Pre-Credit sequence. Anybody remember who went home last week? Anybody? OK. Fine. It was Carter. Man-Dana? That other guy who was out there who isn’t there anymore? Nevermind. It’s back to DangRayne for the Final 5. “Thanks for keeping me, guys,” Abi tells everybody, as if an active choice had been made to validate her very existence. “I am over the moon,” she tells us, before the editors cut to the moon to show what Abi is not, in fact, over. Abi’s unsure if anybody buys her Fantasy Immunity Idol, but she’s planning to keep fantasizing. “This game isn’t fair,” says Blair Warner, who has now fully embraced her “I’d rather go to the end with somebody I can beat” revised ethos. This ethos is concerning Malcolm, who knows that if Blair Warner’s head is in the game, she’s dangerous going forward. Foreshadowing?
“99 Problems (But Abi[tch] Ain’t One).” It’s Day 34. Everybody’s very concerned about whether Carter is better rested over at Ponderosa. That’s sweet, I guess? Abi departs to get water and everybody mocks her in absentia. Malcolm is amused by the “cock-and-bull” story that Abi continues to perpetrate the Fantasy Idol and everybody else sounds equally aware of the fraud. Abi’s goal is to break up the Denise-Malcolm alliance, which is exactly what I was saying they should have considered last week. When Malcolm and Denise go wandering, Abi goes over to Blair Warner and whispers in her ear, Iago-style, that she’s at the bottom of the Alliance of 4. “I don’t believe Abi for a second,” Blair Warner insists, though she’s determined to continue to use Abi, even if it’s “Yucky.” I wonder if Abi is a better liar in Portuguese than in English, because in English, she’s a desperately poor liar. Blair Warner, meanwhile, thinks she’s in control of her destiny and she’s biding her time before her big move.
Chutes and ladders. Let’s play for Reward. Players have to race up and over a slide into the ocean to collect a bundle of rings and then toss those rings onto a series of posts. Wanna know what they’re playing for? The winner gets a helicopter ride to a pizza party on a boat, plus shark-watching. Plus, the winner gets to take two friends to tag alone. Everybody agrees that’s worth playing for.The challenge looks like a lot of fun, particularly the slide. Or at least it looks fun the way everybody other than Blair Warner does it. Skupin dominates from the beginning and has a big advantage up to the rings. Malcolm makes it close, but Skupin wins Reward. Skupin jokes that his last chopper ride was when he was evacuated. Who’s going with him? Skupin thanks Malcolm for letting Skupin Jr. come back to camp last week. And because the alternative would be a disaster, he also takes Blair Warner. “Abi, you look heartbroken,” Probst tells the pouting Abi.
The Odd Couple. Ha. Abi and Denise. What fun they shall have. Abi is still whining, calling herself “crushed.” Denise tries to remain optimistic, even though Abi tells us that she’s “a horrible person.” “It’s like the first date with the kid who pulled your hair in kindergarden,” Denise says slightly weirdly. And Abi just keeps on whining. “I’m literally the swing vote here,” says the confused Brazilian. “You never know what’s going to happen at Immunity,” Abi says, somewhat more accurately, before ruining things by mentioning her Fantasy Idol. Denise prays for needles with which to gouge her eardrums.
Cage goes in the water? You go in the water? Skupin’s in the water. Our Skupin. Did we not even see the helicopter ride? That sucks. Instead, we pick up with the winners, who are enjoying pizza and soft drinks — or “Pop” as Skupin calls it — and cookies. We learn now that Skupin doesn’t normally eat sugar and that when he does eat sugar he becomes, in Malcolm’s words, “like a drunk chick in a bar.” Soon, Blair Warner is doing cookie shots off of Skupin’s flipper and Malcolm observes that Skupin has become fun to be with. I kinda hope he gets eaten by a shark. The guide finds marine life for them and then they get pushed into the water with flippers and sent to swim with whale sharks. Gracious. Malcolm’s petting the darned thing. That’s crazy. “A whale shark head-butted Michael Skupin,” says an excited Malcolm, who also hopes Skupin gets eaten by a shark. Strategy time, though: Intriguing. Malcolm’s argument to his two well-fed chums is that nobody beats Denise at the end. Malcolm figures his best chance to win is to go to the Final 3 with Blair Warner and Skupin. For his part, Skupin smartly recognizes that aligning with Malcolm might actually help him, since Malcolm is always an Immunity threat and would bring him along. Words are given and they agree they’re all going to the Final 3. But Blair Warner is prepared to go against the deal she just made, if necessary.
She lives beyond the grace of God, a wanderer in the outer darkness. She is vampyr, nosferatu. MONKEY! Everybody’s back together at camp. Something weird is happening with Denise’s face. She has a stinging pain radiating through her whole neck. There are fang marks on her neck, which is pretty freaky. Maybe Abi’s a vampire? “There’s stuff everywhere out here,” Denise says after listing the jungle’s wildlife. Blair Warner’s solution is to pray for Denise’s venom. Abi feels bad, but she’s mostly relieved. “I came here not to be feeling bad for other people. I came to win a million dollars,” Abi says. Well, OK! That’s just what Dracula would say if he were playing “Survivor.” When he wasn’t saying, “Oh God, the sun! The sun!”
