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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Got My Swag Back”

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Well, the inevitable happened. After slowly leaking players like a sad balloon, Matsing was put out of its misery tonight, its remaining players divided between the two functional tribes and forced to ingratiate themselves into a group full of strangers. As Jeff noted, this is a totally new game of Survivor. Here’s hoping it’s an interesting one.

Before the bionic alliance of Malcolm and Denise is broken up, though, they finally decide to do some serious idol hunting. The producers’ decision to hide the idol in plain sight has produced many rewarding moments, and watching Denise look everywhere but right in front of her face is yet another one. Eventually, Malcolm accidentally stumbles onto it and gets to have it in his possession when they are placed in new tribes. This could be great for both of them if they both make it to the merge without Malcolm having to use it, but Denise knows she’s at a definite disadvantage here, going into a new tribe without the security of an idol.

When Malcolm is sorted into Tandang and Denise goes to Kalabaw, it actually seems like luck gives us the most interesting option. Kalabaw is separated along gender lines, and Denise going to them and being assimilated into the female tribe to give them a majority over the alpha males is a potentially great story, if everything plays out the way Katie—who finally gets a decent amount of screen time tonight—has planned.

The tricky thing about this plan is Kalabaw has to win first. Although Denise is very good at challenges, Tandang easily got the more physical of the two and this pays off when that tribe wins both the reward and the immunity challenges. The reward challenge is an especially nifty thing, a sort of live-action Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots using idols, that rewards not only strength but strategy as well. Michael Skupin proves he isn’t just an injury magnet by coming up with the best strategy of all: throwing his idol up in the air and going after the opponent’s, making sure theirs hits the ground before his does. It’s rare that Survivor challenges reward ingenuity, but this one definitely delivered.

Once Tandang won reward on the backs of Michael’s creativity and new tribe member Malcolm’s presence, the writing almost felt on the wall as to who was going to win immunity. Dana getting severely ill and pulling herself out of the competition also didn’t help Kalabaw’s chances of coming out on top. Them already down a member, also being hungry and with sagging spirits just isn’t a great combination for a win. Although both tribes seem fairly well-matched physically, Katie struggles at the beginning, and it’s a gap Kalabaw can’t totally make up.

This is when the fun stuff begins. Instead of the females having a one-person advantage, Dana’s leaving puts the Kalabaw tribe equal again. But Dawson and Katie don’t seem to try very hard to get Denise on their side, and Jeff immediately snaps her up as the number four in his alliance. It’s a smart move for Denise for now, especially if she can use these ties to get to a merge and realign with Malcolm. It also proves that people tend to like Denise right away, a quality that will definitely help her in the game.


So that basically makes the elimination between Katie and Dawson, considered “weaker” females, either in this challenge or previous ones. And if we learned one thing tonight, it’s that Dawson is kind of a strange person, which doesn’t work in her favor. Dawson—the only person who has any idea of Jeff’s true identity—apparently loves to spend her time slyly needling Jeff about how much baseball sucks. (As someone who also thinks baseball sucks, I applaud her efforts.) What is less wise, however, is antagonizing the power player at camp and giving him a reason to spearhead voting you out. The show tries to play like it is a toss-up between Dawson and Katie, but Dawson is voted out in a landslide. It’s impossible to know if Jeff was the instigator of this, but any sane person would use their torch-snuffing as an opportunity to out his lies, right?

Apparently, not so much. Dawson is less interested in telling Jeff’s secrets than she is in getting some cuddle time with Probst, and she definitely gets the last laugh as she’s leaving by leaning in to Probst like she’s about to reveal Jeff’s giant secret, then weirdly hugging him instead. I have to say, someone longingly gazing into Probst’s eyes and then going in for the embrace is one of the more memorable player exits we’ve seen.


Probst better make sure there’s a lock on his host tent at night, though.

Stray observations:

  • Probst, we get it: Katie was terrible in the competition. Give it a rest for a minute.
  • Malcolm has embedded himself in the Tandang tribe quite nicely, going along with Pete’s overt advances and just relishing his position as the cool new guy in school. Even Lisa has a little crush. (It’s okay, Lisa, he IS cute.)
  • RC is still an outcast, and apparently, her new strategy is to flirt with Malcolm to get him on her side. I wonder if she tried this with Pete and was completely shot down?
  • Penner: “You got it baby! Send her up Dawson’s Creek!”