Thursday, December 27, 2012

Survivor Philippines: And The Winner Is...


....Denise Stapley! Personally, this is one of the most satisfying wins from the show since Parvati in Fans vs Favorites (Kim in One World and Rob in RI had it all in the bag quite effortlessly). What a great season and it surely made it into my top 5, you can bet that!

I plan on making a separate post to decipher why Denise won, so for now I am dedicating this post (albeit late) to celebrate what has been one of the best seasons since Heroes vs Villains.

Three Tribes Format


For the first time since Survivor All-Stars, the game starts off with 3 tribes (the others were four tribes or the usual two). The producers have already explained the rationale behind this new twist and I believe it worked out perfectly just the way they had wanted it to. Thankfully, every challenge was fierce competition as opposed to what many would've expected from a three-tribe competition. No one is playing for second winner, or first loser, because every team rallied for victory. It was also the source of major drama when Matsing can't even pull a second place finish during the earlier stages of the season.

But thanks to a twist, which sent Denise and Malcolm to Kalabaw and Tandang, respectively, the numbers switched up a bit and two of the most dominant twosome stayed in the game.
 
Returning Players

The dynamics of the returning players this season being former medevacs was a good excuse to bringing back former castaways. In the past, we've seen Russell & Rob and Coach & Ozzy go back to play, but neither of them had a story arch to their return. This time out, we see someone like Michael Skupin whom every true blue Survivor fan felt should've been back way sooner than the 25th season. With players like him and Russell, who were leaders on their tribe and wanted to stay in the game so bad, it offers another layer into the drama brewing at camp life. Sadly for Russell Swan, it did not bode as well as it did for Skupin.

Hero vs Villain

As with any season, there will always be a villain and a hero. This season did not fail in that aspect. First off, there is Abi-Maria. We probably haven't seen a castaway been hated that much by fans and fellow tribemates alike as when Johnny Fairplay last played. Well, that's saying a lot for Abi who probably never imagined she would be put in that same category. Heck, she was even surprised to find out she was so disliked! But we thank you, Abi, for your often too-honest quips that produced some of the best one-liners in the season.

On the other end of the spectrum, a new favorite emerged in Malcolm. Nope, not speaking for myself. You probably heard Jeff himself say during the Reunion that Malcolm is one of the most popular Survivors to play the game. He is of a rare breed who can masterfully play a physical, social, and strategic game while still being liked by the others. And I'm still sulking over the thought that he did not even go all the way to the end. Bummer.

Good 'Ole Catfight

RC and Abi-Maria also brought us some memorable scenes from this season. It started on Episode 2 or 3 when Abi, suspicious of RC's closeness with Mike, confronted her about backstabbing to her. Oddly enough, it was her who turned on RC with her own clue and shared it with Pete, eventually helping her to find the hidden immunity idol. Then, a series of fights and bickering ensues... much about the story of Tandang camp life.


From Zero to Hero


Judging from the edit, I think I was right on my instinct to believe that it was either Malcolm or Denise would be walking away with the title of Sole Survivor. Who would've even thought that these two would make it that far given that Matsing almost got extinct with tribe members being voted off one by one? It was like both are waiting for their turn to be executed. But just like the good old twists in the past, the Survivor gods intervened and it was a whole new ball game for them. And what about the record for Denise attending every single tribal council? If she survived them all, she definitely deserved the Sole Survivor title and the million dollars! 


Either one of them that made it to the end would've gotten the win, which again is the reason why I am totally bummed that my initial bet Malcolm didn't get there. However, I was firm on my stand that I would be just as happy for Malcolm not to win, so long as it was Denise. It was truly the next best thing for me!

And with that, I would declare Survivor: Philippines as one of my top five favorite seasons of all-time, along with Heroes vs Villains, Palau, All-Stars, and Cook Islands. That ranking is random but I would go as far as putting it into my top 3! Couldn't have been more proud to have such a great season held in our country. And the next one should be another good one.. as Jeff Probst says, it is better than Survivor: Philippines. Now, THAT is something to look forward to! Here's a video to tease you up...




