The contestants let their stomachs get the better of them at the Survivor food auction, allowing a patient Brazilian to get back in the game

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 11:28 PM EST
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S25 E11
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Morons. Idiots. Imbeciles. Nincompoops. Knuckleheads. Oh, forget this PG-13 crap. YOU MOTHER#&%*ing #&%* FOR BRAINS!!! WHAT THE #&%* ARE YOU THINKING?!? I’m talking to you, Penner! And you, Skupin! You have both played this game before. You should know better. And don’t think you’re off the hook either, Malcolm and Lisa! You two are both super fans of the show who have watched every episode. You do know better. It is one of the most basic and simple of Survivor rules, but apparently, judging by your actions in this most recent episode of Survivor: Philippines, it bears repeating. So say it with me: YOU NEVER, EVER, EVER BID A SINGLE DOLLAR ON A SINGLE FOOD AUCTION ITEM UNTIL PROBST SAYS THE WORD “ADVANTAGE” AND THEN YOU BID IT ALL.

Seriously, how hard is that? I know you’re hungry out there. And I get that there is nothing in the world more delicious than bacon. Hell, my t-shirt says it all — I would be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees. But let’s think about the big picture, people. You’re here for a million dollars. Are you aware of how much bacon that buys you? Enough bacon to clog all six of your arteries, for crissakes. Plus, the way auctions have gone in the past, there is always one poor sucker (in this case, Carter) that has to give into peer pressure and trade in his purchased meal for more food for the entire tribe, so it’s not like you won’t get food by doing nothing more than sitting on your bum and using your money for the only thing that actually, you know, matters.

Suffice it to say I was very disappointed that a group of seemingly savvy players would make such a boneheaded move. Sure, Malcolm may have acted happy that Abi used the advantage she bought to win immunity, thereby making Penner the target, but that very easily could have been him whistling into the cold, blue light of death instead. Why take that risk? As for Penner, well, I hope that $100 fried chicken was worth it, buddy. That’s your second awful move of the past two episodes. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore. And Lisa…oh, Lisa. It is our first true Survivor spat, my darling. Well, second, if you include last week’s Redskins-Cowboys Twitter feud. (Speaking of which, what was that final score again?) How could you betray my love like this? I know you are well seasoned at taking both the good and the bad, but this was all bad, all the time. Let’s never speak of it again.

So Abi lives to annoy another week! Another week to bitch. Another week to complain. Another week to figure out how to fit the voting parchment into the urn. And another week to cause jury member RC’s face to light up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. But you know what? Abi deserves it. She was the only one out there smart enough to save her money. So good for her. I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna hug her or anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Penner’s hug refusal was pretty much the only good move he actually made in the past two weeks. But if everyone else was going to be dumb enough to allow Abi to get the advantage, then they deserve to be stuck with her for three more days.

And it looks like you are stuck with me for another Survivor recap, so let’s take it from the top. The episode is only seconds old before it is revealed that Abi will not, in fact, be going home after all. The obvious clue is Denise telling us that Abi is the next to be voted out “unless she miraculously wins immunity.” Cue miracle. Actually, before that, cue food auction.

NEXT: Jeff Probst tries to steal Skupin’s booze

I’ve already ranted and raved enough about how dumb everyone except Abi was during this auction, but why end my griping there? Especially when I have another beef with the auction that I need to get off my chest. Back in the day when they offered covered items, you didn’t know what you were going to get. It could be a cheeseburger. Or it could be partially formed duck embryos, known as balut. Could be booze. Or could be a glass of dirty water. Because my heart is black, there is little I savored more than watching some joker pluck down $300 just to be served something completely inedible. I fully acknowledge that makes me a horrible human being to take such delight at seeing an individual subjected to additional and unnecessary pain and misery, but what can I say? It made me laugh.

But now, in the kinder, gentler version of Survivor, all the covered items seem to range from awesome to…more awesome! What happened to the risk? The adventure? Where are the nasty local “delicacies” that make you want to hurl the second they are revealed? Instead, now everyone gets something scrumptious. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t like seeing people happy. But I’m guessing I am far from alone in this. Which is why I asked Jeff Probst about it in this week’s Q&A. And his answer reveals a bit of behind-the-scenes info on what we did not see at the auction, so make sure to check that out.

Also, before we move off the auction, I have to throw a red challenge flag on Mr. Michael Skupin. After paying $500 for wine and cheese and being asked by Malcolm if he was going to even drink the beverage, Mike replied, “I don’t know. I am not a drinker.” Well, let’s just say that I may have had an extended conversation with a certain former and current contestant at the Survivor 10 year anniversary party. And let’s just say I may remember that conversation a tad better than said former and current contestant. And let’s just say that may be because said former and current contestant was not exactly chugging down Shirley Temples on that fine evening. And let’s just say that said former and current contestant’s initials are not JP.

