By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Viewers and players needed a whole box of tissues to get through all the surprises on the Dec. 5, 2012, episode of “Survivor: Philippines.”
Day 31 began with a Reward Challenge in which the six surviving castaways — including Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids — were teamed up with a loved one. The shock on their faces and the instant tears all around proved how much these people needed that emotional and psychological boost.
Michael Skupin, 50, hugged eldest son Michael Jr. like he’d never seen him before. Carter Williams, 24, and his mom, Bianca, both cried. Denise, 41, jumped into husband Brad’s arms, sobbing, kissing and holding on for dear life. Lisa Whelchel, 49, practically melted into the arms of brother Justice Coleman, 20 years her junior. Tough guy Malcolm Freberg, 25, and his brother, Miles, were both in tears. Even stoic, bratty Abi-Maria Gomes, 32, seemed pleased to see her mother, Vera.
Here’s Denise’s reactions, via Facebook: “Sooooooo can someone pass me a tissue….apparently I have some snot and spittle issues!!!
“In all seriousness…seeing my husband Brad come running out from that jungle was simply OVERWHELMING. The instant I knew he was nearby I could just feel this giddy excitement…and the tears started flowing. A hug has never felt so good. And the smooches weren’t too bad either! I didn’t want to let go….
“He felt horrible after the challenge like somehow he had let me down. That could not have been farther from the truth. Just seeing him was again, more emotional fuel…last leg of the race……Game ON.”
Burying their emotions just below the surface, the family teams slogged through the physical challenge that promised an emotional payoff: the winning team would get to spend the rest of the day and night together back at camp. The players each tossed muddy bags to their loved ones, who then had to hurl the splattery bags at targets. The duo knocking over all their targets first would win.
In a surprising turn, Malcolm and his bumbling brother won, then host Jeff Probst let Malcolm choose two more teams to share in the reward. Surprisingly, he chose Lisa and Justice, then Skupin and son, disregarding ally Denise’s heart-breaking pleas. Watching Denise say goodbye to Brad was almost unbearable.
Malcolm’s explanation: He was rewarding Skupin and Lisa for sticking with him and Denise at the previous Tribal Council, where they voted Jonathan Penner off the island. “I needed to take care of them,” Malcolm said. Still, he was a little worried about bringing his “class clown” brother back to camp, where his tendency to “run his mouth” might work against Malcolm in his quest for the million-dollar payoff.
The usual plotting ensued, with everyone trying to figure out who they would vote off the island next. Malcolm was their target.
He turned the tables on their plan with his surprising first win in the Day 33 Immunity Challenge. He was the first to race across bamboo balance beams over the water, pick up three bags of sticks, tie them together and make them long enough and strong enough to knock over a target.
With Malcolm out of the running to leave the show, Carter felt all eyes turning toward him. He has been aligned with Abi throughout, and even though no one likes Abi, most feel they could beat her in the final showdown. Carter then pressured everyone to vote for the person who deserves to play the game, rather than the one no one wanted to be around.
His plea failed. Everybody wrote his name on the ballot — except for Carter, of course, who surprisingly voted for Abi’s game demise. So Carter left the game and joined the jury.
And now the field is whittled down to five. The end is near. Tune in next Wednesday to see how Denise fares as the million dollars draws closer.
“Survivor: Philippines” airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS-TV.
Another Facebook post from Denise expresses her sorrow in hearing of the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines on Tuesday and Wednesday (Dec. 4 and 5, 2012):
“My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods in the wake of the most recent typhoon which recently hit the Philippines. You have a beautiful country and are an amazingly strong culture of people…after the grieving..the rebuilding will begin. To the fans that have posted here I truly hope that you are all safe and well….”