Survivor: Phillipines - Episode 9
Little Miss Perfect
By Jim Van Nest, Former Survivor Analyst
November 15, 2012

Oh, *that's* why it was a bad idea to be in an alliance with Abi.

Guess who's back, back again? And hello, good people, this is former Survivor columnist Jim Van Nest with you to give our good friend, Ben, a much needed week off. How about this season of Survivor, eh? Easily the best season since Heroes vs. Villains. I'm very excited to be back and recapping, even if it's only for a week.

Previously on Survivor, Jonathan was friendless, hopeless and (worse) idol-less. As Jeff Kent said, he was a "dead man walking." And then something crazy happened. The Survivor Gods once again proved they prefer "good" to "evil" and Penner won the first individual immunity in his three-time Survivor career. It hearkened back to Richard Hatch's epic challenge win on the very first season of Survivor...except Penner did a sweet airplane dance instead of a crazy fat man dance. With Jonathan off the table, the rest of the tribe had to scramble, and scramble they did. At least four people were suggested as boots and when the dust at Tribal Council settled, Jeff Kent was left holding the bag and was sent packing. The one thing I'd like to mention about the craziness of Tribal was that Malcolm displayed the best use of a hidden immunity idol since Yul Kwon used it to win Survivor: Cook Islands. He can only make that play once, of course, but it was brilliant in its simplicity.

One last thing I'd like to say before getting to this week's episode: I'm stoked about the play of Lisa Whelchel. I've never seen this approach before, but she seems to be playing a "lie my ass off, but confess at Tribal Council" game. She plays both sides and then freely admits it every single Tribal. If she gets to the end, what will the jury hold against her that she hasn't already copped to at a previous Tribal?

Ok, with all my nonsense out of the way, let's get to this week's episode!

The episode begins with the Dangrayne tribe (by the way, they wanted to call it the F*inrayne tribe, but producers ixnayed Dangrayne it is) coming back to camp after the craziest Tribal ever. And on cue, Abi slams Mike for voting for her. Right away Jonathan chimes in that he voted for her. He tells her that he was pissed and voted for her. While Mike is feeling a sense of relief that he gets to stay, Jonathan is trying to figure out how the votes went down. When Rhodes Scholar Carter explains the votes to him, he's shocked to find out that his vote for Abi kinda messed things up. Lisa goes to clear the air with Malcolm and he graciously accepts her apology...which truly means a lot to her. It's an interesting situation she has found herself in: she desperately wants to win this game, but she's having internal turmoil over what she has to do to win. I REALLY like Lisa...and it's not just because I've had a crush on Blair Warner since middle school.

After the credits, Penner breaks it down for us. He plans to do whatever he can to exploit the cracks in the Tandang alliance. His plan is to play on the differences between the two groups within that alliance. Lisa and Skupin are trying to play the Christian game, while Abi, Pete and Artis are playing what he calls "the bully game." So he gets Lisa alone and asks her why she was so worried about people hating her this morning. She was concerned about the big moves she tried to make at Tribal. What follows is an amazing. Jonathan basically breaks down Lisa's life and innermost thoughts in the span of five minutes. He discusses how she must have felt as a child star - always having to be pretty enough and the breadwinner, pleasing everyone else. And that's why she couldn't vote against her original tribe. Her tears are shed because she feels like someone finally understands her. This inner conflict is really messing with her now as she weighs the options of continuing to please people who are awful to her or turning on them and going with people she likes and respects.

It's been a long time since I've gotten to say this, so I have to do it right. Ahem...

PROBST SIGHTING! Ah, feels good. Anyway, it's time for a Reward Challenge. This week's challenge is an obstacle course/basketball game. They will be broken into two teams. This is a muddy challenge as they have to flop in the mud to go under an obstacle, up and over a slide into more mud. Then they have to dig up some bags of balls (uh huh huh huh...I said "bag of balls"). Then dive their wet muddy selves into a big pile of rice. Once all four bags of balls are retrieved, they have to shoot all 12 balls into a makeshift basket. The reward? This is the reward I would HAVE to have. They will get to take some much needed toys and school supplies to a local village, where they will hang out with the villagers and have a feast.

Teams are like this: Penner, Malcolm, Denise and Carter vs. Skupin, Lisa and two-thirds of the Axis of Evil (Artis and Pete). Shocker, Abi was not she has no shot at a reward. The challenge starts and it's Skupin vs. Penner. They get to the ball pit at about the same time and Skupin gets his bag lightning fast. Penner gets his bag, but doesn't get up. He stays in the mud pit until he has found all four bags of balls. He puts three bags in different corners, grabs the fourth and works his way through the rice to drop off his first bag. Meanwhile, Lisa is running the second leg of the race and is digging for her bag. Carter takes off and easily gets through the course, drops of his bag and Denise takes off. She blows through the course and Malcolm is up to run the final leg. Lisa finally gets her bag to the end and Pete takes off. Malcolm gets the final bag of balls to the end and the red team can start shooting. They have nine balls in before Artis finally arrives with the final bag. So because of Penner's forethought, this wasn't even a contest and the red team wins reward. Sorry Pete, Abi and nothin' for ya.

We come back from break to see the winning team arrive in the village with all the supplies. They are welcomed in with open arms. All of them enjoy the hell out of this reward. Malcolm mentions he spent a year teaching children in Micronesia and wonders how he could have stopped doing that. "Why did I give this up? This means so much more to me than pouring drinks for girls in a bar." After Jonathan breaks a piñata and Malcolm fails at hula hooping, it's time to eat and talk strategy. They all decide that Skupin and Lisa have to be turned to flip the game. Malcolm mentions how horribly Mike has been treated by the others. Carter breaks it down for us by saying that if they can get Mike and Lisa, the bad people can be voted off.

Let's go back to Evil summer camp and see how things are there. Pete is pissed. But at least he has some time to condescend to Lisa and Mike. Lisa knows nothing of what's going on and Skupin’s an idiot but Pete needs him. Never mind that Lisa saved their alliance's collective ass (specifically Pete's ass) in the last Tribal. We join the conversation in time for Abi to lay some knowledge on Lisa. She says that Penner has to go and hopefully Lisa won't be a double agent again. As Lisa tries to defend herself, Abi overrides her by telling her how gullible and naive she is. I'll say it again...SHE SAVED YOUR ASS LAST NIGHT. A "thank you" would suffice. And if you're not going to acknowledge should at least have the decency to shut the hell up. At least that's how Artis feels. He's trying to figure out where Abi gets the idea that she knows this game or people in general. At this point, even Russell Hantz is somewhere saying, "Shut can't win this way." The scary thing is that through all of this belittling; Lisa seems to still be all Team Tandang and stuff. She's so concerned about looking disloyal...but in reality, only the Mean Girls will hold it against her.

We come back from commercials to another Probst sighting. It's Immunity Challenge time. Today's challenge is a simple one. Each player will balance a big paddle with six holes. Their challenge is to roll a ball down the paddle and land it in one of the spots. First person to land all six balls wins immunity. The challenge is pretty dull actually. But while they're playing, I have to say that this is two challenges in the same show using balls and Probst has severely disappointed me with his commentary. There's so much to be said about Skupin and Pete's balls, but Jeff just plays it straight. As it goes, it's Pete and Mike neck and neck with four balls each. No one else even has one. And then it happens, Pete loses control and knocks off two balls, which leads Mike to the easy victory and his first ever individual immunity win. On the way out, Arits is very excited to get rid of Penner and then sit back and relax.

And now it's time to play "It's anyone but Penner." Mike's feeling pretty high on life right now, while Penner is in full-on scramble mode. But before any of that can happen, Abi (actually trying to do something useful) bounces a coconut off a tree right into Skupin's face. We join Denise, Malcolm and Carter in strategy mode. Denise tells them that Abi is too full of herself to play the idol. She could potentially give it to Pete, but she doesn't think so. But in her estimation, the smart play here is Artis as Abi definitely won't give him the idol. Malcolm and Carter are onboard. Now they just need to tell Penner and try to recruit Mike and Lisa. In the middle of this talk, Abi finds a clam...which excites Denise, "Yay, whoopie, woo hoo."

