[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Wednesday's episode.]
The much anticipated merge has finally arrived people! Let us all eat, drink and be merry. These poor kids have been suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for 16 days. They’ve earned themselves a spot in a newly merged tribe and, my favorite part of the game, individual immunity competition. Settle in and get ready to watch Denise shine, ladies and gents. This woman has got challenge dominator written all over her tiny bod.
The merge feast is always such a telling moment for the castaways. Finally, we have a chance to converse with the competition and watch for subtle signs of discontent within seemingly solid alliances. For castaways who had previously found themselves on the bottom of the totem pole (Lisa, RC), the merge means renewed hope. For those who had been comfortably leading the pack (Penner, Pete), it can spell trouble as people flip and begin plotting your demise. The sunny picnic lunch, the smiles, the communal bottle of vino and the putting on the appearance of tribal unity is the perfect front for the undercurrent of scheming that is actually taking place on the picnic blanket.
Lisa may have the most bizarre strategy I’ve ever seen. As a self-professed outcast, she decides to leave the feast where everyone is busy eating and enjoying each other’s company in order to go root through peoples’ bags and hang up their clothes. I’m sorry. No. You just do not go through a person’s bag in Survivor or in life. Please make a mental not of that, people. If you see a bag, leave it alone. It could house something you do not want your fingerprints involved in. Opening a person’s bag is not only an invasion of privacy, but it makes you a prime suspect for being a sneaky weirdo. In this case, little doll-faced Lisa is probably the only human being on the planet that could get away with such a move without anyone wanting her head on a platter.
Shockingly, Lisa not only gets away with it, but she also discovers a powerful little nugget, Malcom’s immunity idol. Now Malcolm is forced to bring Lisa into his airtight alliance with Denise. Well done, L. As an amendment to my previous statement, it seems if you are an adorable child star-turned-housewife, digging through other people’s personal belongings is not only appropriate but also highly rewarding. Go for it ladies!
Let’s get to today’s immunity challenge, shall we? I freaking LOVE this challenge. It’s one of sheer mind-over-matter willpower. These types of challenges are awesome because they are gender neutral and they show which player has the mental stamina and determination to push through the pain threshold and hang on for as long as it takes to win. Well ... that, and the great one liners we get from Jeff: “Go as deep as you can inside yourself.” Yes, please.
Denise does not disappoint. I love this lady. Have I said that already? Homegirl enters the zone and gets it done. She is going to be a major threat in these challenges. I already see her going on an immunity tear and keeping that necklace for the rest of the game. Surprisingly, it also looks like Carter’s got a will to live, we just wouldn’t know it because he hasn’t been allowed to speak.
With tribal council looming, individual immunity on Carter and Denise and three hidden immunity idols in play, this big happy family is about to self-destruct. There are no clear lines here, people are flip-flopping all over the place, and one thing is certain: Someone’s getting burned. And, after walking up on that incredibly awkward moment with Carter and Jeff, if Penner doesn’t play his idol, he deserves to take that long walk of shame.
Penner gets it. Thank God. That uncomfortable moment is a huge gift for him, and I am delighted that he sees the danger he’s in and plays his idol at tribal. The idol bounceback nearly spells disaster for Pete, but it’s RC that actually gets the boot. As Abi snickers gleefully in the background, I have a flashback of Regina George getting hit by a bus on her way back to camp. That did happen in the movie, didn’t it?
Looks like we’ve got some good times coming for the rest of this season. Penner’s still in the game and is going to have to work some magic to stay put. Jeff Kent may be in trouble with Penner now that his plan to vote out the vet has backfired in his handsome face. RC’s gone, and Skupin’s got nowhere to hide. Malcolm and Denise are back together again, and all is right with the world. I know we’re all ready for some gameplay, so let the games begin!
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.