After 10 weeks of only mild double-dealing and backstabbing, the contestants of "Survivor: Caramoan" pulled out all the stops at this week's tribal council.
"One of the craziest tribal councils ever," said host Jeff Probst, who ought to know after 26 seasons.
"It's the most exciting thing I've ever seen at tribal council," said Cochran the geek, who has written papers about the strategy of "Survivor."
So let's fast forward to the thrills-galore tribal council.
The show starts with Dawn, the mother of six, having a mental breakdown. She's lost her bottom teeth in a pond and threatens to quit the show if she can't recover them. Dawn is horrified at the idea of continuing on national television like some toothless hillbilly.
"I will leave the show," she said, weeping. Dawn's a crier. Amid a cacophony of wailing, she enlists super girl Brenda to snorkel down and recover her retainer.
There's more of Dawn's mental shakiness in the first half of the show. This is what the "Survivor" producers do consistently; give a lot of air time to a red herring to make viewers think that's the person being eliminated this week.
Fortunately Dawn gets her lower bite back in time to win a reward challenge with Reynold, Phillip, Erik and Cochran, which comes after a lot of crawling through mud and rice. The messy quintet gets transported to a lodge where they enjoy a nice lunch and swim in a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the spectacular views of the Philippines' Caramoan islands.
This segment is notable for the first display of snarkiness from silent Erik, the shaggy English major who has had zero air time in 10 weeks of the show. Erik throws some shade at Phillip after muddy Phillip dives into the pool and creates a big cloud of dirty water.
"Phillip's etiquette is not the best," said Erik. "There's a shower to wash off in. But Phillip dives in the pool and gets all this mud and rice and all this horrible dirtiness in the pool. That's pretty much what Phillip has done all season. He just jumps in without caring for anyone else and does things on his own. I'm really sick of Phillip being around."
On to the immunity challenge in which Reynolds edges Malcolm in a clash of the Caramoan titans.
Which sets up the elimination dynamic that usually rears its head in the final weeks of "Survivor." The young bucks who can win immunity challenges are targeted for elimination by voting blocks of beta players.
In this case the top dogs under fire are Reynold, Malcolm and Eddie. But since Reynold won immunity, the other seven players decide to split their votes between Malcolm and Eddie and flush out any immunity idols that they may be holding.
This is where it gets interesting. Malcolm was secretly holding one immunity idol, and managed to find a second one in the final hours before tribal council.
So it was no surprise at tribal council when Malcolm played out one immunity idol to save himself. But when he produced a second one and gave it to Eddie -- well the tables were turned on the remaining seven players.
It was a last stand worthy of the Alamo. The three outnumbered alpha dogs were suddenly completely protected, while the seven-member voting block was suddenly scrambling to see which of their own they would eliminate.
"What a shift," said Probst. "The looks on faces!"
Just to make it interesting, Malcolm told the seven that his camp of three amigos was going to vote for Phillip. He took aim at Phillip's tiresome para-military organizational skills ("Stealth-r-us") and his overbearing leadership skills.
"This is supposed to be a game and it's supposed to be fun. Phillip is the fun sponge and he sucks it out of the group," said Malcolm. "It doesn't have to be a militaristic game."
"That is not how I play the game. He is trying to label me something that I'm not," retorted Phillip.
When the dust cleared, none of the votes for Malcolm or Eddie counted; the three amigos were joined by English major Erik (who spelled Phillip's name Fillup) in casting out crazy Phillip, who walked out without a backward glance.
If Malcolm makes it to the final, it's a safe bet he won't get Phillip's vote for the $1 million.
It was a fun episode as the season winds into its final month.
"I feel I played a great game. I am so happy with the way I played," said Phillip, as the credits rolled. "I tried to bring into the game some things I learned from Boston Rob. I felt often like I did in Survivor 22. I wasn't respected, I wasn't appreciated for the things I do. So that part hurts for me. But I'm feeling good. I think I played a great game. I know that I did a very good job out here. I did my best."
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