How would you rank this season? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Survivor Philippines Episode 13: The Road to Finals


Image: EW.com

The final episode leading up to the big finale on Sunday was a good one for a couple reasons (personally): 1) we got to see Abi’s torch snuffed – at last! – and 2) Malcolm staged a heck of a come-from-behind-win at the immunity challenge. With only four persons left, it should be a war at that final episode yet one that I have been looking forward to for a long time because we haven’t had such a likable final four in a while.

The episode opens with the remaining five saying sweet nothings about Carter and how sad they are to see him go. But then, the mood switches with Abi hugging the spotlight yet again to profess how she is “over the moon” about the fact that the four-person alliance decided to keep her over Carter. It’s funny how Abi does not realize it’s out of respect for Carter’s game and how he’s perceived as dangerous by the others and not out of her own doing at all (well, maybe for being overly annoying!), but definitely NOT because she deserved to be there more than Carter does.

Image: CBS

The Abi effect has continued to travel around camp, wearing people down with her constant whining. But you had to give props to the lady – she does not go down without a fight! She presented some really strong arguments to Lisa, which were true to point and it actually scared me a bit for the sake of Denise and Malcolm’s alliance that they were going to turn on each of these two. And while I might applaud Lisa for finally coming to her senses and start to really play the game devoid of emotions, I think I’m not the only one of the opinion that she is slowly but surely turning out to be the most annoying person in this game, just judging from her confessionals.

The reward challenge looks like a fun one, which involves sliding down this huge A-frame structure, gathering puzzle pieces, and then tossing rings into a peg. This could have easily been anyone’s game but it ended up being a tight race between Malcolm and Skupin at the tossing part. But with Skupin taking the reward, he took Malcolm with him as pay back for picking his son during the loved ones visit last episode. He also picks Lisa as the third person to join him in the reward, which oddly enough leaves Denise and Abi to themselves – the two people who have outwardly expressed their dislike for each other. Must have been an interesting afternoon at camp!

Image: CBS
Meanwhile, the other three were having the time of their lives at the reward. The best rewards are those that involve doing something that you won’t ever do in your normal life. Case in point: swim with a whale shark! In this video, Malcolm recounts the experience of swimming with the whale shark. Besides the nourishment they got from the food reward, there is also the sense of awe and appreciation for the land that they have come to call home for the past 30+ days.

The more important thing to come out of the reward, though, wasn’t the reward itself. We see Malcolm making a deal with Lisa and Skupin for the final three. I thought it was smart for Malcolm and Skupin for two different reasons. First off, Malcolm secures that deal with both Lisa and Skupin in an effort to improve his chances of winning, if he makes the finals. He knows that his only other competition for the title of Sole Survivor is Denise. Thus, taking Mike and Lisa would raise his chances of winning, especially since these two had to screw over their own Tandang members. On the other hand, Skupin was also smart to agree on a final three deal with Malcolm to secure his spot at the finals, if the former beats him at the final challenge.


During the immunity challenge, Malcolm pulls another surprise as he comes from almost being out of the competition to winning the necklace! He definitely smoked that puzzle and quickly proceeded to navigating his ball on the table maze. From then on, I thought for sure that Abi was done. Even when Lisa has been talking constantly about taking someone whom she can beat, it was a pretty much predictable conclusion to this episode right there.



Image: Survivorfever.net
However, I did not come in without feeling slightly nervous for Denise. It could’ve gone either way! Abi could’ve really pulled her magic and convinced the twosome of Lisa and Skupin to vote with her. At the same time, I did get Malcolm’s decision not to give Denise the hidden immunity idol. He previously agreed to a final three deal with both Lisa and Mike. If he gave Denise his immunity idol, it might raise an alarm on the other two regarding his loyalty to Denise. This isn’t the time to tell them that they are extremely tight and that he would go out on his limb to protect her. Plus, it would make a great souvenir, I bet!

