Pre-credit sequence. I miss Penner. Dangrayne — Now we know the origin of that name — returns to camp in the aftermath. Abi says it’s clear to her now that Skupin, Blair Warner, Malcolm and Denise have a Top 4 alliance. Yes, Abi. It’s “clear” to you because Jonathan Penner told you EXACTLY THAT. You’re not Sherlock Holmes. Abi does, however, begin feeding Carter’s insecurities about not being part of that alliance and reminds him of the Imaginary Immunity Idol she “found” last week. Blair Warner thinks Penner is correct about the quality of Malcolm’s game, so she knows that going to the end with Malcolm and Denise might be a mistake. However, if we know anything about Blair Warner, it’s that she likes to be true to her word. Also, she’s not good at this game.
How can this moment be cherished without Sprint? It’s Day 31 and we’re jumping right into a Reward Challenge. In this challenge, each player will be paired with… a loved one! Skupin is paired with his son, who proves he’s a True Skupin, by nearly tripping and falling flat on his face as he runs to hug his dad. Much emotion. And grunting. Carter is paired with his rather youthful mom. Much emotion. Denise is paired with her husband. Much emotion. Blair Warner is joined by… TOOTIE! Oh. Wait. I kid. No, Kim Fields was not available, so Blair Warner is joined by her brother. Much emotion. And sobbing. Even Jeff Probst is impressed by how much emotion Blair Warner shows. Abi’s mom comes out to prove that not everybody hates Abi. Much emotion. And Portuguese. And, finally, Malcolm’s goofball brother Miles comes out.
How deep is your love? Oh right. Challenge. They have to toss muddy bags to their partners and then use those muddy bags to knock over a selection of targets. Yeah. It’s not an overly complicated task. Want to know what they’re playing for? The winner gets an afternoon and night with their loved one back at camp. That’s not quite as good as going far away and getting a picnic, but it’ll do. It’s funny watching Abi’s mom mock her for feeble throwing. Miles and Malcolm win Reward and Miles pile-drives his brother into the ground. Time now for the perennially awkward moment in which the Family Reward winner has to determine which bonds they want to validate and whose love they want to thwart. Malcolm makes the correct choice, for emotional fragility reasons, and allows Blair Warner and her brother to get more time together. He’s allowed one more and he lets the Skupins spend the night. That’s probably the right play also. Much emotion as the other family members depart. “Those are my allies. I need to keep them close,” Malcolm says of his choice. Yup. It makes sense.
Let Justice be done. Back to camp and Malcolm, Skupin and Blair Warner are playing tour guides. Blair Warner’s brother is impressed she’s made it to Day 31. Her brother, whose name seems to be “Justice,” is 20 years younger, but he’s full of wisdom or somesuch. “I haven’t really missed Malcolm,” jokes Miles, who Malcolm calls “a knucklehead.” Malcolm is already concerned that his class clown brother could say something stupid and mess up his game. Soon, Skupin Jr. is climbing trees and falling out of trees and you can see that Skupin Sr. is proud of his bloodied son. Toss him in the fire, Skupin! Blair Warner tells her brother about her alliance, but also tells bro that she doesn’t want Malcolm in the Final Four, even admitting to her failed effort to blindside Malcolm. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes out here, Justice,” Blair Warner says. “I bet,” he replies. “My job is to remind my sister to think of this as a game,” Justice tells Blair Warner, warning her that Malcolm is a threat. In a Skupin/Blair Warner family parlay, Justice comes right out and suggests that they should blindside Malcolm. “I do know it’s a game. And I love this game,” Blair Warner says. Suddenly, Justice is fixated on voting Malcolm out and he doesn’t get Blair Warner’s fidelity to her word. Blair Warner’s mind is suddenly clear! She has a huge smile and declares that she can play this game. Suddenly, she wants to play the game to win.
Though the Heavens Fall. Blair Warner is leading a prayer square with Justice and Skupin and Skupin Jr. She even asks God to bless her plan, but suggests that if he’d rather somebody else win, that’s fine too. OH FOR [BLEEP]’S SAKE. Seeing that revival meeting, Malcolm realizes that in giving Reward to the folks who would bond over Jesus, he may have made a gaffe. “I’m afraid that her brother, who seems like a very level-headed, intelligent guy, may have snapped her back to her senses,” Malcolm says of Blair Warner. “I don’t know what Jesus Christ would look like playing ‘Survivor,'” Justice giggles. “Sadly, a little bit like Malcolm,” Skupin laughs stupidly. “And he’d probably play like Carter,” Blair Warner guffaws meaninglessly, before she says that she doesn’t think God chooses sides on reality TV shows. Ugh. Then leave the poor Guy/Gal ALONE.
God weighs in. Family is gone. Immunity is back up for grabs. There’s a balance beam component and then bag collecting and then players have to make a pole and hit a target. First to collect three bags is Carter, followed by Skupin and then Lisa and Malcolm and finally Abi, whose apathy causes Jeff Probst to yell at her. “That took forever,” Probst tells Abi after she drops one of her bags and dawdles to the pole-building. Several poles fail, with Carter and then Malcolm tapping the target, but failing to put it in. Malcolm knocks the target over and GOD’S WILL IS DONE. Or something. “I’m so bummed. I was so ready to play this game hard and make a big move,” Blair Warner laments, as if she only had one chance to play and God denied her.
