“Survivor” Recap: Immunity Beloved

Survivor: Philippines’s final five is as close as we’ll get to a Breakfast Club: There’s the witty, self-confident guy who surely owns flannel (Malcolm), the twitchy basket case (Abi-Maria), the nerdy homebody (Skupin), the amiable jock (Denise), and of course a genuine ’80s icon with memorable hair (Lisa). This group is both disconnected and deeply connected, and they’re united under one blowhard principal (Jeff Probst, who totally has Principal Vernon angst). 

Last night’s episode was about as entertaining as the ’85 John Hughes yarn, with one notable exception: The ending made little sense. (Though actually, The Breakfast Club’s ending is dubious too. Why are they ’the Breakfast Club’? They literally don’t eat that meal together.) We’d been cajoled into believing Lisa and Skupin were drawing up plans for a blindside, but they ended up booting their one obvious opportunity for a final four majority, Abi. It’s perplexing, both intellectually and personally — and I’ll explain those somewhat humiliating reasons in a moment. But first, the episode’s true triumph: A cleaned-up, jury-sitting Carter is just as blank-faced as the old Carter. Phew.

Here are my five notable observations from last night’s episode:

1. So, did Malcolm try throwing the immunity challenge and end up winning anyway?

Did anyone else find it awfully suspicious when Malcolm flubbed the immunity challenge and toppled off his planks to the ground? Even Lisa ambled across the ropes in fine time. I figured that Malcolm was sabotaging his own game so he wouldn’t win immunity (which would be redundant since he has his own hidden idol stashed away), and he wouldn’t obligated to hand over his new idol to Denise. But then of course, he doubled down, caught up with his four competitors, and solved his puzzle in astounding time. I just can’t make heads or tails of it. Maybe he doesn’t care that Denise would know he’s hoarding immunities? But wouldn’t that spurn her into — perhaps — turning tail and joining forces with Lisa and Skupin? This feels like the beginning of a Malcolm/Denise divorce, and I’m already in a traumatized Kramer Vs. Kramer place about it. 

2. Denise’s interactions with Abi-Maria at camp were the best, yet again

If Survivor were Muppet Babies (which of course it is), Denise would be Nanny and Abi-Maria would be Animal. Denise is dignified in her striped socks and calm demeanor. Abi-Maria has a rage problem that won’t be resolved until she discovers the drums. As Skupin and his two assignees Lisa and Malcolm enjoyed a reward full of soda pop and deep-sea diving — which I would consider a nightmare, by the way — Denise suffered back at camp as Abi-Maria complained about unfairness, her vote, her life, and the fact that she is not a complainer. Denise confided in us that she’d enjoy being stabbed in the ears, and we all know what that’s like. I went to the gym once and Evanescence was playing. Denise, we’re soulmates.

Every episode I spend a good five minutes afterward wondering what it’s like to be as un-self-aware as Abi-Maria. I mean, what is she thinking about all day? Anything honest? Or admirable? All she can do is victimize herself and badmouth other people. Can you imagine not realizing your observations about yourself are somehow entirely positive while your observations about other people are somehow entirely negative? It blows my mind and frightens me, and it’s why we have wars. I do have to give Abi an iota of credit for her immunity idol fabrication, though. Say what you will, but it did propel her for a split second. So ends the Abi-Maria Earns Two Seconds Of Toleration segment of this recap.


3. The world has tricked me into rooting for Lisa.

I’ve been Team Malnise for weeks and weeks. I love them both! Malcolm is the straight guy who’d totally be your wingman at Akbar, and Denise is a thoughtful muscle with a haircut. I want them to marry or at least perform vaudeville together. But their arrogance in assuming the game is theirs makes me cringe a little. Why was Malcolm so confident that Lisa wouldn’t vote off Denise? He’s aware that Lisa is almost constantly contemplative, so wouldn’t she at least consider nabbing Denise while she still could? Though Lisa hasn’t been a very strong player, the arc of her gameplay is suddenly more interesting to me than Malcolm’s or Denise’s, even though those two survived one of the worst tribes in Survivor and/or general tribe history. Wouldn’t you kinda love to see her win? Her moments of inspiration are so sporadic that a Whelchel win might be the most compelling possible outcome. It hurt to write that, but fine. 

4. “Drunk” Skupin was almost sexy.

Skupin doesn’t eat sugar, so when he won the reward challenge and the opportunity to slurp soda pop on a boat like a bad-ass preteen, the caffeine and sugariness went immediately to his head. He flailed around, climbed on things, and made jokes. He shut up about Jesus for awhile too, and you know I loved that. I wanted him to resume that delirium when Abi-Maria started calling him an idiot and a moron at tribal council, but he’d already returned to his subhuman diplomacy by then. Ugh. I miss Surge-y Skupin. 

5. Wish I understood the vote. 

Why-oh-why didn’t Lisa and Skupin vote out Denise? They’ve done the math! They know Abi-Maria is a writhing velociraptor who won’t win. I’m damn befuddled. I’ve come this far, watched every nanosecond of Lisa’s not-that-spiritual journey, and now we’re back to forking over the win to the umber decathletes who’ve run this game for over a month. Unless there’s a major shakeup in the standings during Sunday’s finale, I see no way either Denise or Malcolm won’t be in the final. Remember: I love those two. But I also love being entertained, and Lisa and Skupin are jilting us in that department right now. Again, how patently un-Blair.


Psyched for Sunday’s finale? I am, for the time being. Bring on the backstabbing, I say!