And with that, this season’s biggest villain is finally sent packing. She definitely went further than I thought, but she made the last few episodes entertaining with her antics.

This Sunday (Monday here in the Philippines) will feature the final episode of the season. The thought of it brings forth mixed emotions. It has been a great season and that explains why I felt it simply flew by! But I am also excited to see who gets crowned as the Sole Survivor and ends up taking home the million dollars. Rooting for Malcolm and Denise! Hope the finale won’t spoil what has been the best season in a long while now!

Are you watching the finale?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Survivor Philippines Episode 12: “Shot Into Smithereens”

Abi is wisely using her nine lives to stay in the game for as long as she can, even when I do think her time was long up. Last week, she bought an advantage that helped her win the immunity challenge (they might as well handed her the immunity necklace, right?) and this week was all eyes on her as many would probably agree that it would take a conniving effort from the Survivor gods to let her win two back-to-back immunity challenges! Heck, Malcolm hasn’t won immunity up to this point, much less Abi win two in a row. But who knows, Survivor is a crazy game and like the oft used phrase goes, “anything can happen”.

Image: CBS
 This episode is probably the most predictable ending we’ve seen in a long time, probably since the merge. The four-person alliance of Malcolm, Denise, Mike, and Lisa shook hands and vowed to stick to the end. Hence, there are two people clearly on the outs of that alliance – Abi and Carter.

Oddly enough, the two odd ones were polarizing versions of each other. On one end, there is Carter. He hasn’t spoken much, or the editing hasn’t given him that much airtime, but he has proven himself to be a beast in the challenges. He is the top bloke, for sure, winning two individual immunity challenges post-merge and being one of the contenders even for those instances that he did not win (case in point: the latest immunity challenge, but more on that later).

On the other hand, there is Abi. From her own words, she is the most disliked person on the island. There are as many reasons to vote her off though morale at camp seems to be the biggest factor as her negativity is weighing everybody down. We can go back to the discussion about whether it is a cultural thing or not, but can anyone really figure out Abi?



A few minutes into the episode, we see that it’s now time for the reward challenge. And this is the most anticipated part of the game for most of the castaways as their loved ones get to pay them a visit. Not gonna lie – tears were welling up the side of my eyes as I was watching one loved one to another come rushing to meet the castaways at the mat. It’s been more or less 31 days that they had been living on the island and the sight of a familiar face is truly something that could lift up the spirits.

However, Lisa’s breakdown at the sight of her brother Justice is probably the most dramatic and over-the-top we’ve seen to date, as Jeff pointed out. But she is also the one whom we’ve seen had that much struggle (internally) in the game and probably the idea of being with someone who she completely trusted devoid of the game mentality was what she needed most at that time. 

Image: People.com
When Malcolm picked Skupin and Lisa to win the reward and have their loved ones stay at camp overnight, I quickly understood the reasoning behind his decision. He also explained it on his confessional, wherein he claim to have strategically chosen both Lisa and Skupin’s loved ones in an effort to solidify their alliance. These two could have flipped in the previous tribal council and Denise would have gone home. However, Malcolm decides to keep their loyalty by incentivizing them at that reward challenge, which allows them to get to spend more time with their loved ones. It was a good strategy for their alliance because he had nothing to gain by taking either Abi or Carter's loved ones for the reward. At the same time, I believe that Denise is mature enough to keep her head in the game and not fault Malcolm for not picking her for that reward.

