Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.2, “Don’t Get Blinded by the Headlights”: Matsing continues their march towards oblivion

Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 2,
“Don’t Get Blinded by the Headlights”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

After 24 seasons of Survivor, it would seem obvious that players would recognize certain universal rules. In a tribe with only five players, cuddling up to one of them is not wise. Ever since Rob and Amber controlled Survivor All-Stars, even the possibility of a couple forming can be enough. Apparently, Malcolm and Angie haven’t studied previous seasons. It’s one thing to snuggle together for warmth. Their nighttime activities are something different and pretty icky with other tribe mates just a few feet away. Although both lived to see another day, this connection jeopardizes Angie’s chances. Rarely has so much discussion centered on a competitor’s physical “assets”. Nearly everyone on the Matsing tribe gets their chance to make a cringe-worthy comment about Angie. Roxy warns them of the “booby trap” multiple times, but it isn’t enough to save her from a 4-1 eviction in the end.

The episode spends most of its time with Matsing, so it’s not a surprise when they lose the immunity challenge. The grueling contest requires teams of two to drag sleds of puzzle pieces along the ground and then complete three large puzzles. Matsing immediately has issues deciding who will run twice; both Angie and Roxy aren’t fans of the idea. They fall behind early but make up a lot of ground and nearly overtake Kalabaw in the end. The effort isn’t enough, and Russell’s speech about how much they suck brings them down even further. Because of their struggles in challenges, he isn’t on the chopping block this week. However, he’s definitely the odd man out if they lose again. Looking at the composition of the tribe, Matsing isn’t designed to dominate physical challenges. Malcolm and Denise are good athletes, but the remaining members aren’t very impressive. Russell may have strength, but it doesn’t translate well to the endurance and mental contests on this show. They’re clearly outmatched and could head right back to Tribal Council next week.

Over at Kalabaw (the red tribe), Penner is desperate to find the immunity idol to save his skin. When the rest of the tribe heads over to the cave, he scurries around camp looking for it. The editors do some brilliant cross-cutting to show the others getting ready to head back while he’s lying under the shelter. He plays it off well, but it’s still a clever scene. Thinking like a guy who’s actually watched this show, Penner figures out the trick and locates the idol on the rice container. While it seems like the team might notice the giant decal that’s missing, it’s still a big reward for him. Penner doesn’t appear to be connecting with his tribe mates, so this might be his only salvation when they go to Tribal Council. It’s amazing to notice that four of the six Kalabaw players have barely spoken during the first two episodes. Are Carter and Katie even on this show? There’s little screen time for anyone this week, so their absence makes more sense.

The predominant theme during this episode is the stress caused by a relentless downpour that slows down even the toughest competitor. In the yellow tribe (Tandang), Lisa has a breakdown over her struggles to interact with the tribe. She’s clearly on the outs and has to leave the group to cry. This moment is even more understandable after hearing the news that she was divorced right before the game. Survivor is brutal enough without having to deal with difficult personal issues at the same time. Lisa does a great job directing her tribe to solve the puzzle at the immunity challenge, and she seems like a prime candidate to rebound. Plenty of strong players in the past have struggled early and then found their ground in time to survive. The other drama at Tandang comes from Abi-Maria, who’s suspicious of RC because she’s close to Michael. Their confrontation appears soon after RC tells her friend about finding the clue to the idol. It’s strange that Abi-Maria would turn on the ally who just trusted her. Assuming the editing is correct, the business student from Brazil could be too volatile for a successful alliance. RC is a possible contender, but her early decisions may come back to haunt her.

After a strong premiere, this episode lacks the same excitement and feels pretty familiar. The smaller tribes mean that more players are ignored when the editing sticks with one group. This should be a short-term problem, especially if Matsing continues to lose players. There are some fireworks at Tribal Council when Angie gives a silly answer that drives Jeff Probst crazy. He’s always tougher on the women, particularly the younger ones. When he asks one thing she’d like to change about the tribe, Angie picks cookies. While this is a dumb response and likely wouldn’t solve their issues, Jeff’s reaction is a bit much. He’s gone on record in saying he opposed casting Angie, so moments like this just re-affirm his stance. After coming off pretty well last week, she seems more out of her element this time. The editing tries to sell the idea that Angie’s going home, but it doesn’t make sense for Denise. She’s the key vote and pretty much chooses the ultimate result. Russell would have voted for Angie if it mattered. Denise could have switched the power away from Malcolm, but she made the right move and remains in a good spot. Even if she’d survived, Roxy was likely headed out pretty soon. She wasn’t strong enough in the challenges to make it through the team competition and needed more allies. In this three-tribe world, all it takes is an alliance of three to seal anyone’s fate.

Dan Heaton

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