This episode's highlights, only slightly exaggerated, presented without comment:
- "Don't look at me to interfere with this negotiation, you grumbling newbies. Penner and Skupin are talking. They have my full approval if they want to ditch this challenge. Respect your betters."
- "Katie! Look, we know you suck at challenges, right? Can you hurry up and grab a pole so we can get back to watching you fail, already?"
- "Abi-Maria! How dare you contaminate that immunity idol with your challenge-avoiding lady hands? Let your natural superior, Malcolm, hold it instead!"
Bonus, actual, unaltered quote from his EW.com Q&A with Dalton Ross: "I never want to pull someone out of a challenge. I don’t want to have any impact at all."
Curse you, Survivor editors, for hiding the wit and wisdom of Carter Williams up until this point. He is truly a bard for these, our troubled times, endlessly spouting hyposyllabic symphonies. How many more gems have we missed?
Yeah, we're totally stealing this from Andy Dehnart's "Bachelor Poetry," but the cadence of Carter's previously hidden confessionals so easily lends itself to the form. For example:
"The reward was
Okay, okay, maybe it's not up there with "Penner, what do you want to do? Katie or Penner?" But nonetheless, if the editors could be so kind, maybe they could cobble together a Carter spoken-word album from their cutting room floor detritus? Christmas is but two months away, hint hint.
Grant Mattos (Redemption Island) was a former NFL wide receiver, used to catching lobbed balls. Jeff Kent is a Hall of Fame-bound, former professional baseball infielder, experienced at catching pop-ups and line drives (albeit not in a fashion in danger of earning a Gold Glove). So it's not particularly surprising that these two did well in a challenge that involved catching balls. In fact, it should probably be expected.
Malcolm, on the other hand, was merely a college (albeit Dartmouth) football player. And a defensive end at that, i.e. not a wide receiver, nor the football-player-guy who tries to slap the ball away from the wide receiver. But Malcolm was all over this challenge, "accidentally" flinging his net and distracting/ blocking Penner, catching one ball despite being tackled by Carter, and leaping over a fallen Jeff Kent. This particular contest is specifically designed for speedy, tall athletes to dominate, and Malcolm rose to the challenge.
(It's okay, we loathe ourselves for that one, too.)
(And seriously, two purely physical challenges in one episode, with no puzzles? Is this Wipeout, or something?)
Strategically, this episode appeared to be a series of unforced errors, most of them engineered by either Penner or Skupin, or both. Remarkably, both survived the episode without being voted off and/or eaten.
Katie opened the episode talking about how she'd have to "work my magic" to stay alive, but by the end of the episode, the actual feat of illusion appeared to be Penner's. We weren't shown what actually happened, but somehow Penner managed to convince Jeff Kent and Carter (and Denise) that their original plan of voting off the returning player wasn't in their best interest, or at least that doing so put them at risk of being idoled. It's possible that Carter's "Penner or Katie?" question may have tipped him off, but even so, Penner survived the vote without even feeling the need to play his idol.
Something happened in the middle there, so we'll assume it was Penner's work. Otherwise, what was Jeff Kent thinking? Penner's a threat, and he gave away their food source! Penner and Skupin's reward challenge-ending negotiations were already the perfect demonstration that the two returnees are a threat to collaborate post-merge. Technically, that could potentially work in Carter/Kent/Denise's favor if they sensed that Skupin was a threat to flip. (Was it clear at the reward that his tribe hates him?) Penner is a necessary bridge to that move. But if Jeff Kent had kept loyal Katie around, and had Denise pull in Malcolm, he could have had a fairly solid five, one dominated by original Kalabaws. It would have been difficult to split their four votes to protect against Penner's idol, however, and that was probably the deciding factor. So we suppose we should begrudgingly acknowledge that a hidden idol may have actually been useful. Just this once, at least.
Skupin also deserves some credit this week. By openly negotiating a surrender to Penner during the reward challenge, Skupin got his hands on some precious, delicious, uncooked (and apparently uncookable, due to the rain) rice. Still a provider for his tribe! He also managed to antagonize just about every one of his tribemates in doing so, even people like Lisa, whose stated position was a bold "I'm with the majority! Whichever that ends up being!" In leading against their wishes, Skupin's move is a veiled threat (particularly with a possible merge looming) to the Angry People who think they're running his tribe: Pete, Abi-Maria, and Artis. If Skupin and RC flip, even the stragglers in the Angry Alliance (Lisa and Malcolm) will not be enough for a Tandang majority, if they merge at 11.
Did the Angry people realize this, and get to work repairing intratribal relations? Nope. It's far more productive to whine incessantly about forfeiting. That's the kind of festering division that always seems to cripple a tribe that rarely attends Tribal Council (Rotu in Marquesas, Timbira in Tocantins, Galu in Samoa). Yes, we have the foresight of the next episode's preview (which seems to show a merge coming), but recent seasons have merged at 12 or 10, so they ought to know it's not far away. If they are the "fans" of the show they claim to be, that is.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Katie Hanson