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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Gouge My Eyes Out”

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This was one of those episodes of Survivor destined to make no sense without seeing what the editors left on the cutting room floor. The outcome wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as the vote truly could have gone either way, but all of the little moments leading up to that vote don’t really add up to what we saw as the end result.

When Malcolm sat down and made a final four deal with Lisa, Skupin, and Denise, it seemed like a great plan to get them to the end. Tonight’s vote, taking out Abi and leaving this alliance as the actual final four in the game, proved just how important this strategic move turned out to be. It’s also a damn unlikely final four, just because of how generally amiable and likable they all are as players; it’s at this point in the game where someone usually realizes they need to think more about what will happen at the end than how they’ll get there, and a “goat” player like Abi gets taken to the end.

Which is exactly the scenario the show tried to sell us. From the beginning of tonight’s episode, the focus was squarely on Denise vs. Abi, and the pros and cons of each remaining in the game. Malcolm mostly takes this entire situation for granted, his eye so focused on the endgame that he loses sight of what is happening right in front of him; while he is busy making a final three deal with Lisa and Skupin, assuming Abi is going home this week, Abi is trying anything and everything to get Denise sent home instead of her.

Abi has a pretty good case for staying in the game, seeing as she’s not a challenge threat and is also not a threat to get very many votes from the jury. Her main goal is to do anything to shake up Lisa and Skupin’s confidence in their final four deal, from telling Lisa she’s on the bottom of the pecking order to outright laying out to Skupin why she’s a better person to take to the final three over Malcolm or Denise. It’s this last argument that seems to gain some traction, with Skupin presenting the offer to Lisa and Lisa appearing to be on board.

This is where things got a bit wonky. Before Tribal, it seemed as if there was a decent chance of Lisa and Skupin taking the opportunity to get rid of a strong player like Denise and try to play to the end with Abi. Once Tribal actually started, however, things took a decidedly different turn. In pleading her (valid) case to Lisa and Skupin in front of everyone, she immediately starts undercutting her own arguments by repeatedly calling Skupin an idiot and a moron, for no real reason whatsoever. It’s not really in reaction to anything. It’s just, “Hey, I’m Abi. I pretty much suck, and you are a moron.” To my eyes, it seemed as if she already knew her fate, knew Skupin and Lisa weren’t going to vote with her, and was just getting in one final dig (or at least couldn’t control her temper). It sucked any suspense the editors were trying to mine out of the situation, but it was still mighty entertaining, because it’s pretty fun to watch an awful person crash and burn.

Still, it would be nice to know exactly the sequence of events that led to this. I’ve made this argument before, but once in a while, it would be great to see exactly what is going down at camp, even if it ruins any “surprise” at Tribal. The mechanics of the scheming are just as interesting as the outcomes—sometimes more so—and can often feel like a missed opportunity.


Despite any missed opportunity in the moment here, this is a great final four to go into the last episode with. At least three of the four have a great chance of winning the final immunity challenge, and no matter what combination of the three make it, there will be a winner most people can be happy with. After many a season with only the loathsome players left in the end, Survivor’s best season in years looks to go out with a quite the bang. (But seriously, Team Malcolm.)

Stray observations:

  • Why wouldn’t Malcolm give Denise the immunity idol, just in case? I suppose by not using it, he shows trust in his alliance to keep their word. If I was Denise, however, this (plus him not taking me on reward challenges) would definitely make me wonder where I stood, especially since she outright asked for the idol and he didn’t give it to her.
  • I still contend Lisa is playing one of the most interesting games I’ve seen in quite a while. We continually point out all the ways she’s a terrible player, and she continues to make decisions that keep her in the game. Could this take her all the way to the end?
  • I really think Denise was overlooking the most obvious culprit for her neck wound: vampire.
  • What in the world was Skupin eating on the beach? Purple Kool-Aid with black coal in it? Horrifying.
  • Carter looks the exact same as he did when he was playing the game, which is perhaps the most Carter thing Carter has ever done.
  • Abi: “I guess my vote doesn’t mean anything.”
  • Malcolm: “Michael Skupin doesn’t eat sugar in real life, and he overate on sugar, and he acted like a drunk chick in a bar.”