Pre-credit sequence. I’m not going to miss Pete [an uninteresting exit interview]. Will anybody from Dangrayne? Abi will! It’s The Morning After and she’s whining about the “brutality” of Tribal Council. She declares that their behavior towards her wasn’t “cute.” [Monkey!] Denise says that Abi’s next to go, unless she “miraculously” wins Immunity, but since she wanted to introduce that possibility, she might as well tell us who would be the next target in the event of said miracle. That’d be Jonathan Penner. That’s what we so often call “foreshadowing,” kids.
Sympathy for the Devil. Malcolm and Abi go out to collect Tree-Mail and Malcolm’s suddenly feeling pity for the complainer. She’s crying and he’s hugging her and… I’m not feeling sympathy. Sorry. “Abi’s very un-self-aware. It’s hard not to feel a little sympathy for her,” Malcolm insists. They each have envelopes. Messages from home? Nope! Cash-money. It’s time for a food auction. Abi’s planning on sitting back, saving her money for when she can get something good. “I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor,” Abi swears.
Irritable Bowel Auction. Each player has $500. Why? Doesn’t that seem a bit excessive for an auction in a cash-starved country? They could play with… $20 bucks and bid in increments of $1. Or why not play with a BILLION dollars? Anywho… Up first? Pancakes and bacon and orange juice. Denise wants the meat and carbs and she goes all-in, spending $500 on her breakfast. Up next? A wine-and-cheese platter. Without a second’s thought, Skupin pays $500. “I am not a drinker,” Skupin admits. I… don’t understand that. It’s dairy and alcohol. This isn’t going to sit well in your stomach. Iced coffee and donuts find people getting a bit more cautious, as Malcolm only has to pay $200 for his future sugar-and-caffeine crash. The next item is a covered tray. Penner bids $100 and gets fried chicken and fries. He’s happy. Orgasmically happy. Time for a second covered item, which Man-Dana gets for $200. It’s a stuffed baked potato, but Probst offers him the chance to trade it for rice and beans for the tribe. Because he correctly takes the collective goods, I’m gonna call him “Carter” for a while. I don’t know how hungry I would be for a baked potato to be enough to keep me from helping the tribe. A pizza? Sure. We could talk about backstabbing my chums. But a baked potato? Come on. A third covered tray goes to Blair Warner for $320. It’s a huge subway sandwich and she has a food orgasm of her own. That sandwich might have been enough to get me to tell Probst to shove his beans-and-rice. Abi bids $500 and gets “an advantage in the game.” See? Abi’s not so dumb. “There’s no compassion towards me here. I have to have compassion towards myself,” Abi says. Carter gets a second tray for $200. It contains veal shanks for the entire tribe. They pass the veal around and devour it by hand. And that’s it.
Debbie Downer. “Everybody was a winner,” cheers Penner as they return to camp after Reward. With the castaways happy, it’s the perfect moment for Abi to ruin everything by demanding that Penner apologize to her. “I was demoralized. I was pointed fingers at. I was ganged-up on,” she complains. “In a game, if you are that blunt, that honest, it can feel off-putting. So you might have been friendlier,” Penner says. “I’m sorry, but it is really hard not to laugh at some of the things she says,” Blair Warner says of Abi. Penner knows that if Abi continues to be awful, nobody would dare think of flipping away from him, so he simultaneously encourages her, while also giving her the least deserved hug ever. Abi thinks that her “advantage” is a valuable tool and that people are realizing they need to negotiate with her. But what is the note and what is the advantage? She gets to move directly to the final round in they challenge, giving her a 1-in-3 chance of winning. That’s a good prize, but Abi suggests it may be time to bluff on the actual contents of the note.
Hidden Illusory Idol. The imaginary early bird gets the imaginary worm. The next morning, Abi wakes up early. She’s going to play around with them and make up a Hidden Immunity Idol, thinking she’s going to make her stand as a warrior. Lounging on the bamboo, Abi tells Malcolm that she doesn’t think she’s going home at the next Tribal. Initially, Malcolm isn’t buying it and compares Abi to the ex-girlfriend who won’t leave you alone, but also isn’t banging you. Abi comes right out and tells Malcolm that she’s already found another Idol. He doesn’t seemed surprised and just says “fancy.”
Cutting the Gordian Knot. Immunity is back up for grabs. Carter gives up his necklace. As we know, it’s a multi-stage challenge, with each contestant attached to a rope and weaving through various obstacles. Five people advance past the first stage. Then two. In a twist, Probst will ask a question before each round and if they answer incorrectly, they’ll get five percent of their body weight added through the rest of the competition. Probst asks Abi to read her note and… She bluffs! She says there are two messages and she’s only reading the second. And then she tears it into tiny pieces. Probst bluffs along with her. Blair Warner and Denise get weight for the first stage. [Wait. How am I only just now realizing that Denise is a tiny Carrot Top?] The weight doesn’t hurt Denise, who advances along with Carter, Skupin, Malcolm and…. Penner. Denise picks up more weight for the second stage, along with Skupin and Carter. More ropes and sticks. Penner advances along with… Carter. So now it’s Carter (with 10 percent of his body weight now) against Penner and Abi. Untying knots, Abi gets out to a lead, which keeps growing. Who knew she was such a knot-untying maniac? “You gotta be freaking kidding me,” Denise says. Abi wins Immunity! “What a journey it has been,” Jeff Probst tells her. And ugh.