So it was not exactly surprising when Skupin did not pass his glass of wine over to a parched Jeff Probst, is all I’m getting at here. (Speaking of which, I miss the days when people like Tom Westman, Jan Gentry, and Jonny Fairplay got blatantly wasted on the show. A drunk-on-wine Probst would have been only the best thing ever. The entire scenario has already played out completely in my mind: “Hey, you wanna know what you’re playing for? Tough noogies, ‘cause I — hiccup! — ain’t gonna tell you. Oh, what the hell. I’ll tell you. You’re playing for…farts! Yeah — hiccup! — you heard me. Lots of smelly, stinky farts. And you know where they — hiccup! — come from? Your butt. Worth playing for? HEY, WHAT THE F— ARE YOU LAUGHING AT, CARLTON?!? WHAT?!? YOUR NAME IS CARTER? WHATEVER, GO PLAY FOR SOME STINKY FARTS!”)

So, anyway, because everyone else was a big dummy, Abi spends her $500 on the mystery advantage, which is not a complete mystery seeing as how it is always some sort of help in the immunity challenge. Wow, Abi must be stoked and in a great mood when they return back to camp having that advantage in hand, right? Wrong. The Beast of Brazil lights into Penner and tells him that he should apologize to her “for destroying me at Tribal Council yesterday.” After being told that she should be more friendly and less confrontational with people for no reason whatsoever, Abi finally does apologize…for being “too honest.” That’s like being in a job interview and answering the old “What is your biggest flaw?” question with “I guess sometimes I just care too much and work too hard.” Yes, your biggest defect is that you are just too damn perfect, Abi. Brilliant. If the jury had been transported to the beach to witness this gem, RC’s entire face would have spontaneously combusted not unlike the drummer from Spinal Tap.

NEXT: Denise can’t decide whether to puke or not

Abi finally steals away to read her advantage note, and sure enough it is allowing her to skip straight to the final leg in another multi-stage competition. But only she knows that. So why not give herself some additional imaginary power to make the other contestants sweat a little bit? She decides to let on that it also has led her to the possession of a hidden immunity idol. Very smart idea. I applaud her for it. But that applause quickly dies out when I see the execution. Let’s just say that when it comes to acting, Meryl Streep this one is not.

Instead of playing it super coy and just dropping a single subtle hint and letting it percolate among the others, Abi basically comes right out and tells Malcolm she has the idol. Then, at the Immunity Challenge, she announces to the contestants that there are two parts to the note and that she is choosing to just read the first part about the challenge advantage before ripping up the note into tiny little pieces. Again, I love the intent, but hate the execution. Homegirl should have dialed down by about, oh, 88%. Give her points for trying though.

So the Immunity Challenge is broken up into three stages. Everyone is attached to a rope. The first five to get themselves over, under, and across a rail advance to stage two. Then, the first two to get through a series of bamboo poles go to the finals along with Abi. Oh, and if you miss a trivia question at the start of each round, you have to carry a bag filled with five percent of your body weight.

The finals begin with Carter (now carrying 10 pounds of weight) competing against Penner and Abi. But in case that foreshadowing comment by Denise in the first minute of the episode didn’t quite take, Skupin prognosticating that “She can’t win this. She can’t climb,” pretty much seals the deal that we are about to witness an Abi-Maria victory. But victory of what — untying little knots? Because that’s all that stage three appears to be. Instead of using athletic ability to scurry over and under things as quickly as possible, it’s basically just the three players standing there and opening rope gates tied together. Wow, even re-reading that last sentence just made me emit a yawn of epic proportions. Bo-Ring.

Denise is not too pleased with it either, especially after Abi wins immunity. “I wanna throw up,” says the therapist. Oh, you mean throw up the bacon and pancakes you paid $500 for, which then allowed Abi to purchase the advantage unopposed thereby giving her immunity? How appropriate. By all means, go right ahead! Maybe you can even check the Survivor Food Auction Return Policy and see if you can get your $500 back. Because it will do you so much good right now.

Once back at the beach, the final four alliance of Malcolm, Denise, Skupin, and Lisa wisely target Penner for ouster. Honestly, I’m not even sure they know what Carter’s name is, so they don’t really have a choice unless they want to write things like “Blond Guy Who Talks Real Slow” or “Blond Guy Who Doesn’t Talk at All” down on their parchment. But Lisa is having a tough time voting off her fellow thespian. “It’s too big for me,” says Lisa of playing a game that forces you to backstab your best buddy. (You’d think she would have plenty of experience doing just that after working in Hollywood, but whatevs.)

