By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Despite garnering the first vote to kick her off the island, Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids survived her new team’s first trip to Tribal Council on Wednesday’s fifth episode of “Survivor: Philippines.” (10/17/12)
Therapist Stapley and bartender Malcolm Freberg of Hermosa Beach, Calif., were the last to survive their decimated Matsing Tribe. Four other teammates were sent home from the CBS-TV endurance test in which 18 contestants were dropped on a wickedly remote island in the Philippines archipelago.
It’s a tough test. Rain has plagued the castaways nearly every day, as they struggle to keep warm and keep alive in the game of strategy, skill and strength, leading to a million-dollar payoff. They make do, building shelters, fires and meals from the natural resources. The Matsings won no creature comforts, having lost all previous Immunity Challenges. No tarps, fire kits, fishing kits or steaks for Denise and Malcolm.
All that changed, however, when the Matsing Tribe was officially dissolved in Episode 5. Through a blind drawing, Denise was sent to the Kalabawas and Malcolm became a Tandang.
“I’ve got a new family,” Denise said. “I feel an awesome vibe about the group already.” (See this video for more on her reassignment)
The Kalabawa ladies were thrilled to have Denise on their side, the men a little skeptical of her small size, but grateful for her mettle and smart contributions to her previous group. Returning player Jonathan Penner, 50, a writer from Los Angeles, called her “a hell of a competitor.”
The show’s producers agree. For the third straight week, Denise was in the running for player of the week, to be determined by viewer voting.
The Tandangs welcomed the strapping Malcolm with cheers, enticed by for his youth and strength. Unbeknownst to them, he also found his previous tribe’s hidden immunity idol, which he can play if he fears he’s about to be kicked off the island. Denise doesn’t have that ace in her pocket.
Each quickly worked to find their place in their new tribe. Malcolm strategized to be a friend to all alliances and enemy to none. Denise aligned with the Kalabaw power players, while trying not to alienate the mostly whiny, catty women.
Her strategy worked. After her team lost by mere seconds in an obstacle course immunity challenge — where, again, Denise proved a mighty competitor — her team kicked off Sarah Dawson, 28, an insurance sales rep from Silver Spring, Md.
Dawsom seemed genuinely shocked — especially since everyone had blamed the team’s game loss on slowpoke Katie Hanson, 22, a former Miss Delaware USA from Newark, Del. (Small world trivia: I’ve been to Newark a zillion times. That’s where my big brother’s family lives, and Katie is a senior at the University of Delaware, where my nieces graduated a couple years ahead of her.)
Dawson voted to kick off the newcomer, Denise, but everybody else voted Dawson back to civilization. That’s where another Kalabaw went of her own accord. Earlier in the day, Dana Lambert, 32, a cosmetologist from Winston-Salem, N.C., took herself out of the game to seek medical attention. Wracked with pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, the slight-built tough-girl just couldn’t tough it out.
Tune in next week to see what it takes to survive “Survivor.” The show airs at 7 p.m. Central time on CBS.
HINT: Denise can’t discuss the ins and outcomes yet, but she did offer up this Facebook tease: “And just a heads up … next week is a KILLER challenge!”