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Survivor recap: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Abi-Maria?

How can one person be both so mean and so bad at the game? Abi-Maria learns the hard way that being catty and clueless is a bad combination

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Survivor Philippines Abi Maria Gomes
Image credit: CBS


TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Jeff Probst
Current Status:
In Season

Many have tried to usurp her title. But all have failed. Alas, there is only one queen of the cartoonish, over-the-top jury facial reactions. Her name is Eliza Orlins, and she perfected her various facial contortions over two glorious seasons (Vanuatu, Micronesia). Eliza had not one, but several go-to moves. And her technique — whether on the classic eyes-bugging-out-of-her-head look of disbelief, the mouth-open-so-wide-a-freight-train-could-pass-through-it appearance of shock, or the head-shaking-back-and-forth-from-side-to-side over-exaggerated scowl of disapproval — was flawless. She has never, and will never be topped. (Just watch her expertly call up every weapon in her arsenal on command in this vintage Survivor Talk clip.)

But a legitimate challenger once again burst onto the scene in this most recent episode of Survivor: Philippines. When I first met RC before the game began, I had her pegged as something of an Eliza clone. Both had dark hair. Both resided in New York City. And both were Energizer Bunny motor-mouths whose vocal batteries never appeared to need recharging. But even I was not prepared for the positively Eliza-esque facial expression RC busted out at Tribal Council tonight. Right as Abi crossed in front of her to go vote, RC’s face contorted into a visage of pure disgust. Her one time-bestie had turned into a beastie. RC’s you-make-me-puke pause for the cause was fantastic not only because it was clearly directed and perfectly timed, but it also spoke for pretty much the entire viewing public as well.

Has their ever been such a splendid blend of catty and clueless as Abi-Maria? I mean, it’s one thing to be mean and hold everyone else is disdain, but to do it when you clearly have no idea what you are doing takes a very special person indeed. Or a person with a very tragic disease. That’s right, there is no way one person could be so unlikable while so clueless at the same time without being truly sick. Unfortunately, Abi is showing all the symptoms of a very nasty disease. That disease’s name? Naonkaitis.  Naonkaitis is a very serious condition. It’s symptoms include, but are not limited to: irritability, sass, a lack of self-awareness, a lack of intelligence, the burning desire to knock one legged women to the ground, the delusion of being better than everyone else when you are, in fact, worse than everyone else, and the tendency to describe people that are being perfectly fine and nice to you as mortal enemies.

Just how bad is Abi at this game? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but Lisa tried to save her tribe last week be exposing Malcolm’s hidden immunity idol (which he had secretly kept from the others), yet instead of appreciating it, Abi insisted on repeatedly giving Blair Warner the cold shoulder. Why? Because she has no idea how to play! Also correct me if I’m wrong, but Lisa had to talk to Abi like she was a child to explain why it is you want to flush out hidden immunity idols so that the people with them lose their power, and 30 seconds later Abi shows everyone her idol for no reason. Why? Because she has no idea how to play! And she’s the one calling Lisa naïve? Ladies and genetlemen, Naonkaitis.

So, anyway, go back and watch RC’s face as Abi walks by her to vote. You may have missed it the first time because you were still confused as to why RC was wearing high heels to Tribal Council. But watch again and appreciate the latest in a long line of fascinating facial expressions to cross our TV screens since Survivor first went on the air 12 years ago. Somewhere, Eliza is smiling. Or, more likely, bugging her eyes 10 feet out of her head like Large Marge or Jim Carrey in The Mask. Now, onto the rest of this week’s episode, from the very top.

NEXT: Abi sits out another challenge