‘Survivor: Philippines’ Recap: Blair’s in Trouble, Skupin Tries to Warner


Lisa Whelchel (CBS)

XFinityTV is blowing up their coverage of “Survivor: Philippines.” Starting next Tuesday, I’ll be squaring off against “Survivor: One World” champ Kim Spradlin in this season’s Power Rankings challenge. Every Wednesday briefly after the show we’ll have a full episode recap and every Thursday (including tomorrow) we’ll have an interview with the latest eliminated player. Also, starting October 1st, we’re bringing back the “Survivor” Question of the Week where Jeff Probst and I tackle a wide variety of “Survivor” topics. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for all the updates!

Quick Note: I was on location for the first episode of “Survivor: Philippines”, so this recap features all kinds of behind-the-scenes goodies.

Another Quick Note: I am so sorry about that headline. It was between that and the possibly worse “Matsinging in the Rain.”

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39 Days, 18 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog

We kick this season off with Captain Probst aboard the S.S. Snuffer-upagus. He deftly navigates the beautiful waters surrounding the scenic Caramoan Islands.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This can’t be emphasized enough; this place was designed to host “Survivor.” The water is amazing and there are a billion tiny little islands. I’m psyched.

J-Pro lets us know that a collection of 15 newbies are on their own boat on their way to the adventure of a lifetime.

We get to meet former National League MVP Jeff Kent, former child star Lisa Whelchel, and some dude with a Frankenstein tattoo.

What these newbies don’t know is they’ll be joined by three former players who were forced out of their previous seasons due to injuries. We’ve got Michael Skupin who famously fell into the fire in “Survivor: The Australian Outback.” Jonathan Penner who suffered a severe infection during “Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites,” and Russell Swan who passed out during an immunity challenge in “Survivor: Samoa.”

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Production went to great lengths to hide Penner, Michael, and Russell from each other. I find that odd, because they didn’t do a big on-camera reveal and other returnees (Russell and Rob, Coach and Ozzy) knew who they’d be facing in advance.

Captain Probst finally meets up with our new color-coded friends. Jeff Kent is a bit worried that only four other people are wearing the same color as him.

Zane (aka, Mr. Frankenstein tattoo) is psyched that there aren’t any returning players (or as he calls them, “celebrities”). He’s wrong on both counts.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This marooning was pretty tame compared to most. The only questionable thing that was said was Katie dissing Angie by saying that she didn’t think she was prepared for the game.

J-Pro asks Roxanne what the worst thing she’s seen on the show is; she describes Russell’s fainting elimination. Apparently she never saw “One World.” Too soon?

Now Probsty’s psyched because he has the perfect segue way to bring in our returnees. Dawson is giddy that they’re there.

Probst assigns the returnees to their tribes. Skupin immediately recognizes Lisa but doesn’t out her. Jeff Kent had better hope Penner isn’t a Dodgers fan.

The marooning starts as the players are given a minute to salvage anything they can off of the boat. Penner immediately starts shouting out instructions to his tribe. He also gives Probst some grief. So much for his pre-game plan of avoiding the “Probst and Penner Show.”

There’s some awkwardness as Kalabaw’s raft flops into the sea, in the confusion Jeff Kent is worried that he may have blown out his knee.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: When Penner was in the water, he managed to lure a chicken off of the boat and into his waiting arms. That chicken was never seen again…

So, the tribes as we start off are…

The Kalabaw Tribe (wearing red)
Carter – Track Coach, 24
Dana – Cosmetologist, 32
Dawson – Insurance Sales, 28
Katie – Student, 22
Jeff – Former MLB Player, 44
Penner – Writer, 50

The Matsing Tribe (wearing blue)
Angie – Student, 20
Denise – Sex Therapist, 41
Malcolm – Bartender, 25
Roxanne – Seminary Student, 28
Russell – Environmental Attorney, 45
Zane – Tire Repair, 28

The Tandang Tribe (wearing yellow)
Abi-Maria – Business Student, 32
Artis – Computer Engineer, 53
Michael – Professional Speaker, Author, and Coach, 50
Lisa – Former ‘Facts of Life’ Star, 49
Pete – Engineering Graduate, 24
RC – Investment Banker, 27

At Matsing beach, Russell says there’s no way he’s going to let himself become the leader. He plans to pawn it off on someone else, but I’m not sure who on that tribe he can pawn it off to. Sure enough, we cut to Russell bossing everyone around.