Jonathan pulls Lisa aside and tells her that as a storyteller, he wonders about what story they will tell on this season of Survivor. He lays it out perfectly. The audience is going to love her and hate the Tandang alliance. They love an underdog and they want to see the underdog win. She tells us that she hears what he's saying, but her head is still spinning. At this point, I'm pretty sure Abi would have to shoot Tootie to get Lisa to switch her allegiance. Knowing that they kinda go together, Penner goes to Mike next. He asks Mike whether or not he can vote with them. Jonathan tells him it's Artis tonight. Mike tells us that he has to run everything through Lisa as that's who his alliance is with. So, he checks in with Lisa and lays out the questions. Which group can you get further with? And which group would you rather play with? What both of them seem to be missing is the very obvious point that when an alliance of five is broken down into two groups - three vs. two. You damn well better be part of the three...or it's time to flip your alliance. Lisa wants, very badly, to stay loyal to Tandang...but she wonders if they've stopped being loyal to her. Um, really??? This is not looking good for those of us who are Penner fans.

We get to Tribal Council and the first thing I notice is how pissed off Jeff Kent looks. I mean, for real, he looks like Barry Bonds just strangled him in the dugout or something. Anyway, let’s move on to the players that still matter. Lisa discusses how much grace was shown back at camp after Tribal. When Jeff asks Abi if she showed grace to Lisa, she turns to Lisa and asks her. Lisa says that she was shown more grace by the people she turned against than her own alliance. Jeff points out how tense Abi looks, like venom is ready to come out. Abi, of course, feels like she showed plenty of grace toward Lisa. Artis babbles something about a powerful tribe, yadda, yadda, yadda. Denise suggests that things could change and it could be bad if people don't think they're in trouble. Jeff asks Mike about Lisa's move at the last Tribal. Mike loved it as it was for the entire Tandang Tribe. Lisa talks some more about the internal struggle she's going through and what a life lesson she's getting in the 39 days of Survivor. Penner wants to see a shift in numbers and Denise suggests that Tandang hasn't even considered that they don't have the numbers. Of course, Abi disagrees. When Jeff asks her who she's not sure about, Abi says that Lisa is the person who worries her. She is hands down one of the stupidest players in the history of Survivor. All you have to do is say her name and you can count on Abi to say something stupid and/or incriminating. I have honestly never seen anyone run her mouth and hurt her alliance and herself more than Abi. It's quite amazing. And with that, it's time to vote.

We only see two votes. Pete votes for Penner saying it's nothing but respect. Denise Votes for Artis saying there's no way Abi gives up her idol. Anyone want to play an idol? Nope? Really?? Okay, I'll read the votes. First vote: Artis. (The change in Artis' expression right here is fantastic. So much so, I had to watch it back a few times. He never even considered a vote would come his way.) Second vote: Penner. Third vote: Artis. Fourth, fifth and sixth vote: Penner. Seventh and eighth vote: Artis. 4-4 with one vote left. The tenth person voted out and third member of our jury...Artis. WOO HOO!!!! I seriously did not want to fill in for one week and have to write about Penner going home! The interesting thing here is that with a 5-4 vote...that means only one of the Mike/Lisa tandem voted Artis. When we see the votes, amazingly as it may seem...Lisa voted WITH Tandang. Mike was the one who flipped to send Artis home. Well done, Mr. Skupin...well done.

Next time on Survivor: Ben will be back to recap, for one. Also, Mike has a plan to get Lisa to leave the Tandang alliance, but Lisa is still having trouble breaking up with Abi. Seriously, it would be one thing if Abi was ever remotely nice to her...but she is a complete bitch in every sense of the word. As much of a potential physical threat as Pete is, I sure hope it's Abi's time next week.

Well, I guess that's it for me this week. Thanks to Ben and BOP for asking me back to fill in this week...this is a fantastic season of Survivor thus far, and it only seems to be getting better. Ben, have a blast finishing this one off and until next time, take care!