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Slated For Execution

Survivor: Philippines broke new ground in tonight's episode. Never before on Survivor has the problem of cultural disconnect been brought up as openly as it was in this Tribal Council. Jeff opened the door by asking Abi if she was misunderstood, and she said that she thought that was the case because English is not her first language. She said that her attitude is not perceived as "gentle," even though she is loved by her friends at home, even for her "feistiness."

By the time Tribal was over, Abi was in tears and unable to understand why she was hated so much by everyone. She expressed herself very well, and I don't buy the notion that her English is insufficient to make her attitude known to others, or for her to get the social cues that they send out. I think she was playing along with Jeff, who said that she obviously had a problem with understanding, if she didn't know why she was unlikable.

Denise took great pains to try to explain to Abi why she comes across the way she does, but Abi wouldn't let her finish a sentence. She accused Denise of being manipulative, when it looked to me to be the other way around. The tears, the professions of confusion about cultural roles and social cues, all of it resounded of an attempt by a basically self-centered person to gain sympathy.

Here's what I do believe about Abi and the distance between her and the others: When she came back from the reward (a spa day and a feast) and started endlessly elaborating on the experience to the losers, she didn't realize how uncomfortable she was making them. I think that's a kind of cluelessness that transcends culture, however. She repeatedly told them that she was "out of the kitchen" and wouldn't be doing any more cooking, which made her seem selfish, even if she was justified by the fact that she had been cooking for 26 days (as she also repeated several times).

Abi's attitude, and the fact that she was in a minority alliance and holding a hidden Idol, led the six who voted together last week into making her the target. They would either get her out or force her to play the Idol (in which case her last ally Pete would be voted off).

Pete scrambled to get one vote to break up this plan, and he made a good case to take out Malcolm (who also has a hidden Idol). In the end, though, the six stuck together and split the votes, 3-3. Abi played her Idol, so the three votes against Pete carried the day. That leaves Abi without an ally. A good player would immediately use her isolation as a way to create a new alliance, but there probably isn't enough good will to keep Abi in the game, no matter how good her arguments are.

There are now seven players left: Abi, and the other six. Of the other six, there are two possible final four deals, one sealed with a handshake (Malcolm, Denise, Lisa and Skupin) and one based on previous agreements (Penner, Skupin, Lisa and Carter). Lisa and Skupin have been together from the start, and they would seem to have the most leverage here. Skupin is always eager to make a move, and Lisa is always reluctant. That will make things interesting between now and the next vote.

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