Tandang-Kalabaw merge has everyone questioning their alliances; Lisa finds something very interesting in Malcolm's rumpled clothes

By Grady Smith
Updated February 27, 2015 at 11:33 PM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS

Survivor

S25 E7
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Bad news, folks! Your faithful Survivor recapper, Dalton Ross, is still without power as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and he’s unable to recap this week’s episode of Survivor.

So you’re stuck with me. Sorry about that. I’ll admit, I’m no Dalton when it comes to Survivor lore — though I could crush him in box office trivia — but do try to go easy on me. I’ve endured three straight days of violent tweets from furious One Direction fans who really hated this article, so I’d rather not infuriate any other passionate fanbases, though Survivor fans do seem a whole lot more rational. I hope.

You know who gets even more riled up than crazy Directioners? Carter (Yeah, right.) Jeff Kent, that’s who. The former baseball pro just can’t stand the idea of a veteran winning, or even playing, this game. Upon returning from Kalabaw’s second tribal council in a row, Jeff confesses that he doesn’t fully trust Penner. Yet his suspicion doesn’t seem to motivated by any legitimate circumstance — he just sounds irked by the idea that Penner (and later in the episode, Skupin) gets to play for a second time. “Second chances? This is Survivor, not The Bachelorette,” he whined. Well, that’s not exactly what he said, but that’s how it roughly translates into our special office language, EW-onics.

Fortunately for Jeff, he didn’t have to keep worrying about Kalabaw dynamics for long because it was time for the merge! Tandang and Kalabaw, you are no longer. Pack up your beaches and let’s go! As both teams scurried about their camps, grabbing tarps and water bottles, Malcolm slipped off into the forest to retrieve his buried “pirate treasure,” a.k.a. his immunity idol. He wrapped it up in his flannel, which he then stowed in his bag.

And just like that, a new tribe was formed! The members of, uh, well, the mysteriously unnamed new tribe (did I miss that?) [Apparently, it’s actually called Dangrayne. Thanks dramg for the tip!] shook hands, plunked themselves down on a picnic blanket to enjoy grapes, wine, bread, cheese, and salami, and randomly cheered about Jeff Kent’s supposed motorcycle dealership. After that introduction, it was time to set up camp.

NEXT: Estrogen kicks in. Watch out!

While the boys lugged bamboo stalks from the forest and envisioned a new shelter, the old Tandang girls got together for a little chit chat. “We’re not one big happy family,” RC sniped at Abi-Maria and Lisa. “We can pretend all we want, but we haven’t [been] for 17 days.” Girl was ready to grab Skupin and jump on the Kalabaw bandwagon right away. Apparently feeling uncomfortable with the conversation, Lisa decided to take on a new task — making sure everyone’s clothes would dry in the sun, since the rain had finally subsided for the day. It was a genuinely kind gesture.

But then it happened — my favorite moment of this whole season. As Lisa shuffled through everyone’s gear and hung their shirts and pants across the tribe sign, she came across Malcolm’s immunity idol, hidden beneath his flannel. “I thought an hour would be a safe amount of time to assume people would be eating and drinking and getting to know each other,” said a frustrated Malcolm, who saw Lisa going through everyone’s gear. “Apparently estrogen kicked in and we had to get our freakin’ clothes hung.” Zing!

After consulting with his old Matsing ally, Denise, Malcolm realized he had some major damage control to do. He pulled Lisa aside for a romantic stroll on the beach. (Or at least it looked like it would be romantic judging from the way he held her hand and guided her out of the jungle.) Lisa, being the sweet “new Momma” figure for Malcolm that she is (I take back that romantic stuff!), instantly apologized to her adopted son. “I’m sorry,” she said repeatedly, though I didn’t sense too much remorse in her facial expression. Lisa had inadvertently locked herself into a mandatory truce with Denise and Malcolm, two of the strongest players in the game, and she knew she instantly had a secret that they needed kept under wraps. That’s power. Malcolm was a bit concerned, since he thinks that Lisa and Denise, with their kind demeanors, could beat him in a final tribal council, but for the time being, he felt relatively calm about the whole thing. “Hallelujah. The church lady found it,” he said in his second zinger of the night. I can’t wait to see how Lisa’s discovery plays out over the next few weeks.

