Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 7
“I’m Not the Only Actor on This Island”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
Now that’s more like it! The three-tribe structure was put in place this season to avoid the predictable exits of Survivor’s recent installments. By splitting the players into smaller groups, the producers hoped to stop the trend of early five-person alliances dominating the game. The success of their plan wouldn’t be clear until the merge, which happens this week. Boats arrive at each island and give the tribes 10 minutes to grab their things before they head to a new beach. It’s clear there are intriguing possibilities for where the game will go. Will RC and Skupin flip to Kalabaw and change the game? Is Jeff Kent finally ready to turn on Penner? Could the immunity idol come into play? All of these questions are answered in a vote that puts three people on the hot seat. The ultimate victim is RC, who makes her move but gets victimized by elements out of her control. Her departure sends a clear signal to certain players that trouble lies ahead, but nothing is certain in this wonderfully messy season.
This episode is intriguing because there are many small alliances within the larger groups. Jeff Kent’s primary ally is Carter, who’s going to follow his lead. When Skupin approaches Jeff with his plans to defect to Kalabaw along with RC, it seems like an easy choice. They’ll have a 6-5 edge over Tandang and can take control. The catch is that Jeff doesn’t trust Penner and can’t shake the feeling he has to go. The editing feels similar to last week, where he ultimately made the right pick. This time, Jeff loses focus and makes the terrible choice of siding with Tandang. He moves from the top of a dominant group to the bottom of another tribe. There’s also a huge target on his back due to his challenge strength. The only reason Penner is still standing is because of his wise play of the idol. The editing doesn’t show why he suspects the flip, and it may have just been a preventive play given the numbers. Skupin even votes for his fellow returning player, so it is clear he knows the defection wouldn’t work out. His position remains precarious after RC’s exit. Penner’s situation is even more desperate and will require some serious maneuvering to survive.
Sitting in the middle of the chaos are Denise and Malcolm, who seem ready to maintain their alliance. Their success is trickier after Lisa inadvertently discovers his idol when setting out the laundry. He quickly avoids disaster by promising her a final three spot, but it’s clearly a temporary fix. With the focus on others in the upcoming weeks, Denise and Malcolm may have the best position. They could act as free agents who can shift their allegiances based on the best option. Lisa is also in good shape even though Penner recognizes her from The Facts of Life. The Hollywood veterans share a nice moment in the ocean but seem unlikely to become allies in the future. Much of the running time involves the merge and the newly formed Dangrayne tribe. There’s no discussion of the silly name, which is probably the best move. The editors show us a variety of possibilities for the vote, so there’s no clear expectation of what’s going to happen. Pete seems destined to get blind-sided and it may happen in the future, but he emerges unscathed from the wreckage of this tricky vote.
There is no reward challenge, so it’s time for a test of endurance! While this is not the most exciting immunity challenge, it offers hints about players’ skills. Each competitor must hold onto a rope handle attached to a bucket holding 25 percent of their body weight. The rope connecting the bucket will unspool as the players grow tired. There are two necklaces for a man and a woman this time. Denise wins one of them easily, and she probably would have taken the whole thing. It comes down to Jeff and Carter on the men’s side, and the surprising young guy snags the win. He even gives a rare smile and might have a bit more game than expected. Since RC and Penner don’t win immunity, the plan to split the vote between them remains. It’s a win-win strategy for Pete and his alliance since they are fine with either exit. The big losers are Jeff and Carter, who are lining up for seventh and eighth just ahead of the returning players.
Looking forward, it is interesting to note that RC is the first member of the jury. It would be amazing to see the return of a final two for the first time since JT and Stephen in the Tocantins season. That format sets up a nine-person jury, and they’re usually odd-numbered to avoid ties. Although Penner is likely doomed, his willingness to play the idol is refreshing compared to recent players. Unlike Troyzan from last season, he picks the right time and survives. His best bet is to work on the bottom half of the Tandang alliance and try to win immunity. It’s a long shot, but crazier things have happened. Pete and Abi-Maria remain in great shape, which is just too bad. However, they’re far from a sure thing. She might be the only person who has no chance because of her bad attitude. The lack of a clear favorite promises to deliver the most intriguing finish since Heroes vs. Villains, and it might even surpass that crazy season.