Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor featured many life lessons. We had the famed “Survivor Auction,” a fitting event that represents – in a nutshell – the game of Survivor, as well as the game of life. Other than starting with the same amount of money (if only that were true in life), the principles of the auction should ring true: You choose who and what to invest in. Sometimes you know what it is and sometimes it’s a mystery. There may be disappointment, but some choose that the risk is worth taking. Sometimes, the choice is not for yourself, but for the betterment of those around you. Other times, something can come along that pays off greatly. You can play hard and fast, or you can choose to sit it out, afraid to lose what you already may have.
Also this episode we learned from Abi how to seize an opportunity and from Penner how to squander one. Crazy how fast and furious the game can change.
Down But Not Out. It’s Day 28 and Abi is still trying to recover emotionally from the intense Tribal Council that sent her closest ally, Pete, packing. “You guys were brutal towards me,” Abi tells Skupin. Denise isn’t about to give Abi sympathy though. “It’s just more of the same,” she says. Although emotional and isolated, Abi’s spirit is strong. She breaks down a bit on Malcolm’s shoulder as they recover Tree Mail and the message gives Abi some renewed vigor…it’s the Survivor Auction.
Food Auction! A Survivor staple, the remaining seven players were all given $500 to bid on items that Jeff Probst would present to them, knowing that the auction would end suddenly and unannounced at some point. Denise started strong, bidding all $500 of her money to get a plate of pancakes and bacon. Skupin was next, oddly donating all $500 of his for a plate of cheese and crackers and a small carafe of wine…even though Skupin doesn’t drink. “I’ll drink it,” Probst told him, in case he didn’t want to take it. Next, Malcolm bid $200 to nab some chocolate donuts and ice coffee.
Mystery Items. The next item up for auction was covered up, and Penner only had to bid $100 to get it. He was very glad that he did, when Probst uncovered a plate of fried chicken and french fries. $200 bucks later, Carter uncovered a Baked Potato, but this item came with a twist: He could take the potato or trade it for a bag of much-needed rice and beans for his tribe. Carter made the politically-correct decision and went for the rice and beans. “You are a living legend,” Skupin told him. Next, Lisa bid $320 on a mystery item that turned out to be a humongous sandwich.
All In. The next item, Probst began to describe as giving an advantage in the game, and before he could even finish his sentence, Abi bid all $500 of her dollars. This scroll was to be read at a later time and it couldn’t have gone to someone more in need. The last bid was again Carter, who put out $200 bucks and again scored some PR points for his tribe when he got to share some veal shanks with his tribe for 60 seconds.
Clearing the Air. The auction ended and the tribe returned back to camp with some hop in their step. The fun was quickly squelched when Abi started talking about the past Tribal Council, demanding that Penner apologize to her for how he treated her there. Penner didn’t apologize, but instead was very candid with Abi about how she is blunt and a bit too honest sometimes. They eventually ended their conversation and gave each other a hug. As Abi walked off, Malcolm pondered what sort of “advantage” she could actually have. He surmises that it’s probably either an advantage at the next challenge or a clue to yet another Immunity Idol.
Outplay, Outlast. “I’m going to outplay them,” Abi tells the camera. She separates herself for a while in order to read her clue, which is indeed challenge-related. But instead, she decides to act like it was a clue to an Idol to fool the others. She tells Malcolm that she has found a fourth Idol. “Abi is kind of like a girlfriend who just doesn’t get the message and won’t leave even after you’ve broken up with her,” Malcolm says.
Immunity Challenge – The Twists. The challenge consisted of three legs, all of which involved having to navigate a rope challenge before the other players. Probst announced that there was a twist: Before each round there would be a question and if you got it wrong, you would have to add 5% of your body weight before going through that portion of the challenge. There was a second twist as well dealing with Abi’s scroll: Abi would automatically get a free pass to the third and final leg, giving herself a one in three shot at Immunity. To not blow her cover (remember, she has now told the others that the clue led her to a hidden Idol), when Probst asks her to read her note, she makes up a part saying that there is a second part of the scroll that she can keep secret. Very smart Abi, well played!
Immunity Challenge – This Is Knot Happening. The first leg saw Denise dominate, and only Lisa was eliminated. The second leg was won by Penner and Carter, putting them in the Final 3 against Abi. Abi started the third leg strong and never looked back. Only Carter gave her a fight, but in the end – much to the chagrin of the on-lookers – Abi did the impossible and won Immunity for herself. That’s right, the girl who sat out countless challenges and has shown zero physical prowess in challenges thus far, won Immunity when it meant the most.
The Facts of Life. “Hell hath frozen over,” says Malcolm in disbelief about Abi’s win. Back at camp, Malcolm, Denise, Skupin and Lisa quickly get together and decide to vote out Penner, staying true to their recent Final 4 alliance. Lisa though, looks uneasy and tells them, “I love this game, I’m just not cut out for this game.” She goes on to say, “Now I’m going to hurt somebody that I care about.”
Another Break-Up. Lisa Welchel, heart-breaker. One week after “breaking up” with Abi, she goes to tell Penner the bad news. Penner is in disbelief when she tells him that he is the new target, but he respects that she told him. “Lisa has once again lost her mind,” Penner says. The two talk extensively and Lisa confronts him about not joining her and Skupin when he had the chance. “I was playing both ends against the middle without making a commitment to anybody,” Penner says to the camera. “That was my mistake. I did not choose a side.”
Last Chance. Knowing that Lisa can’t morally go against her pact with the others, Penner approaches Skupin for a last ditch effort to stay in the game. “I’m hanging on a thread here,” Penner tells him. Skupin seems to consider Penner’s plan to vote out Denise, for fear that Malcolm may play his Idol. Penner, Carter and Abi agree to vote out Denise, so once again all of the swing vote power lies with Mike Skupin.
Tribal Council. Probst briefly addresses Abi’s treatment at the last Tribal Council, but talk quickly shifts to Penner, who makes a direct plea to Lisa and Skupin to keep him in the game. He – accurately – tells them that they both have a much better chance of winning against him than either Malcolm or Denise. Malcolm is smart in this game and knows how to appeal to Lisa as well. He tells her, “I would hope we are in your heart too.”
The Vote. As the contestants go up to vote – as if there was any doubt – Penner leans over his shoulder and yells out “Denise!” to broadcast his vote to the masses. They all share a nervous laugh before Probst begins to read the votes. Malcolm does not play his hidden Idol, and the votes pretty much go as planned. Tied at 3-3 with only Skupin’s vote left to read, Probst made it official: In a 4-3 vote, Penner was gone from the game for a third time.
Analysis. As saddened as I am by the exit of one of my all-time favorite Survivors, Penner has nobody to blame but himself for his ultimate demise. He definitely played an imperfect game, but his game smarts almost carried him to a million dollars. Without a doubt, his crucial mistake was not agreeing to go to Final 4 with Lisa and Skupin when he was approached to do so. There is much more to discuss involving Penner’s game, his exit and the remaining six players, so be sure to read more of my in-depth analysis of tonight’s episode at TheTVKing.com.
Next Time On…It’s the “family visit” episode, love it or loathe it. While Lisa gets an emotional boost from her visitor, Malcolm’s “knucklehead-ed” brother may prove costly to Malcolm’s game. And in his parting words, Penner sums up his experience as only he can: “It’s been fun and extremely painful.”
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Note: Check back tomorrow for my exit interview with Jonathan Penner, on Thursday afternoon.
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