Honestly, we really don't have anything against Malcolm, and we're delighted for him and his newfound good luck in finding idols, avoiding tribal council, and actually winning things (baked, sugar-filled things, even).
But that quote they pulled for the episode title totally blows.
(We would have preferred "Matswing Low, Sweet Chariot.")
Oh, Dawson. Dawson, Dawson, Dawson. We had such high hopes for you, what with your Danni Boatwright-esque identification of the otherwise nondescript-looking Jeff Kent (Jeff Kent!). Not to mention your Fairplay-esque penchant for mischief making. Where did it all go wrong? And more importantly, where were you when it happened?
Now, to be fair, Dawson did get a couple of decent confessionals this episode, along with a shared post-challenge commisseration session with the also previously invisible Katie. But that seemed almost like an afterthought, following as it did all the Major Events of the episode: Malcolm and Denise find an idol, Malcolm and Denise get new buffs, Malcolm gets sugary snack treats, Malcolm gets Pete to tell him every Tandang secret without even trying, Dana appears to be almost dead. That, and it came on the heels of three straight episodes in which the three women of Kalabaw (plus Carter) were lucky to even appear on-screen.
Was Dawson's puzzling under-edit some sort of retribution for her excessive Probst worship? This seems unlikely, since that approach worked out brilliantly for Cochran. So why, then? Apart from her "I know Jeff Kent!'s secret identity!" storyline, which opened in the premiere, ignored for three weeks, then abruptly aborted here, Dawson really didn't get much of a chance to appear this season. Which is odd, since she's hardly lacking for personality. We guess that'll teach Survivor super-fans to apply for the show? Who does she need to hug and kiss around here to get some screen time? Come on!
Since the merge could theoretically come as soon as the next episode (they are down to twelve remaining contestants, after all), we hope we're not too late to make special mention of Abi-Maria spectacular challenge-avoidance skills here. Our benevolent host, Jeff Probst, certainly didn't fail to mention it, looking aghast at Abi's hypoparticipation before the immunity challenge, then abruptly switching gears to bully Katie instead.
To be honest, Abi-Maria's answer of having appeared in "two" challenges did seem spuriously high, until we remembered that she'd briefly groped Dawson's armpit then had her hair pulled in this week's inaugural reward challenge, which... sort of counts as competing. And she sort of assisted Lisa in the puzzle stage of the first challenge. So hey Probst, she's been tested. Lay off of her.
Seriously, though, if the merge does come soon, Abi-Maria is in a great position: she's absolutely no threat to win immunity, so she'll be the farthest thing from a post-merge target. In addition, she has a hidden idol that only she and Pete know about. Well, Abi, Pete, and now Malcolm. And whomever Pete and Malcolm manage to tell before the merge.
Malcolm didn't do any actual stabbing of backs in this episode, but he's certainly positioned himself nicely to do so in the future, thanks to the wide-open, welcoming arms of his ripe-for-the-picking new Tandang tribemates. Based on their various comments, his chief strategic accomplishments were: being 24 years old (all Pete needed to hear!), being handsome (Lisa's locked down!), and/or simply being there and potentially flirt-with-able (RC is moving in!). This was, of course, leaps and bounds ahead of Denise's maneuvering, which consisted of getting water with Jeff Kent.
We kid. Of course, both Malcolm and Denise seemed to do all the right things with their new tribes: contributing in the challenges, offering to work around camp, bringing as much positive energy as they could muster, and listening politely to the crazy ramblings of six random strangers who'd been deprived of tribal council visits for twelve straight days. High marks all around. But to Malcolm's credit: he did all this with the Matsing hidden idol in his pocket. And at least as far as the editors are concerned, hidden idols = greatness.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Dana Lambert & Sarah Dawson