And then there were two.
The other four members of Denise Stapley's "Survivor" tribe have been kicked off the island, after four failed attempts in the team Immunity Challenges and four trips to Tribal Council.
The Cedar Rapids mental health counselor and sex therapist is proving a worthy opponent on the CBS-TV endurance test, with her physical and professional prowess. And her early alliance with buff California bartender Malcolm Freberg paid off in Wednesday's episode (10/10/12), as each voted to eliminate returning competitor Russell Swan, an environmental lawyer from Glenside, Pa.
"You know what you've got to do," host Jeff Probst told Denise and Malcolm after the Day 10 vote. "Keep fighting."
It was an episode full of scheming and plotting in all three tribes, trying to survive rain and primitive conditions on a remote island in the Philippines. Stapley's group has the most austere campsite, building fires the Boy Scout way and sleeping under palm tree leaves, while the other tribes have won such "luxuries" as a tarp, rope, fire kits, fishing kits and better food.
Wednesday's winning Tandang Tribe salivated over their steaks, veggies, spices and utensils. The second-place Kalabaw contestants, however, traded their veggies, salt, pepper and cooking pot for a tarp to shield them from the rain that keep pelting the castaways.
Suspense rose to a new high in Episode 4 as Denise's Matsing trio led throughout the day's Immunity Challenge, where each participant had to carry a yoke with heavy pots of rice over an obstacle course, place the pots on poles, then crawl on their bellies through the mud, back to home base. When all the pots were in place, one team member had to smash his team's pots with a wrecking ball. That's where the Matsings fell down, as Malcolm's aim was off-base at the end.
So with Russell being slow but big, Denise being small but mighty and Malcolm being young, strong and therefore, the biggest game threat, they went behind each other's backs to figure out how to make the voting go 2 to 1, keeping the most viable pair in the running for the ultimate million-dollar payoff.
The men agreed that while they had the physical edge, Denise was head and shoulders above them in the game's head games. The producers agreed. Once again, Denise was tapped as one of three candidates for "Player of the Week," to be voted by viewers. She she admitted on Facebook that had her perplexed, since her team lost, but hey, she did a great job as the only woman lugging those heavy rice vessels over the obstacle course. And she played the head games right on target.
"Yes, I'm a Midwesterner," she said after playing the guys against each other before heading to the Tribal Council vote. "Yes, I have faith in human beings. If I get bamboozled tonight, it will show that I screwed up and they played the game better than me."
She outwitted them both. Tune in next week, to watch her continue her wild ride in the perilous paradise.
"Survivor" airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS.