This Thanksgiving, let’s all be thankful Survivor decided to air an actual episode on the night before the holiday instead of the usual clip show. Not only was it a new episode, but it was a fairly decent one at that, even if the entire thing basically served as one big showcase for the annoyance that is Abi.
Abi has been sort of the main figure looming over this entire season, not because of any particular skill at the game but because of her awful, awful personality. In seasons past, this awful personality might have been the very thing that got her a ticket straight to the final three as a goat, but things are different this time. The players are different. And this difference turns out to be the end of the game for Abi’s allies, even if she herself (thanks to her handy hidden immunity idol) remains.
Despite the entire episode focusing on Abi’s social dysfunction and the seemingly inevitable elimination of either her or Pete, the show managed to craft a decent amount of drama from the actual elimination. There appear to be two main camps among the in-control alliance of six: There’s Malcolm, who is ready to shore up a final four deal he can ride all the way to the end, and there’s Penner, who wants to wait until there are only the six of them left before making any side deals. Penner’s reluctance to commit ends up working in Malcolm and Denise’s favor when their proposed alliance-mates Lisa and Skupin approach Penner about making a final three. His hesitation sends them right into the arms of Malcolm, even though Skupin is still shaky in his trust. These are things that likely won’t play out until the coming weeks, but it was fine table-setting for the future.
The scheming directly tied to the episode’s elimination was also rather tense, with Pete using the only real play he has: Get someone, anyone to switch to his side to vote out Malcolm instead. Pete is right that Malcolm has a lot of power, so his argument has potential, but the downside of switching from an alliance of six to the sinking ship that is Pete and Abi is that people really don’t like to leave a winner to back a loser. Penner and Carter say as much when Pete approaches them, so Pete goes to the only person who could possibly be reckless enough to switch allegiances yet again: Skupin. Even though Skupin just pledged his loyalty to Malcolm and Denise in a final four deal, his brain tends to work on the “last idea is the best idea” wavelength, so there always seemed to be a real chance he might switch. Having his vote be the surprise switch last week only makes this seem all the more possible.
Even at Tribal, the editors do a great job of keeping tension high by using just the right reaction shots from both Pete and Skupin to make you think they might be in cahoots. Those shots did end up getting a little lost in what Tribal actually became, which was the saga of Abi the Outcast. Because Abi has absolutely no more power in this game—and spent the last two days ratcheting up the annoying behaviors—everyone decides they don’t have to sugarcoat their feelings any longer and basically lets her have it, in the nicest manner possible. Probst lights the way for the discussion, but it’s clear during the course of the conversation that Abi just does not have the capacity to see herself as others see her. Even when therapist Denise uses her skills to get Abi to hear what she’s saying, all Abi hears is what she wants to hear: that she's just misunderstood, and everyone is persecuting her because of it. Probst even tries to give her an out by suggesting cultural differences are to blame, but every single person at that Tribal knows that excuse is ridiculous: All people from a different culture than you aren’t assholes, and Abi is just kind of an asshole in any culture.
Tribal ends with Abi crying in what could be construed as a sympathetic position, but all of her actions to this point are so unsympathetic that it was just impossible for me to get there. If she showed some true humility, understanding, or growth, her crying might have been a turning point moment. It seems like Abi could use some of the therapy Denise would probably happily provide, if she was only willing to listen. Now that her only ally left in the game walked out the door when Pete’s torch was snuffed, next week looks like it might be shaping up to be a big Abi pity party. Hooray?
- The immunity challenge this week wasn’t anything revolutionary, but it was fun and competitive and had me cheering at the end. I think Carter even showed an emotion!
- I must admit, the strategy of the reward challenge was lost on me until they started playing. It ended up being an interesting test of physical skill combined with mental. Don’t turn over the other team’s piece, people!
- “Abi, are you clear on what’s happening out here?” “No, not really.”
- Malcolm: “Abi has all the social grace of a Mack truck.”