Later on in the day, everyone went into full on strategy mode, which is why this season of Survivor has been such a pleasure to watch. These people love playing the game! RC and Skupin discussed the possibility of aligning with Kalabaw. Pete and Malcolm, meanwhile, wondered how the old Tandang alliance could flush out an immunity idol by splitting votes between Penner (who they correctly guessed had an idol) and potential flip-flopper, RC. Jeff, of course, whined some more about Skupin and Penner’s existence in the game. And Lisa built her relationship with Penner, thanking him for keeping her The Facts of Life past a secret.

But those conversations had to be cut short because it was time for the immunity challenge. As Jeff Probst explained to the tribe, two immunity necklaces were up for grabs — one for a man, one for a woman. The challenge involved keeping a bucket, which weighed 25 percent of each cast member’s body weight, elevated above (what else?) a clay shard. The heavy buckets were attached to ropes that were wound around a spool that each competitor had to grip for as long as possible. When the bucket falls, you’re out. Basically, it was a really intense forearm workout.

NEXT: What’s with Malcolm’s hair? Plus: Tribal Council

Denise won the competition pretty handily among the women, but it was a dead heat between Jeff Kent and Carter for the guys. “Uh, having a necklace on tonight would be sweet,” Carter told Jeff Probst in his deadpan sup brah? voice. “And, yeah, I just want to win.” With words that steely and unyielding, Jeff Kent knew he had no chance, and he ungripped his spool, giving Carter immunity for the night.

Back at camp, RC and Skupin scrambled to figure out what to do at their first tribal council. They were still toying with the idea of jumping into Kalabaw’s alliance and taking out Tandang’s ringleader, Pete. But Jeff Kent told Skupin he wasn’t sure he wanted to be on the same team as him. After all, he is a returning player, and (insert Phaedra Parks voice) everybody knows how Jeff Kent feels about returning players.

At tribal, it became very clear that no clear lines yet existed in the merged tribe. (Seriously, did they ever say the name?) RC and Abi-Maria still couldn’t agree on whether RC stole the immunity clue, which had Pete smirking to himself on the side. Lisa, meanwhile explained to Jeff Probst why she thought jumping from Kalabaw to Tandang could be even smarter than doing the opposite. And Denise simply looked happy that, after six tribal councils in a row, she was guaranteed to survive her seventh. (Meanwhile, it was the first tribal council for everyone on Tandang — making this the first time in Survivor history that a tribe had never gone to tribal council until the merge.) There was lots of arguing and tense stares, but I honestly found myself a bit distracted by Malcolm’s hair. It seems to be turning into one giant dreadlock. Weird!

In the end, Pete and Malcolm got their wish (along with Jeff Kent’s loyalty). Penner, sensing his own vulnerability, played his immunity idol, which turned out to be the right decision considering 5 of the 11 votes cast were for him. All those votes didn’t count, of course, but Penner no longer has his idol. Of the other six votes, two went to Pete (who looked positively wounded at the sight of his name), and four went to RC, making her the eighth person eliminated, and the first member of the jury. I’m sad to see her (and her bitchy fights with Abi-Maria) exit the game, but that’s just the nature of the beast.

So, what did you think of tonight’s episode? Is Malcolm the player to beat? Will Lisa spill the beans about his idol? And does the merged tribe actually have a name yet? Ahh, Dalton would probably know all the answers to these already, but I, a mere novice, have to leave these questions with you!

Check out a deleted scene from last night’s episode:

Episode Recaps

If, for some strange reason, you feel like following me on Twitter (confession: I don’t talk about Survivor all that much), you can do so @EWGradySmith!

Survivor

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

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