[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Wednesday's episode.]
The therapist is in. No, I’m not talking about my little firecracker, Denise. Although, you all know by now, I am simply mad about her, and the lady can do no wrong in my book.
This week, however, it’s all about Jonathan Penner. Carter and Penner’s fireside chat post-tribal about the vote is classic Dumb and Dumber. “Wait, I was responsible for Jeff going home?” Penner asks incredulously. “That sucks.” Carter’s dumbstruck reply.
It seems Penner’s Abi vote last week was not made as a strategic move to place him in a neutral position among the warring alliances, but out of spite, because he doesn’t like the girl and was “PO’d.” Penner wants this win. He’s played Survivor three times, put his life and his family on hold and is not going down without a fight. I smell a hot-tempered Penner/Abi showdown coming up real soon.
Penner’s going to work every angle he can to secure his position in the game. Angle No. 1: Lisa. The tormented child star is breaking down more and more with each passing moment. JP takes this golden opportunity to strike. Stealing Denise’s thunder, he reprises the role of island therapist and counselor, consoling our broken little starlet until he forms a bond of understanding and love. She sees that he understands her and his kindness opens her up to some deep island healing.
Hot damn. Penner is playing for keeps this time. As a three-time vet, he’s had enough experience in this scenario to know that people are at their most vulnerable out there without family, friends, food or comfort. With the end game in mind and using an emotional opening, he’s playing for jury votes with Lisa. Kudos to you, pal.
Previously the outsider, Lisa has somehow secured herself as a focal point and sought-after player. This season is full of under-the-radar players hanging in there. One by one, we’ve seen the most outspoken gamers get their flames extinguished (RC and Jeff) while the sleepers keep getting by (Carter, Artis, Denise). I’m concerned that Lisa is talking too much and is going to be getting herself into some trouble playing all sides. Right now, she’s needed for numbers, but I doubt Malcolm has truly forgiven her for trying to blindside him last tribal. She’s certainly lost his trust and will have some work to do to keep herself safe as the game goes on.
“Now you’re looking for bags of balls.” Um ... who isn’t, Jeff?
Things get down and dirty at this reward challenge as our castaways get tarred and feathered, or in this case, mudded and riced in hopes of winning an island party with the locals. I LOVE this reward! Who doesn’t want to bring school supplies and spend an afternoon hula hooping with Philippino children? Too bad Abi’s been so naughty that no one picks her to be their friend and she has to sit out the challenge on her lonely timeout perch. I can only imagine the entertainment value we’re missing out on by not getting to see her all icked out by the kiddies.
The laugh-out-loud moment of this challenge occurs as Lisa attempts to make it through the quicksand after sliding down the plank. Wait, let’s see that again in slow motion. Ok, one more time.
Now I’ve overdone it and given myself a side stitch. Thanks for that, Lisa.
As we’ve come to expect, Denise and Co. win the reward. They take off to go party it up with the locals and Carter finally gets his first big-boy on-cam interview. Aww, the little guy’s growing up right before our eyes. Not that he says anything interesting or noteworthy. Malcolm, on the other hand, is having a life-altering moment, as he considers leaving the glamorous life of bartending to tackle the challenge of becoming an international hula-hooping instructor for indigenous children. Survivor will do that to a person. The island seeps deep into your marrow and makes you realize what truly matters in life.
While Denise’s tribe is having a blast recalibrating the meaning of life, Abi takes this opportunity back at loser camp to be a world class B-I-T-C-H to Lisa. This girl is setting herself up nicely to be the scapegoat in the finals. I highly doubt she has the awareness to understand how much her sassy attitude is alienating others and jeopardizing her alliance. She’s just snapping out there and her closest comrades, Pete and Artis, are going to be collateral damage.
Probst’s wardrobe change to a black shirt signals a serious immunity challenge. Skupin’s got this one handled and easily wins a very dull game of balancing a bunch of ping-pong balls on a paddle. With immunity securely around his neck, he feels safe enough back at camp to go kick it with Malcolm under a palm tree. How many times do I have to warn you people? Death by coconut is a real thing. Islanders die everyday as a result of lingering under the palm trees. Skupin, you of all people should know better. I haven’t seen someone more accident-prone since Chris Farley kicked the bucket. As he takes a moment to stretch out on his back and revel in the afterglow of his triumph, spazzy Abi’s coconut goes rogue and whacks him in the face. Ahhhhmazing. Girlfriend’s two for two this episode. Shockingly, Skupin doesn’t lose an eye this time.
The vote gets down to Loyalty vs Likability. Skupin and Lisa are our power players now and have the chance to turn the tide in favor of the underdogs. Will they go for it?
At tribal, Abi’s got a bad case of Tribal Tourette’s as she calls out Lisa (who’s already hanging on by a thread) as being untrustworthy right before the vote. Not too clever, Abs. Lisa’s already shown herself to be an undercover gamer and I’ll be surprised if this isn’t all she needs to turn on her alliance and vote one out. After all is said and done, Artis is sent packing.
Cut to RC’s bug-eyed, mouth drop. Best Eliza Orlins impression I’ve seen in years. I knew I liked her.
With the exit of a bully, we’re witnessing a major power shift. Penner’s in a much better spot, as are Denise, Skupin and Malcolm. After pissing everyone off and losing the numbers, Abi and Pete are going to have their work cut out. Lisa’s well positioned. Since she didn’t betray her alliance, she can still claim she played the loyalty card and is now safe to jump ship. It’s anyone’s game and we’re in for a real treat getting to watch the carnage back at camp after this vote.
Parvati Shallow, three-time Survivor veteran, winner of Survivor: Micronesia and the official reigning Miss Survivor, will share her insight into Survivor: Philippines every week on THR.com. When she's not living on a deserted island, she can be found continent-hopping in search of the hottest spas and vacation destinations around the globe. She sometimes teaches yoga and meditation to an elite, in-the-know group of clients at ESP Wellness Center in Santa Monica. Follow her on Twitter at @parvatishallow. To catch her in Santa Monica, check out www.espwellnesscenter.com.