Later on, Malcolm and Russell are able to create fire. This is important because it rained a lot during those first days. I was miserable, and I had a poncho and an umbrella. They had nothing.

Meanwhile at Kalabaw beach, Jeff Kent is having serious knee problems. He says he’s played hurt before and he’s going to do his best to tough it out. You’re a baseball player, rub some dirt on it!

Later on, Jeff Kent leads a meeting. The main topic of conversation? Not letting the returning player win. Uh oh…Penner’s got problems.

Over at Tandangia, Ani-Maria and RC hit it off immediately. However, they don’t hit it off well enough for RC to admit that she’s an investment banker. Probably smart, not the most popular occupation these days. Later, the two decide to bring Pete and Skupin on board. That was quick.

Back over at North Kalabaw, Jeff Kent is worried that he’ll be in trouble if people realize that he’s a former baseball player. Unfortunately for him, Dawson’s watched some baseball in her day. However, she probably underestimated his career earnings when she pegged it at around $30 million. She smartly decides to hold onto this information for the time being.

We meet up with the Tandang women standing in the ocean. Lisa decides to do so in her jeans. This is a person who is very aware that she is surrounded by cameras. Good for her public image. Not great for her game.

They follow this with a montage of Lisa trying to start a fire. They forget to show her getting mad at Tootie when she accidentally unplugged the alarm clock when they were cramming for an exam.

RC doesn’t trust Lisa. Skupin thinks she should admit who she is because he thinks that will impress the younger people. I think I agree with Skup. Jimmy Johnson’s time on the show has made famous people gun-shy about saying who they are. But, he was voted out because he wouldn’t align with anyone, not because he was rich.

That night, Skupin lets Lisa know that he thinks it’d be helpful to open up to the kids. She doesn’t go for it.

Over at Matsing, Zane’s trying to put an alliance together. They show him hustling with everybody. No lie, dude made alliance with all five people. Although, he claims his real alliance is with Malcolm and Russell. Yikes, that’s very messy for the first cycle. He has very Hantz-like tendencies.

Malcolm quickly rats him out to Denise. They bond over this issue. They even create a secret handshake. It’s best described as the result of Lonestar asking Barf to “Give him some paw.”

Aww…rest in peace, John Candy.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: During our visit there on day two; Malcolm and Denise were hard at work building a shelter, Russell and Roxy were working around the fire, Angie was weaving palm fronds alone, and Zane was off on testimonial interview. When Zane finally returned he looked miserable. He was visibly shaking and his hands were freakishly pruned-up.

Later at Tandang, the rain is pouring and Skupin is doing his best to injure himself again. He busted up his hand and scraped his head and foot.  The dude’s skin is made of tissue paper.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Everyone was in good spirits during my visit to the Tandang camp except for Artis. Michael, Lisa, RC, Abi-Maria, and Pete were all laughing and sharing stories while Artis kind of looked depressed in the corner. I think the weather was probably getting to him, his hands were also severely pruned.

At Kalabaw, Penner is hard at work searching for the immunity idol. Unfortunately for him, everyone knows he’s looking for it. I was there for this, and the other five members of his tribe were not pleased.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Penner broke the “Don’t speak to the press” rule when I was there when he told us that he was gathering things in case he needed to make a fake idol.

Sure enough, Penner finds the clue in the rice. He’s gonna need it.

Cut to…Russell finding the Matsing clue. Returnees on fire. Except in this case, Zane saw him find it. Zane confronts him and Russell denies it. Russell even goes so far as to say he’d target anyone he saw looking for the idol.

Immunity Challenge Time: The teams will be split up into three pairs. The first pair will sprint into the jungle while tethered together at the waist. Once they come to a clearing, they’ll have to scale a cargo net that leads to a platform. On that platform there is a box that is held closed by three sets of knots. Once the teams have untied their knots, they’ll open the box, retrieve two oars, then head back the way they came. When the players get back to the starting point, they’ll pass the oars off to the next pair.