Abi would definitely be Slytherin. Blair Warner is probably Hufflepuff. Malcolm and Denise are Gryffindor. Skupin’s a Muggle. “It’s the most relaxing feeling I’ve felt this entire game,” says Malcolm, who’s relieved that his mind gets a break. With one Idol on his neck and one in his pocket, he knows that he’s in the Final 4. “That door was closed,” Blair Warner tells Skupin, regarding God’s plan. Blair Warner doesn’t understand God’s will, but Skupin figures God has something waiting for them at the Final 4. Or else God doesn’t care about “Survivor”? So now Blair Warner and Skupin are looking for signs for God about the choice between Carter and Abi. “Do we go for peace at camp or strategy?” Malcolm tells Skupin, laying out the choice. Carter wanders over in the midst of this conversation. “Out of respect for this game and out of respect for me, keep me around,” Carter tells them bluntly. And then the castaways compare their toes. And they boil a crab. Over food, Abi takes the opportunity to be obnoxious about who has voted for who. I’m not sure what hornet’s nest Abi thinks she’s stirring, though she vows to play her Hidden Immunity Idol next Tribal. Is anybody taking this lie seriously? “She’s like a soul-sucker. She’s like the Dementors from Harry Potter,” Malcolm says of Abi. “It is not a cultural thing. It’s her personality,” Denise maintains, though she adds, “It’s the culture of Abi.” Facing ire from all sides, Abi digs up her Fantasy Idol and notes, “If you tell a lie long enough, everyone starts to believe it and I’m convinced in my own lie. Even I am believing myself now,” Abi says. Malcolm knows that they’d be making a bad strategic decision in voting out Abi to keep Carter. “Plain and simple, cut and dry: If Abi goes home tonight, it’s because she’s a bitch,” Malcolm says.
Tribal Council. The Jury enters. Penner hasn’t shaved and it’s unclear if he’s even bathed since his elimination. Malcolm says that he felt safe even without Immunity, prompting Probst to ask for a “reminder” on who the Group of Four is, as if Probst has been so busy with other things that that information just slipped his mind. Carter says he deserves to be in the game and everybody else should honor that by keeping him around. “I don’t know if Carter’s more of a son to me or more of a friend to me,” Skupin says of clicking with Carter. Blair Warner, though, comes right out and announces she’d rather sit next to somebody she could beat than somebody who deserves it. Carter looks concerned. Abi says she’s confident, what with her Hidden Immunity Idol. “The only thing we can go on is what Abi’s sharing with us,” Denise says. Malcolm figures if Abi really had an Idol she’d be leveraging it more. This leads to a debate as to whether Abi brings baggage or is baggage or something, while Denise insists Abi hasn’t played a balanced enough game to win.
The Vote. Carter writes Abi’s name down. Abi writes Carter’s name. And a frowny face. Probst goes to tally. Abi doesn’t play her fake Idol. The votes: Carter. Abi. Carter. Carter. CARTER. [Abi crosses herself. So this must have been God’s plan? God’s Team Abi? I’m so confused by God’s contributory role on this season of “Survivor.”] “I can understand it, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. They’re playing with their heads, not their hearts at this point,” Carter says. He seems to mean this as a bad thing.
Bottom Line. Is the sense that Carter was so bland and inoffensive that he would be a threat with a Jury that includes Jeff Kent and Jonathan Penner? Or was he only a threat insofar as he was capable of winning an Immunity or two, rather than being a threat to win the million? In any case… Yeah. Playing with their heads and not their hearts. Kinda. I’d feel much more confident agreeing with Carter’s assessment of the situation if 20 minutes of tonight’s episode hadn’t been devoted to Blair Warner and Skupin praying for guidance and wondering why it was God’s plan to allow Malcolm to build a sturdy pole. I’m not sure if “Survivor” has wallowed in religion this aggressively since the glory days of Psycho Brandon Hantz. I didn’t like it then. I don’t like it now. And it’s impossible for me to feel like Skupin and Blair Warner are playing with their heads on any level, even if they accidentally made the intellectually correct choice this week. I feel like this “Survivor” season is coming down to a showdown between Faith and Reason, with Skupin & Blair Warner pitted against Malcolm & Denise, with Abi playing the role of Satan, or something. I have a feeling that bad or unlikable things are coming. Or, rather, “bad or unlikable things” from the point of view of somebody who has to take Reason in this debate, at least as it relates to “Survivor.” But the bottom line of this Bottom Line is that the players did eliminate the guy who was, theoretically, the bigger threat. In that, the made the right and rational decision, even if it guaranteed us another week of Abi. Mostly, I’m glad Malcolm was able to pull out that Immunity win when he needed to. On the other hand, how could God not have told Blair Warner that in lieu of being able to vote Malcolm out, voting Denise out would cripple Malcolm’s resolve down the stretch? Was that possibility not even thrown out there? Why not knock out one of two players seemingly guaranteed to take the other to a finale situation? Or am I wrong and you don’t blindside Denise between it would only give Malcolm another guaranteed Jury vote? It just seems like it should have been discussed, right?
Bottom Line, II. Back to the Abi: Good Villain or Bad Villain? debate. She had to take a step back this week, right? She was dreadful in two challenges and dreadfully lazy in one of them. The Immunity Idol bluff didn’t sway anybody. So that would all seem to work against her. But she stayed in the game. She managed to be exactly sub-odious enough to *allow* the other players to think with their heads, rather than their hearts. Do we give her credit for that? I wouldn’t think so. And yet everybody was completely prepared to send her home last week and she escaped and now she’s escaped again and “Survivor” has taught us that if you let people slip by, they might surprise you in the end. I can’t think of any precedent for somebody with Abi’s “game” winning “Survivor,” but it’s a breeze to imagine how she could find herself in the finale, which would be a bizarre achievement on its own.
Your thoughts? Brilliant questions for me to ask Carter?