Survivor: Philippines Ep. 25.9 “Little Miss Perfect”:

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Survivor: Philippines Review, Season 25, Episode 9
“Little Miss Perfect”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

After two crazy episodes, Survivor pulls back this week and delivers a more slow-paced affair. The final outcome is surprising, but it lacks the dramatic chaos of past weeks. This episode is all about Lisa Whelchel and her moral dilemma about back-stabbing her tribe. She clearly has a stronger bond with Penner but worries about being disloyal. This is a common theme on this show, but it’s rarely been diagnosed to this degree. Penner gives several long monologues to Lisa that show his understanding for her character. The first is a pretty detailed (and slightly uncomfortable) psychoanalysis of the reasons why she’s struggling. He’s clearly on the hot seat, so it’s wise play by Penner to gain her trust. It’s also fascinating television that shows how much this experience brings down players’ barriers. The stunning part of all this attention is the fact that Lisa doesn’t flip and still casts her vote for Penner. It’s a serious example of misdirection from the editors that induces more confusion than thrills from viewers. Why spend so much time on someone who’s staying put? Thankfully, it’s still intriguing because it reveals plenty about Lisa’s character and Penner’s understanding of it. His framing of the decision as a “good versus evil” situation is brilliant yet still isn’t enough to change her mind.

The decisive vote actually comes from Skupin, who sends Artis packing by a 5-4 count. The question hanging over this choice is why he would flip now after sticking with his alliance last week. Skupin seems most concerned with removing formidable competition and feels he has room to maneuver. Is this actually true, though? There’s a chance that Skupin is playing brilliantly, but he also could be using a wild-card strategy and inventing it as he goes along. This seems like the most likely scenario. Penner’s choice to vote for Abi-Maria last week also felt brilliant, but it turns out he just screwed up. The moment when Carter explains the votes to him this week is a classic. Penner sits down and pretty much shrugs his shoulders about the gaffe. It wasn’t the worst thing for him to lose Jeff Kent, especially now that Skupin has flipped. They’re in control and should be able to pick off the remaining Tandang leaders easily. Even so, nothing’s certain with this group. Skupin could easily change his tune and go after Penner without breaking a sweat. Despite the limited fireworks this time, the result still creates many interesting possibilities for the upcoming weeks.

The reward challenge splits the groups into two teams to compete in another physically demanding contest. An unseen schoolyard pick splits the group among their alliances; it’s hilarious that Abi-Maria isn’t picked and has no chance to win. Each player must crawl through muddy water and a pit of rice to retrieve bags of balls. Jeff Probst brings out plenty of unintentional humor with his narration. The hero for his team is Penner, who realizes he can locate all the bags up front and make it easy for the other players. They gain a huge lead and easily throw the 12 balls into the basket for the win. Their reward sends them to a local village to enjoy a huge feast. Malcolm, Denise, Penner, and Carter also bring school supplies to the kids in that town. Their gifts don’t seem that substantial, but they have a great experience. Malcolm is so moved by it that he’s ready to go teach again like he did in Micronesia. Back at camp, Abi-Maria continues her awful play by trying to alienate Lisa. She’s a pivotal ally for the Tandang three but is treated horribly. Abi-Maria also provides the highlight of the night when she accidentally nails Skupin in the head while breaking a coconut. That guy has no luck!

The immunity challenge is simple and involves rolling balls on a large paddle into six spots. The trick is maneuvering each one without knocking off the balls already in place. Pete grabs an early lead and appears destined to win, but one slip-up knocks him out of contention. This opens the door for Skupin to finish the task and take the easy victory. Having the confidence from this win almost certainly plays a role in his choice to vote for Artis. The editing doesn’t make it clear why he makes the move, however. It paints Lisa and Skupin as an unbreakable pair due to their Christian faith. Penner makes a quick effort to sway his fellow returning player, but it’s a quick scene and shows very little. The question that remains is whether Lisa will finally see the light and escape the sinking ship. Sticking with Pete and Abi-Maria puts her on the path towards an impending exit.

