Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.11 “Hell Hath Frozen Over”: Time for Penner to face the music

Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 11
“Hell Hath Frozen Over”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

It’s been interesting this season to watch how each returning player has approached Survivor differently using his past knowledge. Russell Swan looked at his first appearance and decided to change his style. The problem was that he actually did well the first time as the leader before his exit. Mike Skupin competed during a different era where strategy took a back seat to physical survival. He seemed like a prime contender to leave early, but he’s maneuvered well heading towards the end. The surprise has been Jonathan Penner, who entered with a reputation as a strategist. He clearly understands the show and has studied how things work in the game. Unfortunately, his play hasn’t always reflected that intelligence. After surviving a few close calls after the merge, he got complacent and wasted an opportunity to solidify his place. When Lisa and Skupin approached him last week about an alliance, he dismissed their idea and broke a cardinal rule on this show. Even if the deal is bad, never push aside a chance to set up a concrete route to the end. By the time he realizes the mistake, the damage is done and he’s heading to the jury.

Given the opportunities in this final seven, Penner is certainly kicking himself today for missing the chance. If he goes to the end with Lisa and Skupin, Penner is the favorite. On the other hand, Denise and Malcolm are not the right people to keep around. This episode shows just how wishy-washy Lisa is about every decision. After they decide to vote out Penner, she keeps rambling about how the game is too big for her. This is the moment when Lisa crosses the line into annoying territory. Even Abi-Maria has some new tricks! There’s a classic moment where Penner can’t take Lisa’s rambling and just says “cut the crap”. It’s ridiculous that she wants him to feel sorry for her dilemma in having to vote him out. The lack of self-awareness is stunning even for this type of show. Lisa is starting to feel like a legitimate goat to take to the end. The jury doesn’t respect her game, and few are saying good things in extra interviews. Even so, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lisa at the final Tribal Council. The question is whether Malcolm and Denise can avoid the huge targets on their backs.

The episode’s centerpiece is Abi, who has no allies after Pete’s departure last week. Her only chance is to win immunity, and that scenario is unlikely given her awful challenge performances. Still, there’s always a chance in this game. It’s auction time! Fans remember that players have found a lifeboat in past seasons during this moment. Overconfidence and hunger for the others will make it easy for that person to buy an advantage in the immunity challenge. Abi holds her $500 and waits patiently for the right moment to grab an edge. It isn’t clear if she’s pulling a Tarzan and wants to keep the money or really knows about this opportunity. Either way, it pays major dividends at the challenge. The auction gives nearly everyone a chance to eat large quantities of food. The loser is Carter, who is basically forced to choose rice for the tribe over a meal. His second try leads to a small amount of meat for everyone. That guy has no luck. The head-scratcher comes from Skupin, who spends $500 for cheese and wine right when it appears. Also, he’s not a drinker. This adds more evidence to the fact that he might not be such a brilliant guy.

The immunity challenge focuses on Abi and her survival chances. The advantage from the auction puts her in the last round, but no one thinks it matters. She probably would not have been made it through the first two stages, which are more physical. Her competitors in untying ropes are Penner and Carter. Once she grabs an early lead and keeps rolling, it’s clear that the unthinkable is going to happen. While this is quite an achievement, Abi still has plenty of ridiculous moments. She pushes the idea that the advantage also includes an immunity idol clue, which is too much. This isn’t the worst strategy, but Abi makes it so blatant that it feels unreal. When Jeff Probst asks her to read the note stating her edge, she mentions a mysterious other part of the message and tears up the note. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern from her tribe mates about this possibility. They easily change the vote to Penner and move Abi’s exit back a few days.

After learning that he’s on the chopping block, Penner gets Carter and Abi to join in voting for Denise. He just needs one vote to flip the numbers. He has little chance with Lisa, so again the swing vote is Skupin. Even though he’s controlled who leaves in recent votes, Skupin has played a hand in each jury member’s exit. He sticks with his new alliance, which is understandable. Time will tell if this choice to stay put is right. The key spot will be the final five, where one of the two pairs will need a swing vote to take out the other. Malcolm and Denise have a strong position, but it wouldn’t take much for the others to knock them out. With the indications of a final two growing stronger, the game remains up for grabs and promises an interesting finish.

Dan Heaton

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