After last week's mind-blowing Tribal Council on "Survivor: Philippines", it's no wonder Lisa Whelchel was a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown afterward at camp.
But instead of thanking her for scrambling to save them, her Tandang tribemates basically ignored her -- while she was instead consoled by the casualties of her scheming. Malcolm immediately told her he had no hard feelings, and she thanked him for his "grace and mercy."
But Penner, playing Dr. Lucy in a Peanuts-style psychiatry booth, counseled Lisa that her need to please people derives from the "toll and cost" of her "extraordinary youth" as a child actor.
The nine remaining Castaways divided into two teams, mirroring their alliances because they picked their members. The last one picked, Abi, had to sit out and wasn't eligible for the reward: a feast by local villagers. (You're welcome, villagers!)
The challenge called for each Castaway to crawl through a muddy obstacle course and dig up bags of balls to shoot in a basket. Thanks to Penner's brilliant strategy of retrieving all the bags at once himself, his team took a huge lead and won easily.
Back at camp, Abi instead insulted Lisa, calling her "gullible and naive" -- while insisting they need to be strong and vote out Penner.
Even Artis (he speaks again!) recognizes that Abi "needs to shut up before she screws everything all up."
First things first: fashion props to Jeff Probst, who looks fine in that black shirt.
Instead of spending hours in the hot sun, this challenge only requires the contestants to maneuver six balls into their designated spots while balancing a large paddle. With Pete his only real challenger, Skupin won his very first Individual Immunity -- two wins in a row for the vets!
Maybe because they too have noticed him speaking during this episode (always a reality-show tell), Denise and Malcolm agree to vote out Artis in Tribal Council.
Then Penner gets to work on Lisa, breaking the fourth wall and asking her and Skupin to "do the right thing and tell a better story" for the viewers. (Thanks, buddy!) Why stay loyal to those bullies?
After Lisa points out that she experienced more "grace" from the people she hurt than the people she was trying to protect, Jeff notices Abi's sourpuss -- she really is more venomous than those cobras we keep seeing in B-roll footage.
Artis speaks a third time (now we're starting to get suspicious), inaccurately pointing out that Tandang is one of the most powerful tribes in "Survivor" history -- but quickly clarifying that he knows that even he could get blindsided tonight.
Ding ding ding, we have a winner! By a vote of 5-4, Artis' torch -- not Penner's -- is snuffed. While he signs off with grace and dignity, Abi is spitting silent venom at everyone around her. The biggest surprise of the night is that Skupin, not Lisa, flipped. Guess she really doesn't care about entertaining the audience after all.
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She has been plotting and scheming her way through Survivor: Philippines, but now Lisa Whelchel is facing another challenge: She is fighting the West Nile virus.
On Tuesday, the newly single former Facts of Life star, 49, tweeted her diagnosis. "Dr. just called with blood test results...I have West Nile. Ugh. I'm fine, just tired. Takes a year to recover," she wrote.
There is no indication that her diagnosis is related to her stint on Survivor, which wrapped up filming in April. Although the disease is spread by mosquitoes, there have been nearly 4,000 cases in the U.S. this year. The symptoms include fatigue and body aches.
Although battling West Nile isn't the type of challenge Whelchel wants, she told PEOPLE in September that she looks at life as one big adventure.
After signing up for Survivor, "I didn't have one moment where I regretted being out there," she said. "In fact, the contrary. I was having an adventure; I was doing something that was a challenge, that was very hard."
Whelchel later Tweeted her thanks to well-wishers, adding that she's "expecting a full recovery."
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Katie Hanson became the seventh person to leave Survivor: Philippines this week, and just like that, the show was out of beauty queens. (Former Miss Utah Angie Layton was voted out the third week.)
The former Miss Delaware, 22, tells PEOPLE what went wrong – and why she feels Jeff Probst had it out for her.
You were voted off in part because you were weak in challenges.
I wasn't the most athletic person out there; I totally admit that. But they showed my failure again and again, and glossed over others. In one challenge, I had trouble running up a hill, which cost us time. But [former baseball player] Jeff Kent couldn't chop through wood, which also cost us time. Jeff Probst just hammered me a million times about my challenge performance, but let's face it – I wasn't the only one to slow us down.
So why did Jeff focus on you?
I'm not sure why he had it out for me, but he really seemed to focus on what I did wrong. He would say, "Katie's really slowing everyone down," which I'm not saying wasn't true, but I wasn't the only one. I think it sort of influenced other people's opinion of me.
So is that why you were voted out?
It was game over as soon as Dana left. She was in my alliance. She was a strong asset in challenges. Once she was gone, we lost our numbers. And Survivor is a numbers game.
That was bad luck for your alliance when Dana went home.
It goes to show that Survivor has an element of luck. You don't know what hand you're going to be dealt. Anyone can win, because there's so much luck involved.
