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.