Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids is still trying to wrap her head around her million-dollar win on last night’s “Survivor: Philippines” 25th season finale.
We chatted by phone this afternoon (12/17/12) from Los Angeles, where she’s faced a whirlwind of red carpets, interviews and photos since her win was announced lived on CBS television. Her husband, Brad, and daughter, Sydney, 9, were in the second row to share in the anticipation and joy.
Entertainment Weekly caught up with Malcolm Freberg, the 25-year-old bartender who struck up an alliance on Day 1 of the 39-day odyssey. He was pretty hard on Denise at the final Tribal Council back in April, which aired on last night’s finale.
EW: “Why lay into Denise like that at the final Tribal about the head nodding and appeasing?”
MALCOLM: “I didn’t go into that ever not voting for Denise. I was pissed off, but I didn’t hold it against her. I understand that it’s the right move to get rid of me at that point and I was turning on her first so there’s no way I could be mad at her. But it was very clear to all of us that Denise was going to win. But I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. She was brilliant at deflecting hard questions with very politically correct answers so I was trying to get her to say something nasty at that point and just get under her skin a little bit. And it came off a lot meaner than I wanted it to. But there was absolutely no way I was never not voting for Denise and I think she absolutely played brilliantly and absolutely earned it.”
Denise told me she was surprised when Jonathan Penner called her a bitch on national television during that Tribal Council, adding that neither he nor Malcolm apologized for their harsh words.
“That was a little rough — I was not expecting it — but at the same time, that final Tribal is where they’re really pushing buttons. I think that was stemming off of a lot of interactions with Abi. The jury’s trying to light a fire, and he did. He and Malcolm did a good job of lighting that fire under me.”
We’re thrilled her torch wasn’t extinguished.
I’ll reveal much more of our conversation Thursday in Hoopla and on HooplaNow.com
Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 10:43 am by Diana Nollen Life
Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids (CBS-TV photo)
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
I’ve been following Cedar Rapidian Denise Stapley’s quest for the “Survivor” million-dollar payoff since before the first Season 25 episode aired Sept. 19, 2012.
She has played with class, grace, strength and intelligence every step of the way, except perhaps for last night’s Abi rant. I’m sure the rest of us would have ranted long ago — if we’d even lasted 10 minutes in a Philippines paradise rife with sharks, snakes and megabugs.
I’ll be following the season finale and cast reunion, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, on CBS.
I’d love to include your opinions in my report. What do you think of the way Denise played so far? Join in the conversation. Please include your name, age and city of residence.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm by Diana Nollen Life
Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
She’s outlasted 14 other castaways, and now it’s down to the season wrap-up.
Denise Stapley, 41, a mental health counselor and certified sex therapist from Cedar Rapids, has made it to the final rounds of “Survivor: Philippines.” The finale for the 25th season of the popular television reality game show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (12/16/12) on CBS.
She’s such a strong player that at times it looked like the tables were turning on her in tonight’s 12/12/12 episode, but the numbers aligned in her favor, and the unpopular Abi-Maria Gomes, 32, a business student from Los Angeles, got booted off the island 4 to 1 and into the jury box for the grand finale.
So the Final Four now stands at Denise; Lisa Whelchel, 49, a former TV teen actress from Dallas, Texas; Malcolm Freberg, 25, a bartender from Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Denise’s ally from the beginning; and Michael Skupin, 50, a professional speaker, author and coach from White Lake, Mich., who was airlifted out of the show’s second season, “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” after falling into a fire and suffering severe burns.
Denise and Malcolm are original Matsing Tribe members, while Skupin and Lisa are original Tandangs. No one from Kalabaw made it that far.
The 12/12/12 episode began in a most unusual manner, with Abi actually sounding sincere and humbled that she survived the Night 33 Tribal Council in which nice-guy Carter Williams, 24, a track coach from Shawnee, Kan., was voted off the island.
Abi said she was “over the moon,” but to everyone else, that comment was cheese.
Day 34 dawned with Abi declaring she was off to get water. Her antics took their toll, and the others jumped at the chance to mock her behind her back. Good-girl Lisa, however, told the camera she wanted to vote off Denise, who was a bigger threat in the million-dollar quest, but she admitted it might be wiser in the long run to kick Abi out of the game.