Malcolm is A-Mazing. Immunity is back up for grabs. Denise is still a wreck and Abi is ready to go after this opportunity. Players have to cross a rope bridge using planks and collecting puzzle pieces and… stuff. Malcolm has a lead, but tumbles off the bridge, giving the advantage to Skupin, Blair Warner and Denise. Lagging way behind, Malcolm’s putting in a lot of effort to finish last in an Immunity challenge that he doesn’t need. Skupin fails on the puzzle. Denise fails at the puzzle. And suddenly Malcolm’s back in it. In fact, suddenly, Malcolm finishes the maze, passes the ball through it and claims the Immunity he didn’t need. So now he’s safe and he can protect the person of his choosing. That’s a ton of power for one Malcolm. Denise thinks the night’s vote will be a slam-dunk against Abi. But is it?
Truth or Blair. Stay away from the fire, Skukin! A little spark pops up and Skupin curls up in a ball. Abi is tired and hungry and emotionally weak, but she vows to keep on fighting. Going to Skupin, she says that bringing her to Final 3 is his best chance of winning. “You have to consider every scenario,” Skupin says and acknowledges a certain amount of sense to Abi’s plan. He’s prepared to tolerate Abi if it means winning a million, going to Blair Warner with his contemplations. And Blair Warner loves the idea of going to the Final 3 with Skupin and Abi. Of course, as intelligence would dictate, Denise goes to Malcolm and lobbies for use of his Immunity Idol. “If the situation calls for it,” he hedges. “I really have no intention of giving Denise the Idol,” he tells us, predicting he’ll give the Idol to his mom. Blair Warner makes an interesting point: She’d rather go to the end with Abi, but she REALLY doesn’t want to go to the end with Malcolm, so she may want to keep Denise because she’d be more of a threat against Malcolm than Abi will be in a final Immunity Challenge. This is an interesting point. I don’t know if it’s a GOOD point. But it’s interesting. “Tonight’s decision, for me, is based purely on strategy,” Blair Warner says.
Tribal Council. Asked about the lay of the land, Blair Warner credits Abi with reasonable arguments. Jeff Probst insults Abi for a while, before saying she’d be good to take to the end. Abi agrees and says everybody can beat her. “Definitely. If that’s the way you want to play the game of ‘Survivor,'” Denise acknowledges. Probst tries giving Abi credit, but Denise figures it’s about luck. Blair Warner takes offense at taking Denise’s comments out of context. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think Blair Warner’s rant at Denise was completely for the benefit of the Tandang folks on the jury, which makes it semi-brilliant. Go Blair Warner. Abi repeats, again, that nobody’s going to beat Denise or Malcolm. “Lisa or Skupin are not winning this game,” Abi says, before calling Skupin an idiot. “You’re a moron,” Abi says when Skupin tries talking. This is the smartest Abi has played all game. “I came this far, I would like to at least make it to Final 3,” Abi says, before Malcolm says that her strategy has won a million dollars. Abi agrees that she’s a loudmouth, criticizing Denise for playing the game just to “make friends.”
The Vote. Abi writes Denise’s name and says, “You’re patronizing. You’re judgmental. You’re just not a good person.” Denise writes Abi’s name. [From the Jury, Penner seems to be flipping somebody — the editing suggests either that it’s Abi or that she’s amused — off.] Nobody plays any Idols, real or fake. Probst tallies: Denise. Abi. Abi. Abi. That’s it for ABI. “Good luck to all of you,” Abi says. As they exit, Skupin does a happy dance. Did somebody give that guy more sugar? “After the Merge, I was targeted as the Crazy Latina,” Abi says. “I guess they beat me on my big Brazilian ass,” she cracks.
Bottom Line: It was a pretty good strategic episode. I like that we’ve reached this point in the season and nearly everybody appears to be playing a solid long-term game. Oddly, the exception appears to be Denise, who may or may not actually believe the stuff she’s been saying about playing the game a certain way and going to the end with strong people. If Denise is thinking about making any sort moves against or around Malcolm, the editors haven’t shown us. Since Denise has been strategically active throughout, I won’t begrudge her potential laziness here, especially since she was bitten by a vampire. But Malcolm and Blair Warner and even Skupin appear to be thinking and planning, which could make for an interesting finale. Heck, even Abi kinda had her thinking cap on tonight and even if she played the, “I’m repellant and Denise and Malcolm are Gods” card a little hard, it was literally the only card she had, so what was the harm in reminding everybody how repellant she was? I give her full credit for going out with strategic gusto, even if she’d dug herself such a deep hole that there was no game she could really play. I think she went into Tribal knowing that she had zero chance of swaying Skupin and Blair Warner, so she had to go gung-ho. Or maybe I’m giving Abi too much credit [for the first time]. Maybe there actually was wiggle room and she made Skupin realize that five more days with her wouldn’t be worth a million? Dunno. If Malcolm and Denise were smarter, they might have considered stabbing Skupin or Blair Warner in the back at this Tribal Council. As Blair Warner’s Pro-Tandang rant reminded us, Tandang has a lot of power on that Jury and it could be enough power to give Blair Warner or Skupin a huge advantage that Denise and Malcolm may not be able to overcome. But we’ll see on Sunday!
What’d you think of tonight’s episode? Who’s in the best position for Sunday? Who are you rooting for?