Your tribe, Kalabaw, made a deal with the Tandang Tribe. You trade all your rice supply for a one-time feast. Good move?
Bad move! In the moment, it sounded good. The idea of being in a dry place was attractive. But in retrospect, it was a dumb move because we suddenly had no food. Our rice was our guaranteed source of energy.
But at least you got the feast.
Even though we gorged ourselves at the reward, it went right through us. Now that our energy was gone, we had nothing to replace it with.
So the other tribe out-thought you.
The only person who was really in tune and thinking was [returning player] Mike Skupin. He made a smart move – to starve us out.
This season seems more difficult than some previous seasons.
The conditions were terrible. It doesn't show this, but because of all the rain, our shelter started to grow black mold. I developed a terrible cough. Think that pageant girls are girly, that they can't survive? I wanted to show that pageant girls can do well, and it's a shame that it didn't work out.
So did you know that you would be voted out?
I was pretty sure it was going to be me. I thought that if the tribe really used their minds, they could have gotten rid of a dangerous threat and the idol at the same time. But it didn't work out that way.
But once you're out, you get food!
Production gave me cookies and apples when I was voted out. I got really sick. My body didn't want food. I just wanted a cheeseburger, but my body wouldn't have been able to handle it. I gorged on Twix bars, and oh my God, that was a big fail on my part. I paid for that dearly.
If you were to play again, how would you do it differently?
Oh, I would do it 100 percent again. It was such an incredible experience. I would go in smarter. I put on weight beforehand to keep from getting hungry, but I was out of shape. I should have been fitter. That's why retuning players are so dangerous: They know what to expect. I didn't. But I had a great time!
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Is it really a blindside if you know it’s coming? And, the bigger question, what viewer did not see Katie’s impending "blindside" a mile away?
To be blunt, Penner, Skupin and Russell may very well be the worst returning players of all time. Russell’s out, thankfully, so we don’t have to deal with his dramatics anymore, and it seems Skupin and JP may not be far behind him. At this point, the guys are really stirring up some resentment by meddling with the food supply on their respective tribes. When hungry, wet, tired people get their last bit of sustenance taken from them, all bets are off. I’m just hoping there is some kind of merge coming up soon so we don’t have to witness the bloody carnage after these kids go all Lord of the Flies on Senior Skupin for polishing off their rice supply.
While we’re on the subject of rice, let’s discuss the mud wrestling reward challenge. Words cannot do justice to the swell of pride I feel in my chest when I watch Denise prepare to do battle. The woman is just so badass. But, I digress. The real issue at hand (pun intended) is the grown-man crotch grab. I believe Penner patented this sneaky move in another wrestling challenge in Cook Islands and that he has been silently pleading with the Survivor gods for a chance to pull it out of his bag again ever since. Well, ask and you shall receive! Not that his move does any good though: Skupin is evidently quite familiar with mud-wrestle groping and is completely un-phased by such close genital contact. It’s a standoff.
Challenges like these are really tough because they go on forever until everyone is completely exhausted and, finally, one person has a last burst of power to break out and claim victory for the tribe. The winners go fall asleep in their mashed potatoes. The losers go home completely spent, distraught, caked in freezing cold mud and yell at each other.
Penner, knowing this through his own Survivor experience, comes up with a scheme to bypass the whole messy thing. He offers his tribe’s rice for the challenge win. Skupin concedes and that’s a wrap. Either way, this is a lose-lose for Penner and Skupin. They are the ones who step up and make the deal. No one else has to claim responsibility and, therefore, can remain blameless. On top of all this, Penner promises to catch boatloads of fish and now has the added pressure to feed his tribe. We’ve seen how that works out for him ... two baby fish ... not so much. These guys are in trouble.
The only thing saving these two right now is the fact that they are both stronger than some of the girls in challenges. I, for one, would love to see our little Brazilian spit-fire, Abi, perform in a challenge. I don’t understand why she constantly sits out. Yes, RC is a major force in challenges, agreed. But wouldn’t Abi at least be comparable in athleticism as Lisa? Why not let those two girls take turns? Come on Abi, the world wants to see you get physical!
At the reward, Jonathan’s tribe members get their much anticipated letters from home. Rewards with letters from home are a double-edged sword. I actually don’t believe getting a letter full of love from home is very helpful within the context of playing to win Survivor. Reading the words of a spouse or parent have the effect of filling a contestant with love and a longing to be home and to be held by the ones he loves. This longing can take a person’s mind off the game and plant a seed of homesickness that can seep over into making some really bad decisions. I’ve seen people check out completely after reading their letters. Survivor is a really tough game, mentally, emotionally and physically. Staying focused on each moment in the game and the desired goal at the end is literally the only mindset one can have in order to win.
Speaking of winners, how amazing is Carter? I know that’s not really the most accurate adjective to describe him, but come on, the guy is so hilarious. Jeff and Carter are like the island version of David Spade and Chris Farley. Just try it on for a minute before you disagree.
