Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.3 “This Isn’t a ‘We’ Game”: Allegiances shift while Matsing keeps drowning

Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 3
“This Isn’t a ‘We’ Game”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

It’s common on Survivor for one tribe to start slowly and lose multiple challenges early in the game. In a two-tribe contest, removing a few weaker players usually changes the momentum. The teams usually have eight or more members, so there are more opportunities to rebound. In a three-tribe format, it’s really difficult to stop the decline once the train starts rolling off the cliff. Matsing only has two good athletes who can effectively compete in the running and swimming challenges. Russell is a strong guy, but he doesn’t have the endurance or agility to make a difference. Denise and Malcolm try their best to carry Matsing to victory, but they fall short once again this week. They haven’t reached Ulong levels of ineptitude from the Palau season, but they’re inching closer to that level. Even a second-place finish would be a grand achievement at this point. It comes down to Angie or Russell this week, and her connection with Malcolm isn’t enough to save her from an early exit.

Russell has struggled to fit in with his tribe since the start, so he’s the obvious next choice for a dismissal. Even so, the editors surprise us by showing plenty of evidence that Malcolm and Denise are ready to cut ties with Angie. He goes out of his way to tell Denise there was no snuggling during the previous night. Malcolm’s like a teenager who’s trying so hard to convince his parents there was no funny business. In the immunity challenge, Angie has problems gathering puzzle pieces that are only two feet below the water. Her swimming skills aren’t great, which could be trouble in future tasks. On the other hand, Russell can’t even climb up the dock and returns with nothing on a later attempt. The level of futility from both players is stunning, even by Survivor standards. Angie seems more likely to stay because she’s loyal. When Malcolm and Denise decide to keep Russell, they’re taking a short-term perspective to give them a better shot at the next challenge. The truth of that assessment depends on the nature of that contest. Angie is only 20 years old, and it’s easy to understand why she’s struggling with this brutal game. However, her protests that she was ready to swim again don’t mesh with reality. The cameras clearly show her saying she can’t go, and that inability to recognize her issues may have raised concerns in her allies’ minds.

Juvenile drama reigns at Tandang, and the crazy ring leader is Abi-Maria. She treats RC unfairly and acts like her former best friend has committed a terrible wrong. Unless the editors are holding back pivotal information, it isn’t clear why Abi-Maria is so angry. Sensing an opportunity, Pete steps in and builds his own alliance with her. Sadly, they discover the immunity idol on the rice container and are set up to target Skupin or RC. Pete wisely brings Lisa into the fold, and her agreement makes sense because it gives her new life in the game. He’s really arrogant and seems like an idiot, but having Abi-Maria and the idol makes him dangerous. RC shows off her swimming skills and dominates the immunity challenge, so a wise player might realize she’s valuable for the team competition. The comically inept Skupin cuts his face after keeping his mask on for a clumsy dive into the water. He seems like one of those guys who strolls unknowingly into danger every day. In a rare confessional, Artis reveals his frustrations with Skupin’s goofy mishaps. When Tandang loses a challenge, Skupin is now the most likely target. There’s still a possibility that Abi-Maria’s wild mood swings could turn Artis and Lisa against her. Wild cards often go far in this game, but RC seems intelligent enough to recognize the threat.

The silliest moment of the night comes from Jeff Kent, who nullifies his new alliance with Penner by giving him a four-fingered handshake. Apparently, Jeff never moved beyond the types of gimmicks kids use in grade school. He could have just crossed his fingers or winked while making the promise. Penner takes a gamble and reveals the existence of the idol to Jeff, who already suspected it after Dana noticed the missing piece. This is an interesting move and probably smart given Penner’s outsider status. He isn’t clicking with his younger Kalabaw teammates, so playing the idol right away may be his only salvation. A random blond guy named “Carter” does say a few lines this week, confirming that he’s actually living on their beach. The existence of “Katie” is still under question. Kalabaw is a challenge machine, and they win a fishing kit and canoe by taking first once again.

Looking ahead, Matsing will probably cease to exist if they lose one more challenge. It isn’t really possible to sit out four members of the other tribes in a challenge. Russell is certainly gone if they lose, and Denise and Malcolm would then split off and each join another tribe. This is just speculation, but it fits with the possibility of an imminent switch to two tribes. Although both are strong players, it may be tough for the former Matsing players to gain a foothold in the new groups. They’ll need to become a key swing vote in a deadlocked three-to-three battle. Denise has the tools to win the game, but her placement on such a weak tribe makes her path more difficult. Although it seems unlikely, watching another tribe go to Tribal Council would be a welcome sight. They’ve been coasting too easily, and it’s time for the build-up in the first three episodes to pay off with actual consequences.

Dan Heaton

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