Recap and review of Survivor: Philippines – Episode 12 – Shot Into Smithereens
Survivor: Philippines is getting down to the wire, and “Shot Into Smithereens” exemplifies how the game is thrown into chaos as castaways recognize just how close they are to the end. The episode is very much about whether or not it’s beneficial to stay the course, or if it wouldn’t be more advantageous to shake up the game. From a strategic standpoint, staying the course is the most sound path to take, yet it doesn’t really make for exciting television. The episode often tantalizes with the idea that a major move is on the horizon, but there’s an inevitability about who’s getting voted out. When the potential for a big strategic move is reliant upon the actions of Lisa Welchel, you can pretty much forget about it ever happening. Yet the episode sees Lisa gaining at least a little self-awareness, to the point where it’s not impossible to imagine she might try a more daring move in the future. She was all but resolved to turn on Malcolm this week, and we have no way of knowing that she wouldn’t have gone through with it, since Malcolm winning immunity took that possible move off the table. But I’m guessing she wouldn’t have, since she didn’t immediately turn her attentions to the person who has, arguably, the best shot at winning this game if she gets in front of the jury, Denise. I’d argue that, after Abi-Maria, Lisa is the most infuriating presence in the game, as this episode further displayed how, despite making incremental progress in attaining self-awareness, she still doesn’t realize how badly she’s been torpedoing her own game.
As we get back to camp the day after Penner’s elimination, Abi rationalizes that the majority alliance will take Carter as opposed to a girl from Brazil who’s “too honest.” As much as I can talk about Lisa’s fundamental lack of understanding as it concerns her own game, I’m continually amazed at how Abi finds new ways to blind herself to her own social deficiencies. Her idea that the tribe hates her because she’s too real for them to handle is, by turns, hilarious and confounding. She’s playing one of the greatest third place games I’ve ever seen, since it would be nigh on impossible for her to score a single vote if, through some coin-flipping miracle, makes it to the final tribal council. Abi recognizes that the writing is on the wall for she and Carter, and decides to try and negotiate a better place for herself in the game by reiterating that she has a hidden immunity idol, a lie she’s still trying to sell, even if no one’s biting.
However, there’s some significant shuffling of strategies after the reward challenge, which sees the contestants’ loved ones participate with them in a competition that will afford the winner the right to bring their loved one back to camp with them for a day and a night. It’s very touching, as the “loved ones” segments tend to be, yet significantly more so this time, as some of the contestants get downright histrionic in their joy: Denise gets snot all over her husband (who scoops her up into his arms), Skupin loses his mind over the presence of his son (also named Mike Skupin), and Lisa goes nuclear upon seeing her baby brother, Justice. There are quieter moments too, as we see Abi actually smile, and Carter get choked up on seeing his mother. The previews for this episode, which suggested that Malcolm’s outspoken brother, Miles, could end up screwing things up for his social game, prove to be another artful bit of misdirection, as Miles helps Malcolm win the reward challenge, giving Malcolm the opportunity to boost his social game by inviting Skupin and Lisa to bring their loved ones back to camp, as well.
This glad-handing move nearly proves to be Malcolm’s undoing. When Lisa tells her brother that she once tried to blindside Malcolm, he suggests she try again, essentially giving her conscience a free pass by saying that Malcolm would actually understand and appreciate the strategic play. And like that, Lisa has her “huh-doy!” moment, realizing that she can now actually start playing the game with a clear conscience, without worrying about how strategizing compromises her morals. And this is why Lisa is so infuriating. She’s a self-proclaimed superfan, and should understand, better than anybody, that the game requires these kinds of moves. Her game has more or less been predicated on the luck of being roped into the right alliances, and not directly stepping on any toes. But she hasn’t actually been playing the game at all, and she pretty much breaks down when faced with the necessity of doing so. Here, her plan is to rope in Carter to replace Malcolm. Malcolm, picking up on the change in Lisa’s personality, fears that Lisa is no longer playing with her heart, but with her head, which bodes ill for his game. Of course, this whole narrative chunk is discarded when Malcolm wins immunity, as he’s safe until at least final four now, since he still has that hidden immunity idol that’s good up to final five.
After the challenge, Abi gets into it with Denise, who asks if Abi could cut it out with the vote-mongering. Abi is offended that Denise would make such a stupid request from her position of power, and I can’t say I disagree with Abi here. Denise is in a safe position, and she knows she’s in a safe position, despite her insistence that her position in final four isn’t set in stone. It’s a rare misstep from Denise, as she has to realize how hypocritical she sounds arguing that she’s as much in the hot seat as Abi and Carter. Carter, for his part, argues to Malcolm and Skupin that sending him home instead of Abi would be a violation of their vow to play the game with people they respect, and whose gameplay they respect. Once alone with Malcolm again, Skupin states that Carter has a point. Skupin is conflicted, as he equates voting for Carter with voting for his own kid, as he and Carter just connect as people. Malcolm, however, smartly rationalizes that, with six people left in the game, they need to be getting rid of challenge threats, as Carter would only need to win two immunities (which he’s already done in the past) to screw their entire final four plan. Carter was neck-and-neck with Malcolm at the immunity challenge, so Malcolm’s reasoning becomes even more solid.
At tribal, Abi continues trying to sell the fiction that she has a hidden immunity idol, while Carter again argues that voting him out would be tantamount to voting out someone they respect to keep someone they don’t. Carter has spent half the season playing a quiet, almost non-existent game, and it’s easy to see why this would be such a threat, even without the challenge acumen, as Carter hasn’t really alienated anyone on the jury, and would only need to make a strong argument at the final tribal council to consolidate his influence (of course, that would depend on his oratory skills, which have only ever been in evidence tonight). It comes as no real surprise that his argument to the majority alliance falls on deaf ears, as Carter is voted out in a landslide. With Carter gone, Lisa and Skupin actually have a chance to upend the Malcolm/Denise dynamic by pulling Abi into the fold. It won’t be a popular move, but the jury will have to vote for someone. As long as neither Malcolm nor Denise are at the final tribal council, Lisa and Skupin have a real shot at getting to the end.
“Shot Into Smithereens” is a bit uneventful in both the inevitability of its outcome, and the lack of game-shaking moves (although getting rid of Carter over Abi was good strategy). But that doesn’t mean that the episode wasn’t essential in setting up the Malcolm/Denise vs. The World battle that’s on the horizon as we face the end of the game. With one more regular episode to go before the finale, it looks like we really might be getting a final two instead of a final three this year, and that makes the gameplay at this late stage in the game all the more crucial, as voting out one threatening player before another could be the difference between second place and winning a million dollars.