That afternoon, everyone gathered on the beach for a Reward Challenge ring toss, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Nothing ever is on this survival of the physically and emotionally fittest competition. Denise did well, scampering up and over a steep ramp and running into the ocean to untie bags of rings to then toss at six pegs.
Alas, Skupin prevailed, winning the chance to hop onto a helicopter then onto a boat for a pizza and pop feast, then into the ocean to snorkel with a whale shark. As a bonus, he was allowed to take two others for the afternoon jaunt. he quickly chose Malcolm and Lisa, and they spent most of the boat ride scheming their next moves and cementing their alliance.
Meanwhile, Denise was stuck for the afternoon with everyone’s least favorite castaway. Abi wasn’t thrilled either.
“I was crushed when I wasn’t chosen for the reward,” Abi whined. “To make matters worse, I have to go home with Denise. She’s a horrible person.”
Denise vowed “to make nice” with Abi. “It’s like being on a date with the kid who pulled your hair in first grade. I’m just going to try to get through the afternoon.” A bit later, she gave the most comical quote of the 25th season: “I want to hang myself, gouge my eyes out and stick needles in my eardrums. Then I’d be good for the afternoon.”
Perhaps karma bit her for those biting, yet hilarious, words. On Day 36, the dawn of a crucial Immunity Challenge day in the 39-day odyssey, Denise woke up with two bite marks on her neck and a horrible stinging sensation. Clearly in agony and reduced to tears, it looked like her journey might end just inches away from the final payoff.
But, survivor that she is, she shook it off and made her usual scrappy showing in the puzzle challenge, where the castaways had to create and navigate a rope bridge, gather puzzle pieces along the way, then assembly them in the right sequence to create a maze that a ball could navigate to land in a hole.
Malcolm fell off his bridge and into last place, then stunned everyone by winning. So he not only was safe from that evening’s elimination vote, he also still had a Hidden Immunity Idol that he could bestow onto another player. He chose, instead, to take it home as a souvenir.
That meant the other four were fair game for the vote. Each made their plea, with Abi ditching her lie about having another immunity idol. Despite her valiant effort to convince them to keep her in the game, she got the boot.
The surviving four cheered and danced their way back to camp and into the series finale.
Earlier Wednesday, all five appeared on host Jeff Probst’s afternoon talk show. They flew out to Los Angeles several days ago to tape the segment, which marked the first time the “Survivor” producers had allowed any contestants to talk before the series finale.
(I scored an interview with Denise before the season began airing in September, but the telephone interview was monitored by a CBS representative. I would assume the others got to talk to their hometown media, too, before the competition played out on TV.)
Probst asked about their chances and strategies, one by one, then in a group, and fielded questions from the studio audience.
Jeff asked Abi point-blank if her unpopularity was truly due to a “cultural disconnect” — she’s Brazilian — or was she “just entitled and kinda bitchy.”
“I’m hoping to be dragged to the end, to put together a big case to win,” she replied. She said the hardest part of the game was the emotional aspect of being unliked, calling it “a horrible feeling.”
“I’m a crazy Brazilian with great intentions,” she declared.
Probst lauded Denise for her physical dominance, calling it “impressive for a small woman.” He also noted that could work against her in the final voting, if the others see her as a threat. He then asked her if her strategy would be to downplay that.
“I can’t stop being who I am,” she replied.
And we wouldn’t want her to.
See the finale and season 25 reunion beginning at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, on CBS.
Monday, December 10, 2012 at 9:54 am by Diana Nollen Life
Denise Stapley, the “Survivor: Philippines” finalist from Cedar Rapids, will be interviewed Wednesday (12/12) on “The Jeff Probst Show,” airing at 3 p.m. on KWWL, channel 7.
Stapley and the other four finalists flew to Los Angeles last week to discuss the lessons they learned on last spring’s 39-day endurance odyssey on a remote Philippines island. Probst serves as host for the popular “Survivor” reality game show, which wraps Sunday when the million-dollar prize winner will be announced. The finale begins at 7:30 p.m. on CBS 2.
Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:54 am by Diana Nollen Life
Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids (CBS-TV photo/from Facebook)
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….”
Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 11:56 am by Diana Nollen Life
Here's the plate of food "Survivor: Philippines" contestant Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids purchased in the Food Auction aired in the Nov. 28, 2012, episode. (SurvivorFever.net photo)
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.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm by Diana Nollen Life
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Once again, Cedar Rapids castaway Denise Stapley proved her mettle in games of strength and fortitude on tonight’s episode of “Survivor: Philippines.” (11/21/12)
Alas, despite her best efforts, her team lost the Day 26 Reward Challenge when Michael Skupin turned over the wrong drum in a race against the clock and his opponent, Denise held up her end of the deal, moving swiftly through her paces, winning a round for her team. Still, Michael’s error cost Jonathan, Denise, Lisa and Michael the chance to enjoy a spa day on another island.
Instead, Pete, Malcolm, Abi and Carter enjoyed an afternoon of pampering, with bubble baths, shampoos, massages, mani/pedis and a feast of shrimp skewers, calamari and cocktails.
And then Abi blew it. She came back to camp and just couldn’t keep her mouth shut, yammering on and on about what a fabulous time she had, feeling alternately like a princess, a queen and Cinderella. THEN she declared that she wasn’t going to cook ever again on the island. She still wanted to eat, but she was on kitchen strike.
She already had a target on her back. Now it’s even bigger and brighter, with a bull’s eye between her eyes. All the faux tears she shed at Tribal Council the next evening couldn’t undo the damage her boasting had done. Knowing this full and well, she played her Hidden Immunity Idol and survived another day on the million-dollar quest.
Is she crazy or crazy like a fox? Only time will tell on the reality TV endurance test, where mental acuity counts as much as physical acumen. Denise has both. Always level-headed, the mental health counselor and sex therapist knows how to keep her cool, maintain friendships and battle mightily in the games of speed and strength.
She made it to the finals of the Day 27 Immunity Challenge, leaving all but Carter and Michael in her wake, as they maneuvered buoys through a three-part rope obstacle course on land and water. Carter won, buying himself at least another day on the island.
As the remaining eight of 18 contestants plotted their alliances, Denise told the cameras and the viewers at home that she cannot wait for the chance to write Abi’s name on the ballot in the Tribal Council vote, then tell her buh-bye, saying: “Whiners are wieners. You need to go home.” She won’t get that chance before next week’s episode.
The tribe spoke, sending Pete home (well, really, to the jury box, which I’m guessing is still a pretty important position to hold).
Last week, the computer ate my story before I could tell you how well Denise had done. So, I’ll fill in a few blanks.
Denise was on the Day 23 Reward Challenge winning team, where they successfully crawled through muddy water to dig up bags of balls, carry them through a rice pit and shoot them into a basket. Their reward was most rewarding: taking toys and school supplies to children on a neighboring island, where the inhabitants thanked them by whipping up a tropical seafood feast.
Shes didn’t even come close, however, on the Immunity Challenge of landing balls on the little holes on the business end of a long-handled paddle. Sounds easier than it was. Michael and Pete were the only ones to conquer this game, and since Michael did it first, he won immunity at the Day 24 Tribal Council.
Artis, one of Abi’s cohorts, got the boot last week.
So after tonight, we’re down to seven: Abi, Carter, Denise, Jonathan, Lisa, Malcolm and Michael. Who will inch closer to the big payoff?
Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm by Diana Nollen Life
Malcolm Freberg and Denise Stapley, who aligned early in their Matsing Tribe days and reunited in the Nov. 7 episode to finally win a challenge on the same team. (Monty Brinton/CBS)
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Retired baseball player Jeff Kent, 44, is used to winning in the big leagues, but he struck out with the Tribal Council vote on Wednesday’s (11/7/12) episode of “Survivor: Philippines.”
I felt sorry for him — until he opened his mouth afterward and said: “I made $60 million in baseball, but I really wanted this million.” Ah greed will get you every time.
Pete Yurkowski, 24, Holmdel, N.J., was just one vote behind Jeff, so he needs to watch his back next week. Annoying, conniving Abi-Maria Gomes, 32, from Los Angeles, also drew a vote, so she needs to be on guard, as well.