Allow me to set the scene for you. Jeff (D. Spade) is busy masterminding a plot against Penner in the shelter, describing his scheme to vote out the old veteran to his very blonde partner in crime, Carter (Farley). Just then, Penner sits down with the boys. “Who are we voting?” he asks, in typical Penner panache. Carter replies, “Penner or Katie.”
What did he just say?!
Penner doesn’t even bat an eye as poor little deer in the headlights, Carter, bumbles around to retract his latest statement. Doh!
“Ummm.. I mean Denise, Denise or Katie.”
Riiiiiight, that’s what he meant.
Hats off to the producers of this episode. They did a fine job of leading me to believe that, with Jeff Kent heading up the charge, Penner may just be getting the old heave-ho. Even when they finally do get to tribal, Probst’s line of questioning leans toward the notion of Jonathan becoming the latest victim of an old-fashioned Survivor blindside. He doesn’t play the immunity idol and I’m squirming in my seat. Is this really happening? Tonight would be the night to make a bold move and unseat the clear leader of the tribe and the holder of the immunity idol before the numbers start to dwindle later on. Is Jeff Kent going to characterize himself as a gamer, someone who is willing to put his neck out and make a bold move??
Nope. My spirits settle back into their comfortable spot on the sofa. Katie, the tribe has spoken and another hot chick bites the dust.
When are these guys going to do something exciting and unexpected? I’ll continue this journey with you guys and hope that some twists and turns are heading our way very soon!
Love you all.. xoxo
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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All the questions this week are going to be about the reward challenge. Because there are a lot of questions to ask! First off, you told Tandang they had to sit out one man and one woman in both of the challenges. Why did you make them specially sit out a man in each, when a tribe can usually sit out whomever they want (as long as those people did not sit out another challenge in the same episode cycle)? Is that because they already had an extra man when Malcolm was put on that tribe?
JEFF PROBST: Occasionally there are challenges that require even numbers of men and women for them to be matched up and in those cases we force them to even up the tribes by who they sit out. It’s a decision that is made ahead of time when the challenge is first designed — long before we have any idea who will be left on which tribe when it comes time to run the challenge. In this case we knew we were going to do match ups and knew it would not be fair if one tribe had all men going up against all women so that’s the story on that!
EW: This was one of those very physical ordeals where the contestants can wrestle, body slam, and — as we learned in the case of Penner and Skupin — even graze one’s genitals. What specifically is NOT allowed physically in a challenge like this? What do you tell them they can and can’t get away with?
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PROBST: Ah, Dalton, you’ve been out there when we explain the rules of these kinds of challenges. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve taken part in rehearsing physical challenges so I know you know this answer, but I love how you play the humble part of reporter and not the “know it all” experienced Survivor dream teamer. When it comes to a physical challenge, I always give the same basic speech: “Physical contact is allowed, but there is no punching or choking. No forearms to the face or head. No cheap shots. If the challenge takes place in the water there is no holding someone’s head underwater.” I also remind them that in order to win the game you need votes. People have to vote for you to win. So if you’re a poor sport or decide to take a cheap shot, your chances of winning the game decrease. Always. This is a social game. After that speech, it’s up to them. The decision of whether someone would be disqualified for inappropriate physical contact is ultimately a subjective call that I would make. I never want to pull someone out of a challenge. I don’t want to have any impact at all.
EW: So, a very unique situation as Skupin offered to lose the challenge (and the food that went with it) in exchange for Penner’s rice. Kalabaw accepted and you officially gave your blessing to the deal. Two part question: What goes into your decision-making process in terms of whether to allow a deal like that or not? And which tribe do you think got the better end of the food swap?
PROBST: I LOVE deal making. Once I hear a deal being made I stop talking and get out of the way. Then I usually recap the proposed deal for the audience and ask those involved if they’re going to move forward with it or not. Even if the deal gets nixed, the fact that somebody suggested it almost always results in conflict back at camp. Generally speaking, I’m good with most deals so long as everybody on the tribe agrees. In this case, the deal actually saved us because that challenge was going to take a long, long, long time to finish due to the amount of mud. I was concerned nobody would ever score and we’d have to result to a tie breaker. As to who got the better deal, I’m still undecided! I see both sides. It’s so easy to backseat drive. I think Skupin had a good idea in trying to wipe them out long term by taking all their rice. The risk is they are too strong for the immunity challenge and they steal momentum and you never get it back. From Penner’s side, I think his idea also made sense, especially given how little rice they actually had left in their container. I leave this one to the audience.
EW: Finally, I’ll trade you all my rice if you’ll give us a tease for next week.
PROBST: Your rice isn’t worth the info I have. But in typical Survivor fashion, the game most definitely changes and results in a huge opportunity for one tribe.
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