That pair will then push their boat from the beach into the water. They’ll paddle out to a buoy, then dive down to retrieve a giant chest. From there, they’ll push the crate back to the shore.

When the crate is to the beach, all of the tribe members will help carry the chest back to the starting point.  Once it’s in its proper place, the final pair will crack open the chest and retrieve puzzle pieces. The first tribe to complete their tower-shaped puzzle wins immunity and a fire-making kit. The second place tribe wins immunity, flint, and a slight feeling of inferiority. The losing tribe gets to visit Jeff at Tribal Council.

The tribes take a minute to discuss strategy. Russell takes over and basically assigns his team roles. He then chooses a handful of magic beans over a tarp.

Our running pairs will be Russell and Zane for Matsing, RC and Artis for Tandang, and Dana and Katie for Kalabaw.

Our rowers are Denise and Malcolm, Pete and Michael, and Jeff and Carter.

And finally, our puzzle teams are Angie and Roxanne, Lisa and Abi-Maria, and Penner and Dawson.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I started an unofficial pool before the challenge. Most people had Tandang or Matsing winning. Nobody thought Kalabaw had a chance.

Survivors are ready…and they go.

RC and Artis retrieve their paddles first. Russell and Zane are right behind them.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Poor Zane was a wreck after running through the woods, which was weird because it had to have been only 150 yards each way.

Dana and Katie finally get their oars to their rowers.

Skupin and Pete are the first ones to get to their chest, Jeff and Carter made up a lot of time and pass Matsing.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Pushing the crates back to shore took forever. It had to be exhausting.

Tandang gets their chest to the shore first. It’s full of water and too heavy to carry, so they start flipping it end over end. Kalabaw is right behind them. Matsing is finally back in the game too.

Penner and Dawson plow through the puzzle to win the first immunity, Abi-Maria and Lisa finish theirs shortly after to take the second idol. Matsing earns a date at Tribal Council.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Challenge producer John Kirhoffer claims he knew Kalabaw was going to win. I still don’t believe him.

Russell tells Probst that he isn’t too worried because there is always a next time. Probst corrects him, saying there’s a next time for five of them. Snap!

Matsing decides to have a tribe meeting once they’re back at camp. Zane confesses that he wasn’t physically prepared for the challenge and that he deserves the vote. Zane thinks this’ll show if he’s in control, Russell thinks this makes the vote very easy.

Quote of the Night: “I’m playing chess the best way I know how, and hopefully, I’m going to king me.” – Zane Knight

Yes, “king me” is a checkers term…

Angie and Roxanne aren’t sure they want Zane to go; they were not thrilled that they were assigned to be puzzle players. Angie even goes so far as to beg Zane to stay.

Malcolm could be on board with voting out Russell, but he’s worried about losing Russell’s strength and he thinks Russell might have the idol.

That night at Tribal Council, fire represents life. It tends to do that.

Denise didn’t want there to be returning players, but she thinks Russell is an asset.

Zane admits that Russell is better at the game than he is. He then breaks into an onion analogy that makes no sense. It’s like when your bishop lands on Park Place.

Russell admits that he blew it by jumping back into the chief role. Malcolm agrees with him.

Angie is upset that she didn’t get to run because she was on the track team in high school. And that was totally like three months ago.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: This is the first Tribal Council I’ve ever been to where the result was in doubt. Most of the crew at this point assumed Russell would be taking the walk of shame, but nobody was sure like with Semhar or Wendy Jo.

Voting Time: Russell votes for Zane, Zane quotes Ricky Bobby, then votes for Russell, and the rest are secret.

J-Pro tallies and returns. We’ve got one for vote for Zane, one for Russ, two more for Zane, and the first person to be voted out of “Survivor: Philippines” is…Zane.

Verdict: As always with the first episode, it was a lot of getting to know people. Now that that’s out of the way, there are at least eight people I’m genuinely excited to see play. I have high hopes for this season. I also hope Mike Skupin doesn’t die.

Who’s Going to Win: Malcolm’s my pre-season fave, but his tribe is a mess. I’ll stick with him for the time-being, but as usual, I’m prepared to change my mind at a moment’s notice.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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