Blair Warner is NOT very good at this game. Oy. Abi’s gonna be smug, isn’t she? “I couldn’t ask for a more convenient excuse to get rid of a real threat in this game,” Malcolm acknowledges. And that threat? Penner, duh. Everybody else agrees to write Penner’s name down and Blair Warner says, “I’m just not cut out for this game.” Everybody laughs. But Blair Warner has a true conflict, because she doesn’t want to hurt somebody she cares about. “I think it’s too big for me,” Blair Warner cries to the camera. “I’m not very good at this game,” Blair Warner pouts to Penner, who tells her to “cut the crap” and pulls her aside. Blair Warner tells Penner that she wanted to be aligned with him, but when he wouldn’t commit, she committed to somebody else and that she’s been told to write down his name. This is true. She also tells him again that she’s not good at this game. This is also true. Penner is ticked off. “Lisa, once again, lost her mind,” Penner says. “I think her guns are ridiculous,” Penner says of the firearms to which Blair Warner is sticking. “I would say, ‘Go do that magic that you do,'” is Blair Warner’s advice. So Penner puts on his hat and goes to work. Penner credits Denise and Malcolm for duping Blair Warner, which isn’t exactly right. He takes responsibility for his own error in playing both sides, which is far closer to right. “I did not choose a side,” he owns. Penner sits down, tells Abi and Carter that he’s voting for Denise. They seem to agree. Once again, it’s all on Skupin, swing vote once again. Skupin knows that he’s going to potentially gain or potentially lose three jury votes however he goes. “I believe strongly that I could beat Penner in the Final 3,” Skupin says. Believe what you want, sir!
Tribal Council. Abi gives Jury Pete a big wink and says it was the best $500 she’d spent in her life. Denise tries to give a diplomatic response to ganging up on Abi at the last Tribal. Penner outs the Skupin-Warner-Malcolm-Denise Final 4 alliance and starts a grumble to sway Skupin and Blair Warner, who he says he’s bonded with. “I would hope we’re in your heart, too,” Malcolm tells Blair Warner, Laying it out, Penner tells Blair Warner and Skupin that a vote against him hands the million to either Malcolm or Denise. “Thanks buddy,” Malcolm whispers, sarcastically. Blair Warner says this reminds her of a situation from her life that’s too personal to discuss and she cries merely thinking of that decision. Skupin wants to be great friends with everybody, but he wants to win a million bucks.
The vote. “I hope you go home tonight. Look who’s judging now,” Abi smirks, writing Denise’s name down. Then she can’t properly fold her vote and she leaves it on the table. Penner gets to the table, reads his vote for “Denise” sarcastically aloud to the amusement of Probst and the Jury. Has that ever happened before? “Wonderful,” Penner says when Probst goes to tally. He thinks extensive sarcasm is gonna sway people? The votes: Denise. Denise. Penner. Penner. Denise. Penner. PENNER. “Yeah,” he says, standing up and hugging Carter. “Can I have a hug too? Abi asks. “Yeah, I’m not gonna hug anybody else,” Penner tells her. Excellent. “Keep your sunny side up and suck eggs,” are Penner’s departing words of wisdom, as he leaves whistling. Probst shrugs. “It’s been fun and extremely painful,” are Penner’s closing words.
Bottom Line. I shall miss Jonathan Penner. Always quotable. Always smart. Never quite smart enough. [We can debate, for example, whether the game was worth the candle on his vote for “Denies.”] This one was pretty simple. He was offered an alliance with the flimsy, wiggly swing votes. All he had to do was lock in Skupin and Blair Warner and negotiate around that. It wouldn’t have put him in any position of power, but do you honestly think that under THESE circumstances, he wouldn’t have been able to sway Carter and Abi and lived to fight another week? Of course he would have. Oh well. In the balance, Penner played impressively to even make it to this point. He could have gone out any of a half-dozen times this season. What’s interesting is that his failure to maneuver was what did him in, but it was a gaffe and now he’s stuck with it. And who’d have guessed Abi would be a knot-unraveling idiot savant? I’ll leave it for y’all to debate if this key challenge win elevates Abi to the level of potentially returnable pantheon villains, or if she’s still just a distasteful slug who did something smart with her food auction cash. [You’ll recall that Troyzan did the exact same thing last year when he was the person everybody hated at the food auction, winning Immunity and forcing the eviction of Leif. So it’s not like this isn’t something that happens on “Survivor” with semi-frequency. She didn’t suddenly become Geena Davis or some other Mensa scholar.] I suspect that Abi’s nefarious legacy — I don’t think any sort of redeemed or even fully validated legacy is possible — could be cemented if that Hidden Immunity Idol bluff has any legs. I can’t seriously imagine the intelligent remaining players believing that for $500, Abi bought both a massive Immunity advantage AND the only clue to an Idol. If she can make that ludicrousness gain traction, she’d deserve some credit. Ditto if she wins another Immunity or two, though in the event of another Abi win, it would just be a swift no-brainer vote against Carter, so Abi would have to win another Immunity after that before actually making anybody sweat again. We’ll see. It all made for an entertaining episode, though losing Penner is a blow.
What’d you think of Thursday’s episode? And have you revised your thoughts on Abi?