Taking Lisa and Skupin's loved ones did not turn out to be as beneficial as it was supposed to be for Malcolm, though. Malcolm posted a tweet this week, which reads:

 I voted Lisa's brother for the Sprint Player of the Week and was entered for a chance to win $10,000

I think that this funny tweet actually speaks a lot about Lisa's game moving forward. Her brother, Justice, truly gave her some intel about strategies that she can use in the game, if she wanted to gain a step ahead, with Malcolm or Denise clearly being the biggest threats to win the game at this point. But one thing I can't stand is Lisa and her confessionals. Her lamenting the struggles of trying to play the game and separating herself from that strategy is getting more and more lame by the week, so much so that she is starting to wear on me - negatively. She is so good at repeating herself, which gets on my nerves. She always talks about making a big move yet she can't take that guilt off of her voice. Then, she turns around and talks about doing what God wants. I listened to Carter's exit interview with Rob Cesternino on his podcast this week and I think he couldn't have said it any better. Lisa (and Skupin) is trying to use that as her defense mechanism for lying and trying to play a cunning game. Stand up for your game, already! If you came out here to play, then play. Don't try to rub your beliefs on us in the hopes of trying to look less evil, so to speak. It's a freaking game!


Image: CBS

The ironic thing about that is the moment Lisa was ready to take the big move, Malcolm wins his first immunity. It was a close one. My heart was pounding more than it had on Episode 8 when Malcolm chose not to play his hidden immunity idol at tribal. While Jeff was putting on his necklace, Malcolm said "Took long enough". This win could not have come at a better time! Oh, poor Lisa with her spoiled plan. Now back to playing nice!

Not exactly though. She starts to butt heads again with Abi. And the Brazilian spice is trying to play up to Lisa's weakness - her morals. But Lisa claims that she's done playing nice with her. 

And now the rest of the tribe are forced to confront a dilemma, which on the surface isn't really much of a dilemma. Here is Abi who has no immunity necklace and no idol in her pocket- apparently no one buys her claim of the fourth hidden immunity idol- looks like a default option, right? After all, they were so thrilled to vote her out if only she did not win the immunity last week, she would've been part of the jury. But the four-person alliance has cooked up a plan. Malcolm probably best describes the dilemma that they are facing. Walking to tribal, we hear Malcolm say my favorite quote of the night:


“I’m considering making a really bad strategic decision just for, like, my morale. That’s how terrible of a human being Abi is. Plain and simple – if Abi goes home tonight, it’s because she’s a bitch.”

Image: CBS
The decision to vote off Carter does not sit well with me, solely for the reason that I've dreamed of seeing Abi's torch snuffed a long time ago. She still hasn't learned her lesson after being beat down three tribal councils ago. And yet, it makes a lot of sense to keep her after this tribal council because there is still one more vote to go until the Final Four. The alliance surely wanted to stay tight and the threat posed by Carter for the next immunity challenge is no doubt working against their favor at this point. Both Denise and Malcolm has exemplified a stone cold approach at playing this game so far - they are both able to keep a level headed approach to the game, taking their emotions out of every situation. I am disappointed that Abi is still there but I understand the vote and support it. It was too risky to keep Carter because that would have only fueled him to win the next immunity challenge given that he is the odd man out and it is the only thing standing between him making it to the final four.


With the cover blown on Abi's spiel about the fourth hidden immunity idol, she's doomed next week. If not, it is going to be a paltry ending to what had been a good season.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Survivor Philippines: The End is in Sight...

As the finale of Survivor Philippines is fast approaching, I am battling mixed emotions. As a fan from the Philippines, having my favorite reality TV show of all-time be staged in my home country was a dream come true. It was a long time coming, for sure, knowing the natural beauty of this tropical island of Caramoan. With only 3 episodes left (including the finale on December 16), it is going down to the wire and yet I don't want it to be over. The next episode is going to be crucial as it will be down to the final 5 and the remaining players need to survive only a couple more votes to get to the end.

It is unclear as of now if we will be having a final 2 or 3 this season. But if you do the math, a Final 2 is going to be more likely. I would love for this season to have a final 2 because in the recent seasons wherein there had been a Final 3, almost all the time one of those 3 ends up being a pawn and getting no votes. Also, a final 2 is far more exciting because each player that gets to the end has a 50/50 chance of getting the million!

