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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Down and Dirty”

Illustration for article titled Survivor: “Down and Dirty”

Now that Matsing is no more, is Kalabaw the worthless tribe? When Malcolm and Denise first went to different tribes last week, it seemed as if the split would make two fairly even tribes and eliminate the possibility of one running roughshod over the other. After two mostly evenly-matched challenges tonight (that Kalabaw still managed to lose) and a disappointing Tribal council, it seems Kalabaw’s worst enemy just might be itself.

To be clear: when I say “itself,” I mostly mean Penner. It was his exhausted scheming at the reward challenge that lost Kalabaw its rice. He is the only one with an idol, and he is the one calling the shots about who gets voted out in the tribe. Penner is highly entertaining to watch most of the time, but it appears he is going to be the downfall of Kalabaw until someone steps in to stop him.

Penner’s strange reign started tonight when the tribes were competing in the reward challenge, a brutal and strange competition where three people from each tribe had to push a giant ball around. Instead of it being a lively and fun challenge, though, it quickly devolved into one of those brutal, slow, exhausting challenges that aren’t all that fun to watch. When Penner realized no one was ever going to win the challenge (this was just the first round in what was supposed to be three total) and started his negotiations, everyone was either lying on top of each other under the ball or intertwined all around it, like some sort of giant ball-worshiping mud orgy party. Penner starts general negotiations and Skupin jumps in quickly, offering to give up the challenge if Kalabaw gives them the rest of their rice. It’s one of those moments where everyone involved kind of thinks it’s a horrible idea except for the two people making the decision, but no one is brave enough to speak up about it. They just want to complain when what they feel is the wrong decision is made, and that’s exactly what both sides do.

The funny thing is, both are kind of right. Kalabaw giving up a sure food and energy source in rice was absolutely idiotic, especially with the rationalization that they can just fish for all of their food from now on. If fishing had been going so well for them, we would probably have heard about it. As for Tandang, the members doubled their rice—from about a one-day supply to two—but what bad social player Skupin neglects to realize is that Artis and Abi’s passive aggressive cries of “do what you want, it’s fine” really mean “make this deal and feel my whiny wrath.” Abi is particularly unbearable, because she is Abi, and that’s what she does.

True to everyone’s predictions, Penner is unsuccessful at catching fish, and Kalabaw must compete at Tribal with only one or two bites of raw fish in each member's system. The reward challenge seems tailor-made for Jeff Kent, as it involves catching a ball in a net-like contraption. Still, Jeff’s former professional athleticism is no match for Malcolm’s youth, and Malcolm wins the game for Tandang while going head-to-head with Jeff.

This is when things potentially get interesting. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Katie will get voted out, but Jeff and Carter start to discuss the possibility of blindsiding Penner while they still can before a merge happens. It’s a great and exciting idea and seems like it has support—with Katie as the swing vote—and for once, going into Tribal, it is fairly unclear who will be voted out. Even Probst’s questioning at Tribal is geared toward blindsides and trust, fueling the feeling that Jeff and Carter just might pull off the best blindside of the season so far. Yet when it came time for the votes to be read, it was all revealed to be some decently tricky editing as Katie was sent home.


This is why if the merge doesn’t happen soon, Penner will likely be the downfall of Kalabaw. They have no food. They haven’t shown the ability to win challenges. And yet tonight, it seems like he was running the entire show. Even if the tribes do merge as soon as next week, Penner has an idol and a growing social game, making him hard to get rid of. I actually really like Jeff Kent as a player, but he might regret not making the power move and getting Penner out while he had the chance.

Stray observations:

  • Tandang was low on rice because Skupin was eating it raw, assuming that it would just cook in his belly or something. This is stupid on so many levels.
  • Artis spoke a lot tonight, but it would be nice to know something about him other than the fact that he thinks Michael is annoying. Survivor’s character-building this season, while generally strong, has still been spotty in places.
  • Close your eyes when Carter is speaking: Ryan Lochte, no?
  • Probst: “It’s a very intimate way to play this game, but totally legal.”
  • Probst: “Jeff, do you play any game that’s similar to Survivor in terms of strategy?” Like maybe one that involves a bat and a ball, and wearing strange-fitting pants?