Survivor Recap: The Drowned Tribe

The Tandang Tribe, from this week's episode of "Survivor: Philippines"

“It’s like the Titanic,” former Survivor player Rob Cesternino observes of Russell Swan and his Matsing tribe on this season of the CBS reality series. “It’s a disaster every week.”

Sure enough, Russell and his fellow blue-buffed buffoons lost their third immunity challenge in a row on this week’s episode of Survivor: Philippines, bringing their numbers down to a mere three players. Somewhat miraculously, Russell remains in the game, as teammates Malcolm Freberg and Denise Stapley decided to vote out their ally, cookie-craving Angie Layton, to preserve their tribe’s physical strength. But unless Matsing can pull it together and win a challenge — or if some kind of twist shakes up the tribe line-ups next week — it’ll be a short-lived stay of execution for Swan, whose second attempt at Survivor glory is looking worse and worse with each passing episode.

Cesternino joined Spinoff Online to chat about this week’s Survivor, the struggling Matsing tribe, and how hidden immunity idols are changing the dynamics on the Tandang and Kalabaw clans.

Spinoff Online: Russell Swan is still alive, against all odds. He’s been in danger from the very first moment he returned to this game, but after three straight trips to tribal council, he’s still hanging on. Did his tribe get the vote right his week, keeping Russell over Angie?

Rob Cesternino

Rob Cesternino: You know, on paper, it seems like they did. It looked like Malcolm and Denise were leaning towards keeping Angie, because they were talking about loyalty being more important to the tribe. They’re in a better position to win a challenge next week now, though, as long as it doesn’t involve climbing up a ladder at any point. That being said, if you feel like there’s going to be a tribe shake-up soon, then maybe it’s a better move to keep Angie in the game instead of Russell Swan. Keeping Russell could come back to bite them at some point. But if Angie stayed in the game, you’d never need to worry about her flipping on Malcolm and Denise.

Interesting point. Considering where the numbers are, with 15 players left in the game, a tribe switch doesn’t seem likely just yet. But then again, thinking back to Marquesas, they shuffled the tribes after three votes.

You never really know. And I kind of feel like if you get rid of Russell now, and then you go to tribal council next time, you can still vote Angie out. And will [the producers] really let the game go on with two tribes of six and one tribe of two? It seems unlikely. You’d have more people sitting out of challenges than playing. You never know what production could do, but it seems unlikely that that would happen.

In Angie’s defense — and not that she’s going to be remembered as a Hall of Fame player or anything like that in the future — I appreciated Malcolm’s comment that Angie was in a tougher spot than most of the other players in the game; she has to play in every challenge, no break, where folks on other tribes get to sit out. Do you buy that defense?

I mean, certainly Angie was in a tougher position than, say, Abi-Maria or one of these other girls on the tribe with Penner whose names we don’t know. You can certainly say that. But you can’t say that she’s risen to the occasion under the circumstances. Yeah, she was in a bad spot, but she played poorly, too. She’s sort of like the Mark Sanchez of Survivor players. She was on a bad team and she played poorly.

We both like Malcolm and Denise a lot, but the odds are enormously against them. It would take something fairly drastic for them to do well.

It’s a long game. They could end up in a good spot after some kind of shake-up. I think good things could come to them.

You never know what might happen. Just look at Mike Skupin’s tribe. Mike was at the core of a majority alliance, and all of a sudden, he’s unknowingly on the outs with Pete and Abi-Maria in possession of an immunity idol, gunning for Skupin and RC.

Abi-Maria Gomes

What’s going on here is that Abi-Maria is very unstable and as quickly as she’s made an alliance with Pete, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her try to get Pete voted out next week. And Pete feels like he needs to make a big move through what he’s capable of in the game. At some point, I think his ego will get the best of him. Mike Skupin is a guy who has seen 24 seasons of Survivor. I don’t think anyone is going to get the jump on him. He might injure himself and get out of the game that way, but Pete, who is young and eager to make a move, and Abi-Maria, who is young and unstable … RC is looking very aggressive in the game, too. You have a lot of combustible parts on this tribe. It’s a powder keg. It’ll explode at some point.

We’ve talked before about your Holly Hoffmans and your Kathy O’Briens, players who started out very poorly but rebounded for strong finishes. Lisa looks to have turned a bit of a corner this week in that regard.

Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get your feet under you. Lisa had a bad start, had a bit of a meltdown. I blame the weather one hundred percent for that. The target seems to have shifted from her and onto bigger targets in the game. I think she could be around for a while now.

On Penner’s tribe, he’s been on the outs with his teammates, but that hasn’t been too much of an issue yet; his team keeps winning challenges, and he’s got a hidden immunity idol in his pocket as well. Penner revealed that detail to his number one rival, Jeff Kent, this week. Do you think that’s a power alliance in the making?

I don’t know if it’s an alliance. I don’t sense any trust between them. But for Penner, it was a good move. He could sense that Kent wasn’t a fan of his to begin with, so that was a savvy move, something he took out of [Survivor: Cook Islands winner] Yul Kwon’s handbook. It can only help improve his position. Maybe the two of them can get on the same page, even if they’re not going to be BFF in the game. If they have a working understanding that helps them as a tribe and in the challenges, then Penner is well-served.

Let’s look ahead. There is a twist coming. There aren’t always tribal shake-ups on every season, but when you start out with three teams of six, there’s going to be a change along the way. That opens up a lot of possibilities. If Mike is in trouble on his tribe, he could wind up on a team with Russell and Penner. For now, though, we’re still in the three-tribe format, something we’ve only seen on Survivor once before. How do you feel the three-tribe situation has played out so far? Do you think it’s been a success?

The reason they did three tribes in the first place was because Survivor said, “Hey, we don’t want a group of five people to get together on the first day and then that’s the final five that end up in the game. We want to mix it up.” Now we’re at a point where one tribe is about to get wiped out, and we’ll have two groups of six who were together right from the start. If the true intention is to avoid five people from getting together on day one and sticking together through the end of the game, then I think we’ll need some sort of shakeup. It doesn’t look like it’s coming next week.

And if it doesn’t happen next week, and if Matsing loses again, then it’s really over for Swan. There’s no coming back from that.

No, there’s no coming back from that. Russell Swan really got the governor’s call at 11:59 while he was sitting in the electric chair, that somehow, they decided to vote out Angie instead. I like Russell Swan, but he’s just made the wrong moves at every single turn this season. He’s had such a horrible return to the show. He would have been better off staying home.

Survivor: Philippines airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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