'Survivor: Philippines' recap: Culture clash! Is Abi a villain or victim?

ab-maria-gomes-survivor-philippines.jpgOK, what Abi channel is "Survivor: Philippines" host Jeff Probst tuned in to? While the host with the most seems determined to attribute the paranoid bully's clash with her fellow Castaways to a "cultural misunderstanding," on the show we're watching, Abi is an envoy of Mean Girl Nation.

So how did the Brazilian babe charm her tribemates this week? Was the queen of the jungle finally dethroned?

Game On

While Skupin is reveling in his new power position after flipping on his tribe, Lisa kisses up to Abi. "I have never been good at breakups," says the former child star (who, incidentally, divorced her husband just days before filming started on "Survivor: Philippines"). "Clearly you're already aligned with them," snaps the sourpuss -- to the woman who has been loyal to her since day one.

Reward Challenge

The tribes are divided into two teams competing for the reward: a spa day and feast at a separate island. Malcolm, anxious to shampoo his fabulous mane, is extra motivated. And his team, including Carter, Pete and Abi, are victorious in the drum-flipping challenge. (No thanks to Abi, who confused the rules -- à la ditzy Kat from "One World" -- and scored a point for their opponents.)

Instead of strategizing, Malcolm persuades the other youngsters to "silence the talk" because his alliance members are all back at camp.

The Have-Nots

When they return, Abi recounts every detail of their luxurious feast to a group of starving people who spent the day at camp. Skupin thinks she's "downright cruel" while Malcolm notes that "Abi has all the social grace of a Mack truck."

Abi, knowing her days are numbered, also announces imperiously that she refuses to cook anymore at camp, while Denise daydreams about what she'll say when she writes Abi's name down at Tribal Council. (Hopefully she'll improve upon "whiners are wieners.")

While Abi checks out, Malcolm pulls Skupin aside and proposes a final four with Denise and Lisa. Lisa says she trusts Penner more than Malcolm, so they approach the other veteran with a similar plan. Because he's reluctant to consider the endgame yet, Lisa and Skupin make a pact with the original Matsing tribemembers.

Immunity Challenge

Pete knows that his survival depends on winning immunity, but he's knocked out in the first round of the challenge: maneuvering a buoy through tangled rope, on a balance beam and a water obstacle course.

Denise, Carter and Skupin make it through to the final leg, where Carter beats Skupin by seconds.

Camp Scrambling

Pete and Abi decide to vote for Malcolm, and try to convince Skupin, Lisa and Penner to join them in eliminating the biggest threat on the island.

Lisa praises their plan but politely declines, while Penner summarily dismisses Abi. "You went far in the game, you played well, but you're not going to win this time," he says matter-of-factly.

MORE: Find out what the "Survivor" Castaways are most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Tribal Council

Abi gets off to a poor start at Tribal Council, greeting her former tribemate and new jury member Artis with a huge smile because he's sporting Brazilian colors -- clearly planting a seed in Jeff's mind.

Malcolm acknowledges that he's heard his name tossed about camp, while Pete acknowledges that he's "slated for execution." (That doesn't comfort members of Team Malcolm, who might or might not be chanting, "Play the idol play the idol play the idol.")

Jeff asks Abi if she regrets her actions at last Tribal and asks whether her strained relationships could be "cultural." The tribe giggles when she says her actions could be perceived as "not the most gentle."

When Jeff says Abi might be the perfect person to bring to the end, Denise says in past seasons people take along the "deadweight, the unlikable person," which shocks Abi. Jeff interrupts her to ask Abi whether she seriously "didn't grasp that you're seen as unlikable in the game."

"I'm beginning to believe that it is cultural, because you didn't grasp that people laughing at you is a sign in our culture that you're full of it."

If by "our culture," Jeff means people who don't speak Narcissist, then he nailed it.

Denise explains that she doesn't want to win by default: "It's like bringing someone to a poker game that doesn't know how to play poker just so you can steal their money." Ouch! Abi, in tears (boo hoo) finally begs the "manipulative" therapist to stop.

The vote goes as planned: Abi and Pete vote for Malcolm -- who does not use play his idol, but (whew) didn't need to. Denise, Lisa and Skupin voted for Abi -- but because she used her idol, their votes did not count. It was Penner, Malcolm and Carter who sent Pete home.

For a minute, it looked like Abi might flee along with him -- but she just forgot her torch.

Next week: Penner tells LIsa to "cut the crap" and says she "lost her mind." Woo-hoo! It's about to get real.
Photo/Video credit: CBS