Nothing was certain as the surviving 10 contestants spent Day 22 plotting and scheming by twos and fours to build voting blocs. And plan their personal paths to the million-dollar payoff while trying to maintain airs of benevolence, not malevolence.
As cracks formed and secrets leaked out, wide-eyed innocent Lisa Whelchel, 49, teen star of “The Facts of Life,” revealed her true colors. She’s in it to win it, no matter who she steps on.
Cedar Rapids castaway Denise Stapley stayed steadfast in her calm, intelligent, level-headed approach. She remains a fresh tropical breeze amid the gathering storms.
“It’s fascinating to watch the alliance implode,” said Stapley, 41, who makes her living as a mental health counselor and sex therapist.
Returning player Jonathan Penner, 50, who survived last week’s episode by playing his Hidden Immunity Idol, surprised everyone by winning the Day 22 Immunity Challenge. Physically fit but not considered the strongest or fastest in the group, he scaled the obstacle course and finished his puzzle first to stay on the show.
Jeff’s reaction? “Penner just bought himself another three days of dead man walking.” Karma bit him in the rear for that snark, as Jeff got the boot instead.
After the vote, host Jeff Probst declared: “I can’t think of a more complicated, entertaining Tribal Council,” and after the votes were tallied, added: “This may go down as one of the biggest blown opportunities in the history of the game.”
In Denise’s hometown, however, the highlight of the show came early on, when she and her teammates won the Day 20 Reward Challenge. The castaways divided themselves into two teams for a relay race that involved swimming, pulling and running. No sweat for triathlete Denise.
She and her group — Jeff, Malcolm, Jonathan and Lisa — left the others in the sand and enjoyed an afternoon jungle river cruise dining on a barbecued ribs picnic. A most welcome change from beans, rice and whatever native flora and fauna can be captured and cooked.
Watch her odyssey unfold at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS-TV.
BONUS Fast Fact from colleague and “Suvivor” devotee Sam Paxton:
According to a recent episode of “Survivor” podcast “The Tribe,” Denise recently joined a select group: players who managed to play with every single member of their season, even all the pre-merge boots from the tribal phase of the game. As a member of Matsing, her tribe lost four straight Immunity Challenges to start the season, but she survived with Malcolm until the two were divided among the two remaining tribes. Denise then went to Kalabaw, which was fully intact when she joined. She then made it safely through two more tribal councils (as well as the med-evac of other teammate) before the tribes merged, where she rejoined Malcolm and the Tandang tribe, still undefeated and six-strong at the time. That’s everyone.
By accomplishing this, Denise joined a trio of players who pulled off a similar feat in the fourth season, “Survivor: Marquesas” – a group that included the season’s winner, Vecepia Towery, as well as fan favorite “Boston Rob” Mariano, who would go on to be the show’s only four-time player, a two-time finalist and one-time Sole Survivor. That’s good company to be in.
Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm by Diana Nollen
Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids (left) formed an alliance with Malcolm Freberg early in their "Survivor: Philippines" odyssey. It will be interesting to see how that bond holds up as the game moves forward with all the tribes dissolved. (Monty Brinton/CBS Broadcasting Inc. photo)
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Denise Stapley left the other women in the dust.
She’s been doing that all along, but in this week’s episode (10/31/12) she was victorious in a show of strength, outlasting all the other female castaways on “Survivor: Philippines.”
No tricks, just a treat for hometown viewers in Cedar Rapids and all the other fans Stapley has gathered on this television endurance odyssey.
Each player had to hold a bucket filled with 25 percent of their body weight, attached to a rope and suspended over a target. Surprisingly, some of the seemingly strongest men were the first to have their bucket plunge to the ground.
They fell in this order: returning player Michael Skupin, out after just five minutes, then Pete Yurkowski, returning player Jonathan Penner, “Facts of Life” actress Lisa Whelchel, strongman Malcolm Freberg, divas RC Saint-Amour and Abi-Maria Gomes, then after 15 minutes, Artis Silvester, and after 25 minutes, retired baseball star Jeff Kent, leaving Carter Williams as the surprise winner for the men — and powerhouse triathlete Denise as the obvious winner for the women.
Day 19 marked the first time Denise went to tribal council secure in her return to the game. But in all fairness, she’s only drawn one vote for elimination thus far — from Sarah Dawson, who was voted off two episodes ago.
