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Survivor Recap: Cultural Differences 


A face that exudes kindness and warmth in any culture.

By Kerri Fleming

If you ever plan to audition for Survivor and make the cut, you'd do worse than to watch Abi's performance in the most recent episode and us it as a "what not to do" guide. Everything the woman said, thought, did, or touched was pretty much the wrongest thing ever wronged and there's no way anyone has ever put together three worse days on this show in a row. The good news? She didn't even get voted out, so we get to do it all again next week!

It all began post-Tribal Council, with Abi and Pete licking their wounds after alliance-mate Artis was voted out. Everyone else is psyched: ding-dong, the witch alliance is all but dead. Mike is ready to knock off Pete and Abi and then re-evaluate, leaving the remaining six in an every-man-for-himself throwdown. Other, smarter people are looking further ahead. But Mike has never been accused of that.

The next day, Abi awakes, stretching in the morning sun, and begins her quest to play the worst game ever. She begins by confronting Lisa, the only person that stuck with their Axis of Evil alliance and the always-sweet person that Abi insists on bullying and attacking at any possible moment. Again Lisa finds herself proving her loyalty to Abi, but then comes clean: she can't be in alliance with people that don't trust her (especially since she is the only person who seems incapable of doing something untrustworthy) and she is officially cutting her ties with Abi and Pete. Rather than fight to keep Lisa in her alliance, Abi tearfully says that Lisa hurt her feelings when she said other people had more grace than her. It's funny how acting like an insane, combative crazyperson doesn't engender feelings of kindness and grace. Stupid dictionary definitions.

Enough of this touchy-feely crap. We have a Reward Challenge to play. Everyone is split into two teams: Team Old (Jonathan, Denise, Mike and Lisa) vs. Team Young (Abi, Pete, Malcolm and Carter). In one-on-one battles, they have to flip over three large icons of their own while prevent the other person from flipping theirs over, with the first team to win three times winning the whole shebang. At it's core, it is a challenge that should be won by pure speed, which is how Carter and Pete got two points for Team Youth. But more often it was a challenge decided by who didn't make a stupid decision first. Malcolm's is forgivable - he simply forgot to cover up one of Mike's icons and gives Team Old a point. But both Abi and Mike stupidly flip over the other team's icons and GIVE them the point. Abi even admits she has no idea what she's doing. Luckily for her, youth won out over age and her teammates covered up her idiocy but still: it's not a way to ingratiate yourself to possibly alliancemates. Strike Two.

The reward was a spa day and upon arriving, Malcolm makes a "no strategizing" rule that everyone, even Pete, readily embraces. They have nails to clip and hair to wash and grapes to feed each other. The to-do list grows ever longer.

As is often the case, watching someone basking in their reward is not nearly as entertaining as watching someone basking in TALKING about their reward and social genius Abi spends about 45 minutes explaining everything they did, ate, and felt to the losers back at camp. Props to Lisa, Mike, Denise and Jonathan for not throwing their gruely rice in her face, settling only for Jonathan's deadpan response of "Yeah, rewards are cool."

After the fact, we got a nice display of irony in action as everyone discusses her lack of social skills while Abi was within earshot: undone by their own lack of social skills! What a tangled web we weave. Abi responds fantastically, by vowing not to make food for anyone the rest of her time there. She still wants to EAT the food, mind you. Just not make it. You know, use her power as someone with no alliance whatsoever to get everyone else to wait on her hand and foot, and make that decision an hour after taking part in a spa day feast while everyone else was eating nasty-looking rice and sandy coconuts. See, Lisa, Abi's full of grace!

With the next couple votes pretty well decided, Malcolm's looking forward: he wants to make a four-person alliance with Denise, Mike and Lisa. Mike and Lisa are a little apprehensive and would rather be aligned with their bestie Jonathan. Perhaps Jonathan is tired or hungry or hanging in the same vicinity as Abi too long and she's rubbing off, but he makes his own dumb move by saying he doesn't want to nail down an alliance, focusing only on getting rid of Abi and Pete. His indecisiveness pushing Lisa and Mike into the arms of Malcolm and Denise, even though Mike views Malcolm as too power and dangerous for his own good.

The Immunity Challenge was one of those stages one, where the top five finishers in round one move on to round two and the top three move on to round three. All the rounds involved moving a buoy through various roped obstacle courses and the only question was whether Pete or Abi would....you know what, I can't even finish that sentence without laughing at the idea of Abi winning anything individually. The only question is whether PETE will win and that is answered pretty quickly when he doesn't even make the first cut. Carter winds up the winner, but really, who cares?

What ensues back at camp has to be my favorite instance of pre-Tribal Council scrambling ever attempted. Recognizing Malcolm as the signal-caller, Pete and Abi put the target on him to convince some of the others make a big move. Except that they go from one person to other and nobody even wants to entertain the idea. Abi approaches Lisa: Great idea, says Lisa, but no thanks. Even Abi's backup plan of whining "But you were in an alliance with us FIRST!" doesn't do the trick. Then Pete approaches Carter: Nah, I'm good, says Carter. Abi approaching Jonathan: No way, honey. The only person who even listens to them is Mike, already threatened by Malcolm's idol and youth and beauty and power and luscious locks. But Jonathan squashes any of that by A) putting it out in the open (even to Malcolm) that Pete and Abi are gunning for him and B) repeatedly doublechecking that everyone's on board with splitting the votes between Abi and Pete to draw out the idol.

Things start out OK for Abi at Tribal Council. Her buddy Artis arrives looking clean and wearing Brazilian colors and, my goodness, are those his TEETH? Is he actually SMILING?! Who is this man?? There is a little warming up in the discussion as Malcolm talks about being on the chopping block and Pete even brings up the idea of Malcolm getting voted out again. But the real show starts when Abi regrets her last Tribal Council performance and embraces Jeff's suggestion that it's a cultural difference. "I'm not the most...gentle," she admits, which everyone giggles at because she is about as harsh as a porcupine rolling in sandpaper. Abi can't believe Lisa won't forgive her, and Lisa corrects her: She has forgiven Abi; she just wants nothing to do with her. Abi admits to feeling a little lonely.

Then things really get interesting. Jeff asks if keeping someone like Abi around isn't actually a good plan. Denise, being thoughtful and analytical responds: sure, keeping someone universally unlikeable is alluring but that's not how they want to play the game. Denise's answer isn't cruel and she's more talking strategy than knocking Abi, but Abi takes it personally and starts to unravel. When Denise compares taking someone like Abi to the final three to taking someone who has never played poker before to a poker game so you can steal their money, she cuts her off. "Don't you know I'm the only one who can make fun of people?! No fair!" Denise then brings up Abi's gloating after the Reward Challenge, or at least tries to, but Abi won't listen because she is physically unable to let someone else speak for five minutes...erm, I mean, it's a cultural thing.

In the end, the six (including Mike) split the votes, Abi plays the idol, and Pete is voted out. Abi finishes her stellar stretch by tearfully saying good-bye to a jury where two-thirds of the members don't like her, then forgetting her torch and walking the wrong way off the set.

And that, kids, is how it's not done.

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