If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of SURVIVOR, avert your eyes while we discuss how lost retainers, blindsides and Malcolm’s wet swimwear led to the most stunning tribal council in recent memory. As Jeff Probst kicks things off by saying, 10 are left… who will be voted off next?

Friends ‘Til The End… Or The Next Tribal Council: As always, things kick off with the post-council analysis… but this time, Phillip’s Stealth ‘R’ Us crew meet privately, leaving Eddie, Malcolm and Reynold to realize just how much of the fecal matter which hit the oscillating cooling device is flinging their way. Malcolm reminds us that he’s in better shape than his fellow hunks since unbeknownst to them, he still has an immunity idol.

Tears Of A Clown: Even as Cochran and Phillip are talking about how vulnerable Dawn is, the object of their derision has a meltdown and threatens to pull herself from the game. And what calamity has triggered this reaction? The loss of her retainer. Yup, she goes full-blown crying game over something your five year old misplaces twice a year. It takes Brenda all of about five minutes to find the missing retainer, which Dawn then pops into her mouth without even boiling it first. Yes, I’ve been known to eat things outta the garbage ala SEINFELD’s George, but even I’m kinda grossed out. It’s a bonding moment for Brenda and Dawn, complete with inspirational music playing beneath the scene. Frankly, I think it should have had the music from Psycho, but I’m cynical that way.

Play Ball!: The reward challenge is one of those things that looks kinda fun… from the vantage point of your couch. But it involves crawling through mud and rice and way more physical activity than I’m comfortable with, so I cheer them on while munching on shrimp tempura and homemade rosemary potatoes. The prize given to the winning team after they’re randomly divided into two groupings of five? Going to a resort for M&M’s… meats and margaritas! I’ll admit to giggling childishly every time Jeff talks about the “bag of balls” they’re digging in the mud for. Reynold, Dawn, Eric, Cochran and Phillip win by so much that I’m almost embarrassed for the other team. I console myself by eating more.

Crazy Talk: The winners head to the resort where Dawn gets so excited about soap that her declaration of “I was really losing my marbles” is both an understatement and unnecessary. Rather than showering off the rice and mud, Phillip dives right into the pool leading to what may be my favorite moment of the season so far: an aerial shot of the beautiful blue water and Phillip surrounded by water that looks as if he just took a crap in it. Once they’re all back at camp, Dawn’s descent into madness continues as lack of sleep pushes her into the land of paranoia. I mean, when even Phillip thinks you’re a lunatic, things are bad, right?

Hang 10: Day 28 begins with Dawn having gotten some sleep and feeling more sane. At Stealth ‘R’ Us meeting, it’s decided that they’ll vote Reynold out. What could possibly go wrong, given that it’s the seven of them against Reynold, Eddie and Malcolm… right? As we prepare for the immunity challenge, we see footage of Malcolm running the course while Jeff discusses it and… holy John Hamm, to paraphrase Linda Fiorentino in “The Last Seduction”,  what we are looking at is a certain horse-like quality! Once the challenge – which involves using a rope to pull yourself underwater – gets underway, Phillip opts out, citing a boyhood incident that the set up reminds him of. Although it comes down to Malcolm and Reynold, the latter swims away with immunity… probably because of that extra stuff Malcolm was dragging through the water. What? I meant his long, lush hair! Pervs!

The Fun Sponge: With his plan to oust Reynold no longer an option, Phillip targets Malcolm… who promptly finds yet another idol! Apparently, there are more of those things on the island than there are bats in Dawn’s belfry. At tribal council, Jeff brings in Mike, who it somehow slipped my attention is the first member of the jury. Mike, playing by the Gay Rulebook that we are all assigned upon coming out, enters with all the discretion of a sex addict at a nudist colony. Just as it looks pretty obvious that Eddie’s going to be history, Malcolm shocks everyone by whipping out his spare idol and handing it over to his pal. For those keeping track, Eddie and Malcolm now have idols, and Reynold earned immunity. Dawn’s jaw hits the floor and I fear her retainer will pop out and the crying will commence again. The seven begin whispering amongst themselves in a desperate attempt to figure out what to do, and Malcolm announces that, just for the record, he and his partners are voting for Phillip… no explanation necessary! He does, however  describe Phillip as “a fun sponge” that sucks all the joy out of the game. Before the votes can be counted, both Malcolm and Eddie play their idols, which proves to be an incredibly smart move. In the end, the three amigos emerge unscathed and it is Phillip whose torch is extinguished.

So what do you say, faithful readers? Did the tribal council events catch you by surprise? And do any of the three amigos have the ability to turn the numbers in their favor? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

Richard Simms is the Executive Editor of  Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility, which is available on Amazon.com.

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