NEXT: Lisa turns on the tears, but won’t turn on her alliance

However, the one thing Lisa will not do is lie to Jonathan’s face about it. She goes and explains to the one-time mutineer about how she tried to make a final four deal with him but he said no so they made one with Malcolm and Denise instead. Penner tells her that he’s pissed he’s now going home because he did not make empty promises, but deep down he has to know he screwed up big time. “My mistake, of course, was that I was playing both ends against the middle without making a commitment to anybody,” he tells us later during an interview session. “That was probably my mistake. I did not choose a side.” Gee, ya think? Don’t get me wrong, I love Penner. Which is what makes this rookie mistake from a savvy veteran all the more inexplicable. The only thing that could have made it any worse is if he wrote a love letter to Russell wrapped around a hidden immunity idol.

As for Lisa, she is a truly fascinating character in that she has been clearly struggling mightily with the act of voting off people she likes, yet she will not waver once she has pledged her loyalty. (She only left Abi & Pete after Abi had pretty much pushed her out face first and their alliance was a lost cause thanks to Skupin bolting.) So while Lisa may look weak for having such a difficult time emotionally with the process, she is resolute and strong in not wavering from the plan once it is made.

At Tribal Council, Penner makes the case that Lisa and Skupin stand no chance of beating Denise and Malcolm at the end. “If you do vote me out tonight, you will give a million dollars to one of these two people.” He may be right, but would they really stand a better chance against Penner? The guy is clearly liked and respected out there and seems able to make a compelling argument no matter what the scenario. That’s a scary person to be sitting next to in the finals. Plus, if Lisa puts Penner on the jury, there’s a good chance she gets his vote. Less so with Malcolm and Denise.

As for Skupin, he just thinks everyone is absolutely swell. “I can’t look at any one of these people and say I would not like to be great friends when this is all over,” he says, causing Abi’s eyes to practically roll out of her head. Clearly upset that her mortal enemy RC is getting all the attention for her over-exaggerated Tribal Council facial expressions, Abi continues by sticking her tongue out at Denise when the sex therapist goes up to vote. (Side note: Who actually sticks their tongue out at people, anymore? I mean who over the age of three? Perhaps this is one of the “culture differences” Probst kept alluding to last week. Either that, or, as I suspect, Abi has the maturity of a three year old.)

Oh, but Crabby Abi is far from done! “I hope you go home tonight,” she says while voting for Denise. “Look who’s judging you now.” With that, she dramatically slaps the parchment shut. Oops! One problem: The awkwardly folded paper now won’t fit in the urn. Instead of sticking her tongue out at the parchment or ripping it into a million pieces because it is — shocker of all shockers! — another fake clue to a fake hidden immunity idol, she instead just sorta lamely refolds it in the least badass way possible. The entire incident is the biggest cool-to-fool Tribal Council voting moment since former Girls Gone Wild cameraman “Benry” attempted to give himself a shout out before awkwardly knocking the parchment weight onto the ground.

NEXT: Skupin pretends like he can’t make up his mind

And then there is Penner, who hilariously yells “Denise!” behind his back while he votes, taking any mystery out of the proceedings. Of course, this tells us that Skupin is not flipping, because if Penner had any indication that he was, he would have kept his vote secret rather than announcing it and giving Malcolm an opportunity to hand his idol over to Denise. (It does not, however, explain why Jonathan opted to spell her name “Denies.” Is that the best that a Sarah Lawrence College education could do for you, JP? Side note: I too graduated from SLC. Which I suppose now explains any and all typos over the past 10 years.) And then the over-the-top voting continues as Skupin milks for camera time by pulling an Eliza Orlins and hemming and hawing over his vote when it seems pretty certain which way he is going.

When all is said and done, Penner is indeed voted out. He hugs the guy whose name I forgot, then denies Abi-Maria a hug, which is downright shocking considering how absolutely cuddly she is. This public dis causes RC to grin from ear to ear. “That sucks, Jeff,” says Penner upon having his torch snuffed, but that does not stop the former actor from mugging for the cameras to the very end as he whistles his way out into the darkness. Then back out again. Then into the darkness again. Yes, that’s right — Jonathan Penner just gave himself an encore. I would not have expected him to go out any other way. What a weird game Penner played. He was on the ropes from day 1, yet did a fantastic job of climbing out of trouble and making it to the merge. But he then he almost seemed to get too confident after Skupin flipped and it all went downhill. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the first rule of Survivor: never get comfortable.

But you should by all means feel free to get comfortable because we are far from done when it comes to Survivor goodies. First, treat yourself to an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode of Skupin and Penner talking strategy in the water, as well as snippets from my pre-game chat with Penner in the video player below. Then get Jeff Probst’s take on Penner’s game and why people don’t save their auction money in this week’s Q&A. And make sure to check back later on Thursday for our InsideTV Podcast interview with Jonathan. Finally, for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Now it’s your turn. What did you think about the food auction, challenge, and Lisa and Mike’s decision to stick with Malcolm and Denise? Hit the message boards, and I’ll be back next week with another Skupin of the crispy!

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Survivor

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.

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