First off, let's make this clear: Abi-Maria is not evil, she's chaotic neutral.
Secondly, why do people get so upset when some blonde woman lays around camp, refusing to do any more work? Have they seen this show before? Shouldn't they be grateful she did something other than pluck her armpit hair for the first 26 days, rather than bemoaning her planned non-operation status for the next five? And wouldn't it be more productive to come to a compromise, such as: Okay, no problem, you can avoid cooking for the next five days, as long as you promise never to talk about food again? Pick your battles wisely, people.
Honestly, talk about a bunch of whiners.
For a guy who had previously been playing the role of the ironically inept evil mastermind, Pete seemed like a bit of an afterthought this episode. Apart from a few perfunctory "I could be okay if I win immunity" confessionals, he was largely ignored in favor of Abi's merry commentary. Which is a bit of a let-down, because his last-ditch pitch to Skupin was probably one of his least misguided strategic plays this game.
Let's run through Pete's list of accomplishments, shall we? There was the good-time-had-by-all when he dug up the hidden idol clue and placed it under RC's bag. Then there was telling Malcolm all of Tandang's secrets because he was clearly trustworthy, as a dude who happened to also be 24, while getting nothing in return (such as that Malcolm had one himself). Then, with a tribal advantage at the merge, he successfully booted his own tribemate in the first post-merge vote, turning a previously untouchable majority tribe into two warring factions. And so on.
One thing we can say for Pete: at least he was trying to play, and play hard, even if it didn't work out as he intended. And for that, it's disappointing he didn't get a more prominent placement in his own boot episode.
While Penner was busy tossing away what was essentially a free pass to the final three, Carter was quietly going about it the more traditional way: winning challenges. For all the talk about what a challenge threat Malcolm is, the man with the flowing locks has reached the finals of an individual immunity challenge (or otherwise come close to the necklace) exactly zero times in four tries. Carter, meanwhile, has won twice. (To be fair, Malcolm has been on every post-merge reward.) Still, an observant player would do well to take notice: Malcolm may have an idol, but Carter is demonstrating he has at least a semi-plausible chance of getting to the final three/two just by winning challenges.
Which could put Carter in the company of another blond-haired, surfer-ish dude, Fabio. The one who, despite lacking hidden idols, strategy, or any real alliance, went on to win Nicaragua. Could Carter actually follow in his footsteps? Maybe. Through ten episodes, no contestant has ever written Carter's name down. He has almost double the SurvAv score of every other player, at least through this episode.
Then again, there are still seven players left. If this season has a final three facing the jury, he'll need four more consecutive wins (five for final two), which is a bit of a tall order. Assuming someone notices, of course.
Coming out of this episode, the editing appears to suggest there are only two people remaining who have any chance of winning. It's probably not Denise, since we never see her talk about the endgame, unless it has something to do with Malcolm. It's probably not Malcolm, since we only ever hear him talk about the endgame when he's unable to do anything about it (such as while on reward), and he's the go-to alternate target when someone else is in trouble. It's probably not Carter, since we only ever see him when Probst is putting a necklace around his neck.
Finally, it's clearly not Penner, who followed up his bravura performance from last week with a cockamamie reluctance to take establish his post-final-6 alliance. His reward for hesitating to make this move? Being mocked by Lisa. Yes, the same Lisa, who all of three days earlier didn't think she could handle the ethical pressures of all this deal-making. Lisa, the human Tree Trunks.
Speaking of whom, that leaves... gracious! Just Skupin and Lisa. (And Abi-Maria, technically, but come on....) Skupin made a lot of noise this episode about taking control of his game, and making moves, then politely followed along with the group plan for splitting the vote (probably Denise's idea, but since she's no longer shown, we'll probably never know). Lisa's contribution included cutting ties to Abi-Maria and Pete (good call, since they were now hopelessly outnumbered), then watched in consternation as Penner declined her and Skupin's final three offer. Both Tandangs then later accepted, more or less grudgingly, Malcolm and Denise's final four offer.
How bizarre is it that, ten episodes into a back-and-forth, power-shifting season like Philippines, the two people seemingly with the best chances to win are not the ones plotting the moves, but the ones who've largely been bystanders the entire game? Lisa has voted against exactly one person who was booted (Jeff Kent). Skupin has voted against two, one of whom (RC) was his sole alliance-mate at the time. Neither has been voted against. They're not calling the shots, and they're not slitting anyone's throats. They're just there. Tribal Council ghosts.
Lisa could conceivably reach the end without winning a single individual challenge, while having voted out fewer than half the jurors. It's a completely new set of tactics: playing nice, but otherwise not perceptibly playing. (And lest you besmirch the Queen, this is not Sandra Diaz-Twine's strategy, because she actually votes people out: nine in each of her two winning seasons.) It's mystifying from the perspective of traditional Survivor gameplay, but so far, it appears to be effective. Guess we'll have to stop calling this award the "Slitty," if things continue as they appear.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Pete Yurkowski