This was the kind of Tribal Council that I love to see: all of the master planners thrown for a loop, with the underdogs finally getting a chance to turn things around! Upset that applecart and kick the top dogs to the curb!
I just wonder how much of it was orchestrated between Penner and Skupin beforehand? Did Penner even bother to forecast his actual vote with anyone? Did Skupin go along with "Plan B" simply because it was the easiest or safest option with Lisa? (Is Skupin under the impression that he can still pretend to be with the original Tandang? Or maybe this is an attempt to fool them into thinking that he wants back in?) Of course, Penner didn't have a dog in this fight at all, so I guess maybe he was either stirring the pot by throwing in a vote for Abi, knowing it could goad her into more irritating behavior, or perhaps he hoped for an HII crossfire to cancel out everyone else's vote? Either way, it's obvious that everyone knew exactly what everyone else's voting plan was going into the TC, and for once, there was a strong effort to counteract it.
Poor Lisa. I love the power playing, but unfortunately, she didn't exactly have any mental giants to work with in blindsiding Malcolm. I guess it wasn't wrong of Pete to want to do a little 'fact-checking' or confrontation with Malcolm, but you can't really expect someone to tell you the truth in such a situation, and the fact that Pete bought Malcolm's denial just shows you how dangerous it is to trust one's ability to 'look into the soul' of an ally in such situations. (Just ask Penner!) So now Lisa is outed as a power player which might have been a very dangerous place to be, but with all the alliances and sub-alliances and super-double-secret alliances brought out into the light, she is in a safer position than might be expected. I'm frankly glad of it, because while her "Evil 3 Plus 1" strategy looks good on paper it obviously had the fatal flaw that even the Evil 3 aren't stupid enough to take the 'church lady' to the finals with them, and Lisa isn't exactly a favorite to win a Final Immunity Challenge.
From the previews it looks as if Lisa will be drawn into a "Returnee + Ex-Child-Star" triad, which could be the best possible spot for her. Not only does it give her a solid voting bloc of 3, but it also gives her some protection with two very large vote targets in front of her.
Of course, Carter will suddenly become a very popular personality on the island, with all groups trying to rope him into their alliance, even though it's obvious that he'll be on the bottom wherever he ends up. It might make most sense for him to try and slide into Malcolm and Denise's group, but he'd have to keep that secret, and I don't get the impression that Carter's big on misdirection or outright deception. If Penner and Skupin are able to scoop Carter up before Malcolm and Denise grab him, that would really help the Returnee cause. Then again, Carter already drank the anti-returnee koolaid with Jeff, so unless the boot of his best friend in the game has really unhinged him, Carter could still choose to go with 'anybody but Penner/Skupin'.
While Malcolm and Denise have been outed as hiding/holding an HII between them, I don't know that it will automatically cause the Evil 3 to immediately turn on them. Almost the entire island seems to be bitten by the Returnee Boot bug, so I can see the Tandang tribe sticking with Malcolm and Denise for a couple more votes. Still, the fact that Malcolm had the HII and outright lied to Tangdang about it will put a big target on his back, or at least put him on the radar. I say that because we saw how everyone, including Skupin, decided to take the easy out (ha! see what I did there?) and boot Jeff instead of challenging Malcolm and his HII. Then again, Pete blew the chance at a blindside well before TC, and there was never a chance to cobble together a true HII flush once Malcolm deciding to go 'all in' with his bluff at TC. (And did anyone in these forums believe for a minute that he was going to play it? A good bluff, and one that obviously wasn't going to be called amidst all the confusion!)
Will the Returnees be able to turn around the game at this point? The bare numbers would suggest not, but who knows what could happen. The Evil 3 seem content to continue and let the drama flare up around them, and even with Malcolm and Denise trying to target Pete, the Tandang alliance can still divide and conquer if they play their cards right. But it could be that the Returnees have made it possible that Malcolm and Denise have less room to maneuver.
I'm hoping so, for Penner's sake.