrong, at least to some degree. But she can't go back under-the-radar. She can no longer be trusted to keep a secret and her alliance plans are basically on the table. I could be wrong, but I think the element of surprise was going to be a not-insignificant part of her strategy and that's gone. As a "Survivor" character, this was a great episode for Blair Warner, but I don't think it was a great episode for her long-term fate. Malcolm's obviously a winner for the spectacular Idol bluff at Tribal Council. He could have kept quiet or continued to lie or heaven knows what, but by whipping that tile out, it spun the Tribal Council in a new direction and then he was smart enough to read the rest of the tribe and not play it. However, he misread either Penner or Skupin or something in the vote, which produced a heck of a let-down. And not only is his Idol common knowledge now, but Pete's man-crush on him may be irreparably harmed. 
 
Yup. A second straight week with TONS to gnaw on in the aftermath... So let the gnawing begin!

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Daniel Fienberg
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A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.
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