By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Cedar Rapids castaway Denise Stapley survived the Day 30 Tribal Council by one vote.
Carter, Penner and Abi voted to kick her off the island on last night’s episode of “Survivor: Philippines.” But cooler heads prevailed, and Penner got the boot, instead. He pulled in four votes that sent him to the Jury, where he’ll get to observe subsequent Tribal Councils, but won’t cast another vote until the end.
He did not go gently into that dark good night. He and Abi turned this Nov. 28 episode into “Castaways Behaving Badly.”
Abi and Denise clearly detest each other, to the point where Abi stuck out her tongue in her best bratty action and said, “I hope you go home tonight. Look who’s judging you now,” as Denise walked up to the sacrificial altar to cast her vote.
Ironically, Abi couldn’t even be kicked off the island last night. She stunned everyone by winning the Immunity Challenge earlier that day.
So Denise — along with Lisa, Malcolm and Skupin — ended the run for returning competitor Jonathan Penner, 50, a writer from Los Angeles who previously participated in “Survivor: Cook Islands” and “Survivor: Micronesia.” He clearly was not charmed by his third boot.
He hugged Carter, then refused to hug Abi (which I thoroughly enjoyed), then said, “Keep your sunny side up and suck eggs,” then whistled his way into the darkness. Completely low class, but an entertaining way to end an episode rife with bad manners.
(IOWA TRIVIA TIE-INS: Gazette colleague Sam Paxton informs me that Penner starred in the 1995 indie film, “The Last Supper,” directed by his wife, Stacy Title, and co-starring Cedar Falls native Annabeth Gish, Cameron Diaz, Courtney B. Vance and Ron Eldard. They played five liberal grad students who invite a string of right-wingers over for dinner, then kill them. Sam says the film takes place in Iowa City.)
Back to our show: Abi-Maria Gomes, 32, a business student from Los Angeles, is the Survivor everyone loves to hate — except for me. I do not love her, and am always astonished by how low she will go. She shamelessly bragged about “feeling like a queen” after winning a spa day and feast in a recent Reward Challenge; declared she was on a kitchen duty strike; and sat out most of the early team Immunity Challenges.
She turned the tables most adroitly last night, when the seven remaining Dangrayne tribe members gathered for the Day 29 Food Auction. Each contestant was given $500 to bid on various food plates — some of which were covered.
Denise bid her entire $500 on the first plate — pancakes, bacon and orange juice, enticed by the nourishing meat and carbs. One of the others (I think Penner) scoffed that the same meal would cost $1.99 at the local diner. (Here’s a link to a video I can’t embed.)
Other plates were laden with wine and cheese (Skupin, $500), iced coffee and donuts (Malcolm, $200), fried chicken and French fries (Penner, $100 in a blind bid) and a gigantic sandwich (Lisa, $320 in another blind bid).
Carter displayed his altruistic side by trading a $200 blind bid that nabbed him a loaded baked potato for bags of rice and beans for the entire tribe. He later spent $200 for a couple of veal shanks to be passed around for 60 seconds for everyone to gnaw upon. Those two moves no doubt bought him some loyalty.
Abi — who vowed not to spend any money on food, since she knew she would be the next one kicked off the game — swiftly pounced when a game advantage was placed on the auction block. She bid her entire $500 and ended up with a prize that advanced her to the final round of the next day’s individual Immunity Challenge.
Abi had to sit and watch as nemesis Denise bolted through the first round of the Immunity obstacle course. Penner and Malcolm won the next phase, which meant they advanced to the final three-story obstacle with Abi.
Who knew that little sprite could move so quickly, untying knots and scampering through the three levels of her tower? No one saw that coming. Her win meant she could cast a kick-off vote (for Denise), but no one could vote Abi off the island that night, no matter how badly they wanted to.
I totally love Denise’s Facebook posting last night: “Yes folks…this is it…it really happened…TODAY is the day that pigs flew…Hell froze over…money began to grow on trees…and I had to eat a hearty helping of crow….and now I must throw up… ”
Here are the castaways still vying for the million-dollar payoff:
Abi-Maria Gomes, 32, a business student from Los Angeles
Carter Williams, 24, a track coach from Shawnee, Kan.
Denise Stapley, 41, a mental health counselor and certified sex therapist from Cedar Rapids
Lisa Whelchel, 49, a former TV teen actress from Dallas, Texas
Malcolm Freberg, 25, a bartender from Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Denise’s closest ally
Michael Skupin, 50, a professional speaker, author and coach from White Lake, Mich., who was airlifted out of “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” after falling into a fire, suffering severe burns.
Who will outlast all the others on this survival of the fittest game show? Tune in at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS-TV to find out.