The decision to vote out Artis seems wise because it avoids concerns about the immunity idol. It’s interesting to note who really makes the decision about the target. Malcolm and Denise have found a way to control the game on the Kalabaw side and remain the best players on the island. They’ve continued to deflect attention towards Penner and others while they determine strategies behind the scenes. If everyone sticks with the plan, next week promises a more standard exit. Pete is the most likely target, and they could split the votes to avoid the idol. If this occurs, it sets up an intriguing situation at the final seven. Malcolm and Denise are clearly working together and are liked by everyone. If either of them makes the end, they’re going to win the million. Will Skupin, Penner, and Carter turn on their allies and keep Abi-Maria around? Looking that far ahead may be silly, but it’s that complexity that makes this such a great outing. Probst claims the next installment is even better, which means it will have to be incredible to top this wonderful season.

Dan Heaton

6 Comments
  1. Jess says

    Lisa drove me crazy this episode. She’s worried about how she’ll be perceived as a traitor, but being loyal to Tandang is making her look much worse to viewers. She says in one breath that she doesn’t want to be naive and gullible by sticking with Tandang and then she does it anyway. Where’s the morality in sticking with the worst people on the island?? Doesn’t she realize that if Tandang were to stick together her and Skupin would be gone first?

    What if it was all a scheme so that Abi and Pete would still think they had Lisa but she knew Skupin would be the 5th vote for Artis? That would be pretty interesting, but after thinking Penner had a plan last week and him actually just being dumb I’m not really holding my breath for it to have been a power move.

    1. Dan Heaton says

      Jess, I wonder if Lisa knew about the vote because she’s been so tight with Skupin. Still, I don’t see how she benefits by sticking with a sinking ship. It’s possible that she was bidding for jury votes, but that may give her too much credit. Like you say, I thought Penner was smart to vote for Abi, and he had no idea what he was doing. I really hope that we don’t get so much footage of Lisa struggling with morality tomorrow. It worked this week, but she needs to figure out what she’s doing quickly.

      1. Jess says

        Yeah, she really has become the star of the show the past couple of weeks and I wouldn’t mind seeing something else going on at camp.

  2. Dylan says

    Next week will be pretty pivotal and ought to shape the game (as much as can be expected) form here on out. In theory, Pete or Abi should be gone (burn the witch!), but that’s only if Lisa indeed flips and makes it a 6-2 game, in which case they can split the votes 3-3 as you mentioned and avoid a tie. If she doesn’t, however, or if Skupin wishy-washes his way back to the other side, I have no freaking clue what will happen. 5-3 isn’t enough to split votes. Penner’s not out of the woods yet…

    Speaking of Penner, am I crazy or was that 5 minutes spent with Lisa psychoanalyzing her just about the most “real,” incisive, deep discussion that’s ever been on the show? I was enthralled by his awareness of what was going on and how the game was playing out now only on the island but for us at home as well. He was spot-fucking-on with all of it, and as if I didn’t like the guy enough already, I’ll definitely be pulling for him to win now, however unlikely that may be.

    1. Dan Heaton says

      Dylan, you bring up a good point about the numbers. If Lisa is smart, she’ll realize it’s time to flip to the group of six and make it easy. If she’s still hesitant, the best move might actually be for the other five to vote her out. Then it becomes 5-2 the next week. I don’t think Skupin will go for it, though. The other option is guessing who will play the idol, which is tricky. I don’t think Abi’s giving away her idol, but you never know.

      I totally agree about those scenes with Penner. I’ve heard some interviews with him in the past, and few people understand the show better than him. Working in Hollywood as a writer and being older, I think he just realizes how it works a lot better than most. It helps that this is the third time, too. I’ve been rooting for Penner since the start. I don’t think he’s going to win, but he was my pick so I’m keeping my hopes up. It’s rare to hear someone actually talk about how the events will actually be presented at home. Fascinating material.

      1. Dylan says

        Yeah, we’re on the same page. I was thinking that about Lisa as well (that she actually might be next if she doesn’t shit or get off the pot), but I agree that Skupin isn’t likely to go along with that. Like I said, pivotal episode.

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