It's only around two or three days left before the 2-hour season finale of Survivor: Philippines, the 25th season of the reality show that started it tall.
And we have, as Jeff Probst would say, the most likeable final 4 castaways: Lisa Whelchel, the former star of Facts of Life; Mike Skupin, the returning and most accident-prone castaway to ever play the game; Malcolm Freberg, the charming bar-tender and Denise Stapley, the tough sex-therapist.
Survivor: Philippines proved to be one of the best seasons after Heroes vs. Villains with moments that are truly firsts in the show's more than a decade of history - the crazy tribal councils: the show-and-tell of Malcolm and Abi's immunity idols; Jonathan Penner shouting out his vote while writing it down; Denise possibly attending each and every tribal council; the awesome challenges that really showcased the Philippine islands and a lot of other crazy stuff.
But let's turn the spotlight on at the four remaining players and their chances of winning one million dollars.
Lisa Welchel: I believe that this season has been the "Lisa Welchel Show". From the very beginning, the focus of every episode was practically on her - from the time she was this crying older lady, alone in the woods, finding her place to becoming the most socially-capable player of the game. You just never knew what Lisa would do. She has thrown Malcolm under the bus by exposing his immunity idol, yet Malcolm kept her as an ally and allowed her to spend time with her brother, Justice - and then the siblings hatched the plan of voting Malcolm out. Lisa also has become Penner's closest friend, crying her eyes out on him a couple of times with their heart-to-heart talks. Yet she still voted him off and at the same time, making him not hold any grudges against her. Lisa also stayed loyal and civil to Abi despite their differences; and turning the tables at the end that it was Abi who lost trust on her, which is enough excuse to have a breakup. And now, Lisa apparently has the best spot to reach the final 3. She is no physical threat (winning no individual challenges so far); everybody wanted to take her to the end and nobody in the jury really hated her. She played the big moves during the entire game, under the guise of not really knowing if she has the heart to play it. But now, her eye is on the money and I wouldn't be surprised if she pulls off another shocker that could shatter someone's dream of reaching the finals. No wonder, Parvati thinks that Lisa already won.
Mike Skupin: There is hardly anymore trace of the Mike Skupin we saw during Survivor Outback ten years ago, except for the wounds and bruises. He has become this old lovable guy, whose penchant for getting injured would just crack you up. From cutting his own hands, hitting his own head with a machete, Abi's coconut 'accidentally' whacking his face; and getting a head-butt from a farking whale shark. Even his own son apparently inherited this trait. However, Mike would surely not get Penner and Abi's votes in the finals. After all, he refused their last minute offer to save them from being eliminated. And there's Carter too. But Mike surely made a solid alliance with Lisa who is Malcolm's both hidden and obvious nemesis. There's just no way that Skupin would be voted off during the last tribal council. His odds of winning maybe slim compared to the others because he is a veteran player. But he surely played well enough this time to reach the end, compared to Russel and Penner; and his final plea could make a difference.
Malcolm Freberg: is a sure win - if he would not be voted off at the last tribal council. But I have a strong gut feel that he would and it sucks. He is a walking target now that he doesn't have the immunity idol anymore. If he loses the last immunity challenge, he should kiss his one million dollars goodbye. And it's really a shame to see the most deserving player, subjectively speaking, lose when he was so close to winning. After the Matsing tribe was dissolved; Malcolm got his swag back and became the lucky charm of Tandang tribe. He won almost every reward and immunity challenges for the team. And his winning streak continued during individual challenges - having only Carter and Skupin as his rival. I think Malcolm's name was never written down, thanks to his exposed immunity idol which he used as leverage. He had the most brilliant social game - making an indestructible pact with Denise, Lisa and Skupin for the final 4. But now, he is targeting Denise, his original ally because she is also his biggest threat. And his plan of throwing her under the bus at the last minute could backfire in the end. I do hope I am wrong, but this is Survivor where anything that could happen, happens.
Denise Stapley: If Malcolm would not be in the final 3, Denise is a shoo-in for the title with Lisa as her closest rival. Malcolm was right - nobody could beat Denise, except for him perhaps. Denise never really made enemies among the members of the jury, except for Abi. Denise was the most vocal against Abi - speaking out loud what everybody else thinks anyway. She took that role of being Abi's nemesis, so there's no need for anybody else to jump in and gang up on the Brazilian bombshell. Denise has proven that she is a strong physical player and a hard-worker in the camp. She also helped decide on their votes, like in the case of Artis. Denise only have to align herself with Malcolm and nobody else. And now, she has the power to get rid of her greatest threat and most solid ally. If she wins the last immunity - especially if it's an endurance challenge, she could almost guarantee herself the prize as soon as she turns her back on Malcolm.
Overall, it's a wonderful season and having it done in my country, the Philippines is just an icing on the cake. Until the next season, which I heard is also shot in the Philippines. Let's all have a cake this Christmas everyone!