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Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.6 “Down and Dirty”: A risky deal puts Penner in the hot seat

Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.6 “Down and Dirty”: A risky deal puts Penner in the hot seat

Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 6
“Down and Dirty”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

It’s a testament to Survivor‘s staying power when moments that haven’t been seen in the past still happen. Few shows make it to 25 seasons, so this is already unprecedented territory. This week’s reward challenge is a strange affair where the action reaches a total standstill. The exhausted competitors are literally stuck in the mud but refuse to give up the prize of a giant meal. It’s up to Penner to recognize the futility (or boredom) and work out a deal with Skupin. Kalabaw gives up the remainder of their rice, and Tandang gives up the reward of giant sandwiches. The situation is awkward because few players on either side are happy about the deal. Artis is the most vocal to grumble about the move, but he isn’t willing to put his foot down. Even so, this challenge had reached a complete stalemate. The image of Denise trapped in the mud below Lisa is stunning and is only topped by the silly contortions of Penner and Skupin.

Does Penner make a wise choice? It’s always dangerous for anyone to stick their neck out on this show. He already has the target of being a returning player, so giving everyone another reason to boot him is risky. Plus, there isn’t a great benefit to make this deal once the reward is over. He’s just giving his tribe mates another reason to take him out. After earning the reward, Kalabaw gets the added bonus of letters from home while eating their giant meal. It seems really early to bring out this type of prize, but it helps Penner’s case. He is convinced there will be plenty of fish to catch back at camp, but he predictably fails in that venture. The editors create silly tension while Penner swims as his fellow players grumble on shore. He tries to sell the excitement of catching a miniature fish, but they are not buying it. While their anger is understandable, Carter’s grumpiness is too much. Why did they cast this guy? He finally gets the chance to speak this week, and it is quickly obvious why he’s been ignored so far. Carter does provide the episode’s most ridiculous moment when he turns to Penner and asks “Penner or Katie?” It doesn’t come back to haunt him, but it shows that Carter is not an intelligent game player.

The situation is just as irritable over at Tandang, and the ring leader is Artis. He does not like Skupin and feels like he made a bad deal. While they got the better end of the bargain, giving up on a challenge is not going to make people happy. Abi-Maria continues her negative behavior, which is no surprise by this point. Thankfully, RC finally recognizes that her former ally is just an unstable player. With Artis joining Pete and Abi in hating on Skupin, it’s clear who’s in trouble on this tribe. This is great news for Malcolm and Lisa, who are no one’s sights and should coast for a while. To be fair to the detractors, Skupin does seem to be eating a lot of rice. He’s also eating a cold with the random idea that it cooks in his stomach. They may have a point that he’s hurting their chances as a tribe. This also is the case where the Tandang members are ready to vote someone out and growing tired of living among the same people for so long.

The immunity challenge is a familiar contest where one player from each tribe launches balls into the field. The others attempt to catch them with nets and can grab any of them. Malcolm dominates this challenge and takes down Kalabaw by himself. He makes Carter look ridiculous and even bests Jeff Kent after they switch. It’s close right until the end, but Malcolm pulls out the final catch for the win. This feels like the perfect time to take out Penner since a merge is looming. Carter is hungry and ready to make the move, but Jeff is hesitant to turn on his ally. The editing suggests that Penner is going home with the idol in his pocket, and Tribal Council is all about blindsides. It’s all a smokescreen, however. Katie exits the stage after the 4-1 vote and leaves Kalabaw with just four members. This is a relief for Penner fans, but it may have been a strategic error from Jeff. Only time will tell if it comes back to haunt him.

Looking ahead, a merge is likely within two episodes and could happen next week. Tandang has a significant numbers advantage at 7-4, but a Pagonging is very doubtful. There is too much dissention to expect them to stick together to the end. Simple math shows how easy it could be for RC and Skupin to change their fate. If they flip and join with the four remaining Kalabaw members, that group has a 6-5 edge. Penner and Skupin showed the ability to work together at the reward challenge, and this similar mindset could lead to an alliance. The key is being sly when making the change because Abi-Maria has the immunity idol. The safe bet is to take out a secondary player like Artis or Lisa to limit their options. This could flush out the idol while avoiding the possibility of her passing it to Pete. Another interesting factor is Malcolm, who could join up with his Masting ally Denise and create more havoc. It would not be surprising to see them sitting together at the Final Tribal Council. The stage is set for an intriguing finish with plenty of contenders remaining in the game.

Dan Heaton