Survivor: Philippines, "Got My Swag Back"

The opening four episodes of this Survivor season have spent a majority of time with the Matsing tribe, who lost every challenge. The battle lines have been drawn for the Tandang and Kalabaw tribes, but the conflicts haven’t played out at Tribal Council. This pivotal episode finally changes that trend and dramatically alters each tribe’s place in the game. Kalabaw dominated the early challenges, but bad luck and a challenge loss knocks out two members. While neither was a major player, it’s still quite a change. Just a few minutes into this episode, the Matsing tribe is history. Jeff Probst puts them out of its misery at the reward challenge and splits the pair randomly. Malcolm brings his strength to a jubilant Tandang tribe, while Denise immediately becomes one of the most interesting members of Kalabaw. It’s refreshing to see different players having the chance to visit Tribal Council. The downside of the three-tribe format is our inability to get to know all the players. We barely saw Dawson before her exit, and she seems like a colorful character. She does get the chance to have an awkward embrace from Probst as a going-away present, so it isn’t all bad news. For more details, check out my full review of this episode for Sound on Sight.

Here are some other interesting points that I didn't address in my review:

  • With only 12 players remaining, we may be pretty close to a merge. It generally happens with 10-12 players left, so get ready for it in the next few episodes. Tribes have stuck together in recent seasons following the merge, so I'm really hoping for more of a shake-up this time. I'd love to see Tandang members like RC and Skupin join up with Kalabaw to take out Pete and Abi-Maria.
  • Malcolm and Denise are allies, but his move to grab the machete and take the idol when he suspects its location is very smart. To her credit, she recognizes that it may not help her, especially if they're split into different groups. 
  • It's eerie to watch Jeff Probst give the "fire represents your life" speech this late in the season. Although this Tribal Council is quiet, I doubt that will happen once Abi-Maria and Pete get involved. Kent and Penner are wise players who aren't going to blow up in front of Probst, but the Tandang players aren't so subtle. 
  • If you're looking for a smart conversation about Survivor, I highly recommend Boston Rob's appearance last week with Rob Cesternino on his great show Rob Has a Podcast. The nearly two-hour discussion goes through his four appearances and has a lot of excellent insights into the ways he adjusted his game over the years.