Last night’s segment began with the dissolution of the two tribes, shipping everyone to a new island where they had to start anew, building a bamboo shelter and rethinking their personal alliances.
I’m a “Survivor” newbie, so for me, the most interesting aspect was watching the chess game unfold, as everyone schemed to position themselves in voting blocs that will ensure their survival.
Lisa’s dirty trick involved doing everyone’s laundry after they arrived at the new campsite. She claimed she was just doing her part while the men built the shelter. Perhaps she meant “cavemen,” since she’s worked very hard to position herself as the “mama bear,” making it harder for her cubs to vote her off the island. We’ll see how long that works for her.
The end result was that by rifling through bags, she found Malcolm’s hidden immunity idol. That gives her a monumental advantage, since part of the strategy is guessing who found the three idols they can play if they fear they’ll get voted off the island. It worked for Jonathan, who used his idol last night, keeping him in the game even though he garnered the most “kick off” votes.
Since Jonathan was safe, even though he received five votes to leave, RC was the one going home, stuck with four elimination votes.
Host Jeff Probst wrapped it all up, saying “it is anybody’s game” going forward. All are pawns just waiting it out.
Tune in next week (11/7/12) to see Denise’s next moves.
“Survivor: Philippines” airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS-TV.
Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 11:05 am by Diana Nollen
Lisa Whelchel (left) and Denise Stapley get down and dirty in a fight for food on the "Survivor: Philippines" episode which aired 10/24/12. (Monty Brinton/CBS photo)
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
After a down and dirty stalemate, Denise Stapley and her Kalabaw castaways feasted on “gourmet” picnic fare in paradise on the Oct. 24, 2012, episode of “Survivor: Philippines.”
Day 14 started out dreary — again — too wet to build a cooking fire. The Tandang Tribe was nearly out of food, since returning player Michael Skupin had been scoopin’ up handfuls of uncooked rice, counting on his inner body temperature to “cook” it in his belly. His teammates were not buying that.
So the day’s Reward Challenge found the two tribes trying to move a giant woven ball across a mud bog into a goal. The first team to score three goals would win a feast of fancy footlong subs, soup, chips and brownies — a welcome change from rice and side dishes scrounged up from local flora and fauna.
Only one problem. With the competitors wrestling each other in the mud while trying to advance the ball, everything came to a standstill for an hour. Lisa Whelchel from “The Facts of Life” fame basically just sat on small but mighty Denise, pinning her in the mud.
Host Jeff Probst finally asked the tribes to think about an “unprecedented” move to end the misery.
The deal: The Kalabaws would claim the win and the picnic, but give all of their remaining rice to the Tandangs. The Kalabaws already had won a boat and fishing gear, so returning player Jonathan Penner assured his team he would catch plenty of fish the next day and they would never miss the rice.
The best part of the picnic, however, wasn’t the food. It was the letters from home, delivered during dinner, that brought all the Kalabaws to tears.
“This is emotional fuel — the motivation to keep going,” Denise said, clutching her letters from Cedar Rapids. “It’s better than food.”
Reality returned the next day, when Jonathan’s catch yielded two tiny fishies barely worthy of an aquarium. His tribe was not amused.
Day 16 brought another team Immunity Challenge. This looked much easier than previous challenges, but of course, looks proved to be deceiving.
Lisa and Denise launched balls into the air, which tribe members scrambled to catch in racquets with nets. The Kalabaws took an early lead, only to be whipped by Denise’s former teammate, Malcolm Freberg, now on the Tandang side. Dang. Once again, Denise found herself back at Tribal Council, having to vote another person off the island.
Much plotting and pondering broke out among the splinter alliances within the Tribe, during which Jonathan said he “loved how hard” Denise worked, telling the others “with Denise, we at least have a chance to win. Katie’s gotta go.”
And off went beauty queen/student Katie Hanson, 21, banished back to civilization at the University of Delaware in Newark.
Even though Denise worried about being “the new kid on the block, last hired/first fired,” she survived another round.
Tune in next Wednesday, Oct. 31, to see more tricks and treats on her quest for a million-dollar payoff.
“Survivor: Philippines” airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS-TV.