Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.13 “Gouge My Eyes Out”: Yet another strategic blunder sets up an unpredictable finale

Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 13
“Gouge My Eyes Out”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

Several weeks ago, a four-person deal was struck on Survivor that wasn’t in any participant’s best interests. It seemed unlikely that either Malcolm and Denise or Skupin and Lisa planned to honor the deal. Apparently, this oath was stronger than considerations of what constitutes the best gameplay. Each pair would have benefited from betraying the alliance this week. Abi-Maria’s vote is up for grabs, and she is willing to do anything to stick around. Why wouldn’t someone grab her and try to control the game? She may be irritating at camp, but there are only three days left! Picking up Abi means a nearly certain final three spot because of the numbers. The editing promises that Lisa and Skupin are planning to take out Denise, but they again pull back and take the easy road. The only chance that either has of winning is against the other, which gives them limited odds. Even though a final two is likely, these players don’t realize that’s a possibility. Lisa and Skupin are playing for a final three with little chance to win, and that’s maddening for viewers. They’re playing a great second- or third-place game and aren’t willing to really take a shot at securing the million.

Malcolm enters this week sitting pretty since it’s the last time he can play the immunity idol. There is no way he’s heading home, but he can try to ensure his best chance moving further. Although she’s his long-time ally, Denise is a threat to his victory and is vulnerable this week. The reward challenge has them racing down a slide and into the ocean to retrieve a series of rings. The last step is tossing five rings onto hooks to gain a pizza lunch on a boat. Skupin grabs the close win and chooses Malcolm and Lisa to join him. While on board, they make a final-three deal that hints that Denise is toast. This may just be a set up for the finale, but the editing promises a more immediate change. The best part of the reward is easily Skupin, who gets drunk on sugar after avoiding it for 30 years. He’s even goofier than usual and looks like a kid who’s just eaten a giant cupcake. Although he’s hardly a major strategist, Skupin is great television. Last week, his son got in on the fun by hurting himself grabbing a coconut. Apparently, clumsiness is in the genes of that family.

This is not Denise’s best week. She’s left at camp with Abi, a player she dislikes. The next morning, she wakes up with an allergic reaction to some type of nasty bite. If that isn’t enough, Lisa and Skupin “help” by praying to God for her quick recovery. Although the outcome is predictable this week, there’s still a lot of entertainment. Denise looks pretty bad and is having a hard time, which raises questions about her future. Thankfully, the situation appears to be under control by the end of the day. At the immunity challenge, players must construct a rope bridge with planks and grab puzzle pieces along the way. They use them to construct a maze so a ball can smoothly roll to the finish line. Denise grabs the lead and seems likely to avoid elimination, but Malcolm rebounds and grabs the win. If the editing is accurate, this is a million-dollar loss for Denise. She could gain salvation from Malcolm by getting the immunity idol, but he doesn’t seem concerned about going that route. Predictably, the story line has been set up to create false expectations. Abi makes a convincing case to keep her around, but it’s hard for people trying to play an honest game to see their best option.

For all her mean behavior, Abi remains an intriguing player. Her exit interviews were surprisingly candid, and she didn’t make excuses for her actions. This is a rare response from this type of volatile competitor and differs from the usual route to blame the editing (Colton) or other players (Troyzan). Her exit will make the camp a lot quieter, and Skupin’s dance out of Tribal Council shows their glee at voting her out. Abi is almost certainly returning at some point in the future, and she’ll probably learn from the negative reaction. The producers are searching for this type of divisive player and will continue to use them repeatedly in the upcoming years.

Is there a scenario where this choice benefits Lisa and Skupin? If Denise wins immunity next week, she would probably join with them to take out Malcolm. In that case, a final two gives them a chance to force the jury to vote for one of them. Even if they make the end, this move would have sold the jury on a pivotal choice. It’s hard to convince anyone that playing a “social game” and sliding to the end is a deserving route. Past winners have used this strategy, but it only works if the others sitting there are even less worthy. It also doesn’t make sense for Denise and Malcolm to stay the course. They could have used this chance to remove Skupin, who is a threat to win challenges. Abi is likely not going to grab immunity again and is vulnerable in the Final Tribal Council. It’s going to be interesting to see which pair regrets this decision after Sunday’s finale.

Dan Heaton

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