To whet up your appetite for Episode 12 of Survivor Philippines, here is the latest web promo released by CBS: (Credits to Movieweb.com for the video)

 

And in case you are curious about the question and answer portion at the recent immunity challenge on Episode 11, which Abi won, CBS also released the deleted scene for that episode. You can watch the clip here to see the questions:



Are you ready for Episode 12? What are your bold predictions? Be sure to chime in at the comments section below!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Survivor Philippines Episode 11: Hell Hath Frozen Over

Blame it to Murphy's Law or Law of Attraction, but the game of Survivor Philippines has turned upside down. Last week, we saw Pete getting the boot (finally!) and now the Axis of Evil is down to their Queen - Abi-Maria. Looks like an easy boot knowing that she can't win a challenge, right? Of course, it's all but necessary to think that way given that she has hardly even competed in the challenges, much less win it! But Abi pulled a Penner this week and that sends the plan of the alliance of six up in the air.

It's odd seeing Abi cry in search of empathy in a game that is all but. As Malcolm said, it's hard to feel empathic for her. Apparently, she likes to give it, but she can't take it. She thinks that Denise was too harsh on her on the previous tribal council. But is she, really? I refuse to believe so, because she has done the exact same thing to Lisa and Skupin (only unknowingly). This is the time that she faces up to the consequences of her actions.


Then there is the classic Survivor auction... Personally, I loved that we had an auction this season! It is always a nice break from the game and fun to see the castaways react to the sight of food. But I still can't figure out how they did not try to outbid Abi for the immunity advantage! I'd have to think that this was the best strategic move she's done the entire time she was out there (so far). She was the only one during that auction that has kept their mind in the game and I do think that the others got a bit complacent that time. But who can blame them really? Living off of beans and rice for 30 days will sure have its toll on you! And this is what is so great about the auction - it lures your mind away from the game even for a while with food and a bit of comfort as bait.


Off to the immunity challenge, Abi concocted this plan that there are two notes in the immunity advantage she won during the Survivor auction. Did they buy it? Not sure - only time will tell. If there were another idol at the island, though, wouldn't Jeff be the first one to tell the castaways about it? This little plan of Abi will surely stir things up back at camp in the next episode. 

Back to the challenge, the rest truly underestimated Abi. But she went guns ablazing at that challenge knowing that she's well rested and had her back against the wall. That immunity was her only chance at life in the game. There's no question she is going home without it around her neck! But Carter, who was carrying additional weight on his shoulders and having to run two exhausting legs of the challenge, was eventually outdone at this challenge. There has been so many talks within the Survivor community that this challenge might be rigged. But some people perform well under huge pressure and Abi might be one of those people. 


And this is the point where you have to start looking back at your actions and strategies you have done in the past to see how it might hurt you... Jonathan Penner proved to have done a fatal mistake when he declined the offer for Final 3 with Lisa and Mike. In my opinion, you have to keep as many options open in the game as possible. Let's say that Jonathan wanted to stick with the six first before taking the next step, but with numbers quickly dwindling, you have to latch on to any alliance that you can make as it is important to keep the numbers on your side moving forward. I have to say this was very uncharacteristic of him, especially his reputation in the past of playing many sides. It ended up hurting him because the final four pact made between Denise, Malcolm, Lisa, and Skupin proved to be intact. 

Even in his departure, Penner has shown himself to be a character of this game. My favorite moment of the night would have to be when he took his torch and hugged Carter but refused to give Abi one. And that would have to be the funniest walk of shame ever!! He made it quite far and it's a shame to see him go as I've grown to love him this season. He made some lapses in judgment along the way and that ended up hurting his chances in the game.

Now, it's down to Carter and Abi should the Final Four alliance remain strong. Will Abi be able to pull off another miracle next week? With two episodes left until the finale, this game is surely going down to the wire! Be sure to check my recap next week to break down on all the action. And of course, there's the family visit - another favorite!

PS: Sorry for the late post, I was out and about during my birthday. Hope to see you next week!